World War II Bataan Monument

On April 8, 2006, The Bataan Memorial at the Boronda History Center was dedicated to the one hundred and five brave men of Company C 194th Tank Battalion of the Salinas and Pajaro Valleys.

Mills construction team worked diligently, even on rainy stormy days, to meet the April 8th deadline. The dedication was a tremendous success with approximately 250 people in attendance.

Please see our August 2006 newsletter edition chronicling the dedication of the Bataan monument. Following is the dedication speech given by Eugene Ferris, which describes the importance of Memorial:

Company C 194th Tank Battalion Memorial Speech given at the Bataan Memorial Dedication
Copyrighted by Eugene Ferris

On the morning of February 18th 1941, one hundred and five brave men of Company C 194th Tank Battalion of the Salinas and Pajaro Valleys marched four abreast down Main Street, through what is now called Oldtown Salinas, toward the train station. They were on the first leg of a journey that would take them into the annals of military history for which they will forever be known for their bravery, suffering and enormous self sacrifice.

As they marched through Salinas toward the train depot the rain fell and the town people waved them farewell and Godspeed. For many of those remarkable men, this would be the last time they saw the faces of their hometown neighbors.

After completing training in Fort Lewis, Washington, they boarded a ship on September 8 1941, in San Francisco Bay and set sail on a voyage of more than 6,000 miles to Clark Air Base, Luzon, Philippines Islands.

On December 7th 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor without warning or provocation. While the world’s attention was fixed on the smoldering scenes from the Hawaiian Islands, that Monday morning (Manila Time), the men of Company C were facing a sustained Japanese attack from the air that destroyed nearly all the planes of the U.S. Far East Air Force.

Shortly thereafter, an invading Japanese ground force began operations on the island. These were the first ground battles fought between American and Japanese forces during World War II, and the 194th Tank Battalion was the first United States armored unit to face off with the Japanese. Through sheer bravery and selfless sacrifice, the men of Company C and other U.S. Army and Philippine units held the enemy at bay, and during those numerous battles and skirmishes inflicted a heavy price on the Japanese forces. The tenacity and bravery of the men of Company C was a harbinger of the American spirit that the world had not witnessed and the Japanese had not fully considered. The men of Company C were put on half rations to stretch the diminishing resources of the unit. With no backup force or re-supply capacity, the men of Company C and their Philippine brothers in arms fought a 124-day bloody running battle for control of the island, and finally Bataan.

Their supplies, medicine and ammunition at almost zero and their physical condition weakened by lack of food, they knew that another prolonged engagement with a well-supplied, well-armed enemy would end in slaughter. Relying on the assurances of treatment of prisoners of war as laid out in the Geneva Convention, the officers ordered the men of Company C and other U.S. forces to destroy the remaining workable equipment and weapons to prevent them from being used by the enemy, and to step forward to the waiting Japanese forces on April 9th 1942.

The Japanese assembled the men of Company C along with the remains of other U.S. Army units and many brave Philippine nationals who had served shoulder to shoulder with the American troops. The treatment of the prisoners was brutal and merciless from the beginning.

Starting on April 10th 1942, they were force marched to San Fernando along the Bataan Peninsula, eventually reaching Camp O’Donnell prison camp. These men were denied the basics of food and medicine. The notorious chapter that will forever mark their place in history was just beginning. For more than sixty miles, no provisions were made for the ailing, wounded, or weak. The tropical sicknesses that ripped through the ranks of the weakened men were made ten fold worse by the inhumane starvation and beatings at the hands of the enemy. The order was “march and keep marching.” The accompanying Japanese guard revealed a brutality and cruelty that took the lives of many men along that infamous march. Approximately 70,000 Filipino and US soldiers started the journey, 54,000 reached the camp. The town of Salinas lost more men per capita in that march than any other town in the United States. That march became known at the time, and will forever be known as:

“The Bataan Death March”

Accounts from survivors reveal that if the march momentarily stopped, getting dirty drain water from a road side ditch would run the risk of being shot on sight by one of the guards. If a prisoner collapsed from dehydration and weakness in the tropical heat, he ran the risk of being bayoneted or beheaded on the spot. Many of the survivors of the march owed their lives to fellow soldiers who aided and carried them part of the way. This humanitarian act of kindness cost some of the marchers their own lives at the hands of the guards.

The men of Company C who survived the months of battles, rationing of food, brutality of the Japanese guards, appalling conditions of the prison camp and the array of tropical sicknesses were split up and sent to various locations throughout the Philippine Islands. They were later put in the holds of unmarked “Hell Ships” and sent to Japan and China to be used as slave labor for the Japanese war effort.

As the tide of American victories throughout the Pacific spelled an end to the Empire of Japan, the members of Company C suffering in camps throughout the war years concentrated on just surviving day to day. Shortly after the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the remaining men of Company C got the news that the war was over, the Japanese had been defeated and they would be going home. For many, the war’s end came too late. The journey home for many of the survivors was by plane because of their poor physical condition.

Of the 105 men in Company C who left Salinas, 6 were lost in combat, 50 lost their lives in the Death March, harsh conditions of prison camps, Hell Ships and labor camps. Just 47 returned to their families. The remains of those lost, 56 men, lie at the bottom of the sea or interred in soil far from the Salinas Valley. This memorial is dedicated to all the 105 men who marched proudly down Main Street on that damp February morning in 1941. Their story must never be forgotten. This memorial honors their bravery, their sacrifice, and the enormous price they all paid to free the world from tyranny and oppression.

Six soldiers in Company C were awarded Silver Stars. The whole Company received two United States Presidential Unit Citations and the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation. In addition, the members all received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Thank you, gentlemen. Your deeds are not forgotten.

The Bataan monument was restored in November & December 2023 by Chris Akimoto, owner of ProBlast Restoration and Nick Maciel, owner of Maciel Metal Works.