Feelings are Important: Recognizing the Range of Emotions in the Bataan Death March

Guiding Question:

What is the importance of being able to understand a service member’s emotional experience during the Bataan Death March?


In this lesson, students will use pictures, illustrations, and narratives of personal accounts related to the Bataan Death March and the defense of the Philippines to analyze different emotions of soldiers. Students will recognize and understand what the service members were feeling. They will provide specific cues from the picture or text to support their observations and explain possible causes of the emotions. Finally, the students will make connections between the emotional experiences of the service members and their own personal lives.


Historical Context

Several hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the Philippines, which was then a U.S. territory. Under General Douglas MacArthur, the combined forces of American troops and Filipino soldiers (including the Philippine Scouts) attempted to resist the Japanese invasion of the island. With lack of naval and air support, the embattled soldiers retreated to the Bataan Peninsula. They put up gallant defense that disrupted the timetable of the Japanese attack in the Pacific. When Major General Edward P. King surrendered on April 9, 1942, the soldiers became prisoners of war and were forced to march approximately 65 miles to the San Fernando train station. They marched from Capas, Tarlac to Camp O’Donnell, and were later moved to Cabanatuan. Thousands of soldiers died from the brutality of their captors and thousands more from disease and starvation in the prison camps in Cabanatuan, which were not liberated until early 1945. The reports of Japanese atrocities in the Bataan Death March along with other ferocious battles in the Pacific fueled an all-out military offensive by the United States to defeat the Japanese and end the war in the Pacific.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Describe the emotional experience of soldiers defending the Philippines, who endured the Bataan Death March;
  • Explain the causes and consequences of the soldiers’ emotions;
  • Compare the soldiers’ emotions to a similar personal experience; and
  • Demonstrate ways to express and handle emotions in personal life.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3 Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2 Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.4.6-8. Analyze multiple factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.


Lesson Preparation

  • Preview all materials to ensure appropriateness for the level and maturity of your students.
  • Select the Activity Sheet(s) that are appropriate to use with your students.
    • Make one copy of the selected Activity Sheet(s) for each student.
  • Make one copy of the Feelings Are Important Rubric for each student.
  • Set up classroom technology and cue the video/audio clip.
  • Test all online resources before class.


Activity One: Emotions of the March (60 minutes)

  • Introduce the lesson by presenting ABMC interactive timeline, World War II: A Visual History. Click “Enter” and then select “Philippine Islands Campaign.”
  • Give a brief overview of the Philippine Islands Campaign based on the written narrative in the ABMC interactive. Read the narrative aloud.
    • Play the video and ask students to pay particular attention to a segment showing soldiers marching (approximately at 0:55).
    • Introduce the topic of the Bataan Death March. Explain that the Bataan Death March happened right after the American forces of Filipino and American soldiers surrendered in Bataan in 1942. About 75,000 soldiers were forced to march from Mariveles to San Fernando (approximately 65 miles), where a train took them north to Capas, Tarlac. From there they marched to Camp O’Donnell. Thousands of Filipino and American soldiers died during the march from starvation, exhaustion, disease, and brutality at the hands of their Japanese captors. Many soldiers who survived the Bataan Death March lived to describe the moving, emotional experience they went through.
    • Explain that events in history like the Bataan Death March involved people who experienced a wide range of emotions. To understand emotions, it is important to recognize what another person is feeling or going through. In this activity, students will try to put themselves in the minds and feelings of the soldiers in the Bataan Death March.
  • Select one Activity Sheet and complete the activity together as a class. This could be completed on a projector, copied for individual students, or form the basis of a class discussion, as is appropriate for the students in the class.
  • Assign each student one Activity Sheet not used in the class activity.
    • Teacher Tip: Based on the needs of the class, you may choose to evenly distribute activity sheets or select certain ones.
  • Ask students to complete the work individually. Provide assistance and accommodation to each student as needed. Give enough time for students to complete activity (approximately 10 - 15 minutes).
    • Teacher Tip: In the Activity Sheets, allow students with special needs to make a visual representation (e.g. drawing, symbols, color) of their answers.
  • Break the class into small groups. Ask students to share their responses with their group.
  • Ask a member from each group to present a summary of their responses to the whole class.
  • Take note of significant responses and make a whole class summary.

Assessment Materials

Methods for Extension

  • Students who have more time can be given more materials to examine. For example, provide some additional photographs or personal accounts.
  • Students who are more advanced will be asked to use higher grade level words (for example, students can use the word horrified instead of afraid).
  • Students can also be asked to role play or reenact a scene in the form of a tableaux (a group of motionless figures representing the scene in the picture or narrative), giving special attention to facial expressions and body language showing the soldier’s emotion.


  • Teachers can adapt the lesson to students who need more support by allowing students to present their reports in a visual or kinesthetic way. For example, ask students to draw, color, or act out the emotion.
  • Teachers can also give out a list of emotions from which students can choose.
  • Teachers can select one Activity Sheet (or choose one emotion) and the discussion can just revolve around that emotion. Teachers can choose another day to discuss a different emotion.


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