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“The two people who stand out in my memory are the founders of the Bataan Relief Organization. They are Doctor V. H. Spensley and Mr. Paul McCahon. Both men had sons in the 200th. These two men went to our Nation’s Capitol to beseech our government to send help and save our men. And although they lived to see the war end, neither was able to welcome back their own son. Dr. Spensley’s son, Homer, died in the Philippines. Mr. McCahon died just before his son, James, returned home.”

 

— Janie Meuli Moseley
BRO Charter Member
7 April 2002

“Paul McCahon at his desk in Albuquerque, where he wrote and edited the BRO Bulletin. McCahon died just days before his son James was liberated.”

 

Beyond Courage


Listen as Janie Meuli Moseley recalls the shortwave broadcasts she and other families monitored for news of loved ones. Her first husband, Jack Fleming, was killed in a bombing of the prison camp at Mukden in December 1944.

 

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Also See: 3 Jacks & A Joker

Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat
on the Progress of the War,
February 23, 1942.
>>

BRO Demands Probe of Yank Sinkings of Jap Prison Ships >>

1944 BRO “Bulletin” Feature >>

1946 BRO “Bulletin” Extracts >>

“The Bataan Relief Organization was, undoubtedly, New Mexico’s greatest contribution to the families of all American men and women captured by the Japanese.”

 

— Eva Jane Matson

“We will not let them down!”

 

Just days after Bataan was surrendered, Mrs. Charles W. Bickford and Mrs. Fred E. Landon organized what they believed would be a small gathering of relatives of the men of the 200th Coast Artillery. More than one thousand people were in attendance, and the Bataan Relief Organization was born with the motto, “We Will Not Let Them Down!”

 

Recognizing the government's “Get Hitler First” policy had left their men unprepared, the Bataan Relief Organization became a political voice with the support of US Senator from New Mexico, Dennis Chavez. The organization aimed to provide relief in any way they could for their captured loved ones, and within the first month raised enough funds to purchase Red Cross relief supplies which were included in the first shipment of relief supplies sent to the Philippines.

 

When the first “Bulletin” was published, the organization had gone national with Albuquerque as its headquarters. Dr. V. H. Spensley, a guest speaker at that first meeting of the families, was elected as the National Chairman.

 

The BRO was a driving force in selling war bonds. In 1943, New Mexicans sold twice the required $300,000 in bonds allowing them the privilege of naming a new bomber. The Spirit of Bataan was christened at [then] Kirkland Field on July 17, 1943.

 

That same year, Dr. Spensley argued successfully to allow family packages to be shipped to the Philippines.

 


Sampling of BRO Activities

 

Information was vital to the families. One of the most important elements in the chain of communication was the listening posts established throughout the country. Members monitored Japanese radio broadcasts 24 hours a day for word on American prisoners of war and news was passed along to families across the United States. [See Right]

 

New Mexico had not only enveloped her own, but an entire nation of families.

 

After the war, a reunion of Albuquerque veterans organized into the Bataan Veterans Organization. Its mission completed, the BRO turned control over to the BVO with Foch Tixier as its first president. Again, New Mexicans were at the forefront as word spread and organizations formed across the country.

 

In 1948, the first National Convention of the Bataan Veterans Organization was held in Albuquerque. Elected were: Virgil McCollum of Carlsbad, Commander; Manuel Armijo of Santa Fe, Vice-Commander; Brooks Lewis of Albuquerque, Secretary; and Harry Steen of Albuquerque, Treasurer.

 

Retaining its state chapters, in 1949, the national Bataan Veterans Organization would become the national organization of American Ex-Prisoners of War — so that all ex-prisoners of war would be eligible for membership.

 

 

* Mrs. Bickford's son Harlan, and Mrs. Landon's son Edwin, both died in prisoner of war camps.