Back to Bataan - A Survivor's Story
Written by Rick Peterson
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Author Rick Peterson



The Road to Bataan

The Bataan Death March

The San Fernando Train Ride

Camp O'Donnell

Clark Field Concentration Camp

Bilibid Prison

The Hell Ships


The Nomachi Express

Camp Nomachi

Surrender, Liberation, and Repatriation


University of Minnesota
Alf R. Larson
Recorded Oral History

Governor Pawlenty
State of the State Address Tribute

KSTP TV Newscasts

Duluth TV Newscasts

KTIS Radio Interview
Rick P./Paulette K.
Alf's Christian Faith

Alf's Letter to God

Alf R. Larson

In Memory:
Alf R. Larson
Star Tribune

US Representative
Erik Paulsen's Tribute

Alf Larson Day -
City of Crystal

Bataan Death March Route Map

Philippine Department of Tourism

Star Tribune:
March of Time
("Article of Interest" for 4-6 Grade Basic Skills Reading Test Prep)

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The Road to Bataan

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What were your duties?
I was in the 27th Material Squadron. We were in charge of supplies and aircraft. At Nichols Field, I started as an airplane mechanic and worked my way up to crew chief. Eventually, I became a flight engineer. I got my start in a ship called the A09, a Grumman Amphibian. The commandant of the base, Colonel Ryan said, "That's my airplane!" We flew four hours a month, just enough time so he could get his flight pay. He wouldn't let anybody else fly that thing. Probably a year or so before the war Colonel George came and looked at the aircraft. He said, "I want that plane." He got it because he ranked Colonel Ryan. Colonel George flew the pants off us! He wanted to go to all the bases in the Philippines and check the facilities and supplies. One time he asked me, "How do you get per diem?" Per Diem was sustenance pay we received while away from Nichols Field. I said, "Well, I have to sign these chits and prove I was there."

He said, "Okay, I'll take care of it." Within two days, I received orders that said my per diem pay was exactly the same as the officers. Every time we left base, I got $6.00 too. We continued to fly all over the islands. About a month before hostilities began, we flew combat missions to observe and engage enemy aircraft. Our guns were loaded but you couldn't fire on the way out unless you saw enemy aircraft. On the way in, you could expend the ammunition. We would empty the guns by shooting a porpoise or stingray down in the water. For gunnery practice, we had aircraft that would tow targets. We would shoot at them. We got pretty good with the machine guns. When we hit the target latch, the tail would fall to the ground. The ground crew would have to go and pick up a new one. They got mad at us when we hit the targets. Man, they were mad at us!

How did the Filipinos treat Americans?
They were extremely friendly. Especially outside of Manila, they would bend over backwards to please you.

Could they speak English?
Sure because the Philippines had been a possession of America for years. We went to one island, Mindora, which is south of Luzon. We landed and a delegation from town came and met us. They said, "We are having a wedding." "Come on, join us." We didn't know anybody but they treated us like kings! We stayed overnight in tents. A twelve-foot python came crawling through the campsite. We tried to tell this knucklehead to leave it alone but he went and shot him with a 30-caliber rifle! That snake thrashed around and tore our tent and stuff to pieces. He caused a heck of a lot of damage before he died.

When did the war start in the Philippines?
The war started December 7, 1941, which was December 8, 1941 at our end of the world. When we got the word, we didn't believe it. We found out in a hurry that it was true! On December 8, 1941, we were ordered to fly photographic equipment from Nichols Field up to the bombers at Clark Field. They wanted to take off and photograph strategic positions on Formosa. We got on board the A09 Amphibian. For armament I had a 45 caliber sub-machine gun and the other crewmember had a 45-caliber pistol. That was all our armament! We took the doors off so we could see outside. Luckily, we didn't see any Japanese aircraft on that flight. When we landed at Clark Field, the officers left to deliver the photo material. I was sitting by the plane.

Bombing Of Clark Field -- The United States was not prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 nor for the one on Clark Field ten hours later the same day. -- Drawing Courtesy of Ben Steele Somebody said, "Gee, look at how the navy is flying up there." "Look at that formation." I took one look and shouted, "It's Japs!" Colonel Maitland, the commandant of Clark Field, had made his troops dig slit trenches. I dove into one and, shortly after that, the bombs came whistling down like you wouldn't believe. They plastered us for about one-half an hour. Then their fighters came and strafed. I was shooting at them with my 45-caliber submachine gun. I don't know if I hit anything, but it sure made me feel good to shoot! After the fighters left, this one guy fell into the trench. He said, "Help me!" I said, "Sure, what's wrong?" He held his leg up in the air. He had no knee left. It was all shot up. I had my bandage kit with me. I poured sulfa powder in the wound and bandaged him up. I left and got a medical corpsman to take care of him. I don't know what happened to him.

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