Bataan Death March

11 06 2009

Do you have any idea what price  has been paid for your freedom?  Freedom is not just the flying of the flag, or the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance or even the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.  Freedom is Choosing how you want to live every day.  It is Choosing what town you want to live in, what house you want to live in, what clothes you want to wear today, what car you want to drive, and where you want to spend your working hours.  You are free to do all of these things plus Choosing how you want to worship your God, Choosing the friends you wish to be with, Choosing whom you wish to marry, and even Choosing how you want to act in your life every day.

A lot of people have died for that freedom.  I read just this past week where  an official from Japan apologized to the survivors of the Bataan Death March for the terrible atrocities which were inflicted upon these  survivors.  It has taken Japan 67 years to get around to saying they are sorry.  As human beings, we are obliged to forgive.  However, we cannot and should not ever forget.  All of the following facts about the Bataan March are verified in postwar archives including film reports.

The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese in the Phillippines.  In April of 1942, against the specific orders of General Douglas McArthur and General Jonathan Wainwright, the general commanding the Luzon Force in Bataan, Philippine Islands, surrendered more than 75,000 men to the Japanese.  This was the largest surrender of a military force in American history.  There were approximately 67,000 Flipinos, 1,000 Chinese Filipinos, and 12,000 Americans.  These men had been fighting the Japanese in the Phillippines for 3 months.  They were starving and disease ridden men by this time.  When the general surrendered, he was assured by the Japanese colonel that the Americans and Filipinos would be well treated.  The prisoners were immediately robbed of all their personal belongings and then forced to march almost 60 miles from the Bataan peninsula to the prison camp where they would be held.

There was extreme physical abuse.  Murder consisting of beheadings, cut throats and casual shootings were the more merciful.  If a prisoner fell down, he was subjected to being run over by Japanese trucks.  Or sometimes the Japanese riding in the trucks would stick their bayonet out and cut the throats of all they passed.  If a prisoner protested in any way or even if he attempted to help a fellow prisoner, he was subjected to disembowelment, rifle butt beatings,  rape, or bayonet stabbing.   Some were forced to carry heavy packs.  Others were beaten randomly for no reason, many were denied promised food and water.  The roads were littered with dying men and those who were begging for help.

The prisoners had to march constantly for almost a week without food and without any water in the extreme tropical heat.  Prisoners were beaten to death for refusing to take another step when they simply could not.  By that time, some prisoner’s feet were devoid of all flesh and nothing but a bloody mass.  If a prisoner could not walk another step, he died at the hands of the Japanese.

Approximately 25% of those forced to march died.  Even more deaths occurred once they had reached the internment camp.  I knew one of the men who was forced to march in that horrible Death March. He shook all over constantly all the rest of his life.  He worked as a salesman, supporting his wife and family for many years while he shook.  It was said he suffered from Beri Beri.  He never talked of his terrible sufferings, but I know he must have tired of shaking every moment of his life on this earth.  His shaking was not comparable to someone with Parkinson’s.  It was more generalized and more constant.  It was a pitiful thing to see.  But he endured until his mid-fifties when he passed away.

So tonight when you lay your head down to get a peaceful night’s sleep, remember those prisoners who gave their life on that horrible, terrible Bataan Death March tor you so  that you can Choose where and with whom you wish to live.  And tomorrow when you put on your shoes, remember those prisoners whose feet became a bloody mass and they  could not take another painful step.  When you step into your car and turn that key on,  remember those who were forced to walk for a week without food and water.  When you go to work where you Choose to work, remember that man who shook all over every moment of his life while he tried to earn a living for his family.  And when you get an opportunity, go by your Chosen church and say a prayer of thanks to Almighty God for those brave men who have given their lives for our freedom.

Long live the U.S.A.



One response

11 06 2009

The March was a horrific tale of survival–we certainly do owe these folks so much.

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