New Fight For WW II's Lost Heroes

United States House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations Chairman Christopher Shays (R-CT) askes questions during the hearing titled "What Will It Take To Achieve National Reconciliation?" on Capitol Hill September 13, 2006 in Washington, DC. Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

On Monday Germany and thousands of German companies created a nearly $5 billion fund to compensate Nazi-era slave laborers. The United States, Russia and other countries, plus Jewish groups, also signed the agreement in Berlin.

More than a million people enslaved by the Nazis and others used in medical experiments could receive payments from the fund.

Germany was not the only country that used slave labor during World War II, though, as some American veterans know all too well. CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports the first of a two-part series on more forgotten heroes of America's Pacific wars.
In a lonely part of the Philippines a new memorial rose this year. It was paid for not by the American government, but by survivors who remember friends who died -- Phillip Scott and Robert Scruby, Joseph Coates and Carl Cobb, and 1,600 more. They were sacrificed, the benefactors say, when America turned its back.

"I think they finally decided they couldn't salvage us," says LeRoy Becraft, a Bataan survivor. "So they let us go down."

In the first days of World War II, Japan invaded the Philippines and drove the Yanks to the Bataan peninsula. For three months they fought overwhelming odds.

The ammunition and weapons they had were ancient, according to Bataan survivor Richard Gordon.

Promised help from America never came -- supplies were instead sent to Europe. When they realized they'd been abandoned, the Americans surrendered in April 1942. But worse was to come. Many would not survive the 60-mile death march after the surrender of Bataan.

Gordon was a sergeant and remembers the march as if it were yesterday.

"My personal observation was to see men shot because they went for water," he says. "Or men being bayoneted because they broke the ranks of those marches and went for water, and then men even beheaded for doing the very same thing."

Those who lived through the march faced new atrocities. At the prison camp they were beaten and killed at the whim of their guards, the living forced to bury their friends in unmarked mass graves. They called it the daily procession of death.

"If it rained, it was a horrendous job because you couldn't dig too deep so many of those prisoners were lying in a very shallow grave. And oftentimes you'd see parts of their arm or their leg protruding above the ground," Gordon says.

And then a new torture: They were turned into slave laborers for the war machine and shipped to Japan.

The Americans were loaded onto the Japanese freighters at Manila harbor, the men simply stuffed into the cargo holds kept for weeks. The Yanks had a name for their transports: they called them the hell ships.

In the smelting plants and coal mines of Japan their slave labor made wartime profits for Japanese companies that today are rich and prosperous.

So the men of Bataan are fighting again: suing those Jaanese companies. But their own government is trying to stop them, claiming the peace treaty with Japan took away their right to sue.

As they testified last month before Congress, they felt abandoned by Uncle Sam once more.

"We would like to recapture our honor and our dignity that was taken away from us," says Dr. Lester Tunney, a Bataan Death March survivor. "At the very least our country should do is not stand in the way by compounding our servitude."

Find out why the men of Bataan are rallying to win their last battle of World War II.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter