On April 9, 1942, U.S. forces in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese, and so began what we call the Bataan Death March today. After the surrender, 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers were taken captive by Japanese soldiers and forced to march throughout the Philippines to confinement camps.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the start of the Bataan Death March and the devastation survivors and the fallen endured during, here are a few facts you need to know. 

1. 140 miles to Camp O'Donnell

U.S. and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the Japanese were more than just POWs, they were captives of the Japanese. Forced to march six excruciatingly long days in the hot sun with no shade, clean water and a scarce amount of food, many became victims of mistreatment, starvation and illness. Soldiers reportedly marched anywhere from 65 to 140 miles to confinement at Camp O'Donnell, where they were forced to work under harsh conditions with a lack of medical treatment and nourishment. During the march, soldiers were placed into box cars in San Fernando. After a few hours, they stopped, but not at their destination. The soldiers were forced to walk several more miles to camp. However, not all captured men were 'privileged' to stand cramped shoulder-to-shoulder in the hot cars, but instead forced to finish the trek on foot because there wasn't enough room.

2. Fort Drum (Philippines): Two days of mistreatment

Soldiers surrendered over to the Japanese were all mistreated. They were shot, beaten, beheaded, buried alive and given "sun treatments."  Fort Drum soldiers in particular were given two days of mistreatment following the U.S. surrender because it was reported that Americans defending Fort Drum were responsible for killing a large number of Japanese soldiers when they dropped a 14-inch shell, killing a high-ranking Japanese soldier according to the Office of the Provost Marshal General Report in November 1945.  For two long days, Fort Drum soldiers were not authorized to lay down, sleep, eat or drink any water.

3. Buried alive

Through the march, several soldiers became weak from lack of food and clean water. Many soldiers fell out of line and were shot or bayoneted by the Japanese soldiers. Some were reported to have been run over. Some soldiers who fell out or became too slow due to sickness were buried alive. Japanese soldiers made those captured bury their fellow comrades. It has been reported that the only decent thing the Japanese did was take the dog tags from the dead and throw them on the side of the road before burial, even if it was to keep the U.S. from identifying the dead.

4. The march was not one long line

While 75,000 soldiers were surrendered over to the Japanese, not all started the march at the same time. 

"We weren't one close-knit group by any means. When the Japanese got a bunch together, say one hundred or so, that group would start walking. You might get the impression it was one long line, but it wasn't. One group would start and then a couple of days later, another one came along. When we got to our destination, Camp O'Donnell, soldiers kept coming in. For how long or how many had passed before and after us, I don't know. On the sixth day, we got to Balanga and were fed a second rice ball. From Balanga, we walked to San Fernando," bataansurvivor.com recorded a survivor saying.

5. Soldiers were not the only victims

Often, local Filipinos along the route would try and offer food to the malnourished soldiers marching by. They would try to give them food or water, but the Japanese soldiers would shoot them as soon as they noticed.  One Filipino man was reportedly beheaded and women were raped and mutilated. Filipino women who worked as nurses in the local field hospitals were imprisoned, as well. 

In Other News
Load More