WELLSBURG - The American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum at the Brooke County Public Library will observe National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day, Sept. 20, with a special dedication at 1:30 p.m.
Through its ongoing exhibit, the library has helped to make visitors aware of the atrocities experienced by American and Filippino troops captured by the Japanese while fighting off invasion of the Philippine Islands and forced to walk what has become known as the Bataan Death March.
The exhibit was established through the efforts of Ed Jackfert, a local veteran who served in the Philippines;, and his wife, Henrietta, as well as numerous contributions of photos, written recollections and other artifacts from members of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, a national veterans group.
The exhibit will again grow thanks to a sizable grant from the Axelrod/Shih Family Trust that will provide for new shelves and bookcases to be dedicated during the program.
The trust was established by Judy Shih and her husband, Joel Axelroad, who donated funds for the shelves and bookcases in memory of Emily Warner, mother of Jane Kraina, the museum's coordinator.
Kraina explained Shih, a native of Taiwan who now lives in Oregon, was her neighbor when the two were growing up in Morgantown.
Shih said, "My wanting to donate to this particular cause is to recognize the kindness of Emily Warner to us as immigrants to this country which we now call home."
Kraina said because she also had lived overseas, she knew what it was like to live in a foreign country.
She said of the donation, "It is difficult for me to put into words how much this donation means to me. I am honored by Judy's thoughtfulness and generosity. Her personality has always been one of graciousness."
Kraina said of the POWs depicted in the exhibit, "These prisoners of war have brought meaning to my life and have been an inspiration to me in how to survive difficult times. So many of these men keep a smile on their face and have woken up each day once back in America appreciating something the rest of us enjoy because of their sacrifices. POW Robert Heer said he played the song, "Don't Fence Me In," over and over after the war."
Jackfert, who will speak at the program, said, "Hope is what kept me going as America's own B-29 planes bombarded my workplace in Japan."
He noted the Japanese captors had failed to mark the POW camps, where the POWs were forced to do labor for the war effort and local industries, which left the camps prone to attacks by Allied aircraft.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday of September.
Kraina said the museum also recently received 10 boxes of books donated by author and historian Linda Goetz Holmes of Shelter Island, N.Y.
She said the books contain many personal stories from POWs and include "Unjust Enrichment: How Japan's Companies Built Postwar Fortunes Using America's POWs" and "Guests of the Emperor: The Secret History of Japan's Mukden POW Camp."
Kraina said, "She sent the library papers she marked as her most valued possession, a list of POW camps and the Japanese companies that sponsored them."
The library's special collection has been designated an official repository of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.
It also includes information other Pacific military posts that endured bombing and capture by the Japanese in the early days of American involvement in World War II in 1941 and 1942.
Kraina said many also have visited a website established for the museum at www.adbcmuseum.org.