Thurman P. Woodfork


Bataan Death March
Almost 70 years after the armed forces of imperial Japan captured and force-marched 12,000 Americans and 68,000 Philippines from Corregidor to northern Luzon, a latter day democratic Japan has apologized for the Bataan Death March.

“We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan peninsula the Corregidor Island, Philippines and other places,” Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said at the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor POWs of the Japanese during World War II.
I guess I’m just not as forgiving about some things as I should be. I lived and worked in close proximity to Tom for about two years, and I saw how he was affected by the Bataan Death March and his imprisonment following that brutal march. It’s not my place to accept or spurn late-coming apologies offered to him or his fellow prisoners of war by the ambassador of the country that perpetrated those atrocities.

That won’t stop me from thinking what I please about the apology, though.

My crew chief on my first PCS duty assignment was also a WW-II U.S. Army combat veteran, and highly decorated for bravery. He taught me about loyalty, integrity, and caring about the job; he taught me that, as long as I wore that uniform, nothing was more important than performing my assigned duties. He taught me to be proud of performing those duties. John T. was the reason why, some three years later, on the other side of an ocean, I would run, not walk, to respond to a trouble call from Ops, which was located a floor above the maintenance section. John T. was pushed out of the Air Force.

I remember the person primarily responsible for his discharge, one Lt. Nancy J. Stedman. You might conclude that I have remembered her name for over fifty years because I have never forgiven her for what she did to John T, my crew chief. You’d be absolutely right. She worked diligently and purposefully to get him discharged, disregarding the experiences that caused him to drink in order to cope with his demons. She effectively destroyed the man who had taught me most about being a responsible adult.

I’m not much inclined to hate people, but I hate Nancy J. Stedman. I figure she earned it. Now, you may think I’m being illogical, that I’m just being influenced by long-ago youthful admiration and loyalty. Maybe so, but we were carrying John T., and the burden was light, indeed. Lt. Steadman did not work in our duty section and really had little contact with him. She did not have to do what she did; she was simply mean-spirited. John T. referred to her as “The Bitch”. I concurred then and I still agree.

No, she didn’t do anything to me, but she did hurt someone I admired and respected, and for whom I had a great deal of affection. I could do nothing to protect him, and it rankled deeply. Maybe that’s why I’m still pissed all these years later. I will undoubtedly remember Lt. Stedman – unfavorably – until the day I die, as I will always remember John T. with great affection.

All this cerebral talk about forgiveness and offering or accepting apologies be damned. I know what I feel and I know why I feel it, and I’m perfectly comfortable with those feelings.

Perhaps this would be better placed under this month’s theme about ‘Tolerance’ as an example of stubborn, deep-seated intolerance on my part. As a matter of fact, I submit it as my contribution to the June theme.

Submitted for the June 2009 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Tolerance