When Clarence Bramley arrived in the Philippines in 1941, he had no way of knowing that he would eventually spend nearly the entire duration of World War II as a prisoner of war. Clarence, or Rosie, as his military friends called him, was one of 12,000 American and 66,000 Filipino troops taken prisoner on the Bataan Peninsula at the outbreak of the war. It is estimated that more than half of them died during their subsequent imprisonment that included a deadly 85-mile march that resulted in thousands of prisoners being bayoneted, shot or beheaded when they couldn’t keep up the brutal pace. Nearly every one was beaten or starved; many were buried alive, particularly if they fell victim to lack of water, malaria, or other diseases during the march.
Clarence managed to march on, despite an attack of malaria, thanks to the bravery and kindness of other soldiers who intervened, helping him along in his state of semi-consciousness. Eventually, a Japanese soldier determined to kill Bramley, who was having difficulty walking, but another officer intervened, preserving his life. Next, loaded on boxcars that were packed so tightly there was no room for the dead men to fall, Clarence and other prisoners were transported by rail to the town of Capas where they remained for months as prisoners. Eventually, survivors were loaded into the cargo holds of ships and sent to Japan. Thousands more perished due to starvation, exposure, disease, and friendly fire. Once in Japan, Bramley was assigned to a forced prison labor camp where he spent the remainder of the war.
William T. Garner, author of Unwavering Valor writes, “From the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, Clarence was confident that Japan would be defeated. Early in his confinement, he believed the prisoners would be liberated in a matter of months. As the months grew into years, he remained convinced of a coming liberation…’I have faith in God and in our country and I know our boys will be here to get us soon,’ he would say.”
In September, 1945, when it became apparent that the war was finally ending, Bramley and several of his companions stayed up all night long to stitch together an American flag using pieces of parachute fabric. They flew the flag over their barracks following the signing of the armistice on September 2, 1945, and Bramley kept the flag until his death. He passed away from natural causes in February, 2015, the day before the book about his experiences was released in bookstores.
During a time of year when we celebrate our veterans during Memorial Day ceremonies, small-town parades and 4th of July celebrations, it is a fitting time to pause and reflect on what these men and women have sacrificed in our behalf. Unwavering Valor: A POW’s Account of the Bataan Death March is a compelling historical account that will leave you with a new sense of understanding and appreciation for the men and women who sacrificed so much to defend our country.