United Medevac Solutions, parent company of Aero Jet Medical Air Ambulance Authority, proudly supported the 25th anniversary of the Bataan Memorial Death March held March 22 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
April 9, 1942 – Four months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor 72,000 soldiers, 12,000 of them American, became Prisoners of War following a prolonged battle on the gamf.net Philippine peninsula of Bataan. Four months of battle had taken its toll on the American and Filipino troops. The Japanese Navy had successfully blocked the troops from being resupplied with food, medicine and ammunition, causing the men to become weakened by starvation and dehydration from the jungle heat, and illness that included diarrhea. In hopes of saving the lives of his men, the American Field Commander, General Edward King, anagazawe.com surrendered to the Japanese Commander. What followed has become known as the Bataan Death March and is widely regarded as one of the worst atrocities of modern wartime history.
The Japanese soldiers divided their captors into groups of about 100 and began marching them 65 miles up the peninsula from Mariveles towards Camp O’Donnell. Despite the oppressive heat the prisoners were provided little food or water during the trip, which took about five days. The Japanese soldiers would shoot or bayonet any soldier who fell and was unable to continue as well as those who tried to escape or to get a sip of water from a roadside puddle. Filipino civilians who tried to slip a prisoner a bit of food were also shot, bayonetted, or chased off. During the 5 day march the prisoners were often subjected to “sun treatment” where they were forced to sit for hours in unshaded areas during the heat of the day. At night they were penned up in areas so small that often they could not lay down to sleep. By the time the march was completed, between 6,000 and 10,000 of the prisoners had died. No records were kept so the exact number is unknown.
They arrived at Camp O’Donnell to find conditions that were no better. The Japanese crammed the nearly 60,000 surviving prisoners into a camp that was originally built to accommodate 10,000 men. With sparse food, water and medical supplies the prisoners continued to succumb to physical beatings, dehydration, starvation and diseases such as malaria and dysentery until they were dying at a rate of about 400 men per supermarioworlds.com day. The American prisoners were eventually moved to another camp, Cabanatuan, and the Filipino prisoners who were well enough to walk were paroled. Even with this parole, 26,000 of the 50,000 Filipino soldiers died in captivity.
In 1944, as U.S. forces pulled closer to the Philippines, the Japanese decided to evacuate the American prisoners to Japan and Manchuria to use them as slave laborers. The men were crammed into cargo ships so tightly that the men could not sit or lay down. Many suffocated to death as they stood pinned against their comrades. The Japanese did not comply with the Geneva Convention and mark the ships as prisoner transports so many of the ships were sunk by American subs or bombers, their crews unaware that the ships were carrying American soldiers.
By the time Japan surrendered and the U.S. Army liberated the Bataan Prisoners of War in 1945, two-thirds of the American prisoners had died in Japanese custody. Some survivors spent months in military hospitals before being well enough to go home. Some estimate that as many as one third of those who returned died within a year, their bodies and minds ravaged by their experiences.
April 9, 2014 marks the 72nd anniversary of the start of those tortuous three years endured by those soldiers and many commemorations will be held in the United States and the Philippines. One of the most recognized commemoration is the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. On March 22, 2014 0ver 6,200 men, women and children participated in the 25th annual memorial, marching up to 26.2 miles through the desert sands to honor those soldiers who suffered through this unimaginable torture 72 years ago.
We should all take time to reflect on those men who suffered through this ordeal, both those that fell and those that survived. For me, a Flight Nurse for AJM, it will be a time to reflect on an uncle who I never knew.
My father’s brother died in1944 on the Philippine island of Leyte fighting Japanese forces during the campaign to liberate the Philippines from their Japanese occupation. His sacrifice, along with the ultimate sacrifice made by thousands of fellow soldiers, helped bring Bataan survivors home. God bless them, one and all.