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Jonathan M. Wainwright

Hero Of Bataan

Stephen J. Kapp, 32°

No list of famous Masonic Masons would be complete without the name of Bro. Jonathan M. Wainwright, 1883–1953.

"Remember Bataan! Remember Corregidor!" These words rallied a nation in the first dark days of World War II. When defeat screamed from every headline, "Skinny," the name his troops affectionately gave him, General Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright led his ragged troops in the Philippines into battle again and again, disrupting Japan’s timetable for the conquest of the Pacific. With dwindling supplies, little food, no air force or navy, and outdated weapons from World War I, Bro. Wainwright fought a modern well-equipped army to a standstill for almost five months. His actions were called a triumph in the face of overwhelming odds, as fine as any military action in history.

Brother Wainwright was born on August 23, 1883, in Walla Walla, Washington. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1906 and advanced through the grades to Brigadier General, 1938; Lieutenant General in 1942; and full General in 1945. He retired from service August 31, 1947. In World War I, he was on the general staff of the 82nd Division at Toul, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Subsequently he was on the general staff of the 3rd Army in Germany. He was assigned to the Philippines in October 1940 and commanded the Division. He served throughout the Bataan campaign and later assumed command of all troops in the Philippines.

General Wainwright was the man Ill. Bro. Douglas MacArthur left behind on March 11, 1942, when he was ordered to leave the hopelessly surrounded American garrison holding off the Japanese. Bataan fell on April 9, 1942 and Corregidor on May 7. Bro. Wainwright was also the highest-ranking American captive in World War II. Even so, he had to endure scanty rations, beatings, and emotional harassment as a POW until the end of the war, a total of three years and three months in captivity. He was rescued in Manchuria in August of 1945.

During his captivity, he thought he would return to the United States, if he survived, labeled as a coward for surrendering. Little did he know he would be welcomed as a hero. His return as a haggard, frail and yet still-proud soldier, brought him a fourth star and the presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945 by Ill. Harry S. Truman, 33°. His return also resulted in an outpouring of patriotism throughout the country.

Shortly after his release as a POW, he was given the command of the Fourth Army which was stationed in Houston, Texas, but his domicile was in Kansas. At this time, application was made to the Grand Master of Kansas for a special dispensation to confer the Degrees in less than the required time. The reason for this was that his three years and three months as a POW had left Bro. Wainwright in poor health. The Degrees were given in full on May 16, 1946, in Union Lodge No. 7, Junction City, Kansas. The E.A. Degree was given in the morning, the F.C. and the first section of the M.M. Degree in the afternoon, and the second section in the evening. Many of his military comrades were present. The proficiency only was waived, the work being performed in full throughout.

The following day, May 17, he received the Scottish Rite Degrees at Salina, Kansas, and on the same day took the Shrine Degrees in Isis Temple, Salina, Kansas. He later received the K.C.C.H. in 1947, and in 1948, he was awarded the medal of the Grand Lodge of New York for distinguished achievement. He died September 2, 1953, and was buried with Masonic services on September 8 in Arlington Cemetery.

Sources: 10,000 Famous Freemasons, by William R. Denslo and Hero of Bataan, The Story of General Jonathan M. Wainwright, by Duane Schultz

Stephen J. Kapp
is a member of Leonard Wood Lodge No. 105, Angeles City, Philippines, and Cavite York Rite, in Cavite, Philippines. He received his Scottish Rite Degrees in Okinawa, Japan, with the Valley of Okinawa and Guam, and joined the Shrine in Cebu, Philippines, with Aloha Temple of Hawaii. He has been a member of the USAF for 22 years and is presently stationed at Misawa Air Base in Northern Japan.