In World War 2 history, the Bataan Death March is one of America’s great tragedies, with thousands of American soldiers losing their lives during the infamous trek taken 76 years-ago. The OH-881st AFJROTC Unit at Tecumseh High School is honoring the heroism of the soldiers who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II with the 2nd annual Bataan Death March Memorial Hike. The hike is also serving as a fundraiser to help WW2 veterans to take an Honor Flight to Washington D.C.
The 14-mile memorial hike will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 13 at Tecumseh’s cross country course. At least 55 Tecumseh cadets will be joined by cadets from area units for the hike. An opening ceremony in Tecumseh’s Middle School gym will open the event. Cadets are taking pledges from the community for completing the hike. Those monies, donations to the unit, and proceeds made that day from a raffle and concession stand will go towards sponsoring Honor Flight vets.
The Bataan Death March
After the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make a 65-mile march to prison camps. Japanese butchery, disease, exposure to the blazing sun, and lack of food and water killed approximately 5,200 of the 12,000 captured Americans troops. Many prisoners were bayoneted, shot, beheaded, or just left to die on the side of the road in what became known as the Bataan Death March. After the war, General Masaharu Homma, commander of the Japanese troops in the Philippines, was convicted for the war crime and executed by a firing squad on April 3, 1946.
Sending WW2 veterans on their Honor Flight:
Honor Flight is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing veterans with honor and closure by flying them to Washington D.C.to visit their memorials. Honor Flight currently has 27, 272 veterans on its waiting list. The goal of the OH-881st cadets is to raise $4,000 to help pay for 10 veterans to take the three-day tour of Washington D.C. According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 372 WW2 veterans die per day and only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016.
Sophomore cadet Harley Adamson, a coordinator for the 2017 hike, comments on the importance of hosting JROTC events like the Bataan Death March Memorial Hike.
“It’s important to take a moment to respect and honor the men and women who sacrificed so much for us to have the freedoms we have today. It really makes you take a step back and actually realize how lucky we are to live in a country like ours when you hear of the horrors those (service members) faced.”
Those wishing to make donations towards the Bataan Death March Memorial Hike may drop monies off at Tecumseh High School. All donations and pledges are tax-deductible. For more information call the AFJROTC office at (937) 845-4464.