The Capas National Shrine is located in Barangay O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. Barangay O’Donnell is the location of the first prison camp for the men who survived the “Death March” at the hands of the Japanese during World War 2 in 1942. This shrine has an obelisk inside it that marks the final resting place of all the Filipino and American Prisoners killed at the end of the famous Bataan Death March of the Second World War. Surrounding the obelisk is a ‘Wall of Heroes’, a three-segment black marble wall, where names of each of the perished soldiers are engraved. Approximately 90 hectares, the shrine also has thousands of trees that represent the dead.
The Camp O’ Donnell Memorial Monument was built by the organization known as “The Battling Bastards of Bataan” to honor the Americans and Filipinos who died at Camp O’ Donnell, while prisoners of the Japanese. The Cement Cross is a replica of the original cement cross built by the POWs. The monument is adjacent to the memorial for the Philippine Army dead. The “Cross” was built as a memorial to the thousands who died in that camp. It is as much a part of Bataan as the participants in that battle. The inscription on the base of the “Cross” reads “Omnia Pro Patria”: All For Country.
On the wall behind the “Cross” are inscribed the names of the men who died at Camp O’ Donnell. The original “Cement Cross” is now on display in the National Prisoner of War Museum, at the Andersonville National Historic Site in Andersonville, Georgia. It was brought to this country by Bataan survivors. An outdoor nook features a wall inscribed with the names of the fallen Americans. An adjacent museum called Defender’s Hall consists of a modest collection of photos that document the Death March and travails of POWs in prison camps. It has preserved one of the remnants of wartime atrocities – a boxcar that transported survivors of the Death March from San Fernando, Pampanga to Capas. Measuring six feet long, eight feet wide and six feet high, it had once been a freigh car of the Manila Railroad Company before the war and could fit only 50-60 people. But Japanese soldiers forcibly squeezed in 150-160 using rifle butts and bayonets. The captives, whose only source of ventilation was a slit on the door, suffocated in the virtual over under the tropical heat. Many of them died in their upright positions, their bodies giving up on constricted space which had been polluted with excrement, urine and vomit. A 70-meter obelisk, built to offset the grim history of Capas, symbolizes peace among Filipinos, the Japanese and Americans.