Hearts were heavy in Bethany Friday for an American hero. On Sunday, 97-year-old Byron Gordon died in his sleep according to his family.
The Oklahoman was held in a Japanese prison of war camp for a more than three years.
“It was 105 degrees in the Philippines and Houston humidity,” says Gordon’s grandson, Chad Higbee.
Higbee has done research on the merciless march to get those POW camps in the Philippines after the Japanese took control of the country. Gordon was forced to march 65 miles in a week’s time with no food or water. The infamous trip would be known as the Bataan Death March.
“It wasn't uncommon for the guys that lags behind to be run through with bayonets or be beheaded.” Says Higbee.
After the war, Gordon would return to Oklahoma with new appreciation for life. He'd marry and raised a family. Until his death Sunday, the Marine was one of two American Bataan Death March survivors in the state.
The number of survivors still living today is thought to be around 50-to-60.
“He was very thankful to live here because he saw the worst that men can dole out,” says Higbee.
Higbee now hopes lawmakers will take a closer at the sacrifices made in the Philippines during the World War II and honor their sacrifice of death march prisoners with the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Every year that goes by there are fewer and fewer of these veterans living. We can honor while they are in the land of the living with this gold medal,” says Higbee.