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Desert Competition Recalls Infamous 'Death' March

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 1997 – In the spring of 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers marched for days through sweltering Philippine jungles -- goaded harshly by their Japanese captors. Those who survived faced years of hardship in prisoner-of-war camps. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners to Japan were attacked by U.S. air and naval forces.

Their ordeal became legend, with Hollywood and others forever memorializing the Bataan Death March.

On April 19, 1998, survivors and others will again memorialize the march with a competitive event for hikers and runners.

This is the 10th memorial to the World War II march survivors and friends have re-enacted at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The New Mexican course covers 25 miles of mountainous desert terrain, at elevations from 4,100 feet to 5,300 feet.

Sponsored by the missile range in conjunction with Army ROTC detachment at New Mexico State University and the New Mexico National Guard, the march is open to military and civilian teams and individuals in heavy and light divisions. Military marchers must wear full field gear and civilians appropriate field attire for a road march through desert terrain. Each marcher entered in the heavy division must also carry a 35-pound rucksack.

Teams can consist of five to seven people, with at least five team members crossing the finish line within a 10-yard gate. Team categories are civilian light, male military light, male military heavy, female military light, female military heavy, coed military light, coed military heavy, ROTC light, ROTC heavy, National Guard light and National Guard heavy.

Individual categories include male runner civilian light, male military light, male military heavy, female runner civilian light, female military light, female military heavy and female over 40 civilian light.

First through third place winners from each category will receive medals, and the first National Guard team to finish will receive a traveling trophy.

Applications will be available in January, but can be reserved now by calling (505) 678-2706. Entry fees are $100 for teams and $20 for individuals for entries postmarked by April 1. After that, the fees rise to $130 and $25, respectively. The fee covers tee shirts and an informal meal during the closing ceremony. Send checks payable to "IMWRF" to:

Bataan Death March
Community Recreation Division
P.O. Box 400
White Sands Missile Range, NM 88002.

Limited rooms are available on post, and free lodging will be provided in the post gymnasium (bring a cot and sleeping bag). For area hotel information, call the White Sands tickets and tours office at (505) 678-4134.

For more information about the march, call the White Sands public affairs office at (505) 678-1134 or DSN 258-1134. Or visit the White Sands Missile Range web site at www.wsmr.army.mil. The public affairs office also would like to hear from people who want to march in honor of a relative or family friend who was in the Bataan Death March.

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