KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Team Kadena honored fallen American and Filipino servicemen killed during the Bataan Death March with the 5th annual Bataan Memorial Death March, held April 7, 2018, at Kadena Air Base.
The memorial march is held to give participants an idea what servicemembers dealt with during the original Bataan Death March.
The Bataan Death March became a crucial turning point in World War II and the Pacific theater due to public outcry about treatment of the captured servicemembers – considered prisoners of war.
As a strategic location, the Philippines were targeted by the Japanese army, thus leading to an invasion – just hours after the attack at Pearl Harbor – to eliminate the American presence in the region. Due to the invasion, American and Filipino soldiers were forced to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. After holding out for approximately 3 months without naval or air support, the soldiers surrendered.
Once they surrendered, the soldiers were forced to endure a 65-mile march – known now as the Bataan Death March – to San Fernando before being shipped to prison camps, which led to many fatalities from starvation, injuries, and poor treatment by their captors.
Even though the event occurred nearly 80 years ago, the importance has not been lost over time. The annual event sponsored by Kadena’s Top 3 involved participants marching, running, or walking 8.5 miles around the flightline and through part of the base at Kadena.
While the length of the event is roughly 1/8th of the original march, many participants were able to immerse themselves on a basic level of what it must have been like by carrying full ruck gear and flags to honor the fallen.
Over 200 individuals participated in this year’s event – including servicemembers, civilian employees, and family members. By holding events such as this, members of Team Kadena are able to remember the past and look toward the future with lessons learned from our history in the Pacific.