The Fall of Bataan is famous in history as one of the last stands of American and Filipino soldiers before they were overwhelmed by the Japanese forces in World War II.
It is honored not only in the Philippines but also in the United States of America.
The Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) is a national holiday in the Philippines which commemorates the fall of Bataan during World War II. It falls annually on April 9.
At dawn, 9 April 1942, against the orders of Generals Douglas MacArthur and Jonathan Wainwright, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., commanding Luzon Force, Bataan, Philippine Islands, surrendered more than 76,000 starving and disease-ridden men.
The majority of the prisoners of war were immediately robbed of their keepsakes and belongings and subsequently forced to endure a 90-mile (140 km) enforced march in deep dust over vehicle-broken macadam roads and crammed into rail cars to captivity at Camp O’Donnell.
Enroute, thousands died from dehydration, heat prostration, untreated wounds and wanton execution. Those few who were lucky enough to travel on trucks to San Fernando would still have to endure more than twenty-five additional miles of marching.
Prisoners were beaten randomly and often denied promised food and water. Those who fell behind were usually executed or left to die; the sides of the roads became littered with dead bodies and those moaning for assistance.
The march, involving the forcible transfer of American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese in the Philippines from the Bataan peninsula to prison camps, was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon the prisoners and civilians along the route by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan.
Be-headings, cutting of throats and casual shootings were the more common actions—compared to instances of bayonet stabbing, rape, disembowelment, rifle butt beating and a deliberate refusal to allow the prisoners food or water while keeping them continually marching for nearly a week in tropical heat. Falling down or the inability to continue moving was tantamount to a death sentence, as was any degree of protest or expression of displeasure.
Prisoners were attacked for assisting someone falling due to weakness, or for no apparent reason whatsoever. Strings of Japanese trucks were known to drive over anyone who fell. Riders in vehicles would casually stick out a rifle bayonet and cut a string of throats in the lines of men marching alongside the road. Accounts of being forcibly marched for five to six days with no food and a single sip of water are in postwar archives including filmed reports.
The exact death count has been impossible to determine, but some historians have placed the minimum death toll between six and eleven thousand men; whereas other postwar Allied reports have tabulated that only 54,000 of the 72,000 prisoners reached their destination—taken together, the figures document a casual killing rate of one in four up to two in seven (25% to 28.6%) of those brutalized by the forcible march. The number of deaths that took place in the internment camps from delayed effects of the march is uncertain, but believed to be high.
On May 30, 2009, at the sixty-fourth and final reunion of Bataan Death March survivors in San Antonio, Texas, the Japanese ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki apologized to the assembled survivors for the Japanese treatment of Allied prisoners of war, on behalf of the Japanese government.