All the Bataan prisoners initially ended up at Camp O’Donnell. (It was located barely twenty miles north of Mt. Pinatubo, the volcano whose massive eruption, in 1991, closed Clark Air Base.)

It is believed more than 1,600 Americans and 10,000 Filipinos died at Camp O’Donnell within the first six weeks. Insufficient food and water, and no medicine, were just a few of the issues. (During the march from Bataan, Japanese troops took everything from American doctors.) Camp sanitation was virtually non-existent.

Dealing with grossly overcrowded conditions, the Japanese granted all Filipinos (who were drinking polluted water) amnesty (on June 6, 1942). They transferred Americans to a prison camp near the Filipino city of Cabanatuan, in Nueva Ecija Province, on the Pampanga River.

Soon after prisoners arrived at the camp, in the summer of 1942, men were already being buried at Cabanatuan’s cemetery. Life was extremely hard and there was never enough food. (A Ranger who eventually helped to rescue the Americans, and one British civilian, found the drawings in this paragraph.)

"Zero Ward at Cabanatuan," drawn by Medical Officer Eugene Jacobs, reveals the place where dying men had a “zero chance” to survive. Many American soldiers breathed their last here.

Ben Steele, professor emeritus at Montana State University and a Bataan Death March survivor, also made drawings of life at Cabanatuan. His work is part of the first-hand record of the march and the many months which followed.

Americans remained at Cabanatuan more than 2½ years. By January of 1945, only 511 (some accounts say 512) were still alive. Word of their plight had reached military officials who wanted to rescue them. Concerns for their safety had grown dramatically for several reasons:

  • A message (later introduced at the war-crimes trial) from the Japanese Vice Minister of War to the Commanding General of Military Police in Taiwan (then called Formosa), regarding Japan’s treatment of prisoners, was intercepted and decoded on August 1, 1944. The policy - which allowed local commanders to execute prisoners of war without orders from Tokyo - became known as the “Kill-All Policy.”
  • In December of 1944, the Japanese executed approximately 139 prisoners of war in what became known as "the Palawan Massacre." The very thing they were trying to prevent - stories of torture and execution being told by survivors - happened when eleven prisoners escaped.

What is the evidence of such atrocities which caused Allied officials to be so concerned about their fellow countrymen? Let’s examine part of the record, starting with the “Kill-All Policy.”

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5186stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: May 02, 2019

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"CAMPS O'DONNELL and CABANATUAN" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2005. Jun 24, 2019.
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