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The Bataan Death March That Killed Thousands

The horrific treatment of the Philippines at the hands of the Japanese.

By Sam H ArnoldPublished 3 months ago 3 min read

The Bataan March is an event from World War II which resulted in tens of thousands of people dying. Like many other atrocities, this one was perpetrated by the Japanese.

The Bataan March, also known as the Bataan Death March, stands as a harrowing testament to the endurance of the human spirit amidst the darkest chapters of history.

This was an event that not only had a physical toll on those involved but also a profound psychological and emotional effect. The story serves as a poignant reminder of the human capacity to endure, even in the face of unimaginable adversity.


From 1521 until 1889, the Philippines were in the colonial possession of the Spanish. The United States then won the Spanish - American war. Many Filipinos fought alongside the US during this time, believing they would grant them independence.

This did not happen when the US purchased the Philippines from Spain as part of the war settlement. The Philippines were then in the colonial possession of the US, something they fought against in the 1900s.

The Americans were happy to allow the Filipinos to serve in their army. They established the Philippine Scouts in 1901, allowing them to help defend their country alongside the Americans. This also allowed them to enlist in the US Army.


In 1941, before the United States entered World War II, the Scouts went through several intense training schedules. They were considered a highly trained elite unit.

Once the US entered the war after Pearl Harbour, the Scouts were tasked with pushing back the Japanese or at least delaying them at the mouth of Manila Bay.

After Pearl Harbour, the Scouts deployed to that area had to go onto half rations to ensure the forces heading for the Pacific would have supplies.

MacArthur promised the Filipinos extra troops, planes and supplies, but they never materialised. This left them defenceless in the wake of the Japanese army.


The battle which ensued found the troops suffering from disease, hunger and severe wounds. With the Scouts in such a poor position, the Philippines surrendered on 9th April 1942.

Three months after the start of the battle, the Bataan Death March began. Between 60,000 and 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners were made to march through the Philippines.

The men were divided into groups of one hundred and were expected to march for five days until they reached their destination. Their route was sixty-five miles long and stretched from the peninsula to inland.

The prisoners were expected to march through tropical conditions, enduring heat, humidity and rain without medical care. They suffered from starvation and had to sleep in harsh conditions.

Civilians who tried to help the men as they marched were shot. If prisoners stopped walking, they were beaten or killed. Records show that Filipinos were treated worse than US prisoners.

Those that survived reached Camp O'Donnell, where conditions were even worse. The camp was an army camp that accommodated 10,000 men. The Japanese crammed 60,000 prisoners into it. There was little running water and sparse food, resulting in a death rate of four hundred a day.


Japan technically granted the Philippines independence from the US in 1943. However, they continued to engage in brutal actions, trying to round up Filipino insurgents.

The country's liberation made dramatic headway when General MacArthur returned in October 1944. When the cavalry arrived in Manila on 3rd February 1945, they liberated the prisoners of war.

It is estimated that 17,000 men died during the Bataan Death March. Other researchers, however, state that the number is much higher.

General Houma Masaharu, the commander of the Japanese invasion force, was held responsible for the death march and was executed as a war criminal on 3rd April 1946.

The Bataan Death March is another horrific event that has been confined to the history books, even though some of those affected are still alive.

World History

About the Creator

Sam H Arnold

A writer obsessed with true crime, history and books. Find all my dedicated newsletters whether you are a true crime fan, bookworm or aspiring writer on Substack - https://substack.com/@samharnold

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