WHAT IS A.X.P.O.W.?
It stands for American Ex-Prisoners of War, Inc. the National Organization for all American citizens who have been captured by the enemy and for their next of kin. Membership is open to all former military prisoners of war from any theater in any war; to former civilian internees; and to the immediate families of such people living or deceased. There is no such thing as "associate" membership, and we have no "auxiliaries". Each and every member is entitled to all privileges of membership; including voting.
HOW IT STARTED
AXPOW grew out of the original BATAAN RELIEF ORGANIZATION, formed in New Mexico in 1942 by two mothers: Mrs. Charles W. Bickford and Mrs. Fred E. Landon, whose sons were captured by the Japanese in 1942. They were members of the 200th Coast Artillery. On April 10, 1942 the two mothers talked to a father of another boy from the 200th to ask him to preside at a mass meeting called to form an organization to get relief to the captured boys on Bataan. At that meeting, "BATAAN RELIEF ORGANIZATION", was organized, April 14, 1942, with Dr. V. H. Spensley of Albuquerque as chairman. Albuquerque, New Mexico was to be the headquarters.
Dr. Spensley suggested the name BATAAN RELIEF ORGANIZATION. He pointed out its initials stand for BROTHER, adding that all those men out there are our brothers. Their motto was WE WILL NOT LET THEM DOWN. Federal Circuit Judge Sam G. Brattan was named Director of Activities; Glen O. Ream Vice Chairman; Mrs. Helen Hazelwood Secretary-Treasurer; other members of the Board were: Fred Landon; Mrs. Charles Bickford and Mrs. F. L. Lingo.
This group was very active working every way possible trying to get relief to the men and getting any bit of information they could. When other families over the country heard what the families in New Mexico were doing other chapters sprang up all over the United States. It was incorporated September 8, 1943. They were a very close organized group with only one purpose in mind, "Get relief to the boys and let them know they would not let them down". They printed bulletins and newsletters to keep all members informed.
April 9, 1943, officers were elected with Dr. Spensley Chairman; Mrs. C. W. Bickford Vice Chairperson; Mrs. Edna Cooper Secretary; P. W. McCahan Corresponding Secretary; Leonard G. Smith Treasurer. Membership was over 1000.
Mrs. M. L. Bradley in Albuquerque had a standard listening post set and received messages daily from the boys from the Tokyo station. She had several women working with her getting these messages out to the relatives all over the United States as soon as they were received.
In 1945 control of the Bataan Relief Organization was formally placed in the hands of seven of the liberated members of the New Mexico 200th Coast Artillery Regiment at an annual meeting held in Albuquerque. Named to the Executive Committee: Foch Tixier; Esperidian Archiheque; Sipriano Griego; Charles F. Sanchez; Carlos Montoya; Ben Torres; and John Love. Dr. V. H. Spensley, Carl F. Whittaker and W. B. McCollum serving as advisors. Foch Tixier was named chairman.
In 1946 at a reunion the name was changed to "BATAAN VETERAN'S ORGANIZATION" with Foch Tixier President; John Love Vice President; Charles Montoya Secretary; Joseph Bandoni Treasurer.
Foch Tixier died September 20, 1946 in Albuquerque V.A. Hospital of pneumonia. He was married October 5, 1945 and died two weeks after the birth of a son, Randall Toch Tixier, Jr. John Love took over the duties of President but wanted Foch's name to remain on until the new term election. Reunions were held in 1946 and 1947. At the 1948 Convention held in Albuquerque May 14th officers elected were: Virgil McCollum Commander; Manuel Armijo Vice-Commander; Brooks Lewis Secretary; Harry Steen Treasurer; Directors: Ruben Limas; John Manerow: T. L. Pluegar; Bryan Dougherty; Joe Smith; Kenneth Day; J. B. Heinen; Charles Brown; Edd Chavez; Gregory W. Marshall.
The 2nd National Convention was held in Hollywood, CA April 1949. At this convention it was voted to change the name to AMERICAN EX-PRISONERS OF WAR and the name of the Bulletin changed to THE XPW. The reason for the change of the National Organization, the men from the European Theater did not know they could join. They thought it was only for the Bataan veterans. By changing the name to AMERICAN EX-PRISONERS OF WAR all American Ex-Prisoners of all wars are welcome. Officers elected were: Kenneth Day Commander; John H. Walker Vice-Commander; Robert H. Jones, Jr. Secretary; William Braly Treasurer; Directors: Virgil McCollum, Robert Geis, Ruben Limas, Harold Martelle, Bryan Dougherty, Lester Morrison, Joe Smith, J. B. Heinen, T. L. Plueger, William J. Slicer. There were 800 at the 1949 convention. Kenneth Day was appointed Editor on a volunteer basis, as in the past.
The Bulletin as our National Publication has seen many changes. In 1949 there were seven local groups federated within the framework of AXPOW: The Bataan Veteran's Organization; The Lost Battalion; The Seattle Barbed Wire Club; Orphans of the Pacific; Dad MacMannis Post; The Southwest Barbed Wire Club and the Barbed Wire Club of North Carolina.
The National insignia was designed and approved in 1949. Committee Chairman was Tom Hoffman of Los Angeles. National Director Bryan Dougherty designed it into a lapel pin in 1949.
Two Blood Red Swords Forming A Balance Of Justice On A White Shield. The Double Lines In The Upper Side Of The Shield Represent The Withdrawal In The South Pacific And The Battle Of The Bulge (The Two Threats To Our Defensive Shield.) AXPOW—American Ex-Prisoners Of War. Suggested Title, "Non Solus Armis" meaning "Not By Arms Alone".
As written by National Director Bryan Dougherty in 1949, "Not By Arms Alone But By Example Will We Achieve Universal Accord Among Men."
The official cap was approved by the Directors in May of 1951 and went on sale for the first time at the 1951 Convention. The cap was to be overseas type color maroon with the AXPOW insignia and words AMERICAN EX-PRISONERS OF WAR on the left with the right side blank for the name of the local chapter or office. In May the Directors agreed there could not be anything dangling on the official cap. In 1969 it was voted on the convention floor that ribbons, patches and pins could be worn on the cap if it pertained to the branch of service or theater.
Life Membership was approved by a convention floor vote at the 1951 convention. It went into effect after all details were worked out in 1952. At the 1952 National Convention plans were made to buy an American Flag and have the American Ex-Prisoners of War colors made up. Donations were sent in and the colors and gavel were used for the first time at the National Convention in 1953. National Awards Program and Committee with Rules set up and approved in 1955.
The Commemorative Seal Project (Welfare) was started in 1955-56 term of office. The National Funds were so low we were having to ask for donations to keep the organization going. The National Adj-Treasurer was paying for postage with his own money. At one time our National balance was $68.67 with $606.70 in unpaid bills. With the seal drive and sales of caps, pins and dues we were able to pull things out of the red. It has been a long, hard fight for all members.
As of 1981 there were 104 Chapters, 11 State Departments, with a membership of over 15,000.