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Historical Vignettes

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On 8 December 1941, within hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces turned their full fury on Clark Field in the Philippines. Unable to wage an effective counterattack, the American commander, General Douglas MacArthur, ordered his 76,000 American and Filipino forces to consolidate on the Bataan Peninsula. There they would attempt to at least slow the Japanese advance and hold out as long as possible.

Over the next three and a half months the Allies continued digging in on Bataan and neighboring Corregedor. Completely cut off from the outside world, Quartermasters of the 12th Quartermaster Regiment fought like heroes to the bitter end – in a losing battle to keep their meager supplies from running out.

They died in the debris of warehouses and repair shops under merciless shelling and bombing. They fed our troops from hopelessly inadequate food supplies. They slaughtered water buffaloes for meat, and in the last desperate days resorted to killing horses and pack mules. Built fish traps and distilled sea water from salt.

And in coffee pots made from oil drums they boiled and reboiled the tiny coffee supply until the grounds were white. So long as an ounce of food existed, it was used. More important, they delivered right to the foxholes, if necessary – fighting and dying as they went. When Bataan and later Corregador fell, members of the 12th QM Regiment were prominent among the 7,000 American and Filipino victims who died on the 65-mile long infamous Death March.

Though captured, their honor remained firmly intact. One of the nurses with the 12th QM, Lieutenant Beulah Greenwalt, very courageously wrapped the regimental colors around her, and convinced her Japanese captors that it was "only a shawl." For the next 33 months, Lieutenant Greenwalt remained a prisoner of war with the other nurses in Manila, lived on a starvation diet and was denied all comforts. But through it all she held on to the flag – the regimental colors.

When the war ended in 1945, and the surviving POWs were released, Lieutenant Greenwalt sought out and found the Regimental Commander, and presented him with the flag she had protected and cherished all that time. Both recognized the deed for what it was – a clear demonstration of HONOR.

Compiled by the
U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps Historian
Fort Lee, Virginia

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