SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
On April 10, 1942, the first of approximately 76,000 American and Filipino service members took their first steps in what would become one of the most brutal and deadly marches in history.
The Bataan Death March, as the 65-mile trek came to be known, claimed 10,000 lives, as the captives were subjected not only to the harsh elements of the tropical climate, but given little or no food and water and tortured or killed by their captors.
“But even more terrible than the prison camp sufferings was the barbaric Death March from Bataan, an 65-mile trek from Mariveles, Bataan province, to San Fernando, Pampanga, under the merciless tropical sun,” Capt. William Dyess wrote for the Chicago Tribune following his escape from a Japanese POW camp in 1944. “The wanton murder, by beheadal, of an American army captain as the march was getting under way symbolized the horrors that were to come.
“I saw and experienced for the first time the infamous Japanese sun cure, which can break a strong man,” he continued. “Thousands of American and Filipino war prisoners, mostly bareheaded, were forced at noonday, when the tropical sun was at its zenith, to sit in its direct rays until the sturdiest of us thought that we must give up and until hundreds of our sick and weakened comrades did give up to delirium and death.”
Seventy-five years after those POWs began their march, 10 Team Schriever members will participate in the 28th annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, March 19.
“I’ve had friends and co-workers tell me about the march and I thought it would be cool to do,” said Staff Sgt. Oceana Goodsell, 50th Security Forces Squadron Self-Assessment Program manager. “Our office is pretty active and we’re always looking for something to do.”
The members will participate under the Civilian Team (Light) category. According to bataanmarch.com, the Civilian Team (Light) category means each team of five will compete in civilian clothes instead of military uniform. The “Light” distinction means they will not carry a pack while they march.
The teams registered under the civilian category because dependents are participating.
“It’s more about team building and camaraderie (than competing),” Goodsell said. “It’s 26.2 miles, so it’s pretty tough and the whole team has to finish within 20 seconds of each other.”
Registration for the event is closed, but Goodsell encouraged those who are able to go cheer on the participants.
“Anyone is welcome to come support us,” she said. “There’s a strong military culture there. Come cheer people on.”
The marathon-length course will be difficult; however, Goodsell said it represents just a small sample of what those POWs endured 75 years ago.
“For me, 26.2 miles is tough, but it’s nothing compared to the sacrifice they made,” she said. “It’s just a small token of appreciation and a way for us to honor them.”