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.