NEW ULM – Medals honoring the service of Lt. Willibald Bianchi, including his Medal of Honor, are on loan to Dominican College of New York this spring in honor of the 80th anniversary of the Bataan Death March.
Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York, is hosting a commemoration of the anniversary of the Bataan Death March on Saturday, April 9. The event is sponsored by the Filipino-American Cultural Foundation in partnership with the Dominican College.
Bianchi was from New Ulm and one of the POWs forced to participate in the march after it was captured by Japanese forces on April 9, 1942.
Two months before Bianchi’s capture, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor for actions taken beyond the call of duty on February 3, 1942 in Bagac, Bataan Province, Philippines.
On his initiative, Bianchi advances on two nests of enemy machine guns. He was wounded twice by bullets but continued to advance personally destroying a follower with grenades. He was shot twice more in the chest before climbing onto an American tank to wield an anti-aircraft machine gun and fired into the enemy position until he was knocked off the tank by a third wound.
Bianchi survived and recovered from his injuries, but a few months later he was captured by the Japanese. He and other prisoners of war were taken to a camp. Many did not survive the forced march. The incident became known as the Bataan Death March.
Bianchi survived the march and would remain a prisoner of war. Accounts of his time in the prison camps indicate that Bianchi showed great compassion for his fellow POWs and strove to ensure that food and medicine were distributed fairly among the captured men.
Bianchi was killed in January 1945. He was lost at sea after the Japanese prisoner ship he was on board sank.
Bianchi was never able to officially receive his Medal of Honor, but it was given to his family. They eventually donated the medal to the Brown County Historical Society.
Brown County Historical Society Collections Curator Ryan Harren said it was a significant honor to have a Medal of Honor in his collection. It is considered the highest and most prestigious military decoration that can be awarded to Americans serving their country. Only 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded since its inception in 1863. Only 472 Medals of Honor have been awarded to veterans of World War II.
Bianchi’s medals will be temporarily loaned to the Dominican College for a commemorative event and will remain on display there throughout the spring alongside three other Medals of Honor belonging to other Filipino Scouts who were with Bianchi during the march.
Harren said once the medal is returned to BCHS, it will be on display at the museum for all to see.