Interview with Manuel Armijo

By Connie Lowe: 12/8/99

Manuel A. Armijo was born in the Albuquerque suburb of Armijo on December 10, 1911 and was raised on a farm close to Manticello. In the 10th grade, Manuel dropped out of school to work for the New Mexico State Highway Department. Later, he joined the Bureau of Child Welfare as a stock boy.

On November 4, 1940, Mr. Armijo married Frances Apodaca in Mora, New Mexico. At the age of 28, he enlisted in the services. By the beginning of 1941, he was on his way to Manila as part of the 200th Coast Artillery (AA) to defend Clark Field from Japanese attack, leaving behind his pregnant wife. When Japan attacked Clark Field, the 200th had been divided into the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery (AA) because Manila also needed defending. Manuel and a fellow soldier, Arthur B. Smith, spotted the Rising Sun under the wings of an airplane and they knew they were under attack. The men battled until April 9, 1942 when they were ordered by General Edward P. King to surrender.

After the surrender, a 55-mile "Death March" began. During this march, Mr. Armijo was denied food and water for the first five days. After the "Death March", he was placed in Camp O’Donnell for 3 months and then he was taken to Camp Cabanatuan where he remained for two years. Mr. Armijo was taken by way of the Mati Maru "Hell Ship" to Omuta, Japan where he remained captive for another year. At the end of that year, Manuel had heard that Japan had surrendered, and he decided to liberate himself. Mr. Armijo and a fellow POW, Evans Garcia, simply left the Japanese labor camp.
The two men made their way to an American air base, then boarded a train, and rode it as far as it went. They walked about ten miles to another air base where they were flown to Manila. By this time, Manuel had lost track of his friend. He remained in Manila until the first of October. He boarded a ship that took 17 days to reach San Francisco. Once he got there, he was taken to Lettermen General Hospital. Finally, on October 28, 1945, Mr. Armijo boarded a hospital train that took him to Santa Fe where he was reunited with his wife and met his three-year-old daughter, Loretta, for the first time.

After World War II, Mr. Armijo returned to the United States. He resumed employment with the State of New Mexico. Manuel is 88 years old, and he is a 30 year state employee retiree.

Manuel and Frances had two more children: Peggy and Manuel; they now have 9 grandchildren: Loreen, Vincent, Dawn, Mark, Nicole, Anthony, Manuel, Jennifer, and Adam.
Mr. Armijo still suffers from a crushed disk in his lower back, which was caused when he was hit with the butt of a Japanese rifle. He also suffers from knuckle pain. His knuckles were crushed by a Japanese guard as punishment for eating an onion out of the garden at Camp O’Donnell. The worst thing, however, is that Mr. Armijo still endures are the brutal memories of his days as a Japanese POW.

Armijo Biography courtesy of  MSG Geronimo R. Padilla, Curator of the Bataan Memorial Military Museum and Library   Bataan Memorial Museum  Sante Fe,  NM     

For photos and more stories relating to Manuel, 
click here or on "Linda's Visit to New Mexico" (from the Main Page)

June 2004 We are sad to announce the loss of this dear friend June 23. 
Click here for Manuel's Obituary.

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