The Bataan Death March happened during the early years of World War II in the Philippines. When the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, they conducted simultaneous invasions in many southeast Asian countries, among them, the Philippines. The Filipino and American forces were overrun and General Douglas MacArthur of the USAFFE retreated. Tens of thousands of troops were left behind and made a last stand in Bataan Peninsula.
Approximately 70,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers, commanded by U.S. Major General Edward P. King, formally surrendered to the Japanese, under General Homma, on April 9, 1942, which forced Japan to accept emaciated captives that were larger than Japanese in number. Due to shortage of trucks, captives were forced to march, beginning the following day, about 100 kilometers north to Nueva Ecija to Camp O'Donnell, a prison camp. According to the Allies, those who fell behind were shot, beheaded, or bayonetted. The column of prisoners were shelled by their own guns on Corregidor. Packed into boxcars to travel from San Fernando to Capas, their numbers were further diminished by malaria, heat, dehydration, and dysentery.
These problems persisted at Camp O'Donnell. About ten thousand perished while others were able to escape; approximately 54,000 reached the camp. On June 6, 1942 the Filipino soldiers were granted amnesty and released, while the American prisoners were moved to another camp at Cabanatuan.
After the surrender of the Japanese, the Japanese commander of the march, Masaharu Homma, was convicted by a U.S. military commission of war crimes, including the atrocities of the death march out of Bataan, and the atrocities at O'Donnell and Cabanatuan that followed, and executed on April 3, 1946 outside Manila.
Every year, the captured soldiers are honored on Bataan Day (April 9) also known as the Day of Valor (Araw ng Kagitingan), which is a national holiday. There is a shrine in Bataan commemorating this event.