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This Memorial Day One Resident Looks Back

Originally Posted: May 22, 2010

Patti Birks

William Rogers Birks Japanese POW photo taken off the wall of Kamioka Nagoya Japan prison camp after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. (Birks)

Editor's Note: In anticipation of Memorial Day, local resident Patti Birks takes a look back at her multi-generational family and their arrival in Southampton and history in the area.

Southampton - I have been reaching people all over the world about my story - a story that was made possible by one of the founding families of this nation - as I am a descendant of Thomas Rogers who signed the Mayflower Compact and William Rogers who came to Southampton in 1640 and lived on Meetinghouse Lane.

Terry Lucas of the Rogers Memorial Library has helped me with my genealogy and I found the grave of my great great great grandfather William Rogers born in 1798, and his son, my great great grandfather Halsey Rogers, born in 1822, and now buried in Westhampton Cemetery along with their wives and decendants.

It brings me great joy on this Memorial Weekend to share my story about the events and history that my father William Rogers Birks endured before my birth. He came from a fighting bunch, and members of his family fought in every war. His ancestor David Carter fought under George Washington in the Revolution.

Isabel Rogers Birks, my grandmother, was notified by the Navy Department that her son, William Rogers Birks, was reported missing in action in Manila in the Philippines in 1942. He had been wounded on December 10, 1941 when the Japanese bombed the ship he was on the U.S.S. Peary. The ship was refurbished and sailed away without him to Darwin, Australia where Japanese bombed over 200 ships in the harbor and everyone on the ship (over 153 people) died.

Newspaper announcement Death March Survivor Weds (Margaret E. McCarthy) announcing the wedding of Birks' parents.

William Rogers Birks remained in Manila and after being released from the hospital went to Bataan. On April 9, 1942 U.S. forces on Bataan surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese and on April 10, 1942 the Bataan Death March began as 76,000 Allied POWs, including 12,000 Americans, were forced to walk 65 miles under a blazing sun without food or water toward a new POW camp, resulting in over 5,000 American deaths. William Rogers Birks stayed in Manila for two and a half years in Manila as a POW, and during the last year of his captivity was taken on a "hell ship" to Nagoya, Japan.

According to the National Archives and Records in Washington DC he entered Kamioka POW camp on August 6, 1944 and left there the same day on August 6, 1945 when President Truman dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. He came back to the United States and was rehabilitated and married my mother Margaret E. McCarthy on June 15, 1946. I was born on Navy Day, October 13, 1950.

I wish all of you a Happy and Safe Memorial Day.

For more information email birksworks@optonline.net

Updated: May 22, 2010, 12:03 pm
Appeared In: community >> community news