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  • Honoring Virgil Wallace

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2013-01-04

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    UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, in the annals of our Nation's military history, the story of the defenders of Bataan will long live in our collective memory. One of those great defenders, Mr. Virgil Wallace, recently passed away at the age of 99. Mr. Wallace survived the 4 month battle, the infamous Bataan Death March, and 3 years of horrendous captivity. He was the State of New Mexico's oldest Bataan veteran.

    Our Nation is forever in debt to the extraordinary courage and sacrifice that Mr. Wallace and the ``Battling Bastards of Bataan'' demonstrated in the early days of World War II. Their heroic resistance helped slow the Japanese advance, allowing crucial time for the Allied forces to reorganize and eventually reverse Japan's progress. They played a crucial role in our Nation's history. I am proud to have sponsored legislation to award these valiant soldiers the Congressional Gold Medal.

    The Japanese attack on the Philippines in December, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, led to 4 months of intense combat. Outnumbered, outgunned, Mr. Wallace and his fellow soldiers put up a desperate fight. For 4 months, they struggled, they valiantly fought, against impossible odds, and without hope of resupply, until they finally surrendered.

    Their suffering was only just beginning. The brutal Bataan Death March was followed by terrible conditions in Japanese prisons and work camps. Starvation. Torture. Forced work. And, for so many of these brave men, death. By the time they were rescued, toward the end of the war, half of New Mexico's 1,800 soldiers serving in Bataan had died. Another 300 would die from complications related to their captivity within a year of returning to the U.S. Mr. Wallace was held captive for more than 3 horrific years.

    Virgil Wallace was awarded the Bronze Star and numerous other commendations for his heroic service. After the war, he returned to New Mexico, where he worked for the Department of Transportation and later Carrie Tingley Hospital in Truth or Consequences.

    Our Nation will long remember this courageous soldier, a man who gave so much in service to his country. Mr. Wallace is one of the last of a legendary band of brothers, who represented the very best of who we are. In the dark days of the beginning of World War II, they showed America's fighting spirit and inspired a nation.

    I extend my deepest sympathies to Mr. Wallace's family and friends. I hope that you will find comfort in your memories of his long, and distinguished, life. We honor his valor and his example, and we mourn your loss. ____________________

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