1941-1945 — Ft. Bliss, Texas
I summarized some of Uncle Shelly's letters (copies my parents have). Shelly said the Regiment did long convoys into New Mexico around Deming and Carlsbad in preparation for duty in the war. Once called to active duty, they drove their convoy into Albuquerque along Central Avenue to the train station. I learned that his mother, Leona Beecham Bolton, wanted to go see her son off, but my grandfather didn't take her. Maybe because of her health and the distance from Moriaty to the train station, about 51 miles or more.
Shelley was a member of the 200th Coast Artillery, previously the 111th Cavalry of the NM National Guard, stationed in Fort Bliss, TX. On August 17, 1941, the 200th received orders to break camp and ship out to San Francisco. Their destination was in a sealed envelope and would not be revealed to the men until August 22. After several months at sea, the 200th finally arrived in Manila. Everyone expected this stay to last only a year and they would be going home, but it became four long grueling years.
Nine hours after Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese, the 200th engaged Japanese bombers at Clark Field and Fort Statsenburg, becoming the first unit to go into action to protect the US Flag in the Philippines. That evening 500 men of the 1800 in the 200th were commissioned to provide additional air defense in Manila. This provisional force was christened the 515th Coast Artillery, Shelley Bolton was one of the 500. This unit became America's first war-born regiment in World War II. The 200th and 515th were part of a total of 27,000 American troops and 98,000 Filipino soliders in the Philippines.
In December 1941 the Japanese landed on the shores of the Philippines. The 200th and 515th fought valiantly alongside the troops with little hope of reinforcements or supplies. The defense of the Philippines lasted four months and then on April 9, 1942 the men surrendered.
Shelley earned the Purple Heart for helping a comrade on the 60-mile trek on the blacktop Bataan highway from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell. This long grueling walk became known as the Bataan Death March. The men had no food or fresh water to drink, they were sick with tropical diesases, weak from malnutrition and exhausted from a long five day battle with the Japanese Fourtheenth. If Shelley hadn't helped his comrade, he would have been shot. Shelley died at Camp O'Donnell May 15, 1942, of malaria. Just about every man that was a prisoner at Camp O'Donnell died at that camp. Many others were taken to other camps where conditions were horrible, so many of the men died in these camps from diease, starvation or by other means; but those who survived lived to tell the story of courage and heroism of their comrades and friends.
Excerpts quoted from newspaper articles, The Bell Tolls for New Mexico, Letters from Uncle Shelley