Bataan Day, also known as ‘Araw ng Kagitingan,’ is celebrated on April 9 and is a national holiday in the Philippines. It commemorates the valor of Allied forces during the siege of Bataan against Japan during World War II. After a heroic last stand that lasted 3 months, 76,000 Filipino and American soldiers surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. The Japanese were not prepared for the sheer number of surrendered troops. Thus, began the infamous “Bataan Death March” — when prisoners walked 66 miles to a prison camp in San Fernando. More than 20,000 prisoners of war died on the march due to exhaustion, starvation, or at the hands of their captors.
History of Bataan Day
Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Military turned their attention to the Philippines — specifically, Manila Bay. As one of the best ports in the Pacific, the Philippines was strategically crucial for the Japanese. The port was the ideal resupply point to further their naval ambitions south of the Pacific.
The Imperial Japanese army set its sights on the main island of Luzon. After an initial phase of aerial attacks, 43,000 Japanese troops descended on the island, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was leading the Allied forces, told Washington DC that he could counter the invasion with 130,000 of his men. It would turn out to be a gross miscalculation and error on his part.
When the Battle of Bataan began, Allied forces were ill-equipped to counter the Japanese onslaught. MacArthur was forced to withdraw his troops to the Bataan peninsula. However, the planning for it was hurried and shoddy. In the panic of the retreat, the Allied forces left behind a ton of rations, stores, and ammunition.
Things fell apart in Bataan. The rations were dismally low. Troops fell sick with dengue, malaria, and other illnesses. What’s more, the soldiers had a weak defense with no naval backup or air cover.
Despite all odds, the Filipinos and Americans held out for 99 days before eventually surrendering. The last stand at Bataan cost the Japanese time and delayed immediate victory in the Pacific region. 76,000 Allied forces surrendered after three months- the largest in Filipino and American military histories. The Japanese were not prepared for the sheer number of surrendered men. Soon afterward, Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced into the infamous Bataan Death March.
Despite all their tribulations and trials of defeat, the captured soldiers remained strong and emerged heroes from the event. Bataan’s surrender hastened the fall of Corregidor. Without this stand, however, the Japanese might have quickly taken over all of the U.S. bases in the Pacific. Bataan slowed them down, giving the Allies ample time to prepare for future battles such as the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Coral Sea, which followed closely thereafter.
Bataan Day timeline
Hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Military bombs airfields, shipyards, and harbors in the Philippines.
The Japanese Army goes ashore at two points on the island of Luzon, forcing Allied forces to retreat.
On January 6, fierce fighting between Japanese and Allied forces starts.
On April 9, Allied prisoners are forced to march a deathly 66 miles North to San Fernando.
Bataan Day FAQs
What is Day of Valor in the Philippines?
The Day of Valor or Bataan Day is a public holiday in the Philippines. Schools and most business establishments remain shut.
What happened in the Bataan?
The siege of Bataan was a significant land battle for Allied forces in WWII. On this day, the US commander of Bataan ground troops, Edward King, surrendered thousands of men to Japan on April 9, 1942.
How many prisoners died in the Bataan Death March?
Approximately 10,000 men died during the Bataan Death March. Among these, 9,000 men were Filipino, and 1,000 were American.
How to Observe Bataan Day
Attend a parade
WWII veterans in the Philippines take part in parades to remember the bravery of their fallen comrades. If you’re in the country, mark the day by attending a parade to show solidarity.
Visit Mt. Samat Shrine
An official event happens in Bataan at the Mt. Samat Shrine. The Philippines president usually comes and gives a speech to honor the bravery of Filipino and American veterans.
Learn about the Philippines
Did you know the Philippines Basketball Association is the second oldest in the world after the N.B.A.? Or that the country has three of the biggest shopping malls in the world? Learn about this amazing country today.
5 Interesting Facts About The Philippines
A fierce nation
The Philippines was the first Southeast Asian country to gain independence after World War II.
The country’s name has Spanish origins
It was named by explorer Ruy López de Villalobos after King Philip II of Spain.
Other than America, the only other places where skunks can be found are the Philippines and Indonesia.
Unique war traditions
No other country but the Philippines hoists its flag upside down when at war.
A rich linguistic heritage
There are approximately 175 different languages spoken in the country.
Why Bataan Day is Important
To honor veterans
Today is another opportunity to honor the bravery of veterans. It’s a day to remember the sacrifice of those who lost their lives.
Lessons from history
Bataan Day is a somber reminder of the costs of war. It’s a day to re-affirm global commitment to peace and harmony.
To never take freedom for granted
Today, we count our blessings. It’s a good day to show gratitude for what we have and the brave people who made it possible.
Bataan Day dates