Soldiers In Iraq Pay Tribute To Bataan Death March Victims

May 11, 2009

May 1942 Photo of Soldiers on Bataan Death March


67 years ago, 78,000 service members in the Phillippines were forced to march over 55 miles from the Bataan Peninsula to Camp O’Donnell to be held as prisoners of war, after allied forces surrendered in the Phillippines. The journey that these service members were forced to take was a harsh and grueling one. Along the way, troops were beaten, food and water was withheld for days on end. If they became weakened and fell out of line, they were executed. As a result of this harsh and cruel treatment, almost 20,000 of them died. Once they reached their destination, the men were transported to Japanese prison camps and held prisoner for 3 years in horrible conditions.

A Memorial March is held every year, during the month of March, at White Sands Missle Range in New Mexico. Each year competitors from different branches of the military, as well as civilians participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March to honor the brave men who were forced to make that march 67 years ago.

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Soldiers march through the Iraqi desert heat during the Bataan Memorial March held on Contingency Operating Base Basra, May 10, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Jungels

In Iraq on May 10th, 86 soldiers and civilians stationed at COB Basara joined forces with Minnesota National Guard Soldiers to participate in the 12th Annual Bataan Memorial March. The march was organized by members of the Minnesota National Guard’s 1st Battallion, 194th Armor Regiment. They have a deep connection to the veterans of the Bataan Death March. In 1941 Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s 194th Tank Battalion deployed to the Phillippines and were attacked on the Bataan Peninsula by Japanese forces. For 5 months, they fought in sustained combat and many were forced to make the Bataan Death March. Those who survived, of course, ended up as POWs for 3 years.2

To show their respect for those who lost their life during the Death March and those who survived, Soldiers from the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division participated alonside their bretheren from the Minnesota National Guard, by competing in 10 and 20 mile marches. Major Thomas Sutton with 10th Mountain Division competed in the 20 mile light division march.

“This was a great opportunity,” Sutton said. “I just wanted to finish. But I went slow and kept a steady pace and everything worked out.”3

I think it’s admirable that these Soldiers took time out of the hectic pace of their day, in a combat zone to honor veterans who’ve come before them and whom endured such horrific conditions. By doing so, not only are they paying great respect and honor to the men who endured the Bataan Death March, but reminding themselves and others of the pride our service members take in serving this country.

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