Bataan Museum will celebrate Flag Day

WELLSBURG – Area residents may observe Flag Day Saturday by learning about the thousands of American servicemen who were captured while defending the Philippine Islands against Japanese invaders during World War II.

Even past visitors to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum at the Brooke County Public Library will have an opportunity to meet its new coordinator.

Beth Patsch, who was hired for the position in April, said there will be a short service, with music by vocalist Alan Cline; free hot dogs and tours of the library’s ongoing exhibit from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

There also will be coloring pages about Flag Day for children.

Patsch, whose resume includes work with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, said she’s quite impressed by the collection, which is said to be the largest related to the experiences of prisoners of war from the Philippine Islands and the Bataan Death March.

“For a small museum in a small town, it’s beautiful and wonderfully layed out,” she said.

Patsch said recently she attended a convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor group in San Jose, N.M.

“It was wonderful to meet some of the veterans for whom we’re here,” she said.

Through text, photos and artifacts, the museum covers the capture of 72,000 American and Filipino troops at Bataan following a lengthy battle against the Japanese and their forced walk 65 miles in grueling heat to a railroad station where they were loaded onto stifling boxcars to the Camp O’Donnell prison camp.

At least 600 Americans and more than 10,000 Filipinos died from disease, starvation or dehydration or were killed when they attempted to get water or fell behind.

It has grown from a six-part exhibit created by Henry Jackfert, who was among the POWs though not in the Bataan Death March; and his wife, Henrietta; to include hundreds of letters, photos, maps and other items donated by other veterans from throughout the U.S.

Patsch said she looks forward to continuing efforts by Mary Kay Wallace, the library’s director; and Jane Kraina, former coordinator; to promote awareness of the museum locally and nationally.

Her efforts have included updating the museum’s Facebook page.

“We now have 227 friends. I’m very excited,” she said.

A Weirton native, Patsch is a graduate of Brooke High School, Bethany College and George Washington University, where she earned a master’s degree in museum studies.

While a student at the university, she worked with staff at the Smithsonian Libraries and National Museum of Natural History on an exhibit covering the environmental impact of nuclear tests by the military at Bikini Atoll.

The exhibit included geiger counters and other equipment used by scientists to measure radiation and other effects from the testing, which followed the detonation of the atomic bomb in Japan during World War II, Patsch noted.

During an internship with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, she catalogued a collection of saddle-making tools dating from the turn of the century to the 1920s.

And as a private consultant she created a digital archive of the writings of the late Raymond Cromley, an Army colonel during World War II and journalist with the Wall Street Journal.

Patsch said her experience in that area should be helpful as staff with the library and museum have worked over the years to create a digital record of the many artifacts donated to it. Some of their work can be found at philippine-defenders.lib.wv.us.

More recently Patsch was involved as a volunteer preparing and labeling archaeological artifacts for the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville.

Patsch said when she learned of the opening at the ADBC Museum, she welcomed the opportunity to return to her home county.