Sacrifice and survival: 75 years after WWII ended, Bedford residents reflect

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Barry Saunders’ father survived the Bataan Death March in 1942.

“He saw a lot of death,” said Saunders, the son of a World War II veteran, “a lot of people that were killed. If you fell by the roadside, they bayoneted you.”

His father, Bernard Saunders, spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war during WWII.

“They were taken from the last camp that they were in in the Philippines and shipped to Japan where he worked, it was like slave labor, he worked in a nickel mine. A lot of them worked in coal mines.”

It’s one of countless WWII stories in Bedford, a town that suffered the biggest loss per capita on D-Day.

“They dedicated the stone right in front of the court house, and the stone was brought in from Normandy,” said Linda Parker, who works at the Bedford Boys Tribute Center. “And little Dani Parker, the only daughter of a Bedford Boy, in her Girl Scout uniform with her Girl Scout troop there actually put flowers on there for her dad.”

Nineteen Bedford Boys died in nine minutes on D-Day, according to Ken Parker, also with the Tribute Center.

“75 years ago,” said Ken Parker, “this town was on its knees. In many aspects, even today, 75 years later, because of the terrible loss.”

In the Pacific, the elder Saunders was freed from Japan after the atomic bombs fell over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing as many as 226,000 people.

“He went on to establish a business, he was mayor here in town at one time.”

Barry Saunders says his father suffered signs of PTSD, such as nightmares, and told his stories later in life.

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