Bataan Death March

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They pulled us off into a rice paddy and began shaking us down. There [were] about a hundred of us so it took time to get to all of us. Everyone had pulled their pockets wrong side out and laid all their things out in front. They were taking jewellery and doing a lot of slapping. I laid out my New Testament... After the shakedown, the Japs took an officer and two enlisted men behind a rice shack and shot them. The men who had been next to them said they had Japanese souvenirs and money
~ Partial account of the march from Lieutenant Kermit Lay, a survivor.

The Bataan death march, also known as the Bataan hunger march, was a war crime perpetrated during World War II by Imperial Japan.

Event

On the 8th of April 1942, Japanese troops under Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma finally took Bataan, a city in the Philippines they had been battling in since January. Many civilians and soldiers were taken prisoner, and forced to surrender their possessions. Those who had Japanese money or souvenirs were accused of theft and shot. Lieutenant General Homma then ordered that the prisoners should be forced to walk from Bataan to Camp O'Donnell, approximately 112 kilometres. During the march, prisoners were robbed and brutalized by Japanese soldiers, and many died of starvation due to Homma not providing them with enough food. Prisoners were subjected to severe physical abuse, including being beaten and tortured. When they reached the Pantingan River, Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, who was supervising the march, ordered the prisoners to stop and had 350-400 prisoners executed in what is now known as the Pantingan River massacre. During the march, prisoners who stepped out of line were forced to sit in direct sunlight naked, burning their flesh; those who asked for water were killed. "Cleanup crews" marched behind, bayoneting the slowest prisoners. Eventually, the few remaining prisoners reached Camp O'Donnell.

Aftermath

The death march shocked the American public, and was used in many enlistment posters. After the march became public knowledge, the amount of those signing up to fight the Japanese in America rose. After the war, it was judged to be a war crime. Homma was hanged for his involvement, as were other commanders held responsible such as Akira Muto, Kenji Doihara, Hideki Tojo and Koki Hirota. Tsuji escaped and, despite a warrant for his arrest for war crimes, his fate remains unknown.

Trivia

  • Former President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos was a survivor of the march.