W.W. II Veteran, POW and Survivor of the Bataan Death March
Gregorio Barrera was born in Rio Grande City in 1917 and volunteered to serve in the Army in 1941. He was assigned to the Philippines and was there when the United States declared war against Japan in December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the three month long Battle of Bataan, 76,000 American and Filipino solders surrendered to the Japanese Army, including Gregorio Barrera. As prisoners of war, they were forced to march 70 miles without food or water and under extreme conditions, suffering from disabling diseases such as malaria and dysentery, to Balanga the capital of Bataan. It is estimated that 10,000 soldiers died from the frequent beatings or were summarily executed by the Japanese. The cruelty of the Japanese captors was subsequently judged a war crime.
Gregorio Barrera survived the physical abuse and other atrocities. He attributes his survival to angels that appeared and saved him. When Japan surrendered in 1945, the POWs were liberated. Mr. Barrera returned to Rio Grande where he married Teresa Hernandez and raised five children.
In 1998, the City of Rio Grande named the plaza in his honor to memorialize the courage and sacrifice of Gregorio Barrera, survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March.