by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education
The Museum published a booklet, The Excavation of Lindenmeier, earlier this year. I researched the section on the “camp life” of the young men that worked on the Smithsonian-led excavations in the 1930s. Most of those young men, in their twenties when they worked on the site, also served in World War II: Jim Greenacre, John Cotter, Charles “Chili” Scoggin, and C.T.R. Bohannon, to name just a few.
Bohannon had an intriguing military career. Remember by Cotter (who received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the landing at Normandy) as a “real long rifle” and “Western toughie,” Bohannon was an officer who survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.
Prior to World War II, the Philippines were American-controlled. The Japanese invaded the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just 10 hours after the attacking Pearl Harbor, and occupied the country from 1942–1945.
The Japanese aerial bombardment had damaged the American Asiatic Fleet, forcing General MacArthur to retreat. Reinforcements and resupply were impossible given the condition of the fleet there and in Pearl Harbor, leaving the American and Filipino defenders vulnerable and without needed supplies.
After the three-month Battle of Bataan, the remaining American and Filipino defenders surrendered on April 9, 1942. The Japanese forced 76,000 prisoners of war on a 61-mile march to relocate them. Many of these defenders were sick and starving.
The Bataan Death March is recognized as a crime of war. It lasted a week, with the captives forced to march continuously in the tropical heat. An estimated 7,000-10,000 people died on the March, and many thousands more died from the effects of the march while held in prisoner of war camps in San Fernando. Survivors of the March recount horrors that are stomach turning. I often wonder about the fortitude and courage required of “Bo,” as he was known, to survive that torture. I also am awed that he managed to escape the Japanese and join forces with native Filipinos to fight behind the lines against the Japanese.
After his experiences in the Philippines, Bohannon went on to become an expert in guerilla and counter-guerilla warfare for the U.S. Military. He co-wrote a book with Napoleon D. Valeriano in 1962 entitled Counter-Guerrilla Operations: The Philippine Experience. That book was reprinted in 2006 and is still used in military training.
Today, please remember to thank a vet. It’s difficult sometimes to imagine what they have been through to protect freedom.