Bataan Death March

From Academic Kids

The Bataan Death March was a war crime involving the forcible transfer of prisoners of war, with wide-ranging abuse and high fatalities, by Japanese forces in the Philippines, in 1942, during World War II.


In late 1941, Japan simultaneously invaded several southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines. Most of the Filipino and United States forces defending the country were rapidly overrun or forced to retreat. A significant proportion of the Allied forces made a stand on the Bataan Peninsula. (The pronunciation of the place name used in its vicinity is bah-tah-'ahn, but in English discussions of this subject it is almost invariably buh-TAHN.)

Missing image
American prisoners using improvised litters to carry those of their comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road.

Approximately 70,000 Filipino and US soldiers, commanded by Major General Edward P. King, Jr. formally surrendered to the Japanese, under General Masaharu Homma, on April 9, 1942, which forced Japan to accept emaciated captives outnumbering them. Due to a shortage of trucks, captives were forced to march, beginning the following day, about 100 kilometers north to Nueva Ecija to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp.

Prisoners of war were beaten randomly and denied food and water for several days. Those who fell behind were executed through various means: shot, beheaded or bayonetted. The commonly-used Japanese "sun treatment" forced a captive to sit silently in the humid April sun without water or even the shade of his helmet.

Meanwhile, Allied forces elsewhere in the Philippines fought on, and the column of prisoners marching from Bataan was accidentally shelled by US guns defending Corregidor. Packed into boxcars to travel from San Fernando to Capas, the number of prisoners was further diminished by malaria, heat, dehydration and dysentery.

These problems persisted at Camp O'Donnell. About ten thousand perished while others were able to escape; approximately 54,000 reached the camp. On June 6, 1942 the Filipino soldiers were granted amnesty and released, while the American prisoners were moved to another camp at Cabanatuan.

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Homma was convicted by an Allied commission of war crimes, including the atrocities of the death march out of Bataan, and the atrocities at O'Donnell and Cabanatuan that followed, and executed on April 3, 1946 outside Manila.

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

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