The days leading up to the Bataan Death March were catastrophic for the American and Filipino armies that were stationed in the Philippine island of Luzon. General Douglas McArthur was the general in charge of the Filipino Army in the Pacific during World War II. One of his generals on the island of Corregidor, where an American military base was organized, requested military aid for his ground troops that were in Bataan. There was a Japanese Naval blockade that prevented any aid to General Jonathon M. Wainwright’s company, leaving ground troops without aid. On the field, General Edward P. King’s company were stuck between a rock and hard place. Their resources including their ammo supply were running low or were non existent. The men suffered from diseases like malaria. Weeks prior to the “Bataan Death March,” King’s men slaughtered the packed horses and mules but regardless food rations were running low.
While American and Filipino soldiers were starving, The Japanese army was planning an attack on the central American line near Mount Natib. Japanese bombers took out the central front within 2 days when the Rising Sun flag flew visible to the military base on Corregidor, near Mount Samat in Marveles. McArthur suggested to Wainwright to never surrender, with that said, Wainwright ordered King to set up a counter attack. King who was a strategic solider knew that a counter attack was impossible. A reason of impossibility was that in late March Japan assigned 15,000 soldiers, 140 artillery pieces, and 80 bombers to the Philippine Islands in order to support the Japanese Naval blockade. Another reason of impossibility was the lack of ammo and physical strength of the starving soldiers. One effect of losing the central American line was that the front was divided between soldiers desperately fleeing to Corregidor and the other badly defeated. King knew that a surrender would have to take place but Wainwright wouldn’t allow a surrender. On April 9th 1942, around 6 am, white flags of truce waved on the American line. This was not addressed to Wainwright in Corregidor because King didn’t want him to be responsible for the defeat in the field. Not only was the Battle of Bataan the greatest defeat in the Pacific for the American military but it was the cause of the inhuman march that thousands of prisoners of war endured.
Soldiers that surrendered after the three month conflict of Bataan, would find themselves transported to Camp O’Donnell, Camp Capas, and Camp Tarlac. Over 60,000 prisoners of war reached the camps but the journey is a key example of the atrocities made by the Imperial Japanese Army. Soldiers were starving already during the conflict of Bataan but on the march those who were malnutrition or suffered from a disease would be left behind on the march. Roughly 7,000 did not reach the camps and among them 300 Filipino soldiers were bayoneted. Survivors faced limited rice rations, disease and torture in the camps until the end of the Pacific war in August of 1945.
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