Bataan Memorial Death March reenacts WWII POW strife
Bataan is a region of the Philippines in which battles between American/Philippine forces and Japanese soldiers took place during WWII. After a formal surrender on April 9, 1942, the Japanese found themselves in charge of approximately 75 000 prisoners of war, a number which was three times larger than they expected. The POWs were forced to march 90 miles to a camp, and many of them were already ill with malaria or were emaciated and hungry (many were not fed for days at a time). It's estimated at least10 000 of these prisoners died on the march, though many also escaped along the way.
Every year, to commemorate the death march, US soldiers march 26 miles through the New Mexico desert under the motto, "A test of endurance--an active history lesson."
The Bataan Memorial Death March was started in 1989 by the Army ROTC at New Mexico State University to honor a special group of World War II veterans, many of them from New Mexico. The soldiers were responsible for the defense of the islands of Luzon, Corregidor and the harbor defense forts of the Philippines. On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of Americans and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces. The 200th Coast Artillery from the New Mexico National Guard was one of the units seized.
The soldiers were marched for days through the scorching heat of the Philippine Jungles. Thousands of men died during the march and the survivors were sent to Japanese prison of war camps.
The memorial march is primarily a military event, although some civilians do participate. The event which began with about 100 marchers, now each year draws about 4-thousand participants, and is an international event.