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Dyess reflects on namesake’s WWII trials

Dyess reflects on namesake’s WWII trials

U.S. Air Force Col. Brandon Parker, left, commander of the 7th Bomb Wing, and Chief Master Sgt. Kenny Mott, command chief of the 7th BW, lead a group of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, members during a ruck march on base, April 4, 2018. Lt. Col. William Dyess was a part of the Bataan Death March, as well as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. The march honored the 75th anniversary of Dyess’ escape from Davao Penal Colony prison camp in the Philippines.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman River Bruce)

Dyess reflects on namesake’s WWII trials

U.S. Air Force members assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, participate in a ruck march on base, April 4, 2018. The march honored the 75th anniversary of Lt. Col. William Dyess’ escape from Davao Penal Colony prison camp in the Philippines. More than 100 base members participated. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman River Bruce)

Dyess reflects on namesake’s WWII trials

John Lukacs, author of the book “Escape from DAVAO,” speaks on his 25 years of research on Lt. Col. William Dyess’ World War II trials at the base theater on Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, April 4, 2018. “Escape from DAVAO” goes into depth on what Dyess went through in his escape from Davao Penal Colony prison camp in the Philippines, on April 4, 1943. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman River Bruce)

Dyess reflects on namesake’s WWII trials

U.S. Army Air Corps Lt. Col. William Dyess. (Courtesy photo)

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.