Simple words, mission impossible

08-Apr-12, 11:29 PM |

Hold the line. Three simple words that masked the enormity, nay, sheer impossibility, of the order. Tens of thousands of young Filipino and Americans soldiers were told, in early 1942, to do everything possible to hold back the advance of the Japanese imperial forces. The invaders not only outnumbered them. They were also backed by one of the most powerful war machines assembled at that time, and driven by the vision of a Japanese-led sphere in this part of the world.

In Bataan and Corregidor, thousands of these young men held the line against the Japanese, for as much and as long as human strength and will can do so; but in the end, 78,000 of them became mere dots in one of history’s longest lines of endurance: the Death March.

Extreme cruelty, but also courage and compassion, marked that terrible culling—from the march itself, to the detention under subhuman conditions at the death camp of Capas. Individually, each man was no match to the might of the Japanese imperial forces. But collectively, their heroism provided inspiration to the rest of those who lived through the war until it ended three years later.

Today, after 70 years, a handful who survived the Death March and the Death Camp share their stories, in this special project that strives to make the past meet the future. Join their journey through war and peace--and into their souls, as they seek to heal the wounds that bear an eternal memory, in hopes of sharing some lessons with present and future generations.



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Brgy.Lamao, Limay, Bataan

Ninety-two-year-old World War II veteran Dioscoro Gallardo Valenzuela of Malolos, Bulacan takes a sentimental journey to Barangay Lamao, Limay, Bataan and tells how he escaped from the hands of Japanese forces on the first night of the 105-kilometer Bataan Death March in April 1942.It was in Lamao where US Army Major Gen. Edward Postell King Jr. first attempted to surrender Bataan to the Japanese Army in an effort to save the lives of his sick and starving men.


San Fernando, Pampanga

WW II veteran Aniceto A. Guzman, 96, who was forced to joined the April 1942 Bataan Death March recalls that many of his fellow soldiers who were too weak to ride the train in San Fernando, Pampanga going to Tarlac were thrown out in the gutter. Those who died in San Fernando were wrapped in blankets and then burned.


Layac, Dinalupihan, Bataan

In a major defensive line from Dinalupihan to Layac Junction, the 31st Infantry Regiment of Col. Charles A. Steel, the 71st Division led by Brig. Gen. Clyde A. Selleck, and the 26th Cavalry Regiment fought against Japan's Imai Detachment on January 6, 1942.

During the battle, a Filipino soldier and artilleryman Sgt. Jose Calugas of the Philippine Scouts displayed his bravery. After noticing that one of his unit's guns had been silenced, Calugas, without orders from his superiors, ran 1,000 yards across the shell-swept area and organized a squad to man a 75-mm gun, which they kept firing on the Japanese troops.


Brgy.Lamao, Limay, Bataan

In Limay, where the Bataan Death March Kilometer 20 Marker is found, WW II veteran Dioscoro Gallardo Valenzuela tells two young men how the Japanese, prior to the April 1942 march, continuously bombed Bataan and Corregidor. In his account of the war in Bataan, American veteran Robert Brown said, "Bombing formations have been as large as fifty-four bombers, and as often as fifteen times in one day. They have also taken advantage of the moon lit nights to overcome their characteristic night blindness, and made it a night-and-day affair."


Mt. Samat, Pilar, Bataan

World War II veteran Diosocoro Gallardo Valenzuela, 92, goes to Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan,site of the fiercest battle between Japanese and American and Filipinos troops. He recounts how American and Filipino soldiers surrendered to the Japanese Army after a three-day battle that led to the Fall of Bataan and the Death March on April 9, 1942. A memorial shrine complex, Dambana ng Kagitingan, was built on the summit of the mountain to honor Filipino and American soldiers.

In Capas, Tarlac, a monument in an inverted V structure was built to honor thousands of Filipino and American soldiers who died in the April 1942 Death March. Photo by Bernard Testa,


Brgy.Matabang, Abucay, Bataan

In Barangay Matabang in Abucay, Bataan, the main battle field during the war, WW II veteran Capt. Felipe Fernandez of the 26th Cavalry of the Philippine Scouts remembers a song he composed to help lift the spirits of American and Filipino troops fighting the Japanese Army. Fernandez and his platoon fought every inch of their way to Bataan from Lingayen Gulf in Damortis, Pangasinan where they encountered Japanese soldiers.


Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac

WW II veteran Aniceto A. Guzman, 96, of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East, shows the 68-mile Bataan Death March trail, which he and his fellow Filipino and American soldiers traversed on foot starting April 9, 1942 when they surrendered to Japanese forces. The first trail was a 62-mile walk from Mariveles to San Fernando. In San Fernando, the Japanese Army loaded the prisoners into train-cars to Capas and were then made to walk another six miles to Camp O'Donnell, their final destination.


Dinalupihan, Bataan

WW II veteran Felipe Fernandez, 96, of the 26th Cavalry of the Philippine Scouts recalls the battle of American and Filipino soldiers with Japanese forces at Layac Junction in January 1942, three months before Fernandez and 78,000 Fil-Am troops surrendered to the Japanese and started on the Death March from Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. The junction was the site of the first strong defense line of the combined Philippine and USAFFE troops against the Japanese invaders.


Himpilang Daang Bakal ng San Fernando in Pampanga

During the April 1942 Bataan Death March, the Japanese Army loaded the Filipino and American prisoners into train-cars in San Fernando, Pampanga to Capas, Tarlac before they were made to walk six miles to Camp O'Donnell, their final destination.

As told to writer Rick Peterson, Alf R. Larson, an American soldier who joined the Death March, described the prisoners' horrid situation inside the train-cars:

"They packed us in the cars like sardines, so tight you couldn't sit down. Then they shut the door. If you passed out, you couldn't fall down. If someone had to go to the toilet, you went right there where you were....We were on the train from early morning until late afternoon without getting out. People died in the railroad cars." (Source:


Rotunda, Layac, Dinalupihan, Bataan

The area was the site of the first strong defense line of the Filipino and American soldiers under the United the States Armed Forces in the Far East against the Japanese invaders in January 1942.

At the Layac Junction is a monument with life-size statues that include the image of Filipino fighter Sgt. Jose Calugas manning a machine gun.The monument erected by the 38th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, marks thedefense by the combined forces of the 71st division of the Americans, 31st Infantry Regiment,and the 26th Cavalry Regiment. It is also the site of the Bataan Death March Kilometer 68 Marker.


Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac

Camp O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac was the final destination of the Bataan Death marchers. About 78,000 Filipino and American soldiers surrendered to the Japanese after the 1942 Battle of Bataan and were forced to join the march. But only about 54,000 of them reached the camp.

Mostly stricken by dysentery and beri-beri, some 1,600 Americans reportedly died in their first 40 days in the prison camp, while approximately 20,000 Filipinos died in their first four months of captivity.


Mt. Samat, Pilar, Bataan

Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan was among the most vicious battle sites between Filipino-American troops and the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. After a three-day battle, 78,000 sick and starving Filipino and American soldiers under Major General Edward P. King surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, the Fall of Bataan, which was followed by the infamous 68-mile Death March from Bataan to Tarlac.

A shrine, the Dambana ng Kagitingan, was built on the mountain's summit in 1966 in memory of the soldiers who suffered and died in the Battle of Bataan. It has a colonnade, a 302-foot tall memorial cross made of steel and reinforced concrete that has a viewing gallery and an elevator, and a museum that houses a collection of paintings of Philippine heroes and the armaments used during World War II.