Scott Air Force Base News

Exchange shopper recognized for detailing father’s harrowing POW experience

El Paso resident Linda Anderson has made it her mission to ensure nobody forgets the suffering—and strength—of the men who endured the Bataan Death March in April 1942.

Her father, Pvt. Clarence Neighbors, was one of the 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war who made the excruciating—and for many, deadly—65-mile march to Japanese POW camps in the Philippines during World War II.

So when the Army & Air Force Exchange Service announced its worldwide Who’s My Superhero and Why essay contest, she jumped at the chance to enter. Anderson, wife of retired Staff Sgt. Dave Anderson, who served for 22 years in Army, saw another opportunity to commemorate the sacrifice of her father and his fellow U.S. Soldiers—1,000 of whom never made it home.

“The horrors they saw—babies getting bayonetted, friends being killed, the beatings they got, being stripped naked and having to stand in 20-below weather—we should never forget that,” Anderson said. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as things that happened to them.”

Managers from the Fort Bliss Exchange presented Anderson with a $1,000 Exchange gift card at the Fort Bliss Exchange last month. Anderson’s essay tracked her father’s journey from being shot down in a B-17 over the Philippines in April 1942 to being liberated from the lead mines in Kamioka, Japan, at the war’s end in August 1945. The 6-foot-3-inch Neighbors weighed 89 pounds upon his release.

All too often, history remembers the broader event but forgets the individual stories of the people who endured untold suffering to protect not just Americans, but the entire world. The words Mrs. Anderson wrote about her father’s experience leap from the page in vivid, horrifying detail, reminding us that the true cost of freedom is often steep.

Michael Brennan, general manager of the Fort Bliss Exchange

“All too often, history remembers the broader event but forgets the individual stories of the people who endured untold suffering to protect not just Americans, but the entire world,” said Michael Brennan, general manager of the Fort Bliss Exchange. “The words Mrs. Anderson wrote about her father’s experience leap from the page in vivid, horrifying detail, reminding us that the true cost of freedom is often steep.”

Though Anderson had known her father was in the Death March since she was 16, he never said much about his time as a POW. Anderson knew he could speak some Japanese and that his prisoner number was 164. She also remembers the personality quirks she attributed to his time in the camps, such as checking refrigerators and cabinets for food whenever he would visit the homes of friends and family.

“When my father ate, it was almost like he was in a trance,” Anderson said. “He didn’t want to talk; he just ate. And the look on his face once he finished it—he was very satisfied. Many of the survivors have little idiosyncrasies like that.”

In 2010, Anderson attended the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, where she discovered a community of survivors, descendants and armchair historians who would help her piece together a more complete picture of the nearly four years her father spent in captivity.

After the March, Neighbors was put on the hell ship Tottori Maru and taken to Korea, where he was transferred to an old Mitsubishi factory in Manchuria, China. There, he and the other men were forced to make tank and airplane parts. Her father was one of 150 men transferred to Kamioka after they were caught sabotaging the factory.

“Nothing was made to order,” Anderson said. “They would run the machines for a little while and they would put something in there that would destroy them. They would even bury tools in concrete. Even though they were in prison, our guys never gave up. They were the greatest generation—unbelievable men.”

Managers from the Fort Bliss Exchange presented Anderson with a $1,000 Exchange gift card at the Fort Bliss Exchange last month. Anderson’s essay tracked her father’s journey from being shot down in a B-17 over the Philippines in April 1942 to being liberated from the lead mines in Kamioka, Japan, at the war’s end in August 1945. The 6-foot-3-inch Neighbors weighed 89 pounds upon his release.

Though Anderson’s father passed away in 1983 because of ongoing complications from tropical diseases and frostbite he contracted in the camps, Anderson has continued to champion the Death Marchers’ story, attending several reunions for survivors and descendants held annually in various locations across the country.

“It’s not just about my dad—they’re all my fathers now,” Anderson said of the survivors. “I think the biggest impression that a young child or teenager could have is to meet them and know really what happened. It’s really important. I don’t want anyone to ever forget.”

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