After World War II was over, internal battles still raged for retired Army Col. Glenn Frazier, a survivor of the horrific Bataan Death March.
Speaking to the Gainesville Kiwanis Club Tuesday, he said he had "nightmares about nightmares" and was consumed with hatred toward the Japanese. Finally, he forgave his captors and let loose years of struggle.
"If you have any hate for anything ... get it out of there," Frazier said. "Get it out of there. Get it away from you."
Frazier, 87, spoke as a guest of club member Tracy Whitmire, who gave an emotional introduction.
Whitmire said she learned about Frazier after watching a History Channel documentary about the forced march of 12,000 American POWs by the Japanese in the Philippines.
She found a picture of Frazier and learned he lived in Alabama.
"I knew immediately — and I said to my husband — that I've got to get this guy to Gainesville," she said.
Frazier, who grew up in Alabama, gave a colorful talk to the group, including a description of a dubious start to his military career.
He recalled a misadventure that involved him riding his motorcycle through a honky-tonk in Montgomery and being chased by a man with a shotgun. He later shared that story with a man at a service station.
"He said, ‘You're crazy. That man is the meanest man in this country. He'll hunt you down and shoot you like a dog,' " Frazier said. "So I said, ‘Man, this is a day for the Army.' "
Frazier ended up getting deployed to the Philippines, and "I enjoyed it," he said. "It was a paradise."
Then, war broke out for the U.S. on Dec. 7, 1941, with the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
The Japanese Army began a three-month siege of the Bataan Peninsula.
"It was a total catastrophe. Traffic was on one road and bumper to bumper, and the Japanese dive bombers were eating us up and bombing and strafing us, and killing people," Frazier said.
On April 3, 1942, the Japanese Army attacked malnourished and disease-ridden U.S.-Filipino forces in the peninsula.
The attack smashed defensive lines, eventually leading to an American surrender.
By that time, the U.S. had run out of supplies and ammunition, and the Japanese had issued an ultimatum that the Americans give up or face annihilation.
The Japanese then forced American POWs on the grueling march, which lasted 60 to 90 miles, "depending on where you joined it," Frazier said.
"They were killing us for trying to get water. If you fell down, you were shot," he said. "If you reached over and helped a buddy, both of you were killed. ... I saw all kinds of atrocities."
The march lasted six days with POWs receiving no food, water or sleep. Nearly 3,000 soldiers had died.
"At the end of it ... I couldn't do anything but drag my feet," Frazier recalled.
Soldiers then were placed in a POW camp where another 2,500 soldiers died.
"The stench of death (at the camp) was so bad you could go to the barbed wire fence to try to get away from it and still couldn't stand it," Frazier said.
Frazier, who had his book, "Hell's Guest," on sale at the club meeting, survived more than three years in POW camps.
"If you were me and you had been through some of that, would you hate the Japanese?" he asked the audience.
"I think maybe you would. ... I had hate so deep inside of me and I couldn't do anything about it, but it helped me survive and that was the main thing. I lived on hate."
Frazier recalled returning to the U.S., promptly falling on his knees and kissing the ground.
"I came home to a grateful nation," he said. "I came home with a great love for our flag."
Frazier said he eventually had to get rid of his deep hatred for the Japanese.
"If I hadn't ... I wouldn't be here today to talk to you."
He said he also knows that God was with him on the march, "every step of the way."