Fall of Bataan

The fall of Bataan and the Bataan Death March

By 9 April 1942 American and Filipino forces had become so weak from hunger they could no longer carry on defending Bataan.

Bataan was seen as an ideal defensive position and as far back as 1926 Plan Orange which assumed a Japanese surprise attack on Luzon said the American forces should withdraw from Manila to Bataan because it was an ideal defensive position.

MacArthur failed to listen to the advice of the United States War College and planned to defend the beaches against the advice of the War College. Because of this when American and Filipino troops did withdraw to defend Bataan they lacked enough suppliers to feed the 70,000 U.S. and Philippine troops.

By April the troops had been on half rations for 3 months and were at the point of starvation. Ammunition was also running low leaving Major General Edward P. King no choice but surrender.

American and Filipino forces were marched under the tropical hot sun from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga, this later became known as the Bataan death march.

On the terrible and inhuman march, 5,000 to 18,000 Filipinos and 500 to 650 Americans died. History books tell us this was because of the harsh treatment by the Japanese the question has to be asked if it was at least partly because the troops were already starving before they started the march.

The more I research the more questions I find that need answering. Questions like why did the Japanese decide to March the men? Could it have been to get them to food?

There are reports of Japanese sharing of food and cigarettes with the Americans at the start of the march, so can you read into that some sympathy towards their starving enemy by the Japanese.

Many Filipinos that I have spoken to that lived through WWII spoke of how well they were treated by the Japanese. One old man when I said to him “if they treated you so well what about the Bataan death march” his reply was “I find it difficult to believe.” It was him that made me decide to research it more.

My intent is not to claim the men on that terrible march did not suffer, there is no doubt it was a horrific and inhuman march, however, I do find I have to question the cause of the suffering and what lead to the death of so many.

Lt. Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright sent a cable to President Roosevelt saying “I have done all that could have been done to hold Bataan, but starved men without air support and with inadequate field artillery support cannot endure the terrific aerial and artillery bombardment that my troops were subjected to.” so there is no doubt the American and Filipino Forces were starving before the march.

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