WWII soldier shares POW experience with Greencastle-Antrim students
Students at Greencastle-Antrim High School learned about a World War II event not commonly reported. Col. Glenn Frazier, 88, shared his experiences in the U.S. Army Pacific theatre at an Aug. 31 assembly. He lied about his age at 16 in order to enlist. By age 17, he had survived the Bataan Death March and was a prisoner of war in Japan.
Frazier's first six months in the Philippines was "paradise". Then a few hours after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, they targeted Clark Field, Luzon.
"General MacArthur kept that secret," said Frazier. "No one ever knew that."
Over 6,000 soldiers and Filipino natives died.
The troops resisted Japan's aggression for four months. There was very little food, and the men ate anything that wouldn't eat them.
"The Allies surrendered, but the U.S. didn't," he continued.
They were all captured, and 78,000 people were forced to walk 90 miles starting April 9,1942 on what came to be called the Bataan Death March. Of those, 15,000 were Americans, and only 4,000 came home.
"It was six days and seven nights of no food, no water and no sleep. If anyone fell, he was shot. I saw almost everything you can think of — soldiers beheaded, buried alive, and run over by trucks."
By October he was sent to the first of four Japanese prison camps, where he lived for over three years. The POWs were told they were guests of the emperor, hence the title of a book he eventually wrote, Hell's Guests.
The prisoners were slave laborers in factories, treated worse than animals, Frazier said. The rice they ate at every meal had worms. He suffered from double pneumonia, and credited his recovery to God.
Once he walked with his hands in his pockets because he was cold. The offense almost got him executed, but he declared his spirit would haunt his killer for the rest of his life, so instead, the Japanese put him in a 5x5x5 cubicle.
Back home in Alabama, his family received word he was missing in action and later presumed dead. His dad refused to believe it. When Frazier was released and got back to American soil in San Francisco, he called home.
His mother fainted on hearing her 21-year-old son's voice. So did his aunt and sister. Finally, his father took the phone. "I was the only one who didn't think you were dead," said the elder, "but it looks like we got three dead women here in the kitchen."
For 30 years, Frazier was plagued with nightmares. He admitted he was full of hatred. Finally the kindness of a Japanese girl softened his heart. Then it took 25 years to write his story. Now he is working on a second volume about his relationships with people. "That was a lot to forgive."
Frazier was in Franklin County to work with his publisher, eGenCo, based in Chambersburg. When not on tour, he signs copies of his book every day on the U.S.S. Alabama at Battleship Park in Mobile. He spent 32 years in the military and was featured in the Ken Burns' documentary "The War". Frazier's book is available on Amazon and at www.hellsguest.com