NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEV. — Airmen from the Honor Guard here paid their final respects to a retired Army officer who was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.
Retired Maj. Fredric Foz, president emeritus of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, passed away Feb. 7 in Las Vegas. He was born in the Philippines.
Foz was a decorated veteran of World War II and survived the Bataan Death March. He was one of the thousands that fought for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines.
American and Filipino soldiers held out for four months against the Imperial Japanese Army during the battle of Bataan., The Philippines were the only part of the western Pacific not under control of the Japanese. For four months, soldiers lived in the hot tropical jungle of Bataan on half rations. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, former United States Army chief of staff, planned to defend Bataan until the U.S. Navy could bring reinforcement troops and supplies from the U.S.
MacArthur was originally going to defend the entire island of Luzon but pre-war plan Orange 3 called for United States Army Forces in the Far East to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula, where troops would hold out until the U.S. Navy arrived. Due to the losses sustained at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy would not send reinforcements.
The Japanese navy blockaded Bataan and prevented any food, ammunition or medicine from reaching the U.S. troops. Medical supplies soon ran out and Malaria, Dysentery and other tropical illness’s started to affect the troops.
Rather than let any more of his troops to starve to death or die from illness, Maj. Gen. Edward King, who was commanding general of the Philippine-American forces on the Bataan peninsula surrendered to Japanese Gen. Masaharu Homma. Approximately 75,000 soldiers became Prisoners of War after the surrender.
Soldiers were gathered in groups of 100 and marched down the only paved road in Bataan toward Camp O’Donnell 65 miles away.
Any man who fell or tried to escape during the march would be shot on the spot. Each group took five days to get to Camp O’Donnell. Approximately 7,000 to 10,000 men died during the march.
Foz retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1961 and shortly after started an import and export company in San Francisco. He later retired to Hawaii in 1981.
Although he faced the combat of war and dealt with hardships in his earlier years as a soldier, his family remembers him as a wise man with a lot of knowledge who lived his life to the fullest.
Foz wrote a letter filled with advice to all of his grandchildren. In the letter he said, “Get your diploma, a diploma is your passport to higher education. There should be no distractions. Gain skill to support yourself. Remember, your health is your wealth and knowledge is power.”