The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging march through the high desert terrain of
the White Sands Missile Range. The memorial march is conducted in honor of the
heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II,
sacrificing their freedom, health, and, in many cases, their very lives.
The New Mexican
“A common lament of the World War II generation is the absence today of personal responsibility ”
Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation
(Batan Death March, American Prisoners 1942)
My cousin just got back from a trip to New Mexico.
No, she didn’t go on a ski trip or vacation.
She actually went to participate in a commemorative march.
Big name walks and marches, such as the March of Dimes, the Susan G. Komen march
and even the Relay for Life are marches most of us are familiar with.
They are marching money raisers for various good causes.
But what about a commemorative death march?
What might that benefit?
Perhaps it, like other marches, benefits our future.
Perhaps it is the commemorating of the past which in turn benefits our future…
What a novel idea.
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl shares in his memoir Man’s Search For Meaning that
“it did not really matter what we expected from life,
but rather what life expected from us.”
So what exactly does life expect from us?
Does Life expect that our idiotic politicians run about willy nilly telling children
that life, as we know it, will end in 12 years?
Does it matter that our pathetic politicians keep screaming “the Russians are coming,
the Russians are coming” when they were never coming in the first place?
Does it matter that we have youthful arrogant imbeciles, for the lack of a better word,
in leadership positions trying to play government while running around screaming
that we all need to be embracing Socialism just so we can level life’s playing field.
Yet did anyone catch the memo that life isn’t, nor will it ever be, fair?
Or what about the politicians screaming for some pie in the sky, far fetched,
new green deal that rings in at a price tag of 93 trillion bucks.
Your money, my money…all God’s little children’s money…
Don’t they know that nothing in Life comes free—as in somebody will have to pay…
and that my friends will be you and me—the thinly stretched middle core of America.
However, one thing they, those far-flung left thinkers, fail to understand is
that life expects more from us than a left or right leaning or the embracing of
some uber new think…
Ben Shapiro in his new book The Right Side of History:
How Reason And Moral Purpose Made The West Great, notes that
without individual moral
purpose granted by a relationship to a Creator,
we seek meaning instead in the collective, or we destroy ourselves on the shoals
We live lives of amoral hedonism,…
“if we do not pursue that purpose, we pay a price; we serve foreign gods,
which cannot provide us any sort of true fulfillment.
Lasting happiness can only be achieved through cultivation of soul and mind.
And cultivating our souls and minds reqiures us to live with moral purpose.
Something our politics and politicians cannot achieve for us.
My cousin told me that during the course of the commemorations surrounding the
The Death March of Bataan was that she had the opportunity of listening to a
98-year-old veteran who candidly expressed his deepest fear in life…
That being that these current generations and those following generations,
those generations that no longer have members of his generation, will simply forget.
They will forget the sacrifices made on behalf of the betterment of the free world.
They will forget the moral purpose and responsibility that we are all
held to in order to maintain the freedom of man.
That freedom is indeed not free.
Below are two excerpts explaining the Bataan Death March and why it is
so important that we never forget.
Taken from the Bataan Museum information page
The infamous Bataan Death March was one of the greatest atrocities of
World War II.
Approximately 1,800 men from the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiment deployed
to the Philippines in September 1941. When the Regiment reached the Philippines they
immediately moved to Fort Stotsenberg, 75 miles north of Manila. Over the coming months,
they would train under simulated war conditions. By December things would change drastically.
On December 8, 1941, Japanese bombers made their appearance and the war was on.
It was the 200th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft) — the original full Regiment —
who is credited as being the “First to Fire” on December 8, 1941.
That night, the 515th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft) was formed from the ranks
of the 200th.
The Japanese landings on Luzon began on December 10, 1941,
with more Japanese forces landing on December 12, 1941.
The 200th and later the 515th could not do much damage as their powder train fuses
only had a range of 20,000 feet and the bombers were flying at 23,000 feet.
The main Japanese invasion forces landed December 22,
1941 and the decision was made to withdraw the forces into Bataan.
The 200th covered the retreat of the Northern Luzon Force into Bataan and the 515th
for the South Luzon Force. They were able to hold the Japanese air and ground
attacks back, thus saving the bridges –
and the North and South Luzon Forces found a clear, safe passage to the Bataan peninsula.
For months the American and Filipino troops fought bravely as the war situation worsened.
By April 3, 1942 the Japanese received sufficient reinforcements and began to drive down
the Bataan peninsula. Four days later, the Japanese broke through allied lines.
After holding off the Japanese from December to April – four long months –
the battle for Bataan ended on April 9th
Following the fall of the Bataan Peninsula, on April 9, 1942 the United States
surrendered to the Japanese and instantly, more than 75,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers
were forced to become Prisoners of War. The POWs were soon forced to make the 65 mile trek –
with no food or water – to confinement camps throughout the Philippines.
Thirsty and exhausted, those who attempted to steal a sip of water from roadside streams or
collapsed along the way – were shot or bayoneted on the spot by their Japanese captors.
In total, 10,000 men – 1,000 American and 9,000 Filipino –
died during the Bataan Death March.
Those that survived the march would spend the next 40 months in horrific conditions in
confinement camps. Most were transported to the Japanese man island aboard “death ships.”
Many did not survive the voyage. Given very little food,
water and even clothing, the men were tortured, malnourished and riddled with disease.
Two-thirds would die from disease, starvation, horrendous conditions,
and beatings or were murdered. More than 11,500 American soldiers died during
the three plus years in confinement.
It wasn’t until late summer of 1945 that these prisoners of war would see freedom.
Survivors were diseased, frail – emaciated, skin and bones, some blind,
others unable to walk. Sadly one third of the former POWs would die of complications
within their first year of freedom.
Of the 1,816 men 200th & 515th Coast Artillery men identified, 829 died in battle,
while prisoners, or immediately after liberation.
There were 987 survivors. See the “Casualty Report” attached.
The attached report is the result of 12 years of research and is a must read.
The 200th Coast Artillery was inducted into federal service on January 6, 1941,
for one year of active duty training.
Unit designations and home stations at the time of induction were:
Regimental Headquarters – Deming
Headquarters Battery – Deming
Regimental Band – Albuquerque
Medical Detachment – Albuquerque
HQ & HQ Battery, 1st BN – Albuquerque
Battery A – Albuquerque
Battery B – Albuquerque
Battery C – Santa Fe
Battery D – Gallup
HQ & HQ Battery, 2nd BN – Clovis
Battery E – Clovis
Battery F – Carlsbad
Battery G – Silver City
Battery H – Taos
There are currently (69) 200th & 515th Coast Artillery survivors living today.
Not all of the 200th & 515th Coast Artillery men made the Bataan Death March.
At least 100 were sent to Camp O’Donnell by truck; some were immediately assigned
to details throughout the Philippine Islands and did not make the Death March.
A handful of men were patients at one of the field hospitals on Bataan and were
eventually moved to Old Bilibid Prison in Manila, never making the March.
(107) 200th & 515th Coast Artillery men were ordered to evacuate to Corregidor
on April 8, 1942, or made their way to Corregidor by any means possible,
never making the March. Some of these Corregidor men did begin the March,
escaped, and then made their way to Corregidor. At least 14 men are known to have
escaped to fight as Guerrillas with only a few of the 14 beginning the
Death March before making their escape into the mountains
The 200th & 515th Corregidor men’s experience is worth taking notice.
Initially, they endured the hunger and disease on Bataan while in action
against the enemy for several months. When Bataan fell,
the Japanese turned their attention to Corregidor, and the island was subjected
to constant shelling for the next month.
Many of these men were absorbed into other units on Corregidor and continued
the fight until Corregidor was surrendered.
Many soldiers, now prisoners of war, were held as
hostages while the Japanese coerced General Wainwright’s cooperation to convince General Sharp
to surrender on Mindanao. The prisoners of war were held in the open,
exposed to the elements with little water and only the food they could steal from the food
stores the Japanese denied them. Another way the prisoners of war got food was to volunteer
for burial details. After about 10 days, the prisoners were loaded into boats
and taken to a stretch of shoreline south of Manila, near Paranaque,
dumped in the water short of the beach and made to wade ashore.
They were then marched up [then] Dewey Boulevard [now Roxas Boulevard],
past the University Club where General Wainwright and his senior officers were being held.
General Wainwright watched his men in their misery paraded through the streets in
what has come to be known as the “Gloat March” to Old Bilibid Prison.
They were held at Bilibid for about five days, and then marched to the train station,
loaded in to the same 40×8 type boxcars as those who made the Bataan Death March.
These men experienced suffered through the same conditions as those on Bataan:
extreme heat and humidity, filth, and extreme overcrowding with at least
100 prisoners to a car box car meant to hold only forty men or eight cattle.
They were unloaded at Cabanatuan City and then marched about 20km
(or about 12 miles) to Cabanatuan prison camp.
Two 200th Coast Artillery men were awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action on Corregidor.
Nationwide, there are less than 1,000 Bataan & Corregidor survivors.
There are, that we know of, two men who made the Death March, one who was surrendered
on Corregidor, and one who was captured at Java,
who were attached to other units, not the 200th or 515th, living in New Mexico today.
There may be more.
New Mexico survivors fear Bataan Death March will be forgotten
By Robert Nott | The New Mexican
Evans Garcia used to tell his daughter Margaret that freedom is not free.
He and hundreds of other New Mexicans — as well as soldiers from other
states and native Filipinos — learned this lesson 76 years ago as they made a valiant
stand to stave off a superior force of Japanese invaders on the Bataan peninsula
in the Philippines.
Their four-month defense bought America and its allies much-needed time to
organize forces and derail a Japanese plan to invade Australia,
among other places. But it also resulted in one of the most infamous and brutal events
of the early years of World War II: the Bataan Death March.
The Battle of Bataan, the first major military campaign of the Asian theater
in World War II following the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,
took a huge toll on New Mexico. Of the 1,800-plus New Mexico soldiers who fought
in that battle, only half survived. Many returned home physically,
mentally and emotionally scarred after surviving the 65-mile Bataan Death March and
subsequent incarceration and inhumanity in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.
Just over a dozen of those soldiers are believed to be alive today.
As they and their descendants prepare for another annual commemoration of that
campaign in Santa Fe — 11 a.m. Monday, April 9, at the Bataan Memorial Building
on Galisteo Street —
some wonder if their story will eventually be overlooked as those survivors pass away.
“We descendants are often concerned that the legacy and sacrifices our fathers,
uncles and other family members made on Bataan will be forgotten,”
said Margaret Garcia, whose father died in 2011.
“So many people in society today, especially our youth,
do not appreciate what our World War II veterans fought for.”
Consuelo “Connie” DeVargas, wife of Valdemar DeHerrera,
a 98-year-old survivor of the march who lives in Alamogordo, agrees.
Two of her grandchildren came from Colorado to take part in the annual
Bataan Memorial Death March commemoration hike of up to 26 miles
on White Sands Missile Range in late March.
When they returned to their school the following Monday,
replete with stories about the march and materials pertaining to the 1942 campaign,
the other students and teachers “didn’t even know what they were talking about,”
DeVargas said. “I think it will be forgotten.”
But others, including historians and history teachers, disagree.
They say that as long as the story of the “Battling Bastards of Bataan,”
as the defenders were known, remains in the textbooks, they and other
educators will continue telling their story.
“It’s one of the state standards [for education] set by the state’s legislators,
many of whom knew the people who were involved with it, and who see it as an important event,”
said Capital High School teacher Steve Hegmann, who incorporates the story of
the Bataan campaign into his New Mexico history class for ninth-graders.
“It would take a long time for it to be forgotten, at least here [in New Mexico].
Most teachers in the state realize that New Mexicans were involved in the campaign.”
Stephen Martinez, a professor of U.S. and New Mexico history and
Western civilization at Santa Fe Community College, agrees.
“It’s always a sad chapter in the story when we lose the survivors,”
he said. “But New Mexico is very proud of its history,
and it’s a very long history, and because of that,
I think their voices and stories will never be lost, even though they pass on.”
Both Hegmann and Martinez said they blend coverage of the Bataan campaign
with other New Mexico-related events tied to World War II,
including the story of the Navajo Code Talkers and the creation and detonation of the atomic bomb.
In Hegmann’s case, he also uses the Death March and its aftermath as a way to discuss
the issue of war crimes, a still-relevant topic.
“I can tie it to current atrocities … and the idea that there are rules that society
has decided are not acceptable in wartime,” Hegmann said.
“The question my students often ask is,
‘What were the consequences of violating the Geneva Convention code of conduct
[regarding prisoners of war]?’ ”
Jon Hunner, a professor of history at New Mexico State University,
puts the battle of Bataan and the ensuing tragedy into the context of the Japanese Bushido —
or samurai — code of conduct. To a Japanese soldier in World War II, Hunner said,
“If you surrendered, it was so dishonorable that you could not be treated like a human,
so it was perfectly justifiable in that Japanese code of war to treat your
prisoners as less than human.”
He said many historians overlook the actual battle of Bataan and focus on the
Death March and the atrocities “because it is very tragic; it shows the inhumanity of man.”
Capt. Gabriel Peterman, who runs the New Mexico National Guard Museum
in Santa Fe, agrees.
“We always talk about the surrender and the Bataan Death March,
but we don’t talk about the four-month battle that those men fought,” he said.
“They were low on ammunition, low on food, low on supplies. …
They shut down a lot of plans the Japanese had to take over Australia and other islands.
I don’t think it’s too much to say that their defense helped us win World War II.”
He added: “If we don’t maintain the annual Bataan ceremony and the tradition
it was built upon, there is a fear that we will forget Bataan.”
Hunner said he thinks that with the passing of each Bataan veteran,
as well as the passage of time, there is legitimate concern that the
story of Bataan could fall by the wayside.
“As generations get away from the time of any historic event,
they lose sight of it because other historic events that are recent become more
relevant and they can find someone living to talk to about those,” he said.
As such, he said, these history stories “are like a ship sailing over the horizon.”