A 100-year-old former WWII POW describes how he narrowly escaped the Bataan Death March
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Because he had been in the special forces, some of Leonard’s records were redacted. Many of his military records also were destroyed in the 1973 National Archives fire. And to make matters worse, his home in the Northern California town of Paradise where he had settled down also burned down in last year’s deadly Camp Fire. Fortunately, Leonard and his wife, Mary, had moved to their daughter and son-in-law’s Antioch home two years earlier and taken some mementos there, including six diaries from his years as a prisoner of war.
Bradley said the local veterans group was happy to help Leonard, whom they’d met years earlier at Bataan Memorial Death March events in New Mexico and later at an event in Brentwood.
“Oscar is our really special veteran for the moment — he has a lot of support from us and the Paradise veterans group where he previously lived,” …read more
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