On Sept. 10, 2017 the Maywood Bataan Day Organization unveiled a new tribute in Maywood Park to those who served at Bataan in the Philippines.
The date marked the 75th commemoration of the annual Remember Bataan Memorial Services. The ceremony has been taking place on the second Sunday in September every year since 1942. I had the honor of representing the Navy at the wreath-laying portion of the program. Those in attendance included members of the Illinois Army National Guard, veterans’ organizations, representatives of the Philippine government and the families of survivors from the 33rd Tank Company, 33rd Infantry Division of the Illinois National Guard.
Men in their teens and early 20s formed the unit that drilled at the National Guard Armory which still stands today in Maywood. The group of 102 young men from Maywood and the surrounding communities was mobilized on Nov. 25, 1940. After a period of training they were deployed to the Philippines, arriving on Nov. 20, 1941. Three weeks later Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States was at war with Japan. Only a few hours after the attack came the bombing of the Philippines with the actual invasion occurring on Christmas Eve, 1941. They fought the Japanese until the end on Bataan, when Americans and Filipinos were captured. After the surrender, they were forced to take part in what has become forever known as the “Bataan Death March.” It is estimated by historians that 700 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died in the march. Those left were POW’s at Camp O’Donnell. Of the nearly 10,000 American prisoners taken on Bataan, 6,500 died during the three and one half years of captivity. At the end of the war only 43 members of that unit returned home to Maywood.
One can see the impact even today of a community losing over half of their young men in the war. Of the 43 who returned, only one, the last confirmed surviving member of the 192nd Tank Battalion is alive today as a member of the “greatest generation.” Among those listed on the plaque that’s a part of the memorial display are Italian surnames such as Armanto, Boni, Cigoi, Maggio, Massimino and Vertuno, who, when their country called upon them to serve, they stepped forward and became known after World War II as “the kids who saved the world.”