SGT Donovan Sanky Pike, a native of Nebraska, was a
long time resident of and living in Los Angeles, California
when he joined the United States Marine Corps in January
1940. By November of that year, he was serving in Shanghai,
China with the "4th China Marines." When war came to the
Philippines, he was attached to M Company, 3rd Battalion,
4th Marine Regiment. Surrendered on Bataan, Pike began the
Death March, but escaped into the jungle. He made his way to
Corregidor where he fell in with fellow Marines to continue
the fight for the island fortress until May 6, 1942.
He was interned at Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp and later
sent to, and was one of the men removed from the Palawan
airfield detail before the fateful December 14, 1944
massacre at Puerta Princessa. Finally winding up in Fukuoka
POW Camp 17 at Omuta, Japan, Pike witnessed the mushroom
cloud over Nagasaki. He was liberated in September 1945. Mr.
Pike died September 9, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.
In January 2010, Mr. Pike suffered a stroke and which left
him partially paralyzed on his left side. Unable to care for
himself, he was admitted to Dorn Veterans Hospital in
Columbia, South Carolina where his attentive wife Polly
tended to his every need, desire and comfort.
Mr. Pike’s friends and Marine brethren wanted to be certain
he was recognized for his tremendous service to the United
States and his extraordinary service in World War II.
General James T. Conway, 34th Commandant of the Marine
Corps, was made aware of his condition and could not help
but recognize Pike for his service to his Country.
General Conway wrote a personal letter to Mr. Pike and
forwarded it to the Marine Corps Inspector and Instructor
Staff, Fox Company, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion, 4th Marine Division, McCrady Training Center,
Eastover, South Carolina to make a formal presentation. On
April 8, 2010, First Sergeant Bill Toomey presented General
Conway's letter to Donovan Pike while Glen Molen,
representing the Harold E. “Speedy” Wilson Marine Corps
League Detachment, presented Mr. Pike with an Honorary
Membership “for exemplary service in the United States of
America and the United States Marine Corps. You have proven
you possess the strength to face any challenge.”
Any Marine knows that getting a letter from the Commandant
of the Marine Corps is far more important and personal than
a letter from the President.
One of the few remaining Bataan Death March survivors,
Donovan Pike was extremely proud and overwhelmed to receive
the honors as evidenced by his often tear-streaked cheeks.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Donovan Pike could only
mouth the words as he was presented the Commandant’s letter
His wife Polly spoke for him, saying, “He doesn't like that
a Marine is sitting here with tears running down his
“The Marine Corps was his first love, and will be his last
love,” she added.
On the Death March, American soldiers were tortured,
physically abused, and murdered by the Japanese. “Those that
suffered and died, were more blessed than he was, because he
had to live through it,” Polly said. “If he had to do it
over again, he said he would not want to live.”
“People like Don who went before us and set the pace made it
better and easier for us to follow him," said Marine Corps
League, Department of South Carolina, Commandant Gene
“You've blessed me as much as you have him,” said Polly
Pike. “Thank you.”
Portions of the above from writings of
Jim Vinyard, Marine Corps League, York, South Carolina
and Dawndy Mercer Plank's report for WIS-TV.