Bataan Death March (commemorated today as “Araw ng Kagitingan or “Day of Valor”)

“You and your group began the march on April 12, 1942?
“Yes. We began walking the next morning. It was about eighty miles from where we started to where we ended up. It doesn’t seem very far, but we were in such awful condition that eighty miles was a heck of a long way to walk. It took six days to get to San Fernando. There, the march ended and we got on board a train. But in that six days, a lot happened.
“On the first day, I saw two things I will never forget. A Filipino man had been beheaded. His body lay on the ground with blood everywhere. His head was a short distance away. Also, there was a dead Filipino woman with her legs spread apart and her dress pulled up over her. She obviously had been raped and there was a bamboo stake in her private area. These are instances I would like to forget.
“xxx you started marching at Mariveles and walked eighty miles to San Fernando, a railroad terminal. Did everyone take that road?
“No, but most prisoners did. The captured soldiers on the West Side walked partially up the West Side, came across the peninsula, and went up the East Coast like we did.
“What was the typical day like on the march?
“We walked all day. At night, the Japanese took us to a field to sleep. You would lie down and pass out right there.
“You started at sunup and walked all day until night. Did you stop along the way?
“You just kept walking.
“What would you do if you had to go to the bathroom?
“If anyone had to, they went right in their drawers as they walked. If you stopped or got off to the side, you would have been bayoneted or shot. I didn’t go to the bathroom because I had nothing to pass. Body fluid came out in sweat. I don’t recall going to the bathroom until we got up to Camp O’Donnell. The first time I urinated, I thought I was going to die. It burned like sin.
“You just kept walking. There was no food or water during the day. At the end of the day you were escorted to a field, or wherever they wanted you to sleep. The next morning it would start all over again?
“Yes. In the morning, we would get up and start walking. That went on for six days.
xxx bataan
“Along the way, Filipinos would try to give us food. The Japanese shot some of them.
“Finally, the last two days, everyone got one rice ball each day to eat.
“How large were the rice balls?
“They were about the size of the amount of rice you could get in a coffee cup.
“You didn’t eat a thing for four days and you were already starved when you were captured.
“That’s right. We weren’t given any water either. There was good water all around us. Artesian wells flowing everywhere! They would not let us go and get it. Men went stark raving mad! Soldiers broke ranks and ran towards the water.
“They went completely insane because they had to get it. They never got it! Of course, you know what happened to them.
“Our soldiers were shot before they reached water?
“That’s right.
“Did you ever drink stagnant water?
“If you were lucky, that’s just what you got. We drank foul smelling and stagnant water from the ditches. Some guys got terrible diarrhea. Fortunately, I didn’t get any ill effects from drinking it.
“There were clean artesian wells nearby but you had to drink stagnant water?
“Yes. You scooped it up as you walked. We were not allowed to go to the artesian wells, which were about half a block from the road. We were able to get water at night by collecting canteens. You didn’t dare get too many or they would rattle. We would handle them very carefully and quietly sneak off to an artesian well. You held a canteen under water and filled two or three of them. Then we came back and passed them around. If the Japanese had caught us, that would have been it! We would have been shot. Fortunately, I was never caught.
“Did they ever cook food in front of you but not serve it?
“During the day, the Japs would tell us we would get rice balls when we got to our nighttime destination. When we got to the field where we were going to spend the night, you could see and smell food cooking across the road.
“They would give some excuse why we couldn’t have any. I don’t remember exactly what the excuses were. They usually had to do with some phony rule infraction on our part. Anyway, they would eat the food in front of us but we wouldn’t get any. I remember this happened two nights out of five on the march.
“Were you injured in any way on the march?
“I don’t remember what day it was because things were kind of hazy on the trip. On the march out of Bataan, a Japanese cavalryman was standing in the middle of the road swinging a baseball bat. He didn’t care who he hit. He just kept swinging that bat! When I walked by, that bat caught me across my upper left leg. Boy, did it hurt! I kept going because I didn’t let that son-of-a-gun – I could use stronger language – know he had hurt me. That was the only bad thing that happened to me personally on the march.
“The Japanese showed no mercy to anyone did they?
“No. If people would fall down and couldn’t go any further, the Japanese would either bayonet or shoot them. They also would bayonet prisoners who couldn’t keep up.
“Those who stepped out of line or had fallen out of ranks were beaten with clubs and/or rifle butts. Some American prisoners who couldn’t keep up were run over by Japanese vehicles. I saw the remains of an American soldier who had been run over by a tank. I didn’t see the actual event but the Japanese just left his remains in the middle of the road. We could see them as we walked by.
“Once you were put in a field for the night, did you ever have to get up and march again?
“Yes. They would make us march anytime! For example, we were put in the field at the end of the day.
“Just after we got comfortable and settled down, they would come and tell us to get up. We would start out marching again. “If they got us up in the middle of the night, we would march the rest of the night and all the next day until night. Then, we were put in a field again.
“What about wounded American soldiers?
“They were expected to keep up like everyone else, regardless of their condition. But, some wounded prisoners just couldn’t go on. They were either bayoneted, beat with clubs, rifle butts, or shot. Some soldiers had diarrhea so bad that they couldn’t keep up and the Japanese shot them.
“Did you ever see the “Buzzard Squads?”
“No, I didn’t see them because they were behind us. We heard them, though. It was their job to “take care of” or “finish off” any stragglers or those who fell out and couldn’t continue. Each separate group on the march had their own so-called “Buzzard Squad.”
“They would “clean up,” i.e. murder anyone who fell behind?
“Yes.
“One of the most horrifying aspects of this march was that some of our American soldiers were even buried alive?
“Yes. They were buried alive in slit trenches, which we used for bathroom facilities.
“When the trenches were almost full, the Japanese would take a detail of prisoners to fill them up with dirt. On one occasion I saw a soldier who had diarrhea really bad and went to the bathroom. After he finished, he could barely get up. He slipped and fell backwards into the trench. The Japanese ordered the prisoner detail to cover him up right there, which they did. “They had no choice!xxx” Excerpts of interview of Bataan Death March survivor Alf R. Larson in bataansurvivor.com; From 2,500 to 10,000 Filipino and 100–650 American prisoners of war died or were killed during this forcible transfer of prisoners of war.