This Day in WWII: (1942) The Bataan Death March Begins

After more than three months of fighting the Japanese while trapped in the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula, 76,000 starving, sick Filipino and American soldiers surrendered on April 9, 1942.

Starving defenders of Bataan surrender after fighting for three months. April 9, 1942

The next day, April 10, the prisoners, weak from starvation, many sick from malaria and dengue fever, are rounded up by Japanese solders in preparation to marching them 70 miles to a prison camp converted from an army training camp — Camp O’Donnell.

Given little to no food or water, and no medicine, the men were beaten mercilessly, sometimes tortured simply for sport. In addition to malaria and fever, dysentery ran rampant. Those prisoners who collapsed in the heat were bayoneted or shot where they fell. Those who could not get to their feet in the morning were murdered or buried alive. Sometimes, prisoners were forced to stand in the heat in front of a brook of fresh water. Any who broke ranks to get some water were bayoneted, shot, or beheaded by Japanese officers.

Prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs during the Bataan Death March

It is estimated that 54,000 men out of the 76,000 who surrendered on April 9th, 1942 survived the Bataan Death March. With little food and no medical supplies, hundreds more died every day at Camp O’Donnell.

Burying the dead at Camp O’Donnell

After the war, Masaharu Homma , the commanding general of the Imperial Japanese Army in the invasion of the Philippines, who troops perpetrated widespread atrocities, including the Bataan Death March, was found guilty of crimes against humanity by a military tribunal and executed by firing squad.

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