Bataan March 2012
By Staff Sgt. Matthew Benedetti, 104th Fightger Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 04, 2012
5/4/2012 - Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- -- "No Mama No Papa No Uncle Sam" The Battling Bastards of Bataan.
It was 70 years ago that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines ushering the United States into World War II.
Unlike Pearl Harbor, the Japanese followed their surprise air attack in the Philippines with a land invasion. As the Imperial Japanese Army raced towards the capital, Manila, American and Filipino troops retreated to the Bataan Peninsula on the island of Luzon. Cut off from supplies due to a naval blockade and down to their final rations, the 12,000 airmen, soldiers, Marines and sailors as well as thousands of Filipinos were forced to surrender on April 9, 1942.
Unprepared for the number of prisoners, the Japanese marched 76,000 American and Filipinos northward into captivity. Many of the Japanese felt it was dishonorable to surrender and thusly held little regard for the prisoners of war forced to march 60 miles in the blazing hot sun. Suffering from a lack of food and water, many of the prisoners were subjected to shocking brutality at the hands of the guards. Prisoners were routinely shot, bayoneted or beheaded during the arduous journey that would become known as the Bataan Death March. Approximately, 5,200 Americans did not survive the march.
The 23rd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March was held on March 25, 2012 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The objective of the organizers, Team White Sands, is to keep the Bataan story alive through this event which has grown every year. The march serves as a touchstone for participants to recognize the strength and bravery of the Bataan service members.
More than 6,700 participated in this year's event which drew participants from around the world. Among the marchers included two distinguished members from the 104th Fighter Wing, Senior Master Sgts. Joe Delaney and Keith Buckhout. Both members served in the Marines prior to joining the wing and their combined years of service span several decades.
Senior Master Sgt. Delaney of Easthampton learned of the march after reading an article in Men's Health a few years ago. He has participated in three marches and is proud to be involved, "We think about what they went through in 1942. We saw about 12 amputees from the current conflict on the plane coming in who are participating in the march and we think of the challenges they face as well," he said.
Senior Master Sgt. Buckhout also of Easthampton agreed, " It was hot with no shade and we are marching in sand and gravel and we were marching next a guy who is a double amputee. ...it really brings it home," he said. "One girl was having trouble with one of her legs, by the time she got to the end she was practically dragging her leg...it is inspirational... were thinking ..we can do this...we can finish this," said Buckhout who finished the march for the second time.
"To watch the column of about 7,000 marchers stretch out in front of you and to think about Bataan...it is hard to get your head around 76,000 prisoners marching for days until you see it..." he observed.
Relatives of the survivors are involved and many marchers wear clothing honoring fallen comrades from Iraq or Afghanistan. Over 30 Wounded Warriors, some single and double amputees, marched the rigorous course. The two senior NCO's are proud to march and plan to make the trip next year. "When I crossed the line I was glad I did it but it doesn't compare to what they went though in Bataan," said Delaney.
"It is incredible to watch all these people doing it for different people.........the march is about courage and honor," said Buckhout.
Senior Master Sgt. Delaney and Senior Master Sgt. Buckhout are seeking to fill a five person team next year to complete the 26.2 mile course. Interested Wing members should contact either unit member for further information.