Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release form captivity

John Emerick, ADBC Commander



ADBC Commander, 1975-1976

John Emerick PictureJohn Emerick was born Oct. 21, 1917 in Whitney, PA, one of seven children born to of Valent and Mary Emerick.  He graduated from  the former Hurst High School in 1935 and worked in a clothing factory prior to enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1940.  He  was assigned to the Brooklyn Army Base and his first military post was in Ft. Slocum, NY. 

He left for the Philippines in May 1940 and arrived in June.  In the Pacific he first served with the 19th Air Base Squadron and at surrender time in Bataan he had been made part of the 31st Infantry.  He endured the Bataan Death March and after his capture, he went to the following prison camps.  He vividly remembers his capture.  He said the Japanese who disarmed him had a shiny University of Oregon ring and spoke fluent English.  O'Donnell, Neilson and Zamblan Fields, and Hanawa, Japan.  His capture time totaled 42 months and he left the army as a sergeant.  Emerick stood 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 98 pounds when he was liberated Sept. 12, 1945. His normal weight was 175 pounds. All through his life he could not forget the casualties or the hellish things he experienced during the war, no matter how hard he might try. He spent months in rehabilitation and then was discharged in 1946 and married Theresa Urban.

After his army involvement, he worked as a general foreman for the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Bruceton and then in energy and research development for the U.S. government.

In his service to the ADBC, John proved instrumental in initiating various programs that were beneficial to the former members of the ADBC.  He was one of the original members of the ADBC to be examined by Dr. Roy Lee Emken, a professor of Psychology.  He took John to Galveston, Texas to have him evaluated by the experts.  During his visits with Dr. Emken, John discussed getting the Veterans Administration to thoroughly examine the former POWs.

John also acted as the first accredited national service officer for the ADBC enabling him to handle claims of POWs.  He encouraged other ADBC members to seek accreditation.  This work led to a POW Study that resulted in the legislation that would become the former Prisoner of War Benefits Act of 1981.    His constant attention to the POWs garnered benefits for the veterans and their survivors.

Numerous veterans organizations chose to honor for his steadfastness in getting positive accomplishments for the POWs.   Even while a prisoner of war at the Hanawa prisoner of war camp, John was considered the leader of the men and has been, on many occasions, lauded for actions as a section leader in the Camp.  John was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" for valor for heroism during combat operations on 6 April 1942 on Bataan.  His medals included three bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, three Presidential Unit Citations and a POW medal.  He was a fifty year member of the American Legion Post in Finleyville, PA.  He belonged to  St. Francis of Assisi Church in Finleyville, PA.

He died Sept. 22, 2009 at age 91.


Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh) story about John Emerick May 26, 2002