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William Edward Gateley, a native of Greenbriar, Arkansas, lived for a time with his uncle in New Mexico where he and his cousin signed up to serve in New Mexico’s 111th Cavalry, the predecessor of the 200th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft). He was inducted into the 200th CA(AA) by [then] Captain James H. Hazlewood [1] on December 19, 1940 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gateley’s cousin, William Rome Gateley, suffered an appendicitis attack while the Regiment was en route to the Philippines and was hospitalized in Honolulu. After William Rome was released from hospital, he did not rejoin the Regiment, and would be spared what was yet to come. Twice escaping his Japanese captors following the surrender of Bataan, William Edward fought as a Guerrilla until February 1945.

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My Escape from Bataan


William E. Gateley with wife Mercedes and

infant son, William Jr. (circa 1945)

Capt. William C. Schuetz [2] was the last officer to give me an order on the day Bataan fell. Or rather, I should say, that he was the last to give me any suggestions as to what I should do. At the time I was awaiting orders after arriving at the central kitchen near kilometer post #165 between Cabcaben and Mariveles. He said there were no orders that he knew of at the time except to take care of myself and wait around to see if any other officer came along to give me further directions. We knew that the white flag had gone in that morning and we were wondering what was going to happen. Other officers did show up but they merely repeated what Capt. Schuetz had already told me about taking care of myself.

My buddy, whom I had not known very long, and I decided to go down to the beach facing Corregidor and see if we could find some way of getting across. We met up with several other men, and after talking the matter over we decided to split up and look for a boat or raft to take us over. Either part or all of us were to return later to the same place and report our findings. Half of us went one way and half in the opposite direction. After the group had gone as far as we dared in the direction of the Japs, we turned back towards the China Sea end of the peninsula and met our buddies as our part of the mission had already failed.

We traveled the rest of the afternoon until it became too dark to travel safely and then made camp for the night. About ten o’clock the next day, we arrived at a cave which at high tide was about one foot deep in water. One of the boys was sick, so we fixed a place for him in the cave and left our provisions with him. We then went across a small inlet to a point of land to explore some more. After a short time, we found a small navy boat powered with a diesel engine. There was no one around. We had already the day before found five drums of diesel fuel, but no one in the bunch knew how to run a diesel engine.

Two of the boys and myself started to return to the cave, and I got quite ahead of the others. Upon rounding a corner of the road in the woods, I walked right in front of seven Jap soldiers. I immediately stopped and the leader of the Japs asked, “Americano?” Upon my reply in the affirmative he told me to stand on the other side of the road from them. There were five Filipinos with the Japs, but I never did learn if they were prisoners or Pro-Japs. Knowing the other two boys would be coming around the bend soon, I kept gradually moving backwards so I could get in a position to signal to them. Before I could do so, they walked up and were also captured.

At the place where we were captured, the Japs were filling their water canteens and that had been our intentions, which the Japs permitted us to do. The Japs then took us to the top of the hill where their car, a 1938 Plymouth, was parked. It was then around noon and the Jap leader asked us if we had any food. We told him that we did not, so he went to the car and brought out two cans of food for each of us and asked me to open them. There was an assortment of meat, tomato juice and milk. The Jap leader wanted his opened first. Next I opened a can of tomato juice for myself and drank half of it. The Jap then poured half of his can of milk into my can of tomato juice. I did not like the idea, but when I drank it, the taste was not so bad. The Jap dividing his food with me was something I could not understand as there were also two unopened cans of food for me.

The can opening then proceeded with cans for the other Japs, my buddies and then the Filipinos. Before I finished, the Jap began to get in a hurry to leave. All the Japs got into the car and my buddies were told to get on the running boards. I was still opening my cans when the car started off. The Filipinos were told to follow behind the car. They started out traveling slowly and the Jap motioned and yelled, signaling for me to come on down the road behind them. I started out following with the Filipinos lagging behind, but as I had to eat as I walked, my pace was slow. Evidently the Filipinos pace was slower, for upon traveling a short distance, I looked up, then around ... the car and the Filipinos were no where in sight. The thought of escape had never occurred to me before, but as soon as I found myself alone, the thought and the action took place almost at the same time. I went off that road and down into the bushes as fast as my feet could carry me. That was one time I wished that I had been equipped with a tail like a monkey to have enabled me to travel faster as there were plenty of vines to swing from.

The next problem on my mind was to get back to the cave where the sick boy had been left. It was now getting dark so we figured that if the wind and tide were to be in our favor we could get over to Corregidor. We still had faith in the “the Rock.” Our position was not opposite Corregidor, but several miles out towards the China Sea. As soon as it got fully dark, we made our way to a large barge anchored off shore having a fresh water tank and provisions. Three men were on board: Pvt. Arthur Hagin, Jayton, Tex.; Sgt. Bernice R. Fletcher, Era, Tex.; and a Pvt. Larson from Colorado. They and myself later escaped and lived in the hills during the Jap occupation.

Then men on board the barge were tired and wanted to rest so we waited until about 5:00 a.m. the morning of the eleventh to try to reach Corregidor. For a while, we thought our luck was with us as at one time we were about three miles from our destination. A searchlight was played on us for a short time from the island. They must have identified us as Americans as they did not do any shooting, but no boat was sent out to pick us up. By mid morning we had drifted about fifteen miles out to sea. We figured that the next night, with the change of wind and tide, we might have better luck. Sure enough we were carried back towards Corregidor, but the wind and tide changed too soon, and by morning we were farther out to sea than we were on the previous day. That night we made another try, but by morning we were still farther out to sea. After some discussion we decided to give up trying to get to “the Rock” and instead tried to work our way to some of the islands farther south. One of the boys had sore feet and he kept insisting on holding them in the salt water. His feet became badly swollen and on the fourth day out he began to get delirious. It was also this day a Jap ship came along and took us on board and we became prisoners of the Jap Navy, which made the second time in a few days that I became a prisoner of war. The sick boy was taken to the hospital and I never heard what happened to him. The arrival of the Jap ship probably was a good thing as we only had half a canteen of water between us when picked up.


S/Sgt. William E. Gateley


*   *    *


Gateley’s second escape from the Nips came after 35 days during which time he was held at Grande Island and the Olangapo Naval Base in Subic Bay. At the later place, the Jap guards came into possession of a large store of liquor. On pleasure bent, the captors decided their best method of getting rid of their charges was to get them drunk. The Yanks put on such a convincing show of inebriety that the guards began their party. At the height of the carousal, Gateley and 13 other Americans made their escape.

From that date until February of this year (1945), Gateley lived the life of a guerrilla. At first the guerrilla resistance was passive, but as time went by it became more and more active — reaching its climax just before and during the return of General Douglas MacArthur to the Island of Luzon.

Gateley estimates that he had organized about 6,000 Filipinos into guerrillas bands. The Guerrillas infiltrated the entire Island of Luzon and were able to report any movement of Jap troops however small. MacArthur knew full well the worth of their activities and praised the guerrillas for a job well done.

Gateley rose from the rank of private first class, in the Coast Artillery, to a lieutenant colonel in the guerrillas forces. He spent the greater part of his time during the Jap occupation of the Philippines in Northern Bataan. During those years Gateley is sure he walked far enough to have reached the United States if there had been a road. The Province of Bataan is more familiar to him than his home county in Arkansas.

Although Gateley lived in daily peril of his life, his worst experience came in May 1943 when an erstwhile loyal guerrilla — turned Jap collaborationist — attacked him one night as he slept on the ground. The traitor, doubtless out for the price held by the Japs on Gateley’s head, failed to collect although he left a nasty reminder in the form of a three-inch scar and several missing teeth. The collaborationist and his two companions were “disposed of” before they could do further damage.

It was while Gateley was on Bataan that he met and married Mercedes Nicdao — a lovely Filipino girl of Spanish ancestry — in December 1943. [3] Another American who had escaped and was serving with Gateley married Mercedes’ sister. Mrs. Gateley followed her husband in his constant journeying to create havoc among the Jap forces. Not until time for their child to be born did she leave the guerrilla band. The Japanese had permitted the Filipino Red Cross to set up hospitals, and it was to one of these that Mrs. Gateley went. As soon as possible she returned to her husband.

Last February Gateley contacted a reconnaissance group of the 40th (Sunshine) Division. He remained on duty for some time with his own forces before he and his family left for home. With seven decorations pushing his total point score well over 130 points, Gateley has decided to remain in the Army — at least for a while.


source and date unknown





1. and 2. Major Hazlewood and Captain Schuetz were among five officers and eight enlisted men from the Regiment who did not make the Death March. They rode to Camp O’Donnell on trucks. On arrival, the men were searched and found to have items of Japanese origin, souvenirs, money, etc. On April 14, 1942, the men were executed.


“That afternoon Cain and a corporal were sent for water. ‘On the way back, they showed us twenty or thirty American Army officers and men, dead. In this group I recognized Captain Kemp and Major Hazlewood lying face up in sort of a common grave or pit. I had known Kemp and Hazlewood intimately for fifteen years. Hazlewood was like a younger brother.’”


— Beyond Courage [1] [2]


3. William E. Gateley and Mercedes Baking Nicdao, a native of Dinalupihan, Bataan, were married in the Catholic faith on October 14, 1942. Gateley, after much paperwork, was granted permission by his command (HQ Replacement Command, USAFFE) on March 26, 1945 to re-affirm his marriage to Mercedes. [3]


Mercedes B. Gateley and her infant son, William E. Jr., appear on the same list of arrivals, or expected arrivals, at San Francisco of “alien” family members as Romana R. Lucero, the wife of Nano C. Lucero, another member of the 200th Coast Artillery (AA) who escaped to fight as a guerrilla for the duration of the war.