Glenn D. Frazier
The Atlanta World War II Roundtable meets monthly. More than a hundred WWII veterans with their friends and families fill the room for lunch and a speaker. The organization is dedicated to preserving the history of WWII and records each program as well as each personal story as guests are introduced. Yesterday was its 260th meeting. I knew that our guest was Glenn Frazier, a survivor of the Bataan Death March and I was there early.
Speaking of early, lunch starts at 11:30. The first time I attended I arrived at what I thought was a reasonable 11:15. No way. These ladies and gentlemen arrive early. Military time.
As I drove into Atlanta I kept thinking, “Where have I heard of Glenn Frazier?” The name was so familiar to me. The minute I walked into the room and looked at the screen it hit me. Col. Frazier is featured in the documentary film, book, audiobook, mini-series The War. I’ve listened to the audiobook twice now, all the way through and I’m sure I’ll listen again. It’s a wonderful history lesson. Ken Burns told the story of Glenn Frazier from Mobile Alabama as he ran away from home, lied about his age, joined the army and went to the Phillipines.
Colonel Frazier first showed us an excerpt from The War documentary about his experiences as he ran away from home in June of 1941 to join the Army, went to the Phillipines and then was part of the Bataan Death. ”If I had known what was ahead of me I would have chosen Death.”
Frazier survived the trip to Camp O’Donnell the final destination for the POW’s, at least for a while. He was then sent to Japan to work in a slave labor camp on the western coast of Japan. The Japanese guards had standing orders, the minute an invasion took place on the mainland, to shoot all POW’s. Two days before the war ended Frazier and his comrades had been ordered to dig their own grave. Then suddenly the guards were gone. The POW’s walked out, took a train to Tokyo and found the US Army. Of the 306 prisoners who had come over to Japan with Glenn Frazier, only 25 survived.
That wasn’t the end of the story however. “My war lasted for thirty years.” You can read more about what it took for him to forgive and recover (never forget) at Glenn Frazier’s website, Hell’s Guest.
The horrors of the war was with me everyday and night for the next twenty-nine to thirty years. At times, I wished I had never come home. How peaceful it would be to lay in a quite place and find the peace that only comes with death. (Glenn D. Frazier, EX-POW, Survivor of Bataan Death March. Excerpt from his writing Unpleasant Return)
I bought a copy of Colonel Frazier’s book, Hell’s Guest which I’m sure will explain in detail what it took for him to survive both being there and then coming home. Immediately after his release the VA psychiatrist told him to “go out and act normal; you’ll feel normal.”
Thankfully our armed services have come a long way in recognizing and dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder. I suspect that anyone who has served in the military might argue that they still have a long way to go.
One of the veterans in the audience asked Colonel Frazier how he ever got over the “hate.” His answer? “…with a lot of help from my preacher.” If you’re interested in learning more I found a YouTube video of a talk he did at a church in Mississippi. These days Colonel Frazier and his wife Terri travel all over the country talking to groups, large and small, about his experiences.