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April is New Mexico Bataan-Corregidor Heritage Month
CARLSBAD, New Mexico - April has been declared "Bataan-Corregidor Heritage Month" by New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez to honor the state's men of the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment in World War II. Of the 12,000 American soldiers sent to the Philippines, 1,800 were from New Mexico, seven from the town of Carlsbad.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park will remember all the men of the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment, and highlight the seven who had close ties to the park as young men before going to war. They worked as rangers, clerks and were sons of cavern employees. All of them called Carlsbad Caverns home and three of the seven never returned here to families and friends after the war.
In 1942, American soldiers rallied with 63,000 Filipino soldiers to defend against Japanese forces on the battlegrounds of Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines. On April 9, a U.S. commander surrendered, knowing a massacre was looming. After the surrender, a brutal 65-mile trek known as the "Bataan Death March" led the prisoners of war to a Japanese war compound.
The park will observe this special month with an exhibit in the soldiers' honor. The month-long exhibit, which opens Monday, April 1, tells the stories of Malcolm Bull, Jim Harrison and John Moseley, all former Caverns employees; Jack Rupe, the son of former Caverns employee Earl Rupe; and Russell Haney, son of the park's Ert and Mitt Haney, and Dwayne and Gene Davis, the sons of Caverns photographer, Ray V. Davis.
This much anticipated exhibit, about dreams broken and lives cut short by the reality of war, contains biographies of the soldiers, photographs, historical information, memorabilia, and poetry.
Ranger Mannie Bemis, who designed the exhibit, gathered much information and deeply personal stories from the men's families, including sons, brothers, nephews and nieces. Ranger Bemis said the families are thrilled and grateful that these men have not been forgotten. Many family members plan to travel to New Mexico to see the exhibit.
To further honor the boys of Bataan, Ranger Bemis will be giving a public presentation to the Carlsbad Historical Society at the Carlsbad Public Library on April 1 at 7:30 pm.
For more information about open hours, cave tours, and other activities, call 575-785-2232 or visit www.nps.gov/cave.