A tribute to Henry
Early Friday morning, July 15, my close friend Henry Beedle silently passed away.
We became friends soon after my wife and I moved into Merrill Gardens in 2004. We exchanged a few military experiences and soon learned that Henry, at 19, joined the Army in 1939, and I, at 22, joined the Navy in 1942.
After Henry completed basic training, he was assigned duty at Corregidor, in the harbor of Manila. He was there on Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and they included Manila in their unprovoked raid. Our boys defended their position for two or three months, losing a number of men, but then ran low on food and ammunition. It became obvious our home forces were unable to bring them supplies, so they had no choice but to surrender.
The Japanese then forced them, and many Philippine citizens, to go on the notorious "death march" to a prisoner of war camp some 65 miles away. Thousands of people set out on the journey. Many fell by the wayside and were left to die from exhaustion and hunger. Henry was able to climb aboard a truck for the final miles, and there he lived behind barbed wire for more than three years.
The survivors lived on two meals a day, which consisted primarily of rice. Many of the captives died each day from hunger, exhaustion and disease. Late each day, men were assigned the task of carrying the dead in a blanket to a burial site. Henry did not speak very often about his ordeal, but he loaned me a book written by a fellow prisoner. He confirmed the details.
Henry lost his beloved wife some 10 years ago, a loss he never was able to overcome. They had no living children, but had two grandsons, one in Boston and one in the Livermore area. He also left a niece who lives near the Sonoma Plaza, and another niece in east Sonoma. They visited him frequently, but oh, how he missed his wife of so many years. He still wore her wedding band on a golden chain around his neck.
No memorial service is planned for Henry, but he is to be cremated and his ashes buried in the acreage of his east Sonoma niece. So may I pay my tribute to this fine patriotic gentleman, who gave some of the best years of his life to his country.
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George Percival is a Sonoma resident.