|click to order|
The Bataan Death March -- the merciless 65-mile trek by American and Filipino POWs up the Bataan Peninsula from Mariveles to San Fernando -- is part of the American language and lore. Many have some vague recognition of the war crime, although few know what happened, where, or when. April 9th is better remembered as the surrender at Appomattox than the surrender on Bataan.
But at least there is some effort not to forget.
This is not the case for the other "Death March" in the Philippines. This one took place four months later on the island of Mindanao over 800 miles south of Bataan. Although one day instead of weeks, the "Death March" was no less brutal or deadly.
At The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal held between May 1946 to November 1948, the Philippine Prosecution Team presented and proved before the court 16 incidents of indignities, torture and barbarities committed against the Filipino and foreign Prisoners of Wars (POWs) and civilians. All were well-documented and easily proven. The Bataan Death March was already a legend by the time the trial started because of the sensational series articles about the March published in the Chicago Tribune in January 1944. The articles, turned into a book, were an account of the brutalities experienced by Col William Dyess who had escaped from a POW camp in the Philippines. Dyess, unfortunately, had died in a flight training accident in December 1943.
Among the 16 war crimes was the Iligan Death March that is also called, depending upon the writer, the Mindanao Death March or Dansalan Death March.
Although Gen. Sharp officially surrendered the Mindanao-Visayan Force on May 10th, 1942, the final surrender of units in the Lake Lanao area under Brigadier General Guy C. Fort did not take place until May 28, 1942. Fort surrendered at Camp Keithley approximately 300 Filipinos and 46 Americans (civilian and military) to the Japanese. Fort was executed by the Japanese on November 11, 1942 for refusing to give up his men who became guerrillas. He is the only American-born general officer to be executed by enemy forces.
On July 4, 1942, the POWs were made to march from Camp Keithley at Dansalan (now the Amai Pakpak Medical Center at Marawi City; Marawi was the site of a deadly ISIS-inspired Muslim insurgence in 2017) to Iligan, Lanao, a distance of about 25 miles (36 kilometers). Transport trucks, although available, were denied the POWs.
The Americans were arranged four abreast and strung together in columns by a telephone wire through their belts. The Filipino POWs, though unwired, had to walk barefooted. The March lasted from 8:00am to 7:00pm. The midday sun was unbearable. Without food and water, many of the men collapsed due to exhaustion and dehydration. Those who fell were shot in the forehead so they would not be rescued by guerrillas.
Few of the Americans on the March survived the entire war. It is unknown how many Filipinos were killed as they were soon paroled (released). Among those Americans that lived to be liberated in 1945, four are known to have recorded their memories of the March. They were: Victor L. Mapes, Herbert L. Zincke, Richard P. Beck and Frederick M. Fullerton, Jr. All have their accounts recorded by the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.
Zincke published his account in his autobiography, Mitsui Madhouse: Memoir of a U.S. Army Air Corps POW in World War II (2002)
Mapes published his account in his autobiography, Butchers, the Baker: The World War II Memoir of a United States Army Air Corps Soldier Captured by the Japanese in the Philippines (2000)
There is still more research needed on this atrocity.
A summary of the Philippines Prosecution Team's charging document is here: POW Summation - Appendix B, Part II Summary of Evidence in Relation to Treatment of Prisoners-of-War, Civilian Internees and Inhabitants of the Philippine Islands Between December 1941 and September 1945. (p 24, F. Iligan Death March 106.)
The Japanese mockingly dubbed the Iligan Death March the “Independence Day March.