Bataan March commemoration set
Bataan March commemoration set
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – Some 40 student cadets and other participants will set out Saturday morning on a commemorative journey to honor the thousands of American and Filipino soldiers who were force-marched more than 70 miles as prisoners of war in the Bataan Death March during World War II.

Hope High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets and others will gather at Hope High School at 7 a.m. Saturday to register for a 14-mile commemorative walk that will begin between Hope and Prescott on U.S. Highway 67 east and conclude at 3 p.m. at the HHS campus on Main Street.

“Cadets will be awarded an AFJROTC Bataan Ribbon upon successful completion,” Master Sergeant Arthur Mickles said. “Students have designed posters with educational comments that will be visible along the way as mile markers.”

MSgt. Mickles said the walk will be completed, pending acceptable weather conditions. He said the route begins at a point between Hope and Prescott on U. S. Hwy. 67, proceeding into Hope from that point to the intersection of Hwy. 67 and Bill Clinton Bypass. The route turns south from there to the intersection of Clinton Bypass with U.S. Highway 29 south (Main Street).  From there, cadets will proceed to the finishing point on the HHS campus.

Registration is at 7 p.m. with bus pick-up at 7:30 a.m. and drop-off at the starting point of the walk by 7:50 a.m. Walkers will leave on foot at 8 a.m., and are expected to arrive back at HHS by 3 p.m.

Participants are advised to eat a healthy breakfast; remain consistently hydrated irrespective of the temperature; wear comfortable, breathable socks; wear comfortably loose clothing and suitable shoes; clip toenails short the night before; and, eat snacks during the walk such as fruits that provide energy (apricots, bananas), fresh vegetables such as carrots, and healthy energy bars or mixed nuts.

The fall of the Philippine Islands and Corregidor in early 1942 to overwhelming Japanese forces in World War II caused U.S. and Philippine defenders to retreat and endure months of brutal attacks which eventually depleted their supplies and arms, according to Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

The weakened defenders were forced to surrender; some 66,000 Filipinos and 10,000 Americans were captured and force-marched from the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula some 66 miles inland, where they were loaded into cramped railway boxcars and taken north, before the survivors were marched another 7 miles to a military POW camp. Many of the POWs died of suffocation with more than 100 men crowded into standing positions in each boxcar in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

During the main body of the march some 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans either died or were summarily executed along the way. Prisoners who were too weak to walk, or those who did not keep the pace, were shot or bayoneted, and in some cases beheaded.

Of the 54,000 prisoners who ultimately made it to POW Camp O’Donnell, 26,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans died in captivity from starvation or disease.

Survivors who told their stories after the recapture of the Philippines by troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur caused the phrase “Bataan Death March” to become a battle cry for American and Allied victory in the Pacific war.