New Mexico & the Bataan Death March

The Bataan Memorial government office building in Santa Fe.

New Mexico’s Veteran’s Administration is located in the Bataan Memorial Building in Santa Fe. The state’s 200th Coast Artillery became a part of the Bataan Death March during World War II. The soldiers were all captured by the Japanese army on April 9, 1942. They joined 75,000 prisoners of war. The soldiers had to walk sixty miles to Camp O’Donnell in central Luzon in the Philippines. The walk claimed the lives of 16,950 American and Filipino soldiers, with 900 from New Mexico.   

Honoring the Bataan Death March in New Mexico

The memory of the veterans of the Bataan Death are honored every year. People come from around the world to the annual White Sands Bataan Death March Marathon. Both civilians and military personnel carrying heavy backpacks through the desert terrain. The participants have the option of doing either the 15.4 or 26.2-mile hike that begins at 6:30 AM. The New Mexico National Guard sets up relief tents to aid the walkers who return from their journey dehydrated and with blisters on their feet. Their maladies are but an inkling of what the soldiers must have endured.

Passage to War

The Santa Fe Military Museum on Old Pecos Trail was the former Induction Center during World War II. From 1942 through 1945 approximately 57,000 men walked through the front doors, both as volunteers and draftees. Here they were given their physicals, immunizations and assignments as they prepared to serve.  Many of the new recruits were inducted in the military’s 111th Cavalry which became the 200th Coast Artillery. This unit has gone down in history as having experienced one of the most devastating acts of war in the 20th century.

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