JOE F. MARTINEZ

by the Martinez Family

 

Joe Fuljencio Martinez, 86, of Fort Garland, Colorado, passed away peacefully, February 26, 2006, under Hospice care at his home surrounded by his loving family.

Joe was born August 20, 1919 in Mosquero, New Mexico to Felipe and Leonides (Montaño) Martinez.

He served in the US Army during World War II as an anti-aircraft gun crewman with Battery F, 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. He was a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March, and 41 months as a Japanese Prisoner of War.

He was in the following POW camps:

• Camp O’Donnell (Philippines)

• Cabanatuan (Philippines)

• Hirohata / Himeji (Japan)

While imprisoned at Cabanatuan, Joe was taken ill by, malaria, beriberi, dysentery and malnutrition among other illnesses associated with the inhumane living conditions, yet was one of the few survivors of “Zero Ward” (so called because of the sick men taken there, practically zero came out alive). Joe then was taken to Japan aboard an unknown “Hell Ship” which was one of the few not torpedoed by Allied submarines. This particular “Maru”, however, was in a major typhoon and suffered extensive damage at sea. The pilothouse and much of the upper portion of the ship (along with most of the Jap sailors) was swept away by the waves. The ship had to be towed to Japan by another Japanese craft. On arrival in Japan, Joe was used as slave labor in the Seitetsu steel foundry. He was responsible for two blast furnaces: He would chip slag from one furnace and fill the other with scrap iron and alternate the next day. Joe took justifiable pride in the fact that much of the steel and iron from “his” furnaces did little to aid the Japanese... a handful of dirt thrown into the mix can contaminate castings and render them useless. This, of course, was done with considerable risk: Japanese had no sense of humor and would likely not have been amused. Joe worked in the foundry until he sustained a back injury and could no longer do hard labor. He was then assigned as a cook and helped prepare the meager rations the Japanese issued the prisoners. He worked in the kitchen until the camp was liberated in September of 1945.

For his Heroic service, Joe was rewarded with the following medals: Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, American Defense Campaign Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star, Asiatic Pacific Theatre Campaign Ribbon with 1 Bronze Star, WWII Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation with 2 Bronze Clusters, Philippine Defense Campaign Ribbon with 1 Bronze star, Philippine Liberation Medal, State of New Mexico Bataan Medal and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.

After his Honorary Discharge from the US Army, Joe moved to Colorado where he met and married Lorraine Vigil. Joe worked for the United States Geological Survey Department until 1977 when he retired. They raised their five children and one grandson in Golden, Colorado until 1996 when Joe, Lorraine and their grandson moved to Fort Garland, Colorado.

Joe was a member of the American Ex-Prisoners of War - Mile High Chapter, American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, VFW Post No. 899 (Alamosa), Disabled American Veterans, and Fort Garland Sacred Heart Society. Joe loved to spend time arrowhead hunting, hiking, hunting, fishing, gardening, singing, playing games and spending time with his family and his dog Domingo.

He is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Lorraine Martinez, his five children, Ken (Cheryl) Martinez, Marvin Martinez, Sandra (Kent) Holtcamp, Rita (Richard) Poulter and Jeff (Andrea) Martinez and five grandchildren, Gerard Martinez, Michael Colvin, Richard “RJ” Poulter Jr., and Kendra and Makena Holtcamp, one brother, Joe M. Martinez and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, one brother, Johnny Martinez, and two sisters, Bertha Baca and Phyllis Sandoval.

A Holy Rosary was recited Sunday February 26, 2006 at Romero Funeral Home. Vigil Services were held at Holy Family Catholic Church on Monday February 27, 2006. Funeral Services were held at Holy Family Catholic Church on Tuesday February 28, 2006, followed by graveside services with Honor Guard at Fort Garland Cemetery.

He will be dearly missed by all that knew him.