Philippine World War II veterans Wednesday marked the 44th anniversary of the fall of Bataan to Japanese invaders with a relay race along the route of the forced “Death March” in which thousands of Allied troops died.
Col. Manuel de Ocampo, president of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines, said the race was highlighted by a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial where the 55-mile trek ended in the northern town of San Fernando in Pampanga province.
De Ocampo said the event, which began Tuesday in the town of Mariveles, involved delegations of about 20 veterans and their sons participating in each of the nine towns in Bataan and Pampanga provinces along the trail.
“Most of the running was done by the sons of the veterans,” De Ocampo said.
The Bataan rites commemorate the valiant stand by 76,000 Filipino and American defenders on the craggy peninsula that fell to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. That day, the invaders forced captive troops on what came to be known as the “Death March” from Mariveles to San Fernando. It was described by historians as “10 days of hell” in which from 7,000 to 10,000 Allied soldiers died of malaria, exhaustion, starvation and ill treatment.
The surrender of Bataan, across the bay from Manila, after a bloody three-month battle, upset the Japanese timetable for the conquest of the Pacific. This allowed Allied forces to regroup, leading to their eventual victory.