Posted: Thursday, April 07, 2011 by Travis Cody in

Reposted from 8 April 2010:

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 Allied 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 art 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 launch Colonel Doolittle's raid on Tokyo and 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 70 survivors of the march left alive today.

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


  1. Debra says:

    My Dad never spoke about his years in and around Guadalcanal until we visited there when he was in his seventies. What little bit he told me about was shocking. God bless these great warriors.

    I so hate war very much.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    One of MWM's uncles was a POW of the Japanese and he wouldn't speak of what happened to him either. The only thing they know is that it must have been terrible because of the nightmares he suffered. :(

  1. Jeni says:

    It is so difficult to conceive such atrocities being committed by man against fellow human beings. Just boggles the mind, doesn't it?

  1. Didn't realize the anniversary was so close. What a horrible incident in a war full of horrible incidents.

  1. When you endure what those men endured, it is understandable that forgiveness is not in their heart regarding this matter.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I just learned about what the Japanese did during the battles with China. I can only begin to imagine what these men endured.

  1. Debra: Many veterans won't speak of their experiences to anyone who isn't a veteran, even to family.

    Akelamalu: We can only infer from behavior what it must have been like.

    NNG: Indeed.

    Jeni: I think that the ability to be cruel is in all of us, as is the ability to overcome that urge and replace it with kindness.

    Charles: It's easy to focus on the bright heroism and forget that all war is ugly, no matter the noble frame we put around it.

    Driller: Agreed.

    Lois: There were atrocities committed throughout the war by all parties. The scope of some of the incidents is staggering.

  1. I know you like military history. Have you ever read about the "Death March" on Borneo. Only six of the 2400 ANZAC prisoners survived because they were able to escape. Quite a story.

  1. Missed this one. The loss of life is sorrowful.