The QiRanger Adventures

Posts Tagged ‘Death March

The Bataan Death March

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For the United States, World War II started on December 7th, 1941 with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. What many don’t realize that the Japanese launched simultaneous attacks around the Pacific in near unison.
The Philippines, a territory of the United States since 1898, were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. He was tasked with preparing the islands should Japan attack. As much as he did, Japanese forces quickly overran defenses and US and Filipino armies retreated to the Bataan Peninsula.

Here, the combined might of the US and Filipino armies held off the Imperial forces of Japan until April 1942. Once General King surrendered, those that remained alive were forced to march more than 100km in what is known as the Bataan Death March.

My Great Uncle was stationed here prior to World War II and survived the march. Join me in this special QiRanger Adventure as Jo and I travel to Bataan. We start off at Mariveles, the sight of the first of two 00km Death March markers and make our way through the peninsula all the way to Tarlac and Camp O’Donnell.

Tears in the Darkness

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A couple of months ago, Jo sent me a little care package from the US. In it was a special treat for me (and I don’t mean coffee). It was a copy of Michael and Elizabeth M. Norman’s Tears in the Darkness. Jo had told me about the book and I was looking forward to receiving it and delving into its pages. For those not familiar with the book, here a brief summary from its website:

Here, from Michael Norman and Elizabeth M. Norman, is the story of the worst defeat in American military history, the four-month fight for the tiny peninsula of Bataan in the Philippine Islands – the first major land battle for America in World War II. On April 9, 1942, more than 76,000 men under American command surrendered to their Japanese captors, who set them walking sixty-six miles to prison camp, a notorious walk that came to be known as “The Bataan Death March.”
“Tears In the Darkness” is history written as story, thousands of sources and hundreds of interviews carefully woven into a tight narrative that recreates those dramatic days and the men – Americans, Japanese and Filipinos – who lived them.

It was a profoundly powerful book for me to read on several levels. First, I enjoy reading about history, and while I am somewhat familiar with the European side of World War II, my knowledge of the events in the Pacific is limited. However, the most important reason why this book affected me was because it is a personal conflict: My Uncle Mort was station in the Philippines and survived the “Death March.”

I was fortunate to grow up with my Uncle close-by and had the chance to talk with him on a few occasions about his time as a POW in the Philippines. Some of what I read, I knew about from his first-hand account. None-the-less, reading this book drove the point home and really made me sit back in awe as the men endured tremendous pain and suffering. I still can’t fathom war or why someone would want to inflict that kind of pain and punishment on another human soul.

One of the great things about the book, is that it weaves together a great narrative, including one-third of the book told from the Japanese perspective. I think one of the most powerful sections comes at the end of the War, when the Allies are handing out “Justice” to those accused of War Crimes. While I can’t comment on the true nature of the events, the research the authors use and depict, indicate that the US railroaded several Japanese officers in an attempt to serve “justice” to the force that handed them such a massive defeat in the Philippines. It also paints MacArthur in a less than positive light for sugar-coating the Philippines war-readiness ability and command.

Jo has already visited Bataan and Corregidor when she lived in the Philippines. When we visit there in 2010, I’m looking forward to seeing where my Uncle so bravely fought, not only for his country, but for his soul.

Written by Steve Miller

November 2, 2009 at 3:54 pm