Monday, May 31, 2010

TOMBSTONE OF MY GREAT-UNCLE, PRIVATE CARL L. MARKERT - Manilla American Cemetery, Manilla, The Philippines

On this Memorial Day I would like to tell you about my American Hero. Carl Lewis Markert was born in Phillipsburg, NJ on March 11, 1918. He was the only younger brother of my Grandmother, Helen Marie Markert Keith. Carl, or "Hun" as the family called him, was a shipping and receiving clerk in Phillipsburg but wanted to be a pilot in the Army Air Forces in early 1941. However, his eyesight was not good enough to be a pilot, so he was assigned to the next best thing, an Army Air Force Engineers Aviation Battalion that was responsible for outfitting planes, maintaining the runways and other building and maintenance duties designed to support the Army Air Force. Hun's enlistment date was June 2, 1941. After basic training he and his unit were eventually assigned to Corregidor in the Philippine Islands. On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the Japanese Army launched an attack on the American forces stationed at Bataan and Corregidor. For over 5 months the troops held up valiantly before eventually being forced to surrender to the Japanese. What followed was the infamous Bataan Death March and Hun and his unit were part of it. Every American should know what the Bataan Death March was because those soldiers who marched and the many of them that died on the march, embody the very reason why we celebrate Memorial Day. For the soldiers that made it to the end of the death march, most went to the Camp O'Donnell P.O.W. Camp but others, including Hun and his surviving buddies, went to the Cabanatuan P.O.W. Camp. This was the camp made famous in the movie, "The Great Raid," where American Special Forces launched a surprise attack on the camp to rescue P.O.W.'s. The conditions were absolutely horrible and the treatment by the Japanese was sickening. Disease, malnutrition and eventually death spread all over the camp and many soldiers did not make it. Hun lost his battle on October 15, 1942 when he succumbed to dysentery. How I found his grave is another story for another time. Today I want to salute him and all of the soldiers who gave their lives for our country so that we can live in freedom. There is a man who delivers documents to my office from a local law firm and he is 90 and was a B-17 tail gunner in Europe during WWII. I once talked to him and said that I was honored to be speaking with a real hero and member of "The Greatest Generation." He stopped me and said, "Oh no, I am not a hero. The real heroes were the guys who never made it home and are still over there." We should all take that to heart this Memorial Day.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your post. I so believe that we must not forget what happened in the Philippines in WWII. My grandfather after whom I was named was also a prisoner at Cabanatuan. He died Dec 15, 1944 (Oryoku Maru). I have been to the Manila cemetery a couple of times. A worthwhile trip!