Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. The infamous WWII walk began on April 9, 1942 and lasted through April 17, 1942. In those eight days more than 75,000 U.S. and Filipino POWs walked sixty-miles. The lucky one who survived the deadly trek arrived at Camp O’Donnell in central Luzon in the Philippines. Without sufficient food and water many of the soldiers didn’t make it. They were the ones bayoneted to death when they fell behind from exhaustion. The Bataan Death March claimed the lives of 16,950 American and Filipino soldiers.
New Mexico’s Bataan Death March Connection
Santa Fe’s Military Museum on Old Pecos Trail was the former Military Induction Center during WW II. From 1942 through 1945 approximately 57,000 men walked through the front doors. The recruits inducted in the military’s 111th Cavalry became the 200th Coast Artillery. That unit has gone down in history as having experienced one of the most devastating acts of war in the 20th century. New Mexico bore the brunt of casualties when nine hundred men from the 200th Coast artillery died during the deadly march.
Honoring Bataan Veterans
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bataan Death March in 2002 new legislation created a permanent legacy to our fallen heroes. The first federally funded memorial created that year became the Veterans Park in Las Cruces, N.M. Also in 2002, a portion of U.S. Highway 70 became the Bataan Memorial Highway between Las Cruces and Alamogordo. Santa Fe’s old state capitol became the Bataan Memorial building. Today, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in housed in that building honoring those who perished in the Philippines.
White Sands Bataan Death March Marathon
Due to the on-going Covid pandemic, the 2022 White Sands Bataan Death March Marathon was a virtual event this year. In the past, people from around the world joined together in the desert at White Sands to participate. Both civilians and military personnel carried heavy backpacks through the desert terrain. They had the option of doing either the 15.4 or 26.2-mile hike that began at 6:30 AM. The New Mexico National Guard set up relief tents to aid the participants. Hopefully, next year the marathon will return to honor the heroes of the Bataan Death March of 1942.