This week marks the 75th Anniversary that the Japanese military forced American prisoners of war to “march” 65 miles through the Philippine jungles in what has become to be known as the Bataan Death March.
Several years ago while traveling to see a friend in Taos, New Mexico, I stopped in at the Pueblo nation reservation and was fortunate enough to meet an old man, whose sunken eyes and dark tanned leather skin told the story of a tough life.
At first, I thought he was a farmer whose leathered skin bore the marks of long days spent in the sun, but I quickly found out that wasn’t the case.
His son came out and saw that I was wearing a military sweatshirt and asked me if had heard of the Bataan Death March. I said I had. He then pointed to his dad and said that’s one of the few that survived it.
They showed me pictures of what he looked like when he was saved and liberated. He weighed only 80 pounds and looked like a death camp survivor.
This week, eight survivors of the march are gathering to participate in the 27th annual Bataan Memorial Death March. It is one of WW II’s greatest atrocities. Of the almost 10,000 Americans who endured starvation, torture, malnutrition and disease in 100+ degree temperatures, fewer than 50 survivors are alive today.
If you aren’t familiar with what happened during the March and why it occurred you can read about it here.
What these men endured, and particularly those from New Mexico, who sent 1,800 men fro the Army’s 200th and 515th regiments, is unbelievable. One thing it does show is the American spirit and how it endured at the horrific crimes committed against it by other men.