U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thursday U.S. Sen. Tom Udall commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Bataan invasion, which began Dec. 8, 1941 – just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor – when soldiers from the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment became the “first to fire” to defend the Philippines from Japanese bombers.
The 200th Coast Artillery Regiment was made up of members of the New Mexico National Guard and were deployed to the Philippines before the onset of hostilities against the Japanese in September 1941.
While severely outmanned and outgunned, the U.S. and Filipino forces stationed on the island fought bravely, and their tireless efforts held off the enemy forces for nearly four months, slowing Japanese momentum in the war. By April, with supplies running dry and starvation lurking, American and Filipino troops surrendered to the Japanese and became Prisoners of War.
Soon after, they were forced into the notoriously brutal Bataan Death March, a grueling 65-mile trek that took the lives of nearly a thousand American soldiers. The survivors of the march were held captive for three years – enduring torture and malnourishment – before being freed in 1945. Thursday Dec. 8, on the 75th anniversary of the Bataan invasion, Udall issued the following statement:
“Seventy-five years ago today, the troops at Bataan put on one of the most heroic and daring displays in American history. During four months of unrelenting combat, and during three years of gruesome imprisonment, the heroes of Bataan faced down unspeakable horror and unfathomable odds, and they became an enduring symbol of American bravery and perseverance. The courageous actions of these troops should not be forgotten. It is a debt that our nation can never truly repay – and New Mexico, the United States, and the entire free world are forever grateful for their sacrifice.
“New Mexico sent 1,800 of its best and bravest to the Philippines, but only 900 ever made it home. With each passing year, fewer survivors remain to tell the story of what happened during the Bataan invasion and the brutal Death March and captivity that followed. Now more than ever, we must do everything in our power to honor the memories of those we lost in Bataan and to express our boundless gratitude to those who are still with us. The veterans of Bataan command our deepest respect and appreciation, and we should award them the Congressional Gold Medal that they so richly deserve.”
In several Congresses, Udall has introduced legislation to honor Bataan veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest and most distinguished civilian award. He continues to work across party lines to build support for its passage.