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American honors late father by preserving Bataan Death March markers in the Philippines

This undated photo shows a Bataan Death March marker before and after Bob Hudson and his wife, Rosalie, worked to preserve it.

COURTESY OF BOB HUDSON

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 11, 2017

CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines – Jungle moss and roadwork are threatening historical markers along the Bataan Death March trail in the Philippines, says an American who’s waging a lonely battle to preserve them.

Bob Hudson’s father, Tech. Sgt. Richard Hudson, was among tens of thousands of troops forced to march nearly 70 miles from the Bataan Peninsula to Japanese prisoner-of-war camps after the surrender of U.S. and Filipino forces on April 9, 1942. Thousands perished during the trek, which included intense heat and harsh treatment from the guards. The government of former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos installed the first markers — made of metal — along the path in the 1960s, Hudson told a group of veterans last month in Angeles City, Philippines. In 2000, the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment, or FAME — an organization seeking to preserve the nation’s war memorials — replaced them with 139 white concrete markers.

Those markers are sturdier than the old ones, some of which were stolen as souvenirs or sold for scrap metal. But the inexorable growth of the surrounding jungle and the tropical heat and humidity are taking a toll on them.

“These markers require a lot of maintenance,” Hudson said.

Since 2012, he and his wife, Rosalie, have spent many weekends along the Death March trail pulling weeds and cleaning and repainting the markers, which quickly get covered in mold and moss.

Hudson said he started the work to honor his late father, who on his death bed asked his son to track down a daughter he left behind in the Philippines during the war.

The elder Hudson — who survived the death march, a voyage to Japan in a “hell ship,” forced labor in a mine and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki — returned to the Philippines to look for his fiancé after the war. He found out that she had been raped and murdered by Japanese troops, and that their daughter had been adopted.

The younger Hudson moved to the Philippines in 2012 and tracked down the children of his half-sister, Leonida Hudson Cortes. Though he learned that she died in 1999, his work on the Death March markers continues.

A local power company is helping maintain 11 markers at the start of the trail, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Angeles City is looking after the final seven. Hudson said that leaves 120 markers for him and his wife.

“I’m almost 70 years old,” he said. “It is getting to be a difficult project for me.”

Recent damage to some of the markers by road workers hasn’t made it easier, he said.

FAME provides the couple with paint and the VFW recently donated some money to help fund the project. Those who want to help can find more information at: http://filipino-americanmemorials.org/donate/

robson.seth@stripes.com

Twitter: @SethRobson1

This undated photo shows Rosalie Hudson painting a Bataan Death March marker in the Philippines.
COURTESY OF BOB HUDSON

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