Bataan Death March – POWs
Cadmus, Weikel, & Kleiwer
By Les Whittle
Hello…yes, I am Maribel Cadmus…yes, George Cadmus was my husband… yes, I knew Ivan Weikel…yes, I have met David Kleiwer…yes, Ivan was a survivor of the Bataan Death March…yes, Ivan and George were in the prison camps in the Philippines…yes, George and Ivan were transferred to a Japanese POW camp where they joined Marine fighter pilot David Kleiwer…yes, Ivan has a son, Neil Weikel.
It is interesting how life can intertwine lives, as it did with the three young officers during World War II. Up to this point in their lives they didn’t know each other but would soon become lifelong friends and acquaintances brought together by the atrocities of war. Ivan and George would begin their friendship while stationed at Fort Ord before both were shipped out together to the Philippines in late 1940.
Ivan was born in Ronceverte, W.V. He came to Corvallis to attend Oregon State College (OSU) graduating in 1933 with a major in Agricultural Engineering. While attending OSC (OSU) Ivan was enrolled in the Army ROTC program. According to Ivan’s son, Neil, his Dad was very interested in learning to fly and was taking flying lessons at the airport in Corvallis. On one of these lessons another young man from Corvallis was also learning to fly and he had invited his sister to go along for a ride. After scaring the wits out of his sister, Esther Chamberlin, it just happened that Ivan was Johnny on the spot to give her a little TLC. This led to greater things. They soon were married and in 1939 had a son, Neil. Ivan accepted a job with the Soil Conservation Service in Condon, OR. He remained in the Army Reserves and was called to active duty in 1940. As many young men, he had to leave his family and entered the Army. Ivan was assigned duty in Bataan, Philippines to help train the Philippine Army.
George was a few years behind Ivan in college. George was born in Arkansas but the family came to Oregon around 1924. George graduated from Grant High School in Portland in 1936. He wanted to pursue a degree at Oregon State College (OSU) in Animal Husbandry. He graduated in 1940 and while attending college he was enrolled in the Army ROTC program at OSC (OSU). George entered the Army immediately following college and was to be assigned to Manila, Philippines, also to help train the Philippine Army.
War, however, seemed far from reality. They lived a pleasant, country-club existence: golf, tennis, dinners, games and entertainment at the Officers’ Club, horses to ride and polo matches on the weekends. Captain Ivan Weikel said, “At Ft. Stotsenburg, we lived in nice houses and had Filipino houseboys, cooks and laundresses. We needed a lot of laundry because of the heat. We changed uniforms three times a day, ending up with dress whites in the evening.” For this trio and thousands of others this was about to be drastically changed.
It was generally felt that if Japan ever dared to attack the Philippines, they would be quickly and soundly defeated. This as history states, was not to be true. Japan had new technology, weapons, and techniques while our “Old” Army was just plain outdated. Many of the weapons were of World War I vintage. As on Corregidor, it was a magnificent island of rock but it was no match for the air bombing Japan was capable of delivering.
Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and at the same time the attack on the Philippines began. Because of the International Date Line it was December 8. Things would begin to change very rapidly in the Pacific. Within a four-month period Japan would have control of most of the Islands from Wake Island west.
David and his brother had both wanted to be doctors but with the hard times of the depression the family was unable to help both. David decided to be a pilot and he would enlist in the Marine Corps. With the training as a pilot he knew after he was discharged he would be able to get a job with one of the big commercial airlines. David came from Ohio and attended Wheaten College in Illinois. He didn’t go through ROTC but as planned enlisted in the Marine Air Corps and went through flight training at Pensacola, FL. He wanted to be a fighter pilot. He first flew F3F Bi-Wing old outdated World War I planes, then he flew the F4F a single wing fighter and then on to the powerful Vaught-Consair fighter plane.
David was stationed in Hawaii when he got orders to report to Wake Island. This was in late 1941 but before the Pearl Harbor attack. The Japanese attacked Wake Island on December 8, 1941 (International Date Line-Dec. 7, 1941) and on December 12. On December 23 Wake Island fell to the Japanese taking all who lived through it as Prisoners of War. David survived the Wake attacks and was taken by ship to Japan to the POW Camp at Shikoku. He would remain a POW in this camp for almost the duration of the war.
The U.S. and Filipino Soldiers fought valiantly but once again old outdated equipment, ammo, supplies, gas, and food were to become in very short supply. By now most of the men were sick with various diseases, dysentery, diarrhea, beriberi, malaria and starvation. Bataan was the first to fall to the Japanese after 108 days of battle. Captain Ivan Weikel and his men were on the front line. When he was given orders to destroy all armaments and to surrender, Ivan told his men, “We’ve had some pretty hard times, but it’s going to be worse as POWs.” His word was true because thousands would die as POWs from brutality, starvation, disease, and sanitation. Ivan was a survivor of the Bataan Death March but many were shot, bayoneted, beheaded, nailed to crosses with bayonets, and it was known that some were buried alive. During the Bataan Death March the men were given little or no food and marched in the blistering tropical heat of the day, their captors refusing to give them water. Ivan’s march lasted 6 days and covered 140 miles to Camp O’Donnell . This was his first POW camp. In time, over a thousand men, including Ivan would be transferred to the POW camp at Cabanatuan . Ivan felt that many of the young men just gave up and died.
At the POW Camp Cabanatuan, Ivan would join his lifelong friend, George Cadmus, who had been stationed in Manila. When Bataan and Manila surrendered, mass confusion took place. George and three others saw an opportunity to take a boat and escape. They had hoped to go to Australia, but for some reason they decided to stop at Corregidor Island, at the mouth of Manila Bay. It was the same story on Corregidor …outdated guns, sick soldiers and no way to defend against the bombing attacks. After a ferocious battle Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942. This was three days before George’s 24th birthday. George along with thousands of others was taken to the POW camp at Cabanatuan. Conditions were terrible at Camp O’Donnell and not much better at Cabanatuan.
Ivan and George somehow survived and in 1943 were taken by ship to POW camp Shikoku, on the homeland of Japan at Zentsuji. Here, they met up with Marine Pilot David Kleiwer, also to become lifelong friends. David said, “both Ivan and George were in very bad condition. He didn’t believe Ivan would make it.” This POW camp was not far from Hiroshima but prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945 the three were transferred to what was to be their last POW camp at Rokuroshi on the main island of Honshu . David said, “had they not have been liberated by U.S. forces, they would have frozen to death because of the severe cold temperature and snow which would reach 5 feet deep. The camp did not have the capability of dealing with either the temperature or snow.”
All three men survived and each has a continued story but space will not permit sharing much of their lives as civilians. David’s father was a minister and had transferred to Corvallis, Oregon. David came to Corvallis to be near his parents and was in the Navy Hospital at Camp Adair for six months following his discharge…he went on to Harvard Medical School and became a very well known and respected Doctor in Corvallis. Ivan, returned to his wife and family in Corvallis with some serious medical problems. He was nearly blind from vitamin deficiency but lived to be 90 years old. Ivan was a 53 year continuous member of the Corvallis American Legion Post 11. Even this story needs a pleasant ending. Remember when Ivan’s son was born? His wife Esther stayed with a friend who had worked with Ivan in the Soil Conservation Service when Ivan was assigned to Condon , Oregon . There was no hospital there and the friend invited Esther to come stay with them to have the baby because they had been transferred to The Dalles where there was a hospital. Ivan, Esther and baby Neil moved to Corvallis . Maribel Donnall, the daughter of this friend, came to Corvallis to visit Ivan and Esther. Ivan and Esther arranged a blind date for Maribel…who do you suppose it was…you guessed it…George Cadmus. George pursued a career in the banking industry. Ivan, Esther, and George have passed on to their post everlasting but Maribel Cadmus (Salem) and Doctor David and Jean Kleiwer (Corvallis) are going strong. David said, “A lot of things have happened since WWII and I remember the POW camps all too well and the brutal fact that war is hell. All means and avenues of peace should be taken to avert war.” Neil Weikel lives in Los Angeles . A special thanks to Maribel, David, and Neil for their input to this “Reflection”