NM Times
Military Experience
Pacific Theater

Coping with challenges:
The search for solutions to disease

Outdated weapons and limited ammunition were just some of the problems that plagued the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery during their Bataan ordeal. In addition to being outnumbered by the Japanese Army, the men also fought tropical diseases such as malaria, beriberi, and dengue fever. Limited rations and difficulty with distribution during the war created severe food shortages. As a result, most men had weakened immune systems, making them more likely to have frequent health problems.

Using authentic scenarios from World War II, students work collaboratively to develop solutions. Students apply problem solving and decision-making skills in a historical context where the challenges of war and coping methods are emphasized.

Students will:

  • Use the problem solving process to identify a problem; gather information, suggest solutions, list and consider advantages and disadvantages of solutions, choose and implement a solution, and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution using technology to present findings (SS I-D, 5-8: 7-2).
  • Describe factors affecting location of human activities, including land use patterns (SSII-A, 7:2).
  • Interpret events and issues based on the historical, economic, political, social, and geographic context of the participants (SS I-D, 9-12:4).

Students will:
  • Apply problem solving and decision making skills in a cooperative environment to a variety of authentic situations.
  • Understand the challenges of meeting human needs with limited supplies and resources.
  • Understand the complexity of problem solving and decision making during wartime.


  1. Familiarize yourself with each situation in the Scenarios.
  2. Students should view Siege of Bataan and Survival slideshows prior to the lesson.
  3. Introduce the lesson with a discussion of the challenges the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery experienced during the siege of Bataan.
  4. Distribute one scenario to each group and a medical problems handout to each student. Emphasize that discussions of war are challenging, as they deal with serious issues involving individuals with unique reactions to stressful and emotionally intense situations. There are no right or wrong answers. What is appropriate is a genuine consideration for humanity.
  5. Groups brainstorm a solution to the scenario in a given amount of time (20 minutes). Encourage students to rely on their group members for support. Guide the students, and refrain from suggesting or providing additional information.
  6. Groups share information and questions they've brainstormed.
  7. This activity may also serve as an introduction to a research project on medical problems common to the Philippines during the years 1940-45.

Groups present their findings, restating the problem and explaining possible solutions.


  1. Debrief the group problem solving/decision making process with students via discussion. Ask them to share what they found challenging about the process, what they found difficult about it, how they addressed the challenges, etc.
  2. Begin a conversation about problem solving and decision making during times of war. Ask students how their situations would be handled under different circumstances. Would they have happened the same way? What challenges would have been different?
  3. Students write a journal entry with a prompt of, "Describe the challenges and frustrations you encountered while exploring medical problems that were typical of the wartime experience during the siege of Bataan."

Scenario cards
These authentic situations were common problems with the Bataan soldiers and POWs. The following health problems are addressed in each scenario.

Scenario 1: dengue fever, malaria, typhus
Scenario 2: gangrene
Scenario 3: malnourishment
Scenario 4: malaria
Scenario 5: cholera, dysentery
Scenario 6: beriberi
Scenario 7: diphtheria
Scenario 8: pellagra
Scenario 9: wet beriberi
Scenario 10: night blindness from malnutrition
Scenario 11: lice, typhus, dysentery, cholera
Scenario 12: post traumatic stress disorder