The Bataan Death March (Filipino: Martsa ng Kamatayan sa Bataan; Japanese: バターン死の行進, Hepburn: Batān Shi no Kōshin) was the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60,000–80,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war from Saysain Point, Bagac, Bataan and Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, via San Fernando, Pampanga, where the prisoners were loaded onto trains. The transfer began on April 9, 1942, after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II. The total distance marched from Mariveles to San Fernando and from the Capas Train Station to Camp O'Donnell is variously reported by differing sources as between 60 and 69.6 miles (96.6 and 112.0 km). Differing sources also report widely differing prisoner of war casualties prior to reaching Camp O'Donnell: from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march. The march was characterized by severe physical abuse and wanton killings, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.
|Bataan Death March|
|Part of the Battle of Bataan, World War II|
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.
|Casualties and losses|
When General MacArthur returned to active duty, the latest revision of plans for the defense of the Philippine Islands—called WPO-3—was politically unrealistic, assuming a conflict only involving the United States and Japan, not the combined Axis powers. However, the plan was tactically sound, and its provisions for defense were applicable under any local situation.
Under WPO-3, the mission of the Philippine garrison was to hold the entrance to Manila Bay and deny its use to Japanese naval forces. If the enemy prevailed, the Americans were to make every attempt to hold back the Japanese advance while withdrawing to the Bataan Peninsula, which was recognized as the key to the control of Manila Bay. It was to be defended to the "last extremity." General MacArthur assumed command of the Allied army in July 1941 and rejected WPO-3 as defeatist, preferring a more aggressive course of action. He recommended—among other things—a coastal defense strategy that would include the entire archipelago. His recommendations were followed in the plan that was eventually approved.
The main force of General Masaharu Homma's 14th Army came ashore at Lingayen Gulf on the morning of December 22. The defenders failed to hold the beaches. By the end of the day, the Japanese had secured most of their objectives and were in position to emerge onto the central plain. Late on the afternoon of the 23rd Wainwright telephoned General MacArthur's headquarters in Manila and informed him that any further defense of the Lingayen beaches was "impracticable." He requested and was given permission to withdraw behind the Agno River. MacArthur decided to abandon his own plan for defense and revert to WPO-3, evacuating President Manuel L. Quezon, High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre, their families, and his own headquarters to Corregidor on the 24th. A rear echelon, headed by the deputy chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Richard J. Marshall, remained behind in Manila to close out the headquarters and to supervise the shipment of supplies and the evacuation of the remaining troops.
On December 26 Manila was officially declared an open city and MacArthur's proclamation was published in the newspapers and broadcast over the radio.
Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma and his staff encountered almost twice as many captives as his reports had estimated, creating an enormous logistical challenge: the transport and movement of over sixty-thousand starved, sick, and debilitated prisoners and over thirty eight thousand equally weakened civilian noncombatants that had been caught up in the battle. He wanted to move prisoners and refugees to the north to get them out of the way of Homma's final assault on Corregidor, but there was simply not enough mechanized transport to move the masses of wounded, sick, and weakened remainder of troops.
As the defeated defenders were massed in preparation for the march, they were ordered to turn over their possessions. American Lieutenant Kermit Lay recounted how this was done:
They pulled us off into a rice paddy and began shaking us down. There [were] about a hundred of us so it took time to get to all of us. Everyone had pulled their pockets wrong side out and laid all their things out in front. They were taking jewelry and doing a lot of slapping. I laid out my New Testament. ... After the shakedown, the Japs took an officer and two enlisted men behind a rice shack and shot them. The men who had been next to them said they had Japanese souvenirs and money.
Word quickly spread among the prisoners to conceal or destroy any Japanese money or mementos, as the captors assumed it had been stolen from dead Japanese soldiers.
Prisoners started out from Mariveles on April 10, and Bagac on April 11, converging in Pilar, Bataan, and heading north to the San Fernando railhead. At the beginning of capture there were rare instances of kindness by Japanese officers and those Japanese soldiers who spoke English, such as sharing of food and cigarettes and permitting personal possessions to be kept. This was fast followed by unrelenting brutality, theft, and even knocking men's teeth out for gold fillings, as the common Japanese soldier had also suffered in the Battle for Bataan and had nothing but disgust and hatred for his "captives" (Japan did not recognize these people as POWs). The first atrocity—attributed to Colonel Masanobu Tsuji—occurred when approximately 350 to 400 Filipino officers and NCOs under his supervision were summarily executed in the Pantingan River massacre after they had surrendered. Tsuji—acting against General Homma's wishes that the prisoners be transferred peacefully—had issued clandestine orders to Japanese officers to summarily execute all American "captives." Although some Japanese officers ignored the orders, others were receptive to the idea of murdering POWs.
During the march, prisoners received little food or water, and many died. Prisoners were subjected to severe physical abuse, including being beaten and tortured. On the march, the "sun treatment" was a common form of torture. Prisoners were forced to sit in sweltering direct sunlight, without helmets or other head covering. Anyone who asked for water was shot dead. Some men were told to strip naked or sit within sight of fresh, cool water. Trucks drove over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue, and "cleanup crews" put to death those too weak to continue, though some trucks picked up some of those too fatigued to continue. Some marchers were randomly stabbed by bayonets or beaten.
Once the surviving prisoners arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to spread rapidly. The Japanese did not provide the prisoners with medical care, so U.S. medical personnel tended to the sick and wounded with few or no supplies. Upon arrival at the San Fernando railhead, prisoners were stuffed into sweltering, brutally hot metal box cars for the one-hour trip to Capas, in 43 °C (110 °F) heat. At least 100 prisoners were pushed into each of the trains' unventilated boxcars. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll on the prisoners. According to Staff Sergeant Alf Larson:
The train consisted of six or seven World War I-era boxcars. ... They packed us in the cars like sardines, so tight you couldn't sit down. Then they shut the door. If you passed out, you couldn't fall down. If someone had to go to the toilet, you went right there where you were. It was close to summer and the weather was hot and humid, hotter than Billy Blazes! We were on the train from early morning to late afternoon without getting out. People died in the railroad cars.
Upon arrival at the Capas train station, they were forced to walk the final 14 km (9 mi) to Camp O'Donnell. Even after arriving at Camp O'Donnell, the survivors of the march continued to die at rates of up to several hundred per day, which amounted to a death toll of as many as 20,000 American and Filipino deaths. Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese had dug behind the barbed wire surrounding the compound. Of the estimated 80,000 POWs at the march, only 54,000 made it to Camp O'Donnell.
The total distance of the march from Mariveles to San Fernando and from Capas to Camp O'Donnell (which ultimately became the U.S. Naval Radio Transmitter Facility in Capas, Tarlac; 1962–1989) is variously reported by differing sources as between 96.6 and 112.0 km (60 and 69.6 mi). The Death March was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.
Credible sources report widely differing prisoner of war casualties prior to reaching their destination: from 5,000 to 18,000 Filipino deaths and 500 to 650 American deaths during the march.
It was not until January 27, 1944, that the U.S. government informed the American public about the march, when it released sworn statements of military officers who had escaped. Shortly thereafter the stories of these officers were featured in a LIFE magazine article. The Bataan Death March and other Japanese actions were used to arouse fury in the United States.
General George Marshall made the following statement:
These brutal reprisals upon helpless victims evidence the shallow advance from savagery which the Japanese people have made. ... We serve notice upon the Japanese military and political leaders as well as the Japanese people that the future of the Japanese race itself, depends entirely and irrevocably upon their capacity to progress beyond their aboriginal barbaric instincts.
In an attempt to counter the American propaganda value of the march, the Japanese had The Manila Times report that the prisoners were treated humanely and their death rate had to be attributed to the intransigence of the American commanders who did not surrender until the men were on the verge of death.
In September 1945, General Masaharu Homma was arrested by Allied troops and indicted for war crimes. Homma was charged with 43 different counts of crimes against humanity. Homma was found guilty of permitting members of his command to commit "brutal atrocities and other high crimes". 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. Homma's verdict was predicated on respondeat superior but with the added liability standard, since the latter could not be rebutted. On February 26, 1946, he was sentenced to death by firing squad, and was executed on April 3, 1946, outside Manila.
Also in Japan, Generals Hideki Tōjō (later Prime Minister), Kenji Doihara, Seishirō Itagaki, Heitarō Kimura, Iwane Matsui, and Akira Mutō, along with Baron Kōki Hirota, were found guilty and responsible for the maltreatment of American and Filipino POWs. They were executed by hanging at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro on December 23, 1948. Several others were sentenced to imprisonment between 7 and 22 years.
In 2012, film producer Jan Thompson created a film documentary about the Death March, POW camps, and Japanese hell ships titled Never the Same: The Prisoner-of-War Experience. The film reproduced scenes of the camps and ships showed drawings and writings of the prisoners, and featured Loretta Swit as the narrator.
On September 13, 2010, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada apologized to a group of six former American soldiers who had been held as prisoners of war by the Japanese, including 90-year-old Lester Tenney and Robert Rosendahl, both survivors of the Bataan Death March. The six, their families, and the families of two deceased soldiers were invited to visit Japan at the expense of the Japanese government.
Dozens of memorials (including monuments, plaques, and schools) dedicated to the prisoners who died during the Bataan Death March exist across the United States and in the Philippines. A wide variety of commemorative events are held to honor the victims, including holidays, athletic events such as ultramarathons, and memorial ceremonies held at military cemeteries.
On April 3, 2002, the memorial "Heroes of Bataan" was dedicated at Veteran's Park, Las Cruces, New Mexico. It depicts three soldiers assisting each other during the Bataan Death March. Two of the soldiers are modeled after the uncles of Las Cruces resident J. Joe Martinez, with the Filipino soldier modeled after a NCO stationed at WSMR (White Sands Missile Range) whose grandfather was killed during the March. Leading up to the statue is an area where footprints of survivors were cast in concrete.
The Bataan Death March had a large impact on the U.S. state of New Mexico, given that many of the U.S. soldiers in Bataan were from New Mexico, specifically from the 200th/515th Coast Artillery of the National Guard. The New Mexico National Guard Bataan Memorial Museum is located in the Armory where the soldiers of the 200th and 515th were processed before their deployment to the Philippines in 1941. Every year, in early spring, the Bataan Memorial Death March, a 42.2 km (26.2 mi) march/run is conducted at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. On March 19, 2017, over 6,300 participants queued up at the starting line for the 28th annual event, breaking not only all previous records of attendance but also the amount of non-perishable food collected for local food pantries and overall charitable goods donated. Out of all the veterans from New Mexico that survived the Bataan Death March, only four are still alive today.
As of 2012, there were fewer than 1,000 survivors of the March still living. The old state capitol building of New Mexico was renamed the Bataan Memorial Building and now houses several state government agency offices.
By the grace of God ... Author= Erwin Johnson. Survivor of the death martch
Adolph Daniel Edward Elmer (1870 – April 17, 1942) was an American botanist and plant collector.Elmer was born in 1870 in Van Dyne, Wisconsin, United States. He was educated at Washington State College and earned an A.M. from Stanford University in 1903. He made extensive plant collections in the Philippines from 1904 to 1927, and also in California, Borneo, and New Guinea. He was editor of Leaflets of Philippine Botany, where he published more than 1,500 new species.Despite the urging of family members, Elmer and his wife, Emma Osterman Elmer (1867–1956), refused to leave American-controlled Manila after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Elmer died of natural causes on April 17, 1942 or in July in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines . Emma Osterman Elmer survived internment and returned to the United States after the war.Back to Bataan
Back to Bataan is a 1945 American black-and-white World War II war film drama from RKO Radio Pictures, produced by Robert Fellows, directed by Edward Dmytryk, that stars John Wayne and Anthony Quinn. The film depicts events (some fictionalized and some actual) that took place after the Battle of Bataan (1941–42) on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The working title of the film was The Invisible Army.Battle of Bataan
The Battle of Bataan (Filipino: Labanan sa Bataan) (7 January – 9 April 1942) was a battle fought by the United States and the Philippines against Japan during World War II. The battle represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. In January 1942, forces of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy invaded Luzon along with several islands in the Philippine Archipelago after the bombing of the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.
The commander-in-chief of all U.S. and Filipino forces in the islands, General Douglas MacArthur, consolidated all of his Luzon-based units on the Bataan Peninsula to fight against the Japanese army. By this time, the Japanese controlled nearly all of Southeast Asia. The Bataan Peninsula and the island of Corregidor were the only remaining Allied strongholds in the region.
Despite a lack of supplies, American and Filipino forces managed to fight the Japanese for three months, engaging them initially in a fighting retreat southward. As the combined American and Filipino forces made a last stand, the delay cost the Japanese valuable time and prevented immediate victory across the Pacific. The American surrender at Bataan to the Japanese, with 76,000 soldiers surrendering in the Philippines altogether, was the largest in American and Filipino military histories, and was the largest United States surrender since the American Civil War's Battle of Harper's Ferry. Soon afterwards, U.S. and Filipino prisoners of war were forced into the Bataan Death March.Benigno G. Tabora
Benigno G. Tabora (November 20, 1915 – February 17, 2008) was a Filipino American veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. Tabora was one of the last of an increasingly dwindling group of veterans who survived the Bataan Death March in May 1942 after the Japanese captured the Philippines during World War II. He spent eight months as a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp. Tabora served in the military intelligence during his 31 years in the Army.Bert Bank
Bertram "Bert" Bank (September 1, 1914 – June 22, 2009) was an American politician, war hero and radio pioneer who was best known as the founder of the Alabama Football Radio Network. He was also the founder of two Tuscaloosa, Alabama radio stations (WTBC and WUOA) and wrote the book, Back From the Living Dead, about his experiences as a POW and Bataan Death March survivor.Capas, Tarlac
Capas, officially the Municipality of Capas, (Kapampangan: Balen ning Capas; Pangasinan: Baley na Capas; Ilokano: Ili ti Capas; Tagalog: Bayan ng Capas), is a 1st class urban municipality in the province of Tarlac, Philippines. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 140,202 people.As one of the richest towns in the province, it consists of numerous subdivisions and exclusive villages.
Capas is being dubbed as the “Tourism Capital of Tarlac”. Apart from being known as the final site of the infamous Bataan Death March, it is also known for Mount Pinatubo treks, where thousands of mountaineers and visitors go. The town has some industrial factories like the PilMiCo.
Capas is a part of the Third Municipal district of Tarlac with Noel L. Villanueva as the present Third District Representative of Tarlac.Charles S. Lawrence
Charles S. Lawrence (December 22, 1892 - June 12, 1970) was a United States Army colonel who would survive the Bataan Death March to later become the first Executive Vice President of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).Death march
A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees in which individuals are left to die along the way. It is distinguished in this way from simple prisoner transport via foot march. Death marches usually feature harsh physical labor and abuse, neglect of prisoner injury and illness, deliberate starvation and dehydration, humiliation and torture, and execution of those unable to keep up the marching pace. The march may end at a prisoner-of-war camp or internment camp, or it may continue until all the prisoners are dead (a form of "execution by labor", as seen in the Armenian genocide among other examples).
General Masaharu Homma was charged with failure to control his troops in 1945 in connection with the Bataan Death March.Ghost Soldiers
Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission (Doubleday, 2001) is a non-fiction book written by Hampton Sides. It is about the World War II Allied prison camp raid at Cabanatuan in the Philippines.James C. Spencer
James Clarence Spencer (May 11, 1914 – December 25, 2009) was a survivor of the Bataan Death March during World War II and a Democratic politician from Athens, the seat of Henderson County in east Texas.Joe Kieyoomia
Joe Kieyoomia (November 21, 1919 – February 17, 1997) was a Navajo soldier in New Mexico's 200th Coast Artillery unit who was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army after the fall of the Philippines in 1942 during World War II. Kieyoomia was a POW in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombing but survived, reportedly having been shielded from the effects of the bomb by the concrete walls of his cell.The Japanese tried unsuccessfully to have him decode messages in the "Navajo Code" used by the United States Marine Corps, but although Kieyoomia understood Navajo, the messages sounded like nonsense to him because even though the code was based on the Navajo language, it was decipherable only by individuals specifically trained in its usage.Kieyoomia is notable for having not only survived the Bataan death march and related internment and torture in a concentration camp, but also being a hibakusha (survivor of an atomic bomb blast).List of memorials to Bataan Death March victims
Across the United States, and in the Philippines there exist dozens of memorials, such as monuments, plaques and schools, dedicated to the U.S. and Filipino prisoners who suffered or died during the Bataan Death March. There is also a wide variety of commemorative events held to honor the victims, include holidays, athletic events such as marathons, and memorial ceremonies held at military cemeteries.Masanobu Tsuji
Masanobu Tsuji (辻 政信, Tsuji Masanobu, 11 October 1901 – ca.1961) was a Japanese army officer and politician. During World War II, he was an important tactical planner in the Imperial Japanese Army; he developed the detailed plans for the successful Japanese invasion of Malaya at the start of the war. He also helped plan and lead the final Japanese offensive during the Guadalcanal Campaign.
Tsuji was deeply involved in Japanese atrocities throughout the war, including Bataan Death March and Sook Ching. He evaded prosecution for war crimes at the end of the war, living in hiding in Thailand. He returned to Japan in 1949 and was elected to the Diet as an advocate of renewed militarism. In 1961, he disappeared on a trip to Laos.Tsuji was among the most aggressive and influential Japanese militarists. He was a leading proponent of the concept of gekokujō, "leading from below" or "loyal insubordination" by acting without or contrary to authorization. He incited the 1939 border clash with the USSR and was a vehement advocate of war with the United States.Ray C. Hunt
Ray C. Hunt (December 11, 1919 – June 17, 1996) was a staff sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps stationed at Nichols Field in the Philippines at the beginning of World War II, under the command of Ed Dyess. After the surrender at Bataan, where he fought as an infantryman, he was forced to take the Bataan Death March with many other American and Filipinos. During the March, he escaped and fled into the hills. He eventually became a noted guerrilla leader on Luzon, where he served for three years behind Japanese lines. Hunt was promoted to captain by guerrilla leaders during that time.Robert W. Levering
Robert Woodrow Levering (October 3, 1914 – August 11, 1989) was a U.S. Representative from Ohio, son-in-law of Usher L. Burdick and brother-in-law of Quentin N. Burdick.San Fernando railway station (Pampanga)
San Fernando City station or simply San Fernando station is a defunct railway station of the PNR Northrail line of Philippine National Railways. It is situated San Fernando, Pampanga. Historically, the old PNR train station was the site of a stopping place for Filipino and American prisoners of war during the Bataan death march in 1942.The station is a historical landmark in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, the Philippines.
The station has been closed since the ending of northbound rail services by Philippine National Railways over thirty years ago.Shin'yō Maru incident
The Shinyō Maru incident occurred in the Philippines on September 7, 1944, in the Pacific theater of World War II. In an attack on a Japanese convoy by the American submarine USS Paddle, 668 Allied prisoners of war were killed fighting their Japanese guards or killed when their ship, the SS Shinyō Maru was sunk. Only 82 Americans survived the ordeal and were later rescued.Teófilo Yldefonso
Teófilo E. Yldefonso (November 5, 1903 – June 19, 1942) was a Filipino breaststroke swimmer. He is the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to win an Olympic medal, and the only Filipino to win multiple medals.Women of Valor
Women of Valor is a 1986 American made-for-television war drama film about World War II, starring Susan Sarandon and Kristy McNichol and directed by Buzz Kulik. It premiered on CBS on November 23, 1986 and was released on DVD on March 10, 1998.