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The History Lesson

The History Lesson
Posted on 02/13/2018
World War II veteran Frank Francone answers questions from Lakewood High School students about the Bataan death march during a special assembly.Lakewood High School sophomores were getting a World War II history lesson their teachers hope they’ll never forget. The subject was as painful as any from that conflict, but perhaps not as fully known or appreciated. It was after the U.S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942, that some 75 thousand Filipino and American troops were forced by the Japanese to march to prison camps. Thousands died.

World War II veteran Frank Francone commanded some of the Filipino survivors after the war and has now taken on the mission of keeping their story and sacrifices alive. So too, has Mike Simbre, regional director of the Philippine Veteran Recognition and Education Project for Colorado.

“When I heard about Frank and Mike and their project and what they were trying to do, to increase awareness and to carry on the legacy of those that served in the Philippines during World War II, it was the perfect combination,” explained Lakewood High School history teacher David Martin.

Together, they’ve taken their “Remembrance of the Bataan Death March” presentation to any group willing to listen. Not only to tell the story of the march but to spread the word about a newly authorized Congressional Gold Medal to honor Filipino-American veterans who were there.

“We all know about Pearl Harbor, but very few people know what happened on the death march; how the prisoners, even the government itself didn’t release the information, the impact on the prisoners of war until a couple of years after they’d already been in prison. The information, getting it out is important I think,” said Falcone.

“The kids need to be enlightened about what happened. Period. They don’t know. They just don’t know,” said Simbre. “Most of the history books that we have nowadays don’t give all the facts. I hope these sophomores go back and go ‘look at the atrocities that happened by the Japanese on the POW’s, was there morality to it?’ They did not go by the Geneva Convention. They were out there to conquer the world, no matter what.”

Falcone and Simbre’s presentation definitely impacted these Lakewood High School students.

“To me, it was honestly really sad. I learned about everything that happened, but then I didn’t know about all of the things that all of those people went through,” said student Jaylene Gonzalez.

“I feel like it’s very important to talk about it more now. One thing that I’ll take from this: read your stories. Read history, so it doesn’t repeat itself. Appreciate everything that we have. People lost their lives for it,” added student Perla Lorenzo.

For more information about the Philippine Veteran Recognition and Education Project for Colorado, please visit

Click here to view the JPS-TV version of this story.
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