U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich Leads Introduction Of Bipartisan Bataan And Corregidor Congressional Gold Medal Act

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich


WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced the bipartisan Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor the heroic veterans who endured the Bataan Death March during World War II.

The Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Congressional Gold Medal Act would bestow a collective Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest and most distinguished civilian honor, to the troops from the United States and the Philippines who bravely defended Bataan and Corregidor and endured one of the most harrowing prisoners of war experiences in history, in recognition of their personal service and sacrifice.

“Tens of thousands of Americans and Filipinos—including many New Mexicans— demonstrated incredible and courageous fortitude during the Bataan Death March,” Heinrich said. “Bataan veterans deserve the recognition of our nation’s highest and most distinguished honor for their perseverance and patriotism. We must never forget their undaunted heroism in the face of unthinkable conditions and horrific abuses.”

“The American and Filipino soldiers who, for months, courageously defended Bataan and Corregidor and endured tremendous hardships during one of the ugliest wars in human history deserve our utmost gratitude and appreciation. In honor of these brave men and women, I’ve participated in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March, and now I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to remember these veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal,” Ernst said.

“America owes its Bataan veterans a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. These brave soldiers demonstrated courage in the face of captivity and inhumanity,” Luján said. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to ensure that Congress gives these heroes the recognition that they deserve for their service and sacrifice.”

“The sacrifices made by the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor who fought bravely to defend the Philippines and delay the plans of the 14th Japanese Army to take over the Pacific serves as a great example of courage that will always be a huge part of our New Mexico National Guard history,” said Major General Kenneth Nava, the adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guard. “The legacy of service of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery lives on with every Soldier and Airman of the New Mexico National Guard today and will never be forgotten. I support and applaud New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján for leading the effort to award our Bataan heroes with the Congressional Gold Medal for their incredible courage, sacrifice and selfless service on behalf of our nation.”

“I William W. Jennings on behalf of the 1,816 members of the New Mexico National Guard 200th and 515th Coast Artillery that were deployed and the 829 that never returned support this bill,” said William W. Jennings, Vice Commander of the American Legion Department of New Mexico.

Dec. 8, 1941, hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers attacked U.S. military stations in the Philippines. Despite being cut off from supply lines and reinforcements, thousands of American and Filipino forces mounted a courageous, months-long defense of the Bataan Peninsula and then Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. This brave defense changed the momentum of the war, delaying the Japanese conquest of the Philippines and providing the Allied Forces with critical time to mount a campaign to liberate the Pacific.

April 9, 1942, after the Battle of Bataan, approximately 75,000 troops from both the United States and the Philippines were taken prisoner by the Japanese. They were forced to endure a torturous march of more than 60 miles that came to be known as the “Bataan Death March” to prison camps throughout the Philippines. The marchers endured intense tropical heat without food, water, or medical care. An estimated 10,000 men—including thousands of Filipinos and hundreds of Americans—died from starvation, exhaustion, and abuse.

Survivors of the Bataan Death March were held captive in Japanese prison camps for over three years, where they were subjected to further torture, undernourishment, and forced labor. Others died when they were transported out of the Philippines, by way of unmarked Japanese Navy “hell ships” that were targeted by Allied Forces. Out of the 1,816 New Mexico National Guardsmen in the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery who were originally sent to defend the Philippines in the fall of 1941, 829 never returned home.

The full text of the legislation is available HERE.


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