SILVER CITY, N.M. — Pablo Gutierrez, a lifelong Grant County resident who survived the infamous Bataan Death March during World War II and was among the last surviving members of his New Mexico National Guard unit who made it through the war, has died.
Gutierrez was 93 and died at the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City on Dec. 17 after developing respiratory complications and pneumonia, daughter Rosemary Gutierrez said Sunday.
U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce issued a statement calling Gutierrez a true American hero and real family man.
“I am grateful for his service to our country, and for the mark he left on his community.” Pearce said. “The Gutierrez family is in my prayers.”
Born Jan. 25, 1919, in Santa Rita, Gutierrez was in a New Mexico National Guard unit sent to the Philippines in 1941. A Guard history says only half the 1,800 men survived the 1942 battle against the invading Japanese, the Death March after the American surrender and 40 months of captivity. The Death March was a forced six-day march by Japanese captors of 12,000 Americans and more than 66,000 Filipino prisoners across the Bataan peninsula. Thousands died in the march. Some were killed by captors impatient with their progress while others died from a lack of food, water and medical treatment.
Among his military decorations was the Purple Heart.
Gutierrez would not talk about his war experiences, his daughter said, although he regularly attended a Memorial Day service at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery, where he’ll be buried Friday. A small group of Grant County survivors attended the events, although all but Gutierrez had died in recent years. He was hospitalized during this year’s event, but insisted on attending, so doctors arranged for an ambulance to take him.