Gen. Mellnik, WWII Pow And Hero
El Paso Times
EL PASO, Texas - Retired Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Mellnik, whose escape from the Japanese during World War II brought first word of the horrors of the Bataan Death March, died Saturday (Jan. 1) at Beaumont Army Medical Center. He was 86.
Gen. Mellnik's article in Life magazine in February 1944 contained the first accounts of the atrocities committed by the Japanese on U.S. prisoners of war.
Gen. Mellnik and thousands of other U.S. and Allied forces were captured on the tiny island of Corregidor when the Philippines were surrendered in May 1942. He was held in various Japanese prison camps until April 1943, when he and nine others escaped from the Davao penal colony in the southern Philippines.
The escapees hooked up with guerrilla forces fighting in the mountains. Eventually, they made radio contact with Allied forces in Australia, and in July 1943 made a daring rendezvous with a U.S. submarine off the southern Philippine coast.
They were the first U.S. POWs to escape Japanese captivity.
His daring escape earned Gen. Mellnik the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism. His other awards included the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster.