Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

James Flaitz, ADBC Commander

ADBC Commander, 1996-1997

James Flaitz

James R. Flaitz was born Aug. 19, 1921 in Shelbyville, Indiana, and he enlisted in the Army on January 9, 1941 and was sent to Fort Knox, KY.  He was assigned to the 19th Ordnance, Battalion and was transferred to the 17th Ordnance Company and was sent to the Philippine Islands.  He arrived September 26, 1941 on the President Coolidge as it made its first trip as a troop carrier.  They were moved several times before arriving on Bataan.

He was taken prisoner near Mariveles on April 9, 1942 and started on the march out of Bataan.  Because of the lack of medical care, and lack of rations (one meal a day) he and others all started the march with two strikes against them.

He was held in Camp O'Donnell, Cabanatuan, Bilibid, and Lapinas.  He was sent to Japan in June 1944, to the Island Kyushu Camp #23.  He mined coal to until the end of the war.  He believes that he saw and knows what hell is like between the boat ride to Japan and the coal mine.

He received the following awards:  Bronze Star, Purple Heart, POW Medal, American Defense, Army of Occupation, (German) National Defense, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct w/3 Knots, American Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific w/Star, WWII Medal, Philippine Presidential Citation, Badge, w/2 OLCs.

On April 21, 1946 he married Peggy J. Cox in Shelbyville, IN.  They had three children:  Peggy E. Parker, Dr. James R. Flaitz Jr., Charles W. Flaitz.

He retired after 20 plus years in the Army Chief Warrant Office-3 January 1941-April  1961.  In 1954 he was stationed in Bad Tolz, Germany, where the youngest of his three children was born.  Then he moved to Dothan,  Alabama.  His last duty was at Fort Rucker.  He joined the Civil Service in 1961 and served as a commissary officer until the mid-70s.After retiring he and his wife became active in a number of local, regional and national veterans and ex-prisoner of wars organizations.

Flaitz endured bypass surgery and was elected commander of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor. He was a life member of ADBC, DAV, TROA, member of the Elks #1887 and a life member of American Ex-POWs.

Jim Flaitz talked to the Dothan Rotary Club in April 19, 1995 about this experiences as a prisoner of war.  He said it took a long time before he could discuss his war experiences with his family.  It was at a meeting he went to that they told the survivors that they needed to tell the story, because the true stories needed to be known.  He said that General Edward P. King asked the Japanese if the prisoners would be treated humanely and the Japanese said they would be.  However, that did not turn out to be the case.

On the Bataan Death March he witnessed a man being stabbed in the head with a bayonet.  He said he was only 19 then and he grew up fast.

In Japan he worked in a coal mine and also on an 800 acre farm.  They only had pick mattocks and hoes for tools  They could not eat the crops they raised, but the Japanese allowed them to use the vines to bowl for soup.

Flaitz only weighed 93 pounds when he was freed at the end of the war.  He spent part of his internment in a coma.  "I was told later I had cerebral malaria."

Mr. Flaitz did say he had one Japanese person to thank for his life.  He was working on a mine when the mine caved in.  He was buried up to his chin.  A Japanese miner helped him to dig out his left hand and arm and worked with him to get out.  If he had not had that help he would have died, as another cave-in occurred right after he was extracted.

James Flaitz died October 1, 2009.