HomeFilipino AmericanRecord Turnout for March Memorializing Bataan

Record Turnout for March Memorializing Bataan


Bataan Death March Commemoration 2018
Photo: US Air Force

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A record 8,471 people registered for the 29th Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico on Sunday, March 25.

The event commemorates the Bataan Death March. On April 9, 1942, American and Filipino soldiers in the Philippine peninsula of Bataan, out of ammunition, food and medicine,  surrendered to Japanese forces, the largest number of U.S. military forces to ever surrender, and were taken as prisoners of war.

The prisoners of war, made up of U.S. and Philippine soldiers and Filipino civilians, marched approximately 65 miles through jungle terrain, during which time about 1,000 Americans and nearly 9,000 Filipino soldiers died.

Among the marchers Sunday were young people doing it in honor of  those who were forced to endure the malaria, tropical sun, lack of water and malnutrition of the original march.

At 100 years old, this would be retired Col. Beverly “Ben” Skardon’s 11th memorial march in 12 years. Skardon is a Bataan Death March survivor. His participation makes him not only the oldest marcher but the only survivor to ever walk in the event.“(Participating in the march) means a lot to me personally because that march and the men hang heavy on me. I’ve never forgotten it,” Skardon told the Las Cruces Sun News. “While I walk, it seems to me, my memory flashes back, and I get emotional.”

The New Mexico trek requires participants to hike through 14.2 or 26.2 miles of the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range.

Joining the march for the first time, were the Rivera brothers, Glenn and Kenneth. They were marching to honor their grandfather, Jose Atagon, a Bataan survivor and a POW.

When the Rivera brothers arrived to the event site, they only knew each other, but they quickly found friends with other Filipino marchers and formed an informal group.

“So far it’s been great meeting new people,” Glenn Rivera said, particularly meeting people whose loved one have similar stories of his grandparents. “It’s a priceless experience.”

One of Rivera’s new acquaintances was Rowena San, who marched in memory of her father, Maj. Pedrito Ortiz, a guerrilla fighter at the time.

“My father was a guerrilla, so I’m here to honor him,” San said. “And it’s always been on my bucket list.”

Bataan by the numbers

68,000-plus: The approximate number of prisoners of war who were surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army during the Fall of Bataan . Many of the prisoners were starved, sick and debilitated.

38,000-plus: The approximate number of Filipino civilians who were captured by the Japanese army at Bataan.

80,000: The estimated number of U.S. and Filipino military, and civilians who started on the Bataan Death March.

54,000: The estimated number of prisoners of war who made it to Camp O’Donnell at the end of the Bataan Death March.

5,000 to 10,000: Estimate of the number of Filipinos who died during the Bataan Death March. Multiple sources listed various approximate numbers.

500 to 650: The estimated number of Americans who died during the Bataan Death March.

60 to 69.6: The approximate distance, in miles of the Bataan Death March. Multiple sources listed varying distances. The Bataan Death March was from Mariveles to San Fernando.

5: The number of days it took to complete the march.

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