|Honors U.S. History Mr. Lucot
Bataan Death March
The Bataan Death March began at Mariveles on April 10, 1942. The March was a war crime involving the forcible transfer of prisoners of war, with wide-ranging abuse and high fatalities, by Japanese forces in the Philippines, in 1942, after the three-month Battle of Bataan, which was part of the Battle of the Philippines (1941-42), during World War II. Over 10,000 of the 75,000 POWs died from dehydration, murder and execution.
Approximately 75,000 Filipino and US soldiers under General Edward King, surrendered on April 9, 1942, which forced Japan to accept emaciated captives outnumbering them.
In March 1942, Japanese General Homma, “The Beast of Bataan”, began his plans for the American and Filipino troops who would become Prisoners of War. He planned on moving them to Camp O'Donnell, about one hundred miles away. According to the Japanese military, this was not a long distance, and their troops could easily accomplish it within a few days. However, those on Bataan were not in good physical health. Since January they had been on half-rations or less. During the surrender agreement, Gen. King told Homma that he had more men than the Japanese planned for and that they were ill and undernourished. But Homma ignored these facts, plus King's offer to drive the troops to the prison camps. According to the Japanese, once the POWs were in their captivity, they could do with them as they wished, and King's requests were disgraceful.
From the day of surrender on, the POWs would be harshly beaten and killed for the slightest or no reason at all. Officer status did not provide protection either. First the troops were searched. Any prisoner found with Japanese souvenirs was executed immediately, because the Japanese believed the soldier must have killed a Japanese soldier in order to get it. Many soldiers had found these items, such as money and shaving mirrors. Their own personal property was usually stolen as well.
Prisoners of war were beaten randomly, and then were denied food and water for several days. The Japanese tortured many to death. Those who fell behind were executed through various means: shot, beheaded or bayonetted. The commonly-used Japanese "sun treatment" forced a captive to sit silently in the humid April sun without water or even the shade of his helmet. The Geneva Convention stated that if a prisoner escaped and was recaptured, he was not to be punished. However, the Japanese did not care. The POWs were forced to sign non-escape oaths soon after they reached the POW camps.
One in three died in captivity at the hands of the Japanese, starved to death, worked to death, beaten to death or died of loathsome epidemic diseases that the Japanese would not treat. From the beginning, what the Japanese did to their prisoners, body and soul, was humanly appalling and criminal.
About 10,000 perished while others were able to escape; approximately 54,000 reached Camp O'Donnell. The problems persisted there. On June 6, 1942 the Filipino soldiers were granted amnesty and released, while the American prisoners were moved to another camp at Cabanatuan. Many of the survivors were later sent to prison camps in Japan, Korea, and Manchuria in prisoner transports known as "Hell Ships." The 500 POWs who still were in Cabanatuan Prison Camp were freed in January 1945 in the “The Great Raid”.
After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Lt. Gen. Homma was convicted by an Allied commission of being a war criminal, including the atrocities during the Death March out of Bataan, and the atrocities at Camp O'Donnell and Cabanatuan that followed. Gen. Homma, “The Beast of Bataan”. He was convicted of war crimes in 1946 and executed.