Defenders of the Philippines

picture of captivity and picture of release from captivity

Henry "Hank" Wilayto,  ADBC Commander

ADBC Commander, 1987-1988, Charter Member of ADBC

Library of Congress Veterans Project-Interview Henry Wilayto
Henry Wilayto Picture
Henry Wilayto was born January 4, 1917 in Nashua to Polish immigrant parents, and graduated from Cathedral High School in Boston.  He enlisted in the air corps on Dec. 20, 1940 and arrived in the Philippines 2 months later, Feb. 20, 1941.  He was assigned to the Quartermaster, Camp John Hay, on Luzon, in the Philippine Islands.  He was at Camp John Hay December 7 until December 27.  He escaped Camp John Hay and maneuvered through 80 miles of jungles to Aritao.
He and thirty two other men then commandeered a bus and drove through hundreds of miles to Cabanatuan.  He was then assigned to motor pool and about January 15, sent to Bataan and assigned to General’s headquarters to Quartermaster Staff until Bataan surrendered on April 9, 1942.  

Before the Japanese stormed Camp John Hay, Wilayto managed to get a few bottles of medicine, including quinine and this helped him and a fellow marcher on the Bataan Death March. At one point, he got some bread scraps from the Japanese officers and gave some to one of his buddies, and another GI who suffered from epilepsy. By trying help his friends, he was also able to get a piece for himself.   He realized that “when you do for others, others will do for you” and he passed this onto his children.   He was interned at Camp O’Donnell where he helped in interning 1500 US prisoners of war, most having died form starvation and dysentery.   He went to Bilibid Prison Hospital, and then helped rebuild Neilson Field, but hurt his leg while working.   He was sent to Bilibid Hospital where doctors worked on his ulcerated leg.   He was in Cabanatuan, and Camp Oyeyama in Japan.  Before going to Japan, he worked as a stevedore in the Port Area POW camp which helped him gain some weight, because they were able to get some money by stealing from the cargo ships and trading the items with Filipinos on the piers.  They found ways to sabotage the ships, by putting water in the bottom of rice bags, making the rice swell and spoil by the time it got to its destination in Singapore.  They also tampered with the caps on some alcohol drums causing explosions in the water.  Because of these activities they were shipped to Japan and Henry worked in the nickel ore mine for thirteen months helping the war effort because the nickel was for Japanese rifle barrels for large guns.  

After the war, he returned to Fort Devens on November 4, and proposed to Helen Mary Butchard four days later.  They went on to have five children.  

He went to work on organizing the ADBC between November 10, and April 9, 1946.  His name is on the original ADBC charter.  He reenlisted for the Army in February 1946 and worked in a recruiting office in Boston.  He was diagnosed with TB and then sent to the VA hospital in Colorado, from which he was released in 1948.     

He graduated magna cum laude from Boston University.  He worked for a radio station as a merchandising and promotion director, then the Red Cross, as an assistant disaster director.    From there he was a manager for the MIT flight test facility from 1952-1955, which developed the Atlas Inertial Navigation System that guides spacecraft.   He then joined Computer Control Company that was acquired by Honeywell.  He began working in their International Division in 1972 and became manager of freight consolidation and analysis. He retired in Feb. 5, 1982.   

After retiring he spent time in helping other veterans and was a life member of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, of which he was commander during 1987-1988.  He also was a member of the Concord Elks.    He volunteered at the Edith Nourse Rodgers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford.  

Henry Wilayto died February 28, 2009. Mr. Wilayto was married 64 years at the time of his death.  He had  three daughters and two sons, and ten grandchildren when he died.

Henry Wilayto gives his first message in the July, 1987 Quan:

I consider it a great honor and privilege to be elected your 35th National Commander. I will strive to do my best, but I can only succeed if you in turn give me your help, your strength and your support.  I need your experience and your knowledge of veterans affairs and your willing support to get the job done well.

Please write to tell me your ideas on what should be our programs and how we can make them work.  The other leading veterans organizations have already "invented the wheel" of benefit programs.  We need to apply them to our former prisoner of war conditions and get Congress and the veterans administration officials to understand that we are one body of veterans.  We need help from the established veteran organizations, and we should support their programs, if they are not in conflict with ours.

Together, we can continue to make our organization grow in stature and be able to help those of us who need help.  Ken Curley, PNC, passed on to me a skeleton idea to form and flesh a "long range planning committee."  I accepted his suggestion and appointed Arthur Beale as chairman.  I added suggested additional members to the group and asked Art to move on it immediately.  We should have a report at the Boston board meeting.  I thank you for your help in advance, and I ask God's grace to serve you well.

Sincerely Hank Wilayto