Question: What do you do when you are a genealogist, reading for pleasure and discover a possible ancestor?
Answer: You treat it as a lead and follow through.
I previously discovered a relative, Corporal Robert T. Fugate, who survived as a Japanese prisoner of war through World War II. He was a U.S. Marine in the Philippines stationed on Corregidor. He suffered through four years as a Japanese prisoner of war.
I recently read a book about the Bataan Death March. I was seeking any reference or anecdote about Corporal Fugate. I did not find either, however I did find something else.
At the end of the book was an Appendix. This was a list of 1607 servicemen with whom the author had served, suffered and/or survived. One of the names – First Lieutenant Robert B. Fugate .
The first thing I did was verify that this was NOT the same person being misidentified. (The U.S. military has occasionally made errors when notifying Next Of Kin.)
Corporal Robert Tebo Fugate was born in Nebraska in 1921 to Frank and Mae (Tebo) Fugate. He was the only son, with three older sisters – Lucille, Roberta and Leota. Robert T. Fugate entered the United States Marine Corps on 16 Jan 1940 and completed his basic training at San Diego, California on 29 February 1940. Sometime prior to December of 1941 he was transferred to the 4th Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China. Subsequently, he was transferred to Corregidor, Philippines when the unit was removed from China.
We both descend from John Fugate. John Fugate was born in Russell County, Virginia in 1795. He moved to Missouri about 1844. He died in 1878 in Schuyler County, Missouri.
I started searching to determine if (or how) I have a relationship to Lt. Robert B. Fugate. Was he also a descendant of John Fugate? If not, how are we related?
Robert Benjamin Fugate was born Aug 1919 in Brazil, Clay County, Indiana to Benjamin Franklin “Ben” and Lillian B. (Walker) Fugate. He was the second child and first son. He had an elder sister, Dorothy L. Fugate and a younger brother, Norman Fugate.
Robert B. Fugate attended Purdue University and graduated in 1940 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
On his U.S. Selective Service Registration form, dated 16 October 1940, he is noted as single, white, height 5-8, weight 167, hair black, eyes brown, complexion dark with an appendicitis scar. On 30 June 1941 he was activated into the United States Army and assigned to the 400th Field Artillery. Once he arrived in the Philippines he was assigned to the 88th Field Artillery Regiment, Philippine Scouts.
1LT Robert Benjamin Fugate, MSGT Robert Tebo Fugate and I all descend from Martin Fugate.
1LT Robert Benjamin Fugate descends from Martin’s son William.
MSGT Robert Tebo Fugate and I both descend from Martin through his son Colbert, John Fugate’s father.
1LT Robert Benjamin Fugate is my fifth cousin, once removed.
MSGT Robert Tebo Fugate is my third cousin, once removed.
Having determined my relations to each of these soldiers, I then sought information to see if they could have had any contact with or known each other during their ordeal.
The two men served in different units, in separate services and in different locations. Corporal Robert T. Fugate served with the 4th Marine Regiment. The Fourth Marine Regiment was stationed and defended the island of Corregidor, Philippines.
First Lieutenant Robert B. Fugate served in the 88th Field Artillery, Philippine Scouts. The 88th Field Artillery was stationed and defended the Bataan, Philippines peninsula.
1LT Robert B. Fugate, as part of the 88th Field Artillery soldiers, endured The Bataan Death March. (A detachment of the 4th Marine Regiment was also stationed on Bataan and endured the Death March.) The Bataan Death March occurred 9-12 April 1942. The march ended when the prisoners arrived and were incarcerated at Camp O’Donnell .
CPL Robert T. Fugate most likely did not participate in the Death March. All accounts I found indicate CPL Fugate was stationed on Corregidor. The forces on Corregidor fought through April and surrendered on 6 May 1942. After the surrender, the forces on Corregidor were shipped across Manila bay to Bilibid prison .
Prisoners at each location were grouped by rank: commissioned officers separated from non-commissioned and enlisted soldiers. 1Lt. Robert B. Fugate was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. Cpl. Robert T. Fugate was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marines.
So far I have not found any information indicate they could have met or known each other while prisoners of war.
Corporal Robert T. Fugate, USMC, survived the war and continued active military service. He retired a Master Sergeant, USMC. He died in 1993 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia .
First Lieutenant Robert B. Fugate did not survive the war. He was wounded on board a ship while being moved from the Philippines to Japan. He died of his wounds and was buried at sea. 1LT Robert B. Fugate’s name is listed on the Wall of the Missing, Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Capital District, National Capital Region, Philippines.
Reading and the studying the experiences of these relatives, what they endured during their combat and captivity, has increased my gratitude for their sacrifice. I feel extremely privileged to have discovered evidence of their service.
May their service and sacrifice is always remembered.
For More Information See:
Some Survived: An Eyewitness Account of the Bataan Death March and the Men Who Lived Through It by Manny Lawton
The United States Marine Corps in World War II compiled and edited by S.E. Smith
The Fugate Family of Russell County Virginia by David Faris
“7 Lieutenants Ordered to Duty,” The Indianapolis Star Indianapolis, Indiana, 30 June 1941, Lt. Robert B. Fugate ordered to duty with 400th Field Artillery; Newspapers.com
“Prisoner of Japanese,” The Indianapolis News Indianapolis, Indiana, 19 December 1942, 1LT. Robert B. Fugate held as prisoner of war; online image, Newspapers.com
Death March – The Survivors of Bataan by Donald Knox