boxcar

The Bataan Death March Boxcar

The infamous box car that transported prisoners of war during World War II

Boxcars, wall of valor, war memorials, Bataan Death March markers. These are just some of the reminders of the horrors of war, man’s cruelty to his fellow men and the Philippines wasn’t spared. After World War II, Manila was the second most destroyed city in the world. It’s just six feet long, eight feet wide and six feet tall but as much as 50 to 60 men were crammed inside the wooden boxcar with steel roofing. The only opening? a slit on the door. This is the Bataan Death March boxcar that transported those who survived the 105 kilometer walk from San Fernando rail station to the former Camp O’Donnel, now the Capas National Shrine.

A bigger version and made of steel was 33 feet long, seven feet high and eight feet wide was crammed with 150-160 men. So tightly crammed and loaded with just the slit as the ventilation, coupled with the April sun, these boxcars became ovens and many died standing. Those with diseases, like dysentery, made it a moving box with the floor full of excrement, vomit and urine.

From one of the testimonials put in placed by the Defenders of Bataan and corregidor, Inc. beside the boxcar:

In a matter of minutes, we were suffocating for lack of air. We were being cooked alive in a 110 degree oven; we sweated, sizzled, urinated, defecated. I could hear some screaming; when I looked back, I saw a few who were fainting but had not an inch to fall on… I do not know how many of my comrades died in that car, there must have been at least 10. As the line of cars pulled in and doors opened (in Capas), I could see many, many more bodies laid out on the ground beside the tracks.”

– Corban K. Alabado, Bataan Death March, Capas, San Francisco: Sulu Books, 1995, pp. 63-64, 3Lt., 31st Division (USAFFE)

In Capas National Shrine, this lone boxcar is a memorial to the horrors that these men, both Filipinos and Americans suffered at the hands of the Japanese.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

3 Comments

  1. halfwhiteboy
    April 9, 2012 @ 12:25

    And I think of April 9 as just another holiday. Thanks for reminding us why it’s a holiday in the first place.

  2. Karl
    April 9, 2012 @ 18:35

    dude, one word — horrific. 50-60?! goodness…

  3. estancabigas
    April 9, 2012 @ 21:14

    yes, that’s how crammed the soldiers were

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