By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
MAYWOOD, Illinois (JGL) – The last time that Sgt. Norman Frederick Spencer was seen alive was when a photographer snapped his picture while “attempting to catch some
During World War II, Norman’s job was to carry messages between military companies. He would do this job during the Battle of the Pockets, during the Battle of the Points and thru numerous other battles.
Because of Spencer's wound during the war, he was admitted in a camp hospital on Monday, Aug. 10, 1942, suffering from pellagra (malnutrition). And because Philippine Red Cross, who came to the camp to provide medical supplies for POWs, were turned away by the Japanese, Spencer died of pellagra and malaria on Dec. 2, 1942.
He was one of the 14 members of the Company B of the 192nd Tank Battalion, who died in prison camps in the Philippines.
A PHOTOGRAPHER during World War II snapped a photo of Sgt. Norman Frederick Spencer “attempting to catch some sleep beside his motorcycle” in the Philippines while lugging a long firearm. The picture was published in many American papers,” according to www.bataanproject.com. It was the last time that Spencer was seen alive. He later died of pellagra (malnutrition) and malaria while a prisoner-of-war. His heroism was finally recognized last Sunday (Sept. 10) when he was posthumously awarded the bronze star, purple heart and POW medals and the Philippine Defense Medal and Presidential Citation Badge during the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb. (Courtesy of www.bataanproject.com)
Spencer was buried in Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery and reburied at the new American Military Cemetery in Taguig, Metro Manila’s Plot F, Row 10, Grave 1.
Spencer’s nephew, retired U.S. Army Col. Richard A. McMahon, Jr., president of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO), who has a second home in Pampanga in the Philippines, was very happy Sunday, Sept. 10, that even if his uncle’s relatives could not visit Sergeant Spencer’s gravesite in the Philippines, they were around to receive his posthumous war-time medals during the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb.
In acquiring those medals for his uncle, Colonel McMahon explained it might have taken him some doing but he made it a point to get the medals for members of the 192nd Battalion who died in the Philippines or had returned to U.S. but never had a chance to get those medals after the war.
THE 89 KIDS WERE ONLY IN THEIR TEENS
The 192nd Battalion is the mother unit of Company B, Headquarters Provisional Tank Group, of which Sgt. Spencer was one its two members, and the Headquarters Company 192nd Tank Battalion and Company B 192nd Tank Battalion that were made up of 89 “kids, only in their teens and early twenties, who attended Proviso High School” in Maywood, and who were inducted into service on Nov. 25, 1940 and were shipped to the Philippines, arriving at the Port Area in Manila on Nov. 20, 1941.
FAMILY MEMBERS GET AWARDS:
CONSUL GENERAL Generoso D. G. Calonge (on the rostrum) of the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois reads the details of the Philippine Defense Medal and Presidential Unit Citation before awarding it to the baby sister of Sgt. Norman Frederick Spencer, Clara Spencer Fiedler
(to his left), while retired U.S. Army Col. Richard A. McMahon, Jr., (left) president of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization (MBDO) and Consul Ericka Anna T. Abad (right) look on. Also in photo is Filipino American Edward Brotonel, U.S. Army Military Police (extreme right), Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, Jr. (to Brotonel’s right), Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, who earlier presented the bronze star, purple heart and POW medals to the Spencer’s families during the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
These young men were to undergo “additional military training and developing their fighting skills as part of the newly mobilized Philippine forces, but that training never happened.”
When Spencer was inducted into service, he was 20 years old.
In less than three weeks, on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. A few hours later, Japanese bombs smashed into Clark Field and other bases in Luzon.
SPENCERS IN FRONT OF THE MEMORIAL:
CLARA SPENCER FIEDLER (fifth from left), holding the picture of her elder brother Sgt. Norman Frederick Spencer “attempting to catch some sleep beside his motorcycle”, and the rest of the Spencers are shown in front of the Stuart Light Tank Memorial after receiving Bronze Star, Purple Heart and P-O-W medals from Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, Jr. (extreme right) and the Philippines Defense Medal and Presidential Unit Citation Badge from Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge during the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb. Photo also shows retired U.S. Army Col. Richard A. McMahon, Jr. (extreme left) and Filipino American Flora Lapso (third from left) from Florida, an in-law of the Spencers. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
Out of the 89 kids, only half of them came back to Maywood alive.
The sacrifices of the kids who never made it back have been memorialized annually ever since thru an immovable Second Sunday of September thru a U.S. Act of Congress. Thanks to a House Joint Resolution 165 introduced in 1964 by Maywood Congressman Harold Collier, declaring the Second Sunday of September as National Day, Bataan Day. It became the second annual celebration of Bataan Day in Chicago area, which also celebrates on April 9 the Bataan Day led by the Philippine Consulate. There is a third Bataan Day celebration in the nation held in New Mexico via walking marathon held a week before April 9 Bataan Day.
Colonel McMahon told the more than a hundred in attendance that although the MBDO is focused on the celebration of the heroism of American kids, “there is a Filipino story in the mbdo.org as we balance it with Filipino veterans album and now with the Philippine Consulate” album with photos that his group attended during Bataan Day celebrations.
THE PHILIPPINE CONSULATE General staff in the Midwest led by Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge (fifth from left) stepped in front of the Stuart Light Tank Memorial after laying a wreath at the memorial during the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb. Among those in photo are Deputy Consul General Romulo Victor M. Israel, Jr. (third from left), Consul Ericka Anna T. Abad and Consul Melchor P. Lalunio, Jr. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
“I will be back to the Philippines on October 11 to participate at the U.S. Veterans Day ceremonies in Taguig on Nov. 11,” he said.
“AN HONOR TO VISIT THE GRAVESITES FOR OTHER FAMILIES' BEHALF”
Since many soldiers from 192nd Battalion from Maywood were buried in the Philippines, surviving families have no chance to visit the soldiers’ gravesites in the Philippines.
Mr. McMahon said, “I’ve taken that honor” of visiting the gravesites of the fallen soldiers on the surviving families’ behalf. These young soldiers were fresh off high school when they were inducted into what used to be the 33rd Divisional Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard from Maywood, which later became Company B of the 192nd Tank Battalion.
Sergeant Spencer families led by Spencer’s baby sister, Clara Spencer Fiedler, received on Spencer’s behalf the Purple Heart, the Bronze star and the Prisoner-Of-War medals from Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, Jr., the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard.
MAJOR GENERAL Richard J. Hayes, Jr. (third from right) congratulates former Proviso East High School teachers Ian Smith (right) and Jim Opolony for their research works, documenting the records of 89 alumni of their school, who were inducted into military service to serve in the Philippines during World War II. They posted their work on the website: www.bataanproject.com. General Hayes gave them the Illinois medals of merit, one of the second highest awards given by the Illinois National Guard, as retired Col. Richard McMahon (second from right) reads the citations. Also in photo at extreme right is Edward Brotonel of the U.S. Army Military Police, Filipino American Fr. (Captain) Cesar Pajarillo, Jr. (second from left), Chaplain, U.S. Army based in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin and Elsie Sy-Niebar, columnist, Via Times. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
While Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge awarded the Spencer families Sgt. Spencer’s Philippine Defense Medal for his participation in his defense of the Philippines from Japanese Invasion from Dec. 8, 1941 to April 9, 1942 and a Presidential Unit Citation Badge, recognizing the participation of his unit “for acts and services of exceptional gallantry and heroism rendered to the Filipino people during World War II by direction of the President of the Republic of the Philippines.”
In brief remarks, Mr. Calonge said, “As we commemorate World Wars I and II, lets pray for the victims of natural disasters that recently hit Florida and Texas. Also, the world is getting smaller now. Let’s pray for the earthquake victims of Mexico, and in the refugee situation in Myanmar, which the United States calls Burma.
MEMORIAL DOES NOT DIMINISH FALL OF BATAAN’S SIGNIFICANCE
“Year in and year out since 1943, we commemorate the Fall of Bataan. The regular memorial performed does not diminish the event’s significance to commemorate the Fall of Bataan. On the contrary, we yearn for those days, with patriotism, selflessness and sacrifice were so common. Our youth today are probably quite different because we live in different times. But imagine how their counterparts in the 1930’s or the 1940’s insisted on serving despite their physical handicaps.
SGT. NORMAN FREDERICK Spencer’s gravesite can be found at the American Military Cemetery in Taguig, Metro Manila’s Plot F, Row 10, Grave 1. (Source: www.bataanproject.com. )
“It is said that your own president, President Kennedy had back problems but he insisted on wearing the uniform. There are stories of people advancing their age to enable them to enlist. Many did not return. As we say, ‘all gave some but some gave all.’ Those who served beat it, so, we, succeeding generation, enjoy peaceful, uninterrupted and comfortable lives. We owe much to them.
“It’s always great pride and gratefulness that we, in the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, join you in commemorating this event, the 75th anniversary of those who gallantly fought in Bataan during World War II. Bataan has made its mark in history because it tells the stories of bravery, valor and indefatigable sense of duty of American and Filipino soldiers who fought for freedom in that province.
“Bataan gives us hope during these trying times as we face numerous challenges on security, peace and stability because in that corner of the Philippines amidst the darkest years of war ushered the strong response among freedom-loving comrade-in-arms thus forged, tested and ultimately prevailed against cruelty and oppression.
TO SUPPORT BALANGIGA BELLS’ RETURN TO PH:
RETIRED U.S. ARMY Col. Richard McMahon (right) is having an open mind to support the return of three Balangiga Bells to the Philippines which has been advocated by his friend, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Dennis Wright, who had suggested that the Maywood Bataan Day Organization or his person may write a letter to the Veterans of Foreign Wars to support the bells’ return. He is shown here shaking hands with journalist, Joseph G. Lariosa. (JGL Photo by JERRY B. CLARITO)
“The color of the skin of our soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines did not matter. What mattered was the fulfillment of their mission, which was to defeat totalitarianism and fascism, and as we know, eventually, they soundly defeated the enemy.
“And while, it is only just that we remember the heroism of our forbears, let us honor them by continuing to work together to ensure that our countries and peoples will achieve freedom from poverty, inequality, injustice and fear.
“For it is only thru genuine concern and desire for the well-being of our countries and countrymen and selfless service to others that we become truly worthy of our forefathers’ sacrifices. Mabuhay (long live) and thank you very much!”
“LOCKED IN THE HIPS”
Maj. Gen. Richard J. Hayes, Jr., who is in charge of the Illinois National Guard, was the guest speaker. He said the Unites States and the Philippines as allies “are locked at the hips.”
AN IMPOSING MARKER of the Maywood Park Veterans Memorial “Remember Bataan” has been erected and dedicated at the Veterans Memorial Park at the corner of 1st Avenue and Oak Street in Maywood, Illinois during the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
General Hayes said the 192nd Battalion that is being honored by the MBDO was the 33rd Divisional Tank Company of the Illinois National Guard from Maywood. He described the National Guard as composed of citizen soldiers “who grabbed arms to join World Wars I and II.”
Hayes said it was General George Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army, during the 1930’s who told then Col. John Pershing to start the 33rd Division of the Illinois National Guard (192nd Battalion).
“It was the last job Pershing ever want. He was a country boy. He did not like the city. So, he came to Chicago and was part of the 33rd Division.
FRIENDSHIP DINNER AND CELEBRATION:
ANGELO “AL” PROVENZANO (seated, extreme left) of the 3rd U.S. Army holds up his cap that reads “Purple Heart” to take pride of the medal he got for being wounded in action when he took part in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge in Europe during World War II. Mr. Provenzano, a member of the Class of 1927 of the Proviso East High School, was among those who narrated some of his war exploits during the “Part 2” program of the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I at Maywood, a Chicago, Illinois southwest suburb. Photo taken during the third portion of the event, Friendship Dinner and Celebration, at Party at Marilla’s at 124 S. 5th Avenue in Maywood, Illinois includes Jerry B. Clarito and Elsie Sy-Niebar. Standing from left is Joseph G. Lariosa, Celia Ramos and Edna Villa. (JGL Photo)
“But in 1936, Pershing realized that the U.S. has to invest in our citizens to assure that we can defend this country. Then, he built the largest army in World War II that comprised of citizen soldiers.”
Mr. Hayes also awarded two former teachers of Proviso East High School – Jim Opolony and Ian Smith – for coming up with a website (http://bataanproject.com/) that tracked down the vignettes about the students of what was them known as Proviso Township High School that served ten western suburbs of Chicago. The students were inducted into World War II although they were still just “kids.” Messrs. Opolony and Smith were given the Illinois medals of merit, one of the second highest awards given away by the Illinois National Guard.
The twin celebration program was hosted by retired U.S. Marine Maj. Edwin Walker, vice president of MBDO, who welcomed the guests. Also featured were musical concert provided by the 144th Ceremonial Guard Army Band under Sgt. First Class Robert Reed; various military marching songs; historical oversight by Dan Perkins, Cultural Historian; Kathy and John Atwood, who belted World War I Songs, “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” “Goodbye Broadway Hello France, Over There;” World War II Songs, “We Did it Before and We Can Do it Again,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “This is the Army, It’s Been a Long, Long Time” and “When the Lights Go On Again.”
GRACE BEFORE MEAL:
FILIPINO AMERICAN Fr. (Captain) Cesar Pajarillo, Jr. (second from right, right photo), Chaplain, U.S. Army based in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, prays before meal at the Friendship Dinner and Celebration at Party at Marilla’s at 124 S. 5th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois that followed the 75th Anniversary of the Maywood Bataan Day annual Memorial Service on the second Sunday of September that also celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. Entry in World War I. At right is Dan Perkins, Event Coordinator/Consultant and Cultural Historian. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)
In the second part of the program, there was Bugle Call, Massing of the Color Guards, playing of the National Anthems of the Philippines and the U.S.; memorial prayer by Bishop Dr. Reginald Saffo, Pastor, United Faith MB Church, Maywood; Introduction of guests by Colonel McMahon; welcome remarks by Maywood Mayor Edweena Perkins; remarks on Maywood’s Role in World History by Dan Perkins, Cultural Historian Bataan 75 Event Consultant;
World War I Tributes in Maywood for Hines Veteran Hospital, West Town Museum, Maywood Public Library, Veterans Memorial – Maywood Park, John H. Shelton VFW Post; Tribute to African American Soldiers of WW I; Proviso East High School, Class 1927, Al Provenzano of the 3rd U. S. Army, who saw action during WW II in the D-Day and Battle of the Bulge and earned a Purple Heart;
Tribute to MBDO Women Board Members Pat Besaw, Ophelia Hendle and Filipino American writer and activist and dentist, Dr. Lourdes M. Ceballos, who died at the age of 87 last Nov. 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada; special performance by Christine Steyer, soprano, soloist who sang the medley “When You Walk Thru a Storm” and “Climb Every Mountain;” dedication of park monuments by Major Edwin Walker, Bataan Memorial Wall by Col. McMahon and Mayor Perkins and World War I Cannon by Dan Perkins. Rifle Squad Gun Salute by American Legion Post #974, Franklin Park, Illinois;