During World War II, some 60,000 to 80,000 American and Filipino POWs were marched by the Imperial Japanese Army from Saysain Point, Bagac, Bataan and Mariveles to Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, beginning April 9, 1942.
Along the brutal, 60-mile trek, between 500 and 1,000 American troops and between 5,000 and 18,000 Filipino troops (sources differ) died along the way, subject to physical abuse and wanton killing and deprived of food, sleep and medical care. Those who survived were made prisoners of war until being freed in 1945.
Many of those American soldiers forced on the march were from New Mexico, especially the 200th/515th Coast Artillery of the National Guard. Of the 1,816 200th and 515th Coast Artillery men identified, 829 men never returned home.
April 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, and to commemorate those survivors of the Bataan Death March — and those lost — thousands participate each year in the Bataan Memorial Death March, held annually since 1989 at White Sands Missile Range.
This year’s march is set for Sunday, March 25, and will include a record-breaking 8,380 registered marchers, more than ever before.
Participants, who come from all over the United States and even from other countries, choose between two courses: a 14.2-mile route and a 26.2-mile route. Some choose to complete the route in honor of a particular veteran who was lost or held as a POW during World War II; others march as a show of support support, and others as a personal, physical challenge.
For more information on the Bataan Memorial Death March, visit bataanmarch.com.