Cadets trade spring break for Bataan Memorial Death March
A 26-mile hike through the New Mexico desert where driving windstorms come with blowing dust and sand gusts that reach up to 30 mph isn’t what most college students would choose to do on spring break. But that’s just what five cadets will be doing during their spring break from The Citadel.
Marine contract cadets Greg Nolan, Papa commander, Cory Moyer, the regimental commander and Army cadets William Walker, 5th Battalion executive officer; Jesse Coffman, Papa Company athletic officer, and Richard Owen, Papa Company regulations and discipline NCO, will join more than 5,000 others at the White Sands Missile Range on March 27 to take part in the Bataan Memorial Death March. Held each March, the event honors the servicemen who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. The cadets call themselves Team Citadel AMJET (Army-Marine Joint Endurance Team) and have been raising money for a few months to pay their way to New Mexico. Spring break begins March 25 after the last duty of the day and ends on April 3.
“This event will test our physical and mental fortitude and honor those brave soldiers who were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor, and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines,” Nolan said. “We are honored to represent The Citadel and to pay tribute to those who came before us.”
On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces and were marched through the Philippine jungles in the scorching heat. The Americans were from the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Thousands died and the survivors faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp.
The Bataan Memorial Death March was created in 1989 by New Mexico State University Army ROTC Department. Sponsored today by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the march is a grueling 26.2-mile course. Participants compete in several categories, the hardest of which requires marchers to carry a 35-pound pack. That is where Team Citadel AMJET will compete.
“It is important for present day cadets to know and understand the history of those who came before them,” Smith said. “Knowing something about the alumni who participated in writing this page of history some 70 years ago will hopefully provide the cadets with the motivation to complete the task they have chosen for themselves and see it through to the end.”
According to Smith’s own research, 23 Citadel alumni were among those taken prisoner by the Japanese in the Philippines in those dark days of early 1942. Seven of those were among the some 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers surrendered on the Bataan peninsula April 9, 1942, and subjected to the infamous “March of Death.” The remaining sixteen were taken prisoner when Corregidor fell a month later.
Hilton served as an infantry officer WW I as the commander of a machine gun company receiving the Citation Star, predecessor to the Silver Star, and the French Croix de Guerre for actions at Soissons, France in 1918. Prior to his assignment to the Philippines, Hilton was an assistant professor of military science and tactics at The Citadel from 1938 to 1941. He was transferred to the Philippines in October 1941 and was the assistant chief of staff for logistics for the Luzon Force on Bataan from March until the surrender in 1942. He was liberated at Mukden China in August 1945.
Cothran graduated from The Citadel then from West Point with the Class 1918. After attending the machine gun school he served as an assistant instructor at Camp Benning until 1919 when he resigned his commission. He moved to the Philippines and worked in the insurance business. He reentered active duty after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor serving on the staff of Major General Edward P. King Jr., chief of artillery of the United States Army Forces Far East, as senior aide de camp.
Cothran was present at the surrender negotiations between General King and Colonel Motoo Nakayama, senior operations officer of the Japanese 14th Army, at Lamao, Bataan. Cothran was one of 1,619 prisoners loaded aboard the Oroyku Maru, an unmarked Japanese merchant ship bound for Japan in December 1944. He was killed that same month when aircraft from the USS. Hornet attacked the ship.
CITADEL ALUMNI ROLL OF HONOR:
*Names in bold are those who were subjected to the death march.
- Col. Roy C. Hilton, USA, Class of 1915
- Maj. Wade Rushton Cothran, Jr., USA, Class of 1916
- Col. Hiram Tarkington, USA, Class of 1918
- Capt. Joseph Lynn McCarthy, USA, Class of 1928
- Maj. Harcourt G. Bull, Army Air Corps, Class of 1929
- Col. George Roland Weeks, USMC, Class of 1929
- Maj. Albert K. Godwin, USA, Class of 1931.
- 1st Lt. Pope Lott Browne, Army Air Corps, Class of 1933
- Capt. Julius C. Burge, USA, Class of 1933
- 1st Lt. Ralph Palmer Ford, USA, Class of 1936
- Capt. Stephen Munger Byars, Jr., USA, Class of 1938
- 2nd Lt. Ernest Scott Haile, II, USA, Class of 1939
- 2nd Lt. James Keene, USMC, Class of 1939
- 2d Lt. Alton Houston Bryant, USA, Class of 1940
- 2nd Lt. John Shipp Daniel, Army Air Corps, Class of 1940
- 1st Lt. Walter Guy Efird, Jr., USA, Class of 1940
- 1st Lt. Wilson Glover, III, Army Air Corps, Class of 1940
- 1st Lt. John Thomas Leonard, Jr., USA, Class of 1940
- 2nd Lt. John Isaac Moore, III, USA, Class of 1940
- 1st Lt. Felix C. Sharp, Jr., USA, Class of 1940
- 1t Lt. Walter S. Strong, USA, Class of 1940
- 1st Lt. Milton Woodside, USA, Class of 1940
- Cpl. William Henderson Coffield, Jr., Army Air Corps, Class of 1941
SOURCE: Maj. Steve Smith, a tactical officer and chairman of the alumni history committee
If you want to make a contribution to Team Citadel AMJET and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association, make checks payable to Team Citadel AMJET and mail to:
Gregory J. Nolan
MSC 2063 The Citadel
171 Moultrie Street
Charleston, SC, 29409