The Bataan Death March, 1942

The Bataan Death March, 1942


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The U.S. had only been involved in World War II for about a year before they were forced to surrender on April 9t, 1942 to Japan in the Philippines at the Bataan Peninsula, located on the island of Luzon.  American and Filipino defenders were first pushed to the peninsula in 1941 when Japan invaded the Philippines.

After surrendering, the US-Filipino troops were forced to walk 65 miles across the length of the entire island just to end up in concentration/work camps. You were not allowed to stop to use the bathroom or eat/drink or else you would be shot. At the end of a long day of walking, the Japanese would take the prisoners to the rice paddies and farm fields were they would immediately pass out from exhaustion. Thousands died making this journey due to mistreatment and starvation. This event is known as the Bataan Death March.

On the first day, I saw two things I will never forget. A Filipino man had been beheaded. His body lay on the ground with blood everywhere. His head was a short distance away. Also, there was a dead Filipino woman with her legs spread apart and her dress pulled up over her. She obviously had been raped and there was a bamboo stake in her private area. These are instances I would like to forget.” – A first person account of the Bataan Death march

In most history classes, we learn about the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma and the concentration camps used to contain Jewish/Japanese people during World War II, but there is no mention of the Bataan Death March. I think it’s important to know every gruesome aspect of our history in order to understand how we got here today and what we went through to be here.  When we know about the gruesomeness of war it helps us avoid it in the future.  It would be interesting to know if the US commanders learned any lessons from the fighting in the Philippines.  Also, I have little to no understanding of the politics of the Philippines or other island nations the U.S. has had close relations with.


US-Filipino troops were forced to walk this path from the southern part of the island to the center, taking 6 days.