Two survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March who served with the New Mexico National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery Regiment have died.
Thomas W. Barka, 92, of Albuquerque, died Oct. 1, according to Gabaldon Mortuary.
Barka served with the regiment’s F Battery, which provided anti-aircraft protection from Japanese airplanes over the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines during World War II.
Services for Barka will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Gabaldon Mortuary, 1000 Old Coors SW. He will be buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery.
Vicente R. Ojinaga, 95, of Santa Fe, who served with the 200th’s A Battery, died Sept. 30 at his home.
Following the Bataan Death March, Ojinaga was interred in a Japanese labor camp for 3½ years.
Ojinaga was born Jan. 22, 1918, in the copper mining community of Santa Rita in southwestern New Mexico. He was a graduate of Hurley High School and married Celia Presciado in December 1948.
In 1950, he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New Mexico, and retired from what is now the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department in 1978.
Ojinaga was buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery on Monday.
Survivors include his wife; five children; 17 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
In April 1942, Japanese captors marched about 78,000 prisoners of war – 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipinos – for six days on the Bataan Peninsula on the Philippine island of Luzon to a prisoner-of-war camp known as Camp O’Donnell. Many were denied food, water or medical care, and some were bayoneted, shot or beheaded along the 65-mile route.
Among the American defenders of Bataan were some 1,800 soldiers from New Mexico, many with the National Guard’s 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiments. Only about half of them survived the war.
An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Filipino and 600 to 650 American prisoners of war died during the march.
According to the Santa Fe-based Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation, only 38 soldiers who served with the Guard’s 515th and 200 Coast Artillery Regiments are still living, and half of them live in New Mexico.
The state also has at least five other Death March survivors living here who served with other units in the Philippines.