“A terrible silence settled over Bataan about noon on April 9," remembered General Jonathan Wainwright, the man who had assumed MacArthur's command after he left for Australia. On that day, Luzon Force commander Gen. Edward King, without informing Wainwright, surrendered to the Japanese. Numbering more than 70,000 (Filipinos and Americans), it was the largest American army in history to surrender. Some refused to become prisoners and fled, joining a significant resistance movement which grew to perhaps 180,000 guerrillas throughout the Philippines.
While the Japanese pounded Corregidor (which would surrender on May 6), they led their prisoners on a forced march out of Bataan. Before the "Death March" was over, those who survived would march more than sixty miles through intense heat with almost no water or food. Somewhere between 5,000 and 11,000 never made it to Camp O'Donnell, where fresh horrors awaited.
One of those prisoners was our own Lt. William R. Wood. Lt. Wood was the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Roy Wood, the nephew of Mr. Ben Reames (some of you might remember, who had a store here in town for a number of years). The members of the Wood family are with us this morning.
Lieutenant Wood was born June 3, 1915, and was a graduate of the East Liberty High School, Class of 1933. He received a degree in 1938 from the College of Commerce and Business Administration at the Ohio State University. While attending O.S.U., he also took a course in military training after which he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery. After receiving more training, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and in July 1941, volunteered for foreign service.
First Lieutenant William Reames Wood was the first Logan County man to be reported a casualty of war after Pearl Harbor. He had been taken prisoner of the Japanese and died on November 7th, 1942 at sea on a POW ship between Manila and Japan.
On July 31, 1946, Mrs. J. Roy Wood received the Silver Star medal which was posthumously awarded for her son. The citation accompanying the award is as follows:
“For gallantry in action against an armed enemy at Malanbang Bataan, Philippine Islands on or about January 15, 1942, Lieutenant Wood’s courageous actions during withdrawal of his battery which had been on duty as anti-tank defense for the 57th Infantry in the front line at Malanbang, near Abucay, Bataan, while under enemy rifle and machine gun fire during an enemy attack, reflected credit upon himself and were in accordance with high military tradition”.
Each one of us here today have a responsibility to remember these Veterans.
When leaving here, think of Lt. Wood, and his growing up in EL. Maybe you can picture him riding a bike in town or walking down one of the sidewalks and think how he made the ultimate sacrifice for our country half way around the World and help gave us all the freedom we now enjoy. The family home is owned by Jaunita Clutter at the end of Hamilton Street, across from Jack Nicholas and Linda Baldridge. When you drive by there, maybe say a prayer for the “Gold Star” mother who once lived there.
Today, we simply say with pride and humility, thank you Lieutenant Wood, our Hometown Hero.
Speech by Tyler Hall