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Capt. Menandro Parazo in the news (Read 4243 times)
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Capt. Menandro Parazo in the news
Mar 27th, 2009, 3:24pm
Capt. Memandro Parazo in the news...


LAS CRUCES Menandro Perazo has bittersweet memories of his home, in Capas, Luzon.

The 91-year-old Perazo, who now lives in Plano, Texas, recalled the 48 acres his father owned in Capas before World War II. It was a wonderful place for a boy to grow up, a place where people cared and looked out for each other.

But Perazo's other memories are a stark contrast. He still remembers that his father's land was taken over as a U.S. military reservation, and he has vivid recollections of walking through his hometown as a prisoner of war during the Bataan Death March.

"I saw people that I knew since I was a boy," Perazo said. "But I wasn't allowed to speak to them, nor they to me. It was very dangerous, either they or I would have been shot by the Japanese if there had been any attempts to acknowledge each other."

Perazo was a Philippine scout with the U.S. Army's 26th Cavalry, the Army's last horse cavalry.

Las Cruces resident Gerald Schurtz, who father was also on the Bataan Death March, but later died aboard a Japanese "Hellship" that took prisoners of war to slave labor camps, said Perazo and other soldiers were able to survive the Battle of Bataan by sacrificing some of the horses used by the cavalry soldiers.

"They had fighting equipment that was obsolete. They survived on half rations until food got so scarce that they had to resort to eating the horses," Schurtz said. "It's a true shame what those men had to go through."

Perazo recalled how many of the soldiers who were surrendered were robbed of their valuables and other possessions by Japanese soldiers. Many of the prisoners were starving and sick when the march began, and conditions became even more dire once the march started.

"The people who lived in the villages we marched through tried to help, but the Japanese shot and killed many of them," Perazo said. "It was very hard on everyone, very deadly."

Perazo's survival came down to two things.

"Luck and of course, prayers," he said.

Menandro's daughter, Mary Perazo, of El Paso, said that unlike many Death March survivors, her father hasn't hesitated to share his experiences with family members, especially Perazo's grandchildren.

"Just as he did with us, he will sit down with the grandkids and tell all the stories," Mary Perazo said. "He still remembers everything, from day one, to dates, places, and people. At first, we'd be thinking "Oh no, don't get dad talking.' But now, I fully understand just how important this is."

The experiences of the Death March remind Perazo time and time again why he is willing to share those stories.

"I've learned that you never forget about your country," he said. "I've learned that freedom isn't free. I'm trying to live a long time to keep reminding people about that."

But the volume of the Death March survivors' message keeps getting softer and softer. Many of the survivors have passed away in recent years, and in Las Cruces, only three survivors are still alive. Julio Barela, Granville Smith and Ward Redshaw are Las Cruces' three remaining Death March survivors.
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