Former POW leads Pa. parade

November 12, 1997

Former POW leads Pa. parade


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - For 44 months, James "Jim" Hammond marched hundreds of miles, was crammed into cattle cars, and forced to work in factories and rebuild airfields as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II.

In his early 20s, Hammond withstood days with little or no food and watched hundreds of his comrades die as he was moved from camp to camp in the Philippine Islands. He even had to bury some of them.

Despite the hardships that are imbedded in his memory, the Franklin County native said he "asked for it," since he voluntarily joined the U.S. Army and was simply doing his job for his country.


"If I was called upon, I'd do it again," said Hammond, 74.

On Tuesday morning, Hammond served as the honorary Veteran's Day parade marshal in downtown Chambersburg.

He and Rose Welsh, a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of Amvets Post 224 in Chambersburg, placed a red, white and blue memorial wreath on a stand in Memorial Square to honor those who died while fighting for their country.

"It's to let the people know who stood up for them and hope that someday they'll stand up for us when we get old," Hammond said of the Veteran's Day ceremony.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert V. Pierce, a Philadelphia native who served as guest speaker during the ceremony, praised the efforts of the living and deceased war veterans for their service and sacrifice to the United States.

"Some may ask, `why all the fuss about Veteran's Day?' The answer is simple. It's to honor those for their personal sacrifice and dedication who preserved our mission in the toughest of times."

World War II veteran Julius Bernhardt, 80, of Fayetteville, Pa., who was stationed in England, Africa, Italy and Austria from 1940 to 1945, said he's never missed participating in a Veteran's Day celebration and wishes more people would recognize the holiday.

"I'm glad I was born in this country. I'm glad I live in this country and I'm proud I served this country," Bernhardt said.

Among Veteran's Day activities elsewhere in the region were ceremonies at the Doughboy Memorial in Martinsburg, W.Va.; at Jefferson Memorial Park in Charles Town, W.Va.; and at the square in Greencastle, Pa.

Hammond, now 74, is one of 27 prisoners of war out of 280 in his detail who live today to tell the story.

Hundreds of people lined Lincoln Way West and surrounded the borough's square on the chilly, gray day, watching as several war veterans, most dressed in full uniform, marched proudly down the street holding their flags and guns.

Members of several local veterans' organizations, including the American Legion, Amvets, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, also participated.

Local school marching bands belted out patriotic tunes and majorettes and fire trucks filled in the half-hour parade, which ended with the ceremony on the square.

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