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Death March: The Other View
CSC 1984
						   Submitted to
					Mr. Rudolph V. Wiggins, Ph. D.
				in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
                       for Written Communications
                  The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
                             Quantico, Virginia
                             Major G. J. Wright
                         United States Marine Corps
                              April 6, 1984
                  DEATH MARCH: THE OTHER VIEW
Thesis: The brutality of the Japanese guards as they
        moved POWs north along the Bataan peninsula can
	   not be denied.  There were, however, many con-
        ditions unknown to most that led to the death of
        thousands of prisoners that cannot and should
        not be attributed to the Japanese soldier.
I.   A Place in History
     A.  Futility and its aftermath
	B.  The other view
II.	General King's Dilemma
	A.  The surrender
	B.  An unfulfilled promise
III. The Death March
	A.  The undeniable brutality
	B.  Tragic conditions
         1.  Training differences
         2.  Large numbers of prisoners
         3.  Limited quantities of food, water and supplies
	    4.  Poor physical condition of the prisoners
         5.  Limited medical facilities
         6.  High incidene of disease
         7.  Failure of the Japanese evacuation plan
         8.  Low prisoner morale
IV.  Let the Dead Bury the Dead
                             by Major Gary J. Wright, USMC
                   A Place In History
     Most battles have a place in history. Some are remem-
bered for the tactical genious displayed by a resourceful
general.  Still others hold their place in annals for their
daring maneuver of forces snatching victory at the very last
moment.  Yet other battles are significant in their futility.
    In part, the defense of the Philippines during World
War II falls into this latter category. The invasion force
swept over Luzon is such large numbers and against such an
ill-prepared force that the outcome was known before the
first casualty fell victim.  Notwithstanding, the signifi-
cance of the Philippine struggle was its aftermath.  The move-
ment of prisoners of war became the historical post-mortem
that separates this battle from all others.
	This movement of prisoners became known as the Bataan
"Death March" and was historically infamous for the meaning-
less loss of life.  Most considered Japanese inhumanity to
be central to the merciless death of POWs. The brutality
of the Japanese guards as they moved POWs north along the Ba-
taan peninsula cannot be denied.  There were, however, many con-
ditions unknown to most that led to the death of thous-
ands of prisoners that cannot and should not be attibuted
to the Japanese soldier.
			General King's Dilemma
	On 9 April 1942, a very dejected, demoralized General
Edward P. King surrendered his Philippine Luzon Force to
the Japanese.  The American-Filipino (Am-Fil) force had,
since 8 December 1941, fought a fight of futility against
the Japanese invaders.  General King "felt, he said later,
like General Lee who, on the same day seventy-seven years
earlier, just before meeting with Grant at Appomatox, had
remarked, "Then there is nothing left to do but to go and
see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.'"1
What was General King's mission that had failed so drasti-
     The mission of the Am-Fil force was never realistically
thought of in such grand terms as to repulse the invaders;
never to throw them back into the South China Sea from
whence they came.  On the contrary, General Douglas Mac Ar-
thur, commander of all U. S. Army forces in the Far East,
decided on a bold course.      
     He would pull his troops back to the shelter 
	of Bataan, a small, mountainous jungle penin-
	sula that juts out into the mouth of Manila
	Bay. From here there was no way out, no es-
	cape.  Every single one of the defenders
	would be doomed to death or capture.  But 
     so long as MacArthur and his men could
	hold out...the Japanese timetable for cap-
	ture of the Indies might well be drasti-
	cally delayed.2
	Delay was the key word, and indeed they did.  The
Am-Fil force, outnumbered almost 3 to 1, continued to
fall back over the course of 98 days.  They attempted
to hold along successive defensive lines but to little
avail. The beleagured forces, however, had a promise
from their even-then famous MacArthur that "help is on
the way from United States.  Thousands of troops and hun-
dreds of planes are being dispatched."3 So positive was
MacArthur's message and so contrary was "President Roose-
velt's February 23rd fireside chat"4 write-off of the
Luzon Force, that the effect on morale was devastating.
The entire text of MacArthurs's message is footnoted.5
It was out of this feeling of betrayal that the nickname
"the battling bastards of Bataan" arose.  In fact, the
"battling bastard" line was a part of a song that reflec-
ted this sense of hopelessness and betrayal.
     We're the battling bastards of Bataan;
	  No momma, no pappa, no Uncle Sam
	No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces
	  No rifles, no guns or artillery pieces
     And nobody gives a damn....."6
	On the island of Corrigidor, Major General Wainwright
upon learning of General King's surrender, sent the fol-
lowing message to General MacArthur:
	At six o'clock this morning (9 April 1942),
	General King, commanding Luzon Force without
	my knowledge or approval, sent a flag of
	truce to the Japanese commander....Enemy on
	the east had enveloped both flanks....Physical
	exhaustion and sickness due to a long period
     of insufficient food is the real cause of this
	terrible disaster.7
	The death and misery that followed the surrender was
in no way envisioned by either side.  General Homma, Com-
mander of the victorious Japanese 14th Army "spoke
warmly to Americans of how well they would be treated.
But the actions of many Japanese officers and men belied
these statements."8
	  	           THE DEATH MARCH
	The 14th Army staff upon Am-Fil surrender, was faced
with a dual dilemma.  On the one hand, it had to continue
to press the attack on to Corregidor Island just off the
coast of Bataan, where several thousand American forces
and General Wainwright's headquarters had fled.  And, on
the other hand, General Hommas's staff was faced with a 
massive evacuation of prisoners to POW camps.  There was
no way to know how many prisoners who started the POW
evacuation, failed to live through the ordeal.  Suffice
to say, the numbers were excessive.  But was Japanese
brutality the only cause?  If not, what else?
	Well, there were many factors in addition to Japanese
inhumane treatment that contributed to what became known
as the Death March.  Those factors included training dif-
ferences; unanticipated large number of prisoners; limited
quantity of food, water and vehicles; poor physical condi-
tion of prisoners; limited medical facilities; high inci-
dence of disease; failure of the Japanese evacuation plan;
and low prisoner morale.  Even under the most humane con-
ditions, thousands of prisoners would not have survived.
A closer examination reveals why.
Training Differences.
	The post war and pre campaign training of the Am-Fil
force was not rigorous.  With the exception of a few long
hikes, the soldiers defending the Philipines had not ex-
perienced the hardship or deprivation that is required for
battle.  As one survivor of Bataan reflected "Our pre-war
training...lacked reality most of all.  The way to train
troops for the rigors is...not only in making thirty or
forty miles on foot, but in doing it hungry....Make our
troops tough and putting into training as close
to battle experience as possible."9
	The Japanese forces, on the other hand, were well
trained and highly disciplined.  The result was a tena-
cious warrior capable of performing under extremely ad-
verse conditions.  "The brutality of the Japanese soldiers'
training and the rough discipline of his army did not in
any way excuse the harsh treatment of the prisoners."10
This regimen did however lead to greater expectations of
the prisoners.  When the prisoners did not do what was ex-
pected of them, the Japanese soldiers naturally reverted 
to what they had experienced.
	Another aspect of cultural training differences that 
	 contributed to the horrors of the Death
	March....(was) the...unquestioning obedience
	to orders with which the Japanese soldier
	was inculcated...the crowded assembly areas,
	the packed warehouse at Lubao and the jammed
	boxcars are ready examples.  The guards were
	probably told to place their charges in a
	given area or building. It mattered not
	that there were soon too many prisoners for
	the space provided.11
Large Number of Prisoners
	Prior to the surrender, General Homma's staff was
unsure as to the size of the enemy force.  One of the
initial estimates placed the Am-Fil force at 25,000.
"General Homma thought this very low and ordered another
estimate whereupon his staff came up with the number 40,000.
It was this figure that was settled on and upon which evacu-
ation plans were based.  In actuality the number of
soldiers and civilians trapped forward of Japanese lines
exceeded 104,000.  Thus, what little food, water and trans-
portation resources that were available, was drasticaly
short of what was required."12
	The 14th Army faced with the problem of the attack
on Corregidor, could not spare the guards needed to escort
such large numbers of prisoners.  Consequently, it was
commonplace to have two or three guards escorting over one-
hundred prisoners.13  As mentioned previously, the Japanese
soldier was not trained to be tolerant or understanding.
In addition the situation itself, given the guard to pri-
soner ratio, was untolerable.  So therefore the movement
of prisoners became the proverbial powder keg. "All the
Japanese soldier knew was that he was responsible for
moving a large number of prisoners a certain distance,
probably within a given time and that he would be severly
punished if any captives escaped."14 Over and over again
the powder keg was lit.  Prisoners fell out of formation
or questioned orders and, true to training, the guards
dealt with the problem.  The guards could not risk the
escape of other captives which was very likely given the
guard to prisoners ratio.  Thus swift and brutal treatment
was the most expedient, efficient and unavoidable means of
handling such an overwhelming number of the prisoners.
Limited Quantities of Food, Water and Supplies
	General Wainwright, in a message to General Marshall,
MacArthur's Chief of Staff, stated "that disaster was im-
minent unless supplies arrived one-third ration,
poorly balanced and very deficient in vitamins...the
troops will be starved into submission."15 The short quant-
tity of food prior to surrender seemed an abundance after
surrender.  Now at the mercy of the Japanese supply system,
which by itself was limited and overtaxed, the prisoners
faced actual starvation.  "The Americans soon learned that
hunger is a great leveler and sought the meat of dogs,
iguanas and monkeys...One officer: 'I recommend mule...
Iguana is fair...I never had snake...monkey meat is all right
until the animal's hands turn up on the plate.'"16
    While the above seems drastic, the Am-Fil soldier
probably would have resorted to such a diet prior to the
surrender if he did not have to worry about a bullet.  The
caloric intake fell rapidly,
     the January ration had provided approximately
	2,000 calories a day. The next month the
	figure declined to 1,500 and during March it
	was 1,000 calories daily, only one-fourth that
	required to sustain the average working man...
	(on) March 25...the men received (for the en-
	tire day) 8 1/2 ounces of rice, 1 1/2 ounces of
	flour and salt, slightly more than one ounce
	of canned meat and canned milk and one-half
	ounce of sugar."17
	The prisoners also had to contend with thirst.  April
began the dry months in the Philippines.  To compound the
problem, the heat was almost unbearable.  All of this added
to a long march with harsh treatment made men resort to any-
thing to quench their thirst.
	So desperate were the men that they did not
	hesitate to drink...They held their noses
	to seal off the sickening odor, but they
	drank all the water they could.  Some were
	so thirsty that even the sight of swollen
	bodies floating in the water could not keep
	them from drinking. More than one man drank
	his fill, and then vomited in disgust at	
	the sight and smell.18
	As with food and water, all other classes of supply
were virtually non-existent.  As one officer of the Quar-
termaster Corps said "The story of the Philippine and Ba-
taan Quartermaster Depots is a saga of 'too little, too
late'- a saga of supply when adequate supplies simply
did not exist."19 The Am-Fil depots were drained.  Soldiers
fought over items that years before would have been con-
sidered unserviceable.  One of the items least essential
but most in demand was cigarettes. "The demand for cigar-
ettes was never met...For smokers the loss was a heavy one,
and created a real moral problem...In the three months the
men were on Bataan, they received on the average less than
one cigarette a day."20
	Cigarettes were not as critical as were other supplies.
"As time pased uniforms became...threadbare, offering
little protection agains the cold night, the rain, and
the cruel thorns so abundant on Bataan."21
	The Am-Fil force could not "march on its stomach" as
the saying goes and likewise, it could not march on its
feet. "Fully one quarter were without footgear; the rest
wore shoes so badly worn that under normal conditions they
would have been unfit for use...(In some units) less than
25 percent of the enlisted men...had blankets, shelter
halves or raincoats."22
	Finally the item that would have greatly lesssened the
impact of the Death March - vehicles - were also not avail-
able. "General King had ordered all supplies less trans-
portation be destroyed.  As indicated above, destroying
all supplies must have been an easy task.  But, as always
happens, the 'word' was not clear, so all supplies were
destroyed to include transportation.  The Japanese had only
half the vehicles they needed and the Japanese supply of-
ficers' motto was 'a drop of gasoline is as precious as a
drop of blood.'"23
	Everything was in demand but nothing was in supply!
Poor Physical Condition of the Prisoners
	The tremendous number of prisoners, coupled with the 
lack of food, water and other essentials, caused really the
greatest evil.  An evil that again was virtually out of
the hands of the Japanese.
	The caloric deficiency, combined with the
	lack of important vitamins produced alarming
	results.  Serious muscle waste and depletion
	of fat reserve were evident in the thin
	bodies and hollow cheeks of the hungry men.
	Night blindness, swelling, diarrhea, and dy-
	sentary became common, and beriberi in its
	incipient stages was almost universal among
	the troops.  The men lost the capacity to re-
	sist even the most minor ailment, and any
	disease...would assume epidemic proportions.24
It was not a minority of the prisoners that were in such
poor physical condition.  On the contrary, only a very
small number were not suffering from on sickness or
another. "In the words of Colonel Harold W. Glattly, the
former Luzon Force surgeon, they were 'patients rather
than prisoners!'"25
	In addition to those who had everything from malaria 
to beriberi, hospital patients were leaving hospitals pre-
	According to the rumor, the Japanese were
	releasing Filipino (hospital) prisoners...
	By evening a long line of Filipinos could
	be seen trudging from the hospital area...
	Many had only recently been operated on
	and were still wearing casts or dressings.
	Some had undergone amputations or serious
	abdominal surgery....Soon the weaker ones
	began to fall by the roadside, many to be
	shot or bayoneted....'Crippled Filipinos
	were strewn along the road,' wrote an Ameri-
	can officer. 'I remember going from ward to
	ward pleading with Filipino patients not to
	leave, recalls one surgeon...but my pleas
	were in vain.'26
	Most on the march would have found it difficult to
survive in a hospital ward.  Yet, they pressed on with
the hope of a haven; a place of rest.  Many, instead of
a haven, found their final resting place.
Limited Medical Facilities
	The hospitals and field wards were less than adequate
and limited in number prior to the Japanese invasion.
These facilities, however, had not experienced the deluge
of patients that the invasion, malnutrition and disease
caused.  Consequently, they were totally unprepared...un-
prepared from beds, bandages, medicine, medical personnel
and virtually every area where a need existed.  To make
matters worse, the Japanese lacked much of the same so as
the saying goes, "to the victor belong the spoils".
	Japanese forces in the Philippines also
	suffered from a shortage of medical sup-
	plies, equipment and personnel.  Attempts
	to alleviate this situation were far from
	successful and General Homma's requests
	to his superiors for medical aid had no
	more luck than his pleas for rice (the
	Japanese were also down to half rations)...
	The failure of  the Japanese high command
	to provide the 14th Army with additional
	medical supplies meant a constant decrease
	in stocks on hand in the Philippines.27
	The entire medical situation was, at best, totally
overwhelmed.  This was the case on both sides.  Those who
survived combat, fell victim to disease.  Those who were
victims of combat also fell victim to disease.  Many were
very sick yet there were no beds or medication available.
	The capacity of the two general hospitals
	on Bataan designed to accommodate 1,000
	patients each...By the end of March, the
	two general hospitals had about 8,500 pat-
	ients and another 4,000 were being treated
 	in a provisional hospital...admission to...
	hospitals was finally limited to two types;
	those requiring serious medical or surgical
	treatment and those in which the period of
	disability was expected to exceed 21 days.28
	"By the first week in April, there may have been as
many as 24,000 sick and wounded in hospitals and aid sta-
tions on Bataan."29
High Incidence of Disease 
	As has been alluded to, with the exhausted supply sys-
tem, the large number of physically drained troops and
the minimal medical facilities (in a jungle-tropical environ-
ment) disease was everywhere. "The men lost the capacity
to resist even the most minor ailment, and any disease,
warned the Bataan Surgeon, would assume epidemic proper-
tions."30 The Surgeon's warning turned out to be prophetic.
	Beriberi, almost unheard of, became very common.  As
one medical officer explained. "The only thing we could do
when someone had dry beriberi was to get him on his feet and
off the bed.  The minute he grew fast to a mattress, he was
dead.  .Anybody who just got too sick to get out of bed was
on his way to die."31
	As one POW states, "...what knocked the devil out of
us was malaria.  Oh, boy, that killed a lot of people."32
Malaria, another killer.  "A minimum of 3,000,000 quinine
tablets a month was needed and the supply depots had only a
six day supply by the end of March...In the days that fol-
lowed (malaria patients were admitted at)...the fantastic
figure of 1,000 admissions daily."33
	Dysentery! "So many died of dysentery.  If you had it,
you needn't bother pulling up your pants.  You'd just
go, go, go...Of course everyone was emaciated as well...
suffering from one had enough to eat
to match anywhere near what they used."34 Another quote
from a POW medical officer to attest to the disease pla-
gued status of the prisoners.
	Disease is now added to the list of factors which the
Japanese had no control over.  In this case, Bataan was
the "leveler" for the Japanese suffered the same diseases
along with their captives.
Failure of the Japanese Evacuation Plan
	General Homma had anticipated the need for an evacu-
ation plan.  As commander of the 14th Army, he had many
critical issues.  The evacuation was the least of his con-
	As has been previously stated, the miscalculation of
the number of prisoners caused the greatest problem.  The
Japanese were also uninformed on the physical condition
of the Am-Fil force. "Homma and his staff had no real
knowledge of just how bad the food situation actually was
in southern Bataan...(if he had known), he would simply
have sat back and waited for an offer of surrender when
General King's food ran out."35 In addition, Homma's force
had no incidence of disease until they broke into the Ba-
taan peninsula.  Therefore, they had no idea that the Luzon
force was disease ridden.36
	The final planning failure dealt with Homma's overes-
timation of the Luzon force to continue the fight.  Homma
thought that, at the beginning of April, it would take one
month before final victory.  This was not to be.
	The fall of Bataan less than one week after
	the start of the Good Friday offensive
	brought the 14th Army face to face with a
	completely unexpected situation. It was
	suddenly required to take care of twice
	the number of prisoners expected - a large
	percentage of them too weak or sick to make
	the journey out of Bataan on foot - three
	weeks before it was ready to accommodate
	even the number and type of captives origi-
	nally anticipated.37
Low Prisoner Morale
	It is not difficult to understand what the captives'
frame of mind was during the evacuation.  To have lost in
battle; to have been promised reinforcements from on high 
only to be told from on "higher" (by the fireside) that
there would be no reinforcements; in a jungle with virtually
no food, water, transportation and death from some foreign
disease or bayonet; morale was non-existent.  Soldiers just
saw no reason to continue.  They gave! POW state-
ments include the following;
	I knew one guy, and there were a lot, who
	wouldn't eat...He died gradually because he
	gave up eating.
	I know one kid from our outfit, God we slap-
	ped him, kicked him,...Anything to try to
	make him want to fight.  But I found out
	when a man gives up, you're not going to
	get him back.
	Not everyone that died, died because they
	gave up, buy many did.
	Some of our men seemed able to give up and
	die in three weeks or less.38
			 Let the Dead Bury the Dead
	At the onset the Bataan prisoner evacuation was doomed.
With or without Japanese brutality, it was destined to earn
its infamous title, Death March.  It becomes apparent that
conditions were so desperate that many would have died
even if the Japanese had continued on to their next conquest
and simply left the defeated behind.
	For the American and Filipinos of the Luzon Force
	who suffered through the difficult fighting on Ba-
	taan, April was indeed "the cruelest month"
	Sick, starving, exhausted, they entered the vale
	of captivity and met a horror they never foresaw.
	The agony they endured, the death they often
	welcomed, were not deviously and maliciously plan-
	ned.  Instead they were the result of tragic con-
	1Louis Morton, "The Battling Bastards of Bataan,"
Military Affairs, Summer 1951, p. 113
	2Stanley Falk, The Battling Bastards (New York:
W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1962) p. 27
	3T. Parker, "The Epic of Corregidor-Bataan, Dec-
ember 24, 1941-May 4, 1942." U.S. Naval Instituted Pro-
ceedings, January 1943, p. 13.
	4Louis Morton, "The Battling Bastards of Bataan,"
Military Affairs, Sumner 1951, p. 112
	5T. Parker, "The Epic of Corregidor-Bataan, De-
cember 24, 1941-May 4, 1942." U.S. Naval Institute Pro-
ceedings, January 1943, p. 13.
			                 FORT MILLS, P.I.
						  January 15, 1942.
	Subject: Message from General MacArthur
	To: All Unit Commanders
		The following message from Gen. MacArthur
	will be read and explained to all troops. Every
	company commander is charged with personal re-
	sponsibility for the delivery of this message.
	Each headquarters will follow up to insure recep-
	tion by every company or similar unit.
		"Help is on the way from the United States.
	Thousands of troops and hundred of planes are
	being dispatched. The exact time of arrival of
	reinforcements is unknown as they will have to
	fight their way through Japanese attempts against
	them.  It is imperative that our troops hold until
	these reinforcements arrive.
		"No further retreat is possible. We have more
	troops in Bataan than the Japanese have thrown
	against us; our supplies are ample; a determined
	defense will defeat the enemy's attack.
		"It is a question now of courage and determina-
	tion.  Men who run will merely be destroyed but
	men who fight will save themselves and their country.
		"I call upon every soldier in Bataan to
	fight in his assigned position, resisting every
	attack. This is the only road to salvation. If
	we fight we will win; if we retreat, we will be
                      "By Command of General MacArthur"
		6Harold Baldiwn, "The Fourth Marines at Corregi-
dor", Marine Corps Gazette, December 1946, p. 28
		7Duane Schultz, Hero of Bataan: The Story of
General Jonathan M. Wainwright (New York: St. Martin's Press,
1981) p. 244-45.
		8Falk, p.222
		9M. Hill, "Lessons of Bataan", Infantry Journal,
October 1942, p. 10
		10Falk, p. 235
		11Ibid, p. 235
		12Ibid, p. 57-59
`		13Ibid, p. 234
		14Ibid, p. 234
		15Morton, p.108
		16Ibid, p. 109
		17Ibid, p. 110
		18Falk, p. 135
		19Harold Arnold, "The Lesson of Bataan', Quarter-
master Review, November 1946, p. 12.
		20Morton, p. 110
		21Ibid, p. 110
		22Ibid, p. 120
		23Falk, p. 216
		24Morton, p. 111
		25Falk, p. 213
		26Ibid, p. 98
		27Ibid, p. 65
		28Morton, p. 111
		29Falk, p. 38
		30Morton, p. 110
		31Donald Knox, Death March, (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1981) p. 222
		32Ibid,  p. 179
		33Morton, p. 111
		34Knox, p. 168
		35Falk, p. 60
		36Ibid, p. 60
		37Ibid, p. 62
		38Knox, p. 166-168
		39Falk, p. 240
Arnold, H. "The Lessons of Bataan", Quartermaster Review
	     (November 1946), 12-15, 60, 63
Babcock, C. "Philippine Campaign", Cavalry Journal
		(March 1943), 5-7; (May 1943) 28-35
Baldwin, H. The Fourth Marines at Corregidor, Marine Corps
		Gazette, (December 1946), 20-29
Dyess, W. E. The Dyess Story. New York: Putnam, 1944
Falk, S. T. Bataan: The March of Death, New York, Norton,
Keats, J. They Fought Alone. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1963
Morton, T. "Bataan Diary of Major Achille C. Tisdelle",
		Military Affairs, (Fall 1947), 131-148
Morton, "The Battling Bastards of Bataan." Military
		Affairs, (Summer 1951), 107-113
Parker, T. "The Epic of Corregidor-Bataan." U.S. Naval
		Institute Proceedings, (January 1943), 9-22
Schultz, D. Hero of Bataan: The Story of General Jonathan
		M. Wainwright, New York: St. Martins, 1981
Wainwright, J. M. General Wainwright's Story. New York:
		Doubleday, 1946
Whitehead, A. With the 26th Cavalry in the Philippines,
		Cavalry Journal, (December 1941) 7-22

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