Troops sent to the Philippines
In 1941 before Pearl Harbor was Attacked the United States sent troops to The Philippines because of a buildup of the Japanese in the South Pacific. After Pearl Harbor the Japanese invaded the Philippines.
In the beginning of 1942 President Roosevelt focused all of the U.S. resources on the war in Europe. Then in March, President Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur out of Australia, essentially abandoning the soldiers on Bataan.
Without support the American and Filipino soldiers were doomed. The needed supplies for the soldiers became scarce and they became weak from malnutrition. Even though, the men kept on fighting. Solders survived on small rations until the rations became too small. Then they killed horses and mules at first then they killed fish by throwing grenades into the water. Boiled ravens and iguana was also eaten. Eventually they ate crickets off leaves and the leaves as well.
On April 9th, 1942, the American and Philippians army finally surrendered. This was to be the largest U.S. surrender on foreign soil; a low point in our military history. More than 10,000-12,000 American and 60,000-64,000 Filipino soldiers became Japanese prisoners.
The Japanese were not prepared for the number of prisoners and on their condition. They were weak, wounded and malnourished. Also to the thinking of the Japanese captives, they were subhuman and treated that way.
The Death March
The Japanese commander General Massaharu Homma had another problem; he had to get his 70,000-76,000 prisoners from Mariveles on the southern tip on Bataan to the Japanese Prison camp in San Fernando 60-70 miles away. Since there was no way to transport the prisoners, the Japanese high command told General Homma to march the prisoners.
The captors wanting to show their superiority over their prisoners and a super power in Asia as well, they committed chance beatings and killings. If a prisoner looked at a Japanese solider the wrong way or had a souvenir, he was executed. With the blazing hot sun beating down, if the prisoners stopped to drink or fill their canteen they were cut down by machine gun fire. When the soldiers were allowed to rest they were made to sit on the burning hot pavement. If a prisoner fell back or fell down they were quickly bayoneted to death.
During the Bataan Death March more than 10,000 prisoners lost their life of which 5200 were Americans.
Executed for War Crimes
In 1946 General Homma was tried and convicted and executed for war crimes. He was held responsible for the cruel and brutal treatment of the soldiers.
Bataan Memorial Death March
In honor of the brave and gallant soldiers that had to endure the living hell in Bataan, every year at White Sand Missile Range, in the High Desert of New Mexico, have an annual Bataan Memorial Death March.
There are two courses for the participates in the Bataan Memorial Death March; a 26.2 mile route and a shorter 14.2 mile route. There are also a number of marching categories for the entrants. The categories are: Military men (heavy and light), Military women, ROTC men, ROTC women, Civilian men, Civilian women, Military teams and Civilian teams. Each of the categories have subcategories dividing them by age.
Not just a marathon
The Bataan Memorial Death March is not just a marathon, and it’s not just a hike. The Bataan March is a combination of both. It is a race, but the Bataan memorial death march takes place in the high desert and treads through mostly dusty trails and sandy roads. Although it is a timed event, the main goal would be to finish and to remember the soldiers that had to endure the real Bataan Death March many years ago.
The Memorial Death March course is a viscous trail through the high desert. Much of the route is on deep sand or dusty sandy terrain. There are 12 water stations along the route to make sure the entrants are well hydrated. Sunscreen is also a must since you can burn in the New Mexico high desert sun in no time at all. Times for the civilian light category Range from less than 3 1/2 hours to almost 13 hours. For results of past Bataan Memorial Marches visit the official result page.
There is plenty of information on the Bataan March website.
Honor the Soldiers
What better way to honor the courage of the Soldiers that live that horror in 1942 then to undertake this daunting task know as “The Bataan Memorial Death March”? Thousands of men and woman run, walk, and march this course every year. Registration usually opens in November, the Bataan Memorial Death March is held in March. For more information visit the official Bataan Memorial Death March website.
by John Dragotto