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The Lake News Online
  • Veteran voices: Keeping a POWs legacy alive

  • Part of Lake Sun's tribute to Veterans Day published Nov. 6.
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  • This Veteran's Day, a local couple are honoring a family member killed in a Japanese massacre of American prisoners during World War II.
    Marine Corps Private First Class George McClelland Waddell died before his nephew Dave Waddell was born, but Dave's father John Waddell kept the memory of his brother alive through the years.
    Over time, Dave and and wife Tina have tracked down George's story along with a picture of the young private who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
    It was in 1938 during the midst of the Great Depression that Morgan County native George Waddell signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps — his home of record listed as Versailles, Mo.
    Upon entering the service, young Waddell was sent to recruit training in San Diego, Calif.
    Boot camp was soon followed by deployment abroad. Waddell was shipped to northern China aboard the USS Oklahoma from Puget Sound in Washington state.
    Initially deployed in Shanghai, China, Pfc. Waddell was among the 4th Marines that withdrew to Manila, Philippines in Nov. 1941 as tensions mounted in the Far East and in Europe.
    Then on Dec. 7, 1941, the Oklahoma — the ship that had originally carried Waddell to China — was sunk along with the four other battleships by Japanese forces at Pearl Harbor. Within hours of the attack, American bases in the Philippines were hit as well. The dual attacks isolated American and Filipino troops on the island chain from reinforcements and supplies, ultimately allowing the Japanese to successfully take over the Philippines.
    But the U.S. and Filipino forces there did not give up without a fight and a fierce and bitter battle ensued.
    Waddell's duty station was initially the Bataan Peninsula, which saw bitter fighting, but he would not be taken up in the infamous death march that ensued after the fall of Bataan in the spring of 1942.
    The 4th Marines along with Navy personnel who had served with them during the Battle of Bataan added as a provisional battalion made it to the island of Corregidor with its fortified base located at the entrance of Manila Bay. It was the last bastion of the allied forces in the Philippines.
    The defense of Corregidor was then composed of a makeshift group of soldiers and sailors from various different U.S. and Filipino organizations — many of whom had no ground combat training.
    The Japanese landed on the island May 5, 1942 and fought their way further inland before Army Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright ordered surrender a day after the invasion to try to protect more than 1,000 wounded troops.
    The 4th Marines were devastated by the action with only a few surviving members left.
    Page 2 of 3 - One of those survivors was Pfc. Waddell. A long way from the quiet countryside of his Ozark home, Waddell would be taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese.
    While many captured Americans were eventually transported from overcrowded POW camps near Manila to other parts of the Japanese empire, Waddell was among more than 300 POWs who remained in the Philippines and was eventually placed in the Puerta Princessa prison camp on Palawan Isle, located on the western perimeter of the Sulu Sea.
    The POWs there were forced to build an airfield for their captors while suffering beatings, minimal food and non-existent medical care.
    In Sept. 1944, around 159 American POWs were transferred to Manila. The remaining 150 men at Palawan, including George Waddell, continued to work on the airfield.
    Waddell would eventually be killed in action at the internment camp as part of a horrific massacre of POWs by Japanese guards as American troops under Gen. Douglas MacArthur pushed to retake the Philippines.
    On Dec. 14, 1944, the American prisoners at Puerta Princessa sought refuge in covered trenches after an air raid warning was sounded by the Japanese. The guards then doused the shelters with gasoline and set the trenches on fire with torches and threw in grenades.
    Prisoners who tried to escape were mowed down by machine gun fire or bayoneted and many others who attempted to escape over a cliff along one of the trenches were later hunted down and killed.
    Only eleven men of around 150 at the camp survived by swimming for hours to the other side of the bay where they were rescued by inmates of a penal colony and were eventually evacuated by a U.S. Navy seaplane where they told their story to U.S. military authorities.
    News of the brutality led to POW rescue campaigns in 1945 including "The Great Raid" at a camp near Cabanatuan City and missions to Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Bilibid Prison and Los Banos. The campaigns successfully liberated thousands of camp internees.
    While some war crime prosecutions took place in Japan in 1948, sentences were generally light. A general amnesty issued in 1958 allowed any war criminals still in custody to be released.
    In 1952, the remains of 123 of the Palawan victims were transferred to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near St. Louis. It is there that P.F.C. George Waddell found his final resting place.
    The Waddell family received George's Purple Heart posthumously. He was also entitled to the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp for his service in China and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star, an Oak Leaf Cluster and the Victory Medal for his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II and a Prisoner of War medal.
    Page 3 of 3 - Many years later, George Waddell's great-nephews — Dave and Tina's sons — John and Joseph have both served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
    Gunnery Sgt. John A. Waddell enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1997. In Dec. 2002, he was part of Combat Service Support Company-117 for the 7th Marines during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of Marine Wing Support Squadron-371, his unit deployed to Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq in Feb. 2007. He later moved forward to Camp Korean Village. Upon completion of the deployment, Waddell was assigned to a transition team in April 2008 and was deployed as an advisor to train Iraqi counterparts on combat motor transport operation. After returning from Iraq, he was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant in 2010. He is now stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. where he recently achieved Master Faculty Advisor status at the USMC Staff Noncommissioned Office Academy. He is also the Chief Faculty Advisor of the Advance Course there.
    Sgt. Joseph W. Waddell served in the Marine Corps from 2000-2005. He was deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005. He now resides in El Cajon, Calif.
    HistoryNet.com

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