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Cpl. Laurie "Gil" Gillespie, B Co. 803rd Eng. Avn. Bn., Bataan Death March & POW Camp Survivor


FriscoHare

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This is the second story in my Bataan & Corregidor veterans series. It is about Laurie J. "Gil" Gillespie, a PFC (later corporal) with B Company, 803rd Engineer Aviation Battalion. He would have celebrated his 97th birthday on this day. :salute:

 

Here is his journey through the Philippines from 23 October 1941 to 9 April 1942:

 

Please click to enlarge:

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Here is his story:

 

Laurie Jack "Gil" Gillespie

(From Sioux City, IA; b. Sept. 18, 1914; d. Jun. 4, 1997)

 

Laurie Jack Gillespie was born in Sioux City, Iowa on September 18, 1914 to Roscoe and Adelia Gillespie. Before the war, "Gil" spent two years in college and was a Statistic Clerk for the Social Security Board.

 

On April 24, 1941, at the age of 26, Gil received a letter from the local draft board ordering him to report for duty. He reported to a bus depot in Omaha, Nebraska on May 8, where he was inducted into the Army. He arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on May 9 for training. During that time, he trained to be a construction foreman and was assigned to B Company, 803rd Engineer Aviation Battalion.

 

Private Gillespie and the 803rd sailed for the Philippines on October 4, 1941 and arrived on October 23rd. Gil was assigned to clerical duties, such as stock and performance recording at Del Carmen Airfield under Captain Ingersoll. [1]

 

From December 25th to April 5, 1942, Private First Class Gillespie (promoted 12/1) supervised Filipino construction workers at Orani, Polar, and Mariveles Airfields on the Bataan Peninsula. [2]

 

According to Gil, his last commanding officer, 1st Lt. John Winschuh, promoted him to the rank of sergeant "in view of the type of duty performed prior to surrender." Lt. Winschuh also told Sgt. James Parente of Co. B, 803rd Engineers about Gil's promotion. However, despite the testimony of Sgt. Parente at the end of the war, [3] Gil was not promoted and remained at the rank of private first class. [4]

 

The Japanese launched a major offensive on the Fil-American forces on Bataan on April 3. Major General Edward P. King, the commander of the Bataan Forces, released the 803rd from their engineering duties, converted into infantrymen, and placed in the Philippine II Corps reserve. [5]

 

As an effort to regroup, on April 6, Gil and the 803rd Engineer Battalion was sent to the front at Mt. Samat near Kilometer Marker 143.8. They joined up with elements of the 26th Cavalry Regiment (PS), 57th (PS) and 31st (US) Infantry Regiments, 14th Engineer Battalion (PS), and air corps personnel to form a “Task Force” under Brigadier General Clifford Bleumel.

 

“The general mission of the Task Force [was] to keep open Trail 20, a north-south fairly good dirt road… which would no doubt be needed for withdrawal.” [6] While at the front, Gil received a minor hand wound.

 

On April 8th, the Task Force tried to delay the actions of the Japanese, but they were forced back. On April 9th, General King surrendered all of Bataan to the Japanese.

 

Gil, complying with orders, surrendered to the Japanese on April 9 at Kilometer Marker 168.5 (called "Little Baguio") by the Engineer Depot. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March and arrived at Camp O'Donnell. His hand wound was treated once they arrived at the camp.

 

Back in America, his parents were notified at the end of May that Gil was "missing in action" in the Philippines. A telegram stating that he was a POW was sent out to them on January 25, 1943.

 

After Camp O'Donnell, Gil was sent to Camp #1, Cabanatuan POW Camp, Nueva Ecija, Philippines from June 1942 to mid-1944. During that time, he performed farm and airfield labor for about 70 days at a rate of 10 sen per day, totaling about 7 yen all together. [7]

 

The Japanese Army then moved some prisoners, including Gil to Bilibid Prison in Manila. They soon boarded the hellship Noto Maru with 99 other Americans and 935 other POWs on August 25, 1944. [8]

 

The POWs arrived at Zentsuji POW Camp 1-D, Mukaishima, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan on September 7, 1944. Gil was prisoner #162 [9] and performed shipyard labor at the Hitachi Zosen shipyard at the Mukaishima dock. He was again paid at a rate of 10 sen per day. Sometime in October, he fell off of a gangplank and landed on his back, injuring it. [10]

 

The camp was renamed "Hiroshima POW Sub-Camp No. 1-D" on April. 13, 1945 and was renamed again to the "Hiroshima POW Sub-Camp No. 4-B" in August. Gil, still performing shipyard work, was given a raise to 15 sen per day.

 

Suddenly, on August 6, Gil heard the A-Bomb go off in Hiroshima, which was only 30 miles away from the camp. [11]

 

When Japan surrendered on August 15, the American members of the camp made an American flag out of parachute cloth. As a result, they were the first to raise an American flag on Japanese soil after the surrender. They raised the flag at 11 AM, August 18 and it remained there until they left the camp on September 15. [12]

 

After liberation, "the freed men left Mukaishima, led by their handmade flag, crossed the narrow channel to Onomichi, boarded a train for Yokohama - and thus began their long trip home." [13]

 

Corporal Gillespie (promoted 9/2) and the other ex-POWs sailed for Manila, Philippines on September 23. Upon arrival, the ex-POWs were sent to the 29th Replacement Depot. He then wrote a short telegram to his mother saying, "Arrived in Manila. Will be home soon. Laurie."

 

Gil then left for Seattle, Washington on September 24. He sent another message to his parents on October 1 and said, "Dear Folks, Coming home and well. Love Laurie." He arrived in Seattle on October 9.

 

As a POW, he contracted yellow jaundice, malaria, diphtheria and after effects, beri beri, amoebic dysentery, tropical ulcers, bacillary dysentery, and bilateral optic atrophy. He also injured his back and suffered from malnutrition. [14]

 

Gil was immediately sent to Madigan General Hospital, Fort Lewis, Washington for preliminary treatments. On October 29, he transferred to Schick General Hospital in Clinton, Iowa.

 

While at Schick General, Gil requested that the Army award him the Combat Infantryman Badge for conducting "combat ground duty against the enemy from 29 Mar 1942 to 9 Apr 1942, near Bataan." [15] On December 17, the Army’s Adjutant General responded saying that, "since the subject individual was not assigned or attached as infantry to an infantry organization, he is not eligible for the award of the badge." [16]

 

He moved again and arrived at Percy Jones General Hospital, Battle Creek, Michigan for continued treatment on January 12, 1946.

 

Gil reported to Reception Station No. 17, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on February 22 and was granted 104 days of recuperation. The Army asked him to report back to Ft. Leavenworth on June 9. He did and was finally discharged on June 11, 1946. [17]

 

OFFICIAL DECORATIONS & AWARDS: Presidential Unit Citation w/2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Good Conduct Medal with Victory Clasp, American Defense Medal w/1 Bronze Star, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/1 Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal, Philippine Defense Medal w/1 Bronze Star

 

AWARDS ENTITLED TO: Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, POW Medal, Bronze Star Medal w/2 Oak Leaf Clusters

 

____________________________________

Sources:

 

[1] Affidavit for Military Personnel Other Than Philippine Army. By Laurie J. Gillespie. 1945. Print.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Sgt. Parente was interned at the Nagoya #6B Nomachi (Takaoka) camp and survived the war. Unfortunately, Lt. Winschuh died at Camp #1, Cabanatuan in the Philippines.

 

[4] Affidavit.

 

[5] Young, Donald J. "8—No Gleam of Victory." The Battle of Bataan: a Complete History. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, 2009. 208. Print.

 

[6] Kramer, Robert S. One out of Eleven. [Atlanta?]: Robert S. Kramer, 1992. 24. Print.

 

[7] Ibid.

 

[8] Battling Bastards of Bataan Organization, Federico Baldassarre, and Robert Hudson. "Battling Bastards of Bataan." Index of POWs. 9 Apr. 2009. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://www.battlingbastardsbataan.com/bob1.htm>.

 

[9] "Mukaishima POWs (Group Photo)." Mukaishima, Hiroshima POW Sub-camp No. 4. Bataan Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc. Web. 08 Sept. 2011.

<http://www.angelfire.com/nm/bcmfofnm/mukaishima/mukaishima.html>.

 

[10] Report of Physical Examination of Enlisted Personnel Prior to Discharge, Release from Active Duty or Retirement. By Laurie J. Gillespie. 1946. Print.

 

[11] Pipino, Barry. "In Re: Gil Gillespie." E-mail interview. 22 Apr. 2011.

 

[12] "First to Fly Over Japan; Historic U.S. Flag Going to Museum." Bataan Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc. Web. 08 Sept. 2011. <http://www.angelfire.com/nm/bcmfofnm/mukaishima/artman.html>.

 

[13] Ibid.

 

[14] Report of Physical Examination.

 

[15] Gillespie, Laurie J. "Request Award for Combat Infantryman Badge." Letter to The Adjutant General. 19 Nov. 1945. MS. Schick General Hospital, Clinton, Iowa.

 

[16] The Adjutant General. "Combat Infantryman Badge." Letter to Commanding Officer, Schick General Hospital. 17 Dec. 1945. MS.

 

[17] United States. United States Army. Headquarters, W.D. Personnel Center SCU 1773, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Special Orders Number 53. By Captain J. N. Niland. 1946. Print.

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  • 4 months later...

>AWARDS ENTITLED TO: Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, POW Medal, Bronze Star Medal w/2 Oak Leaf Clusters

 

and the Combat Infantryman badge according to guidelines, previous procedure by the U.S. Army, USAR, and history of recipients of the CIB.

 

If there is an avenue known to contact the NOK to piursue the CIB, please advise.

 

Robert

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  • 3 weeks later...
WarrantMafia

Every Year the Army host the Bataan Death March at White Sands Missle base. Large turn out of soldiers and civilians tp do a road march 26.2 miles in honor of these warriors. Before it starts a 0630 they do roll call of the soldiers in the original march. Very chilling and heartfilled salute. Im going out agian this year and hope to see his name.

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Every Year the Army host the Bataan Death March at White Sands Missle base. Large turn out of soldiers and civilians tp do a road march 26.2 miles in honor of these warriors. Before it starts a 0630 they do roll call of the soldiers in the original march. Very chilling and heartfilled salute. Im going out agian this year and hope to see his name.

 

Yes, please let us know if you hear his name! I want to attend the Bataan Memorial March one day and I'd like to see if any other Bataan vets I've researched or talked to are mentioned in the roll call.

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Yes, please let us know if you hear his name! I want to attend the Bataan Memorial March one day and I'd like to see if any other Bataan vets I've researched or talked to are mentioned in the roll call.

 

Gillespie and substantial numbers of others should be awarded (posthumously in certain cases) what they earned according to specific guidelines involving the time frame of service.

 

He and other veterans of Bataan and corregidor are no doubt qualified for the BSM (OLC).with the CIB.

 

Robert

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