SAN FRANCISCO – Bataan Legacy Historical Society in partnership with the Presidio Trust, the National Park Service, American Battle Monuments Commission and Fil-Am Racing commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Bataan Death March last April 8 at the Presidio Officers’ Club at 50 Moraga Avenue to honor the thousands of Filipino and American soldiers who perished during this tragic moment in history. Unlike Pearl Harbor, this seminal point of WWII history has been almost forgotten.
The event began at 8:30 AM with the Bataan Legacy 7.5KM Valor Run starting at Barnard & Fernandez Avenues off Moraga Avenue. At 9AM memorial wreaths were placed at the American Battle Monuments Commission WWII West Coast Memorial. At 10AM, the Commemorative Program started with a 21-gun salute by the Pacific Division/75th Training Command followed by a parade on the Presidio Grounds by Bay Area ROTC cadets led by Master Sergeant Stanley Kamiya and the 91st Division. They then proceeded to Moraga Hall of the Presidio Officers’ Club, where the rest of the program took place. Veterans of the Battle of Bataan as well as WWII in the Philippines were honored during the ceremony. Major Generals (Ret.) Eldon Regua and Antonio Taguba, Filipino-Americans whose uncle and father fought in Bataan, were among the speakers.
The Bataan Death March is a seminal event in WWII history that took place in the Philippines which began in April 9, 1942. 75,000 Filipino and American troops of the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), mostly suffering from major disease and starvation, were forced to surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army. They marched approximately 60 miles to their prison camp at Camp O’Donnell under extreme tropical conditions with no provisions for food, water, shelter or medicine. Those who could no longer go on were beaten, bayoneted, shot and some were even beheaded by their Japanese captors.
Approximately 10,000 Filipino and 650 American soldiers died during the march. They fought in the Bataan Peninsula for 99 days without any reinforcement or air support but they were able to disrupt the 50-day timetable of the Imperial Japanese Army before their surrender. This delay prevented Japan from reaching Australia. Bataan Legacy Historical Society worked successfully with the California Department of Education to include the Bataan Death March and WWII in the Philippines in the U.S. history curriculum framework for Grade 11. It is now starting the next phase to help enable its implementation by creating sample lesson plans.