By PAM MCLOUGHLIN
New Haven Register
WOODBRIDGE â€” At age 95, World War II veteran Maurice Chartoff quickly recalls the simple item that helped him survive the deadly 60-mile Bataan Death March during World War II: a can to fill with water along the way.
He shared his water with many, filling the can at artesian springs along the way and survived, only to then be put in a series of work camps as a Japanese prisoner of war for the next 3 Â˝ years.
â€śThe death march and POW camp were both severe and deadly,â€ť said Chartoff, who resides at Brookdale Woodbridge senior living community. â€śI survived in part because I had a can that held water.â€ť
In his first assignment after the march, Chartoff was placed on a hazardous road building assignment that most did not survive and led to his hospitalization before going on to the next camp. He was sick, weak, working in the hot sun with little water and food, which consisted mainly of rice.
Of 325 men on that road job, only 50 survived and Chartoff was among them, said his daughter-in-law, Karen Chartoff.
His time in the military started in 1941 when, after a year at the University of Vermont â€” he grew up in Bennington â€” Chartoff decided to enlist in the U.S. Army because he didnâ€™t have enough money to attend a second year.
He was 20 and figured heâ€™d get an education in the military. â€śI didnâ€™t think it was this way,â€ť he said of what would ultimately happen. He was trained as a radio operator.
He was based in Manila, Philippines, when World War II broke out and when the Japanese took the capital city, Chartoff was captured with his unit in Bataan.
He was forced into the 60-mile march, in which the Japanese transferred American and Filipino POWs between prison camps. The march took the lives of 3,000 others.
Chartoff, a soft-spoken man, said they took away his watch, water, food, suitcase and helmet for the walk, which during the day was in hot sun.
Someone gave him the can along the way and he filled it with water and what little food they got, sharing with others.
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