Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci was described as quick study but certainly not a cerebral person. He graduated West Point 264th out of 276. What he lacked in academics he made up in charm and brute force. Only standing at 5’ 8”, he was a physical fitness fanatic being accomplished in boxing, swimming, basketball and lacrosse. The West Point year book described Mucci as one who, “does not choose to be a classroom expert, but rather the field leader he is: the man who thinks on his feet, who inspires others beyond the powers of persuasion”… and that was why he was perfect to lead the mission at hand.
The Army Rangers were a brand new concoction, derived to be America’s response to the famed British Commandos. Covert and Special Op tactics were not completely developed yet…no book to read from. Mucci understood that the Ranger training to be grueling, bordering on cruelty, but the combat skills inherited would be paramount for the rescue mission set in motion January 28, 1945. A 121 hard charging Army Rangers (and 80 Filipino guerrillas), do not “hurry up and wait” very well and commencing a high risk raid to rescue Bataan POW’s was a much better use of time in most of there minds.
The 6th Army Ranger unit would negotiate a highly hazardous obstacle course of jungle and rice plants…with little, or are at the least, questionable intelligence.
Two years and 9 months prior, Abie Abraham, was struggling to survive. He had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his back and a slow healing bullet wound in his thigh, but his immediate problem was thirst. The Japanese guard had halted the marching column of American soldiers on the East Road just feet from a fresh spring, but would not allow any of them to drink. In the Jungle Heat, the Japanese guards would walk down the row of prisoners stealing whatever struck their fancy…from cigarettes, watches, rings, etc. One Japanese Soldier wanted a West Point graduation ring from one American. Unable to remove the ring due swollen hands with beriberi, the guard severed the finger with a sword to obtain his prize, leaving the American whimpering and returning to the ranks.
One man could no longer stand…and made a mad dash to the water hole. To the shock of all the Americans, the Japanese guard brandished a sword and decapitated the thirsty POW.
The growing exodus of prisoners marched all day along the East Road, four abreast in long columns of approximately 100 men. The prisoner evacuation was behind the Japanese Commander’s schedule, providing additionally stress among the Japanese
troops. The POW’s were too weak….to many diseases that ran rampant for the soldiers to physically be able to march at any pace.
At times a prisoner would stumble time and time again…and then maybe stay down too long. The angst ridden guards, realizing the problem on hand would either beat the POW to unconsciousness with a single rifle butt stroke to the head or explode with rage and drive the bayonet deep into the abdomen and twist in the shape of a “z” to scramble the bowels….leaving the body to rot in the sun.
Abraham’s friend, First Sergeant Authur Houghtby was in bad shape, staggering and stumbling. Abie took his friends right arm and draped over his shoulder, praying to make before receiving any undo wrath from a Japanese guard. Abraham described it as, “Death was with us every step, watching us like buzzards.”
On to Bataan Memorial Marathon Training...
Saturday morning, I found the tentacles of 600 thread count sheets causing me to struggle and escape it’s warm confines. I had beaten my alarm up at 0450. I stretched my body and the muscles all tightened up. My back, shoulders, quads, abs, calves all tensed up in protest in what they were about to endure. Hearing my old Drill Instructors shout that the Soviets were not sleeping in (yes, I grew up in the Cold War…doesn’t that seem so distant now?) I crawled out of bed, donned my cold weather running gear as it was 25 degrees outside and took off with my new “bestest” friend…the 40 lb pack. It was a 15 mile with the pack kinda day. At the 12 mile split, I was 3 minutes ahead of the last time I did this. The last 3 miles with the pack were tough…not on the legs….but the upper body. I ran another 3 miles at the end without the pack…totaling 18 miles in all. I look at that 18 miles and the Ultramarathoner in me says, “is that all you ran on Saturday.” I have to say though that after that 18...15 with the pack…my body feels like it ran 36 to 40 miles. Each and every weekend the pack seems to be less of a burden...at least till the last few miles. The back muscles begin to tighten and spasm...the hip flexors let you know that this was not a "normal run"...and the shoulders ache with each and every step. Sunday included a 5 mile pack run…just for grins.
After the Saturday run, a couple of hours of recovery, and then off to the Cub Scout Pinewood derby for Luke. I love this and it’s funny, how when the cars start racing, the dad’s get more and more into it. The past 2 years Luke won 2nd place. This year not so good….I knew the car didn’t have what his previous cars had and spent about an hour on my Saturday run contemplating how to make it faster. Luke and I reworked the wheels a bit after my run, but it still wasn’t enough.
I had to leave a bit early from the Derby as it was the Daddy – Daughter dance in Plano on Saturday night. Macy is not the type to voice her feelings or what she is thinking…but looking at the pictures…I can tell she has had the time of her life. We ate with all her little friends at Macaroni Grill and then went to the dance. Let me tell you…a bunch of middle aged white guys with no rhythm….frankly it’s sad…also let me say I AIN’T on of them….this homeboy can bust a move! ;-) At one point the DJ played “Butterfly Kisses”…and I thought for a brief moment…wow…my kids won’t be around forever…and yes…one day Macy will take another last name…that day may kill me….but not tonight…tonight we are having a ball….and I got pictures to prove it…