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GHQwhy we like letters to the editor dept:

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Dog Tags

(And The Story of
the Staff Sgt)

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Frank Asturias:  I just wanted to bring up something I’ve been wondering about;  why so many 1940-41 dog tags were excavated on the island? From what I’ve read, all KIAs were collected, identified, and buried, their tags turned over to officers as per regulations. So how did hundreds of them get scattered around? If anyone has information on this, please let me know.  I just wanted to bring up something I’ve been wondering about;  why so many 1940-41 dog tags were excavated on the island? From what I’ve read, all KIAs were collected, identified, and buried, their tags turned over to officers as per regulations. So how did hundreds of them get scattered around? If anyone has information on this, please let me know.

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Battery Morrison

(Though I didn’t know the answer to this one, I at least knew the guys who did.  So I passed the letter along to Al McGrew, Bob McGetchin,  Ed McCarthy and George Munson. - Ed)

Bob McGetchin :  Most of the guys discarded their dog tags. Danny Howell had jars full of them and I have many here at my place. Don’t know if they were ordered to discard them or what? Will ask Al about this and get back to you.

Al McGrew: I find Mr. Asturias’ question rather strange. The large percentage of deaths hardly were during the defense of Corregidor. The deaths of the Defenders came from the prison camps, not from the fighting, and from the loss of life on the Hellships.  I, like many of the defenders, threw my tags down.  Mine are somewhere beneath the rubble of Battery Ramsey and Hartford. The dog tags of those killed on the Rock were recovered, and the various Battery Commanders duly recorded the loss of these men. I have in my possession a dog tag of Donald Odenga, a member of my battery ("H" 60th) who was one of three men that left the Island in an escape attempt BEFORE the surrender! They were gunned down by a marine gunner when they refused to answer the challenge. Why was Odenga’s dog tag still on the Island? Numerous defenders threw their tags down. I threw mine down near my pit because that was what I decided to do. What reaction would you have chosen?

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"Mile Long" Barracks

Ed McCarthy: Good answer, Al!  I was going to offer the same opinion you did but was waiting for your reply, which I knew was coming. Obviously, you have the first hand experience and credibility.  In fact, I think you were the one who told me about people disposing of their dog tags prior to being captured. Good answer, Al!  I was going to offer the same opinion you did but was waiting for your reply, which I knew was coming. Obviously, you have the first hand experience and credibility.  In fact, I think you were the one who told me about people disposing of their dog tags prior to being captured.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if someone, someday, found your dog tags. I hope so.

Al McGrew: I would be most happy if YOU found my dogtags!

Ed: Al, why did Donald Odenga try to evacuate before the surrender? And how did he end up getting himself shot? My nose tells me there’s an awfully interesting story in this little tidbit you just threw. Al, why did Donald Odenga try to evacuate before the surrender? And how did he end up getting himself shot? My nose tells me there’s an awfully interesting story in this little tidbit you just threw.

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The Northern Entrance of Malinta Tunne

Al McGrew:   Sgt. Wm. Dennis was the ringleader. My best description of Sgt. Dennis was "He was a horse’s Ass".  Apparently, he was told of a boat tied up somewhere at Bottomside and convinced two stupes, Odenga and Locke that they could get off the island.   I will let Capt. Starr relate this as he did to me about one year before he died.

The Saga of the Staff Sgt.

On March 10, 1943 a Pvt. 1st Class of my battery, who came into camp from Bilibid Prison to Cabanatuan Camp #1 on March 3rd, 1943, that nite gave me a story concerning himself, a sergeant and a private of my battery. His story, which he told to me freely, unasked, was as follows...

Himself, the sergeant and the private left Battery Hartford during the night of May 2, 1942, while we were still at war on Corregidor. They went to the South Dock area of Corregidor, obtained a sailboat anchored there. They lay quiet the remainder of the night and all of the day of May 3, 1942. The night of May 3, at 11pm, they started out the South channel seaward, by means of use of a black jib sail. The Sergeant was handling the tiller. He was having trouble and very unwisely began profaning and shouting.

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Lateral N,  Malinta Tunnel

They were noticed by personnel on Ft. Hughes, who, not knowing who they were, fired on them with 50 cal. machine guns. Then Ft. Drum fired on them with 3" guns. The sergeant was shot through the head and died instantly. The private got frightened and jumped overboard. The PFC saw him go down two or three times and was certain that he drowned in Manila Bay. The cabin and sail mast and superstructure were all shot from the boat. The PFC lay in the bottom of the boat and drifted with the outgoing channel current.

Next morning, May 4th at the mouth of Manila Bay in the China Sea, the boat was strafed by two Japanese planes. The PFC lay in the bottom of the boat and was not injured. He drifted all day and came ashore south of Zambales somewhere that night. From there he operated with the guerrillas in the Zambales Mountains until September 1942, when he was picked up by the Japanese. He was kept imprisoned three months in the county jail dungeon at Iba, before being brought to Bilibid and subsequently to Cabanatuan Camp #1.

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Ft. Bonifacio

He was brought in with a Sgt. of the 31st Infantry and one other fellow. These three men were missing from my battery, Ft. Mills, Corregidor, P.I. and were listed as missing in action. They were carried this way on the battery roster from that time until the appearance of the PFC at the prison camp on March 10, 1943, when their status was changed to desertion in time of war.

Sgt. Dennis was "H" Btry Supply Sgt., Odenga was an 8-Ball and Locke was a DoDo.

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All photos this page Richard Marin 1999

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