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History
Minnesota National Guard
Bataan Death March
The Battle of Bataan and the 194th Tank Battalion

On February 10, 1941, the Minnesota National Guard’s Brainerd-based 34th Tank Company commanded by Maj. Ernest B. Miller was ordered to federal active duty for pre-mobilization training and sent to Fort Lewis, Washington. At Fort Lewis, the 34th Tank Company was combined with two Army National Guard tank companies from Missouri (35th Tank Company) and California (40th Tank Company).  A Company from Brainerd, Minnesota; B Company from St Joseph, Missouri and C Company from Salinas, California were then re-designated the 194th Tank Battalion.  At Fort Lewis, Maj. Miller was appointed to the position of Battalion Commander of the 194th Tank Battalion.  In August 1941, B Company was reassigned to the Alaskan Defense Command.  Hence, the 194th Tank Battalion, less B Company was ordered to reinforce the Philippine Islands arriving in Manila on September 26, 1941.  The 194th Tank Battalion was the first tank unit deployed outside the Continental United States during WWII. 

The 194th Tank Battalion was stationed at Fort Stotsenburg near Clark Field on the Island of Luzon, where the unit trained until the outbreak of the war on December 7, 1941.  On December 8, 1941, nine and one-half hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese began bombing Clark Field and Manila in the Philippines.  The Japanese landed invasion forces on Luzon on December 10, 1941 and the battle for the Philippines began. 

On December 23, 1941, Gen. George McArthur notified commanders to retreat to the Bataan peninsula.  The defense of Bataan began officially on January 7, 1942. The supply situation was serious from the start.  There was a lack of food, medicine, clothing and ammunition.  Rations were cut to one-half and the troops were fatigued from a month of constant fighting.  In February, rations were cut to 27 ounces per day and by the end of March, the amount was barely sufficient to sustain life. 

The American Soldiers soon learned that hunger was a great leveler.  Two hundred and fifty horses and forty-seven mules from the 26th Calvary were slaughtered for food.  In the wake of starvation came diseases, such as malaria, dengue, scurvy, beriberi and amebic dysentery.  The average American Soldier lost 15-25 pounds and Malaria was as high as 35 percent among front line units.  These conditions had never been experienced and would never again be experienced by the United States Army.

The Japanese launched a major offensive to take Bataan on January 9, 1942. This included land attacks, sea invasions and constant artillery and air bombardment.  By February 1942, not only had the Bataan defenders repelled these attacks, they even forced the Japanese to withdraw and reorganize.

The Japanese started their final offensive of Bataan on Good Friday, April 3, 1942.  By April 8, Maj. Gen. King, commander of the forces on Bataan, was convinced his troops could not physically resist any more and decided to surrender to prevent further loss of life.  On April 9, 1942, Maj. Gen. King surrendered to the Japanese.

Following the surrender, the weakened and diseased defenders of Bataan, including men of the 194th Tank Battalion, were ordered on the infamous Bataan Death March by their Japanese captors. The Death March began northward on April 10, 1942 from Southern Bataan at Mariveles and terminated at Camp O'Donnell. The 194th prisoners marched along with other prisoners from Mariveles to San Fernando. The prisoners were packed into rail cars and moved to Capas and ended with a march to Camp O'Donnell. The Bataan Death March lasted anywhere from three to six days and encompassed anywhere from 60 to 103 miles of marching depending where a Soldier surrendered.

It is estimated that more than 70,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war marched on the infamous Bataan Death March from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell. They were starved and mistreated, often kicked and beaten on the way. Many who fell were bayoneted. Of the more than 70,000 American and Filipino Bataan Death March participants, it is said that only 54,000 reached Camp O'Donnell. When the Bataan prisoners finally reached the camp, the mistreatment continued. In fact, hundreds would die at O'Donnell as result of the incredibly cruel Death March. Only one-third of the prisoners taken at Bataan would survive to see freedom.

After the invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese, the 194th Tank Battalion was crucial to the beleaguered defense of Luzon and the Bataan Peninsula.  If it were not for the Bataan defenders, Japan would have advanced farther in the Southeast Pacific which would have prolonged the war and jeopardized Australia.  For their outstanding performance of duty in action, the 194th Tank Battalion was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations.

No words could ever describe with justice the ungodly nightmare the "Battling Bastards of Bataan" lived from January to April of 1942.  Tragically, more horror awaited the Bataan defenders than the Bataan Death March.  From Camp O'Donnell, where hundreds died, many prisoners of war were sent to other camps in the Philippines. 

These POW's included men from the 194th who were eventually packed into the holds of unmarked transport ships known as "Hell Ships" and were moved to labor camps in Japan.  Many of these unmarked POW "Hell Ships" enroute to Japan were sunk unknowingly by the U.S. Navy, killing many POW's.

Eighty-two men of the 34th Tank Company left Brainerd in 1941, 64 accompanied the 194th overseas to the Philippines.  One man was wounded and evacuated, two men went to Officer Candidate School, three were killed in action, 29 died as Prisoners of War and 29 survived captivity.   Of the original 64 Minnesota National Guardsmen only 32 men returned to Brainerd after the end of WWII.  

Since 1997, the Brainerd-based 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor Regiment or 1-194 AR (CAB) hosts an Annual Bataan Memorial March in Brainerd, Minn.  This event serves to commemorate all the individuals that endured the Bataan Death March in April 1942. This annual memorial march honors and remembers the amazing sacrifices of these incredible heroes in which the Soldiers of this battalion are forever grateful.

The 1-194 AR (CAB) unit lineage traces back to WWII with A Company, 194th Tank Battalion.  Thus, it is fitting that the 1-194 AR (CAB) battalion motto is “Remember Bataan, Never Forget!!!"



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"Remember Bataan,
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Memorial March Resources

The 20th Annual Bataan Memorial Opening Ceremony commemorating the heroes of Bataan, especially to honor Brainerd's own Minnesota Army National Guard, will be held at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 9th, 2017, at the Brainerd Training and Community Center, 1115 Wright Street. Registration can be completed on the attached registration form or online at http://www.brainerdbataan.com.

Bataan Memorial March Entrance Form 2017.pdf

2017 Bataan Memorial March Flyer.pdf

Additional Resources

The Battle of Bataan and the 194th Tank Battalion.pdf


Articles

Remembering Bataan (video)
04/09/2012

Bataan Death March survivor dies at age 90 in Kennewick
08/31/2011

Bataan Death March Vets provide context for memorial march
04/10/2011

Bataan Death March survivor honored in Twins home opener
04/08/2011

Bataan Death March survivor Peck dies at 90
02/28/2011

Bataan Memorial March
05/01/2010

The 12th Annual Bataan Memorial March
05/20/2009

Soldiers memorialize death march of Bataan
05/03/2008

Soldiers and civilians pay tribute to Bataan
05/23/2007


Contact

Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
mn.ng.web@mail.mil
651-282-4410
 
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