Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Mexico and Bataan

Bataan Medal
New Mexico’s 200th Regiment was sent to to provide air defense on the Philippines in September 1941. On December 8, 1941 they were the “first to fire” on Japan and by evening the Regiment was split, forming the 515th Coast Artillery to provide anti-aircraft protection to Manila, the first battle-born unit of World War II. Few regiments have given and suffered so much to defend the United States.

The 200th and 515th Coast Artillery batteries were among the most highly decorated in American history. They received four Presidential unit Citations, five Battle Stars, the Bronze Star, the Bataan Medal issued by the State of New Mexico and a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. Of the 1,816 200th and 515th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft) men identified: 829 deaths (46%) — 24 battle-related; 803 as POWs (44%) including five who were massacred on Palawan; 2 post-liberation (related to abuse as POWs).  There were only 988 survivors (54%) and 40 deaths post-liberation for a ten year period (4%). (Source: B. Charley Gallegos, Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico, Inc.)

Although in 1943, the City of Albuquerque vowed to build a memorial to New Mexico’s 200th and 515th Coast Artillery and created the Bataan Memorial Park, a city memorial was not dedicated until April 7, 2002. In 1960, family members and friends of the Regiment’s survivors had erected a stone memorial to the Regiment in the Park.

The new Memorial features granite pillars bearing the names and story of the men of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery (AA) units arranged such that one may get a sense of marching alongside a man, toward the original stone memorial. Behind the flower garden, is a ramada to providesshade for benches on which visitors can sit and look across a series of stepping stones which delineate the island nation of the Philippines to the original marker, or beyond to the grassy lawn of the park and children at play.

This Memorial provides a physical reminder that the park is integral to the history of Albuquerque and New Mexico. It is maintained by the city and the Bataan Corregidor Memorial Foundation, which also hosts an excellent website on the Regiment's history.

Albuquerque’s congressman is Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and he is a co-sponsor of H. Res. 333. New Mexico’s other congressmen, Steve Pearce (R-NM-2) and Ben Lujan (D-NM-3) still have not signed on to support the Resolution.

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