SAN MATEO, CA - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today released the following statement on the 70th anniversary of Bataan Day. 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.
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.
Speier stated, “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. 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 U.S. veterans receive.”
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.