An Iowa Veteran's Account of the Bataan Death March During World War II

Following their surrender to Japanese forces at the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II, tens of thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops were forced to march 60 miles over six days as prisoners of war. Prisoners were provided no food or water, and many who fell or stopped were killed. Thousands died before they could reach their destination. Marine Corporal Glenn McDole was at the Cavite Naval Base in the Philippines when the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor began. Because the Philippines are on the other side of the international dateline, the battle began on December 8, 1941. McDole surrendered to Japanese forces May 6, 1942. He was eventually sent to the Palawan Island Prison Camp. Army Corpsman Malcolm Amos of Afton was among those captured in the Philippines on April 9, 1942. He became one of the more than 75 thousand allied forces, including and estimated 12,000 Americans, who were forced to walk the 60 miles from the tip of Luzon Island to the American military base Camp O'Donnell.

Transcript

Marine corporal Glenn Mcdole from Urbandale was stationed at the Cavite Naval Base on the Philippine Islands. Locked in a battle that would last five months, Mcdole and his buddies soon came to the conclusion no reinforcements were coming to their rescue. 

“We knew there was no way in heaven acres, after we'd heard what happened at Pearl Harbor, that we was gonna get any help.” Eventually, the larger Japanese force prevailed. An official surrender by American troops in the Philippines was announced on April 9, 1942. Mcdole fought on until May 6. 

“I'll tell you, it's the most sick feeling you get when you look up and see old glory come down and a Japanese flag goes up. It just made you feel like a bunch of men without a home.” Army corpsman Malcolm Amos of Afton was among those captured on April 9. He became one of the more than 75,000 allied forces, including an estimated 12,000 Americans, who were forced to walk the 60 miles from the tip of Luzon Island to the American military base, Camp O’Donnell. For six days the men marched north with no food or water on what became known as the Bataan Death March. Anyone who was injured, fell behind, or attempted to escape was killed. An estimated 10,000 men died; 5,000 of them were Americans. 

“When we got into camp O'Donnell, that rice was moldy, full of bugs and maggots, and all that kind of stuff. They cooked all that stuff up, and it was kinda like porridge. The guys looked at that -- some of them looked at that and said, ‘I'm not eating that ton of crap,’ and they just took and dumped her. And those people are still over in the Philippines because they just starved to death because that's the only thing there was to eat.”  Both Mcdole and Amos eventually wound up at the Cabanatuan Prison Camp, but they didn't meet each other until years after the war. Mcdole, seeing the high death rate and lack of medical attention available to the men, volunteered for work details away from Cabanatuan. The work details finally took him to the Palawan prison camp on Palawan Island, where he helped build an airfield. 

“We didn't classify I’m army or you're a marine. We were just all a bunch of good old American fellas sticking together, and I don't believe,  in fact i know,  we were all closer than, really, brothers.


Excerpt from "Iowa's WWII Stories," Iowa Public Television, 2006