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Bataan Death March

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The Bataan Death March started on April 11, 1942. It was a result of over 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers surrendering to the Japanese on April 9. The Japanese were surprised by this number, having only expected about 30,000. According to soldier Lester I. Tenney, who experienced the Death March first hand, it was brutal for the prisoners of war.

"Japanese soldiers hollered and would prod us with their bayonets to walk faster(on a short walk to the starting point). Once at the main road, we waited for three hours, standing, sitting, or resting any way we could, but talking was not allowed," Tenney wrote in his book My Hitch in Hell. "Those who left without a canteen had no means of getting water, even if it was available. Those who left with no cap or headpiece walked in the broiling hot sun, with temperatures by midday well in the 100's."

The Japanese soldiers used different weapons to torture the Americans and Filipinos. For example, the POW's were bayoneted, shot, or slain with a samurai sword. One man fell from exhaustion and was flattened by a tank. As his friends and comrades watched this happen, other soldiers were hit by Japanese trucks passing by.

The soldiers were not forced to walk the entire journey. At one point, they were stuffed into 1918 model railroad boxcars, which were 40 by 8 in size. There were over 100 men in each car. There was no room to sit down or even fall down. Some men died in the sweltering cars. After four hours, they reached Capas, Tarlac and were set forth on another ten kilometer walk to Camp O' Donnell.

The torture was not only physical, but sometimes mental. The prisoners of war were forced to stand next to a stream of fresh water. Although exhaustion and dehydration ate away at them, they were not allowed to drink from the stream. One soldier could not take the pain anymore and ran to the stream. Immediately after he fell in face first to drink, a Japanese guard ran over and cut his head off.

The men were given the chance to drink, although it was from a filthy, contaminated stream of water. The stream had a bloated corpse filled with maggots floating down. The soldiers that chose to drink from this stream were laughed at and mocked by the Japanese guards. Many of the POW's took their chances with dehydration rather than drinking from the disgusting water in front of them.

Though dehydration was a major cause of deaths and illness during the march, there were many diseases passed around from soldier to soldier. According to Tenney, "fully one hundred percent of the men who arrived at the first camp had at least one, and most of the men had two or three, of these health problems: malaria, dysentery, malnutrition, hunger, dehydration, pneumonia, beriberi or diphtheria." The psychological damage included "defeat, surrender, and helplessly watching their buddies being killed right in front of them, with nothing anyone could do to stop the slaughter, and always the real possibility that they would be next," Tenney recalled.

As days went on during the march, Japanese discipline broke down as they became frustrated with the large, unexpected number of prisoners. They began



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