Bataan Memorial Death March

Bataan Memorial Death March

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A Tribute to the Battling Bastards of Bataan

We're the Battling Bastards of Bataan,
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam,
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces,
…and nobody gives a damn.

Each year in southern New Mexico, a unique event is held in honor of a very special group of Americans, the Battling Bastards of Bataan. People from virtually every state in the United States and even other countries around the world converge on the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico to take part in a grueling 26.2-mile trek through the desert known as the Bataan Memorial Death March. The Battling Bastards of Bataan symbolize a great generation, one whose values and sacrifices leave their descendants in a debt of gratitude. I like to think that those who participate in this event do so for the same reasons I do - simply to remember, honor, and thank that group and their generation. And while the ranks of Bataan Survivors diminish, the event that honors their sacrifices and those of their fallen comrades grows ever larger. They will not be forgotten.
Bataan Memorial Death MarchThe Bataan Memorial Death March - 26.2 miles through the desert.

This annual marathon-distance event is held in early spring at the White Sands Missile Range, near the city of Las Cruces. The desert terrain of this course is undoubtedly unlike that of any other marathon event in the United States. This event is a deserving tribute to the thousands of veterans who endured or perished during the infamous Bataan Death March of World War II. These veterans - numbering nearly 78,000, mostly Filipino - were surrendered to Japanese forces in the fall of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942. They were then put on a forced march to regional POW camps. Some were put aboard transport ships - called "Hell Ships" - bound for forced labor camps in Japan. Those who survived the brutal march faced more challenges and hardships as Prisoners of War. Many survived the march only to die in captivity. An untold number of prisoners were lost at sea when some of the unmarked Hell Ships were sunk by American naval and air forces. Please see the links below to learn more about the real Bataan Death March.

Battle for Bataan! – New Mexico State University website

Back to Bataan – A Survivor’s Story

Why in New Mexico?

Bataan is deeply rooted in the state of New Mexico. Of the 12,000 Americans on the Bataan Death March, 1,800 were from the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery of the New Mexico National Guard. It is fitting that the city of Las Cruces is home to the Bataan Death March Memorial Monument, the only federally funded monument dedicated to the victims of the Bataan Death March.

Bataan Death March Memorial Monument

Event Information

1989 marked the beginning of the Bataan Memorial Death March. It is only one of two such events in the United States (the other is a 20-mile event in Brainerd, Minnesota), and it is the longest in distance and by far the largest in terms of popularity and participation. The New Mexico State University (NMSU) Army ROTC Department was the initial event sponsor. In 1992, White Sands Missile Range partnered with NMSU as a co-sponsor and the event venue was relocated to the missile range. With about 100 participants in its inaugural year, this event has grown steadily over the years, topping 4,000 participants for the first time in 2007.

March participants can compete as an individual or as part of a team (male/female/coed). There are military and civilian categories that are broken down into either a light division or a heavy division, where a 35-pound pack must be carried. As of 2008, the individual registration fee is $50 and the team registration fee is $200 for a 5-person team. See the link to the event's website below for more details.

The opening ceremony starts at 6:30, followed by a moving roll call of Bataan survivors and those who have passed on since the last event. The start time for the march is 7:00 am. Making this event truly special is the presence of Bataan survivors and other WWII veterans who extend their thanks to participants for their support and see them off on the march, and then congratulate participants crossing the finish line.

Participating in this event is an unforgettable and highly rewarding, if not emotional, experience. You will test the limits of your endurance and witness camaraderie between total strangers who share a common bond and goal. You will see the raw determination of amputees, many of whom lost limbs in the line of duty, pushing their physical limits and even redefining them. That, to me, is the most inspirational part of the march. The event sponsors, organizers, and many people who comprise the volunteer staff go all-out to do this right, and their efforts really show.

Bataan Memorial Death March – official event website

Rounding Mineral HillGoing around Mineral Hill.

Route Information

Route map26.2-mile route map.

There are two routes for the Bataan Memorial Death March. In addition to the 26.2-mile course, there is also a 15.2-mile course offered. These courses run through the Chihuahuan Desert and consist of paved roads as well as dirt and sand roads and trails. The majority, whether it be the long or short route, is not paved. The shorter course is basically the lower section of the long course. Where the long course leads to the north across U.S. Highway 70 and around Mineral Hill in the southern San Andres Mountains, the short course will lead briefly to the south on paved road before leaving the road and heading west through the Sand Pit.

The elevation ranges from a low of 4,050 feet on the eastern stretches of the route to its highest point of 5,400 feet at the base of Mineral Hill to the north. The seemingly endless uphill grade that encircles Mineral Hill is the crux of the long course; the shorter course does not go around Mineral Hill. The dreaded Sand Pit, a stretch under a mile in length which is encountered between the 20- and 22-mile markers, is not that imposing based on my participation in this event in 2007 and 2008. Again, Mineral Hill is the major challenge of this course, and it will drain you.

There are water points and medical aid stations set up along the routes. Water points are located roughly every two miles, where you will find supportive and encouraging volunteers providing cups of water and Gatorade, bananas, and orange slices. On the long course, you will pass through 14 water points and seven medical aid stations. On the short course, there are eight water points and three medical aid stations. As if these accommodations are not enough, there is even a fleet of all-terrain vehicles and courtesy vans on the course to assist participants who need help and are not near an aid station.

Click here for separate long and short route maps.

Western Diamondback RattlesnakeRattlesnake seen on route.

Light at the endThe long road home.

Climber's Log

If you've participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March, please sign into the Climber's Log.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 20

nartreb - Apr 1, 2008 2:21 pm - Voted 10/10

not a route page

Change this to a Trip Report and you've got my vote.


rayray - Apr 1, 2008 6:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: not a route page

Please clarify why you don't think this is a route page. Although the route does not lead to an actual summit, it is still a route.

Bob Sihler

Bob Sihler - Apr 1, 2008 9:21 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: not a route page

I like it, but I would change it to an article myself. Yes, it's a route, and it's a trip report, but I think it's of broader interest. I hope it ends up on the front page!


grunt - Apr 1, 2008 6:59 pm - Voted 10/10

Beat me to it.

I've been meaning to do this page for a long time. DAMN IT! I was going to put it as an article or custom object.


rayray - Apr 1, 2008 9:15 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Beat me to it.

Thanks for signing in! I actually considered putting up a page last year but didn't. I'm sure with four marches under your belt, you'll get out this way again. It's a test, that's for sure...but a lot of fun too.


surgent - Apr 8, 2008 10:10 am - Voted 10/10


I did not know of this event. I would love to participate in the next one. I'm an old WSMR kid; it'd be nice to go back.


rayray - Apr 15, 2008 1:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Fascinating.

The History Channel did a piece on the real Death March several years ago and mentioned this event. It's a great event that is well organized.


rayray - Apr 15, 2008 1:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Fascinating.

The History Channel did a piece on the real Death March several years ago and mentioned this event. It's a great event that is well organized.


ElevatedZero - Apr 8, 2008 3:26 pm - Hasn't voted

What about the Manchu Mile?

A buckle from the Manchu Mile can only be one-upped by a key-chain from the Death March. From what I have heard, the Manchu is a wild day on foot as well.


rayray - Apr 15, 2008 1:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: What about the Manchu Mile?

Wasn't familiar with the Manchu Mile so I Google'd seems like a good one.


mtybumpo - Apr 16, 2008 6:57 pm - Voted 10/10


I spent 2 years in the Philippines and I've seen the actual Bataan. I've also been to the American War Cemetary in Manila which was a very humbling experince. It really helps you realize just how many people lost their lives in the Pacific during WWII, not to mention Europe and elsewhere. Not only is it HOT in the Philippines but I can't imagine walking that far while starving and under constant threat of being killed! Those men who had to suffer through this deserve to be memorialized.


rayray - Apr 17, 2008 12:57 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Bataan

Thank you....that was well stated. You hit the nail on the head.


lizrdboy - Apr 23, 2008 12:00 am - Voted 10/10

Nice Post Ray

Article, route or trip report... it reads the same. Thanks for putting this up. It's quite an experience to do the march and meet some of the living survivors.


baloodh2000 - Apr 30, 2008 1:02 am - Hasn't voted

El Paso

I was stationed in El Paso at Ft Bliss. Finished the Bataan Death March 2 times. How do you like wall at the end? Just keeps going and going and going. And going. Great memories. Next time spend a few weeks down in El Paso. Try Las Palmas Del Sol Half Marathon, Trans Mountain Challenge and then the Death March. Makes for some tired muscles.... Nice to see the respect for those old guys who deserve it! Having done field problems out at WSMR I can say I have had enough of that place LOL. As a former soldier there is nothing like that role call. Definitely pulls all my patriotic strings. Thank for the write-up.


grunt - May 18, 2008 4:21 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: El Paso

Never did the Las Palmas, but did do the Transmountain Challenge. Fun stuff! What unit were you in? I was in 108th & 31st brigades, and twice in 6th for school.


baloodh2000 - May 18, 2008 7:11 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: El Paso

208th Signal 108th ADA. Signal Pride! You probably never saw us because we lived in the field and vacationed at the barracks. I was on the Brigade Army Ten Miler Team 1 year and the Ft Bliss Army Ten Miler team for 2 years. All those races down there are fun. Did you ever do the october-fest on post? Great run as well. Think that was just a 5k.


Outdooraholic - Mar 30, 2009 10:34 am - Hasn't voted

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Just completed the Death March for the second year in a row yesterday. After I had finished I was waiting in the truck for the rest of my companions to crawl in I was watching the hordes of participants who had just finished as they hobbled across the parking lots to there cars, barely able to even walk. I couldn't help but ask myself why we all do this to ourselves, many like myself, year after year. What brings us back? Anyone in there right mind would say never again. I did last year, and yet here I am in bed with tired bones and muscles just like last year. Why?


rayray - Jul 22, 2009 8:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Why do we do this to ourselves?

Congrats! I hear what you're sayin' -- just your body telling you you're still alive. No better cause than what this represents. I hope to get back that way to participate in the future!


Outdooraholic - Mar 30, 2009 10:37 am - Hasn't voted

History/Discovery Channels

On a more positive note there was a film crew there this year filming for the History and Discovery channels. The were making a documentary called The Road to Bataan or something like that. I spoke to the director/producer and he said that it would also be coming out on DVD. Just a heads up.


rayray - Jul 22, 2009 8:50 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: History/Discovery Channels

I look forward to seeing it when it's released. Thanks for the heads up!

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