On this day in 1942, Major General Edward P. King Jr. surrenders at Bataan, Philippines–against General Douglas MacArthur’s orders–and 78,000 troops (66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans), the largest contingent of U.S. soldiers ever to surrender, are taken captive by the Japanese.
The prisoners were at once led 55 miles from Mariveles, on the southern end of the Bataan peninsula, to San Fernando, on what became known as the “Bataan Death March.” At least 600 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos died because of the extreme brutality of their captors, who starved, beat, and kicked them on the way; those who became too weak to walk were bayoneted. Those who survived were taken by rail from San Fernando to POW camps, where another 16,000 Filipinos and at least 1,000 Americans died from disease, mistreatment, and starvation.
After the war, the International Military Tribunal, established by MacArthur, tried Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu, commander of the Japanese invasion forces in the Philippines. He was held responsible for the death march, a war crime, and was executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946.