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Bataan Death March

The Bataan Death March (also known as The Death March of Bataan) took place in the Philippines in 1942 and was later accounted as a Japanese war crime. The 60-mile (97 km) march occurred after the three-month Battle of Bataan, part of the Battle of the Philippines (1941–42), during World War II. In Japanese, it is known as , with the same meaning. The march, involving the forcible transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese in the Philippines from the Bataan peninsula to prison camps, was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon the prisoners and civilians along the route by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan. Beheadings, cut throats and casual shootings were the more common and merciful actions — compared to bayonet stabbings, rapes, disembowelments, numerous rifle butt beatings and a deliberate refusal to allow the prisoners food or water while keeping them continually marching for nearly a week (for the slowest survivors) in tropical heat. Falling down, unable to continue moving was tantamount to a death sentence, as was any degree of protest or expression of displeasure.

Prisoners were attacked for assisting someone failing due to weakness, or for no apparent reason whatsoever. Strings of Japanese trucks were known to drive over anyone who fell. Riders in vehicles would casually stick out a rifle bayonet and cut a string of throats in the lines of men marching alongside the road. Accounts of being forcibly marched for five to six days with no food and a single sip of water are in post war archives including filmed reports.

The exact death count has been impossible to determine, but some historians have placed the minimum death toll between six and eleven thousand men; whereas other post war allied reports have tabulated that only 54,000 of the 72,000 prisoners reached their destination— taken together, the figures document a casual killing rate of one in four up to two in seven (25% to 28.5%) of those brutalized by the forcible march. The number of deaths that took place in the internment camps from delayed effects of the march is uncertain, but believed to be high. One of the last remaining US commanders who survived the Bataan Death March, Dr. Lester Tenney, was interviewed at Hitotsubashi University in June 2008.

The fall of Bataan

On April 9, 1942, as the final stage of the Battle of Bataan, approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops, commanded by Major General Edward "Ned" P. King, Jr., were formally surrendered to a Japanese army of 54,000 men under Lt. General Masaharu Homma. This was the single largest surrender of a military force in American history.

Logistics planning to move the prisoners of war from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp in the province of Tarlac, was handed down to transportation officer Major General Yoshitake Kawane ten days prior to the final Japanese assault. The Japanese, having expected the fighting to continue, anticipated about 25,000 prisoners of war and were inadequately prepared and/or unwilling to transport humanely a group of prisoners whose number reached almost three times that estimate.

The Death March

At dawn, 9 April 1942, and against the orders of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Jonathan Wainwright, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., commanding Luzon Force, Bataan, Philippine Islands, surrendered more than 75,000 (66,000 Filipinos, 1,000 Chinese Filipinos, and 11,796 Americans) starving and disease-ridden men. He inquired of Colonel Motoo Nakayama, the Japanese colonel to whom he tendered his pistol in lieu of his lost sword, whether the Americans and Filipinos would be well treated. The Japanese aide-de-camp replied: “We are not barbarians.” The majority of the prisoners of war were immediately robbed of their keepsakes and belongings and subsequently forced to endure a enforced march in deep dust, over vehicle-broken macadam roads, and crammed into rail cars to captivity at Camp O’Donnell. Thousands died en route from disease, starvation, dehydration, heat prostration, untreated wounds, and wanton execution.

Those few who were lucky enough to travel to San Fernando on trucks still had to endure more than twenty-five miles of marching. Prisoners were beaten randomly, and were often denied promised food and water. Those who fell behind were usually executed or left to die; the sides of the roads became littered with dead bodies and those begging for help.

On the Bataan Death March, approximately 54,000 of the 75,000 prisoners reached their destination. The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards. All told, approximately 5,000-10,000 Filipino and 600-650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O'Donnell.

Camps O'Donnell and Cabanatuan

On June 6, 1942, the Filipino soldiers were granted amnesty by the Japanese military and released. The American prisoners continued to be held. Camp O'Donnell presented very hard conditions for the prisoners. They would line up once a day for water. Men were weak and dying from dysentery and beriberi. Eventually they were transferred to camps outside of the Philippines. This process began with American prisoners moving from Camp O'Donnell to Cabanatuan. Acting as a staging camp, many of these American prisoners then were sent from Cabanatuan to prison camps in Japan, Korea, and Manchuria in transports known as "hell ships." The 511 prisoners-of-war who still remained at the Cabanatuan Prison Camp as of January 1945 were freed during an attack on the camp led by United States Army Rangers later known as Raid at Cabanatuan.

War crimes trial

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, an Allied commission convicted General Homma of war crimes, including the atrocities of the death march out of Bataan, and the following atrocities at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan. The general, who had been absorbed in his efforts to capture Corregidor after the fall of Bataan, claimed in his defense that he remained ignorant of the high death toll of the death march until two months after the event. His neglect would cost him his life; he was executed on April 3, 1946 outside Manila.

Commemorations

The Philippines

Every year on April 9, the captured soldiers are honored on Araw ng Kagitingan ("Day of Valor"), also known as the "Bataan Day", which is a national holiday in the Philippines.

Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

The Sacrifices of the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor are commemorated at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Honolulu, Hawaii every year. In 2008, Philippines Ambassador to the U.S., the honorable Willy Gaa and RP Senator Richard J. Gordon will be joined by Hawaii's Governor Linda Lingle in a wreath laying ceremony. The Philippine consulate in Honolulu host a Thanksgivings Mass and ceremony to honor the event. The Knights of Rizal of Hawaii and the Filipino Veterans of WWII - Hawaii chapter will participate in the ceremony.

New Mexico, USA

The Bataan Death March is commemorated every year at the White Sands Missile Range, north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, with a trail marathon known as the Bataan Memorial Death March. The full marathon and run covers paved road and sandy trails, and is regarded by Marathon Guide as one of the top 30 marathons in the United States.

Around 4,000 marchers participate in both the marathon and the run (only the marathon is timed), with members of military units of the United States and foreign armed forces participating, but many civilians also participate, usually running in the full marathon, which is timed with awards (but not certified by USA Track and Field). Several of the few remaining Bataan prisoners usually await the competitors to congratulate them on completing the grueling march.

There are two categories, for both civilian and military divisions, known as "light" and "heavy." In the light category, runners may wear standard distance-running apparel. Marchers in the heavy division must carry a minimum of 35 pounds in rucksacks or backpacks; military entrants in the heavy category must also do so wearing Battle Dress Uniform (BDUs) or their service equivalent uniform.

Minnesota, USA

Company A, 194th Armored Regiment, was deployed to the Philippines in the fall of 1941. To commemorate the military and civilian prisoners who were forced to march from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, an annual Bataan Memorial March is organized by the 194th Armor Regiment of the Minnesota Army National Guard and held at Brainerd, MN. The march is open to anyone with both ten and twenty mile (32 km) distances. The march has different categories, consisting of teams, individuals, light pack, or a heavy pack. A closing ceremony is held to award the finishers and pay tribute to the survivors and their many comrades who perished on the death march.

Maywood, Illinois, USA

For 65 years, this small western suburb of Chicago has marked the second Sunday in September as "Maywood Bataan Day". This is the anniversary of the first Maywood Bataan Day, held on the second weekend of September, 1942. The residents were then calling attention to the nearly 100 Maywood National Guard troops who were taken prisoner when American forces surrendered at Bataan on April 9th, 1942. These men endured the Death March, prison camps, prison ships and eventual slave labor in Japan itself. The men were part of Company B, 192nd Tank Battalion. The original Maywood Bataan Day drew more than 100,000 spectators, dozens of marching bands, and celebrities including the Mayor Ed Kelley of Chicago and movie and radio stars. Today's celebration is much smaller, but still draws several hundred. The memorial is supported by the village of Maywood, Illinois and a non-profit group, the Maywood Bataan Day Organization.

Memorials

The Philippines

  • In Capas, Tarlac there is the Capas National Shrine built in the grounds surrounding Camp O'Donnell.
  • There is also a shrine in Bataan on Mount Samat named Dambana ng Kagitingan ("Shrine of Valor") commemorating the battle and the march. The shrine has a colonnade that houses an altar, esplanade, and a museum. There is also a Memorial Cross built towering 92 meters in height.

United States

  • The Bataan Bridge in Carlsbad, New Mexico commemorates the victims of the march.
  • The Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge in Chicago, Illinois, where State Street crosses the Chicago River, commemorates the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor as well as those on the march.
  • The Bataan Memorial Highway in Indiana, SR 38 from Richmond, Indiana to Lafayette, Indiana.
  • Highway-70, through Southern New Mexico was renamed the Bataan Memorial Highway.
  • Statue of American and Filipino Bataan survivors resides at Veterans Memorial Park, in Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • The "A Tribute To Courage" Memorial in Kissimmee, Florida, at the corner of Lakeshore Boulevard and Monument Avenue. It depicts a scene from the Bataan Death March: two soldiers, one American and the other Filipino, are propping each other up while a Filipino woman is offering water to them. It symbolizes the unique friendship between the United States and the Philippines - the two countries fought together during World War II, and the heroism and comradeship between the Americans and Filipinos. It was sculpted by Sandra Storm and is made of bronze. A brick walkway encircles the monument and there are commemorative plaques depicting the history of the Bataan Death March and the Memorial. American and Filipino flags fly side by side. It is the only statue in the United States dedicated to the heroes and survivors of the fall of Bataan and Corregidor and the Bataan Death March
  • Bataan Elementary School in Port Clinton, Ohio commemorates the 32 men from the Port Clinton area who were victims of the march.
  • Bataan Memorial Trainway in El Paso, Texas honors the prisoners-of-war who died in the enemy camp
  • Bataan Death March Memorial Park in Spokane, Washington

See also

References

Notes

Books

  • Bilek, Anton (Tony) (2003). No Uncle Sam: The Forgotten of Bataan. Kent State University Press. ISBN 0873387686.
  • Jackson, Charles; Bruce H. Norton (2003). I Am Alive!: A United States Marine's Story of Survival in a World war II Japanese POW Camp. Presidio Press. ISBN 0345449118.
  • Mallonee, Richard C. (2003). Battle for Bataan : An Eyewitness Account. I Books. ISBN 0743474503.
  • Templeton, Billy D. (2006). Manila Bay Sunset: The Long March Into Hell. River Road Press. ISBN 0978515803.
  • Waldron, Ben; Emily Burneson (2006). Corregidor: From Paradise to Hell!. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 141202109X.
  • Whitman, John W. (1990). Bataan: Our Last Ditch : The Bataan Campaign, 1942. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0870528777.
  • Young, Donald J. (1992). The Battle of Bataan: A History of the 90 Day Siege and Eventual Surrender of 75,000 Filipino and United States Troops to the Japanese in World War. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0899507573.
  • Sides, Hampton (2001). Ghost Soldier. Anchor Books. ISBN 038549565X.

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