By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneJuly 19, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- In the 1940s, world events took the life of a 16-year-old South Alabama country boy and turned him into a war hero.
But first he had to live through four months of fighting in a losing effort to save the Philippine island of Luzon from the Japanese, the 90-mile and six-day Bataan Death March, and three years of torture and struggle in Japanese prisoner of war camps.
Today, Glenn Frazier, now 86, spends his time sharing his story of determination, inspiration and forgiveness through speaking engagements and his bestselling book Aca,!A"HellAca,!a,,cs Guest.Aca,!A? Now living in Mobile, this four-time Purple Heart recipient, and Medal of Freedom and Bronze Star recipient can often be found sharing his story with visitors to the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship. On Thursday, he spoke to members of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the American Society of Military Comptrollers.
FrazierAca,!a,,cs story begins with a life-changing lie that he told in the summer of 1941, when he convinced a peacetime Army recruiter that he was 21.
Aca,!A"I ran away from home to join the Army,Aca,!A? he said, recalling troubles with his girlfriend and a run-in with a bar owner. Aca,!A"I didnAca,!a,,ct know that six months later, the world would be engulfed in war.Aca,!A?
Yet, he did know about the war in Europe, and volunteered to serve on the other side of the world in the Philippines with the 75th Ordnance Depot and Supply Company.
Aca,!A"Sure enough it was a paradise. I enjoyed my stay there before the war. I met the locals. I went fishing. I made trips into the villages. I enjoyed it,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"Then, I got up one morning and heard the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor Aca,!A| We looked over the bluff and watched the bombing of Pearl Harbor.Aca,!A?
And soon the enemy was on the island of Luzon. Under orders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Frazier was among thousands of American and Filipino troops fighting in the Bataan Peninsula.
Aca,!A"We fought the Battle of Bataan for four months. We were overpowered by five to one,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"When Pearl Harbor was hit on (Dec.) 7th (1941), 2,500 were killed.
But 6,000 were also killed in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked. Many donAca,!a,,ct know that because our commander tried to keep it from the public. Even today in history books, there is only a short paragraph about Bataan.Aca,!A?
American troops joined with the ill-trained Philippine army to fight a Aca,!A"vicious battle.Aca,!A? And, although the battle was eventually lost, it did prevent the Japanese from establishing a beachhead that would have allowed them to advance their interests.
Aca,!A"We diverted them and held them out for a total of four months,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"That invasion was diverted and, as a result, we stopped them from going to Australia. Americans got to Australia first.Aca,!A?
They were told to Aca,!A"fight to the last manAca,!A? by MacArthur and Gen. Jonathan Wainwright. But the commander of the Luzon Force Aca,!" Maj. Gen. Edward King -- decided surrendering to the Japanese was the only option, and Frazier became part of the largest surrender by the U.S. Army in its history.
Aca,!A"If we didnAca,!a,,ct surrender, the Japanese said they would kill everybody in two days. That included 65,000 Philippine troops, 20,000 Americans and another 38,000 old men, women and children,Aca,!A? Frazier said.
Before surrendering, the Americans destroyed anything the Japanese could use against the Allied forces. They shot up trucks, burned up gasoline, and destroyed all rifles and ammunition.
Aca,!A"We fought those rascals for four months and we were still fighting them,Aca,!A? Frazier said.
The determination to beat the enemy at its own game was a theme that carried through all his days of torture and captivity as he joined thousands in the Bataan Death March.
Aca,!A"We marched for six days and seven nights. No water. No food. No sleep,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"The Japanese flag was flying while ours laid on the ground. I saw all kinds of things happen. I donAca,!a,,ct know even if my book explains everything I saw.Aca,!A?
Prisoners were attacked for assisting others who fell due to weakness or for no reason at all. Many were buried alive in holes found along the road. Some were tied to trees and used for bayonet practice. While marching, prisoners were plowed over by Japanese trucks or had their heads cut off by rifle bayonets as Japanese trucks drove by.
Aca,!A"We lost 3,000 in the march. Another 2,500 died at Camp OAca,!a,,cDonnell. I was put on a road detail with 306 men to build a road through the jungle. It took us three-and-a-half months to build that road,Aca,!A? he said.
He also worked on a burial detail, during which he decided to throw one of his two sets of dog tags into a mass grave in hopes that if he died somewhere in the Philippine jungle his parents would have some idea of what happened to him.
In October 1942, Frazier was among 50 prisoners shipped to a labor camp in Japan, where they did all types of slave labor.
Aca,!A"We decided we would sabotage everything we could. We stole anything we could steal,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"We did a lot of things accidentally on purpose Aca,!A| We complained about everything Aca,!A| Our beatings and treatment would be just as bad no matter what we did.Aca,!A?
The prisoners thought of ingenious ways to sabotage the Japanese. They put rocks into cement mixers, drilled holes in the bottoms of oil barrels, poured sand into gas tanks and loosened blocks so that a submarine under repair slid into a bay upside down.
At one point, Frazier was nearly executed in front of the other prisoners. The saber was at his neck and the rifle at his back, when he was asked if he had any last words.
Aca,!A"I told them Aca,!EoeYou can kill me. But you canAca,!a,,ct kill my spirit and my spirit will lodge in his (the executionerAca,!a,,cs) body until the day he dies,Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? Frazier recalled. Aca,!A"So, instead they put me in a 5-foot by 5-foot hole in the ground in total darkness for seven days and seven nights. I was given a little rice and a little water. That nearly killed me.Aca,!A?
Frazier believes that what he told his executioner was an example of GodAca,!a,,cs intervention, something he and the other prisoners saw several times during captivity. Another example of GodAca,!a,,cs intervention was the day one of the captives had an epileptic fit.
Aca,!A"We told the Japanese that he had a very highly contagious tropical disease,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"They put him in a room by himself. That was our key out of there. That night we learned and practiced, and the next day we were all having epileptic fits. In 10 days, we were out of there.Aca,!A?
The men were sent to another camp where they unloaded food from ships for the Japanese people. Again, they found ways to sabotage the operation, distracting the guards with fights and then throwing bags of food into the bay. At one point, the bags were so numerous, that they blocked a shipping lane.
Aca,!A"We wanted to slow down the process of all that food getting to the Japanese,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"No matter what, they always beat us. It was just something we had to put up with. We were told that when the Americans came, they would shoot all of us. We knew we wouldnAca,!a,,ct get out of there. We had nothing to lose.Aca,!A?
When the first atomic bomb was dropped by Americans, Frazier was among 326 POWs taken to a field by Japanese soldiers and told to start digging.
Aca,!A"We were digging our own grave. So what do you think we did' We wore out that dirt. We would dig in the hole but when the guards werenAca,!a,,ct looking we would put the dirt back in the hole,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"In two-and-a-half days we didnAca,!a,,ct even have a shallow grave. The third day, they brought in a bulldozer.Aca,!A?
But that was also a day a B-29 flew by and dropped a 2,000-pound bomb on a nearby plant, killing 400-plus Japanese. The prisoners were sent to clean up the area. Then, after the second atomic bomb was dropped, the guards at the POW camp simply walked away. Frazier and other prisoners walked out among the dazed Japanese civilian population, and took the train to Tokyo and freedom.
Earlier in the war, when American troops liberated the Philippines, FrazierAca,!a,,cs family was notified that his dog tags were found in a mass grave on Luzon. Most of his family thought he was dead, but his father refused to accept the $10,000 the U.S. government offered them in compensation.
Aca,!A"My dad said Aca,!EoeWhat happens if I take the $10,000 and heAca,!a,,cs found alive' I will have to pay it back. So, I told them to just keep it Aca,!A| I was the only one who didnAca,!a,,ct think you were dead,Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? Frazier said.
Now, married to a Aca,!A"baby boomer,Aca,!A? and still receiving honors for his service, he is active in several military-related endeavors, including serving as a founder of the South Alabama Veterans Council in Mobile and as a colonel in the Alabama State Defense Force.
And he has learned to forgive his captors of WWII.
Aca,!A"I had to forgive the Japanese. I had nightmares for 30 years. That is not unusual for anyone who was over there,Aca,!A? Frazier said. Aca,!A"The hatred manifested itself in my flesh. I got cancer and just about every disease that you can imagine, except leprosy.Aca,!A?
But he also read his Bible every day.
Aca,!A"It is very clear what Jesus says about forgiveness. It took me two-and-a-half years to forgive. But I havenAca,!a,,ct had a nightmare since,Aca,!A? he said.