The Library of Congress has asked New Mexico PBS to contribute unedited footage of interviews from its program Bataan: A 70th Anniversary Commemoration, which recalls the horrors of the Bataan Death March, for inclusion in the library's archives in Washington, D.C.
In April 1942, following World War II's Battle of Bataan in the Philippines, the Japanese Army forced some 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American prisoners of war to march more than 60 miles between internment camps. Along the way, thousands of Filipino and up to 650 American soldiers died due to physical abuse and atrocities at the hands of their captors.
New Mexico PBS recorded 90 minutes of interviews with Pedro “Pete” Gonzalez, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and Bill Overmier, survivor of both the battles of Bataan and the related Battle of Corregidor. Also participating was retired Lt. Gen. Edward D. Baca, former head of the New Mexico National Guard and the National Guard Bureau in the Pentagon, and longtime spokesman for Bataan survivors.
“The events at Bataan have great historical significance, but the number of survivors who can share what happened there is rapidly dwindling," said New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall (D), partnering with the station in submitting the footage, in the Jan. 11 announcement. "The addition of these interviews into the Library of Congress will help to ensure that their heroic stories are not forgotten.”
“The first-hand accounts and stories of these survivors of Bataan are living history, something which New Mexico PBS was honored to preserve for future generations," said Polly Anderson, New Mexico PBS chief executive officer and general manager. "Now these stories can be shared not just with New Mexicans, but with the nation and the world.”
Another partner in the submission is the Oasis Veterans History Project, a local initiative training volunteers to record veterans' oral histories.
A Bataan Memorial Death March also takes place March 17 in New Mexico, through the White Sands Missile Range.