The Bataan Death March: An Example of Japan’s Chaotic Occupation of the Philippines

Like the rest of Japan’s occupation of Southeast Asia during World War Two, Japanese military activities in the Philippines were characterised by a chaotic racist brutality and a plundering of resources under the guise of liberation from Western colonisers. One example of the kind of undisciplined cruelty that flaunted the rules of the 1929 Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners of war (or would have had Japan ratified it) was the Bataan Death March.

Starting on 9 April 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army marched some 60,000 to 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war from Saisaih Pt. and Mariveles to Camp O’Donnell after their surrender, a 60-mile (97-km) journey. Violence, heat exhaustion, dehydration and disease due to poor sanitary conditions resulted in the deaths of up to 10,000 Filipino prisoners and as many as 650 Americans.

The Bataan Death March is one of the most remembered and memorialised events from the war in the Philippines, perhaps due to the relatively high number of US casualties. This short, but excellent documentary manages to tell the story and explore many of the factors that contributed to the atrocity, as well as analyse the legacy it left behind.

Graham is an editor and contributor at Made From History. A London-based writer originally from Washington, DC, he holds a master's degree in Cultural History from Malmö University in Sweden. Graham also contributes environmental news articles to asiancorrespondent.com and latincorrespondent.com.