DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
More than 100 Airmen, Marines, civilians and family members participated in a ruck march at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, April 4 to memorialize the 75th anniversary of Lt. Col. William Dyess’ escape from the Davao Penal Colony prison camp in the Philippines.
Dyess was captured in World War II by the Japanese in April of 1942, and shortly after he was forced into the brutal 65-mile Bataan Death March along with approximately 75,000 other Filipino and American troops. After months of suffering through beatings and prison camp placements, he was placed in Davao with more than 2,000 other prisoners of war. The prison camp that was originally designed to hold dangerous criminals was now a hub for POW labor.
Months of clever planning led to April 4, 1943, when Dyess led a group of 12 captured prisoners in a successful escape from Davao. When Dyess returned to America, he briefed U.S. officials on the Bataan Death March and the filthy and barely-bearable conditions in Japanese prison camps. He was the first eye witness to brief the war crimes committed by the Japanese.
“The ruck march was an opportunity for us to reflect what Dyess and so many others went through during the Death March,” said Robert Sayer, community support coordinator for the 7th Bomb Wing.
The more than two-mile ruck march, a self-paced hike in military gear, took the participants from the base traffic circle to the end of our airpark and back.
After the ruck march, Team Dyess members gathered in the base theater for a speech by John Lukacs, author of “Escape from DAVAO.” This book goes into depth on the trials that Dyess went through during and after his escape.
“Dyess was the embodiment of resiliency,” said Lukacs.
After his words, base members remained in their seats for a showing of “4-4-43,” a documentary on Dyess’ escape produced by Tim Gray and Lukacs.
“The whole day served as a reminder that our base’s namesake was a true hero,” said Sayer.