May 17, 2012

Remembering the Bataan Death March, a Pacific Legacy

Story by Richard A. Long
Courtesy photo
At dawn, 9 April 1942, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., commanding Luzon Force, Bataan, Philippine Islands, surrendered more than 75,000 starving and disease-ridden American soldiers, sailors, and Marines, and their Filipino allies, to overwhelming Japanese forces. What followed, the Bataan Death March, would go down in history as one of the bloodiest events in the Pacific theater during World War II.

At dawn, 9 April 1942, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., commanding Luzon Force, Bataan, Philippine Islands, surrendered more than 75,000 starving and disease-ridden American soldiers, sailors, and Marines, and their Filipino allies, to overwhelming Japanese forces.

He inquired of the Japanese colonel to whom he tendered his pistol in lieu of his lost sword whether the Americans and Filipinos would be well treated. The Japanese aide-de-camp indignantly replied: “We are not barbarians.” The forthcoming seven to 14 days would prove just how barbaric and uncivilized this enemy could be!

The majority of the prisoners of war were immediately subjected to robbery of their most trivial keepsakes and belongings, to personal indignities to their bodies, and subsequently to a grueling 90-mile enforced march in deep dust, over vehicle-broken macadam roads, and crammed into sub-standard rail cars to captivity in the now infamous Camp O’Donnell.

Thousands died enroute from disease, starvation, thirst, heat prostration, untreated wounds, and wanton execution. Additional thousands died in this and in equally disreputable prison camps, the direct result of maltreatment on the Death March.

There were relatively few Marines on the march, when compared with other members of the American service. Marine Staff Sergeant Thomas R. Hicks, a field clerk in the 4th Marines, kept a “Record of Events” from 8 December 1941 to 2 May 1942 on Corregidor. It was apparently shipped off the island on the following day on the submarine Spearfish and arrived at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington on 13 August 1942.

When Bataan fell to the enemy on 9 April 1942, Staff Sergeant Hicks enumerated six officers and 71 enlisted personnel (including Navy medical) as presumed prisoners of war. An additional Marine from an antiaircraft unit had contracted polio and was left at Bataan’s Hospital No. 2.

The majority of captured Marines belonged to two organizations, the USAFFE-USFIP (finally Luzon Force) guard detachment and the Marine Air Warning Unit (an SCR-270B mobile, long-range radar unit). The first was composed of 43 enlisted Marines and two officers. The latter also had two officers and 28 communications personnel. Nearly all made the Death March.

Former Lieutenant Michiel Dobervich considers himself among the more fortunate of the prisoners. For reasons unknown to him, he was selected to drive a GMC truck loaded with sugar to Camp O’Donnell.

En route, Dobervich was witness to the initial looting, face slapping, beating, and bayoneting of American and Filipino captives. Guarded by a Japanese captain and a soldier with a bayonet at his back, he was helpless in the rage that welled in him. At Balanga, he saw an Army brigadier general and other senior staff officers run through a guantlet of enemy privates, slapped and beaten as they were robbed of their possessions. At the same time, Dobervich lost 500 Philippines pesos, his wrist watch, two fountain pens, and $40 in U.S. currency. A friend from USAFFE’s motor pool and four others were beheaded when a Japanese found occupation money on their persons.

All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


Courtesy photo of the Veteran’s Home

Brewer Applauds Official Federal Recognition of Tucson Vet Home

PHOENIX – Governor Jan Brewer today announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has designated the Arizona State Veteran Home in Tucson an officially-sanctioned State Veteran Home.
Courtesy photo by TAMP

Separation: Jobs that serve you

In today’s economy, finding a job can be nearly impossible for some. Fortunately for those who’ve served, some companies are giving back to America’s veterans.

Leaving the Corps: Retirement Planning 101

If you’re a member of Generation X, it’s time to save for retirement. And don’t think you can count on Social Security or pensions. The future of those retirement savings products is uncertain. So where do you start? Investing in variable annuities may be a good option. According to John. M. Gannon, author of “Variable...


Leaving the Corps: Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship

What is V-WISE V-WISE is committed to women Veterans by providing them the tools to become successful entrepreneurs. Their goal is to integrate their leadership, integrity, focus and drive into a premier educational training program taught by accomplished entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators from across the United States.   PHASE 1: What’s first? A 15 day...
Photo by Cpl. Jovane M. Henry

Wounded Warriors, families connect with first ever Warrior Family Games

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDELTON, Calif. — More than 200 wounded warriors, their spouses and dependents participated in Camp Pendleton’s first Warrior Family Games at the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West compound...
Photo by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison

Yuma commemorates those who gave all

Americans in Yuma and across the country spent Monday remembering and celebrating the lives of the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the land of the free. Originally known as Declaration Day, Memorial Day is des...


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>