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New Mexico National Guard Adjutant General General Kenny C. Montoya hosted Takao and Roberta Koishi and 200th and 515th Coast Artillery veterans — survivors of Bataan and Corregidor — to a luncheon and presentation of the WWII photo album to the Bataan Memorial Military Museum and Library in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Special guests included former National Guard Bureau Chief, Lt General Edward D. Baca (ret.); former New Mexico National Guard Adjutant General Major General Franklin E. Miles (ret.); and Mahlon Love, Civilian Assistant to the Secretary of the Army for New Mexico.



All of the men named in the photo album were C Battery men of the 200th Coast Artillery prior to December 8, 1941 when war broke out. That night, the 200th was split, forming the 515th Coast Artillery. Five of the seven named men were assigned to the new Regiment.


George Milliken (515th) died a prisoner of war in June 1942 at Camp O'Donnell in the Philippines. Swope (515th) died in a car accident in 1959. Harman (515th) died in 1978; Silva (515th) in 1981; Kiesov (200th) in 1986; Lujan (515th) in 1992; and Van Buskirk (200th) in February, 2008.


Some photos were lost, or removed intentionally.

WWII prisoner's photo album returns to New Mexico roots


BY Kate Nash (With Permission)

for "The New Mexican"


Takao and Roberta Koishi


DEC. 1, 2008 — Roberta Koishi held the photo album in front of a Santa Fe crowd that included World War II veterans and slowly began to turn the pages.


From the outside, the album, which includes images of New Mexico soldiers in the 1940s, might have seemed at first glance like any other keepsake of wartime and military buddies past.


Unlike other albums, though, this thick, time-worn tome filled with black-and-white snapshots of people, horses, training sites of another time, had just been flown across the Pacific Ocean to Santa Fe. And the book is about to start another journey — one to find its owner.


A former member of the Imperial Japanese Army found it in a bunker when he worked at a prisoner of war camp in the Philippines. He searched for years for the owner, but only recently discovered that seven of the names listed in the album match records of former members of the 200th Coast Artillery of the New Mexico National Guard.


Members of that unit were among thousands of U.S. and Filipino soldiers who surrendered at the outset of the war in the Pacific. The Japanese forced most of the weakened men to march for several hundred miles — what became known as the Bataan Death March.


The man who found the album, Tokio Watanabe, enlisted a Japanese man and his wife — Roberta and her husband, Takao — to bring the book to Santa Fe.


The trip here ended Monday, with the Koishis presenting the album at the Bataan Memorial Military Museum, where Roberta's turning through the pages unleashed a flurry of emotions for those who watched.


Ret. Tech. Sgt. William Overmier said he recognized some things in the album, including a view similar to one he had from the Mitsubishi shipyards while he was a prisoner of war in the early 1940s.


“All we had to do was look out the west and there it was, 60 miles away, every day,” he said. “I sure recognized that.”


Overmier took his time looking over the photos. He even recognized a car similar to the one he had owned in days gone by — a Chevrolet Club Coupe.


Others in the room recognized ships, a recreation area, names of people lost. Their ships, their recreation spot, their people.


None was the album's owner, however.


The people in the book whose names matched those of state records are all dead, National Guard officials said. But officials soon will start writing to family members to see if they can determine where the album should go.


During the event, Roberta Koishi delivered a message from Watanabe, who wrote a history book on the second world war.


“He said he's so happy he can give the album back and he can feel an ease in his own heart,” she said.


For now, the book will be kept at the museum.


As some pieces of the mystery begin to fall into place, National Guard Adjutant General Kenny Montoya said he's optimistic the book will go where it needs to be.


“I think what's going to happen is whoever owns it is going to not come forward,” he said. “I've seen this over and over with the Bataan veterans: They want to share.”


If an owner comes forward and claims the book, the Guard will hand it over. If not, it will go on display at the museum, Montoya said.


The men whose names are in the album are Fred Swope, George Milliken, Lloyd Harman, Walter Kiesov, Errett Lujan, Jesus Silva and Francis Van Buskirk.


Van Buskirk, a 1939 graduate of Santa Fe High School, was believed to be one of only a couple of dozen Bataan survivors at the time he died here in February at the age of 86.