VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
Bataan Death March survivor turns 100
You're bound to meet folks with larger than life stories of heroism, friendship, courage, and resiliency at the VA. One such individual is WW II Veteran Thomas Mayor, who turns 100 on Sept. 18. Born in 1919, the year prohibition went into effect, the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees and the President of the United States was Woodrow Wilson.
Mayor grew up in Porac, Pampanga, Philippines and enlisted as a Private in the Filipino Army on Nov. 30, 1941. He was stationed at Mount Samat, Philippines and assigned to the B Collection Company, 31st Medical Battalion, 31st Division of the Philippine Army under the United States Army Forces in the Far East. Part of Mayor's responsibilities included transporting casualties from the field and collecting dog tags around the necks of soldiers who died in battle…a job described by his wife, Honey Mayor, as "very dangerous."
Mayor was one of approximately 70,000 Filipino and US troops who surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Army on April 9, 1942 following the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines. He and his fellow prisoners of war were forced to trek for days in 110-degree temperatures with little food, water, shelter or medicine to Camp O'Donnell in one of World War II's signature horrors, the Bataan Death March.
As a prisoner of war, he endured forced labor while witnessing the horrors of sickness, disease and death around him. According to his wife, the Japanese eventually released Mayor in June 1942 when he was "nothing but skin and bones."
Following his discharge from the Army in December 1945 after achieving the rank of Sergeant, he worked for the Government of the Philippines where he met his current wife Honey of 58 years. They moved to Los Angeles in 1970 and worked together at a relative's nursey school where he found work as a teacher.
The Mayors have 4 sons, 2 from Thomas Mayor's previous marriage, 13 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. Continuing in their grandfather's footsteps, the eldest grandson is a pilot in the Air Force and one of their granddaughters is a doctor in the Navy.
His wife attributes his longevity to living an ordinary life, eating lots of vegetables, chicken and fish and always being happy. Mayor currently enjoys spending time with his family and playing slot machines at the casinos.
"He wants to go everyday [casinos]," his wife laughingly explains. "We limit our visits to a few days a week, but we are going on his birthday."
Family and friends will honor the WWII Veteran with a tropical theme party celebrating the centurion's birthday later this month. So, please join us in wishing a ‘Happy Birthday' to Thomas and to all our Veterans turning 100 this year from the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System cheerleading squad.