Know Your Military

High-Desert Trek Honors Bataan Death March Survivors

March 20, 2019 | BY Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa Atchley

More than 8,700 participants from around the world gathered to either run or walk the 30th annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

The grueling trek through the high desert is held in honor of the service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II.

A woman marches along rough terrain.
Memorial March
Army veteran Christina Rodriguez-Smith, a former mortuary affairs specialist, participates in the 30th annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., March 17, 2019. The march is conducted through New Mexico’s challenging high desert terrain in honor of the service members who defended the Philippines during World War II.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa Atchley
VIRIN: 190317-A-UJ895-0057C

After the April 9, 1942, U.S. surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on the main Philippine island of Luzon to the Japanese during World War II, about 75,000 Filipino and American troops on Bataan were forced to make an arduous 65-mile march to prison camps. 

Participants were able to choose to march as an individual or as part of a team on a 14.2-mile honorary route or a 26.2-mile route. 

A man and woman pose for a photo with a sign reading “Bataan 26.2 Memorial Death March.”
Memorial March
Army veteran Christina Rodriguez-Smith, a former mortuary affairs specialist, and Army veteran Gerry Smith, pose for a photo at the 8-mile mark during the 30th annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., March 17, 2019. The march is conducted through New Mexico’s challenging high desert terrain in honor of the service members who defended the Philippines during World War II.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa Atchley
VIRIN: 190317-A-UJ895-0058C

The event kicked off with an opening ceremony to honor the World War II service members who were part of the original march, some of whom were present. Afterward, racers were released by category to take on the course.

This year's event was led by the White Sands Missile Range Morale Welfare and Recreation Office with the help of volunteers from across New Mexico.

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Video by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa Atchley