Library of Congress getting Bataan interviews

January 11th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by under Latest Posts

Interviews with three New Mexicans connected to the World War II battles at Bataan and Corregidor will become part of the Library of Congress permanent collection, Sen. Tom Udall’s office announced today.

Two of the interview subjects are Bataan survivors: Pedro “Pete” Gonzalez and Bill Overmier.  The third is retired Lt. Gen. Edward Baca, a past New Mexico National Guard and National Guard Bureau who is a spokesman for the Survivors of Bataan.

A total of 1 1/2 hours of interviews were recorded with portions used in “Bataan: A 70th Anniversary Commemoration” produced by New Mexico PBS and first broadcast on PBS stations around the county on Memorial Day 2012.  The Albuquerque-based production was a companion to a national PBS documentary “Tragedy of Bataan.”

About 1,800 New Mexico National Guardsmen were deployed to the Philippines shortly before World War II broke out and were part of the U.S. and Filipino forces stationed on Corregidor Island and the Bataan Peninsula during the Japanese invasion.  When U.S. forces surrendered a few months later, most of the New Mexicans were defending the Bataan Peninsula.

The forced march of survivors to prisoner of war camps became known as the Bataan Death March.

Only half of the New Mexicans survived the battles and their captivity, and many more died from their injuries and infirmities after being liberated three years later.

“The people of the United States are forever indebted to the service and sacrifice of those who suffered at Bataan,” Udall, D-N.M., said in a statement released by his office. “The events at Bataan have great historical significance, but the number of survivors who can share what happened there is rapidly dwindling.

“The addition of these interviews into the Library of Congress will help to ensure that their heroic stories are not forgotten.”

Also involved in the Library of Congress submission is the Oasis Veteran’s History Project, a New Mexico partner in the national Veterans History Project focused on preserving the first-hand oral history of World War II veterans.

The New Mexico PBS interviews required a waiver for inclusion by the Library of Congress because the three veterans were interviewed together instead of being individual stories as normally required.

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