The forces held out for 99 days but were forced to surrender to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. The Bataan Death March in the Philippines was the name given to the 66 mile (106 km) journey that was endured by 75,000 Japanese prisoners of war, consisting of 12,000 Americans and the remainder Filipinos.
On April 9, 1942 the prisoners of war were ordered to march to Balanga, the capital of Bataan. Camp O'Donnell, a facility used the United States Air Force, was the final stop of the Bataan Death March and was used as an internment camp at Capas. The Bataan Death March was characterized by severe physical abuse and atrocities committed by the Japanese as prisoners were beaten, shot, bayoneted and, in many cases, beheaded. It is estimated that only 65,000 survived the infamous Bataan Death March and many more died at Camp O'Donnell.
Facts about Bataan Death March
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was timed to coincide with attacks on the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand.
In July 1941 General Douglas MacArthur had been sent to the Philippines to build up American defenses.
A few hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Japanese attacked US airfields in the Philippines. The majority of General MacArthur's aircraft in the Philippines were destroyed by the Japanese on the same day they made the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese military landed on the Philippine Islands two days after their bombing attack on December 9, 1941.
The American and Filipino troops were vastly outnumbered by the invading Japanese and their commander, General Douglas MacArthur, and following the fall of Manila (January 2, 1942) ordered their retreat to the Bataan Peninsula
The Bataan Peninsula, located in western Luzon, Philippines, is about 30 miles (50 km) long and 15 miles (25 km) wide with Corregidor Island lying just off its southern tip at the entrance of Manila Bay.
The Bataan Peninsula was an arduous terrain consisting of jungle and mountain regions. The Battle of Bataan lasted from 7 January – 9 April 1942 (3 months, and 2 days). The troops had few supplies and conditions led to men being hit with various diseases such as dysentery, scurvy and malaria.
President Roosevelt realized that the death or capture of General MacArthur by the Japanese would have devastating effects and demoralize the nation. He therefore ordered MacArthur to leave Bataan.
On the night of 12 March, 1941 General MacArthur, his family, and several staff officers left Corregidor and evacuated to Australia and handed command over to General Wainwright. When General MacArthur reached Australia he made his famous promise saying, "I came through and I shall return."
On March 24 Japanese artillery and aircraft mounted a massive attack on American positions on Bataan and Corregidor and the exhausted fighters were forced back. General Wainwright withdrew as much of his force as possible to the fortress island of Corregidor in Manila Bay.
There were no reinforcements and on April 9, 1942, the weary US and Filipino defenders of Bataan finally surrendered as resistance collapses under the fierce Japanese attacks. The delay had cost the Japanese military valuable time and prohibited immediate victory across the Pacific.
The estimated 75,000 Japanese prisoners of war, consisted of about 12,000 Americans and the remainder Filipinos.
The surrender was treated with utter contempt by the Japanese as they believed strongly in the honor brought by fighting to the death. The captured American and Filipino POWs from Bataan were therefore deemed unworthy of respect. To show their contempt and disgust, the Japanese guards tortured their prisoners throughout the Bataan Death March.
The troops gathered at various points on Bataan from Mariveles on the tip of Bataan to San Fernando. At San Fernando, the troops were literally shoved and crammed into small railroad cars with no room to sit down. They were then released from the boxcars and faced an additional nine-mile walk from Capus to Camp O'Donnell
The Bataan Death March was a 66 mile (106 km) journey that was to be completed in the blazing sun, with little water and food in six days.
The lack of water took a terrible toll on the prisoners and the Japanese took great delight in shooting any prisoners who attempted to drink from the clean water in the wells they passed along the way.
The thirst was made even worse by the torturous treatment of the Japanese who made the POW's sit in the hot sun without any shade. The starving POW's were given just one meal of rice during the entire journey.
Prisoners were beaten, shot, bayoneted and, in many cases, beheaded. They were weak from the march, suffering from malnutrition and diseases. If anyone fell behind during the march they were either shot, bayoneted or beheaded by the Japanese "buzzard squads" who were responsible for killing any men who were unable to keep up.
More than 10,000 men died on the Bataan Death March.
At the end of WW2, the Japanese commander of the invasion forces in the Philippines, Lieut. Gen. Homma Masaharu, was charged with responsibility for the Bataan Death March and the atrocities and abuses at Camp O’Donnell. Masaharu was tried in Manila and convicted by a U.S. military commission. He was executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946.
Homage is paid to the victims of the Bataan Death March every April on Bataan Day in the Philippines.
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