California legislators remember ‘Fall of Bataan’ anniversary

“The fall of Bataan marked the largest surrender in American military history since the Civil War’s Battle of Harper’s Ferry, but it also delayed the momentum of the Japanese invasion of the Pacific and prevented a complete takeover by the Axis forces,” Congresswoman Jackie Speier said.

About 63,000 Filipino and 12,000 American soldiers were forced to march 60 miles to reach their prison camps. Some 15,000 died during what is known as the Bataan Death March.

“When Filipino and American veterans think of Bataan, they not only remember the devastations of war and the loss of loved ones, they also remember the friendship of two countries that fought side by side,” Speier said.

“Filipino veterans defended our country exactly like Americans veterans defended it and they deserve the same recognition. We cannot afford to have half-American veterans. On this 70th Anniversary of Bataan I urge my colleagues in Congress to make all WWII Filipino veterans fully eligible for the same benefits that other US veterans receive,” said Speier.

A quarter million Filipinos fought in defense of the United States against the Japanese in WWII—about half were killed during war. The Filipino veterans were promised benefits by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but Congress passed an act in 1946 that stripped them of their benefits. Congresswoman Speier introduced H.R. 210, the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act, to restore the benefits. The bill has currently 90 cosponsors.

California Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), who represents the largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines and he has long fought for full recognition and benefits for Filipino WWII veterans, hailed the “incredible determination and bravery” of the Filipino veterans.

“Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Bataan Death March… Thousands of Filipino and American soldiers were killed as a result of this war crime. While these troops were defeated at Bataan, their incredible determination and bravery stopped the momentum of the Japanese invasion of US military bases in the Pacific,” said Yee.

“As Americans, we must remember their sacrifice and honor their contribution. In particular, we must remember that without the help of these Filipino soldiers, the course of American history may have been quite different,” Yee said.  “We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Filipino veterans, who unfortunately to this day, have still not received their fair share of military benefits and proper recognition.”

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