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Minnesota National Guard
Annual Road March Memorializes Bataan Death March

Minnesota National Guard Brainerd, Minn - More than 150 contestants assembled at the Brainerd Armory to participated in the 16th Annual Bataan Memorial March on May 4 in Brainerd, Minn  

The 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor Regiment unit lineage traces back to WWII and the Bataan Death March  As the United States participated in the Second World War, much of America's early fighting strength came from the Army National Guard 

On February 10, 1941, the Brainerd-based 34th Tank Company of the Minnesota National Guard, commanded by Army Maj Ernest B Miller was federalized and ordered to Fort Lewis, Washington for pre-mobilization training 

At Fort Lewis, the 34th Tank Company was combined with two Army National Guard tank companies from Missouri (35th Tank Company) and California (40th Tank Company)  The three units were re-designated to form the 194th Tank Battalion The 194th Tank Battalion was comprised of A Company from Brainerd, Minnesota; B Company from St Joseph, Missouri and C Company from Salinas, California  Maj Miller was appointed to the position of Battalion Commander of the 194th Tank Battalion prior to the unit's departure for the Philippines

The 194th Tank Battalion was stationed at Fort Stotsenburg near Clark Field on the Island of Luzon, where the unit trained until the outbreak of the war on December 7, 1941 On December 8, 1941, nine and one-half hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began bombing Clark Field and Manila in the Philippines  The Japanese landed invasion forces on Luzon on December 10, 1941 and the battle for the Philippines began

The 194th Tank Battalion became the first armored force in United States history to deploy overseas when it deployed to the Philippines to defend Manila Bay  Members of 194th Tank Battalion fought bravely during the Battle of Bataan and eventually endured the infamous Bataan Death March

Eighty-two men of the 34th Tank Company left Brainerd in 1941, 64 accompanied the 194th Tank Battalion overseas to the Philippines  One man was wounded and evacuated, two men went to Officer Candidate School, three were killed in action, 29 died as Prisoners of War and 29 survived captivity  Of the original 64 Minnesota National Guardsmen only 32 men returned to Brainerd after the end of WWII

Since 1997, 1-194 AR (CAB) hosts the Annual Bataan Memorial March  The annual march memorializes and honors the individuals that endured the infamous Bataan Death March in April 1942 and pays tribute to the amazing sacrifice of the incredible heroes of the 194th Tank Battalion 

The 16th Annual Bataan Memorial March opening ceremony began at 8:15 am sharp with a welcome announcement and brief history overview by Capt Rob Grutsch, 1-194 AR (CAB) training officer and headquarters commander   

Following the invocation, Lt. Col. Josh Simer, 1-194 AR (CAB) battalion commander shared with those in attendance what is often overlooked in the story of the horrors of Bataan, namely what was accomplished prior to surrendering to the Japanese 

"The efforts of the men from this battalion slowed the Japanese attack plan by months, kept Japan from invading Australia and ultimately shortened World War II," said Lt. Col. Simer

Lt. Col. Simer also spoke about the importance of oral history "We are very fortunate to have two of the men that participated and survived the Bataan Death March here with us today," said Simer   
Bataan Death March survivors Walt Straka and Ken Porwoll, as well as a survivor widow Mrs Henry Peck, attended the 16th Annual Bataan Memorial March   
Straka mentioned that he joined the National Guard before the war because, "My friends did and you know it was something to do  Besides it was the depression and a few extra bucks a month really helped"

The guest speaker this year was Tom Porwoll, son of survivor Ken Porwoll  Tom spoke about his father's experiences in the war  He talked about an incident during the Bataan Death March in which Ken and a group of Soldiers carried a fellow comrade who suffered from malaria until they were unable to carry the Soldier any further

Tom said that his father "suffered great heartbreak when he was forced to leave his childhood friend lay in a ditch thinking he would never see him again"  Tom Porwoll later showed a picture of his father and the other Soldier as young boys together in the second grade 

The audience was utterly surprised to hear that the Soldier who his father was forced to leave on the road somehow slept off the malaria attack and slipped back into the Death March line  Ken was later reunited with his childhood friend in captivity

The 1-194 AR (CAB) motto, "Remember Bataan, Never Forget" resonated in Bataan Memorial Hall at the Brainerd Armory during the conclusion of the 16th Annual Bataan Memorial March Awards Ceremony  This event once again memorialized and honored the individuals that endured the infamous Bataan Death March and paid tribute to the incredible heroes of the 194th Tank Battalion  
For more information on the Battle of Bataan and the 194th Tank Battalion visit MinnesotaNationalGuardorg/bataan
For more information on the 1-194 AR (CAB) visit MinnesotaNationalGuardorg/194cab
By Capt John Hobot
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
May 4, 2013

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