Bataan Death March survivor honored at Hayden parade - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Bataan Death March survivor honored at Hayden parade

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Herbert Kirchhoff, a Bataan Death March survivor, was honored at a parade in Hayden. Herbert Kirchhoff, a Bataan Death March survivor, was honored at a parade in Hayden.
HAYDEN, Idaho -

At 10 o'clock Tuesday morning, the Hayden Veterans Day parade made its way down Government Way. Veterans, Boy Scouts and first responders all headed toward the City Hall building with onlookers waving from the sidewalks. But near the front of the parade was a small red car with the words "distinguished veteran" on the side, and riding shotgun was Herbert Kirchhoff.

"The ride was fine but it was a little cool," said Kirchhoff, warming up inside the City Hall building after the parade had ended. Despite the temperature being in the 20s, the parade drew a sizable crowd, and Kirchhoff says he wouldn't want to be anywhere else. The ceremony following the parade was for men and women like Kirchhoff -- veterans.

"I was over in the southeast Philippines and Japan," says Kirchhoff.

Kirchhoff is a World War II veteran. In his early 20s he joined the army, and was soon shipped off to the Philippines.

"We got there Thanksgiving Day actually," says Kirchhoff, laughing that they missed a Thanksgiving meal by only a few minutes.

But in December of 1941, the Japanese would invade the Philippines just after their attack on Pearl Harbor. In April of that next year, Kirchhoff and thousands of other Americans surrendered.

"After four months General King surrendered us, and it was right after that, I think a day or two, we started the march," sad Kirchhoff.

The 65 mile trek through jungle to prison camps came to be known as the Bataan Death March. Kirchhoff spent the next 3 1/2 years bouncing around to different prison camps.

"There was a lot of uncertainty," says Kirchhoff. "The only way you could live that way was to forget about yesterday, tomorrow's not here yet, worry about today."

In 1945, 40 miles away from Kirchhoff's prison camp, in Nagasaki, the second atomic bomb was dropped. Kirchhoff had never heard of this weapon of mass destruction and wouldn't see the effects until he and other Americans where being shipped out of the war on a train.

"When we finally went through Nagasaki, it was as flat as this floor," says Kirchhoff pointing down at the tile. "A few steel structures sticking up, that was it."

Kirchhoff survived the death march and nearly four years as a Prisoner of War. The fact that he survived is why he feels it important for young people to understand the sacrifices that veterans have made and what those sacrifices mean.

"I think it's important for the young people to see that the veterans are here, and that we're here to help. I want them to know the importance of serving in the military and helping our country," says Kirchhoff.

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