HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — “No mama, no papa and no Uncle Sam.”
The words surged out of the speakers and spread across the crowd.
They are the words that were waiting on the lips of each survivor and those prepared to honor them.
“Marchers, give me your attention,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy Coffin, the White Sands Missile Range commanding general. “Hear their cry, in their own words ‘We are the Battling Bastards of Bataan. No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam. No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces. No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces and nobody gives a damn.’ Let our cry be known, we all give a damn.”
On March 20, over 6,000 men, women and children journeyed to White Sands Missile Range to honor the sacrifice of those who suffered as World War II prisoners of war.
“No mama, no papa and no Uncle Sam” has echoed as a strong reminder for the survivors and families of the thousands affected by the capture of American and Filipino forces on April 9, 1942.
Approximately 75,000 men and women were forced to march 65 miles through the scorching heat of the Philippine jungles. History would remember it as the Bataan Death March.
Most who stopped were killed and those who kept going were taken to prison camps under continued torture and forced labor.
“The Bataan Memorial Death March honors a remarkable group of World War II heroes, the brave soldiers responsible for the defense of the Philippines,” said Erin Dorrance, the White Sands Missile Range chief of public affairs. “The conditions they encountered during combat and the aftermath were horrific.”
The Bataan Memorial Death March was established in 1989 to commemorate the lives of those who suffered one of the most tragic events of WWII. Each year, the number of marchers has grown with this year hosting over 6,600 participants.
“We have visitors here from around the world who are gathered here to honor (our veterans and survivors of Bataan)” said Coffin.
Whether they are active duty or civilian, from New Mexico or Germany, every participant joined together to show support for the survivors and those who were lost during horrific events following April 9, 1942.
The youngest participant was ten years old and the oldest was ninety-eight — all spanning from different backgrounds and nationalities.
“We have marchers here covering nine decades,” said Coffin. “That is the history of our past, the foundation of our strength and the foundation of our future.”