ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - For some people 71 years ago is ancient history, but for many New Mexicans, the Bataan Death March in World War II can never be forgotten.
There were about 1,800 New Mexico soldiers among the 78,000 U.S. and Filipino forced by the Japanese to march a 65-mile route after the fall of the Philippines on April 9, 1942.
In New Mexico, with about 500,000 residents at the time, nearly everyone had a family member, friend or acquaintance among the prisoners.
Weak, sick, wounded and denied food, water and medical treatment, the marchers also suffered at the hands and bayonets of Japanese forces. Some estimates place the number of troops killed by the Japanese during the march as high as 10,000.
Only half of the New Mexicans survived the war and prisoners in the Philippines or as forced laborers shipped to Japanese industries. Many of the survivors were so weakened by the captivity they died after being liberated.
The Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Foundation of New Mexico says 41 Death March survivors who served with New Mexico's National Guard and coastal artillery regiments are still living.
Twenty of them in are in New Mexico along with five survivors from other states.
On Saturday the Bataan Death March and the men who made it were being remembered in a 1 p.m. ceremony Saturday at Bataan Memorial Park on Lomas Boulevard NE just west of Carlisle.
The 12 granite columns at the park bear the names and the story of the men who served with two New Mexico regiments.
The stories of New Mexico's Bataan Death March survivors also are being preserved in the Library of Congress.
A number of survivors were interviewed last year for the PBS program "Bataan: A 70th Anniversary Commemoration."
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and the Oasis Veterans History Project got that footage to Washington where it will be preserved, archived and shared for generations to come.
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