April Packed with Military History
Few months can match April in terms of historic military events.
On April 1, 1945, the Tenth U.S. Army began the attack on Okinawa, which became the biggest battle of the Pacific. Also in that year, President Franklin Roosevelt died, as did well-known war correspondent Ernie Pyle. On April 28, 1945, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was executed by his own people, and on April 30 Adolph Hitler committed suicide.
Some historians think General Douglas MacArthur committed political suicide when he failed to clear U.S. policy announcements with the White House which led to his firing by President Harry Truman, in April 1951. In April 1961, the Bay of Pigs Invasion began, and in April 1968, the Battle of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, ended.
On April 9, 1942, the United States surrendered control of the Bataan Peninsula to the Japanese, leading to what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Seventy-five thousand American and Filipino troops were forced to walk 65 miles over 10 days in sweltering heat while suffering from beatings, starvation, dehydration, and executions that led to the deaths of approximately 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino and 500-650 American troops. Japan was later charged with a war crime for this action. Almost 80 years later this atrocity still has not been forgotten.
Strangely, it appears that Americans have let go of the “other death march,” when some 6,000 American POWs were marched from Stalag Luft IV, in what is now Poland, more than 500 miles toward Germany. Driven by the Nazis as the Soviet Army advanced, the American soldiers covered nearly 600 miles in 86 days, during one of Europe’s worst winters. (It was 10 degrees below zero when they started!) There is no accurate record of how many died during the march but the number is thought to be in the hundreds. Yet, for reasons unknown, this atrocity has been all but forgotten by historians.
On a more uplifting note, it was in April 1973, that the last known POW of the Vietnam War at that time, Army Captain Robert White, was returned safely. Wisconsin still has 26 POW/MIAs from Vietnam. While the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) still searches for these patriots, wouldn’t April 2018 be a great time to find and recover them and to bring them home? Let’s hope and pray.
Veterans: They don’t have the best of everything — they just make the best of everything.