World War II veterans roll-up sleeves for vaccination in Los Angeles

Coronavirus Vaccine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Harry Corre, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II who survived the Bataan Death March and a Japanese slave labor camp, rolled up his sleeve on Friday for his second coronavirus vaccine shot at a VA hospital in Los Angeles to help promote immunizations.

Corre, 97, was one of three World War II vets, all former prisoners of war, receiving vaccinations at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System outside a newly established mobile isolation unit for COVID-19 patients.

As a volunteer at the hospital, and someone considered at higher risk because of his advanced age, Corre said he wanted to make sure he and his fellow vets were well protected against the potentially fatal respiratory virus.

“My concern is for all veterans,” he told Reuters. “I want to be sure that they get their shot. I got my first shot, and it was fine, no problems. And I’m going to get my second shot today.”

“Come and get your vaccination. It’s extremely important,” he added. “We all need it and we want to keep everybody else from getting COVID.”

Many Americans have expressed hesitancy about taking a vaccine developed at record speed just 11 months after the pandemic emerged in the United States.

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But Corre had no misgivings as he rolled up his sleeve for a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in front of media cameras. He has no doubt faced much more daunting challenges.

Captured by Japanese forces in the Philippines in April 1942, Corre was among thousands of U.S. and Filipino prisoners of war subjected to a brutal forced evacuation that became known as the Bataan Death March.

He escaped after 2-1/2 days to another U.S. stronghold, only to be recaptured when that outpost fell and Americans surrendered all remaining forces in the Philippines to the Japanese.

Corre remained a POW for 3-1/2 years, including a year and a half as a slave laborer in the coal mines in Japan, and weighed just 87 pounds when he was liberated in 1946.

Fellow veteran Morris Chester, 95, endured a likewise harrowing ordeal, captured by German forces in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge and held as a POW for 2-1/2 years.

Along with other American POWs, he was housed inside railroad boxcars parked next to German factories in a bid to dissuade Allied forces from bombing the facilities. They were bombed anyway, and many POWs perished, though Chester survived.

“We’d like to be here for a longer period,” he said. “And the vaccine is certainly a showstopper.”

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