War Hero Jesse Knowles Dies at age 86 on April 23, 2006



"THEY"...a story in verse of the Death March of Bataan during World War II

This story was lived by Jesse Knowles and written in April, 1943, while he and several hundred other Americans were Prisoners-of-War of the Japanese in Mukden, Manchuria. During the march from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan Peninsula, to San Fernando, 55 miles away, 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were bound, beaten, or killed by their Japanese captors. Some were bayoneted when they fell from exhaustion. Some were forced to dig their own graves and were buried alive. Only 56,000 prisoners reached camp alive. Thousands of them later died from malnutrition and disease. In August, 1945, the Russian Army liberated the prison camp in Mukden and the first Americans they saw were at the Harbor of Darien, Manchuria, when the U.S. Navy loaded the prisoners aboard a ship for the long-awaited trip home....to the U.S.A.

Strange things were done under the tropic sun

By the men in Khaki twill

Those tropic nights have seen some sights

That would make your heart stand still

Those mountain trails could spin some tales

That no man would ever like

But the worst of all was after the fall

When we started on that hike


T'was the 7th of December in '41

When they hit Hawaii as the day begun

T'was a Sunday morning and all was calm

When out of nowhere there came the bombs

It didn't last long but the damage was done

America was at war with the rising sun


Now over in the Philippines we heard the news

And it shook every man clean down to his shoes

It seemed like a dream to begin

But soon every soldier was a fighting man

Each branch was ready to do its part

Artillery, infantry, Nichols and Clark


And then they came on that Monday noon

They hit Clark field like a typhoon

That Monday night the moon was clear

They razed Nichols from front to rear

As the days went by more bombers came

And soon only a few P-40's remained


Then the orders came and said retreat

That no man would be seen on the city streets

So across the bay we moved at night

Away from Manila and out of sight

Deep into the jungles of Bataan

Where 15,000 were to make a stand


Here we fought as a soldier should

As the days went by we spilled our blood

Tho' the rumors came and went by night

That convoy never came in sight


April 7th was a fatal day

When the word went around that we couldn't stay

That the front line was due to fall

So the troops moved back one and all


The very next day the surrender came

Then we were men without a name

You may think here's Where the story ends

But actually here's where it begins

Tho' we fought and didn't see victory

The story of that march will go down in history


We marched along in columns of four

Living and seeing the horrors of war

And when a man fell along the way

A cold bayonet would make him pay

For those four months he fought on bataan

Then they'd kill him 'cause he couldn't stand


The tropic sun would sweat us dry

For the pumps were few that we passed by

But on we marched to a place unknown

A place to rest and a place to call home

Home not that you might know

But home to man that suffered a blow


Then to O'Donnell Camp en masse

Some never back thru' those gates to pass

In Nipa huts we lived like beast

Bad rice and camotes were called a feast


Our minds went back to days gone by

When our throats were never dry

Of our wives, our mothers, and friends

Of our by-gone days and our many sins

And about four thousand passed away

And how many more no man can say

For no tomb stone marks the spot

Where thirty to fifty were buried in lot

Piled together as a rubbish heap

The remains of men

Who were forced to retreat


Now I want to state and my words are straight

And I bet you think they're true

That if you gotta die it's better to try

And take them with you too


It's they that took us that fatal day

It's they that made us pay and pay

It's they that counted us morn and night

It's they that again we wanted to fight

It's they that made us as we are

But it's not they that'll win this war

For the men in khaki will come some day

And take us back to the U.S.A.






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1997 Keith Leger

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