History Department
History Department

WWII prisoner of war survivor, Leroy Wilson, is guest lecturer for Normandy Scholars

Tue, March 14, 2006

The story of the Bataan death march, the surrender of Corregidor, and the attendant hardships and horrors is a harrowing one. Mr. Wilson's extraordinary courage, resilience, and stamina enabled him to come through an ordeal that took the lives of many thousands.

His original enlistment in the U.S. Army occurred on February 4, 1941. Assigned to the Philippine Islands in March, 1941, he was moved to a position on Bataan Peninsula in November, 1941, shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States in the Second World War. He remained in Bataan until the night of April 8, 1942, returning to Corregidor as a spotter for friendly artillery fire targeting enemy positions on Bataan. After Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, the Philippine and American forces held out at Corregidor for 27 days against overwhelming odds, including the invasion of the island by Japanese forces May 4-5, 1942. Following the surrender by Major General Jonathan Wainwright of all American and Filipino forces at 1200 noon, May 6, 1942, Mr. Wilson worked as slave labor for Japanese industries until his liberation on September 15, 1945, at which time he weighed 93 lbs, having survived on the sparest of rice-only diets.

Wilson subsequently joined the U.S. Air Force, serving 15 years on B-29 bombers, experimental B-36 bombers, and C-47 transport aircraft. He flew 197 sorties in the latter over Korea in 1950. He retired from military duty on February 28, 1962, after completing 20 years of active duty.

The skills he learned during his military service did not go to waste. They enabled him to teach school-both public and technical-for 25 years. He retired from his civilian employment on August 31, 1984.

Mr. Wilson's anecdotes of feasting on Hershey bars, iceberg lettuce, and other treats after his liberation from captivity regaled those in attendance, drawing many smiles.

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