Telling the brutal truth

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t Bataan Death March horrors remembered and veterans honored.

Charles Sorci never quite returned from the Philippines and Japan after World War II. Physically he returned but in most other ways, Charles Sorci wasn’t the same.

Sorci’s widow, Bonnie Sorci, was one of the keynote speakers at the annual commemoration of the Bataan Death March Saturday at Bataan Park in East Bremerton.

Her husband enlisted in the Army in Pittston, Pa., after quitting school to work in the coal mines with his father, she said. His coal miner career lasted all of one night as he returned to school before enlisting shortly afterwards.

“He went straight from the East Coast to the Philippines,” she said.

Her husband served with the 31st Infantry Regiment, which bore the brunt of the Japanese attack on the islands and spent three years as prisoners of war at the hands of the Japanese.

“He never could quite adjust,” Bonnie Sorci told the crowd of about 50 gathered at the park. “We lived in 28 houses in 32 years. One house we lived in for only four days.”

That move was like many of the others, unannounced, Bonnie Sorci recalled, adding that she found a note on the door and waited for her husband to take her to their new home.

“This was his life,” she said. “The Japanese took it out of him on the death march, and he had to work slave labor in the concentration camps.”

When the couple met at a restaurant outside of Fort Lewis, where Charles Sorci was assigned after re-enlisting in the Army following a brief period of civilian life, Bonnie Sorci said there weren’t any visible signs of the horrors he had endured during World War II.

“He was very charming,” Bonnie Sorci said.

The couple had two daughters and despite all of the tragedy and pain her husband endured while in the Army and the tumultuous life it created, his response to his youngest daughter’s decision to join the Army was a positive one, Bonnie Sorci said.

“He said, ‘The Army was very good to me,’” Bonnie Sorci said.

Sorci also donated three photos from the Bataan Death March period to the Prisoners in the Far East War II International Memorial Foundation to include in the group’s archives as it pushes forward to opening a museum of its own.

Even though there are numerous first-hand accounts of the horrors endured by the survivors of the Bataan Death March, that history is being rewritten, said Navy historian Jonathan O’Brien Smith, who also spoke at the event.

“I had a 30-year-old Japanese woman ask me why the U.S. attacked the Japanese,” O’Brien Smith said.

That is but one example of how the true history of what occurred during World War II isn’t being told, he said.

“The Japanese have tried to blame America, and they are not telling the truth of what happened,” he said.

O’Brien Smith called upon Bill Galvani, director of the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport and the Bremerton Naval Museum, to provide space in Building 50 for this history to be displayed.

“These things should be seen by all Americans,” O’Brien Smith said.

As the ceremonies concluded a wreath was laid at the memorial plaque by Bonnie Sorci and Marietta Barrios, whose family donated the land for the park, to remember the fallen and honor those still living with the memories of what happened after the fall of Bataan.

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