Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, and the Bataan Death March. In 1942, the war in the Pacific looked bleak, the Japanese had managed to capture Hong Kong and Singapore, and Pearl Harbor had just been attacked. There was one bright spot, however: the Philippines, where some semblance of a defense were put up by Filipino and American soldiers in Bataan, Corregidor, and in the southern island of Mindanao.
There were about 100,000 Filipino troops in Bataan, and about 12,000 American soldiers, giving the defenders the seeming advantage. However the advantage in numbers turned out to be their downfall. The troops did not have enough rations to last them for a long battle with the Japanese.
The Japanese attacked Bataan on April 3, 1942. On April 12, the troops had 2 days worth of food left. In addition there was little medication for the rampant malaria cases. Thus Major General Edward P. King ordered the troops' surrender.
Bushido, "The way of the warrior", as practiced in those days taught that surrender was worse than death. Thus the Japanese were caught unprepared by the surrender of the massive troops. At first, Filipinos were told that since they were "friends" not enemies of the Japanese, they would be allowed to return to their homes. They were not. Instead, one of the darkest chapters of World War 2 ensued.
General Homma would later say that they planned to transport the soldiers from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga in trucks, but this did not happen. Instead people were force marched 100 kilometers, for 5 to 10 days, depending on where the person joined the march. People had no food and water, and resorted to lapping up puddles left in the mud by carabaos. This only brought on additional diseases such as diarrhea. People who fell on the wayside and could not continue the march were shot.
After reaching San Fernando, the soldiers were transported by train in little box cars, where the overcrowding and disease killed even more men. More than 20,000 soldiers, both American and Filipino died.