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The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer, by the ImperialJapanese Army, of 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-monthBattle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II, which resulted in the deaths ofthousands of prisoners. The 70 mile march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder,and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by theJapanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanesewar crime. On April 3, 1942, after three months of siege, the Japanese Fourteenth Army, ledby Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma staged an attack on U.S.-Filipino forces in theBataan Peninsula. The siege had weakened the U.S.-Filipino forces, who were sufferingextensively from malnutrition and disease. The attack smashed their defensive lines,leading to surrender by U.S. Major General Edward P. King. The Japanese planned themarch in order to move 78,000 prisoners from the southern Bataan Peninsula, removingthem from the theater of operations, in preparation for their siege of Corregidor. They were to be marched 25 miles to the central collection point of Balanga, afterwhich they would be marched an additional 31 miles to the town of San Fernando. FromSan Fernando, the prisoners were transported by rail to Capas. 100 or more prisonerswere stuffed into each of the trains boxcars, which were unventilated and sweltering inthe tropical heat. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take aheavy toll of the prisoners. After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final 9miles to Camp ODonnell. Even after arriving at Camp ODonnell, the survivors of themarch continued to die at a rate of 30–50 per day, leading to thousands more deaths.Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese dug out with bulldozers onthe outside of the barbed wire surrounding the compound. Prisoners were stripped of their weapons and valuables, and told to march toBalanga. Many were beaten and mistreated. The first major atrocity occurred whenbetween 350 and 400 Filipino officers and NCOs were summarily executed after they hadsurrendered.
Dead soldiers on the Bataan Death March Because of the lack of preparation to supply the prisoners with food or water untilthey had reached Balanga, many of the prisoners died along the way of heat orexhaustion. Prisoners were given no food for the first three days, and were only allowedto drink water from filthy water buffalo wallows on the side of the road. Furthermore,Japanese troops would frequently beat and bayonet prisoners who began to fall behind, orwere unable to walk. Once they arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poorhygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to rapidly spread amongst the prisoners. TheJapanese failed to provide them with medical care, leaving U.S. medical personnel totend to the sick and wounded (with little or no supplies).Prisoners on the march from Bataan to the prison camp, May 1942. (National Archives). Trucks were known to drive over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue,and "cleanup crews" put to death those too weak to continue. Marchers were harassedwith random bayonet stabs and beatings.
The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were ableto escape from their guards (although many were killed during their escapes), and it is notknown how many died in the fighting that was taking place concurrently. All told,approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war diedbefore they could reach Camp ODonnell.U. S. Army personnel toiled to identify the charred remains of Americans captured at Bataan andburned alive on Palawan. Picture shows charred remains being interred in grave. March 20, 1945Japanese In an attempt to counter the propaganda value of the march, the Japanese had TheManila Times claim that the prisoners were treated humanely and their death rate had tobe attributed to the intransigence of the American commanders who did not surrenderuntil their men were on the verge of death.United States The Bataan Death March, and other Japanese actions, were used to arouse fury inthe United States. It was not until January 27, 1944 that the U.S. government informedthe American public about the march, when it released sworn statements of militaryofficers who had escaped from the march. General Marshall made the following statement about the march:These brutal reprisals upon helpless victims evidence the shallow advance from savagerywhich the Japanese people have made. We serve notice upon the Japanese military andpolitical 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 aboriginalbarbaric instincts.
Retired Army Capt. Tom Harrison, 93 of Utah is the last known survivor left fromhis unit. He was recently awarded numerous medals for his heroic actions during WWII. Philip Coon, 92, of Oklahoma is also a survivor. He was a private first class withthe 31st Infantry. He is a full-blood member of the Muskogee Nation.News of the Bataan Death March sparked outragein the US, as reflected in this poster.Crimes: In December 1943, Homma was selected as the minister of information for theincoming Prime Minister, Kuniaki Koiso. In September 1945, he was arrested by Alliedtroops, and indicted for war crimes. Homma was charged with 43 different counts ofcrimes against humanity. The court found that Homma had permitted his troops tocommit "brutal atrocities and other high crimes". The general, who had been absorbed inhis efforts to capture Corregidor after the fall of Bataan, claimed in his defense that heremained ignorant of the high death toll of the death march until two months after theevent. On February 26, 1946 he was sentenced to death by firing squad. He was executedon April 3, 1946 outside Manila. Also in Japan, Generals Hideki Tōjō (later PrimeMinister), Kenji Doihara, Seishirō Itagaki, Heitarō Kimura, Iwane Matsui and AkiraMutō, and Baron Kōki Hirota were found guilty and responsible for the brutalmaltreatment of American and Filipino POWs, and were executed by hanging at SugamoPrison in Ikebukuro on December 23, 1948. Several others were sentenced toimprisonment of between 7 and 22 years.
Prisoners marching on the trail.Captured Japanese photo shows American prisoners using improvised litters to carry comradeswho fell along the road from the lack of food or water. This is one of the few photos of the actualBataan Death March, from the National Archives. Dated May 1942.
The prisoners were forced to keep walking with no food.Their body just kept eating away at itself, until the person died.Bodies of the dead were thrown into a mass grave.