merican soldiers reminisces days in Dagupan

January 29, 2010 at 11:15 am 1 comment


by Yolanda Sotelo

DAGUPAN CITY –As Pangasinan commemorates the 65th Lingayen Gulf Landings on January 9, an American soldier in the United States finds comfort in faded photographs, yellowed letters, memories and a knife.

These mementos remind PFC Harry Bennett of the days he spent as a truck driver during the World War II in this city.

But these are not enough for him to be granted a Bronze Star Medal for his war exploits, especially on the day he killed a Japanese to protect his fellow American soldiers during an encounter at the Dagupan railroad station.

(A Bronze Star Medal, according to Wikipedia, is a United States Armed Forces individual military decoration that may be awarded for bravery, acts of merit, or meritorious service.)

His son Mark is trying to find witnesses that might corroborate Dad’s story since the US government won’t take their word as evidence and there were no records in US Army files.

“Dad always had warm feelings for the people and country of the Philippines . Here at home his long time personal physician was a Filipino. He found friendship in a friendly people during unfriendly times in your country and it must have comforted him so far from home. The 1945 rail yard at Dagupan reminded him of home as well since his hometown was a railroad town,” Mark said in an email to the Inquirer.

Bennett, now 87, a truck driver of the US 130th Infantry 33rd Division detached to Company B of the 108th Combat Engineers that served in the Philippines during the war, was in combat at the railroad yard in Dagupan and killed a Japanese soldier on March 21, 1945, according to Mark.

Mark said he was gathering “proofs” of his father’s wartime service and especially of the action that day to enable him to acquire a Bronze Star Medal.

“Our government, not wanting to diminish the honor of the Bronze Star, is reluctant to award them without documentation or witnesses. I believe Dad acted as a hero that day and should be honored. The US government insists on witnesses but it is unrealistic since Dad was assigned to drive soldiers he did not know that day and (he) doesn’t remember anyone’s names. Also, Dad is 87. (Is) anyone that was there that day even alive?” Mark said.

The soldier’s son narrated that his father was asked by a lieutenant (whose name his dad did not know) to take him and a group of soldiers to the town of Dagupan to “look around.”

“When they got to the railroad yard, they ran into a ‘Jap or two’ (Dad’s words as he wrote them to my Mom later in a letter). (During) the encounter, Dad grabbed his rifle from the truck and dashed ahead of the other soldiers, putting him in the crossfire. He said he didn’t know why he responded that way except ‘I had to put a stop to it,’” Mark said, quoting his father.

The lieutenant ordered the US soldiers to stop shooting or they might hit Bennett.

“When the shooting stopped, the Japanese started to run and Dad shot a few times. He saw the Japanese soldier reach for his stomach and said ‘I got him, he went down’. When (American) soldiers went up to the fallen enemy he was still moving. The lieutenant started to search him and Dad said, ‘wait he is reaching for something under his shirt.’” Mark continued.

The Lieutenant asked his men who of them “got” the soldier and when Bennett answered “I guess I did,” he asked what thing on the fallen enemy he wanted to have.

Bennett said, “ how ‘bout that knife?” and it was given to him Benett also asked to have a prayer bead of the Japanese soldier.

Mark said his father gave him the knife when he was a “youngster.” He later learned that it was the kind used by Japanese soldiers in ceremonial suicide so as to not dishonor their ancestors with surrender.

He added that he believed his father’s action prevented any of the US soldiers that day from being killed or wounded.

Unfortunately, the lieutenant did not report the event and Dad was not interviewed by his superiors about it.

“I have original letters from Dad to my Mother and the knife taken from the Japanese soldier. I believe these to be historical artifacts to back up Dad’s story.” Mark said. He added that his father only told him about his wartime service last year and wanted to help honor him by asking the US government to give him the Bronze Star Medal.

But the fading photographs, letters of his father to his mother, the memories and the knife are not enough as evidence to back up his claim.

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Entry filed under: News.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jamunaapartments01  |  January 29, 2010 at 11:31 am

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    Reply

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