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White Sands Missile Range Museum

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Notice, 22 March 2023: Thank you to everyone who visited the WSMR Museum’s preview over the Bataan Memorial Death March weekend. The museum is now CLOSED while we prepare for our Grand Opening, date to be determined. Updates to our reopening status will be announced through the WSMR Public Affairs Office, on our social media, and on this website.

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The 200th Coast Artillery Regiment and the Bataan Death March: Camp O’Donnell and CabanatuanThe Japanese commander of Camp O’Donnell, Captain Yoshio Tsuneyoshi, had expected 20,000 to 30,000 prisoners. Instead, up to 60,000 – including 9,300 Americans – were imprisoned there. Tsuneyoshi greeted the prisoners, “We are enemies forever! Japan will fight and fight and fight if it takes a thousand years! If you try to escape you will be shot. I would like you all be killed. Only the benevolence of the Emperor permits you to live. You are guests of the Emperor.” Of those 9,300, approximately 2,300 would die in the three months they were at O’Donnell because of disease, starvation, and murder.Sergeant Winston Shillito recalls first seeing burial details, from the Filipino part of the camp “…a constant stream of two-man crews, with poles and a blanket stretched between them, carrying the bodies – we’ll never know how many. And the Americans soon began to follow.” Sergeant Don Harris, “They died so fast that the bodies lay stacked like cordwood before we could bury them. At first, we tried digging individual graves, but that didn’t work, so we dug big pits. Then the rain began and the bodies would float. We’d try to weigh them down with dirt and they’d come up. And at night the dogs would scavenge.”The numbers who died of starvation and disease on this one detail were exceedingly high – of 325 men put to work, only 99 survived and were eventually moved to the “hospital” at Bilibid Prison in Manila, where more would die. Private Amador Lovato described another work detail clearing tree trunks in Tayabas Province, “But we didn’t have any equipment, and those trees got a million roots. We couldn’t do nothing with just picks and shovels. Then the malaria started. Those mosquitos were so thick we couldn’t hardly see. Men were dying – of six hundred of us that went, only eighty survived.” Again, most survivors were then sent to Bilibid. Medicine was almost nonexistent in the camp, but could occasionally be found – often surreptitiously provided by the Japanese guards.For not saluting properly, men were hung by the wrist with their arms extended behind them, dislocating the shoulders, nails were pulled out, bones broken, and men clubbed to unconsciousness – many men were simply beaten to death. In one instance, Corporal John Kedzie watched as a group was “slowly clubbed to death. Finally, the Japs cut them down, hung them on posts, and turned out the camp to watch while they gave them ‘honorable military executions’ – after they were already dead.”Later in 1942, large groups of men were selected to be sent to work in Japan and its occupied territories, but as the American’s began to gain the upper hand in the summer of 1944, with increasing Japanese defeats, the decision was made to evacuate all POW’s, except for the most ill, out of the Philippines.You can read more from this article on our website at wsmrmuseum.com/2022/02/22/the-200th-coast-artillery-regiment-and-the-bataan-death-march/6/ See MoreSee Less
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The 200th Coast Artillery Regiment and the Bataan Death March: Surrender and the Start of the Death MarchOn 01 April, General Homma, now having the reinforcements he had requested, launched a new attack on Bataan. The men, weakened by hunger and disease and out of supplies and ammunition, tried desperately to hold out. The main assault began on 3 April. Captain Marvin Lucas recalled; “It sounded like a tremendous thunderstorm. The skies to the north were lit like day with artillery fire. Then the Philippine line began to break, and soldiers were streaming south. They said they were going to Corregidor.” What men were available moved toward the front lines to fill in as artillery and infantry. Sergeant Earl Harris’s men now how to provide instruction to the airmen on basic rifle skills, “We showed them, ‘this is the trigger and this is where you put the bullets,’ and that’s how we went to the front.” Sergeant Neal Harrington, on having to train the “new’ infantrymen who were “the same regulars who had lorded it over us at Clark because we were only National Guard.” The lines were quickly overrun and the men forced to retreat.By 9 April, Major General Edward King felt it was not worth the addition loss of lives should the US keep fighting and – unknown to Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright, commander of all US forces in the Philippines – surrendered the men on Bataan. Jack Boyer recalled, “Nothing in our training prepared us to be prisoners. But still, men did not lose their morale or spirit. We began to look for friends – to help each other, and to buddy up again. Though we were in shock, we still had that old feeling for each other.” Andrew Carson, a fire control man for one of the gun emplacements on Corregidor, wrote, “We had been trained to act instinctively, immediately, to commands like ‘Attention,’ ‘At ease,’ ‘About face…’ but the word ‘Surrender’ was foreign. It had not been programmed into our minds and therefore brought no response.”Sergeant Stephen Alex recalled his thoughts at the time: "I thought of the home I would probably never see again, and knew the other fellow’s thoughts were like mine. A few were bitter, but most were uncommonly calm, like men I later saw facing Jap firing squads. Despite a feeling that crept into my mind sometimes that we had been betrayed, I felt proud to be an American. At a time like that, if you felt patriotic, it wasn’t flag waving. It was the McCoy. I knew then that, even if we didn’t live to see it, the Yanks would be back. Somehow we knew, too, that it would take years."Immediately, they were put to work repairing roads and other infrastructure as needed. In addition, Japanese commanders surrounded their own 105mm guns – now firing at Corregidor – with prisoners, thinking that the guns on “The Rock” would not return fire for fear of hitting their own. They were wrong. And then, from all over the peninsula, the infamous Bataan Death March began.You can read more from this article on our website at wsmrmuseum.com/2022/02/22/the-200th-coast-artillery-regiment-and-the-bataan-death-march/5/ See MoreSee Less
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