Rep. Leger Fernández Leads House Companion to Heinrich’s Bataan And Corregidor Congressional Gold Medal Act
WASHINGTON – Today, Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Tony Gonzales (R-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Don Bacon (R-NE), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), Eleanor Homes Norton (D-DC), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the bipartisan Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor and recognize the soldiers who bravely endured the Bataan Death March during World War II.
“The Bataan Death March was a horrific example of cruelty and inhumanity. These American and Filipino veterans demonstrated an unimaginable level of courage and strength in the face of unimaginable abuse,” said Leger Fernández. “I’m proud to introduce this bill in the House to recognize the Bataan veterans with the highest honor.”
“The sacrifices made by the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor who fought bravely to defend the Philippines and delay the plans of the 14th Japanese Army to take over the Pacific serves as a great example of courage that will always be a huge part of our New Mexico National Guard history,” said Maj. Gen. Ken Nava, The Adjutant General of New Mexico. “The legacy of service of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery lives on with every Soldier and Airman of the New Mexico National Guard today and will never be forgotten. I support and applaud New Mexico Congresswoman Leger Fernández for also leading the effort to award our Bataan heroes with the Congressional Gold Medal for their incredible courage, sacrifice and selfless service on behalf of our nation.”
Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Senate bill alongside Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).
“Tens of thousands of Americans and Filipinos—including many New Mexicans— demonstrated incredible and courageous fortitude during the Bataan Death March,” said Senator Martin Heinrich. “Bataan veterans deserve the recognition of our nation’s highest and most distinguished honor for their perseverance and patriotism. We must never forget their undaunted heroism in the face of unthinkable conditions and horrific abuses.”
Find the full legislation text HERE.
On December 8, 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese bombers began the invasion of the Philippines. The U.S.-Filipino army heroically fought and defended the Bataan Peninsula for three months. On April 9, 1942, nearly 75,000 troops from the United States and the Philippines were taken prisoner by the Japanese.
These troops were forced to march more than 60 miles where many were starved and beaten. Thousands of troops died. This has since become known as the Bataan Death March.
For three years, the survivors of the Death March were held captive in camps where they experienced torture, disease, and starvation. In the end only 15,000 of the 22,000 American troops that were captured returned home.