Fallen Warrior: Chief Master Sgt. Paul Kerchum

  • Published
  • By 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

For our Fallen Warrior commemoration this week, we remember retired Army Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Paul Kerchum, 31st Infantry, B Company member, as one of the last survivors of the Bataan Death March during World War II.

Kerchum was born on Jan. 25, 1920 in Ohio and raised in a foster home in Pittsburg during the Depression. In 1938 he enlisted, serving almost three decades.

His career led him to the Philippines during WWII. Kerchum and his unit,
alongside other supporting units, fought outnumbered and outgunned in the 93-day Battle of Bataan.

75,000 American and Filipino troops surrendered at the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. They were forced on what was later named the Bataan Death March. During the 60-mile march, prisoners of war were beaten, starved, and thousands died or were killed.

During 29 years of service, Kerchum earned two American Presidential Unit Citations, a Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Philippine Presidential Medal with Citation, among others. After he retired, Kerchum remained connected to the Air Force, devoting numerous hours to community service and public speaking.

Kerchum died Dec. 17, 2022 and was buried on Jan. 25, what would have been his 103rd birthday, in Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Editor's note: The Fallen Warrior series highlights Fallen Warriors who
exemplify our core values and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Take a moment to honor this week's hero.