Bataan Death March Essay, Research Paper
I am not sure when this horrible ordeal all began. Was it just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor or was it when World War II began? Many of the survivors of the Bataan Death March believe it began in March of 1942. This was when General MacArthur received orders to leave his US Army forces and escape to Australia. The army forces were left under the command of Major General Edward king at the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula. It was not more than a couple of months, when the odds against the American Filipino troops remaining on Bataan become overwhelming.
On the tragic day of April 9, 1942, Major General King surrendered all forces on the peninsula. The Japanese took thousands of prisoners almost immediately. With Allied fighters spread throughout Bataan, it would be days before the word of surrender could reach them all. Many troopers refused to believe that the news of United States surrender was real, and some retreated further into the mountains and continued to fight.
When Japanese forces enter the village of Mariveles, they had captured 76,000 American Filipino prisoners, most of whom were sick, wounded or suffering from malnutrition. The Japanese supply line, barely sufficient to support their own troops, would be unable to transport these prisoners of war (POW). The prisoners were forced to march the 65 miles of treacherous terrain to the Japanese POW Camp, Camp O Donnell, to the north. The infamous Death March had begun. The prisoners were marched all day and almost all night. The Japanese in their release of frustration would beat the prisoners with the but end of their riffles or sheathed swords. The American prisoners were often given water, but no food. The Filipino prisoners would try to help the American prisoners by giving them food take they were given. If they were caught they were tortured and killed. Day after day the prisoners were forced to march. Jesse Knowles, a survivor of the Death March, tells his experience of The Hitch in Hell.
As I walked under the burning sun my feet ached and my stomach cramped. I had not eaten in six or seven days and I felt as though any minute my feet would fall from underneath me. We came to a stopping point, where the Japanese decided to give us a drink of water. While I was waiting for the guard to come around with the water, I can remember feeling thirsty and even hungrier. Looking down I noticed some type of worn in the dirt. I bent down with the chains on my hands and picked it up. As I stood up straight the guard butted me in the stomach with his riffle. I did not get any water that day, but later that night when no one was looking, I eat the worn that I had so how mange to save. From that moment on I know that I was on a hitch in hell.
Many prisoners were systematically executed, while the sick and weak were pushed to exhaustion before being beat to death. Others died of hunger, thirst and infections. Thousands of troopers were able to escape into the jungle. Many of the 54,000 who survived the march across Bataan would later succumb to disease or torture while imprisoned. Mike Weaver, also a survivor of the march, recalls the time when Three men attempted to escape, and the Japs decided to make examples of them. They took them to the perimeter of the compound where everyone could watch. They tied them in a half standing and half kneeling position where they lasted three days, at which time the Japs made them dig their own graves, and then shot them. The Japanese also had many ways of torturing a person without killing them. Mike Weaver also tells about, A soldier that had defied the Japs and talked back, they tied him down and drove a nail in has forehead. This man lived until the time his ship was sunk several years later.
The Bataan Death March , recognized as one of the greatest inhumanities of W.W.II, is also one of the greatest displays of heroism and human spirit on the part of those who did survive. This was a truly tragic event that will always be remembered for those 10,000 and some odd people who gave their life for their country.