Rotarians hear of WWII hero in the Philippines
Bennettsville Rotarians saluted all American veterans during their weekly luncheon meeting Tuesday at The Skye.
Guest speaker was Mrs. Mary Godlesky of Newton Road, McColl, who told the story of her late father-in-law Roy Bell, an American Presbyterian missionary and professor at Silliman University in the Philippine Islands and his family when World War II began.
Mrs. Godlesky grew up in Kansas, knowing the Bell family, but not knowing of their heroics until she read stories about them after their deaths.
These accounts were even more special after she married their son Kenneth in 1972.
Kenneth and his brother Don had gone through the war experience with their parents while teenagers. Another brother died while they lived in the Philippines.
Roy Bell was a much loved missionary and professor of science and mathematics. His wife taught home economics.
They learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 8, 1941.
Roy Bell decided he wanted to continue teaching at the university, but parents began to pull their children out and bring them home.
Assisted by some students, Roy helped construct a concrete bunker beneath a local church and stored scientific and other university equipment there. Later, a local student told the Japanese of this effort and the enemy flooded the bunker.
Seeking a safer position than their original one near the coast, Edna Bell took some of the university girls up into the higher mountains to a plateau near some public springs.
Shortly after the Japanese invasion of their island, local residents were incensed at the brutality of the invaders and some of Roy’s former students asked him to help them form a guerrilla group.
He did and became their leader and helped build a guerrilla headquarters in the mountains.
They became better organized and Roy Bell as their civil affairs officer had to help secure food from neighboring plantations to feed his group and civilians in the area.
Even so, Roy had only a shotgun for protection.
During these months, the civilians moved nine times to escape the Japanese.
During these times, the Bell family was taken in for two months by a Phillipine family.
A friend had a ham radio and notified American authorities that the Bells were Americans and needed assistance.
Two officers brought a message to the Bells about getting aboard an American submarine to return to the United States.
Japanese authorities also sent a message for all Americans to leave the islands or be shot. At that time, Roy Bell was wanted dead or alive by the Japanese.
When the day for their escape came, some 25 boats of all sizes and descriptions accompanied them to the American submarine.
There, the guerrillas removed 40 tons of ammunition from the submarine in about 45 minutes.
The submarine took the Bell family on the first leg of their trip back to the United States. Then, they went to San Francisco and on to Kansas where they settled.
When the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, Roy Bell returned to the Philippine Islands to help reopen the university he had left behind.
Mrs. Godlesky was introduced by John Powers, program chairman.
Club President Mason King presided and presented Mrs. Godlesky a guest speaker’s gift and thanked her for her presentation.