The Bataan peninsula fell after months of fighting between the Philippine and American armies and the invading Japanese. The united Philippine-US army, depleted of food, medicine and ammunition, was forced to surrender to the Japanese on 9 April, 1942. The now prisoners of war consisted of 68,000 Filipinos and 11,796 Americans. The Japanese, unprepared for the large number of prisoners, decided to move them by foot from Bataan to another base located 140 kilometres away in San Fernando.
On this forced trek, known as the “Death March of Bataan”, many prisoners died due to starvation, disease, dehydration and exhaustion on their way to San Fernando. Many prisoners were also murdered along the way. However, the prolonged defense of the Bataan peninsula hindered the Japanese army’s progress, enabling the Filipino and US forces to prepare for subsequent battles and ultimately win the war against the Japanese.
This gruesome period during the war is used as a reminder of the courage tenacity and willingness to sacrifice to the point of death by the Philippine and American forces. It also is a day to remember Filipinos who continue to fight for freedom on behalf of the Philippines.
Many parades are held involving World War II veterans in different cities. The main event is held at the Mt Samat Shrine in Pilár, Bataan where the President of the Philippines and other dignitaries give speeches honouring the country’s veterans.