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WWII hero Bill White dies at 99

Powell lost a humble legend over the weekend.

Bill White, a World War II veteran and a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines, died Friday. He was 99.

During the 80-mile death march, many died of beatings, lack of food and water, and disease. Following the march, White spent six months in O’Donnell POW Camp, where hundreds died every day.

Survivors from that camp were sent to another prison camp, Cabanatuan No. 1, to work on airfields and roads. One year later, all able-bodied prisoners were sent to Japan to work in factories and mines. White worked in coal mines at Camp 10 Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, Japan.

Three and a half years of slave labor and starvation ended for White when Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945. By then, he weighed only 80 pounds. After being liberated, he spent a year recovering in a hospital.

He married Claribel Habeisen in 1947 in Chicago, and in 1949, they homesteaded on the Ralston Bench, part of the Heart Mountain Project. They farmed there until 1990, when they sold the farm and moved to Powell.

White was well known in the Powell community, not only for the tremendous sacrifices and suffering he endured during his service to his country, but also for his enthusiastic patriotism and his kind and forgiving nature.

“It’s amazing that he could be so happy and content having survived the horrors he lived through and the things he saw,” American Legion Hughes-Pittinger Post 26 Adjunct Pat Miller wrote in a letter she sent to the Tribune Sunday.

“He told me once that he used to wonder why he survived when so many others didn’t,” Miller wrote. “I have since come to think (that), besides being strong-willed and determined to live, it was so he could spread his true patriotism and Americanism where ever he went. He could have been bitter from all he endured. But he wasn’t.”

“He was one of what Tom Brokaw labeled ‘The Greatest Generation,’” wrote Scott and Cathy Sibley in a letter to the editor. “If you did not know him, or you did not take or make the time to know him, then you missed out on knowing a national treasure.”

A funeral service for White is set for Thursday. A complete obituary appears on this page.

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2 comments

  • posted by TN

    August 13, 2014 7:46 am

    The greatest generation"? After the mess they left,I wouldn't call them so great.

  • posted by TN

    August 12, 2014 10:29 am

    Welcome home all VIETNAM VETS.

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