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Bataan Rescue | Article

On the Home Front

Families agonized as they waited for news of their missing loved ones. Months passed before many learned their sons were prisoners of war -- and those were the lucky ones who hadn't died of disease or abuse after the fall of Bataan.

Bataan-home_postaltelegraph.jpg

Messages on the government's postage-free Prisoner of War Mail postcards were limited to 24 words — typed or hand-printed in block capital letters. In addition to writing their soldiers, families contacted government and military officials seeking news.

Sadly, many letters to and from POWs were never delivered. "Uncle Sam didn't take care of us," former prisoner Manuel Armijo said. "We had to take care of each other. The family hadn't heard from me for two and a half years."

The desire to see his child and a strong religious faith carried Armijo through his horrific experience. "I was married and I left a pregnant wife at home," he recalled in a spring 2003 interview, at age 91. "Before I left, my mother had me light a candle in the corners of the house. 'Kneel, son,' she said, 'and light a candle for your safe return.' When I came back, four and a half years later, she said, 'now you can kneel, say a prayer, and blow your candles out.' My daughter Loretta was four years and nineteen days old when I came back."

Read correspondence from families and prisoners of war.

In April 1942, as word of the fall of Manila and America's defeat in the Philippines spread, worried families petitioned the government, including the governor of New Mexico, for news of their sons.

Letter

508 South 11th Street
Albuquerque,
New Mexico
April 22, 1942

Honorable Gov. John E. Miles
Santa Fe,
New Mexico

Dear Governor Miles:

Of all the reports of the fighting men from New Mexico, have been from the army and nothing has been said of those in the Air Corps.

We have a son who is with the 19th Hdq & Hdq Squadron of the Air Corp. and was stationed at Clark Field in the Phillipines at the time it was bombed. We haven't heard from him since the fall of Manilla.

And we are much concerned as to his present whereabouts. Just to know where he is would be a big relief. Whether he was transferred elsewhere or was he left on Bataan?

Any information you can secure for us as to his whereabouts will be deeply appreciated beyond words. We cannot understand why this should be such a military secret in informing the boys parents where they are located.

Sincerely,
Melvin Clarke

His last address:
Corporal Richard S. Clarke
19 Hdq & Hdq Squadron
Clark Field
Pampanga,
Phillipine Islands
Serial #6296282

 

Western Union Telegram

VN387 20/23=ALBUQUERQUE NMEX 9 705P
Received 1942 MAY 9 PM 7 39

GOVERNOR MILES=

I WOULD LIKE INFORMATION OF LALO RAMOS OF RATION NEW MEXICO WAS STATIONED HEADQUARTER BTRY 200 COAST ARTILLERY FORTSTATSENBURG PHILLIPPINE ISLAND ANS COLLECT WU=JOSE ROMAS.

 

Letter

Gallup N. Mex.
May 9 - 1942

Gov John E. Miles

My Dear Sir

Any information about my boys will greatly appreciated both belong to the Battery D 200 CA (AA).

Porfirio Diaz, Jr. NO. 20.843354
Joseph G. Diaz NO. 20.843313

Yours very truly
Porfirio Diaz

 

Western Union Telegram

VN402 13 3 EXTRA=GALLUP NMEX 9 740P
Received 1942 May 9 [...]

HON JOHN E MILES=

WAS CHARLES ISKRA LISTED AS ONE WHO ESCAPED TO CORRIGDOR= MRS ANNA ISKRA 104 WEST MALONEY.

 

Letter

Cubero N. Mex.
May 10, 1942

Governor John E. Miles
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Governor:
This is only to ask about my sons who were at the Phillipines, My sons Martin and Gabriel Tafoya. I would like to get information about them, that is if you possibly can give me.

Yours respectfuly,
Mrs Felicita Tafoya
Cubero N. Mex
Box 73

 

Letter

Pinehaven New Mexico
May 12, 1942

Governor John E. Miles
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Dear Sir:

I was told you had the list of the war prisoners of the Philippines. I have a son which I haven't heard from since Christmas, serving on the 200th A.A. (C.A.). Battery B. Name Manuel Garcia from Pinehaven, New. Mex. Box 16, Parents - Mr. Amado Garcia & Mrs. Perfectita Torrez Garcia. If his name appears on your list please let me know. Thanking you for your favor I remain

Yours truly,
Mr. Amado Garcia
Pinehaven New Mex
Box 16.

 

Letter

Clayton, New Mexico
May 16, 1942

Dear Gov. Miles,
Could you give me any information of my son? He was in the Philippines - "Pfc. Clayton - F. Howell, C.A, A.A. Battery A, of the 200th Division of New Mex. own, Suppose to of been on Bataan when it fell - I had my last letter March 31 from him - said he was sending it out Feb. 14 - (of course did not say how or where he was then).

I am just another very much worried mother and will appreciate any information very much.



Hiram Dow, (former Lt. Gov. of New Mex.) is a first cousin of mine.
May I hear from you soon? Thank you very much --
Sincerly,
Mrs. James Howell
11 Cherry St.
Clayon, N.M.

 

 

Letter

Socorro N. Mex.
Dec. 27, 1942

John Miles
Santa Fe N. Mex.

Dear Sir: --
Since December 24, 1941 I have not heard anything, nor know anything about my son whose name and last address is the following: --

Pvt. Ignacio Baca
200th C.A (AA) Bty A
Fort Slotsenburg
Pampanga P.I.

If you can do anything to help me and get some information about him, I would surely appreciate it.

Yours Truly,
Serito Baca

 

Gavino Rivera's family was lucky -- their son came home. Read letters they sent to him during his long confinement as a prisoner of war. Note the U.S. government did not inform the Riveras of their son's POW status for 17 months after the fall of Bataan, in April 1942.

Postal Telegraph

Received at: Plaza Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico
AQ10 29 GOVT (TWO) WMU WASHINGTON DC 501P SEPTEMBER 21 1943

MRS ROSA D RIVERA=
=326 STAAB ST SANTAFE NMEX=

:REPORT RECEIVED STATES THAT YOUR SON CORPORAL GAVINO RIVERA IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL:

=ULIO THE ADJT GENERAL.

 

Prisoner of War Mail
Postage-Free Post Card

To:
Cpl. Gavino Rivera, American P.O.W.
Headquarters, Fukuoka Camp (Furyoshuyosho)
Island of Hunshu, Japan

From:
Mr. & Mrs. Max Rivera
326 Staab Street
Samta Fe, New Mexico (USA)
December 18, 1944

Dear Son:

This Christmas day we will all be thinking of you and praying for your early return. We are all well. God bless you,
Love,
Mother and Dad

 

Prisoner of War Mail
Postage-Free Post Card

To:
Cpl. Gavino Rivera, American P.O.W.
Headquarters, Fukuoka Camp (Furyoshuyosho)
Island of Hunshu, Japan

From:
Mr. And Mrs. H.W. Smith
Byram Hotel
Atchison, Kansas
Dec. 19, 1944

Dear Gavino:
XMAS TIME AND WE ARE THINKING AND PRAYING FOR YOU. ALL ARE WELL. HAVE FAITH. WE LOVE YOU VERY MUCH. REGARDS FROM ALL. LOVE, AURORA.

 

Prisoner of War Mail
Postage-Free Post Card

To:
Corporal Gavino Rivera (American P.O.W.)
Camp Fukuoka Furyoshuyosho
Island of Hunshu, Japan

From:
Mr. & Mrs. Max Rivera
326 Staab Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico (U.S.A.)
January 21, 1945

Dear Son:
Received your first message from Fukuoka this morning. Very happy you are in good health. We are all well here, sending photographs next letter. Love, Mrs. Max Rivera and Dad

 

Prisoner of War Mail
Postage-Free Post Card

To:
Corporal Gavino Rivera (American P.O.W.)
Camp Fukuoka Furyoshuyosho
Island of Hunshu, Japan

From:
Juan J. Romero, Jr.
P.O. Box 5
Santa Fe. New Mexico.
January 26, 1945

Dear Gavino, :
Your folks are fine and in health, we are compadres. Have seen few of your cards. Hope we see you soon and that you are fine.

Johnny Romero.

 

Prisoner of War Mail
Postage-Free Post Card

To:
Corporal Gavino Rivera (American P.O.W.)
Camp Fukuoka Furyoshuyosho
Island of Hunshu, Japan

From: Mr. & Mrs. Max Rivera
326 Staab Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico (U.S.A.)
March 4th, 1945

Dear Son:
Constantly thinking of you, praying that you will return home soon. Don't worry about us, we are all well. Hoping you are allright. Love, Mother and Dad

 

Western Union Telegram

MAX RIVERA=
=326 STAAB ST

VA161 NL PD=NEWYORK NY DEC 26
Recieved 1945 DEC 27 AM 11:50

ARRIVED SAFELY IN NEW YORK THIS MORNING BAD STORMS DELAYED CHRISTMAS ARRIVAL WILL BE HOME SOON DO NOT WORRY LOVE=

GIL.

 

Some families awaited news from more than one soldier. Two New Mexico brothers assigned to different military units, Oral and Charles Cheney, met in the Philippines just a few months before the Japanese attack. A tragic story emerges from family letters. The U.S. government reported Charles's capture as a prisoner of war in January 1943, and reported Oral missing in action the following May. It is likely these events had taken place more than a year earlier; in Oral's case, the army stated he had been missing since May of 1942, shortly after the fall of Bataan.

Later, the army would inform the Cheneys that Oral died of malaria on July 4, 1942. If that date is accurate, Oral most likely survived the Bataan death march and succumbed to disease while interned in a prison camp. Charles' fate is unclear from the surviving correspondence. He survived a POW camp in the Philippines only to be sent to Japan, probably as a passenger on one of the "hell ships." Later in the war, his mother wrote Charles in an Osaka prison camp.

Letter

Clark Field
Pampanga, P.I.
Sept. 20, 1941

Dear folks;
I got your letter last Tuesday in which you told me you would send me Charles's new address. I guess your letter was kinda delayed because the day after I got your letter, Charles and his outfit got to Clark field. So, instead of you telling me his address, I think I better give you his address. It is still the 200th Battery C Clark Field, Pampanga, P. I. I was in the wash room getting ready for breakfast when one of the fellows here walked up to me and told me the 200th from N.Mex. was here and I should go see if I knew anyone there. When they said 200th I told him I had a brother there so at noon I went over to see him. He doesn't seem to have changed much. Maybe he is a little heavier than he used to be. He sure doesn't think much of the... [pages 2 and 3 missing].

[page 4]
Who did you sell it to? Who ever it was he sure got a bargain at that price. I hope you don't sell Ruby for as low a price as that. That is like giving money away. If you sell Ruby, you can invest the money on the place. If I can't save any money over here, then there's no use for me to have that. I had my chance to save.

Did you ever look up Dorothy Wagner? I wish you would as she would be very glad to hear from you. Her folks are nice too. I don't have much opportunity for letter writing any more. I write you and you can tell Uncle Edd and everyone hello and that I haven't forgot them. I only write to 3 people any more. Not only the work keeps me busy but at night it is almost impossible for me to write at night. Because we have no lights.

Well, I have to close for now. Give everyone my regards and give Clarabell Hays and her husband my best wishes for her future.

So long for now
ooooooo ooooooo Love Oral
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx

P.S. Charles said he would write as soon as he gets settled so he can get his writing material, etc.

 

Letter

February 2, 1942
Mr. & Mrs. C. D. Cheney
Bernalillo, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Dear folks;
How is everything at home. I am still surviving O.K. but can't put out any news yet. I can't find brother yet but I think he is all right. Tell everyone at home hello for me and be sure to go see Dorothy and tell her I will write her as soon as possible. At present communications are pretty poor and it is hard to do any letter writing. I will write every time I get a chance.

I made out an allotment of $50.00 to you. Spend as much of it as you need and save the rest of it for my return. Also check up on my civilian insurance and see if it is still good. Some policies are no good in foreign countries or in war time. I have some government insurance now too.

Well, I must close for this time. If you don't get any word from me, it doesn't mean anything wrong. If anything happens to me, the government will immediately notify you. So if you don't get any letters it means everything is all right.

Well, so long, your loving son.
Sgt. Oral G. Cheney

 

Western Union Telegram

WASHINGTON DC 502PM JAN 2 1943

MRS ETTA CHENEY
BOX 205 BERNALILLO NMEX.

YOUR SON CORPORAL CHARLES E CHENEY COAST ARTILLERY CORPS REPORTED A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS PERIOD LETTER FOLLOWS.

ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
350PM

 

View LetterForm Letter

War Department
The Adjutant General's Office
Washington

In reply refer to: AG 201 Cheney, Charles E. (12-30-42) PC-G 365076-1

January 5, 1943

Mrs. Etta Cheney
Box 205,
Bernalillo, New Mexico.

Dear Mrs. Cheney:
Report has been received that your son, Corporal Charles E. Cheney, 38,012,383, Coast Artillery Corps, is now a prisoner of war of the Japanese Government in the Philippine Islands. This will confirm my telegram of January 2, 1943.

The Provost Marshal General, Prisoner of War Information Bureau, Washington, D.C., will furnish you the address to which mail may be sent. Any future correspondence in connection with his status as a prisoner of war should be addressed to that office.

Very truly yours,

J.A. ULIO
Major General,
The Adjutant General

1 Inclosure
Memorandum re financial benefits

 

View LetterImperial Japanese Army Post Card
[undated]

From: Charles E. Cheney
Nationality: American
Rank: Cpl.
Camp: Phil. Military Prison Camp #2

To: Mr. C. D. Cheney
Bernalillo, New Mexico, U.S.A.

[stamped: U.S. Censorship, Examined by 217]

[fill-in-the-blanks card; Charles' typed comments are in bold.]

1. I am interned at: Phil. Military Prison Camp #2
2. My health is: excellent; good; fair; poor.
3. I am -- uninjured; sick in hospital; under treatment; not under treatment.
4. I am -- improving; not improving; better; well.
5. Please see that: Your letter is sent to this address
6. (Re: Family): Take care of everyone
7. Please give my best regards to: All my friends.

 

Civilian Message Form

AMERICAN RED CROSS
Washington, D.C.
International Red Cross Committee
Geneva, Switzerland
[undated]

Sender:
Etta Cheney
Box 205, Bernalillo, N.Mex. U.S.A.

Relationship to person sought: Mother

Message (News of personal or family character; not more than 25 words):

Dear Charles;
It is a great pleasure to write this to you as we feel when you get it all will be well and we will soon be togather again.

We are still on the farm and are well. Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Edds folks are well. Vivian weites often she is in Tex. We still don't know anything about Oral but still have hopes he will be home sometime. Marvin is still farming and talking Ark. Uncle Edwards were well the last we heard from them.

Grandpa is having his 79 birthday tomorrow he can still pick them up and put them down asspry as ever.

Pop has learned to eat with his new teeth good now.

We all send Love and also a host of your friends sends Love.

Addressee:
Corp. Charles E. Cheney
Philippine Military Prison Camp no.2
P.I.

Identifying Data:
Birthplace and date of birth: Dawson, N.M., Aug. 13 1918
Citizen of: U.S.A.

 

Letter

War Department
The Adjutant General's Office
Washington

In reply refer to: AG 201 Cheney, Oral G. (5-7-42) PC-S

May 7, 1943

Dear Mrs. Cheney:

The records of the War Department show your son, Sergeant Oral G. Cheney, 6,296,959, Air Corps, missing in action in the Philippine Islands since May 7, 1942.

All available information concerning your son has been carefully considered and under the provisions of Public Law 490, 77th Congress, as amended, an official determination has been made continuing him on the records of the War Department in a missing status. The law cited provides that pay and allowances are to be credited to the missing person's account and payment of allotments to authorized allottees are to be continued during the absence of such persons in a missing status.

I fully appreciate your concern and deep interest. You will, without further request on your part, receive immediate notification of any change in your son's status. I regret that the far-flung operations of the present war, the ebb and flow of combat over great distances in isolated areas, and the characteristics of our enemies impose upon some of us this heavy burden of uncertainty with respect to the safety of our loved ones.

Very truly yours,

J.A. ULIO
Major General,
The Adjutant General.

 

Western Union Telegram

AY BO 78 GOVT WUX WASHINGTON DC 1018PM MAY 9 
[no year indicated]

MRS ETTA CHENEY
BERNALILLO NMEX.

I AM DEPLY DISTRESSED TO INFORM YOU REPORT JUST RECEIVED STATES THAT YOUR SON STAFF SERGEANT ORAL G CHENEY WHO WAS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION DIED ON FOUR JULY NINETEEN HUNDRED FORTY TWO IN PHILIPPINE ISLANDS AS RESULT OF MALARIA

THE SECRETARY OF WAR ASKS THAT I EXPRESS HIS DEEP SYMPATHY IN YOUR LOSS AND HIS REGRET THAT UNAVOIDABLE CIRCUMSTANCES MADE NECESSARY THE UNUSUAL LAPSE OF TIME IN REPORTING YOUR SONS DEATH TO YOU CONFIRMING LETTER FOLLOWS.

J A ULIO, THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.
440A


 

View Letter

Civilian Message Form

AMERICAN RED CROSS
Washington, D.C.

Sender:
Etta Cheney
Box 205, Bernalillo, New Mexico

Message to be transmitted (not more than 25 words, family news of strictly personal character):

Dear Charles;

I am happy to write you this as all will be well when you receive this.

We are still on the farm it is paid for now we are improving it quite a lot hope you will like it, we built a barn sixteen by forty feet with a tin roof we are building a garage now we remodeled the house have a galvanized roof and five rooms have a nice young orchard started sure hope all pleases you.

Pop is working in Albuquerque as Chief engeneer for the Emperial Laundry and has been for nearly three years.

Had a letter from Uncle Edwards they were well. But awful buisy putting up hay.

Addressee:
Cheney, Charles E.
Osaka Camp, Japan

Birth:
Place and date: Dawson, N. Mex, Aug 13 1918
Citizen of: U.S.A.
Name of father: Charles D. Cheney
Relationship to sender: Mother

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