Filipino Bataan Death March Survivors Mark 75th Anniversary

By Har, Janie | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Filipino Bataan Death March Survivors Mark 75th Anniversary


Har, Janie, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


SAN FRANCISCO * Ramon Regalado was starving and sick with malaria when he slipped away from his Japanese captors during the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines, escaping a brutal trudge through steamy jungle that killed hundreds of Americans and thousands of Filipinos who fought for the U.S. during World War II.

On Saturday, the former wartime machine-gun operator joined a dwindling band of veterans of the war in San Francisco's Presidio to honor the soldiers who died on the march and those who made it to a prisoner of war camp only to die there.

They commemorated the soldiers, most Filipino, who held off Japanese forces in the Philippines for three months without supplies of food or ammunition before a U.S. Army major surrendered 75,000 troops to Japan on April 9, 1942.

Few Americans are aware of the Filipinos who were starving as they relentlessly fended off the more powerful and well-supplied Japanese forces, said Cecilia Gaerlan, executive director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Bataan Legacy Historical Society organizing the event at the former military fort.

"Despite fighting without any air support and without any reinforcement, they disrupted the timetable of the Imperial Japanese army," she said. "That was their major role, to perform a delaying action. And they did that beyond expectations."

More than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served in World War II, when the Philippines were a U.S. territory. But after the war ended, President Harry Truman signed laws that stripped away promises of benefits and citizenship for Filipino veterans.

Only recently have they won back some concessions and acknowledgment, including the nation's highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. The veterans also received lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 stimulus law.

An estimated 18,000 Filipino veterans of World War II are still alive and living in the U.S.

Tens of thousands of Filipino and U.S. troops were forced on the 65-mile march, and Gaerlan said as many as 650 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died in stifling heat and at the hands of Japanese soldiers who shot, bayoneted or beat prisoners who fell or stopped for water. …

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