The scenes on this field would have cured anybody of war.
 —William Tecumseh Sherman

Relief was the initial reaction Lester Tenney felt when American and Filipino troops were ordered to surrender to the Japanese. He was already wounded and suffering from malaria and dysentery. But that feeling didn’t last for long. In 1942, Tenney—a 21-year-old staff sergeant–was one of the 12,000 American and 63,000 Filipino prisoners of war forced by the Japanese army to march 80 miles inland from the Bataan Peninsula to Camp O’Donnell in the Philippines in what would come to be known as the Bataan Death March, one of the worst atrocities of World War II.

Tenney will discuss his experiences as a World War II soldier and prisoner of war during a talk at the San Diego State University Library on November 7. The lecture is free and takes place in Room LL430 from 3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Light refreshments will be served following the lecture.

During the five-day march, around 7,000 to 10,000 men died of thirst, disease, exhaustion, or were shot or bayoneted by the Japanese guards. But Tenney’s nightmare didn’t end at Camp O’Donnell. Along with thousands of fellow POWs, he was shipped to Japan, where he was forced to work 12-hour days in a coal mine owned by Mitsui & Co., one of Japan’s largest conglomerates.

After the war, Tenney returned to school and earned a Ph.D. in business from the University of Southern California. He taught insurance and finance at Arizona State and San Diego State, retiring in 1993. Tenney has even made peace with the Japanese through his association with his son’s friend, a Japanese exchange student.

I really encourage you to watch the videos below and get a preview of Mr. Tenney’s story in his own words. Likewise, I hope you’ll attend his lecture on November 7 and hear more of it.

 

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