Daily Archives: April 2, 2017

The Spirit of Bataan


April 02, 2017

The Spirit of Bataan

By Rodney Jaleco

No less than Gen. Douglas MacArthur praised the Bataan force for fighting in a conflict they were never expected to win: “No army has ever done so much with so little and nothing became it more than its last hour of trial and agony.”

Forced to surrender, 68,000 Filipinos and 11,000 Americans walked for 65 miles from Bataan to a prison camp in Tarlac. They were plagued by starvation, dehydration and disease. Of the 10,000 prisoners who died during the Bataan Death March, 9,000 were Filipinos. About 10,000-12,000 of these prisoners eventually escaped from the march to form guerrilla units in the mountains. They provided valuable surveillance and intelligence to MacArthur’s forces that proved valuable in the country’s liberation.

“Araw ng kagitingan,” or Day of Valor, commemorates the courage, resilience, tenacity and willingness of Philippine and American forces to make the supreme sacrifice to fight for freedom.

At the 28th Bataan Memorial Death March held at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico recently, Garrison Commander Col. Dave Brown honored “these remarkable World War II heroes” for the defense of the Philippines. He forgot to mention that they were also defending sovereign U.S. territory, since the Philippines was a U.S. Commonwealth at the time. But thanks to the efforts of the Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP) led by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret), the Philippine flag was prominently displayed and the Philippine National Anthem was sung – for the first time in the history of the Bataan Memorial Death March. FilVetREP was able, as well, to educate many of the 7,200 participants about the critical role Filipino soldiers played in the war effort.

Clearly, there is a need to continue raising public awareness about our Filipino World War II veterans. Hollywood movies, like “Back to Bataan” and “Raid at Cabanatuan,” portray only Americans fighting that war with Filipinos only playing a very minimal role, if at all.

To add insult to injury, Filipino soldiers were stripped of their rightful status and benefits by the 1946 Rescission Acts. It took more than 70 years to rectify a grievous wrong. The recent passage of the Filipino World War II Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Award is a vindication, ensuring that this American story of sacrifice, loyalty and duty to country will be preserved for posterity.

As we commemorate the spirit of Bataan, let us always remember that we wouldn’t be here today enjoying the benefits of freedom without their perseverance and faithful service to a noble cause. This is also a time to honor their families who have entrusted their loved ones to this nation’s armed forces, knowing they may never return home.