The majority of VFW posts are named after fallen heroes of past foreign wars. In 1946 our post was named after such a fallen hero. His name was Frank W. Lillard. Frank was a King City soldier killed in combat in World War II.
Let's all set back, relax, and roll back the calendar and look at news events of the year 1937.
Hitler renounces the Versailles treaty, Italy conquers Ethiopia, Japan expands its hold on China, and the Duke of Windsor marries Wallis Simpson.
The depression persists. The German dirigible Hindenburg crashes and burns at Lakehurst New Jersey. Thousands of farms are foreclosed on. Amelia Earhart disappears and Joe Louis takes the title from Braddock.
Construction had just begun on the new high school auditorium. It cost 179,000 dollars.
An ordinance was passed to establish the first King City police department. W.F. Mcguire was appointed King City's new police chief.
Frank Lillard was a senior at King City High School. He played center on the high school basketball team. The Lillard family lived at 324 North 3rd. St. Franks father, Frank SR. was a rancher who owned a small ranch west of King City at Thompson's Gulch. His mother Edith was a homemaker and Frank had a younger sister, Helen. Frank loved to hunt and fish with his best friend Bill Morasci.
On June 10th., 1937 Frank graduated from King City High School. After graduating Frank planned to work on a ranch.
As the world teetered at the abyss of war, the United States leaned to
"America First", and remains neutral.In King City life goes on and Frank works on a ranch.
Hitler's forces overpower Norway and Denmark. Finland surrenders to Russia. German armor knifes into France. British and French troops pushed to Dunkirk. France falls along with most of Europe. England bombed and prepares for invasion by Germany. Japan sets up a puppet government in China and invades Indochina.
FDR sells 50 over age-destroyers to England. Roosevelt swamps Wilkie for a third term as president. All aliens fingerprinted. America starts gearing up for war. The first peacetime draft law was passed. All males between 21 and 25 had to register.
On October 16th, Frank Lillard registered for the draft. Frank was given the draft number 279. On December 16, 1940 Frank was given his order of call up number 242.
Frank was drafted in late 1940 or early 1941 for one year. What awaited him was make-believe weapons, makeshift battle conditions, a world of new acquaintances, and exotic climes far from the comforts of home. His pay was $21.00 a month. In the middle of 1941 Frank was shipped to the south pacific as part of America's fortification and defense plan. With this build up of troops and materials it was thought that the Japanese would stop their aggression in China. This buildup would also stop any thoughts by the Japanese of attacking the Philippines or the islands in the south pacific. Frank was stationed with the Army Air Corps in the 330th Signal Corps at Nichols Field, Manila in the Philippines. At 7:48am on December the 7th.1941, "a day that will live in infinity", the world and the United States changed and will never be the same again.... America's plan for the s s south pacific was wrong.... the world is now at war.... world war ii has begun.... ... Franks mother and father will never hear from Frank again...Between December 8th. 1941 and May 14th. 1942 Frank Lillard lived the horrors of war, fought bravely, was taken prisoner and died. The horror of war begins for Frank.
At 2:30am on Monday morning December the 8th, 1941 fleet headquarters in Manila monitored the fateful message from Hawaii,"air raid on Pearl Harbor...." ten hours later, the core of the American air arm in the Philippines was sitting on the ground at Clark Airfield, forty miles north of Manila, when fifty-four Japanese bombers arrived overhead for a turkey
shoot. That day and the next the bombers destroyed almost half the aircraft at Clark before they even got off the ground... when they left, Clark Field was a bloody shambles of pilots, ground crews, shattered runways and flaming hangers, an inferno of red-glowing rubble.Two days later at noon sharp the Japanese struck Nichols Field, where Frank was stationed, and Nielsen Field. At both, it was the story of Clark Field all over again. Japanese dive-bombers wheeled over adjacent rice paddies searching out and strafing personnel with their murderous
.50-caliber machine gun fire. Our men were hunted down like wild animals as they sought refuge.... from that moment on, our men knew they were fighting a lost cause...The next day our fleet in Manila harbor was attacked. The fleet leaves the Philippines and will not return until October 20, 1944. Without supplies or replacements the fate of our troops was sealed, the Japanese blockade the Philippines.
General Douglas Macarthur was the overall commander of over 100,000 Philippine army troops, 20,000 Americans, and 10,000 Philippine Scouts that were part of the US Army. The overall plan for the defense of the Philippines was, if attacked, our troops were to hold out long enough for our fleet in Pearl Harbor to come with supplies and additional troops so that the Japanese could be driven back into the sea. With our fleet at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the whole south pacific under attack by the Japanese the defense of the Philippines fell on our American men and women stationed there, and the Philippine army.On December 22, 1941 Japanese troops came ashore 110 miles south of Manila and drove two Philippine divisions back. The Japanese were ashore. The Japanese pushed forward and the Americans pulled back to Manila. Later the Americans and Philippine forces pulled out of Manila and moved to the Bataan peninsula.
Our troops fought bravely and inflected heavy casualties on the Japanese troops. As long as our men could pull a trigger or fix a bayonet our men held their ground. But courage was not enough. Lack of food, disease, and finally the lack of ammunition was their undoing. The allies and Washington had decided that the defeat of Germany would come first. After a victory in Europe then the powers would concentrate on Japan. This meant the sacrifice, in the early months of the war, of possessions in the south pacific, including the Philippines. March 11, 1942 General Macarthur leaves the Philippines. General Jonathan Wainwright takes command.
On Bataan and Corregidor the clouds were growing darker. Our troops on Bataan were down to 15 ounces of food a day. They were eating mules, dogs, iguanas, monkeys and snakes. Our men were slowly wasting away, medical supplies were largely gone and about 80% of our front line troops suffered from malaria. They ask no quarter and they gave none. They died hard. They were called "The Battling Bastards of Bataan." On the night of April 6th., 1942 the fresh Japanese 4th division broke through the front lines and pushed our army back. Three days later trapped a mile or two from the sea; Major General Edward King, in command gave the order to surrender. Seventy-six thousand of our troops surrender, 12,000 of them was Americans.
The first Bataan death march begins. Our sick, exhausted, and starving soldiers were forced marched 110 miles. The cruel, sadistic, Japanese soldiers gave little water or food. Stragglers and any prisoner that fell were killed. 10,000 prisoners died and another 10,000 were unaccounted for. Some of the soldiers on Bataan escaped to the small-fortified island of Corregidor, just to live this horror again. Sgt. Frank Lillard was one of these soldiers that escaped to Corregidor. He once again found constant shelling, air attacks, starvation, disease, and depleted medical supplies. On May 4th enemy shells landed every 5 seconds for 18 hours.
A few of the soldiers from Bataan escaped to the mountains of the Philippines and fought the Japanese until the Philippines was liberated in 1944.
Japanese troops attack corregidor in force. The war in the Philippines is finished.
General Jonathan Wainwright surrenders our forces in the Philippines. the final message from the Corregidor station was "going off the air now. Goodbye and good luck. Callahan and McCoy.
The second Bataan death march begins. Sgt. Frank Lillard was part of this march. Of the 40,000 Americans and Philippine soldiers that started this 70 mile forced march over half of them died from starvation, disease, and abuse. Because of his listed date of death Sgt. Frank Lillard died on this march. His listed date of death was may 14, 1942, four days after this march began.
In March of 1941 Mesa Dey Rey, a flying school, opened to train new pilots for the Army Air Corps. It would train 10,000 pilots before the war ended. Camp Roberts south of King City was a staging area for troops going overseas. King City was a service town during the war. Some 60,000 troops passed through King City on their way to war. King City had 9 or ten bars, and 7
houses of ill repute. Usually the servicemen in town were very quiet. Most of them were young, going overseas, were afraid of what lain ahead. The town loved them and made their stay very pleasant.The war years and the agony begins for the Lillard family.This material is verbatim from the rustler herald.
Service flags for King City high school graduates that are in the armed services are being designed. The list of graduates included Frank Lillard.
The American Legion, at the King City auditorium, presented Service flags and citations to Edith and Frank W. Lillard and mothers and fathers of King City servicemen.
All the letters that had been written since December 8, 1941 to Frank Lillard jr. were returned to Franks mother on Sunday. The last letter received from Frank was November 15, 1941. It is not known whether Frank is a Japanese prisoner of war, or whether he managed to escape at the time of the fall of Manila. In a newsreel seen last week in Salinas by Mr. and Mrs. William Smart. Frank was shown guarding a airplane, there was no date nor place indicated, however. There was no mention of Frank in the rustler again until June 8, 1944.
Again the Frank Lillard family heard from the War Department. This communication declaring that having no knowledge of the whereabouts of their son Sgt. Frank Lillard regulations require that he is now declared dead. Although the War Department must take this legal action they hope as in the beginning that Frank escaped to the mountains in the Philippines and will be located as soon as America again is in possession of the islands. Frank was at Corregidor when it fell to the Japanese and it is over two years since the family last heard from him. In due time the War Department notified his parents that he was missing in action. He was not listed among the prisoners of war.
Purple Heart awarded to Sgt. Frank Lillard. So Frank Lillard who was listed as "missing in action" following the fall of Bataan was awarded the Purple Heart by the War Department which now lists the hero as dead. Letter received from the War Department by the Lillard family on June 22, 1944.
My dear Mr. Lillard;
"At the request of the President, I write to inform you the Purple Heart has been awarded posthumously to your son Sgt. Frank W. Lillard, signal corps, who sacrificed his life in the defense of his country."
"Little that we can do or say will console you for the death of your loved one. We profoundly appreciate the greatness of your loss, for in a real sense the loss suffered by any of us in this battle for our country is a loss shared by all of us."
"When the medal, which you will receive shortly reaches you I want you to know that with it goes my deepest sympathy: and the hope that time, and victory of our great cause will finally lighten the burden of your grief."
Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, Washington DC.
In the end: Frank comes home
Sgt. Frank Lillard was last listed as a member of the 409th Signal Co. in the Philippines. His body was interned in Manila Cemetery Number 2, Manila Philippines. His remains were returned to the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno CA. on November 1, 1948 and rests in section c grave number 848.
As we now look at our post sign, we now know who Sgt. Frank Lillard was.
He was a lot like every comrade here. As we all did, Frank served and defended his country in a far away place. Like we all did, he faced death in combat, was probably, as we were, young, scared, and wanted to be someplace else.
The difference between Frank and every comrade here, was Frank probably suffered more, and he lost his life while in the service of
his country. He is a hero.
If ever you find yourself driving through San Bruno CA. please go to the Golden Gate National Cemetery and stand in front of the marker of Sgt. Frank W. Lillard and thank him for making the greatest sacrifice that any
man can make, he gave his life in the defense of his country and let him know he has not been forgotten.
"MAY YOU ALWAYS REST IN PEACE SGT. FRANK LILLARD"