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8pm - The Tragedy of Bataan
(repeats 11/12, 12:30am; 11/13, 1pm, 11/14, 1:30am; 11/15, 2:30am; 11/21, 9:30pm; 11/22&11/24, 4:30am)
7:30pm - WSIU InFocus: Behind The Scenes of The Tragedy of Bataan
(repeats 11/13, 12:30pm; 11/15, 2am; 11/18, 5pm)
The Tragedy of Bataan Radio Features
Image credit: Ben Steele
The Tragedy of Bataan is a 30-minute television documentary and five-part radio series that chronicles the fall of the Philippines and the Bataan Death March in the early months of World War II.
Narrated by actor Alec Baldwin and written and produced by Jan Thompson, an Associate Professor in SIU Carbondale's Radio-TV Department, the TV documentary contains first-person interviews with over 20 survivors of the conflict, excerpts of unpublished diaries, archival photos, and never–before–seen Japanese propaganda film footage. The radio series provides additional insight into events leading up to the Death March.
The Tragedy of Bataan also includes excerpts from the unpublished diary of Captain Albert Brown of Pinckneyville, Illinois, who describes the five months leading up to the surrender of U.S. troops and Filipino defenders to the Imperial Japanese Army. Brown, who is featured in the television program, was 101 years old at the time of the interview and passed away in August 2011, just two months shy of his 106th birthday. He had been the oldest survivor of the Bataan Death March.
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which over 3,500 military and civilian personnel were killed or wounded, the Imperial Japanese launched more attacks across the Pacific on several western territories and advanced across the Pacific with little resistance. Hong Kong, the Dutch East Indies, Wake Island, and Guam all surrendered. The British surrendered Singapore – the largest surrender in Britain's military history.
American and Filipino Defenders in the Philippines repelled the Imperial Japanese for several months, then retreated to the Bataan peninsula to wait for supplies and reinforcements. The Imperial Japanese, however, had cut off all routes to the Philippines, which prevented U.S. troops from providing assistance. Realizing the situation was hopeless, President Roosevelt ordered General Douglas MacArthur to escape to Australia, leaving Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright in command of the troops in the Philippines. Already weakened by malnourishment, dysentery, and malaria – and rapidly running out of adequate supplies – the Defenders were no match for the Japanese and were surrendered on the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942 by Major-General Edward P. King.
Image Credit: Ben Steele
Since Japan had not ratified the 1927 Geneva Convention, an international agreement on the treatment of prisoners-of-war, the American and Filipino prisoners were viewed as captives. Approximately 75,000 men were forced to march 66 miles north, under horrific conditions, to a prison camp known as Camp O'Donnell. It is estimated that over 650 American soldiers and 10,000 Filipino defenders died from illness and exhaustion or were murdered by the Japanese along the way.
Several weeks later, Lt. General Jonathan Wainwright surrendered the rest of the Philippine islands, including Corregidor, which became the largest United States military surrender in history. For those surrendered in the Philippines, liberation from brutal captivity would not come for three and half years. Theirs is a story of the human will to survive – one that is little-known to most Americans.
Thompson, the daughter of a former prisoner of war who was surrendered on Corregidor, has invested over 19 years in the research and production of these documentaries. “This is a slice of history that few know about,” she says, “and I hope to honor the veterans by telling their stories.”
This fall marks the 70th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War II and next spring, April 9, 2012, is the 70th anniversary of the fall of Bataan and the Death March.
The Tragedy of Bataan is presented by WSIU Public Broadcasting, a service of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and is distributed by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and PRX.
Jan Thompson is a three-time Emmy award winning documentary producer, including a Regional Emmy for writing for The Tragedy of Bataan. Before launching a career in documentary filmmaking, she was in live sports and was the Studio Director for the Chicago Bulls and White Sox. Thompson was the creator of the Hidden Journeys series distributed by PBS. She also was the producer-director of the interfaith program Ties That Bind, which was distributed by NETA for 9/11 anniversary programming.
The Tragedy of Bataan is one of two major projects produced by Thompson about the war in the Pacific. Her second documentary, Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience, is in the last stages of production and also will include narration by acclaimed actor Alec Baldwin.
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