William Leslie Robinson
William Leslie Robinson was born in 1914 in Michigan and was the fourth of the six children in his family. He was a hard working young man during his high school years and participated in several sports. He was also a sports reporter for the “Main Line Times” newspaper. His friends called him “Les.”
Mr. Robinson went to West Point and faced a major decision when he graduated: whether he should go into the automobile business or pursue a military career. He chose the military, eventually achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He served his first two years as a Company Officer in the 29th infantry at Fort Banning and then later in 1941 in command of a company of 45 in the Infantry of Philippine Scouts. Later, he was promoted to captain. He served in the G-3 branch of the headquarters Visayan- Mindanao Force, led by Major General William F. Sharp. Mr. Robinson was the Assistant Chief of the Staff.
While serving under General Sharp on Mindanao Island, Mr. Robinson faced a Japanese attack and earned a Silver Star for his role in the action. The honor is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. Mr. Robinson was also awarded the Legion of Merit for his meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in Luzon, Cebu, and Mindanao from 1940-1942.
On April 8, 1942, Mr. Robinson and other servicemen were captured by the Japanese and sent to the Bilibid Prison. This event led to his participation in the Bataan Death March, which occurred on April 9, 1942 when the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula on the Philippine Island of Luzon to the Japanese and approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. The marchers made the trek in intense heat and were subjected to harsh treatment by Japanese guards. Later, Mr. Robinson was sent with a thousand prisoners to Japan.
On December 5, 1944, Mr. Robinson was put on board the Japanese ship the Oryoku Maru, which was subsequently torpedoed by U.S submarines. Mr. Robinson survived the torpedo attack, but was recaptured by the Japanese. He survived yet another bombing attack on another transport ship, the Enoura Maru, on January 9, 1945.
Finally, on January 12, he and the other survivors were put on board the Brazil Maru. The ship was not attacked, however many prisoners died from wounds and disease before the ship reached Japan. Mr. Robinson was one of those unfortunate prisoners. He died on January 21, 1945 and his body was buried at sea. His gravestone stands in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.