Remembering the courage of our heroes
On April 9, 1942, three months after the Bataan of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II; Filipino and American prisoners of war were forcibly transferred by the Imperial Japanese Army from Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac. They marched approximately 60 miles under extreme heat, with no provisions for food, water, shelter or medicine. Along the way, those who could no longer go on were beaten, bayoneted, shot or beheaded by their Japanese captors. Approximately 10,000 Filipino and 650 American soldiers died during the march.
These soldiers fought in the Bataan Peninsula for 99 days without reinforcement or air support, but they were able to disrupt the 50-day timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army before their surrender. This delay prevented the Japanese from reaching Australia.
This year commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, keeping mind the valor and sacrifices of these brave soldiers who fought in Bataan, Corregidor and other parts of the Philippines. Despite being abandoned early on during the war, the Filipino and American soldiers of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) fought gallantly in the Bataan Peninsula for 99 days without reinforcement or air support. But they managed to disrupt the 50-day timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army before their surrender, despite suffering from massive disease and starvation.
“This is the real significance of the Bataan Death March,” said Bataan Legacy Historical Society (BLHS) Director Cecilia Gaerlan. “While their bodies were beaten their spirits remained steadfast and true to the ideals of freedom and justice for all. As stewards of this great legacy, we have a great obligation not only to our ancestors but to future generations.”
Last year, BLHS worked successfully with the California Department of Education to include the Bataan Death March and WWII in the Philippines in the U.S. history curriculum framework for Grade 11. It is now starting the next phase to help enable its implementation by creating sample lesson plans.
To remember these heroes, BLHS along with its partners the Presidio Trust, National Park Service, American Battle Monuments Commission and Fil-Am Racing; have organized a series of events on Saturday, April 8, starting with a Bataan Legacy 7.5K Valor run at 8:30 a.m. The race will start and end in front of the Presidio Officers Club at 50 Moraga Avenue in San Francisco. Proceeds from the run will benefit the BLHS and the Congressional Medal for the WWII Filipino Veterans.
A wreath-laying ceremony will also take place at 9 a.m. at the American Battle Monuments Commission WWII West Coast Memorial, and a program at the Moraga Room of the Presidio Officers Club at 10 a.m. Veterans of the Bataan of Bataan as well as WWII in the Philippines will be honored during the ceremony. Major Generals (Ret.) Eldon Regua and Antonio “Tony” Taguba, Fil-Ams whose fathers and uncles fought in Bataan, are among the guest speakers.
“As a leader of the Filipino-American community, I am asking you to join us during this event not only to remember this glorious past but to show the younger generation that they can emulate the ideals of their ancestors so that they can learn and appreciate the steep price of the freedom that they are enjoying,” Gaerlan stressed and continued, “Only by learning the unvarnished facts of history can they become informed citizens and responsible leaders of our society. We in the Filipino American community must join together to show the entire nation that we have a proud heritage and one voice. Only then can we have a formidable presence and a resounding voice – one that must be heard across the nation.”
To register for the Bataan Legacy Valor Run, please go to www.filamracing.com. To RSVP for the commemorative program, go to http://bit.ly/BDMCommemoration. For more information about the commemorative program, contact (510) 520-8540 or [email protected] or go to www.bataanlegacy.org. For more information about the Valor Run, contact (973) 713-8053 or [email protected]. Please also use hashtags: #BataanLegacy, #Filamracing, #ValorRun.
*All photos from the National Archives and Records Administration (www.archives.gov).