Brief Biography of Col. David L. Hardee

Dr. Frank A. Blazich, Jr.
Modern Military Curator, National Museum of American History
edits by Matthew M. Peek, Military Collection Archivist

Editorial note: Dr. Frank Blazich Jr. has worked for years on preserving, research, and writing about the life and military service of American and North Carolina hero Col. David L. Hardee. Hardee is best remembered as a survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines in World War II, chronicled in a memoir by Hardee that was edited and published by Dr. Blazich as Bataan Survivor: A POW’s Account of Japanese Captivity in World War II. This brief biography is an earlier, unpolished version of Blazich's biography of Hardee than what appears in the book, provided for Hardee's military papers at the State Archives of North Carolina.


Before he served in WWII, Hardee served in World War I. He was a 2nd Lieutenant serving in the 3rd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Army. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from the end of September-November 1918 in France, Hardee would earn his first Silver Star for gallantry, and later promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Hardee would later after WWI type history of his service in the Meuse-Argonne entitled "Fifteen Days in the Meuse-Argonne: Extracts from Letters to the Home Folks," which has never been published.


As part of a four-part blog post series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and North Carolinians' roles in it, we are going to publish a transcribed and edited copy of this history for the first time ever, completed by Dr. Blazich, along with his brief biography of Col. Hardee. Dr. Blazich found this WWI account of Hardee's fighting in the Meuse-Argonne while working with Hardee's late daughter researching about his life. The Hardee family then donated it on her behalf to the State Archives of North Carolina.


Brief Biography of Colonel David L. Hardee, O-011903, Infantry


David Lyddall Hardee was born in the area of what is now part of the Camp Butner Military Reservation in Granville County, North Carolina on September 16, 1890, to Dr. Parrott Rastus Hardee and Roberta Buford Bacon Hardee. He graduated from Stem High School in the community of Stem, N.C., in 1909, and from Trinity College in Durham, N.C. [part of present-day Durham University] in 1913. Following graduation, he worked for the Atlantic Coast Realty Company, before becoming a public relations officer for Wachovia Bank and Trust Company of Winston-Salem in 1914 and continuing with the bank until December 1917. Having previously registered with the Selective Service on June 5, 1917, Hardee enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 29, 1918, joining Company H, 61st Infantry, 5th Infantry Division. He shipped out with the 61st Infantry to France on April 1, 1918, and joined the 28th Infantry, 1st Division on September 1, 1918.


While overseas, Hardee rose through the ranks from private to corporal to sergeant, before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in Langres, France on October 1, 1918. As a member of the 3d Battalion, 28th Infantry, Hardee participated in the Anould Sub-Sector (defensive action), the St. Die Sector (defensive action), and the Meuse-Argonne and Muizon-Sedan offensives, earning five battle clasps in all during the war. He received his first Silver Star for gallantry during the Meuse-Argonne offensive from October 4-12, 1918. He received a Purple Heart (for gas exposure) and second Silver Star for actions near Exermont, France, on October 9, 1918, and a third near Chavenges, France on November 7, 1918. Promotion followed gallantry, and Hardee rose to first lieutenant on October 25, 1918 (accepted November 1, 1918; later promoted to first lieutenant in the regular army on July 1, 1920). Following the Armistice, he served in the Army of Occupation in Germany at the Coblenz Bridgehead.

David Hardee returned home on September 4, 1919, and participated in the WWI victory parades in New York City and Washington, D.C. Remaining in the Army, he was stationed with the 28th Infantry at Camp Zackary Taylor in Kentucky. He served as a recruiting officer for the First Division’s North Carolina recruiting drive in 1920, receiving a commendation for his work from division commander Major General Charles P. Summerall. Upon graduation from the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, Hardee served at Fort Ontario and Plattsburg, NY. On October 5, 1922, in Salisbury, N.C., he married Elizabeth Neely Harry (born August 26, 1888, in Charlotte). From 1923 to 1924, Hardee became the first non-aviator to graduate from the Air Corps Tactical School, Langley Field, VA. Following graduation, he went to Fort Sam Houston, TX, before returning to Fort Benning. At Fort Benning, he was an instructor at the Infantry School, teaching air corps tactics courses to infantry personnel as a member of the 24th Infantry, the first of its kind for ground service schools and a model for future course development. At Fort Benning, his daughter, Elizabeth Frances, was born on May 18, 1927.

On September 12, 1929, Hardee and his family moved to the Philippines where he served with the 31st Infantry in the Cuartel de Espana in Manila. His second daughter, Mary Lucile, was born in Sternberg General Hospital, Manila, on December 18, 1931. In February 1932, Hardee and the regiment shipped out to Shanghai, China, to guard a section of the International Settlement, returning to Manila in July. For his involvement, Hardee received the Yangtze Service Medal, awarded by the Commandant of the Marine Corps on March 13, 1935.


Hardee returned to the United States on July 30, 1932, and served at Ford Howard, MD until 1934 with the 12th Infantry. Promoted to Captain on October 1, 1934, the Army ordered Hardee to Winston-Salem on November 1, 1934, where he served as instructor of organized reserves for the 322nd Infantry in Winston-Salem until August 15, 1938. Hardee next received orders to move to Oak Ridge, N.C., and serve as Professor of Military Science and Tactics at Oak Ridge Military Institute. Promoted to Major on July 1, 1940, Hardee and his family enjoyed their time in Oak Ridge until 1941. Then, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a national emergency in 1941, Hardee received orders to report to Camp Wheeler, Macon, GA on May 15th to train new recruits in the fundamentals of infantry tactics.


On September 15, 1941, Hardee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and a week later advised that General Douglas MacArthur selected Hardee and other officers to sail to Manila to assist in the organization and training of ten new Filipino divisions. On November 1, 1941, Hardee bid his family in Durham, N.C. and the United States goodbye as he sailed off on the SS President Coolidge to the Philippines once more. Arriving on November 21st, he had little time to get to work before the Japanese attack on December 8th. Initially attached to the headquarters, United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), Hardee handled a series of jobs for Major General Richard K. Sutherland, Chief of Staff for General Douglas MacArthur in the initial weeks of fighting. On January 26, 1942, USAFFE reassigned Hardee as executive officer of the Provisional Air Corps Regiment under the command of Colonel Irvin E. Doane.

Hardee and the regiment would remain on the front lines for 73 consecutive days, withstanding countless attacks by artillery, heavy bombers, and infantry assaults by the Japanese forces attacking the Philippines. In the course of the fighting, Hardee received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action on April 9, 1942, near Cabcabin, Philippines, a Bronze Star for meritorious service near Orion and Limay, Bataan on April 7, 1942, and a fourth Silver Star near Orion, Bataan on April 7, 1942. For extraordinary heroism from April 7-8, 1942, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (he did not receive the award until October 9, 1949). After months of desperate fighting for Manila, Corregidor, and Bataan, Hardee surrendered with the remaining American forces at Bataan on April 9, 1942, in the largest surrender of American armed forces in history. Taken prisoner on the afternoon of the ninth, Hardee would spend the next 34 months--until February 4, 1945--in Japanese captivity.


Hardee’s prisoner of war ordeal began with the Bataan Death March to Camp O’Donnell, the site of his initial imprisonment. The journey to the camp, from April 16-25, 1942, covered 85 miles on foot and rail. During the march, Hardee lost the majority of what few possessions he retained, and estimated about 250 American and Filipinos died along the way, a number he later recognized as low. He spent 40 days at Camp O’Donnell, witnessing the deaths of thousands of American and Filipino prisoners. The Japanese moved Hardee and other American prisoners to the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp No. 1, where he arrived on June 6, 1942, and stayed until October 26th. The Japanese next shipped Hardee to the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) on Mindanao on November 8, 1942, aboard the Japanese “Hell Ship” Erie Maru. At Dapecol, Hardee worked as an agricultural worker harvesting coffee until he suffered a serious hernia which would cause him constant pain and suffering until his liberation. Hardee credited the hernia with possibly saving his life. While in the prison hospital, other groups of lieutenant colonels were shipped out of the camp on “Hell Ships,” unmarked vessels that fell victim to American submarines. On June 6, 1944, Hardee was moved with other prisoners to the port of Lasang where the prisoners were herded like cattle into the holds of the Yashu Maru on June 12th, and after a stop in Cebu and transfer to the Singoto Maru No. 824, Hardee left for Manila on June 22nd. There the prisoners were transferred to Bilibid Prison in late June--early July, located within the northern sector of the city. It was here that American forces liberated Hardee and other American prisoners of war on February 4, 1945.

During his imprisonment, Hardee was beaten in captivity on multiple occasions by Japanese prison guards, and suffered a severe hernia while picking coffee in March 1943 that was not fully repaired until February 1950. Malnutrition was a constant problem, and in captivity he lost approximately 70 pounds from his normal body weight of 185 pounds. In addition, Hardee dealt with off and on instances of dysentery, beriberi, and pellagra. He was witness to several incidents of murder and torture of American prisoners by their Japanese guards, as well as several successful prison escapes. One escape, by Captain Damon J. “Rocky” Gause, brought word in November 1942 that Hardee was alive and in captivity. Upon liberation in February 1945, he was promoted to the rank of colonel on March 16th, and he returned to the United States aboard the USS Cape Meares on May 12th. Technically, he was promoted to full colonel on April 7, 1942, but the orders were never relayed to him due to the confusion in the final days of fighting. Following a period of convalescent leave and medical treatment for his hernia at the Walter Reed General Hospital in July 1945, he served the remainder of his time in the Army as an instructor and adviser in the Adjutant Generals Office for the North Carolina National Guard from July 1946 until his retirement from the Army on December 31, 1949.


After his time in the Army, Hardee kept active. From 1950 to 1953, he organized and served as president of the ready-mix Hardee Concrete Company in Durham, N.C. He sold the company in 1954 when he took the position as Civil Defense director for Wake County and Raleigh, on March 1, 1954, a position he held until his resignation from the post on July 1, 1961. From 1957 to 1958, Hardee served as the national commander for the Army and Navy Legion of Valor. In 1966, he published the book, The Eastern North Carolina Hardy-Hardee family in the South and Southwest, a genealogical history of his family. Hardee died in Raleigh on November 23, 1969, at the age of 79, and is buried in New Maplewood Cemetery in Durham.


During his military career, Hardee received numerous decorations for service and valor. These include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Presidential Unit Citation with two oak leaf cluster, the World War I Victory Medal with one bronze battle clasp and defensive sector clasp, Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, the Yangtze Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal with foreign service clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze service stars, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Defense Medal with one bronze star, Philippine Liberation Medal with one bronze star, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and Army Distinguished Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters. In September 2013, the U.S. Army reviewed Hardee’s service record and posthumously awarded him the Prisoner of War Medal, an oak leaf cluster in lieu of a second Purple Heart, five battle clasps for his World War I service, and the Philippine Independence Ribbon.




David L. Hardee Papers, Miscellaneous Military Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C.