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Justin Taylan 2005
Camp O'Donnell was located on the O'Donnell Highway and terminus of Capas Bataan Heroes Road Barangay Aranguren Capa near Capas in Tarlac Province on Luzon in the Philippines. Also known as Capas POW Camp and today Capas National Shrine.
Camp O'Donnell was established in 1940 as a cantonment center for military training of Filipino youth. Next on July 15, 1941 it became a cantonment and mobilization center for the Philippine Army 71st Division by orders from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
After the fall of Bataan, the camp was transformed into a POW Camp in mid-April 1942 as the terminus of the 100+ km Bataan Death March for Filipino and Americans that surrendered and were forced to walk to San Fernando and then aboard crowded rail road cars to the camp. Renamed Capas POW Camp, an estimated 60,500 Filipino and American POWs were marched here, sick and dying from untreated wounds and brutality by the Japanese.
On June 6, 1942 the Filipino POWs from the Bataan Death March were released from Camp O'Donnell and told to return to their villages. By July 25, 1942 an estimated 30,000 had died at Camp O'Donnell. The remaining POWs were sent to other camps including Cabanatuan POW Camp.
Jessica Sison adds:
"My great uncle Pacifico Santo Domingo was part of the Death March. When he was going to be released from O'Donnell, my great aunt Isabel was told to show up at the camp wearing "makeup and a pretty dress." She was not told why. About a month later, her friends came back from Manila and said they saw her and her husband in a Japanese propaganda film. My great uncle was emaciated and suffering from malaria and dysentery. My great aunt said he was wearing shorts and his legs were so thin that his knees were bulging. If anyone knows this film, it would make a 91 year old woman very happy. Pacifico has already passed away."
The camp became part of the Clark Air Base Military Reservation and then was turned over to the Philippine Government on April 9, 1982. A few kilometers from the shrine is the new Camp O'Donnell that is a headquarters for the modern day Philippines army.
Capas National Shrine
On December 7, 1991 Philippines President Corazon Aquino proclaimed the location to be Capas National Shrine. Open daily 8:00am to 5:00pm. The shrine encompasses 54 hectares of parkland where the Bataan Death March ended. 35 hectares of land have been planted with rows of trees to represent each of the deceased at the camp, and to promote environmental consciousness.
A wide mall from the main gate, flag pole stretches to the central Obelisk area. To the east side is the replica POW Camp constructed for the 2003 dedication. To the west side is the nature park with rows of planted trees.
Obelisk & Memorial Plaza
Center point of the shrine that represents peace, each of the three segments of the tower represents Filipino, American and Japanese people, and massive height the desire of all those groups for world peace. It is visible from the entire Capas area.
Wall of Heroes
On April 9, 2003, a new memorial wall and obelisk was unveiled. A black wall surrounds the obelisk, each wall is engraved with the names of the Filipinos and Americans known to have died at this location. It includes statistics about the total numbers of prisoners, deaths and poems for peace on the three large wall segments that nearly encircle the obelisk.
Replica POW Camp
Constructed for the re-dedication in 2003, this replica camp area includes two guard towers and a prisoner's quarters building in a field to the east of the Esplanade.
Official Gazette Proclamation No. 842, s. 1991 by by President Corazon Aquino on 7 December 1991
Philippine Veterans Affairs Office - Capas National Shrine official website
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