to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

14a. VFW D5 memorial tribute

On SEP 14 1997, District 5 of the US Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pacific Areas dedicated a memorial to the US POWs who worked and died on the TBR.

It was the culmination of years of work and dedication by a handful of VFW members led by Leon “Dick” Vileo. Major contributors were Bob White and Peter J. Evers.

It took great dedication and persistence to obtain permission from the Thai Railway Authority to place that memorial plaque beside the rails at the now famous Bridge on the River Kwai.

A large ceremony was held that day. The dignitaries present included US Ambassador William Ito who gave the dedication speech, military members from other embassies, many members of the VFW (including Pacific Areas VFW CDR Michael Jugan) and both a USMC (US Embassy) and VFW color guard.

As is noted in Section 8.1 of this website, the numbers of US POWs who died while working the TBR was mis-stated. This was through no fault nor lack of attention to detail of the men who dedicated their time to this effort. The number of 356 was a commonly held belief at that time. In fact, a plaque at CWGC in Thanbyuzayat makes the same statement.

We wish to thank that small group who worked in the 1990s to ensure that the small US contingent of POWs was remembered. This entire website owes its existence to their groundwork.

Here are photos taken at that 1997 dedication ceremony:

US AMB Ito unveiling the plaque

VFW mbrs Pete Evers (left) and Dick Vileo
Australian Rod Bettie; US EMB military Rep; VFW mbr Bob White
Jesse Henry & Bob White
Jesse Henry, Pete Evers & Burt Nestle

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dedication-speech-1

In the mid-2000s, an addition was made to the base of the memorial to honor those involved in its placement.

The original memorial did not weather well and was replaced a few years later (without fanfare) by the current embossed bronze plaque .

current POW plaque
1997 POW plaque

Being the first of its kind, the 1997 memorial dedication received a moderate amount of media attention:

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More recently discovered photos of the 1997 Dedication ceremony.

In the document below, Leon “Dick” Vileo presents in his own words his motivation and successful effort to memorialize the US POWs:

Vileo-beginning

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