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Did the Bataan Death March speed up Philippine Independence?
Memorial Day is a US holiday began to honor soldiers who died fighting to protect the freedoms enjoyed by citizens of the USA, like myself. It is not a day to thank veterans for their service with a handshake or pat on the back and a sincere, “Thank you for your service!” It is a day to: put a flower or wreath on their grave, say a prayer for their peace, or light a candle in memory of our fallen defenders of freedom.
On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which was a US territory at the time. On December 8, 1941, the Empire of Japan attacked the Philippines, which was a US commonwealth at the time. The US was drawn into World War II. The Allies decided to focus attention on defeating Nazi Germany first. This meant little was done to support the US and Filipino troops who faced a Japanese invasion. Manila fell in less than a month because General Douglas MacArthur decided to spare the city from becoming a battlefield. Brave but ill-equipped, ill-trained and ill-lead US and Filipino soldiers fought a losing battle for 3 months. The US and Filipino defenders surrendered to the superior Japanese force.
The Japanese Army had captured about 10,000 US soldiers and 66,000 Filipino soldiers. The Japanese decided to force these soldiers, who were half-starved and battle-worn from 3 months of fighting, to march with little to no food or water for 5-10 days through 100-degree heat to San Fernando, Pampanga where they were loaded onto boxcars and delivered to Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac. Many US and Filipino soldiers were executed because they were too far gone to march or just because their Japanese captives decided they did not deserve life. The Japanese Army showed little concern or compassion for their captives. The US death toll is record as 500 and the Filipino death toll is listed as 5 times that number at 2,500. At Camp O’Donnell, an additional 1,500 US soldiers and 20,000 Filipinos died due to poor conditions, disease, torture, and murder. The Empire of Japan during World War II was every bit as evil as Nazi Germany.
As the tide of the War in the Pacific turned against Japan and liberation of the Philippines became imminent, the Japanese ordered the execution of prisoners to cover up the atrocities that the Japanese Army had committed against US and Filipino POW’s. The Raid at Cabanatuan was a joint US and Filipino rescue of POW’s, who recounted their treatment and exposed the cruelty of the Japanese Army . The immediate result was stronger reserve to defeat the Empire of Japan.
In the longer term I do think that the actions of Filipinos during the war lead to a greater respect from the people of the USA toward the Filipino people; although, many of the promises made to Filipino soldiers were broken by the US government. I feel that from fighting together against a common foe the US and Filipino soldiers formed a bond of mutual respect. I feel the horrible experiences that was shared by US and Filipino soldiers speed the process of Philippine Independence, which the US had begun in 1935, when it established the Commonwealth of the Philippines and Filipinos had been allowed limited self-rule. Less than a year after the end of WW II the Philippines was granted her independence on July 4, 1946.
I have heard some simplistic comments made verbally and in print of how the USA saved the Philippines from the Empire of Japan. I find some fault in this based on the facts. The Philippines was still a possession of the USA before World War II and immediately after. When the Japanese were driven out the USA took back its property from Japan. Secondly, the USA was not fighting the Japanese with the goal of freeing the Philippines. The goal of the USA in WW II was to defeat the great evil of fascist governments in Germany, Italy and Japan, who were working for world enslavement. The people of the USA along with the people of the Philippines fought together to defeat this evil. This article is written to recognize the great an ultimate sacrifice that US and Filipino soldiers made in defense of the US Commonwealth of the Philippines.
Memorial Day weekend is celebrated at the end of May each year in the USA and is considered the beginning of summer. Many people in the USA will go to beaches and grill out and this is good and fine. I will be attending the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend with my eldest son and 200,000 strangers. We went last year and NASCAR does a pretty good job of remembering our war dead, . The drivers had the names of fallen soldiers on their cars where their names normally would appear and were racing in honor of the fallen. Freedom is not free. I feel it is important to remember and recognize our fallen heroes. If anyone feels the urge to recognize a fallen US or Filipino soldier feel free to in the comments section and if you want to thank a living veteran for their service any day is a good day!