DES MOINES, Iowa -- The late Glenn McDole, who escaped a massacre at the hands of the Japanese in World War II, was honored for his valor at a medal ceremony Friday.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst presented the medals, ribbons and pins to McDole's two daughters, Kathy McDole and Glenda Johnson. The senator said this was the most medals she had ever presented. McDole's family accepted 13 honors on his behalf, including a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal and the WWII Victory Medal.
"I'm just grateful that so may people cared and loved him so much and wanted to pay tribute to him," Johnson said.
After McDole graduated from Urbandale High School in 1940, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps to serve his country. Once WWII broke out, he was taken as a prisoner of war on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines. He remained captive there for about three years.
In 1944, allied forces closed in on the prison, which led to what is known as the Palawan Massacre. Out of 139 men, only 11 survived, and McDole was one of them.
"Dad hid in a garbage pile for two days," his daughter Kathy said. She said her father watched Japanese soldiers set fire to the other POWs with gasoline. After his daring escape, McDole was a key witness in the War Crime Trials of 1945.
His experience during this time and his daring escape has been well documented through interviews, television appearances, motivational speeches and even the subject of a book called "Last Man Out," by Bob Wilbanks.
Despite being held in captivity for three years and experiencing such atrocities, McDole's family said he never lost his spirit.
"To go through what he did, you can't even believe that he would be like that. That there would be scars, emotional scars. But I do remember that there would be nightmares at home, and of course we didn't know at that time that he had been through all this," Johnson said. "But he was the strongest most loving husband, the best father that we could've asked for."
His daughters shared numerous "unbelievable" stories about their dad -- including one where he reunited with one of his Filipino rescuers on ABC's "Good Morning America," 44 years after being freed. The two said they think the fact that their father talked about his experiences in the war helped him cope.
"If he kept all those memories inside, I think he would have not been the man he was," Glenda Johnson said. "He has touched so many people."
Ernst said he is remembered for his heroism and perseverance and also as a servant of Iowa. After the war, McDole worked in the Iowa State Patrol and for the Polk County Sheriff's Department.
"If you want to know a servant’s heart, you should look to Glenn McDole for that example," the senator said. "He gave and gave and gave of his time, of his energy to serve his country and his community."
While many will remember him as an American hero, his family said he leaves behind a legacy of kindness.
"He was a gentle, gentle man for going through what he went through is absolutely amazing," Kathy McDole said.