Elaine Prickett

Elaine Prickett shares the dramatic, untold story of her uncle, Susano Madril, who survived the Bataan Death March.

AIRED: April 04, 2020 | 0:26:29

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation...

...New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department

of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment

for the Arts. Art works. ...and Viewers Like You










>>Devin Hawkes Ludlow: Your uncle Susano Madril,

he was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.

>> Elaine Prickett: I think we always knew he'd

been through something terrible, and then as we

were growing up, we heard about Bataan.

I don't think I really understood it for a long

time until I was older just the depths of the

horrors they went through and the everyday torture

and just, you know, the starvation and all of the

aspects of the Bataan that some of us don't realize

how intense it was.

And it was 24/7 and it was three and a half years.

He was in captivity three and a half years.

The thing that surprised me that a lot of people

don't know is they were fighting for three months

before they were captured and they had been pushed

back to the Bataan Peninsula and they didn't

have, they were on half rations by then.

They were already malnourished.

They were exhausted.

So they were already in bad shape by time they

were captured, and then put through this 65 mile march.

And I just I can't imagine my uncle being part of

that and then I think about him when he was

around us and he's laughing and just to go

through something like that and to be able to

adjust you know to just regular life and be part

of a community later.

I can't imagine how you do that.

>>Prickett: I've learned a few stories that my dad

had heard and some other cousins distant, he

remembered when they were actually marching that

they pulled out three men from the group they found

out they were officers and he said they took them by

a hill and then, just behind the hill, and they

just shot them.

He said that if you couldn't walk or you

couldn't, somebody couldn't help carry you,

if you were sick that they would just bayonet you or

trucks would run over you.

The Japanese were very brutal with them, of the

sick and people, they just couldn't keep up and so

pretty much you had to be able to keep up.

If you got out of line or tried to go for water the

Japanese would kill you and they would have them

sit and just look at water and not let them have any.

And he has these postcards that he wrote to Savino

Madril, that is his brother, and he says you

know take care of Lupita and the kids and it's like

a little fill in the blank and their typed so I'm

assuming the Japanese or somebody typed them or

they had other prisoners type them for them on the cards.

It'll say camp numbered D2 or whatever it is and one

of the camps was a hospital area type camp

and it says that he's in excellent...

health is underlined, and so you really have to

wonder, you know.

Like these are being sent back I think so that here

in the States we thought they were fine, that they

were being treated well, some of the word about the

Bataan March didn't get back to the general public

for quite a while.

>>Ludlow: Yeah.

>>Prickett: ...and then later when they finally

started releasing more about it.

That's when people found out what was going on with

these soldiers.

Ludlow: Why were there so many New Mexicans on the

Bataan Death March?

>>Prickett: They were part of the 200 coastal

artillery that were then part of the National Guard

and they sent that whole group out to the Philippines.

Why they picked that particular group, I'm not

completely sure.

It might have something to do with, I think, there

was a lot of Spanish maybe spoken in the Philippines

because they had those roots, you know.

I think a third of the people that came from New

Mexico died in the March and they were a big number

of the people that were in March.

>>Ludlow: Yeah.

>>Prickett: They were from all over the state, you

know, so they might be your neighbor, they might

have been, you know, somebody working in a

store and they've been through this and they had

to adjust and come back and adjust to what

civilian life was without any help.

>>Ludlow: Yeah, after such an intense experience

>>Prickett: Mm-hmm, when I first got the eyewitness

accounts, I started to read them and I couldn't

read them and I had I waited probably a month or

so and then finally I just took them out when I was

by myself and read them, about him being pulled out

and beaten, because it was just too emotional to tie

that to somebody that you know, that you're related to.

For no apparent reason soldiers, guards took some

bamboo sticks and just started beating him and

then they got back from the work detail and they

were lying in formation, I guess, and they just

singled him out for no reason and pulled him out

and started beating him with pickaxe handles

severely until he just fell to the ground and

passed out and then finally they allowed some

other prisoners to carry him to the barracks where

he laid without medicine or medical attention for

several days until he finally got better.

>>Ludlow: And he went to a lot of different camps

after that, right?

>>Prickett: Yes, after the march he, of course, most

of them went through camp O'Donnell and then he was

at Cabanatuan, which he was there probably the

majority of the time and so that was where a lot of

this I think happened and I know at one point I

don't think it was this camp, I think was later in

Japan, he did tell a cousin that he had worked

on making bricks and if you couldn't work they

would beat you on the back with a shovel.

You had to be able to work or if he set to rest for a

minute sometimes they'd come and beat you so they

were forced to work.

After he was in Cabanatuan that's when the forces,

the US forces, were coming back in to the Philippines

and starting to take it back over and at that time

because a lot of the soldiers would hear the

planes and see them so they thought they were

close to being rescued and so this was a distraught

time for them because they were taking back the

Philippines and the Japanese decided to move

them out and so that's when he got put on one of

the what they call the hell ships.

>>Ludlow: Hell Ships?

>>Prickett: You read any descriptions of the hell

ships you would understand why, they basically, the

ship he was one of the bigger ones and there were

four that were being taken to China and of the, this

is the only one that made it, they would put them in

the cargo hold and this one had been, had coal in

it that they had unloaded and they just had all the

coal dust and everything in there and then they

would beat them back so that more of them would

fit and so they put them in this particular ship

until they were just crammed in there and he

did talk to some of my relatives and my dad who I

mentioned the camps that you couldn't even sit down

like you were just shoulder-to-shoulder.

If you got sick or you needed to sit or pass out

that you just went down and then it was hard to

breathe in these cargo holds and it was really

hot, it was the hottest time of the year so they'd

get up to like 110.

So, a lot of them were packed and they had

diseases like dysentery, beri beri, typhoid, you

know, all kinds of diseases.

This eyewitness account of his also mentioned that he

had all of those diseases as well really and they

didn't have any medicine.

It's like it's a miracle he made it back and that

ship was hit twice by submarine, U.S.

submarines because the Japanese did not mark

their ships, they did not sign to Geneva convention.

>>Ludlow: So, these are unmarked ships getting torpedoed

>>Prickett: Right, so they're supposed

to supposedly mark them that there's POWs on them

and they wouldn't so the US didn't know that their

own men were on these ships and so the three

other ships that were in this convoy were torpedoed

and bombed and they did not make it to Japan and

his was the only one that made it.

That particular ship had one of the longest

voyages. It was 29 days

>>Ludlow: A month, it was a month?

>>Prickett: Yeah, it was a full month and they set in

the harbor for two days before they even left.

>>Ludlow: Your uncle went through so much.

Can you tell us a little bit about how his ordeal ended?

How we he left the camps?

>>Prickett: So, when he was in Japan because he

had to get on a second hell ship, which I just

can't imagine when you lived through one, just

how it even felt walking up to another one to be

crammed into a cargo hold again but he was on a

second one and taken to Japan and there he said, I

remember him telling us, that all of, some of the

guards all just disappeared and they had

been seeing planes, U.S.

planes and hearing planes so they knew that the US

was getting closer, but they didn't know what to

do when the guards disappeared because they

were just so weak and so sick that they couldn't walk out.

They didn't really know where to go so they stayed

in the camps because they didn't know if it was safe to go.

And they started dropping, the U.S.

started dropping care packages, parachuting in

little supplies and clothing and different

things for them and sometimes they would land

in the camp and they would get them and he said

sometimes they would land outside and you know they

didn't go out and get those because they weren't

sure it was safe to get them, that in the camp he

was in they were hoping that most of them would

land in there because that's the only way they

got food and supplies

>>Ludlow: And he made it home after

all that and he was part of his community?

>>Prickett: When they brought him home and he

was in San Francisco for about three months because

they were all very sick so they didn't let the

families see him for a while and then, he came

back to Duran and was a rancher.

Right after the war he was a recruiter and he was in

Carrizozo, New Mexico.

One of our distant cousins that grew up in Duran, his

mom and him lived in Carrizozo where uncle

Susano was living at the time and he said he would

take them to Duran to visit on the weekend and

that he remembered uncle Susanoo would drive about

80 to 90 miles an hour and this was all dirt roads at

the time and his mother being there going "we're

going to die" because my uncle was just driving

like a maniac, but that's the way he was and I

mentioned that to my aunt and she said "yeah he

always drove really fast" you know I don't know if

it's being on the edge of life you just live that way?

>>Ludlow: Yeah, but he also took care of people, right?

>>Prickett: Yeah, everybody that I've called

to try to get stories from say he was a very generous

man somebody needed help he took care of them.

If they needed money he would give them money.

He gave a lot of money to the church.

It was always important to him to also take care of

the girls in the family, his sisters.

I think perhaps he felt like all the boys got the land.

And that's the way it was in those days.

So they got all this ranch land, my grandmother got a

steamer trunk when she got married and I think he

felt like they needed to be looked after, we need

to be sure they're taken care of so it was always

important that my grandmother and his other

sisters aunt Rosalie and Ursula.

And he outlived all of them so he made sure they

were taken care of.

>>Ludlow: It seems like in a sense your are taking

care of his memory now.

>>Prickett: It's important, it's important

for the family I think, to my aunt, she's thrilled

that we're doing this stuff and taking his things out.

She gave them to me about a year ago, all his medals

when we found them, she's just thrilled we're

sharing his story because he made such a sacrifice for us...

>>Ludlow: Yeah.

>>Prickett: And, and he did all of that for all of

us, not just his family.

He did it for all of us that live here, all of us

in New Mexico, all of us in the US, and, and so I

think that's, you know, part of why we need to

share it.

>>Prickett: I remember one thing about my uncle, too,

is one time when he talked about it, we we were in

Encino for Thanksgiving, at my grandmother's house,

and he started talking about the war and we all

just kind of gathered around cause any time he

talked about it we just, you know, went to listen

and he went to his car and he pulled out this book

and it was this little paperback book and he had

it all tied up and stringed and the pages

were falling out and he had it in a manila

envelope and that tied in string and it was the book

called Give Us This Day and he said that that was

the most accurate depiction he had ever read

and that he remembers being in those events and

the way they're described.

Maybe he always told everybody that because he

couldn't talk about it and this was a way for us to

understand or know what he went through.

>>Ludlow: Did he have a community of veterans he

ever talked with?

>>Prickett: I don't know for sure.

He spent time, I know some of the people that sat

with him at his "office" at Coronado mall were

veterans then.

They would talk.

I know he would go days to the VA hospital, certain

days, and hang out there and talk.

So I don't know if he ever had any counseling or if

he had veterans talk to him about the march, you

know, there's just, there were so many aspects to

that event that were just so difficult, you know,

from that part of it, to just the brutality.

It's like, how do you convey that, you know, how

do you convey it without breaking down.

I mean, I don't know, I sometimes, I start to get

teary-eyed when I talk about him and things that

he did and then I read these things and I just

can't imagine how he could convey that without

breaking down and it probably took a lot of years.

>>Ludlow: I'm really happy that you're here to

communicate it for him.

>>Prickett: I'm trying, it's important.

I'm trying, um one of the things, the greatest

honors that I never thought I would do in my

whole life...

and I'm glad I got to do, was, I was by chance, I

happened to find out about the Congressional Gold

Medal that they have for the, it's Filipino and

American veterans that were in the Bataan March.

They did a ceremony in Las Cruces and my brother and

I were able to accept that medal on his behalf.

>>Ludlow: That generation, the World War II

generation, so many of them are gone now, there

are very few veterans left, how do we keep those

stories present from that war and why is it

important to keep those stories from that era alive?

>>Prickett: I think it's important because, as time

goes on, that you know you get to three generations

away from that, people forget, eventually it

starts to be watered down, the stories and we're like

yeah that was a terrible thing, but you know, it

was only 65 miles or, you know.

But what happened and the condition they were in

before that and if we don't remember, you know,

what it truly was and all the brutality that

happened, then it can happen again and we don't

value our freedom that we have and it's such a

fragile thing we have and I think if we don't keep

telling these stories and we don't let the next

generation know what these people endured just so

they could do what they do today and then to really

have an understanding, that our freedom is just

going to be commonplace and we can't do that

because that's when you're going to start losing it

and you could end up not having those freedoms and

those things that we so much enjoy now.


>>Kimmy: How's everybody doing today?


>>Chrissy: We are the WhiskeyBelles.

We're from Milwaukee. This is called "Borrowed Trouble"

I've been diggin this hole all day long Knee deep

in love but I'm movin on

>>Chrissy: So it all started about 10 years

ago, and then this arrangement has been

around for 8 years.

>>Kimberly Unger: WhiskeyBelles just kind of

had this ring to it and it kind of stuck.

>>Unger: My name is Kimberly Unger.

I play fiddle in the WhiskeyBelles.

My role is I'm basically the only soloist in the

band so I would take what normally would be a guitar

solo and play it on fiddle.

Sweet as pie

>>Sara Moilanen: My name is Sara

Moilanen, and I play bass in the WhiskeyBelles.

I kinda play it in more of a bluegrass style, and it

sort of lays down the base rhythm, 'cause we don't

have a drummer.

So Chrissy and I have to make the rhythm happen.

Worry about your own life You're sweet as pie

Her smile's sincere, but through her eyes You see

the fear of finding love That at the end only leads To tragedy

>>Clobes: My name is Chrissy. I play guitar in the

WhiskeyBelles. It acts as a rhythm instrument.

I think I play it a little more percussively than

most acoustic guitar players.

And so, like Sara said, it replaces the drummer.

Well we got our sound from Trio, which is Dolly

Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris.

So we started off learning that album and kind of

figured out where our sound was.

But again, that was 10 years ago, so we've

definitely evolved from there.

She's lookin' real good In those devil boots

>>Sara Moilanen: I guess you would categorize us as like

Americana/Bluegrass/Traditional Country.

>>Unger: We really, I mean, we do everything

from Dolly Parton to Beyonce, you know, and it

just, it really kind of depends on what speaks to

us and you know, I think this would be a really fun

thing to try.

California Your city blew wind and ice

>>Moilanen: We kinda take our own personal take on the songs

that we play.

Like we don't play them like a traditional cover band does.

We kinda, we WhiskeyBelleify it, you know.

We make it our own.

>>Clobes: And "country" is such a dirty word too.

>>Moilanen: I know.

>>Unger: It is.

>>Clobes: Yeah, like I don't even like to say I

like country.

I like good music.

>>Moilanen: I like good music, yep.

You keep knock, knock, knocking us down Turn it

around Around, around, around

>>Chrissy: ok, so where do you want to start?

>>Sara: Let's do the whole song.

>>Chrissy: ok. (laughing)

>>Kimmy: 1, 2, 3, 4.

>>Clobes: Usually we come up with an idea or a

song already written, and then we play it and then

it develops from there.

So then we create the arrangement around that to

really fit the three of us.

>>Unger: And I think that holds true for every song

that we do, whether it's an original song or a

cover song.

>>Moilanen: Right, and most of the time, we're

adapting songs that don't have 3-part harmony into

3-part harmony.

So it's fun to try and, you know, make all 3 of

our voices work together on stuff that you wouldn't

normally hear it on so.

>>Clobes: And that's the best part, arranging and

being creative with whether it's our songs or

something that you hear on the radio.

I'll take you out, we'll have a ball I'll take

your woman in a barroom brawl And drink the

bottom out of this old world

>>Clobes: It wasn't until that I played with the WhiskeyBelles

where people just stop and they're like, "3 women,

all playing their instruments and all

singing and all just being these powerhouses".

So, it's a lot more fun than solo shows.

>>Unger: My favorite thing about playing out with

these ladies is that we can just do a song a

cappella with it's just our voices.

And I don't think people, I don't think people

realize that it's really us singing at times.

And we just work that hard on our harmonies where,

you know, it's tight.

And so when we stop and just play a cappella and

sing, it's neat.

A friend of mine

>>Unger: When you see us

smiling on stage, it's genuine.

Like, we, there's no other place we'd rather be.


We love to perform and that is, I think it

transcends on to our audience and they really

can feel that joy and that energy.

A lot of people go, "I don't, I don't really like

country but I really like what you guys do".

That, to me, says that we're doing a really great

job at what we do.

Dust is gonna fly, up a head or behind

>>Unger: When you sing with people that you connect with on

such, on a level like this, it's like you're

giving a part of your soul to your audience.

And it's a very vulnerable place to be but it's, it's

so rewarding on so many levels.

And to call these ladies my friends on top of that,

it's just, it really is amazing.

We've just spent so much time together, it brings

us a lot of joy and again, I think that people see

that when they come and see us play.

>>Clobes: Well, we were friends first.

So friends first, and then we became a band.

Drink the bottom out of this old world Drink the

bottom out of this old world



New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

What We Do and Local Productions.



>>Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation ...and Viewers Like You


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