Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Shelby Johnson. Shelby served during World War II from 1941 to 1946 and survived the Bataan Death March.

In a memoir posted on the Veteran’s History Project, Shelby discussed enlisting in the Army at age 17. He was deployed to the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The next day, the Japanese bombed the Philippines where Shelby was stationed. On April 9, 1942, the Americans in Bataan surrendered to the Japanese and were taken as prisoners of war.

The Japanese forced Shelby and other American and Filipino soldiers stationed in the Bataan Peninsula to walk over 60 miles from Bataan to San Fernando in what became known as the Bataan Death march. The prisoners of war were treated inhumanely, with a lack of food or water and were subjected to torture. Thousands of American and Filipinos died during the march. Shelby was beaten and denied necessities during the march but survived.

Shelby was held as a POW for more than 3 ½ years in Camp O’Donnell, Camp Cabanatuan and the Bilibid Prison. Conditions in these camps were extremely poor; prisoners were beaten and diseases such as malaria and dysentery were common. As a result, the death rate in these camps were very high. Shelby was put on a Japanese “Hell Ship” and moved from the Philippines to Japan to perform manual labor. Despite these tremendous difficulties and grueling work he had to endure, Shelby was committed to making the best of his life every day, which he believes is one of the reasons he survived.

Shelby was awarded two Bronze Stars, the Combat Infantry Badge and the POW Medal. After returning from the war he received a degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina.

Shelby passed away on Sept. 11, 2017 at the age of 93.

We honor your service, Shelby.

Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay

Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? You’re in luck! VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.

It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. All it takes is an email to with as much information as you can put together, along with some good photos. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.

Veterans History Project

This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at

Graphic By Joanna Specht: Joanna Specht is a student at Black Hawk College with a Major in Visual Communication. 

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Published on Nov. 15, 2017

Estimated reading time is 2.4 min.

Views to date: 114


  1. Esteban Mendiola December 8, 2017 at 11:19 pm

    My uncle Luis Decker died while a prisoner during the Bataan captivity. He was buried in our home town of Laredo, Texas. My name is Esteban Mendiola

  2. Julie a kops November 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    What a brave man and an amazing inspiration for all of us.Much respect.

  3. Larry Sabin November 15, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Why don’t we know about these men when they are alive? What a hero to survive such inhumane treatment at the hands of a savage enemy. I pray that besides the obvious awards received after his return, that he received great honor and distinction throughout his life for living hell he endured for the country he loved! Bless you, for your courageous service and the will to survive against all the odds! Bless those who survive him! Please do not let his memory die!

    SSG S. U.S.A Infantry (Ret.)

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