The infamous Bataan Death March was one of the greatest atrocities of World War II.
Approximately 1,800 men from the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery Regiment deployed to the Philippines in September 1941. When the Regiment reached the Philippines they immediately moved to Fort Stotsenberg, 75 miles north of Manila. Over the coming months, they would train under simulated war conditions. By December things would change drastically.
On December 8, 1941 Japanese bombers made their appearance and the war was on. It was the 200th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft) — the original full Regiment — who is credited as being the “First to Fire” on December 8, 1941. That night, the 515th Coast Artillery (Anti-aircraft) was formed from the ranks of the 200th. The Japanese landings on Luzon began on December 10, 1941, with more Japanese forces landing on December 12, 1941.
The 200th and later the 515th could not do much damage as their powder train fuses only had a range of 20,000 feet and the bombers were flying at 23,000 feet. The main Japanese invasion forces landed December 22, 1941 and the decision was made to withdraw the forces into Bataan. The 200th covered the retreat of the Northern Luzon Force into Bataan and the 515th for the South Luzon Force. They were able to hold the Japanese air and ground attacks back, thus saving the bridges – and the North and South Luzon Forces found a clear, safe passage to the Bataan peninsula.
For months the American and Filipino troops fought bravely as the war situation worsened. By April 3, 1942, the Japanese received sufficient reinforcements and began to drive down the Bataan peninsula. Four days later, the Japanese broke through allied lines. After holding off the Japanese from December to April – four long months – the battle for Bataan ended on April 9th
Following the fall of the Bataan Peninsula, on April 9, 1942, the United States surrendered to the Japanese and instantly, more than 75,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers were forced to become Prisoners of War. The POWs were soon forced to make the 65-mile trek – with no food or water – to confinement camps throughout the Philippines. Thirsty and exhausted, those who attempted to steal a sip of water from roadside streams or collapsed along the way – were shot or bayoneted on the spot by their Japanese captors. In total, 10,000 men – 1,000 American and 9,000 Filipino – died during the Bataan Death March.
Those that survived the march would spend the next 40 months in horrific conditions in confinement camps. Most were transported to the Japanese man island aboard “death ships.” Many did not survive the voyage. Given very little food, water, and even clothing, the men were tortured, malnourished and riddled with disease. Two-thirds would die from diseases, starvation, horrendous conditions, and beatings or were murdered. More than 11,500 American soldiers died during the three-plus years in confinement.
It wasn’t until late summer of 1945 that these prisoners of war would see freedom. Survivors were diseased, frail – emaciated, skin and bones, some blind, others unable to walk. Sadly one-third of the former POWs would die of complications within their first year of freedom.
Of the 1,816 men 200th & 515th Coast Artillery men identified, 829 died in battle, while prisoners, or immediately after liberation. There were 987 survivors. See the “Casualty Report” attached. The attached report is the result of 12 years of research and is a must-read.
The 200th Coast Artillery was inducted into federal service on January 6, 1941, for one year of active duty training. Unit designations and home stations at the time of induction were:
Regimental Headquarters – Deming
Headquarters Battery – Deming
Regimental Band – Albuquerque
Medical Detachment – Albuquerque
HQ & HQ Battery, 1st BN – Albuquerque
Battery A – Albuquerque
Battery B – Albuquerque
Battery C – Santa Fe
Battery D – Gallup
HQ & HQ Battery, 2nd BN – Clovis
Battery E – Clovis
Battery F – Carlsbad
Battery G – Silver City
Battery H – Taos
There are currently (69) 200th & 515th Coast Artillery survivors living today. Not all of the 200th & 515th Coast Artillery men made the Bataan Death March. At least 100 were sent to Camp O’Donnell by truck; some were immediately assigned to details throughout the Philippine Islands and did not make the Death March. A handful of men were patients at one of the field hospitals on Bataan and were eventually moved to Old Bilibid Prison in Manila, never making the March. (107) 200th & 515th Coast Artillerymen were ordered to evacuate to Corregidor on April 8, 1942, or made their way to Corregidor by any means possible, never making the March. Some of these Corregidor men did begin the March, escaped, and then made their way to Corregidor. At least 14 men are known to have escaped fighting as Guerrillas with only a few of the 14 beginning the Death March before making their escape into the mountains
The 200th & 515th Corregidor men’s experience is worth taking notice. Initially, they endured the hunger and disease on Bataan while in action against the enemy for several months. When Bataan fell, the Japanese turned their attention to Corregidor, and the island was subjected to constant shelling for the next month. Many of these men were absorbed into other units on Corregidor and continued the fight until Corregidor was surrendered. Many soldiers, now prisoners of war, were held as hostages while the Japanese coerced General Wainwright’s cooperation to convince General Sharp to surrender on Mindanao. The prisoners of war were held in the open, exposed to the elements with little water and only the food they could steal from the food stores the Japanese denied them. Another way the prisoners of war got food was to volunteer for burial details. After about 10 days, the prisoners were loaded into boats and taken to a stretch of shoreline south of Manila, near Paranaque, dumped in the water short of the beach and made to wade ashore. They were then marched up [then] Dewey Boulevard [now Roxas Boulevard], past the University Club where General Wainwright and his senior officers were being held. General Wainwright watched his men in their misery paraded through the streets in what has come to be known as the “Gloat March” to Old Bilibid Prison. They were held at Bilibid for about five days and then marched to the train station, loaded into the same 40×8 type boxcars as those who made the Bataan Death March. These men experienced suffered through the same conditions as those on Bataan: extreme heat and humidity, filth, and extreme overcrowding with at least 100 prisoners to a car box car meant to hold only forty men or eight cattle. They were unloaded at Cabanatuan City and then marched about 20km (or about 12 miles) to Cabanatuan prison camp.
Two 200th Coast Artillerymen were awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action on Corregidor.
Nationwide, there are less than 1,000 Bataan & Corregidor survivors.
There are, that we know of, two men who made the Death March, one who was surrendered on Corregidor, and one who was captured at Java, who were attached to other units, not the 200th or 515th, living in New Mexico today. There may be more.