Bataan Death March
Overview
 
The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

, of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan
Battle of Bataan
The Battle of Bataan represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. The capture of the Philippine Islands was crucial to Japan's effort to control the Southwest Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast...

 in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of prisoners.

The 97 km (60.3 mi) march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse
Physical abuse
Physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.-Forms of physical abuse:*Striking*Punching*Belting*Pushing, pulling*Slapping*Whipping*Striking with an object...

 and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.
Encyclopedia
The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

, of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan
Battle of Bataan
The Battle of Bataan represented the most intense phase of Imperial Japan's invasion of the Philippines during World War II. The capture of the Philippine Islands was crucial to Japan's effort to control the Southwest Pacific, seize the resource-rich Dutch East Indies, and protect its Southeast...

 in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of prisoners.

The 97 km (60.3 mi) march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse
Physical abuse
Physical abuse is abuse involving contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm.-Forms of physical abuse:*Striking*Punching*Belting*Pushing, pulling*Slapping*Whipping*Striking with an object...

 and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.

Background

On April 3, 1942, after three months of siege, the Japanese Fourteenth Army, led by Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma
Masaharu Homma
was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army. He is noteworthy for his role in the invasion and occupation of the Philippines during World War II. Homma, who was an amateur painter and playwright, was also known as the Poet General.-Biography:...

 staged an attack on U.S.-Filipino forces in the Bataan Peninsula. The siege had weakened the U.S.-Filipino forces, who were suffering extensively from malnutrition and disease. The attack smashed their defensive lines, leading to a surrender by U.S. Major General Edward P. King
Edward P. King
Edward Postell King Jr. was a Major General in the United States Army who gained prominence for leading the defense of the Bataan Peninsula in the Battle of Bataan against the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II.-Education:...

. The Japanese planned the march in order to move 78,000 prisoners from the southern Bataan Peninsula, removing them from the theater of operations, in preparation for their siege of Corregidor
Corregidor
Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of...

.

There were several motivations for ordering the march. The POWs would have placed a large burden on the Japanese logistics system as they attempted a military buildup along the coast in preparation for the assault on Corregidor. Homma was also planning an amphibious assault, but wanted the U.S. troops at Corregidor to believe that he planned to use blockade and bombardment, and did not want American troops nearby as his Army practiced amphibious landing tactics. Also, the prisoners and their guards would be subject to U.S. artillery bombardment if they remained near the theater of operations.

The original plan for prisoner transport had been designed in advance of the operation. The Japanese Army at Bataan was not a highly motorized force, and did not have vehicles to spare that could be used to transport the prisoners, so marching them was the only means of relocating them. They were to be marched 25 miles to the central collection point of Balanga, after which they would be marched an additional 31 miles to the town of San Fernando. From there, they were to be transferred by rail to Capas
Capas, Tarlac
Capas is a first class municipality in the province of Tarlac, Philippines. According to the latest census, it has a population of 122,084 people in 18,333 households. It is a part of the Third Municipal district of Tarlac with Mayor Antonio "TJ" Capitulo Rodriguez, Jr. as its incumbent Mayor and...

, where they would then be marched 9 miles to the abandoned military outpost Camp O'Donnell
Camp O'Donnell
Camp O'Donnell was a facility of the United States Air Force in Capas, Tarlac, The Philippines. Before the facility was transferred to the Air Force, it was first a Philippine Constabulary post then a United States Army facility....

.

A march of 15 miles a day was considered standard for the Japanese army, whereas 20 miles was achievable by U.S. troops only under the best of conditions (and in this case, the U.S. troops were exhausted after five days of battle, malnourished, and suffering from a host of tropical diseases). The plan anticipated only 25,000 prisoners, and had presumed that the Americans would hold out for a month longer than they did (by which time supply lines would be in place to support the prisoners). The Japanese, unaware that the U.S. troops had been on reduced rations, and also that they were suffering so badly from disease, had planned to have the prisoners marched to Balanga in a day, and did not have plans to distribute food to the prisoners until they arrived at this collection point (after which they had three resupply points set up).

The march of death

The Japanese were clearly unprepared for the volume of prisoners that they were suddenly responsible for, and there was no organized plan for how to handle them. Prisoners were stripped of their weapons and valuables, and told to march to Balanga. Many were beaten and mistreated. The first major atrocity occurred when between 350 and 400 Filipino officers and NCOs were summarily executed after they had surrendered.
Because of the lack of preparation to supply the prisoners with food or water until they had reached Balanga, many of the prisoners died along the way of heat or exhaustion. Prisoners were given no food for the first three days, and were only allowed to drink water from filthy water buffalo
Water buffalo
The water buffalo is a domesticated bovid widely kept in Asia, Europe and South America.Water buffalo can also refer to:*Wild water buffalo , the wild ancestor of the domestic water buffalo...

 wallows
Buffalo wallow
A buffalo wallow or bison wallow is a natural topographical depression in the flat prairie land that holds rain water and runoff.Originally this would have served as a temporary watering hole for wildlife, including the North American buffalo...

 on the side of the road. Furthermore, Japanese troops would frequently beat and bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 prisoners who began to fall behind, or were unable to walk. Once they arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to rapidly spread amongst the prisoners. The Japanese failed to provide them with medical care, leaving U.S. medical personnel to tend to the sick and wounded (with little or no supplies).

In June, 2001 U.S. Congressional Representative Dana Rohrabacher
Dana Rohrabacher
Dana Tyron Rohrabacher is the U.S. Representative for , and previously the 45th and 42nd, serving since 1989. He is a member of the Republican Party...

 described the horrors and brutality that the prisoners experienced on the march:
"They were beaten, and they were starved as they marched. Those who fell were bayoneted. Some of those who fell were beheaded by Japanese officers who were practicing with their samurai swords from horseback. The Japanese culture at that time reflected the view that any warrior who surrendered had no honor; thus was not to be treated like a human being. Thus they were not committing crimes against human beings.[...] The Japanese soldiers at that time [...] felt they were dealing with subhumans and animals."


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 harassed with random bayonet stabs and beatings.

From San Fernando, the prisoners were transported by rail to Capas. 100 or more prisoners were stuffed into each of the trains' boxcars, which were unventilated and sweltering in the tropical heat. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll of the prisoners. After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final 9 miles to Camp O'Donnell. Even after arriving at Camp O'Donnell, the survivors of the march 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 on the outside of the barbed wire surrounding the compound.

The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards (although many were killed during their escapes), and it is not known 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 died before they could reach Camp O'Donnell.

Public responses

Japanese

In an attempt to counter the propaganda value of the march, the Japanese had The Manila Times claim 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 their men were on the verge of death.

United States

The Bataan Death March, and other Japanese actions, were used to arouse fury in the United States. 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 from the march.

General Marshall made the following statement about the march:
Retired Army Capt. Tom Harrison, 93 of Utah is the last known survivor left from his 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 with the 31st Infantry. He is a full-blood member of the Muskogee Nation.

War crimes trial

In December 1943, Homma was selected as the minister of information for the incoming prime minister, Kuniaki Koiso
Kuniaki Koiso
- Notes :...

. In September 1945, he was arrested by Allied troops, and indicted for war crimes. Homma was charged with 43 different counts of crimes against humanity. The court found that Homma had permitted his troops 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. On February 26, 1946 he was sentenced to death by firing squad. He was executed on April 3, 1946 outside Manila
Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

.
Also in Japan, Generals Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō
Hideki Tōjō was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army , the leader of the Taisei Yokusankai, and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II, from 17 October 1941 to 22 July 1944...

 (later Prime Minister), Kenji Doihara
Kenji Doihara
was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. He was instrumental in the Japanese invasion of Manchuria for which he earned fame taking the nickname 'Lawrence of Manchuria', a reference to the Lawrence of Arabia....

, Seishirō Itagaki, Heitarō Kimura, Iwane Matsui
Iwane Matsui
was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army and the commander of the expeditionary forces sent to China in World War II. He was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by hanging by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East for responsibility over the Nanking Massacre.-Early life...

 and Akira Mutō
Akira Muto
- Notes :...

, and Baron Kōki Hirota
Koki Hirota
was a Japanese diplomat, politician and the 32nd Prime Minister of Japan from March 9, 1936 to February 2, 1937.-Early life:Hirota was born in what is now part of Chūō-ku, Fukuoka city, Fukuoka Prefecture. His father was a stonemason, and he was adopted into the Hirota family. After attending...

 were found guilty and responsible for the brutal maltreatment of American and Filipino
Filipino people
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....

 POW's, and were executed by hanging at Sugamo Prison
Sugamo Prison
Sugamo Prison was located in the district of Ikebukuro, which is now part of the Toshima ward of Tokyo, Japan-History:...

 in Ikebukuro
Ikebukuro
is a commercial and entertainment district in Toshima, Tokyo, Japan. Toshima ward offices, Ikebukuro station, and several shops, restaurants, and enormous department stores are located within city limits....

 on December 23, 1948. Several others were sentenced to imprisonment of between 7 and 22 years.

Memorials and commemorative events

In many places throughout the United States, and in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, there exist dozens of memorials (such as monuments, plaques and schools) dedicated to the U.S. and Filipino prisoners who 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.

See also

  • The 1945 March
    The March (1945)
    "The March" refers to a series of death marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in...

  • 2005 anti-Japanese demonstrations
  • Anti-Japanese sentiment
    Anti-Japanese sentiment
    Anti-Japanese sentiment involves hatred, grievance, distrust, dehumanization, intimidation, fear, hostility, and/or general dislike of the Japanese people and Japanese diaspora as ethnic or national group, Japan, Japanese culture, and/or anything Japanese. Sometimes the terms Japanophobia and...


Bataan Death March prisoners
  • Battle of the Philippines (1941–42)
  • List of Japanese war atrocities
  • Raid at Cabanatuan
    Raid at Cabanatuan
    The Raid at Cabanatuan was a rescue of Allied prisoners of war and civilians from a Japanese camp near Cabanatuan City, in the Philippines...

  • Sandakan Death Marches
    Sandakan Death Marches
    The Sandakan Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau which resulted in the deaths of more than 3,600 Indonesian civilian slave labourers and 2,400 Allied prisoners of war held captive by the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II at prison...

  • The Great Raid
    The Great Raid
    The Great Raid is a 2005 war film about the Raid at Cabanatuan, adapted from William Breuer's book of the same name. It tells the story of the January 1945 liberation of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp on the Philippine island of Luzon during World War II. It is directed by John Dahl and stars Benjamin...

     (2005)
  • Ghost Soldiers
    Ghost Soldiers
    Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission is a non-fiction book, written by Hampton Sides, about the World War II Allied prison camp raid at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. It was first published in 2001....

    : The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission, (2001)

External links

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