About 100 people were in attendance at Monday's ceremony held at the Veterans Memorial next to the Crow Wing County Courthouse. Three surviving members of the march were in attendance. Walter Straka, Ken Porwall and Henry Peck placed a wreath of 61 flowers on the memorial in remembrance of the soldiers of the area's 34th Tank Company. Peck suffered a stroke two weeks ago and wasn’t sure that he would make it to the ceremony. “But I’m here, that’s the main thing,” he said. “I was planning on coming, but I didn’t know”.
This memorial ceremony marked the 65th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan. The 34th Tank Company left Brainerd with 82 officers and men. Of these, 61 accompanied the 194th overseas to the Philippines. 28 died in POW camps, 3 were killed in action, one man was wounded and evacuated and 29 survived captivity. Out of the original 61 guardsmen who left with the Brainerd unit only 29 returned to Brainerd after the end of WW2. The 194th was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations for outstanding performance of duty in action.
Following their surrender in 1942 the U.S and Philippine soldiers, underfed and exhausted from four months of fighting, were forced to march 100 miles in blistering heat with little food or water. Many did not survive and were shot , others beheaded.
Brainerd Mayor James Wallin said it was imperative that the Bataan Death March be remembered in Brainerd. “I think if you look at the effect this had on the community and this area 65 years ago, this just had a devastating effect on this area,” Wallin said “And yet, as they mentioned, there is a pride in the fact that they did serve, that they did give the ultimate for our area and our country.”
Brainerd area residents will never forget.
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