The Bataan Death March Memorial

Kelley S. Hestir - Concept Artist, Sculptor, Site Designer

Research & Images

From Idea to Bronze


On Naturalism

As a formerly trained naturalistic sculptor (see support document)  my specialty has been people and animals.

I work from nature, not imagination, and have developed various methods of using resource materials that I gather 

or produce myself.


Research and Historical Accuracy

My first concern for producing a convincing sculpture of three tormented soldiers was truth to history. I knew I needed to be accurate in regards to the date of the event,

to what the soldiers would have worn and carried with them, and to what they would have looked like ethnically and after their many months fighting in the jungle.

It so happened that White Sands had a pre-WWII corporal's uniform on hand that was used for the annual Memorial run. They lent it to me and, to my surprise, I discovered that the soldiers sent to the Philippines before 1942 were outfitted with dated WWI uniforms, equipment and weapons! This is most apparent in  the "doughboy" helmet, a familiar relic of the trenches of WWI.

The Filipino soldiers, many trained and outfitted by the U.S. wore similar uniforms. I was able to study these in photographs supplied to me by museums.

Bataan Death March

photo - National Archive

Models & Photography

The next step was to have models pose for a series of photographs that would be my primary visual reference. I am indebted to the soldiers of White Sands Missile Range and their Sargent Major Gilbert Canuela for volunteering to model. The uniforms were donated by a local business

and the gear was the aforementioned WW I uniform. I took over 150 photographs and used them as  references.

White Sands Missile Range soldiers model for "Heroes

of Bataan".

Sergeant Major Gilbert Canuelo ( group center) was also the face model for the Filipino soldier. (Left) Completed clay model the 36" maquette.

photo - Jack Diven

Surviving images of the actual Death March are rare, but I was able to collect a few of them from the Internet and by looking through books lent me by historians and committee members. I also discussed the possibilities of dress and attitude with retired military officers who had studied the event, but I knew that the final acceptance of the sculpture lay with the ultimate of critics - the survivors of the Death March. In retrospect its a wonder I didn't meet any of them until after the model was near completion!

The Soldier's Faces

Sargent Major Gilbert Canuela, of Filipino descent and whose own family was devastated by the Bataan Death March, also modeled for the face of the Filipino soldier.

The faces of the two American soldiers are composites, modeled after Joe Martinez and those of  his uncles Jose and Pepe.

photo - National Archive

photo - National Archive

photos courtesy of the Baldonado family

Jose Baldonado and brother Pepe (right) taken in San Francisco circa 1941, just prior

to shipping out to Luzon, Philippines. Jose (center) a few years later during internment in

a POW camp. The faces on the statue are composites of these photos and those I took of

J. Joe Martinez

Jose Baldonado

photo courtesy of the Baldonado family

photo - National Archive

uncredited images © Kelley S. Hestir

website - Darrol Shillingburg