Forreston woman recalls husband’s serve in the ‘Lost Battalion’ of Texas during World War II
All month long, in celebration of “March for Meals,” Meals-on-Wheels is honoring the clients they serve, many who are part of the “greatest generation.” Martha Eves of Forreston is just one of many clients Meals-on-Wheels serves who is part of this group that sacrificed so much. “It was something he simply couldn’t talk about, Martha explained. She tells of how her husband, J.O., endured 42 months of terrifying torture and cruelty in Burma as a POW in the Japanese camps during World War II. Eves said her husband would wake in the night from horrific nightmares that continued to torment him throughout his life.
“Don’t ever let them know you’re a sharp shooter,” J.O. later told his son Ronnie regarding his military stint – a fact that wasn’t lost on the Army when J.O. demonstrated his firearm prowess. J.O. became a sniper and once he was captured, he became an unwitting member of the infamous Lost Battalion of WW II and part of the POW work crew that inspired the movie, “Bridge Over River Kwai.” based on the novel The Bridge Over The River Kwai by French writer Pierre Boulle.
Once Pearl Harbor was invaded, J.O.’s battalion was put into place before their training had concluded. He and his battalion were captured in Java after eluding the Japanese in the jungle. With virtually no ammunition and food they foraged from their environment, the men were besieged by their Japanese adversaries who badgered the clandestine crew by torturing and killing civilians to entice them to surrender.
It was only a matter of time before the men had no choice but to surrender. Despite all odds, J.O. would eventually return to the states, meet and marry Martha but his harrowing past would always haunt his heart. “He weighed only 70 pounds when he returned home,” Martha stated.
He survived the arduous Bataan Death March. He survived starvation. He survived disease, torture and injuries that left his body infected and weak. Three times he was thrown into a pit of dead POWs and three times he crawled out as a friend literally carried him back to camp and attempted to nurse him back to some semblance of health. Rice and maggots – a mainstay meal and it was a meal they were grateful to get.
But one of the most harrowing experiences became a 1957 movie. From sunrise to beyond sundown, the Japanese guards pushed the prisoners to build a railway system through rudimentary means in order to complete the task. “They would break rocks with their hands to build that Burma Railroad,” Martha said.
The Burma-Siam Railway. According to published reports, during its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labor brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar). Two labor forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the center.
To honor those they serve – the “greatest generation” and to help raise monies for the program, Meals-on-Wheels will be hosting an evening of swing dancing, dinner, a “live” radio show featuring 1940s celebrities, and chances to win prizes at their annual fundraiser, Remember When…a Fabulous Forties’ Fling. The event is scheduled for Saturday, March 27 at the National Guard Armory located at 618 N. Grand in Waxahachie, beginning at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $75 each, or tables for 8 for $1,000 which include happy hour, dinner, photos, and entertainment. Sponsorships are also available at varying levels.
“We are excited about our upcoming benefit and having clients like the Eves attend to celebrate with us,” said Amy Jackson, director of development. “They will be some of our honored guests during the evening to share their stories, but most importantly the night will be dedicate to helping the elderly, homebound in our community,” she added.
Meals-on-Wheels is a community-based, non-profit organization serving the homebound elderly and disabled residents throughout Johnson and Ellis Counties. For more information about the “March For Meals” events or about Meals-on-Wheels services, please contact Meals-on-Wheels at 972-351-9943 or www.servingthechildrenofyesterday.org.