Bataan Death March
"The Bataan Death March occurred after the surrender of the Allied troops to the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula on the island of Luzon in the Philippines." On April 10, 1942 the American and Filipino prisoners of war (POWs) began their forced 65-mile journey from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnel in central Luzon - which would become the infamous Bataan Death March. According to history, there were 140,000 American POWs in Japanese prison camps. There were over 50,000 POWs held at Camp O'Donnel, while over 10,000 of the soldiers have died. Some U.S. troops have escaped capture and carried on as guerrilla fighters.
While many of the POWs were starved, dehydrated, and tortured, others were executed. In that march, prisoners who fell behind were executed while others were randomly beaten. The merciless enemies subjected the prisoners to dehydration and malnutrition. The prisoners were ordered to sit in the very hot sun and deprived them of water. Anyone who dared to ask for a drink was executed. While many succumbed to death from hunger and starvation, others who lived were only given a small amount of filthy and contaminated food. They suffered from sleep deprivation and when they were allowed a short rest, they were packed into a stampede-like positions. This resulted in many deaths and those who lived, collapsed and fell on the dead bodies. Others were loaded into suffocating railroad boxcars and more succumbed to death. Those who survived were subjected in longer mile march towards the camp.
The POWs on Corregidor suffered the same fate. The enemies executed the prisoners who were caught carrying Japanese souvenirs for they believed they came from Japanese soldiers the prisoners have killed. Escaping was not a matter of choice because the prisoners knew death would follow if they were caught. Few who succeeded escapes caused more torture on their comrades who were left behind. The Japanese war atrocities ended when MacArthur fulfilled his infamous promise "I Shall Return" and thus resulted - in the infamous battle of Leyte Gulf to liberate the POWs.
The Reunion - Learning History
Although traces of death and sufferings are long gone, still standing in memorable honor are some of the soldiers who fought WWII and survivors of the Bataan Death march. Many of them would rather want to forget those painful events however, they have also realized the importance of reviving the historical events for generations to learn. The creation of monuments and memorials are ways to honor the soldiers so that their words and deeds will not fade with time and crumble to dust. And so, reunions are created to document war events and to give everyone the opportunity to learn the agony and sacrifices endured by the soldiers.
One of the war reunions that I was blessed to be a part of was the "42nd Bataan-Corrigedor Survivors Reunion" held at the beautiful scenery of Fontana Dam, North Carolina in August 2005. This reunion was organized by Wayne Carringer of Robinsville, North Carolina. I met Wayne Carringer through his son and my friend, Jerry Carringer. An extraordinary man, Mr. Carringer demonstrates the undying stigma to teach us about the events of the Bataan Death March of which he was a part of.
In July 2006, the 43rd Bataan-Corrigedor Survivors Reunion will be held at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
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Sunday, December 25, 2005