Preserving the history, heritage, and legacy of the Philippine Scouts for present and future generations

The Causes of the Bataan Death March Revisited

By Jim Nelson

The fall of the Philippines was the largest defeat of an American armed force in the history of the United States, and the Bataan Death March was the most brutal series of war crimes ever committed against surrendering American or Philippine soldiers. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), the Pacific War's equivalent of the Nuremburg trials formally established the general extent and kind of atrocities committed by Japanese troops but did not fully determine all of the causes that contributed to the Death March. To some degree the IMTFE's inability to find and understand all of the causal factors led to a situation in which some of the less culpable were executed and some of the most culpable escaped justice.

The objective of this article is to briefly delineate the extent and nature of these atrocities and then to examine in greater detail the multiple causes of the Death March. The article draws from older analyses of Death March causes such as Stanley L. Falk's excellent, Bataan: The March of Death and will be drawing from previously untranslated Japanese sources which offer several significant and new perspectives on what caused the horrors of the Bataan Death March. Taken together it is hoped the reader will derive a better understanding of the whys of the Death March including the cultural, competence, conspiratorial, personality, and political factors that came together on April 9, 1942, in Bataan to create one of the most shocking crimes of World War II.

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Last modified: 11-May-2007