Posted: Thursday, April 08, 2010 by Travis Cody in

On 9 April 1942, after three months of fierce resistance, US and Philippine forces on Bataan surrendered and entered Japanese captivity.

Over 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American troops began the Bataan Death March a day later. Prisoners on the march from the peninsula on Bataan to POW camps were subjected to beatings, bayonet attacks, and the deliberate withholding of food and water. If anyone fell out, they were stabbed to death or beheaded. If anyone was caught assisting a straggler, both were put to death. Anyone rushing a well or stream for a sip of water was shot. Casualty estimates from the march range from a minimum of 6,000 to as many as 18,000.

Filipino civilians suffered if they tried to offer food or water, or simply a small gesture of comfort to the prisoners.

Japan was not a signatory to the Geneva Conventions until 1953, and so no mind was paid to the well being of prisoners during World War II. Japanese high command did not supervise or visit POW camps, leaving local commanders to do as they saw fit. Many unsupervised low ranking Japanese soldiers brutalized the prisoners simply because there was no one in authority around to stop them.

The perpetrators of the deliberate, systematic, and wanton cruelty to prisoners of war were ultimately subjected to war crimes trials. Japanese General Masaharu Homma was convicted for his part in allowing the atrocities of the march on Bataan and later in POW camps. He was executed on 3 April 1946.

The fighting on Bataan delayed the relentless Japanese march across the Pacific long enough to allow the US to organize and prepare in the wake of the losses to the American naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. Remaining ships were formed into task forces, and the US capably prepared to meet the Japanese in the Coral Sea and at Midway. The cost was heavy for the survivors of the battles in the Philippines.

There are fewer than 75 survivors of the march left alive today.

My stepfather's father and four uncles fought in World War II. One of those men was captured on Bataan and survived the march and his years as a POW. I never got a chance to meet him. According to my stepdad, his uncle never spoke of his experience other than to declare that he would never forgive the Japanese.


  1. Anonymous says:

    I'm so sorry to hear that one of your stepdad's uncles went through that terrible experience - and that he survived is extraordinary! It's of little consequence, perhaps, but when my daughter studied WWII in high school, I made her walk 100 miles in honor of those who marched on Bataan. We did ten miles a day in silence. And so . . . for your stepdad's uncle's suffering . . . my sorrow and my thanks.

  1. Of such experiences are long term hates borne.

  1. Jamie says:

    Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting a man who had survived Bataan as he worked with my husband at Sylvania. No one I've met since has seemed so alive.

    Here is an article on some of the other similar events in the Pacific region. It's not easy to read about, but is fascinating history. Massacres and Atrocities

  1. Akelamalu says:

    One of my husband's uncles was a POW of the Japanese and would never talk of his experience either. One can only presume it was just too terrible. :(

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    I never heard of Bataan. Thank you for educating me. My grandpa was in WWII and never talked about it either. I can not even imagine what those boys went through...

  1. I've never heard of Bataan, either. This was educational. Thank you.

    My paternal grandfather was one of the people from Malaya who was forced to work on the Death Railway during the japanese occupation in asia. He said that people would just fall off and die every single day as they travelled from place to place.

  1. Bond says:

    Wow Travis. I can imagine that most of those subjected to the horrors inflicted on them felt the same way as your stepdad's uncle.

    I have not had a chance to watch last week's episode of Pacific yet. It is on our schedule for tonight or tomorrow night.

    Not sure I mentioned it before, but dad has written his memoirs and the first half is his experience in Korea, something he never talked to us about the 'forgotten war' as he calls it. he was so pleased when they finally put up a monument for the vets who fought there, he immediately went to visit.

    My brother (who edited the book) tells me I will be shocked by some of the revaluations I will read.

    Dad did offer me a galley. I decided to wait for the book to be released and do it correctly.

  1. WOW Travis. This is on our to do list. Cdub and Little T went to Quantioco to the Marine's mueseum today. They loved it and Little T got his own dogtags.