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The Fall of Bataan, the New Mexico National Guard, and The National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day—April 9, 2008

434572104 bec0750fca bThe title is too long, but every word is important.

Hopelessly outnumbered by the largest enemy military force in American history and facing certain slaughter, on April 9, 1942, Major Gen. Edward P. King surrendered himself, and the men he commanded—Filipino and American troops—to the Japanese who had overtaken the Philippine Islands. Most of the American troops were men from the New Mexico National Guard. Less than half of them returned to New Mexico at the end of the war.

In the early days of the war, the City of Albuquerque vowed to build a memorial to the men they had lost. There are memorials in Santa Fe, Las Cruces and others dotted all over the state, that are commemorated to the memory of those who did not come home, and those who did. For those who survived, the date of April 9 is never forgotten.

Congress, by Public Law 103-60, designated April 9, 1994 as “National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day,” and every President since then has issued a proclamation to observe the occasion. Here is President Bush’s, issued yesterday, and part of his statement:

Our Nation is extremely proud of our former prisoners of war, and we owe them and their families a debt we can never fully repay. On National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day, we honor our country’s heroes who were prisoners of war, recognize their sacrifice, and express our deepest gratitude to those who helped write a more hopeful chapter in our history.

For those who fly their flag on special days, today is a good one to honor and recognize those who were formerly prisoners of war, and returned to us.

The photo is by “The Korky,” which was uploaded to Flickr on March 27, 2007. You may view more images by this photographer here.

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