Today marks the 66th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan, where on April 9, 1942, General Edward King surrendered the peninsula of Bataan in the Philippines along with approximately 76,000 soldiers (of which 11,796 American men) to the Japanese (who had 54,000 men commanded by General Homma). This defeat represents the largest ever surrender of American Army to a foreign country. [NB: The day before April 8, marks the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Appomattox, where in 1865, over 28,000 Confederate soldiers under General Robert E Lee were captured by General Ulysses Grant].
Bataan was a shocking defeat for the US, even if it took the Japanese longer to conquer than they had originally expected. In the days following the Fall of Bataan, the 76,000+ soldiers were forced to make the infamous Bataan Death March which entailed–for the war weary and sickly prisoners–to march for six days straight, over 60 miles north in blistering heat with virtually no food or water. This PBS report [link broken] includes some first hand accounts of what happened during the horrific march.
With the Fall of Bataan, the “Voice of Freedom” radio broadcasting out of Malinta Tunnel, on Corregidor, made the following announcement:
Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy. The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear….
The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds. But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more that flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come. Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand–a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world–cannot fall!
The Philippines now mark the anniversary of the Fall of Bataan. In its honour, there are a number of ceremonies and Monday was a national holiday (to allow for a three day weekend). If ever you go to the Philippines, I would encourage you to make the trek over to Corregidor and Bataan to visit the sites. While the tour of Corregidor is more structured (and probably more captivating), on Bataan, you can retrace the Death March route–there are posts along the side of the road to mark each mile.
Anyone else gone to visit these war sites and would like to comment?