December 15, 2011

Udall: It's Time to Honor Bataan Heroes

Bill Awards Congressional Gold Medal to Veterans 70 Years On

WASHINGTON - Seventy years after their courageous actions in World War II, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) today re-introduced legislation to honor the veterans who defended Bataan and suffered through the Death March with the Congressional Gold Medal. Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) are cosponsors of the bill.

The 200th Coast Artillery Regiment were the first to fire to defend the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Over the next several months the troops of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East made a courageous defense of Bataan that delayed the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. After their supplies and ammunition had been exhausted, the American and Philippine troops in Bataan were ordered to surrender, taken prisoner and forced on the infamous Bataan Death March.

"New Mexico sent 1,800 soldiers to the Philippines and only about 900 made it home," said Udall. "Their courage and tenacity during the first four months of World War II, and their perseverance during three years of imprisonment truly deserves the recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal. We are indebted to them for their service and sacrifice."

"During the war, ‘Remember Bataan' was a rallying cry for the troops. Everyone of us who put on the uniform during World War II knows what those brave soldiers endured. The defenders of Bataan and those who suffered and died during the Bataan Death March should never be forgotten. The Congressional Gold Medal is the least we can do for them," said Inouye, a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.

"Our country is forever grateful to the brave Americans who endured the infamous Bataan Death March during World War II. Their sacrifice and courage is not forgotten and presenting them with the Congressional Gold Medal is but a small token of our nation's gratitude," Bingaman said.

"We must never forget the heroism and selflessness displayed by our brave veterans who defended Bataan," said Landrieu. "In my home state of Louisiana, the National World War II Museum remembers how our 'Greatest Generation' fought and sacrificed to protect our freedom and keep our nation safe from tyranny. This Congressional Gold Medal would honor the extraordinary efforts of our soldiers, including those from Louisiana, to protect the Philippines. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation commemorating our soldiers' honorable service."

Timeline of Events:

Dec. 7, 1941: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. United States enters World War II.

Dec. 8, 1941: Japan attacks the Philippines. 200th Coast Artillery Regiment is first to fire on attacking Japanese soldiers.

Dec. 14, 1941: General MacArthur puts War Plan Orange 3 into effect calling for the U.S. to delay the Japanese advance as the greater U.S. force withdrew into Bataan.

Dec. 1941 - April 1942: U.S. and Philippine troops defend Bataan while cut off from supply lines and reinforcements. Left behind, they delay the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, stalling Japan's timetable in the southeast Pacific and providing U.S. and allied forces with much-needed time to regroup in the Pacific theatre of war.

April 3, 1941: Japan's final attack on Bataan.

April 9, 1941: Suffering from malnutrition, malaria and starvation, and with no resources left to continue and no reinforcements able to arrive, approximately 12,000 American soldiers and 63,000 Filipinos are ordered to surrender to the Japanese forces in the Philippines.

April 10, 1941: The American and Philippine troops were then taken prisoner and forced to march 65 miles without any food, water, or medical care in what became known as the "Bataan Death March." During the march, thousands of soldiers died from starvation, lack of medical care, sheer exhaustion, and abuse by their captors. Within the first 40 days of reaching camp, 1,600 more American prisoners died from conditions like disease and malnutrition.

The Congressional Gold Medal was first awarded in 1776 in recognition of the "wise and spirited conduct" of George Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command, in the siege and acquisition of Boston. It is the nation's highest and most distinguished civilian award.

Other group awardees of the Congressional Gold Medal from World War II include the Navajo Code Talkers, the Tuskegee Airmen and the Women Air Force Service Pilots.

Then-U.S. Rep. Udall first introduced legislation to honor Bataan veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal in 2008.