This Day In History: The Bataan Death March Began
This day in history, April 10, 1942, one day after the surrender of the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese, roughly 70,000 to 80,000 Filipino and American troops were forcibly transferred from Saisaih Point, Bagac, Bataan and Mariveles to a prison camp named Camp O’Donnell.
The transfer began on April 9, 1942 and on April 10, the prisoners were forced to march roughly 65 miles with little to no food or water. Prisoners were subjected to severe physical abuse, including being beaten and tortured. The “sun treatment” was a commonly used form of torture where prisoners were forced to sit under the sunlight naked. Some were forced to sit within sight of fresh water. Those who asked for water were shot and killed. Men who were too tired to march were run over by trucks or killed.
Many prisoners contracted diseases due to poor hygiene and overcrowded conditions. The Japanese provided no medical care to those who became sick.
Tens of thousands died on the way to Camp O’Donnell. It is unknown how many died during the march, but credible sources say that between 5,000 and 18,000 Filipinos died and between 500 and 650 Americans died.
The day after Japan bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines began. One month later, the Japanese had captured the capital of the Philippines and the U.S. and Filipino defenders of Luzon were forced to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula.
For the next three months, the combined U.S.-Filipino army, under the command of U.S. General Jonathan Wainwright, held out despite a lack of naval and air support. On April 7, with his army crippled by starvation and disease, Wainwright began withdrawing as many troops as possible to Corregidor in Manila Bay. Two days later, 75,000 Allied troops were trapped by the Japanese and forced to surrender. The next day, the Bataan Death March began.
Every year, the Philippines pays homage to the victims of the Bataan Death on Bataan Day. Those that take part in it, walk along part of the death march route.