LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In 2009 the Japanese ambassador to the United States formally apologized to surviving POW's of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines.
On April 9th, 1942 thousands of soldiers were forced to march as they faced intolerable conditions.
The Bataan Death March of World War II is remembered by several military units and civilian organizations around the country. Here in Lufkin, the Texas State Guard Tyler Medical Brigade Unit is holding a memorial march of their own.
They march to remember the 75,000 U.S. and Filipino soldiers who were taken prisoner following the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942.
"The Japanese were not prepared for 80,000 prisoners of war and so about 10,000 died on the march before they ever got to the Prisoner of War camps," said Captain Allen Rush, with the Tyler Brigade Unit.
The Bataan Death March lasted four to five days. The Texas State Guard Tyler Medical Brigade Unit marches two miles as they remember those who survived the march, and the many fallen heroes.
"We're thinking about those soldiers who were already suffering from thirst, starvation, malaria, typhus and the fact that they were having to walk 60 miles with the fear that if they stopped the might be shot. It is a sobering thought," said Rush.
"The two miles, by the time we were getting into town felt a little uncomfortable. It was nothing in comparison to what those soldiers endured," said Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan MacClements.
MacClements says it is difficult to put into perspective the grueling conditions suffered by the marching soldiers.
"We were walking down the road and we were being encouraged by the citizens of Lufkin. Those individuals were walking along a pathway which was littered with dead bodies of soldiers, of their fellow soldiers who had gone before them who were too weak to make it," explained MacClements.
The brigade unit ends their march at the Angelina County Courthouse. East Texans wait to pay their respects as they honor the thousands of men and women who bravely suffered as they marched into uncertainty.
Also honoring the heroes of the Bataan Death March is the Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard who will march from Camp Mabry in Austin to the State Capitol for a ceremony with state leaders.