Japanese Occupation

Posted 4 months ago

Japanese forces maintained a shipbuilding facility in Subic Bay throughout WWII.  The area became infamous for the war crimes committed against Allied prisoners of war, among which was Bataan March – where an estimated 66,000 Filipino and 10,000 American prisoners of war were forced by the Japanese military to endure a 106-kilometer forced march in April 1942 during the early stages of WWII.

Japanese Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma and U.S. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright during the surrender of Bataan
Starting in Mariveles, on the southern tip of the Bataan Peninsula, the prisoners marched northward to San Fernando, in Pampanga on April 9, 1942 and then taken by rail in cramped and unsanitary boxcars farther north to Capas, Tarlac. From there they walked an additional 11 km to Camp O’Donnell, a former Philippine army training center used by the Japanese military to intern Filipino and American prisoners.

The march lasted five to 10 days, depending on where a prisoner joined it and along the way, the captives were beaten, shot, bayoneted, and, in many cases, beheaded. A large number of those who made it to the camp later died of starvation and disease.

Only 54,000 prisoners reached the camp; though exact numbers are unknown, some 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans may have died during the march, and an additional 26,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans died at Camp O’Donnell.

The tragedy of the Oryoku Maru also called “Hellship” also took place in Subic Bay. The Japanese prisoner transport ship, with 1,619 prisoners of war (POWs) left the port of Manila in the latter part of October 1944. This was about the time American forces are launching aerial offensives against Japanese strongholds in the Philippines.

The Oryoku Maru after being bombed in Subic Bay 1945.
As the Oryoku Maru was anchored at the bay it was bombed by US fighter aircrafts unaware of the presence of the POWs. Only about 450 men survived the bombing and sinking and the subsequent maltreatment by the Japanese.