USS BATAAN --
Marines and sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit serving aboard the USS Bataan reflected on the origin and history of the vessel’s name amid ongoing training operations, April 9, 2011.
April 9, 1942, is regarded as the day the combined American-Filipino effort on the Bataan Peninsula, Luzon, Philippines, fell to Japanese forces during World War II.
The embarked crew and Marines observed a moment of silence to honor and remember the Americans and allies lost in the conflict following remarks broadcasted by USS Bataan’s Commanding Officer U.S. Navy Captain Steve Koehler.
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the ship’s name “memorializes the valiant resistance of the American and Filipino troops on the Bataan Peninsula in the dawning days of World War II. Fighting on the Philippine islands of Luzon and Corregidor began just 10 short days after the raid on Pearl Harbor. After weeks of Japanese air raids and beach landings on the north of Luzon, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered withdrawal from the fortified north to the narrow jungle peninsula, Dec. 23, 1941.”
On the peninsula, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and American-trained Filipino Forces opposed Japanese forces until April 1942.
“Tens of thousands of American service members died either in battle or during the unconscionable ‘Bataan Death March,’ according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. The 65-mile forced march of prisoners, accompanied by great privation and cruelty, claimed the lives of more than 21,000 prisoners in less than a week. Those who survived the march faced starvation and disease aboard ‘hell ships’ during transportation, and later in prison camps until Japan’s formal surrender in 1945.”
“In the case of the Bataan [campaign] and the subsequent events immediately following such as the Death March, remembrance and respect are the proper attitudes to adopt,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ted Williams, the 22nd MEU command chaplain. “Some among us may have had grandparents, parents or other relatives who were involved in World War II, perhaps in this campaign.”
Williams said Marines and sailors could learn from those who served on Bataan, and the values they embraced while engaged in the trials of WWII.
He said the “Greatest Generation” displayed “dedication to duty, perseverance in the presence of overwhelming odds, the strength of will and spirit in the face of an enemy who rarely showed mercy, the sacrifice of personal freedom, and for many, the sacrifice of their lives in the line of duty.”
For Williams, the anniversary marked an occasion for him to personally reflect on those who came before.
“For myself, Bataan causes me to remember that of the 75,000 Americans and Filipinos who became prisoners and were marched off the battlefield, 30 were chaplains,” he said.
“For me, reflecting on [Bataan Peninsula battles] is a reminder of the commitment I have made to God, country, and family; called to serve as a chaplain, going wherever my Marines and sailors go, for good or for ill.”
At the conclusion of the day aboard USS Bataan, an evening prayer remembering those who served on Bataan was recited for the crew to contemplate.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and will continue to train and improve the MEU’s ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission, capable force, commanded by Col. Eric J. Steidl and comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis mission.