Robert Leroy Aldrich was born in Alva, OK. and raised in New Mexico where he enlisted in the New
Mexico National Guard at Clovis in 1940 -when he was just 17. Induction was at Ft. Bliss, Texas and
Robert (called Bobby) was soon sent to the Philippines, where he was assigned to the 200th Coastal
Artillery. Captured on Bataan, Robert was forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March.
His Prisoner of War camps: O'Donnell, Cabantuan and then sent to Manila for departure to Japan by
After a 15 day journey from Manila to Moji aboard the Clyde Maru (known to the men as the Mate Mate
Robert was one of the first 500 POWs to arrive at Camp #17 on 10 Aug 1943.
Robert's grandson tells some of his grandfather's military path through these experiences ~
was given a sword at the end of the war.
The story is that after the bomb was
dropped on Nagasaki, my grandfather and this Japanese prison camp guard were both
stumbling around the prison camp site and my grandfather showed the guard where he had
placed his 'homemade' explosives which were soon to be detonated as a means of escape.
It was then that the guard told my grandfather, You are a very honorable man' and he
gave him this sword."
Here are photos of that very sword!
Robert was discharged as
a Staff Sergeant in November 1946, having been hospitalized in
Bruns Hospital, Santa Fe New Mexico for almost a year.
"When Grandpa Bobby returned
home from the war, doctors had to remove a piece of bone from his knee to place in his
back or spine because of the damage from slave labor while mining. He had to lay in a
hospital bed for a bout a year on his belly while it healed. The doctors told him he
would never walk again, however he forced himself to learn how to walk with a cane. Some
of this paperwork has clippings from his journal about Japanese "war crimes." About 10
years ago I came across a page from his journal that explained in detail, the beating
of a man with a bamboo pole- The Japanese had beaten this poor man to a pulp so badly
that he could not be recognized, while they were working in the mines. If I remember
correctly, his last name was Silva. They had left him there to die in the mine and my
grandfather picked this man up and carried him back to the camp. There is also
paperwork about suing the Mitsui Corporation for lost wages, etc. My mother tells me he
was once offered one thousand dollars a month for the rest of his life by the Mitsui
Corporation if he would just "shut up", but he turned it down because he wanted it for
his "buddies" too- not just himself."
Note: Michael is going through is
grandfather's papers and what he finds will be added to this account.
Frances Kuhn. They had 3 daughters; Lori, Jean and Lisa, and 5 grandchildren.
"Grandpa Bobby's brother, my
great uncle, is still alive in Roswell NM. Grandpa talked him into joining the Army.
They both survived The Bataan Death March and were sent to different camps. His name is
Jack H. Aldrich. He married a writer named Dorothy Cave, whom has written books on this
forever be amazed at what these soldiers went through and will forever be proud of my
Grandpa Bobby. He passed away in St. Augustine, Florida when I was about 7 years old.
We, his grandchildren, were playing outside his home when fire trucks and an ambulance
pulled up and took him away on a stretcher. He passed later that evening in the
hospital. I wish he were still around so I could have all my questions answered, but I
am glad to have him watching over me now.”