Bataan Death March

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To view related article in Filipino, please see Bataan Death March.

A burial detail of American and Filipino prisoners of war uses improvised litters to carry fallen comrades at Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, 1942, following the Bataan Death March.
Route taken during the w:Bataan Death March. Section from San Fernando to Capas was by rail.

The Bataan Death March or The Death March of Bataan was the march of captured American and Filipino troops from the Battle of Bataan in 1942. They were forced by the Japanese to walk from Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan Peninsula to Camp O'Donnell. The route of the march measured about a hundred miles and it took six days for the surviving prisoners to reach the camp, with many dying along the way.


The Battle of Bataan was led by a major general in the United States Army, Edward P. King, who was the commanding general of the Philippine-American forces on 11 March 1942. After a month defending against the Japanese invaders, exhausted and lacking food and medicine, King surrendered to Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma on 9 April 1942, along with his more than 70,000 American and Filipino troops. This was known as the Fall of Bataan. The Japanese were unprepared for the number of prisoners and had expected the fight to last longer. Lacking the proper facilities to handle them, they moved the prisoners to Camp O'Donnell. The march, involving the forcible transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war[1] 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, cutting of throats and casual shootings were the more common actions—compared to instances of bayonet stabbing, rape, disembowelment, rifle butt beating and a deliberate refusal to allow the prisoners food or water while keeping them continually marching for nearly a week in tropical heat. Falling down or inability to continue moving was tantamount to a death sentence, as was any degree of protest or expression of displeasure.

Death March

The march began on 12 April 1942. Troops of injured and ailing POWs marched in a long column along the dusty road with no food or water during the first four days of their travel. They were mandated to walk the whole day long, even under the intense heat of the sun. Some of the men, weakened by fatigue and hunger, stumbled and fell out of line, usually leading to their deaths. Some of them were hit by the Japanese trucks passing by, or flattened by tanks. Others were hit by the "sparkling metal pieces" that were dropped by the Japanese planes. Some POWs tried to run to nearby fresh streams to drink and were struck down by the swords of the Japanese guards. They were only allowed to drink from dirty and contaminated streams. A large portion of the POWs died along the road without reaching their destination. The route starts from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga by marching , from San Fernando, Pampanga to Capas, Tarlac through train and Capas, Tarlac to Camp O' Donnell through marching. Many soldiers are died and suffer from heat, dehydration and sickness. However, some survived by "playing dead".

War crimes trial

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, an Allied commission convicted Masaharu 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. He was executed on April 3, 1946 outside Manila. For unknown reasons, the Allies did not attempt to prosecute Masanobu Tsuji for war crimes.

Last Reunion

On May 30, 2009, at the sixty-fourth and final reunion of Bataan Death March survivors in San Antonio, Texas, Japanese ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki apologized to the assembled survivors for the Japanese treatment of Allied prisoners of war, on behalf of the Japanese government.[2]



  1. Bataan Death March. Britannica Encyclopedia Online
  2. Video: An Apology to Vets. San Antonio Express-Light (May 30, 2009). Retrieved on 2009-05-30.

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