A BRIEF HISTORY BEHIND THIS PHOTOGRAPH
BY LTCOL GERALD J. COOPER USMC (RET)
This photograph is a copy, a cropping actually, of a photo taken by U.S. Liberation Forces at the Fukuoka #3 Prisoner Of War Camp on mainland Japan. What you are not seeing in the photo are all of the prisoner of war troops at the camp, lined up in formation to the right. The original photograph was approximately 5 inches by 15 inches and showed what you see in this photograph, plus the troops in formation, many of them smiling.
The following is the story behind the photograph, as told to me by my mother, Opal Geraldine Dorris Cooper:
LtCol Winnifred O. Dorris (my mother’s brother and my “Uncle Bill”) was a member of the New Mexico 200th/515th Coast Artillery (AA) captured in the Philippines by the Japanese. Surviving the Bataan Death March as well as the transport from the Philippines to mainland Japan, he was held prisoner of war at the Fukuoka #3 prisoner of war camp for four years.
The Camp Commandant periodically held prisoner of war formations. During these formations, the Commandant drew his sword and offered it to the senior officer present. The purpose being that due to the great shame of surrendering, the officer could end his life in an “honorable” way with the sword. My Uncle Bill refused to accept the sword under these conditions.
This picture shows the Camp Commandant had handed my Uncle his sword, surrendering the camp to him and the Liberation Forces. Following this event my Uncle drew the sword and offered it to the Commandant so he could “do the honorable thing.” He did not!
My Uncle Bill did not immediately return home. He accompanied the liberation forces to other prisoner of war camps in Japan and helped with their liberation.
While visiting with my Mother in Twin Falls, Idaho in 1947, he was hospitalized at the VA Hospital in Boise, Idaho. He passed away at the age of 42, Nov. 22, 1947. He had been suffering an illness since August of that year.
Believe it or not, I do have a clear and vivid memory of my Mother taking me to see him in the hospital. I remember standing by his bed and speaking with him for a short while. I was 3 years old. This is the first and last time I was in the presence of this great man until I located his gravesite in 2009.
LtCol Winnifred O. Dorris is buried at the Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, beside his wife, Sara Beth. His remains are in Section 72, Lot 69, Space 6.
Some years ago, some Philippine Children were digging in a field and found one of my Uncle Bill’s dog tags as well as other military gear. My oldest brother, Eugene W. Cooper of Havre, Montana, directed the tag be sent to the Bataan Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have confirmed that this dog tag is currently held by the Museum.
Please accept this photograph and this brief history for display along with the dog tag. I would like to especially thank BERNADETTE CHARLEY GALLEGOS, with the Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of Albuquerque, New Mexico as well as the wonderful staff at the Fairview Memorial Park in assisting me in locating my Uncle Bill’s remains and for filling in some of the missing blanks in this great man’s life.
Gerald J. Cooper
LtCol USMC (Ret)