For America, WWII began of December 7, 1941, with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the first of Japan's day-long assault on locations throughout the Pacific. Major American installations on Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines, were also devastated; so began America's first great battle of WWII.
The Japanese began their amphibious invasion of Luzon two weeks after the attack. By January 1942, American and Filipino Armies were pushed south towards the Bataan Peninsula. Wracked with starvation, debilitating tropical disease and facing dwindling supplies of ammunition and equipment they still continued to fight for three more months, supported by courageous Filipino civilians. The defense by American and Filipino Armies delayed the Japanese timetable for conquest of the Pacific by many months, allowing America to rearm for war.
The Bataan Death March
On April 9, 1942, American soldiers defending the Philippines were ordered to surrender. The Japanese quickly assembled all POW's and started them on the infamous seven-day, 65 mile Bataan Death March. Approximately 70,000 men started the march. Disease, hunger, thirst and abuse by Japanese soldiers made each mile more deadly. More than 1,000 Americans and possibly 15,000 Filipinos died before reaching Camp O'Donnell.