Honor and Distinction

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Dorsey, Leo H.

 

The New York Times and I are not on good terms. For their part, they have no idea I exist. For my part, ever since I canceled my subscription after I caught them, about twenty-five years ago, either deliberately lying or engaging in willful ignorance about a second amendment issue, I have paid little attention to anything they write.

So I only recently twigged to the fact that their editorial board has called for Bowe Bergdahl not to be charged and tried for desertion and misconduct. Here is the salient paragraph from their editorial:

“But trying him for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy — for allegedly engaging in misconduct that endangered his unit — stands to accomplish little at this point. A conviction would most likely deprive a traumatized veteran of benefits, including medical care, which he will probably need for years. A dishonorable discharge would make it harder to rebuild his life as a civilian.”

As it happens, I learned about this editorial just as I was starting to write an article about Chris Dorsey.

Chris is the co-founder, president, and CEO of Orion Entertainment, an independent, Denver, Colorado-based entertainment company that produces a wide variety of programming for various cable television channels. They produce everything from hunting to home improvement to reality shows, and they have enjoyed unprecedented success.

I’ve known Chris for about a quarter of a century, and I remembered him once telling me that his father had been a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and that he, Chris, used to be woken in the night by his father’s screams. In the course of doing my research for the article, I came across the following information from a variety of sources (the words that follow are mine, but the facts are accurate):

Leo H. Dorsey (above) grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin. In 1939 he enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Divisional Tank Company, and in 1940 he was called up to regular duty when his tank company was made part of the regular army under the name of Company A, 192 Tank Battalion, subsequently known as the Janesville 99. The 192nd Tank Battalion was sent to the Philippines, arriving at Clark Field on Thanksgiving Day, 1941.

On December 8th 1941 Clark Field was attacked by the Japanese. The Army Air Corps was completely destroyed, and the assault was followed up by an amphibious attack. Corporal Leo H. Dorsey and the 192nd Tank Battalion retreated onto the Bataan peninsula and spent the next three months, without food or supplies, trying desperately to slow the invasion of the Philippines by a vastly superior and better equipped Japanese Army.

They fought the Japanese, they fought disease, they fought starvation, and when they were finally compelled to surrender, they were treated to a little overland excursion to Camp O’Donnell that has gone down in history as “The Bataan Death March.” To this day, no one knows precisely how many men died on that march.

Bataan Death March

 

At Camp O’Donnell, Corporal Leo Dorsey became so ill through disease and malnutrition that his weight dropped to ninety pounds. His life was saved by Lieutenant Leroy Scoville and an unidentified member of A Company who would surreptitiously hold Cpl. Dorsey up and help him to walk so that the Japanese would be fooled into thinking he was healthy enough to work. Like so many others, Lt. Leroy Scoville did not survive the war.

From Camp O’Donnell, Cpl. Leo Dorsey was sent to first one prison camp and then another before being shipped to Japan on one of the aptly named “Hell Ships,” where men were packed in so tightly they could not even sit down. Suffering from a wide range of diseases, including dysentery, the men were compelled to defecate on themselves and their fellow soldiers. Many did not survive the trip.

In Japan, the soldiers were forced into slave labor for various Japanese industries, loading and unloading ships, and building a dry-dock. Things came to a head when the POWs refused to handle munitions and other military supplies; they simply refused to touch any of the war materials for the Japanese. They were beaten severely and repeatedly, but they endured and eventually the Japanese gave up and assigned them to other tasks.

Then the American POWs began a lengthy program of sabotage, slowing their work down to the barest possible minimum. They were beaten, but they endured and they persevered.

They deliberately mixed the concrete too thin, so that the walls of the dry-dock collapsed. They were beaten. They endured.

After four years of captivity, slave labor, torture, abuse, starvation, degradation, Cpl. Leo Dorsey and the other American POWs were finally liberated. Only one third of the Janesville 99 lived to return home, and they returned bearing the scars, physical and psychological, they would take to their graves, but they went to work, they raised families, they lived their lives as they had served their country, with honor and dignity and courage.

Cpl. Leo Dorsey may have woken his children in the night with his screams, but he raised nine fine young men and women; I was at Chris’s wedding, so I can attest that they are fine young men and women.

And now the New York Times feels it would be unnecessarily hard on Bowe Bergdahl to face charges, and that it would “make it harder on him to rebuild his life as a civilian.”

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