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Rolling Thunder again sponsors Bataan Death March memorial ride

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Friday, May 3, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

The Bataan Death March in the Philippines began on May 9, 1942, but according to Ken White, president of Chapter 5 of Rolling Thunder of Pennsylvania, few people know the significance of the event.

“In our opinion, it was the most egregious prisoner of war event in modern history,” White said. “And it is just forgotten.”

That is why the organization will again sponsor a five-hour, 120-mile circle from Uniontown on Saturday, visiting war memorials along the way and planting U.S. and POW flags. Anyone wishing to participate, whether on a motorcycle or in a car, should gather at American Legion Post 51, on Route 40, on the east side of Uniontown, between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. The riders are to leave at 11 a.m.

Following the event, riders are to meet at the Knights of Columbus on Gallatin Avenue in Uniontown for refreshments.

The history of the march shocked the nation after the atrocities were revealed.

After being ordered to surrender by their officers, 60,000 to 80,000 Filipino and U.S. soldiers were sent on a forced march of 65 miles by the Imperial Japanese Army. During the march, somewhere between 2,500 and 10,000 Filipino and 100 to 600 U.S. POWs died before they reached Camp O'Donnell. Many were starved to death, bayonetted or beheaded by the Japanese. No medical help was provided by the Japanese.

The prisoners continued to die at the rate of 35 to 50 per day in captivity.

After the war, the survivors came home and found they were berated because they surrendered, according to White.

“But they were ordered to surrender by their officers,” White said. “They would have fought to the last man.”

White said there are no known survivors of the march in the area, the last one having died about two years ago. The Rolling Thunder organization escorted the body to Arlington National Cemetery for burial.

Only one other memorial is celebrated in the U.S., in New Mexico.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-626-3538.

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