WWII Poster that urges civilian workers to
"Remember Bataan and Corregidor." National
Archives image ARC 515483
During the fight for the island nation in early 1942, American and Filipino forces withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula on the north end of the opening to Manila Bay, on the west coast of the island of Luzon. Allied forces, without reinforcement or resupply, held out for almost five months before surrendering on April 9, 1942. Approximately 76,000 Allied soldiers (just short of 12,000 Americans, the rest Filipino) became prisoners of war. Almost a month later, the island fortress of Corregidor in Manila Bay surrendered, with nearly 15,000 (a majority of American) Allied soldiers following their comrades into captivity.
The Japanese force marched their prisoners, who were sick, exhausted, and diseased, over sixty miles non-stop to prison camps in the interior of Luzon. Exact casualty figures are not possible, but it is estimated that between five and ten thousand Filipino soldiers and from six hundred to a thousand Americans died on what became known to history as the "Bataan Death March." Thousands more would die in POW camps before being liberated in 1945. The news of these atrocities of course made it back to the United States. During the war the public was galvanized in their resolve to win the war with "Remember Bataan," "Remember Corregidor," as well as "Remember Pearl Harbor."
Both soldiers and civilians participate in the Bataan Memorial
Death March through the desert at While Sands, NM to honor
WWII veterans of the tragic Bataan Death March of WWII.
Now in its 24th year, the memorial march is a rough 26.2 miles through the desert at high elevation. Both civilians and soldiers come to march (and many to run) the course to honor those veterans who suffered through the original Death March. This year there were thirteen veterans able to attend the memorial and witness over three thousand take to the route to honor their service and sacrifice. The weather in New Mexico, apparently dry and in the mid-seventies, probably seemed perfect for the event. Compare that to the forecast for Manila, which was 96 degrees with over 60% humidity.
The Bataan Memorial Death March now has a long list of sponsors, most notably the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). But I'd like first throw out a "well done!" to the ROTC cadets who organized this event in the first place. And second, give a shout out to the folks who take the time to travel out to a military reservation out in the desert and gut out twenty-six as their way of showing these veterans that we remember. Keep this on your radar. Who knows, maybe one day we'll see each other there.