Prisoners of War (POW), term used to designate captured members of the armed forces of an enemy, or noncombatants who render them direct service and who have been captured during wartime. Surgeons, chaplains, news correspondents, and hospital attendants of the Red Cross are not included in this category, nor are civilians who are detained and interned in belligerent countries. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the Red Cross has brought comfort, legal aid, and attention to the plight of interned soldiers.
Prisoners of war, commonly called POWs, have no protection from the law of the nation that captures them and no civil remedy. By the customs, treaties, and conventions of international law, however, prisoners of war are supposed to be treated humanely.

In ancient times prisoners of war were usually treated without mercy. Among the Greeks, for example, it was common practice to kill the whole adult male population of a conquered state. In Western Europe, however, as chivalry spread in late medieval times, people started sparing the captured people.

Just ten short hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, Japanese planes again surprised US forces with an attack on Clark Field, the main US air base on the Philippine island of Luzon. Subsequent Japanese landings on Luzon took place on December 10th and 12th, and on December 22, after two weeks of diversionary tactics, a large Japanese invasion force landed at Lingayen Gulf. Japanese General Masaharu Homma, with a contingent of 80 ships and 43,000 troops, waded ashore through both a typhoon and the resistance of US trained Philippine reservists. Homma landed tanks and artillery later that day and began advancing south toward Manila despite the valiant resistance of Major General Jonathan Wainwright's Philippine Scouts.

On Christmas Eve, 1941, more of Homma's forces landed to the east at Lamon Bay and began their advance toward Manila, preparing to crush the American-Philippine forces in a 'pincer' maneuver. General Douglas MacArthur put into effect plan 'Orange 3'; the original plan for defense of the island. The Philippine Scouts heroically opposed the Japanese advance while the main forces complied with MacArthur's order to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula. The retreating units were forced into leaving behind the stockpiles of food and medical supplies which were to sustain them

On 30 December 1941, President Manuel Quezon is inaugurated on Corregidor for his second term of office. Quezon pledges to "stand by America and fight with her until victory is won." The War Department receives a radiogram from MacArthur declaring that the Japanese raids on Manila are "completely violative of international law" and that "at the proper time I bespeak due retaliatory measures." The Japanese occupation force move into Manila on 02 January 1942, and Japanese planes begin daily attacks on Corregidor. The Japanese assumed that overall victory was assured, and a small Japanese reserve force was tasked with clearing the Bataan Peninsula of remaining opposition forces. On January 10, these Japanese troops met up against an Allied stronghold just north of Abucay. Allied forces held off the Japanese advance at the Abucay line until their foes took advantage of a weakness at Mt. Natib on January 22nd. The American-Filipino fighters were forced to retreat further into the Bataan peninsula. The rugged terrain forced a slowdown in the Japanese pursuit , and the Allies were able to establish another stronghold further south on Mt. Samat.

On February 8, Homma received reinforcements from Tokyo, and began to regroup for another assault. The continued successful opposition of the American-Filipino fighters to the Japanese takeover of Bataan provided the much needed hope to the US homeland that the battle in the Pacific was not yet lost. In March 1942, General MacArthur received orders to escape to Australia and take over as Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific Theater. He reluctantly left Bataan on March 11th with the proclamation "I shall return." General Jonathan M. Wainwright, U.S. Army, immediately assumed command of the forces on the island of Corregidor off the southern tip of the Bataan peninsula.

Major General Edward King commanded the remaining Allied forces on Bataan. While relatively well armed, these forces were living on one quarter the prescribed combat rations and had virtually no available medical supplies. Malnutrition and disease were becoming rampant. Hunger