Sixty Army ROTC cadets will join in an annual trek this weekend to remember the service and sacrifice of soldiers who defended the Philippines at the start of World War II.
Among them were about 1,800 New Mexico National Guardsmen, the survivors of whom were taken prisoner by the Japanese and subjected to what became known as the Bataan Death March.
“The Bataan Memorial Death March was an idea by an NMSU Army ROTC cadet, Ray Pickering, now a retired Lieutenant Colonel, to ensure the legacy of the Battling Bastards of Bataan would never be forgotten,” said Army ROTC Commander Lt. Col. Andrew Taylor. “The over 1,800 soldiers of the New Mexico Army National Guard’s 200th Coast Artillery, anti-aircraft, were the first to fire in defense of the Philippines, and were the last organized unit to be surrendered before the infamous death march.
“Their suffering had just begun and would last over the next three and a half years as prisoners of the Japanese, and the rest of their lives.”
The two-day commemoration of the death march includes a 26.2 miles trek through the desert of White Sands Missile Range on Sunday. Other events include historical seminars, a cannon firing and a tribute featuring a cadet in a replica World War II uniform.
Other cadets will escort Bataan survivors to the events.
The Department of the Army officially designated NMSU Army ROTC as the Bataan Battalion.