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Dragich, Charles # 226



Text Box: POW #:

 Charles Dragich



Grew Up In / Enlisted In:


 Alliance OH

US Army


Serial #:







19 BG (H) Hq FEAF


Date Arrived At Mukden:

Method of Arrival:


November 11, 1942

Tottori Maru

TFR2-44 Sept 11 1945


Date of Death:








 Cabanatuan, PI; Mukden, Manchuria


Additional Information:


Medals Come To Fort Worth Veteran Decades After Service
It was called the "Zero Ward" because soldiers who were sent there were so sick they had zero chance of surviving, the Dallas Morning News reports. But Charles Dragich had endured the grueling Bataan Death March. He wasn't about to give in to the malaria that sent him to the hospital ward."I am one of the few people who walked out of the Zero Ward," said Mr. Dragich, 92, of Fort Worth. He not only survived, but the World War II veteran and former POW is still recounting the tale more than 65 years later, as he did Wednesday when he finally got the military medals that had eluded him for so long because of paperwork mix-ups. Click here to read this story from the Dallas Morning News


Command Sgt. Maj. David D. Holmes spends time with World War II veteran Chief Master Sgt.-retired Charles Dragich after a ceremony Wednesday in which Dragich received medals for his service.


Bataan Death March Survivor Awarded Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Fort Worth Star Telegram - Fort Worth, TX, USA


ARLINGTON — Charles Dragich survived the fighting in the Philippines, the Bataan Death March, a "hell ship," two bouts of malaria, near starvation, an air raid and slave labor.

He emerged from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in 1945 at half his normal weight of 160 pounds, then promptly re-enlisted. He wore the uniform of the Army, and later the Air Force, for 26 years, retiring in 1964 as a chief master sergeant.

Rather improbably and inexplicably, Dragich left the military without any decorations for fighting and surviving one of World War II's most inhumane episodes — a forced 65-mile march in which thousands perished.

But on Wednesday, the 92-year-old Dragich received his due.

Army Lt. Col. Ronnie Williamson, commander of the Dallas/Fort Worth recruiting battalion, pinned a Bronze Star, Purple Heart, POW Medal and Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal on Dragich during a ceremony in Arlington attended by several dozen family members and friends.

"Mere words cannot measure the amount of gratitude we have for your service to our nation," Williamson said. "Your sacrifices and the sacrifices of your comrades during World War II and the Bataan Death March have paved the way for many of us serving today, including myself. So, please, let these medals represent just a token of our country's appreciation for all that you have done."

Dragich, one of only a few hundred men still alive who survived the Bataan Death March, said he had accomplished everything he had ever wanted in life, without the medals.

He survived captivity, fathered seven daughters, worked in flight operations at General Dynamics, earned a commercial pilot's license, and even served as a translator for the Romanian gymnastics team on a trip to the U.S. That's a pretty full life by any measure.

"You know, I could not speak English in the first grade," he said. "I failed first grade." 

He knew he had earned at least some of the medals, but didn't really pursue a correction in his records because "I was not hard over on medals."

His family and friends, though, took up his cause.

It started about two years ago with Kay Alexander, who works at the Veterans Affairs dental clinic in Fort Worth, who couldn’t imagine why he did not have a Purple Heart. She called Roy Dell Johnson, a Korean War veteran and leader in the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

He called U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, and she contacted the Air Force.

"The Air Force kept turning him down," Johnson said.

They then asked the Army to investigate the matter, and in a few weeks, Dragich had a chest full of decorations.

His wife, Ana, and six of his daughters plus their families attended the ceremony, as did Alexander and Johnson. His daughter, Debra Keeton, who lives in Dallas, said her family was so familiar with his stories of being a POW that they never considered he didn’t have the medals from it.

"I know when he goes home today that he will do a lot of reflecting on that period in his life," Keeton said. "This might have been a secret dream of his. I know he is moved. And as his family, we are so grateful and so glad that this happened now and wasn’t done posthumously."

Still spry and quick-witted (he joked about having a "motor mouth"), Dragich said he owes much of his good health to his wife’s cooking and a regular exercise regimen.

"I'm a very lucky man," Dragich said.

"Mere words cannot measure the amount of gratitude we have for your service to our nation."

 Lt. Col. Ronnie Williamson,

Commander of the Army Dallas-Fort Worth Recruiting Battalion

 CHRIS VAUGHN, 817-390-7547

 Posted by NC Sentinel at 09:03



Charles and Ana Dragich and 6 of their 7 daughters in 1963


Charles and Ana Dragich in 1995


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