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Bataan Death March Essay

2374 words - 9 pages

In history, the Holocaust is considered the epitome of cruelty. Yet this even often overshadows the examples of cruelty in our own American history. The Bataan Death March is one of these overshadowed events. The Bataan Death March began on April 15, 1942 after American forces surrendered at the Battle of Bataan on April 9, 1942 in the Philippines. Seventy-eight thousand American and Filipino soldiers were forced to evacuate Bataan to Camp O’Donnell, “a prison camp in central Luzon.” Of these 78,000 soldiers, 500 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died on the march to the prison camp. (Falk 3) These soldiers were subjected to the unusual cruelty of the Japanese, whose military leaders were mostly to blame for the events of the Bataan Death March, though Americans also contributed to the horror that occurred. American military leaders were at fault for the proceedings of the Bataan Death March because of their actions leading up to the march, while the Japanese contributed to the horrors during and after the event.
American military choices before the Bataan Death March led to the abandonment of troops, enabling the Japanese to conquer and subdue American and Filipino soldiers easily. For example, during World War II, the United States was fighting a two front war, one against Germany and Italy and one against Japan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and War Secretary Henry Stimson soon came to support a Europe-first policy, leaving the situation in Bataan as a lost cause by December of 1941. Hampton Sides, the best selling author of the book Ghost Soldiers, whose articles are also published in periodicals such as National Geographic, the New Yorker, and the Washington Post, recorded that Henry Stimson even proclaimed that the government’s abandonment of Bataan was justified because “there are times when men have to die.” (Sides 43) The United States government simply worsened Bataan’s conditions with War Plan Orange No. 3. General Jonathan Wainwright, a general in the Battle of Bataan, recollected that, according to War Plan Orange No. 3, “In the event of a successful Japanese landing on the main island of Luzon the Philippine Division and Philippine Army, if unable to beat off the landings and subsequent advances of the theoretical enemy, were to fight delaying actions and withdraw into Bataan Peninsula.” (Wainwright 9) By retreating to Bataan Peninsula, the Japanese could easily corner the troops because, as shown in Appendix A, they only needed to infiltrate one side, as the east, west, and south sides were surrounded by water. The United States foolishly assumed this would be to their advantage. Part of War Plan Orange No. 3 was that the United States would restock troops in Bataan with necessary food and ammunition; however, no one from the United States ever came to resupply them. As a result, the men fighting in the Battle of Bataan were starved even before the march. In addition, the United States government made it impossible for generals in...

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