Tag Archives: filipino prisoners

Veterans Day 2011 Part 2 (Bataan Death March)

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when he and his unit were forced to participate in what became known as the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. My 11 year old son Wilson and I went to hear him speak that night and were able to get a front row seat. 

Legrow started off his talk that evening by stating, “I want to tell you that prayer and faith meant a lot to me during those 39 months. Each day on the march, we plodded along like zombies.Words can’t explain the mental and physical abuse your body takes when you go without food and water.”

Legrow said he weighed 175 pounds at the beginning of the march, and 110 when the 10-day trek was over. About 100,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were forced to march about 60 miles with no food and little water from the Bataan Peninsula to prison camps. Over 10% of that number died during the march.

“Many died, many lived, and only a few of us are alive today to tell the story,” Legrow said. “I feel both blessed and grateful to be one of those few.”  

After the talk was over I got to visit personally with Mr Legrow (who was 85 yrs old at the time) and he thanked us for coming. I told him  that his talk seemed only a few moments long since it was so interesting. In fact, you could have heard a pin drop during his talk because of the respect the people had for Mr. Legrow. 

I have known Steve and Debbie Staples of Little Rock for years but just a few weeks ago I learned that Debbie’s father Cletis Overton of Malvern was also a survivor of the Bataan Death March. I spoke to Cletis and his wife Adrian on the phone recently and they sent me a copy of the book The Lord Is Our Shepherd: The story of Former Prisoner of War Sgt Cletis Overton and Maxine Overton written by Bryant’s own Steve Brawner. The Benton Library has a copy of it in the Arkansas Room.  

Not only did Cletis survive the Bataan Death March but in 1944, he was one of 750 prisoners in the hull of a Japanese ship, the Shinyo Maru, that was headed for Japan. However, it was sunk by an American submarine  and all but 83 drowned. Cletis was one of the few that was able to swim to shore. What an amazing story and earlier this year he turned 90 yrs old while still living in Malvern. 

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