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The Bataan Death March

Updated February 15, 2019

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The Bataan Death March essay

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The Bataan Death March The Bataan Death March, which was started on December 7, 1941, happened shortly after the bombing of Pearl Habor. The Bataan Death March was significant in many different ways. The Bataan Death March started when nearly 70,000 Americans and Filipinos were captured and made POW’s (Prisoners Of War) by the Japanese.

The prisoners were forced to march 55 miles, on the way there they were beaten with sticks, kicked, and badly abused. Every time someone would fall down, he would be shot. Only 54,000 made it to camp. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Habor. The Amereican Pacific Navel Fleet suffered heavy losses in lives and ships. On December 8, 1941, Japan launched an aerial attack on the Philippines.

Inexperianced troops failed to stop the Japanese at Northern Luzon and Southern Mindanao Islands (the Japanese landing points). The Filipino-American forces mission was to lay down a bunt. They were to stall the Japanese advancement by forcing them to use their troops and resources in the capturing of the Philippines, for as long as possible. This would buy the needed time to rebuild the American Pacific Fleet.

The Filipino-American Defense of Bataan was dirupted by many factors such as, a shortage of food, ammunition, medicine, and attendant materials. Most of the ammunition as old and corroded. Tanks, trucks, and other vehicles were in short suply, along with gasoline needed to power them. Disease, malnutrition, fatigue, and lack of basic supplies took their toll. On March 11, 1942 General MacArthur was ordered to Australia, General Wainwright took his place in Corregidor, as commander of Philippine forces. General King took Wainwrights place as commander of Filipino-American forces in Bataan.

Later in March, General King and his staff determined the Filipino-American forces in Bataan could only fight 30 percent of their efficiency due to malnutrition, disease, lack of ammunition and basic supplies, and fatigue. On April 9, 1942, General King surrendered his forces on Bataan, after the Japanese broke through the last main line of resistance. The Filipino-American soldiers were assembled in various parts in Bataan by the Japanese, but mostly assembled in Mariveles, the southern most tip of the Peninsula. American trucks were available to transport the prisoners but the Japanese decided to march the Defenders of Bataan to their destinations. This march was to be known as the “Death March.” The “Death March” was actually a series of marches, which had lasted five to nine days.

The distance a captive had to march was determined by where on the trail the captive had began the march. The basic trail of the Death March a 55-mile march from Mariveles, Bataan, to San Fernando, Pangpanga. At San Fernando, the prisoners were placed into train-cars, made for cargo, and railed to Capas, Tarlac, a distance of around 24 miles. Dozens died standing up in the railroad cars, as the cars were so cramped that there was no room for the dead to fall. They were, then, marched another six miles to their final destination, Camp O’Donnell. Several thousand men died on the Death March.

Many died, because they were not in any physical condition to undertake such a march. Once on the march, they were not given any food or water. Japanese soldiers killed many of them through various means. Also, POWs were repeatedly beaten and treated inhumanely, as they marched. Approximately, 1,600 Americans died in the first forty days in Camp O’Donnell.

Almost 20,000 Filipinos died in their first four months of captivity in the same camp. The healthier prisoners took turns burying their comrades into mass graves, where soon enough, they would be buried, days or weeks later. Camp O’Donnell did not have the sanitation sub-structure or water supply necessary to hold such a large amount of men. Many died from diseases they had since Bataan. Many caught new diseases while at the Camp. There was little medicine available to the prisoners.

Their inadequate diets also contributed to the high death rate. Diseases such as dysentery, from a lack of safe drinking water, and Beri-Beri, from malnutrition were common to the POWs. The Japanese soldiers continued to murder and miss-treat their captives. Due to the high death rate in Camp O’Donnell, the Japanese transferred all Americans to Cabanatuan, north of Camp O’Donnell, on June 6, 1942, leaving behind five hundred as caretakers and for funeral details. They in-turn were sent to Cabanatuan on July 5, 1942.

The Filipino prisoners were paroled, beginning in July, 1942. Cabanatuan was the camp in which the men from Corregidor were first united with the men from Bataan. No Americans, (There were Philippine Scouts and some men from the Philippine Army, captured in Corregidor, who were interned in Camp O’Donnell.). from Corregidor ever made the Death March or were imprisoned in Camp O’Donnell. Not having suffered the extreme depravations and conditions endured by the men from Bataan, the prisoners from Corregidor were, overall, much healthier.

Cabanatuan, for most prisoners, ended up being a temporary camp. The Japanese had a policy (which was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention) that prisoners were to be used as a source of labor. They sent most of the prisoners, from Cabanatuan, to various other camps in the Philippines, China, Japan, and Korea, where they were used as slave labor. Some worked in mines, others in farms, others in factories, and others unloading ships in Port Areas, for the remainder of the war. Each subsequent prison camp, after Cabanatuan, has a story of it’s own.

Left behind, in Cabanatuan, were, approximately, 511 officers and the prisoners too sick to move (and most of those too sick to move never recovered and died in Cabanatuan). Towards the end of the war, most of the men who stayed behind were placed on ships and sent to other camps, in Japan, Korea, and China. The Japanese did not mark these ships, to note that there were prisoners on board. They were bombed and torpedoed by American planes and submarines.

Most of these men died, by drowning at sea. Most prisoners who left Cabanatuan in 1942, were sent to the other countries mentioned, in ships appropriately called, Hell Ships. These Hell Ships sailed from Manila to their various destinations in Japan, Korea, or China. As mentioned earlier, the Japanese did not mark these ships as being prison ships, so they were targets for American planes and submarines. Thousands of Americans, who were passengers on these ships, met their deaths by drowning at sea. The conditions on these ships are indescribable and far worse than the conditions endured in Death March and Camp O’Donnell.

For the remaining three years of their captivity, the Defenders of Bataan were spread throughout the various slave labor camps in Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines, until each camp was individually liberated, in 1945. These prisoners endured the whims of their brutal captors, with similar conditions and miss-treatment as those experienced in the Death March, and Camp O’Donnell, and the uncertainty of when, if ever, their captivity would end. Coming from the warm tropical climate of the Philippines, the men sent to Japan, Korea, and China had to adjust to the sub-freezing temperatures of Northern Asia, without the proper personal equipment and indoor heating to survive such cold temperatures. In Manchuria, China, the POWs, who died in the winter, were placed in an unheated shack for their bodies to freeze, because the ground was so frozen and hard t After they were released, these men were sent to various military hospitals for physical examinations.

Many of their ailments, due to malnutrition, went undiagnosed. Many of the systemic fevers they had contracted went undiagnosed. More importantly, the psychological scars they suffered were never recognized. It was not until years after the Vietnam War, the US government recognized Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD as a legitimate disorder.

It is safe to say, each of these men has carried these scars for the rest of their lives, and indirectly, so did their families. Bibliography Bibliography Bastards of Bataan.html tml pac/bat.htm,517, worldnet-DIR-33484,00.html

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