- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

Melvin H. Rosen survived the Bataan Death March during World War II and that's proof, the Falls Church resident says, of the life-and-death power of faith and positive thinking.
"I was always an optimist," the retired Army colonel says. "That's one reason I'm here. The people who thought they couldn't make it were dead the next day."
Col. Rosen, 83, will be honored tonight during the National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol in a tribute marking the 60th anniversary of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.
Also to be recognized for bravery during World War II are retired Master Sgt. Paul Reuter of Oxon Hill, who was in the Army Air Corps, and Lester Tenney of Phoenix, who was an Army sergeant.
"They are really unsung heroes in a lot of ways," says Jerry Colbert, executive producer of the concert . "We thought people should remember their sacrifice."
The victims and heroes of the September 11 terrorist attacks also will be remembered during the program. The 90-minute concert, to be broadcast nationally at 8 p.m. by PBS (WETA-TV/Channel 26 locally), will weave performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, New York singing policeman Daniel Rodriguez and others with archival footage and dramatic readings to salute those who fought and died in U.S. wars.
Col. Rosen is one of the last living U.S. veterans among the thousands of American and Philippine servicemen who became Japanese prisoners of war on the Bataan Peninsula. He fought for about four months against the Japanese during the Battle of Bataan, which followed Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
After the surrender on Bataan, Col. Rosen and about 10,000 other Americans and 65,000 Filipinos endured horrors as they were forced to march some 65 miles to San Fernando in the province of Pampanga. It later was called the Bataan Death March because of the thousands of dead bodies that littered the trail.
"You could not help a fellow solider at all," he recalls. "If you didn't make it on your own, you were clubbed to death, beheaded, shot or bayoneted. People who tried to get water or stopped for anything met the same death."
Col. Rosen is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit seeking $1 trillion in reparations from Japan for Americans killed or wounded during the war in the Pacific. The suit was filed Sept.4 in Chicago.
After persevering through the march, he survived three Japanese "hell" ships that carried prisoners of war in horrendous conditions to prison camps.
"I'm sure the 'Black Hole of Calcutta' was a picnic compared to what was going on in the ship of Oryoku Maru," Col. Rosen says. "People started drinking blood from warm corpses. Other guys started to drink urine. Doctors warned them not to drink urine because they would go mad, and they did go mad."
On Sept. 10, 1945, he was liberated from Inchon, Korea, by the Army's 7th Division. He weighed only about 100 pounds up from 88 pounds after the march. His normal weight was 155 pounds.
Col. Rosen says the ordeal taught him that a thin line divides civilized and uncivilized people. He also realized that the human body can withstand more than most imagine.
"If anybody thinks they are going to give me a hard time, they don't know what a hard time is," he says. "Sometimes if we are going out and my wife has trouble deciding what dress to wear, you have to thank God that is the biggest problem she has right now."
Seeing water wasted triggers terrible memories, Col. Rosen says, and makes him think of all those lives lost for lack of it.
"I sold my West Point class ring for half a canteen of rusty, oily water," he says. "I hate to see water being served in a restaurant when you don't ask for it."
Master Sgt. Reuter, a radio operator on B-17 aircraft when the war started, says that persevering through torture required mental toughness.
"When you get a disappointment, usually you don't fret about it and think about it that much," he says. "In our situation, you didn't have to wait long to get another disappointment. Some people dwelled on their disappointments, and that would get you into a lot of trouble."


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