Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Louis Sachwald, ADBC Commander



ADBC Commander, 1973-74

Louis Sachwald Picture A founder and Past National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, he was born on May 19, 1918 in Brooklyn, NY.  In 1934 he moved with his family to Lancaster, PA. After graduating from McCaskey High School in 1937, he earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1940 from Millersville State Teachers College. Sachwald enlisted in the Army prior to Pearl Harbor and was caught in the heart of the Japanese invasion of the Pacific in the Philippines.

Mr. Sachwald was serving as a sergeant with a chemical warfare unit in the Philippines when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and the American forces that were remaining in Manila were forced to retreat to Bataan, where they were instructed to hold at all costs. Outnumbered American and Filipino forces battled the Japanese onslaught from late December until spring, when they surrendered at Bataan on April 9, 1942, with Corregidor falling 27 days later. "By the end, we had no food, we were suffering from pellagra and beriberi, we had almost no ammunition, and we were using obsolete weapons," Mr. Sachwald told The Baltimore Sun in a 1991 interview. Mr. Sachwald was serving with G Company, 31st Infantry, when he transferred from Bataan to Corregidor, an island fortress at the entrance to Manila Bay, just before Bataan surrendered.Louis Sachwald Army

The transfer spared him the infamous Bataan Death March, in which 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers were marched by the Japanese to a railhead where they were transported to prison camps.  An estimated 17,000 soldiers died on the the 65-mile trek--many killed by their captors.  Captured and held in Bilibid prison in Manila where prisoners were worked, starved and tortured.  Sachwald eventually was stricken with cerebral malaria and was told by his captors to dig his own grave and lie in it or die. Sachwald was given smuggled quinine by fellow prisoners and he recovered.  In 1943 he was transported to a copper mine on the Japanese mainland by ship.  The experience on the ship was so horrible that he never spoke of it and when he gave an interview about that time in his life to the VA he left a note that no one could ever read it.  He lived out the remainder of the war in the mines, eating locusts for strength.  When Sachwald was rescued he weighed ninety pounds.  He had spent the duration of the war, three and a half years, as a POW.  Mr. Sachwald said he lost all concept of time, but when Japan surrendered he remembered the camp commander telling prisoners the war was over and that they would soon be going home.  The next day, American planes dropped food, clothing, medicine and other supplies to the prisoners, who waited two more weeks to be liberated by the U.S. forces. 

"We cried and cheered,"  he told The Voice, a newsletter published by Bethel Congregation, where he was a member.  His military decorations included a Bronze Star and a Distinguished Unit Badge with two Oak Leaf Clusters.  He moved to Baltimore in 1954 when he became an executive at the old Polan Katz Co. that manufactured umbrellas.  After the company closed, he was a manufacturer's representative, selling leather goods and from 1986 until retiring in 2004, was with Mattress Discounters in Owings Mills. 
PNC Louis Sachwald, 92, died Feb. 28, 2011, at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in Southern Maryland.