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The Bataan Memorial Death March White Sands New Mexico

Updated on May 14, 2013

Remembering The March To Bataan White Sands Missle Range

Every year thousands of civilians and Service Members gather in the New Mexico desert to march 26.2 miles.

They march in memory of the men that died and survived The March to Bataan in 1942.The men were forced to march through the jungle with no food, water or shelter. Many men died along the route because they were too weak to continue.

The strong carried the weak and willed them to continue one step at a time.

The Bataan Memorial Death March has all the amenities of a modern day marathon; volunteers provide snacks, water and Gatorade along the route.

The rough terrain of White Sands, New Mexico provides a very small glimpse of what the Battling Bastards of Bataan endured on their 80 mile march through the Philippine jungle.

Join me as I prepare to March in honor of these Veterans.

Photos by Gina Birdsong

My First Experience at The Bataan Memorial Death March

Remember Bataan

I was invited to participate in The Bataan Memorial Death March for the first time in 2005.

I was a new Drill Sergeant and eager to take on the challenge.

I camped at the foot of the mountain, less than a mile from the starting line of the march. The morning was clear and crisp. I took my place amongst the Soldiers carrying rucksacks. I had entered the heavy division and was carrying a 35 pound ruck sack. The opening ceremonies began as a solo bugler played Taps and the sun rose over the mountain. I shook the hands of WWII Veterans as I started on my journey.

I was confident that I would shake their hands again at the finish line.

The route proved to be more challenging than I could have ever imagined. I had not trained to do the ruck march but considered myself to be in good physical condition. I was, after all, a Drill Sergeant.

I reached mile 14 and rounded the top of the mountain, slowly dragging my feet. I was exhausted and in pain.

I reached mile 20. It is at the bottom of the mountain. I decided to enter the last aid tent before completing the final leg of the journey. I had not taken off my boots or changed my socks. I was sure that my feet were in terrible condition.

Many past participants will warn you of the final leg of the march. It is 6.2 miles of sand. I entered the aid tent to have my feet inspected and taped before I entered the sand pit.

I was medically disqualified.

The exhaustion of the 20 miles of road swept over me like a tidal wave. I cried as the medic wrapped my feet. I had torn the bottom of my soles completely off. I was embarrassed and disappointed.

I vowed that I would return to complete the 26.2 mile ruck march.

I completed the ruck march in 2006,2007 and 2013.

Click To Register For The 25th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March

(Update: Registration closed until November)

Caring For Your Feet Along The March

The Best Protection For Your Feet.

We Will Remember Those That Gave The Ultimate Sacrifice On The March To Bataan

26.2 Miles


In The Heat

In The Sand

To The End

Key To Surviving the Bataan Memorial Death March

Hydration is the key to completing The Bataan Memorial Death March. Water points are scattered along the course but a camel back or web belt with canteens is highly recommended.

CamelBak Mil-Tac HydroBak Hydration Pack, 1.5L / 50 oz, Black
CamelBak Mil-Tac HydroBak Hydration Pack, 1.5L / 50 oz, Black

A camel pack carries a lot of water and is still very comfortable and light weight. This camel back can be worn in military uniform or civilian attire. The straps are easily adjusted to fit over a rucksack. It also has a small pocket to hold a few snacks and a camera.


World War II, the...

76,000 American and Filipino troops were surrendered to Japanese Forces on April 9, 1942.

The men were forced to march over 80 miles through the Philippine Jungle without food and water. The prisoners of war were beaten, tortured and killed if they could not continue the march to Balanga, the capital of Bataan.

Those that survived were forced into war camps .There they continued to fight for survival. They battled starvation, abuse and disease.

Bataan would not be recaptured by American forces until 1945.

The Bataan Memorial Death March was started in 1989 by the New Mexico ROTC Department. A few hundred ROTC cadets marched in memory of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard. The 200th Coast Artillery National Guard Unit was among the units surrendered to the Japanese.

Bataan Death March History and Survivor Stories

I was not familiar with the history of The Bataan Death March until I marched in the memorial march in 2005. The story of these Veterans deserves to be told and must not be forgotten.

Batteling Bastards of Bataan

"We're the battling bastards of Bataan.

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,

No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces

And nobody gives a damn."

Frank Hewlett, US war Correspondent

Who Participates in The Bataan Memorial Death March

I have met many people on the marches in White Sands Missile Range I have even run into a few old friends.

I shook the hand of a former Soldier I was responsible for as a Drill Sergeant. He was so proud to inform me he was preparing to deploy for Iraq. I also met up with a First Sergeant that sat on my promotion board when I became a Non Commissioned Officer in 2003.

The route is flooded with Soldiers in uniform proudly marching with unit flags and carrying rucksacks but you also meet some unexpected people along the trail.

I remember meeting a very unique couple. They were eager to ask me questions about my job in the military and my background. The woman was very thin and frail and seemed out of place among all the Service members. Her husband was a heavy set man that was sporting blue spandex shorts that could clearly be seen for miles. We made small talk as we marched along the road. I finally asked them why they were marching the memorial death march. We had many miles ahead for them to tell me their story.

They were marching in memory of their son. He had been in Iraq for nearly a year and was scheduled to come home two weeks before the march. He had eagerly been phoning his mom about the Bataan Memorial Death March. He had researched it on line and intended on participating when he returned home. He was killed in action two weeks before returning home.

I remember struggling up the mountain during the memorial march of 2006. I was having a moment of weakness and questioning what I was doing marching in the middle of the desert.

I could see a young man marching in the distance. It was clear he was a Soldier. He had a high and tight haircut and was wearing an Army physical Fitness uniform. He was also struggling to get to the top of the mountain. I stopped to thank him for his service and quickly moved on before he could see the tears in my eyes. He was nineteen years old and had lost his leg in a road side bombing in Iraq.

It was crystal clear why I was marching up the side of a mountain in the middle of a desert.

Click To Register For The 25th Annual Bataan Memorial Death March

(Update: Registration closed until November)

Participate in The Memorial Death March

WWII Veterans

Each year a WWII Veteran calls out the names of The Bataan March Survivors that are in the crowd of people waiting to begin the march.

The Veterans proudly line the starting line to welcome the enthusiastic marchers.

They shake the hands of each participant as they cross the starting line and encourage them at different mile markers throughout the marathon.

Each year fewer survivor names are called. The WWII generation of Veterans is quickly disappearing.

The Bataan Memorial Death March gives you the unique opportunity to look into the eyes of a WWII Veteran and thank them for their service to this country.

What To Expect At The Bataan Memorial Death March - Video of Bataan Memorial Death March

What To Expect At The Bataan Memorial Death March
What To Expect At The Bataan Memorial Death March

Footwear For The Bataan Memorial Death March


Will You Join Me In The Bataan Memorial Death March

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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      4 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      It's great to see that what those men went through on Bataan has not been forgotten.

    • Mr Criminology profile image


      5 years ago from Philippines

      The Philippines being a former colony of the United States is honored, that dark days in the history of the Philippines is remembered.

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      6 years ago

      Just wanted to stop back in and say thank you - I'd never heard of the Bataan Death March before your introduction, but the way you wrote about this made me want to learn more. I've just finished reading a couple of more general books about the war in the Pacific; next up will be Some Survived. It's on my bookshelf now, but I'll save that for a bit so I'll be reading it at the same time as the memorial march is on. Thanks, Mamabyrd.

    • BowWowBear profile image


      6 years ago

      I can't make the march myself, but I sure do appreciate you sharing this lens! Our vets have given so much that we might be free! Thanks!

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @gottaloveit2: Thank You! I am honored to write about this amazing event!

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      6 years ago

      You are amazing! What a beautiful tribute lens - so poignant and real. Blessed.

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @lollyj lm: My mother in law is from the Phillipines. She says her mother would tells stories of the Japanese coming through the villiages. I can not imagine how scary it must have been.

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @happynutritionist: I am honored to be able to share the story of these amazing people

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the education on this, so important to never forget those who have given so much, and you have presented it well here.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a wonderful thing to remember the bravery of the men and the horrors of the march. I was fortunate to meet one survivor many, many years ago. His story still gives me chills.

    • norma-holt profile image


      6 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD. Featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012-2 and also on Squidoo LOTD Lenses-2. Hugs

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great Lens! Hope the world will be peace forever!

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you for sharing your story. There is nothing better than living, breathing history. It is remarkable what these men endured. It is sad that their generation is dying at an alarming rate. We must ensure that they are never forgotten.

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @minemyown: Thank you so much for the words of encouragement! I also have faith I will succeed!

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @RawBill1: Thank you for the link and the information! This sounds like something I need to add to my bucket list. Please keep in touch and let me know how your do on the march. Best of luck to you!!

    • Mamabyrd profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Kliedel: I couldn't agree with you more! I joined the Army in peacetime. I admire the bravery of the men and women today! Our country and our military have never been the same after September 11th.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Everyone is a loser when it comes to war. At the end of the day, nobody can really considered as a true winner. War will just leave us with painful memories and bad experiences. This is a great lens. Its good to know that we still know how to remember those unknown heroes who have chosen to gave up their lives just to keep others safety.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Super great! I honor our soldiers and for this lens who keeps the memories alive. Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing. I didn't know they did this here too. I just know that this is done in the Philippines every year.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 

      6 years ago from California

      Thank you for putting this absolutely excellent lens together. It so deseved the LOTD and Purple Star awards. Blessed. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for remember these brave men.

    • LornsA178 profile image


      6 years ago

      I love reading this lens, great job on remembering those heroes during world war II. Thanks!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      6 years ago from Washington KS

      Thanks so much for sharing this great lens.

      My dad was in the Filippines during WW2 but escaped the Bataan Death March.

      Congrats on LOTD.

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 

      6 years ago from Earth

      It was my distinct pleasure to know a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Thank your for honoring his memory and the memory of every other soldier who started that fateful march.

    • ahrendi profile image


      6 years ago

      I am a Filipino and Bataan Memorial Death March is an important part of our history. Great lens.

    • RawBill1 profile image


      6 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Congrats on LOTD and for eventually completing this challenging trek. I had never heard of this war time cruel event or the the memorial march to remember it. In Australia we have the Kokoda Challenge which I am planning on competing in next year. It is a 96 kilometre trek through the mountains in honour of those Aussie soldiers who held off the Japanese army on the real 96 km long Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. You do it is teams of four and most take 30 plus hours to complete it so you have to walk through the night. My friends did it this year in 36 hours, but the winning team did it in just 11.5 running the whole way!

    • CoolFoto profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your inspiring story. Congrats on LOD and Purple Star!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've never heard of this march before,Thanks, great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for remembering brave mens through this great lens.Congrats for LOTD

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      All I can say is, "Wow." Congratulatins on LOTD.

    • deckdesign profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for telling the story of the Bataan death march and congratulations on Lens of the Day. You deserve it.

    • minemyown profile image


      6 years ago

      I will wait for your next post saying "I made the 26.2 mi march. More power to you and to your lens. I don't have the right rank to bless you in your endeavor but God gave all of us the power faith to pray and believe that you can succeed specially for a good cause like this. My mother is from Bataan and that's where I spent most of my childhood during the summertime.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have been to Bataan and seen the war memorial there to the men who died on the march. What an inspiration they should be to us all. Thank you for remember these brave men.

    • pheonix76 profile image


      6 years ago from WNY

      What an inspirational lens, thank you so much for sharing. I had never heard anything about this march before. Best of luck to you and your mother next year! Congrats on LotD!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      A very touching story! Congratulations on LotD and Purple Star!!

    • MargaritasWorld profile image

      Margarita Boettcher 

      6 years ago from Morrison, Colorado

      Contrats on the LOD. this is my favorite lens so far at squidoo. Look forward to seeing pictures of your next march. So cool your Ma is going to do it with you! Good luck and thanks for the lens.Margarita

    • LaurisB LM profile image

      LaurisB LM 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for participating in the memorial march and keeping the memory alive. My sociology professor at the University of the Philippines was a death march survivor. I remember talking to him about it and having a hard time understanding that anything that horrible had happened, much less that he had survived to tell about it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Deeply moving. I didn't know anything about it before.

    • Barbara2659 profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens. I had not heard of this I really learned something incredible. Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      We should always remember the sacrifice of those past, thanks for a great lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very stirring tribute to some very brave people. Congratulations on getting LoTD!

    • LisaDH profile image


      6 years ago

      I vaguely remember hearing about the Bataan death march, but I'd never heard of this march to memorialize it. Sounds like an incredible experience. The story about the couple marching for their son made me cry. I hope you and your mom finish the next march together!

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      6 years ago from Maryland

      Wow! This is incredible...thank you for writing about the Bataan Memorial Death March. I can't believe I have never heard of this chapter of WWII. It must feel incredible to participate in and complete this tribute to those soldiers. Congrats on LotD! :)

    • Im Horse Crazy profile image

      Im Horse Crazy 

      6 years ago

      Congrats on being lens of the day!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulation on your LotD and your purple star. Well done.

    • MartieG profile image

      MartieG aka 'survivoryea' 

      6 years ago from Jersey Shore

      What a wonderful memorial to those who served and had to endure this march--very BLESSED by an Angel who won't ever forget what all our soldiers have done for our freedom.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow. I've actually been to White Sands (which is an amazingly beautiful place), and had no idea about this march. Thank you for sharing this important march with us.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi When i was in my 20's ,I lived in a small apt. in Fontana, ca.

      my next door neighbor was an older guy. I got to know him and

      one day we were having a couple of beers on his front porch and he started

      telling me he had survived the Bataan death march. The story he told me

      made me cry as i couldn't imagine how horrific that must have been for him and the other men who endured such brutality. I'm glad to see that it is not being forgotten. The man's name was Jim Tidwell , I don't know if he is still with us or where he is now as it's been 30 + years . But I will never forget

      the story he told me.

    • montanatravel52 profile image


      6 years ago

      My mom's family is from NM, and we would visit ea summer growing up and I never knew about this, thank you! Very interesting and amazing stories... well deserved accolades! (My camo lens was about hunting b/c I'm from MT, but didn't get it submitted in time:)) Love this idea for the new theme, though.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations on your LOTD. Absolutely amazing!

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Awe inspiring & a beautiful lens. Tragic and triumphant all at once! Cheers~cb

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a very touching lens on a part of our American history that must never be forgotten. You go girl! I wish I could go along side you. Congratulations on LOTD and your purple star and your service to our country. :)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for honoring our veterans and for your service to our country. Congratulations on LOTD ... well deserved.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Congratulations of LOTD and your Purple Star, this is a very interesting and well done lens.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      6 years ago from California

      Congratulations on both the wins...the Cameo one and now LOTD! This truly is a winner, just as you are ;)

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 

      6 years ago from Missouri

      Your LOTD and Purple Star are well earned. Congrats and blessings!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What an amazing way to remember the amazing sacrifice these soldiers gave for their country. I'd love to participate, but I don't think I will until I'm older- I'm positive I couldn't complete the march in the physical condition I am in right now.

    • profile image

      faye durham 

      6 years ago

      Great lens and so touching. You're very brave and I thank you for your service.

    • delia-delia profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD & your Purple Star!...I give you a lot of credit and admiration for your participation.

      In our town of Janesville WI. we had 99 men of Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion. All 99 Janesville men were captured on the Bataan Peninsula and endured the Bataan Death March, only 33 of the âJanesville Tankersâ survived the war.

      Our neighbors dad who was the last survivor died last year...we have in town a Bataan Memorial honoring monument.

    • TamaraG LM profile image

      TamaraG LM 

      6 years ago

      Amazing Lens! People tend to forget History! Thanks for keeping it alive!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My father was in the Bataan March. I have not heard of this but will try to be in this one time. My father was in the USAFFE. Will be back here for updates.

    • verymary profile image


      6 years ago from Chicago area

      Perfect lens & well deserved lord!! Blessed

    • ThePerfectPresent profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome lens. Thank you for sharing your experiences and the story of Bataan.

    • vetochemicals profile image


      6 years ago from Pittsburgh Pa

      Awesome lens, I feel like such a slacker! So glad you got LOTD, so well deserved:) Thank you for your service xoxo

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations on a well deserved purple star and lotD. I'm sure you will make the march next time.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations! I was very touched about this as I am one of the many who had lost their grandfather in that march. The worst part about it was I couldn't find not one record of his death. This will help me find a new avenue to search. Thank you so much.

    • profile image

      ellies lm 

      6 years ago

      Consider yourself liked and pinned!

    • MEDerby profile image


      6 years ago

      One of the most haunting stories in military history. Thank you for keeping the story alive.

    • profile image

      ellies lm 

      6 years ago

      I honor you and others who continue to keep the memory alive. Thank you for your service and such an interesting and well put together presentation. Your lens ROCKS!

    • Ilonagarden profile image

      Ilona E 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I knew the history of the original Bataan Death March, but this is first I'd heard of the memorial. You are one tough cookie to endure that first one and go on and complete more marches! Great lens.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      6 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Stopping back by to congratulate you on having this very special lens selected for Lens-of-the-Day! Well done.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow, I didn't know that this was going on. What a story and such inspiration. I wish I could go, but I had a stroke last year. Great lens.

    • PhotographicStu profile image


      6 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Congrats on being the winner

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great lense and congratulation...

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      6 years ago from USA

      Congratulations, this lens is the featured Lens of the Day today. You can read all about it here:

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Was here yesterday. Just stopped by to say congratulations on LOTD. Very well deserved. Well done.

    • xriotdotbiz lm profile image

      xriotdotbiz lm 

      6 years ago

      Great lens and congratulations on the win.

      Thank You for your service to our country and our freedom!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Just popping back in to say congratulations! :)

    • LynetteBell profile image


      6 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

      Wonderful lens. Congrats on being the winner!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      When I worked as a journalist for an Army newspaper, I intereviewed soldiers who participated in this event. It sounded extremely difficult.

    • NAIZA LM profile image

      NAIZA LM 

      6 years ago

      Such a great way to commemorate all the lives lost in this horrifying part of our history. Congrats on your well deserved Purple lens! ~Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • ggruden2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Rely interesting and good lenses to read!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The Death March was a scary part of our history. I cannot imagine walking endlessly without anything to drink! Blessed.

    • betta addict profile image

      betta addict 

      6 years ago

      Congratualtions for winning the Flaunt Your Camo contest. I'm a Filipino and I thank you for making this lens as a tribute to all who suffered and died at the Bataan Death March. =D

    • intermarks profile image


      6 years ago

      That will be a great experience. Nice lens!

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      I can't, but I admire what you're doing.

    • PinkCattleya profile image


      6 years ago from Doha Qatar

      This is a very touching story!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Well done. Exelent lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens.

    • LoriBeninger profile image


      6 years ago

      Excellent. I've never before had a lens move me to tears. Congratulations for a job (and a lens) well done. Thank you.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      good topic really nice

    • ofwdin lm profile image

      ofwdin lm 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for this. I was not aware of the memorial march, even though my grandfather was also a veteran (he passed away 4 years ago). Great lens, too.

    • Morgannafay profile image


      6 years ago

      Congrats on lens of the day Gina! HUGS!

    • Dusty2 LM profile image

      Dusty2 LM 

      6 years ago

      Thank You mamabyrd! Awesome lens and awesome person who is serving to preserve our freedom and way of life. I also want to congratulate you on LOTD and your participation in the Bataan Memorial March. It takes a strong willed person with a big heart to do what you are doing to support those servicemen who made the March and those who did not. I knew about the Bataan Death March and White Sands but didn't have any idea about the two being combined into one event. Enjoyed reading this lens and the info.

      Please; "Pay It Forward"!

    • AgingIntoDisabi profile image


      6 years ago

      History becomes more tangible when you reenact it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • HalloweenRecipes profile image


      6 years ago

      I am very familiar with the Bataan Death March. I am a history lover, but I never knew about this wonderful tribute to those brave soldiers, and I am a bit overwhelmed by it. I cannot imagine what an emotional experience it must be, all those marchers honoring the memory of the Bataan march, hearing the names of the survivors called out, shaking their hand and combining that with honoring their own loved ones. This is an amazing lens and story. Good luck with your training and I will be following your progress and praying for you.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh Wow, this is so well done and Thank You! Congratulations!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Congratulations on LotD, my dear. This lens is just wonderful.

      Thank once again for serving in the armed forces. <3

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Very interesting, thank you for educating me on the Bataan March. I had never heard of it.

    • MayaIxchel profile image


      6 years ago

      Congrats! What a wonderful lens!


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