Thursday, March 9, 2017

75th Anniversaries in WWII History: by Mary Louise Sanchez

In January I received a Fit Bit bracelet which I mostly use to track my steps. The goal is to achieve 10,000 steps a day.  Imagine my surprise when I was alerted about a week later that I completed my first twenty-six miles for a marathon badge. I was proud to receive the badge but then reflected on endurance tests that people complete when they participate in Olympic marathons or marathons that last a longer period of time.

One difficult 60-70 mile marathon anniversary in history started 75 years old on January 7, 1942.  This was the beginning of the Bataan Battle in the Philippines during WWII .
 In April 1942, Maj. Gen. Edward King, Jr. surrendered to Col. Mootoo Nakayama of the 14th Japanese Army.  Because the Japanese wanted to make another assault near the location of the surrender, they decided the large numbers of prisoners needed to be moved north. Since transportation was lacking, American and Filipino POWs were forced to march to a new camp between 60 and up to almost 70 miles north. This became known as the Bataan March.

There are many memorials to the memory of the these men in the Philippines. Because so many New Mexican soldiers were forced to participate in that infamous march, the state of New Mexico honors these men every spring with a marathon march/run at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico called the Bataan Memorial Death March. New Mexicans renamed the old state capitol building, the Bataan Memorial Building.  There is also a memorial, "Heroes of Bataan" in Las Cruces, New Mexico depicting three soldiers helping each other on the deadly march. 

I have yet to find a middle grade historical fiction novel with the Bataan March setting, but I believe these men's stories will be written and need to be shared.  Since my father-in-law was  a POW in Korea for two years, I would love to see an historical fiction story about the Korean experience too.

Another WWII 75th anniversary was observed this past December 7, 2016—Pearl Harbor. Thankfully, there are many books about the Pearl Harbor experience for students in the middle grades to read. I was fortunate to hear Graham Salisbury speak about his experiences growing up in Hawaii and his interviews with Japanese Americans who lived there during the Pearl Harbor bombing which lead to his books about Pearl Harbor.

Do you know anyone who endured or died in the Bataan March or Pearl Harbor? Do you know anyone who was a POW? What children's books do you recommend that speak to these experiences?   


  1. Thank you for your post, Mary Louise. What men before us have endured is sometimes overwhelming to think about. I don't have any recommendations but hope to get a chance to look through yours.

  2. One way to honor these HEroes and HERoes is to write their stories.