Aftermath of the Bataan Death March

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Though the situation was hopeless, USAAF personnel battled to defend Bataan to the end, only giving up when they were ordered to do so by their commanding officer. After the surrender, many USAAF men paid the ultimate price during the brutal and infamous Bataan Death March or in the miserable conditions of Japanese imprisonment.

As many as 11,000 of the POWs died on the Death March as a result of the cruelty and inhumanity of their guards. The survivors' suffering did not end -- over twice as many POWs died in the first two months of imprisonment at Camp O'Donnell as did on the Death March. Thousands later died of malnourishment, disease, exhaustion, physical abuse, or were executed in this and other Japanese POW camps. Even more died on the so-called "hell ships." Packed into Japanese freighters, they were transported to Japan and China to work for the Japanese war industry. Locked in the holds, most drowned when Allied submarines and aircraft sank these ships. In fact, only one-third of Bataan's defenders survived the war.

Although it is difficult to establish exactly what happened to all the USAAF personnel on Bataan, the record of the USAAF's 24th Pursuit Group illustrates the high price they all paid. Eighty-three of the group's 165 pilots were captured, 33 were killed, and 49 were evacuated. Of the 83 captured, only 34 made it home after the war -- 17 died in captivity and 32 more died on hell ships. Of the group's 27 non-flying officers, one was evacuated, one was killed, and 25 became POWs (15 died in camps or on ships). The enlisted men suffered equally. Of the 1,144 men at the start of the fighting, 16 were evacuated, 38 were killed, and the remainder became POWs, of whom over 60 percent died in captivity.

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