Walter A. Kostecki, 71, a retired colonel in the Army Medical Corps and a survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines early in World War II, died of respiratory failure July 19 at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington. He lived in McLean.
Col. Kostecki was a captain when he was taken prisoner by the Japanese in April 1942. There followed the infamous death march, a 60-mile trek to prison camps. Later, the captain was taken to Japan.
In January 1945, a group of 195 Americans arrived at the camp near Fukuoka, Japan, where Capt. Kostecki was a prisoner. They were the survivors of 1,190 prisoners whom the Japanese had tried to transfer from the Philippines to Japan in the closing months of the war. Most died when their ships were sunk by American aircraft.
Capt. Kostecki had a small quantity of medicine, so he organized a lottery to determine who among the newcomers would receive it. Like other prisoners, he shared his small quantities of food with them. Among the survivors was a lieutenant colonel named Harold K. Johnson, who also had been on the death march and who later became chief of staff of the Army. Gen. Johnson credited Capt. Kostecki with having saved his life.
Like Johnson, Col. Kostecki stayed in the Army after the war. He served at Fort Sam Houston, Tex., and Fort Benning, Ga. In 1959, he was assigned to Fort Myer, Va., where he was post surgeon, the director of the Andrew Rader Army Clinic, and surgeon to the Inter-American Defense Board. He held these posts until he retired in 1971.
His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and two Army Commendation Medals. He also was decorated by the Philippines and Brazil.
After leaving the service, Col. Kostecki moved to Halifax, Mass. He practiced medicine there until 1980, when he retired a second time and moved to McLean.
Col. Kostecki was born in Boston. He graduated from Tufts University and earned his medical degree at George Washington University. He was commissioned in the Army Medical Corps when he finished medical school in 1937.
Survivors include his wife, the former Mary Louise Sullivan, of McLean; two daughters, Helen Hannett of McLean, and Mary Olson of Norfolk; a son, Michael, of Garland, Tex., and six grandchildren.