Bataan Death March Mini-Lesson

In order to offer some historical context and depth to Tayo's character, I taught a mini-lesson on the Bataan Death March during our unit reading Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Ceremony.

 

1. Introduction & Brief Lecture

I began the class asking our students if anyone had any relatives or close family friends involved in the Bataan Death March. The media we explored in class was at moments graphic and I wanted to ensure that we offered the students space to prepare before potentially re-opening wounds. 

TIMELINE & STATS LECTURE: 

Question posed to students: Does anyone remember or know the defining event at beginning of  U.S involvement in WWII?

(Use this to lead into timeline leading up to BDM. We walked through the timeline of events while I illustrated a map on the white board.)

1941:

December 8: Eight hours after Pearl Harbor, Japan attacks U.S. air bases in the Philippines.

1942:

Early January: The Japanese occupy Manila. U.S. forces retreat south into the Bataan peninsula.

  • General Douglas MacArthur believed the lushly vegetated Bataan peninsula, 80% of which is mountainous terrain, could provide adequate defensive cover for his troops while they waited for relief to come.
  • Four months into their resistance, increasingly desperate U.S. and Filipino forces were nearly out of food, medicine, ammunition and other supplies.

March 11: General MacArthur is ordered to leave the Philippines.

  • MacArthur had been evacuated from the Philippines. Disease and hunger were rampant. Reinforcements had not arrived. Under these conditions, surrender was inevitable.

April 9: U.S. surrenders Luzon. Bataan death march: the Japanese march prisoners of war five to nine days north to Camp O'Donnell.

  • Estimated 72,000 people -- were force-marched north into prison camps, where some languished for nearly three years. The stronger POWs were packed into the suffocating holds of cargo ships and sent to work as slave labor in Japanese industries.
  • About 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipinos were forced to march 65 miles over six days on the peninsula on the island of Luzon to a prisoner-of-war camp
  • ~ 10,000 men died (5,000 Americans) during the walk (more at the camp over the years)
  • One soldier was flattened into the dirt - only thing left was uniform (run over by tanks) - The Generals By Winston Groom
  • Stabbed to death with bayonets
  • Starved and dehydrated
  • Left behind when they could no longer walk

1945

January 9: U.S. forces invade Luzon.

January 30-31: Rescue of POWs from Cabanatuan

  • By the end of the war, a shocking 37% of all POWs in the Pacific theater would be dead.

 

2. Gallery Walk

Students walked around to four stations to listen, watch, explore, and discuss various pieces of media related to the BDM. They rotated in assigned groups for the sake of time and returned to their seats after everyone witnessed each station. 

Our final discussion involved:

1) Discussing initial thoughts

2) Thinking about how what they saw/heard influenced/changed/built on their understanding of Tayo and Ceremony?

I selected the pieces below based on how they might enhance our understanding of a soldiers experience in the Bataan Death March, and I recognize that the narrative I present here omits perspectives from non-American veterans, or even Native American veterans like Tayo.    

 

Audio - Gene Jacobsen, author of We Refused to Die

Gene offers his candid and heart-wrenching recollection of participating in the Bataan Death March.


Photographs

Taken during the March of Death from Bataan to the prison camp march at Cabanatuan. Source: - National Park Service - (Defense department USMC 114,540, National Archives)

Taken during the March of Death from Bataan to the prison camp march at Cabanatuan. Source: - National Park Service - (Defense department USMC 114,540, National Archives)

American prisoners use improvised litters to carry comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road. (Philippines, May 1942.) At the time of its release, this photo was identified as dead and wounded being carried by fellow prisoners during the Bataan Death March in April 1942 ... Subsequent information from military archivists, the National Archives and Records Administration, and surviving prisoners, strongly suggests that this photo may actually depict a burial detail at Camp O'Donnell. (Defense department USMC 114,540, National Archives)

American prisoners use improvised litters to carry comrades who, from the lack of food or water on the march from Bataan, fell along the road. (Philippines, May 1942.) At the time of its release, this photo was identified as dead and wounded being carried by fellow prisoners during the Bataan Death March in April 1942 ... Subsequent information from military archivists, the National Archives and Records Administration, and surviving prisoners, strongly suggests that this photo may actually depict a burial detail at Camp O'Donnell. (Defense department USMC 114,540, National Archives)


Maps

 


 

Videos 

Students watch veterans Ben Steele and Ralph Levenberg discuss their experiences during the march.