Bataan Death March victims remembered during memorial event

  • Published
  • By Clayton Cummins

VIDEO | 01:38 | Bataan Death March victims remembered during memorial event

Overcast skies and mist didn’t stop over 150 people from taking part in the Memorial Bataan Death March at Tinker Air Force Base March 22, 2024.

174 participants gathered near the base football field to run, ruck, walk or bike either 3.2, 14.2 or a full 26.2 miles.

The Memorial Bataan Death March is an annual event organized at Tinker AFB to honor and remember those that valiantly fought for freedom in the Battle of Bataan.

It was January 1942 when the Japanese invaded Luzon, Philippines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. American and Filipino troops fought the Japanese for three months but eventually surrendered due to insufficient supplies. Troops were suffering from disease, hunger, and wounds.

Following their surrender, American and Filipino troops were forced to march to Camp O’Donnell on the Bataan Peninsula, 65 miles away. The 60,000-80,000 prisoners of war were forced to endure extreme heat and humidity in addition to war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army.  Many were beaten and killed.

“We are here to remember,” said Col. Abby Ruscetta, 72nd Air Base Wing and Tinker Installation commander. “We are here to here to come together as a community and build resilience and lean on each other and recognize that we are stronger together. Every single step, every single mile you do, please remember to lean on your teammates. We don’t know what tomorrow brings us. We need to be ready.”

Dan Naugle has attended the Memorial Bataan Death March for several years in a row.

“It is a challenge for me,” said Naugle. “I think about what the guys that endured the real thing had to go through and I’m just amazed. I just can’t imagine what they had to endure.”

Bikers were first to kick off the event. Those walking during the memorial left next, followed by those who chose to ruck. Many marched with backpacks as heavy as 50lbs.

White flags lined the route around base for participants. Each flag represented every three lives lost in the Bataan Death March.

Senior Airman Hunter Ring, 72nd Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor was the first to complete the 5k run, finishing with a time of 30:40.

“Towards the beginning my legs started to hurt and I thought to myself, ‘I couldn’t do this for the 65 miles that they had to march,’” said Ring.

World War II, Ring says, is such an interesting time in history. Taking part in the memorial run was something he had to do.

“The sacrifice that generation had to go through, all of the struggles and triumphs that they had to endure during that time, this is just something little that you can do to show support to those people,” said Ring.

Organizers hope to see the Memorial Bataan Death March continue to grow. Plans are already in place to coordinate next year’s event.