"The Poet of Bataan"
When the Sixth Rangers captured the prisoners of war at the Camp at Cabanatuan in a raid on January 30, 1945, John Leuddeke discovered two elementary school composition books buried under a nipa hut barrack. One of the books contained poems, which were penned by Henry Lee. Henry had died only days before on January 9, 1945 with the bombing of the umarked ship Enoura Maru. He had told his fellow prisoners where he had buried the poems so they might be found upon liberation.
Lieutenant Henry Lee of the 31st Infantry had been captured in Bataan and spent time in the prison camp at Cabanatuan and then went to Bilibid Prison to board the Oryoku Maru with a little over 1,600 of his fellow prisoners on December 13, 1944. At the time, the Americans were torpedoing the hellships, unaware of the American prisoners on board. After letting the Japanese out, they left the Americans on board. A bomb hit, and after some time the Japanese finally opened the hatch covers to let the men out. They frantically swam toward land, and when the survivors counted to see who had made it to shore, they found that 278 men had perished.
After being gathered together, the men were forced to enter a fenced tennis court and were then made to stand in the daytime heat and subsequent frigid nights without food for three days. Then they received only meager amounts of uncooked rice. Many suffered dysentery and some were wounded and dying. After enduring this trial, on December 27 they were herded into another Hellship, the Enoura Maru, headed to Japan. Less than two weeks later, on January 9, three bombs hit the ship, splitting wooden planks and toppling steel girders. Henry was found along with 279 of his fellow men under the mass of debris and taken to the beach, where the dead were dumped in an unmarked mass grave and cremated.
Despite this informal burial, Henry's legacy lived on when his parents published his poems, which continue to offer a profound testament to the hope and suffering of those who served in the Philippines. "Under the title Nothing But Praise, it [the book of poems] contained not only all 36 of his poems but also four letters he had mailed home that were written before the war started. They, like his poems, reveal the depth, sensitivity, and awareness of the young man." Quote from April 2004 issue of World War II magazine, used with permission of the publisher, Weider History Group. View the entire magazine article, entitled "The Bataan Poet," located in Donald Young's Personality section. Copyright granted.
View entire article "The Bataan poet."
Below is an image of his favorite poem, which was called "Fighting On":