SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – He’s living history, and on Wednesday, Alcide Benini’s 93 years of life and decades of unwavering service to the U.S. military were recognized in Suffolk.
A table full of documents and adorned with pictures sat in a room full of heroes, but it still didn’t do justice to the life that the retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant lived.
“To see a living legend right here among us, someone who participated in the Bataan Death March, is a phenomenal opportunity,” said Capt. Eric Pfister, USS Bataan Executive Officer.
Nicknamed “the Bull,” Benini is a World War II POW. He originally enlisted in the U.S. Army for practical reasons.
“There was no other jobs, we’re talking about 1928 to 1932,” Benini said.
He was captured in Bataan, Philippines in 1942 and endured the infamous Bataan Death March. Then he rode one of the Hell Ships to Japan, where he used as forced labor in Japanese mines.
“It took us 10 days to Hong Kong. Then we sat in Hong Kong another 10 days aboard the ship. Then we went from there, we were supposed to go to Japan, but ended up in Formosa,” Benini said. “Sept 22 they took us into Manila, put us in what the hell was that prison down there?”
Although a bit of his memory is fading, Benini’s recollection of the Death March and prison camp is clear.
“There was a lot of bad, every day was bad, there was no good, never had enough to eat, never had enough to drink, never had enough to relax,” he said. “I could have run away and gone to the mountains, joined a gorilla group or something, but if one guy runs, the other nine were killed.”
And after all he endured, there was the day in 1945 when he was finally free: “They turned me loose to get home in time for Christmas. That was the first time I’d seen my mother in four years, no five years,” Benini said.
Eventually, he became one of the original Special Forces experts.
Benini calls Suffolk home and meets with a WWII POW Group once a month at Bunnys Restaurant.