The Building of the

Camp O'Donnell Monument

 

 

Several Members of the Group, Posing in Front of the Monument

 

On May, 1999, several members of the Battling Bastards of Bataan went to the Philippines on a tour to dedicate a monument for Gen. Wainwright, on Corregidor Island, and a monument for Gen. King, in Lamao, Bataan.  Included in the trip was a visit to Camp O'Donnell, the final destination of the Death March, in Capas, Tarlac.

The area around the Camp O'Donnell grounds had been converted by the Philippine Government into a giant park, called Capas National Shrine.  In the park was a beautiful Monument built to honor the Filipinos, who died in Camp O'Donnell.

As the group walked through the park, it was eerily apparent that there was an absence of anything on the grounds to mark the death of approximately 1600 Americans who died in Camp O'Donnell in a span of about 45 days, while prisoners of the Japanese Army.  At one time, there was a seven foot Cement Cross, mounted on a base, marking the American Sacrifice at Camp O'Donnell.  After the US bases in the Philippines were closed, the Cross was moved to the National POW Museum, in Andersonville, Georgia.

In the few minutes of waiting for the rest of the party to board the bus taking us back to our hotel, Maj. Richard M. Gordon, his wife Lyn Gordon, and Fred Baldassarre, already seated, began a conversation about the need to build a marker to honor the Americans who died in Camp O'Donnell.  

A few days later, when the group returned to Manila, Maj. Gordon discussed with James Litton, a Battling Bastard of Bataan member, who lives in Manila, the possibility of building a Monument, in Camp O'Donnell.  Nothing definite was decided, but both men promised the other to look into the cost of building a monument, the red tape they would face, and the financial support needed from the BBB members, along with others, to accomplish the task.
 

James Litton and Col. Richard McMahon at the Memorial Dedication

When the group returned to the US, Maj. Gordon began contacting other members of the Battling Bastards of Bataan to see if there was any support for this project.  At the same time, James Litton contacted an architect and Teresita Cuevas, Chief of the Philippine Shrines Services, in Camp Aguinaldo, in Quezon City, Philippines.

The original concept of the Monument, the replica of the Cross standing before a large marble wall in which the names of the deceased soldiers were inscribed, was the original idea of Maj. Richard M. Gordon.  A series of e-mails ensued between Maj. Gordon and James Litton discussing the design of the monument. An architect/contractor, a Mr. Joseph Guarin, put the finishing touches on the design.

Various estimates were sent back and forth, from James Litton to Maj. Gordon, until an estimated amount was decided upon.  This amount of money would build a beautiful and fitting monument to honor the American Dead, but at the same time was an amount that could be raised within the prescribed time limit.  April, 2000 was target date for completion of the Monument.
 

Maj. Richard M. Gordon making his speech at the Ceremony

 

James Litton arduously went through all the red tape, with Ms. Teresita Cuevas and the Philippine Government, while Maj. Gordon contacted members of the US Congress and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).  Also, contacted were other Bataan Veteran Organizations.

For a period of time, it seemed like the project was doomed before it began. The US government offered no political or financial help.  The Philippine government insisted on a series of red tape, which at the time, appeared insurmountable for a small Veterans group like the Battling Bastards of Bataan.

The Philippine Government declined our request to build a monument on the exact grounds where US prisoners were billeted by the Japanese Army.  They cited, that on those grounds, the monument could not be protected from vandals. This was more bad news for the project.

Ms. Teresita Cuevas suggested we could build this monument, across the street, within the compound of the Capas National Shrine, but permission would be needed.  There it would be protected by the Philippine Army and since it would be part of the National Shrine, it's survival for the future would be assured.
 

Capas National Shrine

The Battling Bastards of Bataan pursued this new venue.  Various sketches and specifications were turned into the Philippine National Historical Institute for their approval, until finally a sketch and a set of specifications were approved.

At around this time, James Litton, using an erroneous Camp O'Donnell Death roster, began putting together the most accurate O'Donnell Death roster in existence today.  He worked many and long hours, aided by other sources, to produce this roster.   Names originally obtained from other sources were incorrect, many had no first names and many had no rank.  Jim worked with the American Cemetery staff and Maj. Gordon worked on the roster of the 31st. INF to come up with an accurate list of those who died in O'Donnell.

In September, 1999, the Battling Bastards of Bataan officially announced it's intent to build the monument, in the September 99 News Letter.  Soon after, the BBB received the final approval from the Philippine National Historical Institute. The fund drive began, to raise money for the monument.  After receiving the initial donations, ground was broken and the building of the monument began.

On December 1999, the monument fund drive was in full swing.  Barrington Beutell agreed to be the fund treasurer and sufficient seed money had already been contributed.  Donations were received from individuals, but never from any government agency or any other Veteran Organizations.  Money was raised through personal contacts with individuals, through the BBB News Letter, and through the internet.  Many individuals positively responded.  Pessimism turned to optimism, the monument would be built, within the grounds of the Capas National Shrine, right beside the Filipino Monument, and the target date of April 9, 2000 would be met.

Travel plans were made to return to the Philippines for the Monument Dedication Ceremony.  Sascha Jansen was enlisted to coordinate the trip.  Bataan Veterans, next of kins, and others who may be interested were invited to join the BBB for the dedication.

James Litton supervising the Monument's construction, routinely reported to the BBB it's on going progress, providing pictures of each stage of development.  Also, James began planning the Monument Dedication Ceremony: the VIPs to be invited, the food, the tents for the grounds, the list of speakers, and the Military Honor Guards.

Finally, on March, 2000, the Monument was completed.  It stood majestically beside the Monument for the Filipino Dead. The Americans and Filipinos who fought side by side, fifty-eight years ago, on Bataan, were once again together.
 
 

Filipino Veterans Watching the Memorial Dedication

An exact replica of the original Camp O'Donnell Cross stood before a marble wall, listing the names of the Americans who died in Camp O'Donnell between April 24, 1942 to June 6, 1942.  Also inscribed on the wall was a quote from Gen. King, a poem by a Bataan Veteran, Fred Koenig, a list of all the US units who had members perish in Camp O'Donnell, and a dedication to Maj. Richard M. Gordon.  A brief history of the original cross was etched at the base of the cross.

The Battling Bastards of Bataan is very grateful and indebted to "Our Man in Manila", James Litton, without whose selfless dedication and hard work, on this project, this monument would never have been built.  James Litton was the key operative on this project, and without James, it would have been impossible.

Special thanks to those who traveled with us, making it a very pleasant journey and to the individuals who made the arrangements for the trip and always made sure we were safe and comfortable, accommodating our capricious last minute changes:  Nermalyn Sison, Tony Estrada, Emil Rivera, Jhun Cabudol, Loubelle Gilli, and Marissa Burgos.

Most of all, we wish to thank all those who contributed to our fund drive, whose generosity provided the funding for the monument.  They are the heroes of this projects. Their names are listed below:  
 
1.   Oliver Allen
2.   William L Kerlin
3.   W L Cattaneo
4.
   Evert S Thomas

5.   Todd Norwig
6.   Kermit Lay
7.   Duke Fullerton
8.   Hattie Brantley
9.   Doug Clanin
10. Tillman Rutledge
11. Richard Gordon
12. Damon Gause
13. Harvey Michael
14. Richard McCrory
15. George Piccarillo
16. Fred Baldassarre
17. Nancy Snyder(Beutell)
18. James Bollich
19. Ralph Hibbs
20. James Roche
21. Roy Bodine
22. Royal Reynolds
23.
Wm. Milne

24. Nicoll Galbraith
25. Warren C Sheldon
26. James Connors
27. Gerald Freligh
28. Michael Warmbier
29. Perry Gamsby
30. Carl McCrillis
31. Elbert Hampton
32. E B Kerr
33.
Spero Dadaris

34. Harvey Lawshe
35. John Browe
36. Eugene Doty
37. Herman Stein
38. Richard McMahon
39. Philip Toland
40. Thomas Gorham
41. Joseph Graham
42. Dorothy Thompson
43. Wm. Milne
44. Lester Tenney
45. Wes Browning
46. Hampton Sides
47.
Jonathan Betts

48. Lou Read
49. James Bogart
50. Ed Boyajian
51. Paul Roach
52. James Fleming
53. Donald Sheller
54. Arthur Storts
55. Peter Wainwright
56. Evelyn Krueger
57. Monroe Carlson
58.
Frances Rimmer

59. Jean Beutell Abrams
60. Max Griffith
61. C A Frances
62.
Dorothy Sollenberger

63. Alberta Clayton
64.
John Betts

65. Leland Osborne
66. Barrington Beautell
67.
Frank Burns

68. Paula Connors
 

Join the Memorial Dedication