Just as Dec. 7 will be remembered as Day of Infamy, April 9 will be remembered as the The Fall of Bataan.
The American and Filipino forces fought the Japanese valiantly on Bataan for three months after the war started. Then Pres. Roosevelt ordered MacArthur off the Philippines. MacArthur reluctantly obliged, prompting him to make his famous promise of “I shall return”.
By the end of March, 1942, the plight of the defenders had become desperate. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright notified Washington that the meager food supplies would be exhausted completely by April 15. By early April, the weak, hungry, demoralized American and Filipino troops had no fight left. By one source, 75 percent had malaria, while all suffered from malnutrition, all horses and water buffalo having been consumed. Seeing the terrible state of his troops, on April 8, Maj. Gen. Edward P. King, commander of Bataan forces, made the anguished decision to surrender. As he rode forward to meet Gen. Homma on April 9, he remembered that Gen. Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox on the same day. In contrast to the outcome of each battles, Gen. Lee’s army was defeated during the Civil War while Japan was defeated during WWII.
On April 9, 76,000 men squeezed onto the tip of Bataan peninsula officially surrendered to the Japanese. They were without food or ammunition, and malaria and dysentery were widespread. They were forced to begin marching up the peninsula which survivors later aptly named the notorious “Bataan Death March”. Many more than a thousand deaths awaited the surrendering forces as the Japanese marched them off to a prison camp. The four-day, sixty-three-mile march in ninety-five degree weather would not have been difficult for well-nourished soldiers; but for malaria-ridden, ill-fed troops, the march was brutal. The Japanese killed many prisoners who were unable to move forward. It has been estimated that upwards of 10,000 died along the way from exhaustion or atrocious brutality imposed by their Japanese captors. The suffering survivors were herded into boxcars in San Fernando in the province of Pampanga and taken to an internment camp at Capas in the province of Tarlac. Upon reaching the prison camp, untold more thousands perished for lack of food, water and medical supplies.
By Rosalinda Morgan, author “BAHALA NA (Come What May)”.