Former prisoner tells story

PNT staff

Memories of war often haunt a person who was a part of it.

For Clemens Kathman, the memories of the Bataan death march, prison camps and his trip home will remain with him for the rest of his life.

Kathman wrestled his demons in the cathartic process of writing his memoirs — a 2005 autobiography called “I Was There, Charley.”

“I wanted to get things off my chest,” Kathman said.

Kathman, 93, was born in Richland, graduated from Eastern New Mexico University and was prisoner of war in World War II.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1941 as a member of the New Mexico National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery. In September 1941, he was shipped to Clark Field in the Philippine Islands.

The Americans and their Filipino allies, half-starved and existing on one-eighth rations, had nothing to fight with but 1903 Springfield rifles, facing the might of the Japanese tanks, bombers and field artillery, Kathman said.

Kathman’s unit was ordered to surrender and started painting POW letters around the camp to let the Japanese know.

The soldiers were taken to Canbanatuan after the long Bataan death march. This was before other prisoners were taken to Camp O’Donnell.

Kathman was assigned to a work detail a few weeks after being brought to the camp. About 60 people worked on the clean-up detail, and they had living quarters, food and water.

Kathman contracted malaria.