The Bataan Death March was the transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers who were surrendered to Japanese forces during World War II after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines in extreme-climate conditions.
Soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese forces began the invasion of the Philippines. The capture of the Philippines was crucial to the Japanese. It would bring them one step closer to the control of the Southwest Pacific. The Philippines were just as important to the U.S. Having troops in the Philippines gave the U.S. footing in the Southwest Pacific. After the invasion of the Philippines, U.S.-Filipino troops defended the crucial lands.
These brave soldiers were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor, and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. They fought in a malaria-infested region and survived on little portions of food. Some lived off of half or quarter rations. The soldiers lacked medical attention. U.S. medics did what they could to help their fellow soldiers. They fought with outdated equipment and virtually no air power.
The soldiers retreated to the Philippine Peninsula when Japanese forces were reinforced and overwhelmed the U.S.-Filipino soldiers.
The soldiers were deprived of food, water, and medical attention, and were forced to march 65 miles to confinement camps throughout the Philippines.
The march began on April 9, 1942 from Saysain Point, Bagac, Bataan and Mariveles to Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, via San Fernando, Pampanga. The prisoners were forced to march until they died.
They marched for days, approximately 65 miles through the scorching jungles of the Philippines. The march was characterized by severe physical abuse and wanton killings.
Approximately 10,000 men died; 1,000 were American and 9,000 were Filipino. Those who survived faced the hardships of prisoner of war camps and the brutality of their Japanese captors.
They wouldn’t see freedom until 1945 when U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the lost territory. About one-third of the prisoners died from health complications after they were freed.
After the war, the Japanese commander, General Masaharu Homma and two of his officers were trialed in United States military commissions on charges of failing to prevent their subordinates from committing war crimes.