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WWII Bataan Rescue


In late 1941, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers fought a desperate battle to defend the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines from the Japanese. When they lost, they were marched to prison camps in sweltering heat through a mosquito-infested jungle with little-or-no food or water. Many thousands died along the way. 3 years later with the war in the Pacific coming to an end, only 500 men in the Cabanatuan camp had survived the brutality of their captors and epidemics of tropical diseases. Fearing the Japanese would murder their captives before the U.S. Army could liberate the camp, the Americans sent an elite Ranger battalion to rescue the prisoners. The rangers sneaked 30 miles behind enemy


lines and -- with the help of courageous Filipino resistance fighters -- mounted an astonishing rescue that was fraught with danger yet ultimately triumphant.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Bataan peninsula -- which forms the western side of Manila Bay -- became the site of the outnumbered American and Filipino forces' retreat after Japanese attack in December 1941. Military headquarters were removed to the island of Corregidor. General Douglas MacArthur believed the lushly-vegetated Bataan peninsula (80% of which is mountainous terrain) could provide adequate defensive cover for his troops while they waited for relief to come.


4 months into their resistance, increasingly desperate U.S. and Filipino forces were nearly out of food, medicine, ammunition, and other supplies. MacArthur had been evacuated from the Philippines. Disease and hunger were rampant. Reinforcements had not arrived. Under these conditions, surrender was inevitable. What could not be predicted, however, was the cruelty of the triumphant Japanese troops. The weak and sick captives -- an estimated 72,000 people -- were force-marched north into prison camps where some languished for nearly 3 years. The stronger POWs were packed into the suffocating holds of cargo ships and sent to work as slave labor in Japanese industries. By the end of the War, a shocking 37% of all POWs in the Pacific theater would be dead. Today, the Bataan peninsula is the site of oil refineries, a shipyard, and many monuments to the suffering that took place there in the 1940s. A national landmark atop 4,500-foot Mount Samat in the southern part of Bataan honors the men and women who suffered and died there during the War. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Timeline: World War II in the Philippines

1941 December 7: Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. 10 hours later across the date line (December 8), they attack Clark Field in the Philippine Islands. In the days that follow, Japanese ground forces under the command of Lt.


General Masaharu Homma begin landing in the Philippines. December 23: General Douglas MacArthur orders the evacuation of Manila, the removal of headquarters to the island of Corregidor, and the withdrawal of troops to Bataan. December 25: General MacArthur declares Manila an open city. December 27-28: The Japanese continue to bomb Manila. 1942 January 2: The Japanese begin to occupy Manila. February 8-9: Philippine president Manuel Quezon proposes that America grant independence to the Philippines and that the Philippines surrender, assuming neutral country status. President Franklin Roosevelt rejects this proposal. March: Under orders from President Roosevelt, MacArthur leaves the Philippines for Australia. President Quezon has already left. April 3: Japan launches its final offensive on Bataan. April 9: General Edward King surrenders Bataan. April 10: The 65-mile death march from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga begins. Hundreds of Americans and thousands of Filipinos die from starvation, thirst, disease, and random execution throughout the 6-to-9 day trek. Prisoners are interned at Camp O'Donnell. In the first 2 months, 1,500 U.S. POWs and 15,000 Filipino POWs perish from starvation, disease, and abuse. May 6: American general Jonathan Wainwright surrenders Corregidor to the Japanese. June: Filipino POWs are paroled from Camp O'Donnell. Many join guerrilla forces to fight the Japanese. American POWs are transferred from Camp O'Donnell to Cabanatuan -- the largest POW camp in the Philippines and the largest U.S. POW camp on foreign ground. An estimated 9,000 American soldiers will pass through Cabanatuan. In the month of June 1942 alone, 503 POWs die in Cabanatuan. July: 786 POWs die in Cabanatuan. October 1: The first "Hell Ship" leaves the Philippines. The Japanese use unmarked tankers through the duration of the War to transport POWs to slave labor camps in Asia. Conditions are inhuman. Thousands of men die.


October: Club Tsubaki opens. Club owner Claire Phillips -- a suburban housewife from Portland, Oregon -- goes undercover and is able to discover information on Japanese activities which she supplies to local guerrillas. December 15: The first day without death in Cabanatuan. 1943 May 23: Spy Claire Phillips is captured. September 4: A Japanese-sponsored Philippine Constitution is signed. December: The training of Alamo Scouts begins on Fergussen Island, New Guinea. 1944 April: Army Ranger training begins in New Guinea under Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci. August: The War Ministry in Tokyo issues the "Kill-All" policy -- a policy to annihilate all remaining POWs. October 19: A Japanese Air Force Vice-Admiral orders the formation of Kamikaze squads to commit suicide attacks on the enemy. October 20: MacArthur returns to the Philippines, wading to shore on the island of Leyte. December 14: Atrocity at Palawan. Nearly 150 Americans are executed by their Japanese captors in a POW camp in Palawan, the Philippines. 1945 January 7: P.F.C. Eugene Nielsen -- a Palawan survivor -- tells his story to U.S. Army Intelligence. January 9: MacArthur invades Luzon, the Philippines. January 26: General Walter Krueger is alerted to the situation at Cabanatuan. The Alamo Scouts are briefed. January 27: General Krueger assigns Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci and his 6th Army Rangers to raid Cabanatuan and liberate the POWs. The Alamo Scouts slip behind enemy lines to begin reconnaissance. January 28: The Rangers slip behind enemy lines. The Alamo Scouts arrive at Platero -- 2 miles north of the camp. January 29: The Rangers meet with USAFFE guerrilla captain Juan Pajota at Balincarin -- 5 miles north of camp. After receiving reports of heavy Japanese activity in the area, Mucci postpones the raid for 24 hours. The Rangers move to Platero. January 30:


11:30am: Alamo Scouts Lieutenant Bill Nellist and Private Rufo Vaquilar dress like locals and gain access to an abandoned shack above the camp. They prepare a detailed report on camp activities. 2:30pm: Mucci receives the Nellist report. 3:00pm: Captain Robert Prince finalizes his plan for the rescue and submits it to Mucci. 5:00pm: The Rangers depart Platero. 6:00pm: The P-61 night fighter takes off. 6:50pm: The P-61 buzzes the prison camp to distract the guards. Rangers gain positions. 7:00pm: 'C' Company Rangers are in place. 7:40pm: 'F' Company Rangers crawl into place. A nerve-wracking 10 minutes later than planned, a fire-fight starts. Evacuation begins. 7:45pm: Juan Pajota and his guerrilla unit hold off suicidal Japanese forces, securing the Rangers' positions. 8:15pm: Robert Prince fires his flare. The assault is over. 8:40pm: The POWs reach the river. The long trek to freedom begins. The Alamo Scouts stay behind, ensuring against any retaliatory movements. January 31: 8:00am: Mucci sends word of the Rangers' success. Shortly thereafter, the POWs cross American lines. They are free. 1945 February: The U.S. Army returns to Cabanatuan, recovering diaries, photographs and camp records. MacArthur visits the POWs. February 3: U.S. forces enter Manila. For a month, the Japanese fight back. Manila is destroyed. 100,000 civilians perish -- roughly 14 percent of the city's population.. February 10: Claire Phillips -- the night club owner and spy -- is liberated from prison. March 3: General Krueger presents awards to the Army Rangers, Alamo Scouts, and Filipino guerrillas. March 8: 272 survivors of Cabanatuan arrive in San Francisco aboard the S.S. General Anderson. May 8: President Harry Truman announces the end of the War in Europe via radio (V-E Day). August 6: Truman announces the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan by a U.S. Army Air Force B-29 bomber named the "Enola Gay".


August 14: Truman announces the end of war with Japan at a press conference (V-J Day). September 2: Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita surrenders the Philippines -- the same day as Japan's formal surrender. 1946 February 11: Japanese generals Masaharu Homma and Tomoyuki Yamishita are found guilty of crimes of war in Manila tribunals. April 3: Homma is executed.

1998 Ranger commander Henry Mucci is inducted into the Ranger Hall-of-Fame. 1999 Raid leader Robert W. Prince is inducted into the Ranger Hall-of-Fame. 2000 A monument honoring all participants of the raid on Cabanatuan is erected at the Ranger Hall-ofFame, Fort Benning, Georgia.

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[Narrator]: In December 1944, American POWs -- some survivors of the "Bataan Death March" -were in their 3rd year of captivity at a Japanese Prison Camp in the Philippines. As they huddled around a clandestine radio set, they heard shocking news. At another camp on Palawan Island, 150 of their fellow prisoners had just been herded into trenches by their Japanese guards ... doused with gasoline ... and set on fire! [Hampton Sides, Author of Ghost Soldiers]: The Palawan massacre was very much a premeditated atrocity. There was a specific order that came from the high command that required that the commandants of these various camps liquidate any-and-all American prisoners rather than let them fall back into American hands. [James Hildebrand, U.S. Army]: We were scared because of Palawan. We knew about Palawan. We got that on the radio [Robert Body, U.S. Army]: It was in the back of our minds that the Japanese are going to kill us one of these days. That they're not going to let us go home and tell our story. [Narrator]: In the midst of a massive campaign to retake the Philippines, U.S. military commanders shared the POWs' fears. Their only option was to conduct an urgent mission to save 500 prisoners. Operating behind enemy lines, an elite unit of Army Rangers would have 72hours to get them out.


[Robert Anderson, 6th Ranger Battalion]: They said that "You're going on a dangerous raid. Some of you may not come back. And I want you to pledge this -- that you'll give your life, if necessary, to see that those prisoners come out." [Jose Juachon, Filipino Veteran]: If the Japanese knows about it, the raid will fail. They will all be slaughtered in there. [John Richardson, 6th Ranger Battalion]: I knew it was a dangerous mission. But I'm going to tell you right now that I wasn't going to let one of my buddies go without me. [Narrator]: The raid to save the surviving POWs would be the most daring rescue mission of the Second World War. {NEWSREEL}: This is the Philippines in 1940. A modern, civilized country. A piece of America peopled with fellow Americans. [Narrator]: In December 1941, the Japanese attacked the Philippines just hours after Pearl Harbor. The United States' colony in the Pacific had a large garrison of American defenders. But this peace-time army was ill-equipped to fight a real war. [James Hildebrand]: The day the War started, I was sent to the armament to pick up armament sections for our group. I picked up 4 cases of rifles and 2 cases of ammunition all packed in 1918. [Robert Body]: We couldn't defend ourselves against them. They had better equipment, they were in better shape, they were better trained ... Everything they were, we weren't. [Narrator]: The Japanese invaded with modern weapons and the advantage of better supply lines. The enemies stock of aircraft and equipment seemed almost limitless. The American troops were isolated 7,000 miles from home. They couldn't be re-supplied. And their food and ammunition were running out. [Robert Body]: We kept hearing of convoy being on the way. And we kept watching in the Bay and kept watch and watched. But it never happened. [Narrator]: Retreating from Manila to the Bataan Peninsula, the American and Filipino forces waited for help. [Richard Beck, POW]: I had been a communications specialist that listened to the short wave from the States. They said that they were sending 50,000 airplanes and many ships and all that. And when it didn't materialize, we knew that we had been lied to. [Narrator]: In March 1942 after 3 months of constant Japanese attack, the American commander General Douglas MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines for his own safety. The defenders fought on alone for another month. But the Bataan peninsula could not hold. By April, cut off without food or ammunition, mass surrender became inevitable. [James Hildebrand]: You can only fight so much on an empty stomach. You just can't do that. [Robert Body]: And then the sickness, too. By the time April 9th came along, we couldn't fight anyhow. If we'd had the equipment, we couldn't have done nothing. We were all too weak.


[James Hildebrand]: First I heard of the surrender was my commanding officer who said that: "You're all on your own, you're free to do what you want to do. But before you do that, I want all this ammunition and all the guns completely destroyed." I disconnected my 50-caliber machine gun. Took it all apart. I bent the barrel over a rock and threw it in the China Sea. Then we were ready to go. We marched down into Mariveles Airstrip. That's where the surrender basically took place. [Malcolm Amos, U.S. Army]: When the Japanese come in, my commanding officer -- he heard them coming up there and so he got his white flag -- flagged them down and surrendered the camp. And that was the way we was surrendered and captured. [Robert Body]: We had the feeling that we'd be in disgrace back home because we surrendered 'cause the U.S. Army didn't surrender. [Narrator]: As 70,000 American and Filipino soldiers laid down their arms, the enemy's plans for dealing with a sudden influx of prisoners were woefully inadequate. The Japanese intended to move their prisoners sixty miles north to camps in the interior. [Hampton Sides]: The Japanese intelligence was all wrong. They got the numbers wrong. They got the condition of the men wrong. They didn't realize that some 80% of these men had malaria and they had dysentery. And they'd been starving to death for months in the jungle. [Robert Body]: It was a whole lot of organized confusion. They didn't know what-the-hell they were doing themselves. I think that they didn't realize how many people they had to put up with. [Bert Bank]: The Japanese told us when we started that everybody had to move under their own power. "If you don't go under your own power, we're going to eliminate those who are helping and those who are being helped." [James Hildebrand]: Well, we didn't go 2 miles until they started dropping out. At that time, they were shooting you. [Richard Beck]: Every one of us was sick. I had a 104o fever. The man to my immediate right was executed because he couldn't keep up. There were about 500 Filipinos marching ahead of us. I don't know how many of those were executed on that march. [Jose Juachon]: Some of them just fell down in the road because of tiredness and nothing to eat. But there are so many people along the road. On the area where we were passing, people ... civilians having food, handing their food, trying to give to us. But we cannot break the line. [James Hildebrand]: We had artesian wells all along the road. But, they wouldn't let you stop and get it. If you'd go for it, why they'd ... they got to the point where they didn't shoot you anymore because they were ordered to save ammunition. So they used a bayonet. [Narrator]: Sketches drawn from memory by survivors provide the most graphic accounts of the ordeal. Thousands perished as American and Filipino prisoners were forced to tramp miles to detention camps north of Manila. The captives suffered a series of horrors which became known as the "Bataan Death March".


[Robert Body]: It was a whole lot of organized confusion. They didn't know what-the-hell they were doing themselves. There were people being shot there. And these two-handed swords cuttin' people's heads off. That 'death march' was just plain murder, that was! As you walked along, you could smell the odor was terrible from guys that had been left a day-or-so ahead of time, and laying in the sun, you know. And they left them people laying there. It's still hard for me to believe that this actually happened. And it is still hard for me to believe that I went through that. [Hampton Sides]: I don't think that the U.S. Army had ever faced a foe quite like this before. The Japanese Imperial Army was steeped in a very different tradition. They had a very different conception of what it was to be a prisoner. They believed that it was the ultimate shame to fall into enemy hands. You were supposed to save the last round of ammunition for yourself amd under no circumstances put yourself in a situation where you would be taken. This attitude influenced the way they in turn treated American POWs. They were beneath contempt. [Narrator]: By May of 1942 the invader's victory was complete. The Philippines was now a part of the far-flung Japanese Empire. Just 6 months into the War, an entire army had been captured. Official telegrams began arriving at homes across America. "The Secretary of War regrets to inform you that your son is now a prisoner of the Imperial Japanese Army. The government has no information on the condition of such prisoners." The wires' formal language gave no hint of the continuing horrors of captivity. [Japanese Announcement]: "Prisoners, it is regrettable that we were unable to kill each of you on the battlefield. It is only through our generosity that you are alive at all. [Narrator]: Japanese commandants often addressed their American prisoners as they arrived at the camps. [Japanese Announcement]: We will treat you as we see fit. Whether you live or die is of no concern to us. Soon, your loved ones will no longer weep for you. And your country will forget your names." [Richard Beck]: I can visualize the camp almost as if it were yesterday. I can see the barbed wire, the barracks, the streets. [Robert Body]: They put us in groups of 10. They said if one man escaped, they'll kill the other nine. [Edward "Tommie" Thomas, POW]: We had "shooting squads" as we called them. And if a man had escaped, then the other nine got shot. Well after that happened once, nobody was missing. [Robert Body]: Well, that's probably what kept me all the time in that prison camp because I would not have stayed if it was just my life. But I couldn't see takin' nine other people's lives for my freedom. [Narrator]: A few inmates with medical training organized makeshift clinics. But the crowded prison camps quickly became breeding grounds for malaria and other diseases. [Richard Beck]: There were 2 types of beriberi. The most painful type was dry beriberi. It was terrific pain in the feet. With wet beriberi, your legs would swell up -- probably twice the diameter or


more. And finally, just your stomach would be bloated. If it got too bloated, it would affect your heart and stop it. [James Hildebrand]: We had what was know as a "Zero Ward". Your friends just ended up there. You didn't get a chance to see them anymore. The burial detail started there. [Edward "Tommie" Thomas]: One of the duties that I had in the morning was to walk down through the barracks and take care of those men that had died. And that was rough, you know. You don't have any trouble telling if a man was dead because usually by then, he had died during the night and rigor mortis had set in. One of my obligations was to remove his dog tags and put one dog tag down his throat as far as I could get it. I had a little forked stick that I used to push it right down to his throat. And the reasoning for that was for purposes of identification at a later date. [[Narrator]: In the first months at a camp called Cabanatuan, disease and malnutrition often claimed a dozen prisoners a night. The survivors did their best to turn the compound into an orderly community. [James Hildebrand]: You just had to keep your little world together. You had communications with all your buddies and all your friends and so forth. The main meeting place and the assembly place was called "Times Square". And the two big avenues that we had that was running North and South was "Broadway", which was the main one. And the second one was "Fifth Avenue". They were all named by New Yorkers, of course. [Narrator]: Holding on to a sense of order was one more means of survival. Keeping track of the timeof-day became an obsession. [Richard Beck]: We had a system of telling time in prison camp. The Navy had set up a bell. Every half-hour, the Navy would give the time on the bell like one bell, two bells, three bells ... you know. [James Hildebrand]: No, none of us knew Navy time and so he'd go bong, bong, bong ... And after he was all through with it, everybody'd yell "What time is it?" And, of course, the guy'd try to yell back because he was the only one that had a clock. [Narrator]: While the prisoners marked the hours, the War expanded across the Pacific. Within a year, revitalized American forces had defeated the Japanese at Midway, at Guadalcanal, and at a dozen other battles. But the Japanese grip on the Philippines remained solid. [James Hildebrand]: You'd stand there for hours -- hours after hours -- trying to get water. I guess I was in better shape than the rest of them. But I would line up for other people. I would fill their canteen and I'd take a sip of it. Then I'd give it them. And then I'd take their canteen and get back in line again. [Malcolm Amos]: The food was terrible. They give us a little lugow. We called it "lugow". It was a little rice mixed with water. And the worms and the bugs,and the weevils would float to the top. [John Cook, POW] My buddy across the table from me said: "John, what are you doing?" I said: "I don't want to eat these darn worms!" And he said: "Well, that's the only protein we've had." He said "Give them to m," and I said "Like, Hell!" And I scraped them back in.


[Malcolm Amos]: But there was people who'd go through that line. They'd look at it and they'd say: "I'm not eating this stuff! I'd rather die than eat this stuff." And they'd just dump theirs in a barrel or whatever it was. And they died. [Narrator]: All the prisoners at Cabanatuan were forced to work. Breaking rocks or repairing roads in the hot sun was part of the discipline of captivity. [Robert Body]: I was young and didn't think I had to do what they told me to do. And I was still pissed off at them because of what they done at Pearl. And so to me, they were deadly enemies. And,I just could not bring myself to do what they told me to do. The sergeant kept telling me: "Bob, for Christ sake, listen to them! Do what they tell you." And I'd say: "Sarge, I can't do it." So, consequently, I'd get beat up. [Richard Beck]: When I would see somebody being tortured or abused, I had mixed emotions. One was anger. And two was fear. Would I be in the same situation minutes, hours, or days from then? Would I get the same treatment? But I was intensely angered at that. That they would treat another human being that way. [Robert Body]: I was under the impression that my family figured I was dead. We really felt that the Army had wrote us off. We were expendable. [NEWSREEL]: These motion pictures...were seized from the Japs. How were the prisoners treated? For a long time, the story was concealed. [Narrator]: In January of 1944 after almost 2 years' captivity, newsreels brought the Bataan prisoners' plight home to America. [News Footage Ambassador Grew]: These unspeakable atrocities make me -- and I should think every other American -- want to fight this war with grimmer determination than ever before. [News Footage Mother]: We mothers are all pretty bitter. And we hope that the American Government will send help over to MacArthur and get the remainder of the boys out just as soon as possible. [Narrator]: A rescue wouldn't be a job for MacArthur but instead for an unlikely band of army volunteers. Back in January of 1943, a group of soldiers had set out from California to the South Pacific. Their gear was as old as the Army itself. These were mule-skinners -- big men from farms and ranches across America. They had trained with their mules, packing heavy guns up the Colorado Rockies. But when the men and animals arrived in the Pacific, there was change of plans. [John Richardson]: We went over to Australia. We couldn't put mules off there, so we went on to New Guinea. For some reason, we heard they were going to do away with the mules and send them to India and were going to make Rangers out of us. And they sent us a man named Colonel Mucci. And he trained us. [Robert Prince, 6th Ranger Battalion]: Mucci was about 32. He was a graduate of West Point. He said he was an amateur boxer when he was at West Point and I can believe it. He was one tough cookie!


[Narrator]: Colonel Henry Mucci was ordered to transform these mule-skinners into Army Rangers, jungle commandos -- able the think on their feet and survive behind enemy lines. His men dubbed Mucci "Little MacArthur". He liked to be seen smoking a pipe just like the General. The hot-tempered son of an Italian-American horse trader, Mucci could out-run and out-march his men. [Robert Anderson]: Of course, he did everything to run us to death. He made us cross rivers on ropes. We had to swim with packs on our back. We had obstacle course. You could approach him with a knife in your hand. But you couldn't get to him. He would throw you on your back -- he was a judo expert. But he worked us so hard that sometimes I'd think: "I hate that man." I'd double-time back to my camp and say, "You can't kill me. I'll do more than you can give me!" [Leland Provencher, 6th Ranger Battalion]: The first weeks of training. if you broke your leg or you broke your arm in training, your buddy wasn't supposed to help you back. If you couldn't get back by yourself, you were out. [John Richardson]: I thought he was going to kill us. He called us "rats". He called us everything but a child of God. And he told us: "I'm going to make you so damn mean that you will kill your own grandmother!" [Robert Prince]: We were volunteers in reverse because if we didn't want to stay, he would transfer us out. And there were others that he transferred that he didn't want around. [Leland Provencher': There wasn't anything that he would ask you to do that he wouldn't do himself. He was really an all-out ... oh, in Army terms, an "all-out Joe." [John Richardson]: And I wondered why he was putting us through so much. But before it was over with, there was no question about it. I knew why. And when he got us trained and got us picked out -- the ones that they wanted -- he loved us to death and there wasn't anything too good for us. [Narrator]: Under Mucci's supervision, the 6th Ranger Battalion became a strong, flexible force ready to take on special assignments. But stationed in New Guinea, they had yet to get a mission which would fully test their abilities. That would come in the Philippines. By the summer of 194, the Cabanatuan prisoners had not seen their loved ones for years. [Robert Body]: The Japanese allowed us to send cards out occasionally and it had "MY HEALTH IS: GOOD, FAIR, OR POOR." A multiple-choice card that you were allowed to send home. [Edward "Tommie" Thomas]: They gave us the cards and we wrote on them. It would be censored and the Japanese censors were tough. If you said something about "I'm feeling good," they let that go and I know my mother said, "Well, I knew it was from you because I recognized your handwriting." And that was about the only good it did. [Narrator]: The Japanese tried to prevent any war news from reaching the camp. But the prisoners managed to pull an end run around the information blackout.


[James Hildebrand]: They were fixing Japanese radios. They would take certain parts out and tell the Japanese that these parts need replacing. And it was up to the Japanese to get those parts. Well, the Japanese never asked for those parts back. And if you get enough parts, you can make a radio. And that's exactly what they did. This radio was built inside of a canteen. We knew about D-Day long before the Japanese did. [John Cook]: It was listened to, probably, every night. And the news would be disseminated to us either the next day or the day after. We knew they had landed on Lingayen Gulf. We knew when the Leyte Battle had happened. [Narrator]: At Leyte in October, 1944, General MacArthur led a huge force back to the Philippines. Over 700 ships took part in the invasion -- the greatest fleet ever to sail the Pacific. [Robert Body]: When the Americans started coming back, why the planes flew right over the camp! And you could start hoping again. [Narrator]: But the American landings came nowhere near the prison camps. The fighting was hundreds of miles south. After 2½ years, the liberation of the POWs would still have to wait. [Hampton Sides]: The Japanese Army realized that the Americans were coming and the battle was turning very much against them. They had to do something quickly with these American POWs. We later were able to unearth some documents... that showed that there was a specific order that came from the high command that required that the commandants of these various camps liquidate any-and-all American prisoners rather than let them fall back into American hands. [Narrator]: In December, 1944 on Palawan Island southwest of Bataan, a group of American POWs heard an air raid alarm ring out. They leapt for their trenches. But on this day, there was no air raid. Instead, their trenches were transformed into fiery graves as the Japanese guards destroyed the 150 prisoners in an infamous atrocity. [James Hildebrand]: We all knew about Palawan. We got that on the radio. [Robert Body]: It was in the back of our minds that the Japanese are going to kill us one of these days. They're not going to let us go home and tell our story. [Narrator]: A few weeks after the Palawan massacre, the American Army landed at the Lingayen Gulf and began a slow advance on the POW camp at Cabanatuan, still deep in Japanese territory. The Army knew that the 500 remaining American prisoners might now be in grave danger. Col. Mucci's Rangers would have to cross through enemy lines and reach Cabanatuan before another atrocity could occur. [John Richardson]: We knew something big was coming up. I heard that they wanted the whole of 'C' Company and the whole of 'F' Company to go on this mission. And we didn't know what kind of mission it was. [Narrator]: The Camp at Cabanatuan lay 30 miles behind the lines. A daring, covert rescue was an assignment that Mucci's Rangers had been born to attempt. With only hours to plan the mission, the eccentric colonel chose as his 'Number Two' Captain Robert Prince. [Robert Prince]: He seemed to like me. I'm not a hard guy. But he thought I could handle the duties of a company commander. I was very pleased with that and I wanted to stay with him.


[Hampton Sides]: Prince was so sober-minded and so quiet and so, um, calm... Calm ... very, very calm. [Narrator]: Captain Prince devised a route to the POWs. The 125 Rangers could begin a march from their advanced base at 2:00 PM and reach the camp 12 hours later. Along the way, they would be joined by other units. [Robert Prince]: We had the Rangers. We had the Alamo Scouts. We had the Filipino guerrillas, the Filipino civilians who hid us ... All had to contribute to make this thing work. [John Richardson]: Before we went, they wanted us to meet in the chapel. They said that they was going to have prayer for us. Colonel Mucci met with us. And he says: "I'm going to tell you this. Probably all of you will come back ... or none." [Robert Prince]: My company was lined up and I said: "I'm going to turn around. But I want every man that wants to go on the raid to step one step forward." When I turned back around, everybody was still in line. So they had all stepped forward. [Hampton Sides]: It was very, very low tech. They got the mission and within hours, they're marching towards their destination [Robert Anderson]: We knew that we had about 30 miles to march. The thing that bothered us, more than anything as we went through those different villages was that somebody might tip you off, you know. But those people -- Filipinos -- were loyal because, you know, just one slip of the tongue could have meant suicide. [Leland Provencher]: Each one was given their choice of weapon. I preferred the semi-automatic because that's what I trained with. That was a hell of a good weapon for hip-shooting or anyway you wanted to do it. [Robert Prince]: We took bazookas in case we had to take out a tank. The rest of it was small arms -Tommy guns, M-1 rifles, carbines. [Leland Provencher]: All-in-all, we had a lot of firepower in just this small group. [Robert Prince]: We had two guerrilla captains with us, Captain Pajota and Captain Joson, each having about a 125 to 150 men. They were from this area and they knew the people, they knew the country, and they had guides for us. [Forrest Johnson, Author]: Pajota had been watching the activities of the Japanese, watching the troop movements. He went back by foot and greeted Mucci there. Pajota was invited to attend this little staff meeting that they had going with the American officers and now the Filipino officers and Pajota was informed to get ready, that they planned to attack the camp tonight. [Narrator]: But Captain Pajota's spies had just learned that as many as 8,000 Japanese soldiers had moved near the camp. They were bivouacked along the river and inside the prison. The Guerrilla commander believed that most of the enemy would be pulling out over night. Pajota wanted Col. Mucci to postpone the raid. [Robert Anderson]: Colonel Mucci didn't want to postpone it, you know. He wanted to go.


[Forrest Johnson]: Pajota said: "Are you committing suicide?" And Mucci -- being also emotional -flared and calmed himself down very quickly and said: "Of course not." [Narrator]: Any delay would endanger the prisoners that Mucci was trying to rescue. [Forrest Johnson]: But then he listened very carefully to what Pajota had to say. And then he paid attention again to what his Scouts had said and recognized that he had to make some changes. The radio message was sent out right away that there's a 24-hour delay. [John Richardson]: We were told About face and go back to a certain barrio where we had left and we, and got us scattered out and slept under houses that night and in different places. We were close enough to the main highway that ran by the camp that we could hear the truck run. But I mean, don't ask me if I slept any. [Robert Prince]: In that 24 hours, the Alamo Scouts did a real fine job of "casing the joint" -- I guess is what you'd call it -- and came back with all the information we needed on where the prisoners were and where the Japanese quarters were. It was drawn in the dirt -- the only place we had to work in. We laid out where our approach would be with 'C' Company and where the 'F' Company platoon would go up this dry wash behind the prisoners' compound. [Narrator]: The men of 'F' Company would be the last to get into position. It would be their job to commence the firing. [Robert Prince]: We wanted to be there at 7:30. So we figured we had plenty of time. [Narrator]: Late in the afternoon, the Rangers left their hiding places and crossed the shallow rivers surrounding Cabanatuan. Juan Pajota's hunch had been right. Most of the enemy seemed to have pulled out. [John Richardson]: I know I could hear the dogs barking. The barrios were so close together that the dogs from one barrio could hear the other. He said: "The Japanese will detect the route that we had taken." A Filipino said: "This won't do." So they had them scout ahead and to every dog in the barrio, they took bamboo strips and tied their mouths together so they couldn't make no noise. [Narrator]: The Guerrillas slipped from village to village gathering dozens of water buffalo carts. Farmers lent their only Carabao to help rescue the prisoners unable to walk to safety. [Patrick Ganio, Filipino Veteran]: We are anticipating the sick prisoners to be loaded after the rescue. So about a little distance from the camp is a river. And across the river were, I think, about 30 carts that were ready to haul the prisoners over there. [Narrator]: As the sun began to set Guerrillas positioned machine guns along the river. In addition to the guards in the camp, eight hundred Japanese were resting less than a mile from Cabanatuan. The Filipinos would need to keep these troops from crossing to the camp once the firing started.


[Jose Juachon]: We are protecting the road in case the Japanese will attack. If the Japanese know about it and they raided it, they can go easily right there and the raid will just will fail. They will all be slaughtered in there. [Forest Johnson]: Just the gossip of any one person in a village could have made a difference. How this didn't reach at least one Japanese unit, I don't know. With that troop movement, it seems like somebody would have gotten a piece of information. But they didn't. And that was a blessing I think more than a tactical thing. [Narrator]: The official map showed the camp surrounded by high vegetation. But just hours before the raid, new aerial photos revealed only flat, dry rice paddies with no place to hide. The Rangers would be fully exposed as they crawled toward the prison fence. [John Richardson]: The most nerve-wracking part was sliding across that field on my belly. [Robert Anderson]: Those rice paddies were just clay-like -- just as hard as concrete almost. We just had to put our guns in front of us and just crawled an inch-or-two at the time. [Narrator]: As the men of 'F' Company moved around the side of the camp they found themselves crawling over prisoners' graves. [Robert Prince]: It was still daylight. It was getting dusk. But it was very obvious that the guard in the tower could see us if he was looking. [John Richardson]: I felt like I don't want to be the only one to give us away. I'm going to stay to this ground. I don't care if I don't have any skin left on me. And honest to God, sometime when we went across a little mound or hill, what it felt like your heiny was up 2-foot high! We were scared, yes! [Robert Anderson]: As we were crawling, this plane came over and made dives and, of course, the Japanese were looking up. They were scared to death of the planes, what he's going to do, thought he was going to crash, maybe. [Narrator]: The plane was Col. Mucci's idea. He thought it would make a fine distraction as his men approached the camp. Somehow he had gotten the Army Air Corps to go along. [Robert Prince]: Everybody's interest was on him. And that allowed us to get into the ditch just across the road from the camp. [Narrator]: Captain Prince's main assault unit lay waiting for 'F' Company to make its way to the rear of the camp. [Robert Anderson]: We heard all kind of bells ringing and we said that we've been spotted. And one lieutenant almost jumped up. Somebody put him down. And, finally, nothing happened. We knew to go on. [Narrator]: It hadn't been a Japanese alarm bell but just a POW ringing the time. Inside Cabanatuan, the prisoners and their guards knew nothing of the raid. [John Cook]: I had just finished cleaning up all the pots and pans and caldron and washing them and getting them ready for breakfast.


[Richard Beck]: There were four of us sitting around a makeshift table, smoking our last cigarette. [Edward "Tommie" Thomas]: It was dark. I had just made my rounds as a provost marshal and everything was all right. [Narrator]: Zero hour for 'F' Company was supposed to be 7:30. But the moment passed with no shots fired. The Moon was about to rise. Its light could give away their positions. [Hampton Sides]: It got very, very tense. Many of the Rangers kept looking at Prince saying, you know, well, we're going to have initiate this thing, this is getting too late. They didn't really understand it was taking 'F' Company so long to get back to the back and fire the first shot. [Robert Prince]: Well, it got up to 7:40 and I was getting a little nervous as to whether to initiate it myself. But about that time, a guard in the tower in the rear spotted one of 'F' Company's men and shouted an alarm. And the second he did, he was dead. [Edward "Tommie" Thomas]: All hell broke lose! Shots were going in every direction on all 4 sides. [John Cook]: All I could think of was how-in-the-hell are we going to cook Llugow in the morning if they're shooting up our cookware. [Robert Body]: We hit the ground. One of my buddies said: "Hey, Bob! What do you think's going on?" And I said: "Well, I'm convinced." I says, "The Japanese are coming in here." [James Hildebrand]: I thought it was a massacre. I thought exactly what the Japanese are going to do - that they're going to kill everybody because Uncle Sam was getting close. [Robert Anderson]: Well, I went right behind the people going to the main gate. Richardson -- shot the lock off the front gate and went in. [John Richardson]: I never heard so much fire in my life. [James Hildebrand]: I got panicky and started to run. I ran into what I classify as a very gentle "brick wall". [Robert Body]: There was the biggest guy I ever seen in my life standing in front of me! [John Cook]: He looked like Pancho Villa with the bandoleers of ammunition strapped across his chest! [Edward "Tommie" Thomas]: And he had a watch that had, uh ... what do you call it, fluorescent things that you could see at night. Then I knew he was a Yank. And I said: "You're a Yank?" And he says, "You're damn right I am! And we come to get you." And that we were out. [Bert Bank]: This Ranger was hollering run for the main gate: "The Yanks are here!" My vision at that time was pretty well shot. He had to kind of lead me, and I helped a couple of other young kids. [Malcolm Amos]: I run down to my ward to see if everybody was out. And there's three still in there. One didn't have any legs at all; one had one leg; and one had passed out on account of he was a heart patient. Some big Ranger got a hold of a litter that was hanging up there. And we throw them three people on that litter and away we went.


One guy --

[Robert Body]: I always had problems walking because of all the beatings I'd taken. I said: "I'm going out of this place if I have to crawl out!" I went out of the camp on my own two feet. [Narrator]: The raid had caught most of the Japanese asleep in their barracks. In minutes, as many as 200 had been shot. After the initial surprise, a few of the enemy managed to return fire. The Rangers' only surgeon was hit. [John Richardson]: And a mortar shell fell. It cut Captain Fisher open. I looked around and could see that his entrails was in, intestines, and the blood coming. [Narrator]: Ranger Corporal Roy Sweezy was shot not by the Japanese but by "friendly fire". [Francis Schill, 6th Ranger Battalion]: I jumped out and crawled over to where Sweezy was. I put my arm under his head. I got my canteen out, poured water on his head, and give him the blessing -"in the name of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit, Amen, I baptize you" and so on. And the last thing Sweezy said was "One of my own men killed me!" [Robert Anderson]: Captain Prince said to me: "You be the last man out. I want you to stick your head in every shack you can find and see if anybody's left." And I did that while expecting to get shot. The bullets were flying from down the road. I went out with my arm over my face just in case if I got hit, it'd be not in the face but in the arm. But I made it pretty safely. [John Richardson]: When we got to the river, we helped these fellows across. They were frail. We were afraid the water would wash them down. The water wasn't all that deep. But it was pretty swift. [John Cook]: When we got to the Pampanga River, I said, "What are you going to do with all those sick people that can't walk?" He said, "Don't worry. We got carabao carts." I think we all had a fear of the Japanese still catching up with us. [Robert Prince]: The Guerrillas were our flanking protection at the Cabu River, which was no more than a mile from the camp and where we were operating. There was a sizable force of Japanese. But Pajota and his men just killed everything in sight that came up that river and across the bridge. They were the ones that kept this thing from being a tough deal for us. [Narrator]: Only 22 minutes after the first shot was fired, all 513 POWs were out of the camp. Each carabao cart was loaded and set out on the 30-mile journey to the American lines. [John Richardson]: Those little carabaos, they were slow. But you know, I told a lot of people that there was somebody else traveling with us besides Rangers, Guerrillas, and Alamo Scouts. I firmly believe that the Almighty had a part in this, too. [Narrator]: As dawn broke, the mile-long column rolled across the lines and out of enemy territory. [Richard Beck]: I don't think I realized that I was fully freed until about 10:00 in the morning. They had an American flag draped over a bush at the side of the road. I saw it, and I looked around. I don't think there was a dry eye. [Narrator]: Every one of the surviving prisoners had been freed. It was the morning of January 31, 1945. Mucci's Rangers had completed their mission!


[Robert Body]: People ask me: "Who do you think were the heroes that night?" I say, "Everybody. Because everybody done their job, and they done a good job." Well, that's a night I've always claimed that I was reborn. That's my birthday! [Edward "Tommie" Thomas]: That was a long wait. 3 years, you know. We just were so happy to see them. They had restored our faith in America, in the soldiers, in the Army. And I'm thinking well hey! We're under American control! We've got our freedom back! [Narrator]: A week after the rescue, the prisoners shipped out for home. [John Cook]: We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and the fireboats were spraying water. All I could think of was "My God, they're wasting all that water!" When we got the pier, everyone of us bent down and kissed the earth. Then we really let out an exhale and said, "We're finally home!" [James Hildebrand]: We flew across from San Francisco all the way to Chicago. My whole family was there. My dad, my stepmother, my girlfriend and her mother. My sisters were there, my brother-in-laws, uncles, aunts. And there's just one big clapping when I just got off the airplane. The Tribune took me over to the airplane again with my girlfriend and I gave her a kiss. And that was in the newspaper: "HERO RETURNS." [Narrator]: The prisoners of Cabanatuan now were home. But the war in the Pacific continued until the Japanese surrender in August, 1945. Of the 17,000 Americans soldiers captured in the Philippines, one-third never returned. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Bataan POWs

For the most part, the Bataan prisoners came from small-town America. Those who survived the prison camps, the "hell ships", and slave labor camps returned to live in small towns as well. Farmers, small entrepreneurs, local politicians, even a clown for the Shriners -- these men aren't easily pinned to what they do but more to how they do it. Honest, loyal, can-do men. For the POWs, these qualities enabled them to survive in the camp. Depression-Era Soldiers For the most part, the prisoners came from Depression-era backgrounds. They grew up hungry, poor, and rural. The Army provided 3 square meals a day and a steady income. That was more economic security than most had ever known. But the Depression gave them more than just a desire to join up. It prepared them for the realities of life in the camp. Making Do In the Depression, people knew how to do things such as fix cars, fix radios, repair shoes, farm, and make bread from scratch. Impoverished America was not a consumer society. Instead, people fixed what they had. And if they didn't have, they improvised or built what they needed. In the prison camp, the men built what they needed and did what they could do. The men built gardens, fixed shoes, trapped rats, made drugs, smuggled anything-and-everything, bartered incessantly,


stole x-ray film to take secret photographs, built secret radios, and even built a hospital and performed surgeries. Playing and Praying On the lighter side, they formed a band, listened to records, staged shows, drew the constellations, recalled recipes, learned foreign languages, studied math, wrote letters, prayed, whittled, etched, and generally kept themselves occupied. Prisoners with the will, strength, and faith to stay physically and mentally busy better survived the camp's rampant diseases and hardships. Bug Fights To keep their sanity, men resorted to some strange pastimes. James Hildebrand -- a POW in Cabanatuan -- recalled: "You'd be talking to a friend and a louse would come on his collar. You'd pick it up and you'd snap it or he'd pick one off of you and snap it... Then you'd get a glass jar and put the louse in there. And we'd put a bed bug in there and... this was our entertainment. We'd see which one killed the other one. Sometimes the bedbug would win, sometimes the louse would win... Then we got the red ants and the red ants won every time." Lots of Teasing John Cook, another POW, kept a photo of a woman named Helen. He would talk to her every night and was teased incessantly. He recalled: "When the guys found out I had Helen's picture, they'd all kid me and say: 'Hey, can I kiss Helen goodnight tonight?' and 'Let me see the sweet thing.' There was one Polish fellow and he would always 'smack' the picture and tease me about her and, oh, I guess it kept us going. It was something different. And it was all in fun; there was nothing bad." Food Fantasies And then, of course, the malnourished prisoners dreamed of food. Some men fixated on one type of food -- a ham sandwich or cheese, for example. Others concocted strange recipes. Albert Chestnut recorded his food fantasies in his diary. He wrote: "What I Want to Eat on First Days Home 1st Full Day: 1) Orange juice, small dish of oatmeal with sweetened condensed milk, 5 large thick pancakes smothered with jam, cocoa, and marshmallows; 2) cold cuts and rye bread, tomatoes, pineapple ice, milk; 3) shrimp cocktail, small steak, and french-fried potatoes, mushrooms, peas and corn, garden salad, pickled peaches, sliced fruit with lots of apple, iced tea; 4) black cow, peanut cake, caramel from tinned milk." One Day at a Time Along with fantasizing, coping was the order of the day. According to former POW Bob Body:


"Some of the guys would sit around and dream about when they got home, big steaks, and all that. But... I kept thinking about if you're going to survive today... That was the biggest thing. I think that probably really the hardest thing is the suspense, the stress -- are we going to make it till tomorrow, you know. Get through today. Just make it." An Organized World Life in the camp was survival. Men were keen to survive; they did what they could do to live and make the best of it. They organized their world to be like home. They built libraries, chapels, and latrines. They laid out the camp using familiar names -- "Times Square", "Broadway", "Fifth Avenue". They kept their military structure and rules with a commander and work details... including burial detail. Unbearable Conditions Life in the camp was horrible. The guards were brutal, the food scarce, and disease rampant. The men were literally starving and physically deteriorating. Today, many retain physical scars dating to their internment from debilitating malarial attacks to blindness, bone disease, and other painful ailments -- daily reminders all of their time in the camp. Back in the States The survivors bear psychological scars as well. As they age, many have come to terms with their experience -- some by giving back. John Cook spearheaded a campaign to remember and honor the Rangers, Alamo Scouts, and Filipino guerrillas who rescued the POWs at Cabanatuan. Bob Body was a clown for the Shriners. Ben Steele memorialized his memories in his art. Others served as mentors and politicians; many wrote books. Still others kept those times locked away. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Henry Mucci and the Rangers

"Mucci was so charismatic you couldn't believe it... If you ever had to go to war, that's the kind of man you wanted to go with." --Alvie Robbins, PFC "We all would have died for him. He was the very best." --Vance Shears, Sergeant "We knew he was selling us the blue sky. But we would have followed him anywhere." -- Robert Prince, 'C' Company Captain Loved and Feared Sometimes there are men that are larger than life. Tough, ambitious, and incredibly charismatic, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci was one of those men. His soldiers could not say enough about him. They loved him, they feared him, they would follow him anywhere. Even on what seemed like a suicide mission. Extraordinary Fighters General Walter Krueger and his top G-2 man -- Horton White -were the ones to choose Mucci. As Krueger and White considered the raid, they knew they would need an elite fighting force. Hampton Sides -- author of Ghost Soldiers -- writes: "[They] would need a group of men trained in stealth techniques and the tactics of lightning assault. The expeditioners must be in


exceptional physical condition as they would have to walk some 30 miles on foot in each direction, marching around the clock. They would have to be versatile, self-reliant, and extremely proficient with light arms as the odds were better than good that they would encounter major enemy resistance along the trek." Intensive Training Mucci had just such an outfit. In fact, he had trained them: the 6th Ranger Battalion. Mucci was a man of vision. It was he who took the unit of Army mule skinners and turned them into the elite jungle fighting force known as the Army Rangers. For one year in the mountains of New Guinea, Mucci trained his team -- one of the first American special operations fighting forces. Mule Skinners Become Rangers The men Mucci had started with were for the most part boys from the farms and ranches of middle America. Big, strong men. Known as "mule skinners", they had been recruited to train in the mountains of New Guinea with heavy artillery carried on the backs of pack animals. By 1944, the Army considered the mule skinners obsolete and General Krueger was looking to train a new special unit. Mucci was his man. Testing Physical Limits Ranger training under Mucci bordered on inhuman. A boxer, judo-expert, athlete, and former West Pointer, Mucci believed in training his men to the absolute limits of their physical capacities. He personally taught them all aspects of fighting: hand-to-hand combat, knifing, bayoneting, and marksmanship. He led them on torturous exercises across the tropical New Guinea jungles, through treacherous rivers, and up mountainsides in the ferocious heat. Jungle combat, night combat, amphibious combat -- Mucci taught and reveled in it all. 6th Army Ranger John Richardson recalled: "I thought he was going to kill us. He called us rats. He called us everything but a child of God. And he told us, "I'm going to make you so damn mean that you will kill your own grandmother.... I wondered why he was putting us through so much. But before it was over, there was no question about it. I knew why. And once he got us trained and picked out, he loved us to death. And there wasn't anything too good for us.... He knew what he was doing when he was training us." Slave Driver ... with a Purpose Bob Anderson, 6th Army Ranger remembered: "He worked us so hard that sometimes I'd think I hate that man! I'd double-time back to my camp and say, 'You can't kill me, I can do more. You can't give me enough. I can do more than you can give me!' So he had us in shape and once he got us trained, he was the nicest man you ever saw. But he knew how to train men." No doubt, Mucci got his men in peak physical condition. They were ready for the raid. They were ready for anything! Superb Leader Sometimes the fit is perfect. Mucci was the right man to train and lead the Rangers. He had all the qualities of a superb military leader. He knew men, he had vision, and he was decisive. Robert Prince said: "He made a Ranger battalion out of a bunch of mule skinners. And he inspired us and trained us. And any success we had belongs to Colonel Mucci."


Honors The rest is history. Mucci's actions and decisions on the raid were flawless. General Douglas MacArthur awarded Mucci the Distinguished Service Cross and said that the raid was "magnificent and reflected extraordinary credit to all concerned." The military promoted Mucci to full colonel. National Hero Upon his return home, Mucci was treated as a national hero in his home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress and later became an oil representative for a Canadian firm in Bangkok. An athlete till the end, he died at 86 in Florida from injuries related to swimming in rough surf. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Juan Pajota and Filipino Contributions to the Raid

While Robert Prince was the brains and Henry Mucci the sheer force behind the Cabanatuan rescue mission, it was USAFFE guerrilla leader Captain Juan Pajota who added the finesse. Captain Pajota knew the land, had the trust of local villagers, and commanded the local guerrilla forces. He prevailed upon villagers to muzzle their barking dogs the night of the raid. He came up with the clever idea of evacuating the weak and feeble prisoners on water buffalo carts. And he and his men held Japanese forces off at a bridge while the Rangers and POWs made their historic trek back to safety. Resourceful, Organized, Imaginative A local from Nueva Ecija, Pajota joined the USAFFE guerrillas during the retreat from Bataan. By all accounts, he was a small but sure and steady man, a natural leader, and a brilliant tactician. Robert Lapham -- the American USAFFE guerrilla leader -- called him "a very unflamboyant guy with a natural bent for leadership. He was resourceful, organized and extremely imaginative." His intimate knowledge of the terrain proved crucial the success of the raid. He had "eyes" and "hands" in every village. Ghost Soldiers author Hampton Sides writes: "He knew all the mayors of all the barrios. He was familiar with the realities on the ground, every quirk of the water buffalo paths, every river bend. Whatever men or arms might need to be mustered, Pajota had the political wherewithal to make it happen." Pajota's knowledge of the area -- as well as his tremendous confidence -- proved essential to the raid. "Suicide" Pajota had the one thing Mucci lacked: information. He had intelligence on the Japanese movements within and around the camp. At their first meeting, Mucci was impatient. His men were ready. He wanted to move. But Pajota was unflappable. Learning that Mucci was determined to stage the raid that very evening, Pajota clearly and simply informed Mucci: "Sir, with all due respect, that is suicide." Pajota explained that the Japanese would have large numbers of troops and trucks on the roads that evening. At first, Mucci was undeterred. However, upon receiving similar intelligence from his own Alamo Scouts, Mucci was forced to concur with Pajota. He delayed the raid 24 hours.


A Perfect Plan In the planning stages, Pajota offered Mucci a novel tactical strategy -- one that would give the raid an element of surprise and cover at the same time. Pajota suggested using airplanes to fly over the camp and distract the Japanese guards moments before the raid. "Mucci instantly liked the sound of it," Sides writes. "The aircraft would just be up there, looping and droning and turning, flummoxing the guards, commanding attention." The plan worked to perfection. The planes provided cover for the Rangers as they made their way into position near the camp gates. A Brilliant Solution The biggest question in Mucci and Prince's plan to liberate Cabanatuan was how to carry the POWs to safety. Mucci and Prince were worried that transporting the nearly 500 POWs 30-miles across enemy lines was going to prove impossible. The men were weak, frail, disease-ridden. There was no way that they would be able to walk the distance. Pajota had a brilliant plan. Water buffalo carts driven by local villagers would be waiting at the Pampanga River, one mile from the camp. Mucci couldn't resist the idea. It was brilliant. And it proved to be the POWs' salvation. Five to a cart, the men -- exhausted and lame -- rolled the 30 miles to safety. Heroic Battle While those carts rolled, Pajota and his team of guerrilla fighters held the Japanese at bay. It was an incredible battle. Squad-after-squad of Japanese fighters rushed the bridge in a suicidal frenzy. Pajota's men -- equipped with American firepower and secure in their positions -- resisted all attackers. Indispensible Ally There is no doubt that the raid at Cabanatuan owes much of its success and a great deal of its color to Pajota's brilliance as well as to the loyalty of the Filipino villagers and the bravery of Pajota's men. Like many of the Filipino guerrillas, Juan Pajota's life story is little-known. What we do know is that he was courageous, loyal, and very smart. After the War, Pajota moved to the U.S. He died of a heart attack in 1976 -- just days before becoming a U.S. citizen. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Alamo Scouts

The Alamo Scouts -- formally known as the U.S. Sixth Army Special Reconnaissance Unit -- were an elite fighting force in World War II. Their mission: to go behind enemy lines. These daring men provided desperately-needed intelligence for U.S. Army special missions throughout the Pacific. They also rescued people. Prior to the mission in Cabanatuan, they liberated 66 Dutch POWs from captivity in New Guinea. It was no accident that when General Krueger began planning the raid on Cabanatuan, he sent for the Alamo Scouts -- proven operatives who derived their name from his connection with San Antonio, Texas.


Spying on Cabanatuan Two teams of Scouts were chosen to work the mission. The Nellist and Roundsville teams undertook reconnaissance of Cabanatuan. They gathered useful information on Japanese movements in the camp's vicinity. In fact, they confirmed USAFFE guerrilla leader Juan Pajota's intelligence -Japanese activity in the area was tremendous. They concurred that the raid should be postponed for 24 hours. Had To Get Near the Camp Nevertheless, they were stymied. They needed better information on the movements within the camp and they couldn't get near the camp. The surrounding fields were too flat. They were sure to be seen. Time was ticking past and the Scouts were getting frustrated. They needed more information. What could they do? A Shack With a View Lieutenant Bill Nellist hatched a plan. He reasoned that although it was impossible to get near the camp, they could spy on the camp from a higher outpost. He had spotted an abandoned shack that just might be able to provide the vantage. It was risky, but he decided that he and Rufo Vaquilar -- a Filipino-American Alamo Scout -- would dress up as Filipino villagers and attempt to gain access to the hut. Spies in Straw Hats The plan worked. Nellist and Vaquilar donned straw hats and farmer costumes and they sallied for the shack. Nellist couldn't have been more pleased. The view was extraordinary -- they could see right into the compound. For 2 hours, they made notes detailing the major features of the camp and the best routes for the Rangers. Then they heard a strange noise -- 3 more Alamo Scouts had come to join them. These daring young men had crawled on their bellies, approaching the shack from the rear. Nellist gave them his report and ordered them to get it to Ranger commander Henry Mucci on the double. The Right Information The information was a godsend. The Rangers completed their plan. That evening the raid began. The Scouts helped evacuate the prisoners. Then they stayed behind, helping with casualties and surveying the area for any retaliatory movements. By February 2, they made their way back to base camp. According to the diary of Alamo Scout Gilbert Cox, they finally found themselves "enjoying life and waiting for the next job." Like the Rangers, the Alamo Scouts received Silver and Bronze stars for their heroic efforts at Cabanatuan. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Claire Phillips

Is truth stranger than fiction? Can a suburban housewife from Portland, Oregon become a spy and leader of a major underground resistance movement? Claire Phillips -- also known as Dorothy Fuentes a.k.a. "High-Pockets" -- lived life on the edge. A singer and dancer with a flair for the dramatic, Claire was to


become a spy and a resistance leader in the Philippines -- funding her efforts by running an exclusive nightclub catering to powerful Japanese officers: Club Tsubaki. Running Toward Adventure In 1941, despite the fact that war was looming in the Pacific, Claire took off for Manila with her baby daughter, hoping to join a song and dance revue. There she met a handsome, young American soldier, fell in love, and married for the second time. When war broke out, Claire fled Manila in an attempt to stay near her husband's outfit. But life was difficult in the hills and food was scarce. Moreover, it was hard to keep in contact with her husband. Soon he was captured by the Japanese and Claire had to fend for herself. She decided to return Manila. A New Identity Desperate to evade the Japanese and avoid internment in the prison camps for American civilians, Claire Phillips assumed a new identity as a Filipina of Italian descent. She became Dorothy Fuentes. "Dorothy" took a job in a nightclub and began making plans to open her own club. She aimed to "raise funds for the [American] guerrillas and to alleviate the suffering of our prisoners, rotting like Phil (her husband) in Japanese hell-holes." Japanese Officers' Playground She planned to attract and relax the most powerful Japanese officers in Manila, enticing them to reveal troop movements and special intelligence. Club Tsubaki was exclusive and inordinately successful. The officers were mesmerized by slinky fan dances and glittery floor shows. They succumbed easily to the girls' pampering and lavish attention. Soon Claire was regularly supplying the local guerrillas with relevant intelligence. Claire became known as "High Pockets" -- a reference to her habit of stashing money and valuables in her lingerie. Medicine, Food, and Morale Claire took the proceeds from her club and translated them directly into supplies for the prisoners at Cabanatuan. At great personal risk, she made sure that quinine, drugs, fruit, even food and letters made their way into the camp. While her efforts could not save all the men, they did save lives and raise spirits. A letter to her from a Cabanatuan prisoner reads: "Hello High Pockets: When I got your letter, I came to life again. Gee, it's good to know someone like you. You deserve more gold medals than all of us in here together. You've done more for the boys' morale in here than you'll ever know. Some of them are flat on their backs and I wish you could've seen the looks of gratitude...." Arrest and Torture Dorothy's club and High Pockets' activities were high-risk endeavors. They depended greatly on secrecy, loyal compatriots, and luck. For 1½ years, Claire's luck held. But on May 23, 1944, the Japanese military police apprehended her. Her torture and interrogation began. She was imprisoned in Manila's infamous prison Bilibid -- later to be liberated by American forces. Later Years


After the War, Claire and her daughter returned home to Portland, Oregon. She published her incredible story in 1947 under the title Manila Espionage. In 1951, she received the Medal of Freedom. She would die unexpectedly 9 years later -- a heroine for having risked her life to help the prisoners. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Filipinos and the War

"During the dark days of World War II, nearly 100,000 soldiers of the Philippine Commonwealth Army provided a ray of hope in the Pacific as they fought alongside United States and Allied forces for 4 long years to defend and reclaim the Philippine Islands from Japanese aggression. Thousands more Filipinos joined U.S. Armed Forces immediately after the war and served in occupational duty throughout the Pacific Theater. For their extraordinary sacrifices in defense of democracy and liberty, we owe them our undying gratitude." -- President Bill Clinton, October 17, 1996, declaring October 20th a national day to honor the Filipino veterans of World War II MacArthur's Command Prior to WWII, the Philippines were a commonwealth of the United States with two primary military departments -- the Philippine Army and the Philippine Scouts. With the war looming, on July 26, 1941 General Douglas MacArthur was called to active duty and put in charge of the U.S. Army Forces of the Far East (USAFFE), bringing both of these groups under his command. Surrender After MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines in March 1942, the U.S. Army succumbed to the Japanese. Bataan was surrendered on April 9, 1942 and Corregidor on May 6, 1942. By June 9, all the forces -- with a few isolated exceptions -- had surrendered. However, both Filipino and American forces were primed to stage resistance movements. Guerrilla War One of the primary groups resisting the Japanese was made up of USAFFE guerrillas under American command. Composed of both American and Filipino soldiers, this resistance movement operated throughout the Philippine jungles and barrios. Scouts, Spies, and Soldiers It was the USAFFE guerrillas who assisted during the raid on Cabanatuan. Captain Eduardo Joson, Captain Juan Pajota, and their guerrilla units guided the Rangers behind enemy lines, provided reconnaissance, and fought off the Japanese while the POWs made their escape. The Huk Another primary Filipino resistance movement was known as the "Huk" -- short for the Hukbalahap -- under the command of Luis Taruc. This group was a homegrown socialist guerrilla movement, organized first to throw off the Japanese oppressors but also to fight for independence, land reform, and peasants' rights.


When Philippine independence came, the Huk were not given a formal role in the new government. They remain a guerrilla resistance -- fighting still in some areas of the Philippines. Hard Fighting It is estimated that over 260,000 Filipinos fought in guerrilla organizations and more participated in the anti-Japanese underground. The average Filipino citizen fought hard for the Americans, too. There was tremendous American sympathy and loyalty. Some Were Killed American soldiers on the death march remember Filipino women throwing food and candy to the men. Some of them were killed for their efforts. During the raid on Cabanatuan, local villagers extended all types of kindness to the Rangers giving food, singing songs, and even offering up their water buffalo for the trek to safety. Key Players In fact, all of the POWs, Rangers, and Alamo Scouts involved in the raid would hail their success as entirely dependent on the efforts of the local Filipino villagers and the courageous Filipino guerrillas. Death and Destruction The death toll in the Philippines throughout the war was huge. It is estimated that 60,628 Americans, 300,000 Japanese, and over 1 million Filipinos were lost. Manila was the second most devastated city in the War. Heroic Veterans Abandoned The Philippines gained their independence on July 4, 1946. The same year, the U.S. Congress passed the Rescission Act which declared that Filipino soldiers had not been part of the U.S. Armed Forces and therefore were not entitled to full veterans' benefits. President Harry Truman stated: "The passage of this legislation does not release the U.S. from its moral obligation to provide for the heroic Philippine veterans who sacrificed so much for the common cause during the War... They fought as American nationals, under the American flag, and under the direction of our military leaders... I consider it a moral obligation of the U. S. to look after the welfare of the Philippine Army veterans." Still Fighting Even at the turn of the 21st Century, Filipino war veterans -- by then in their 80s -- were still fighting the U.S. government for health care and benefits due veterans for their military service. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Masaharu Homma

Who was to blame for the atrocities perpetrated on American POWs in the Philippines? While there is no easy answer to that question, one of the men who was charged with war crimes was Japanese Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma. Surrender and Evacuation Lt. General Masaharu Homma was the commander in charge of the Japanese Imperial forces during the first battles for the Philippines. He served in the Philippines from December 1941 through August


1942. It was Homma who forced and accepted the surrender of the Americans at Bataan. Homma also ordered the evacuation of American and Filipino forces from Bataan. Contradictory Nature The irony according to author Hampton Sides is that Homma was not a fanatical militarist. Rather, he was a compassionate moderate with a love for all things English. He had a passion for the arts and was keen on American movies. A sensitive, principled intellectual with pro-Western leanings, he had been schooled in military academies as well as at Oxford. He was friends with Japan's leading writers and artists. Dubbed the "Poet General", he liked to paint and write poetry during battles. Negligent? His military strength was his mind. He was considered a brilliant theoretician. His weakness was delegating authority and overseeing the practicalities of his command. Perhaps it was that weakness that allowed his subordinates to brutalize Americans and Filipinos while Homma publicly pronounced that POWs would be treated kindly and fairly. Perhaps he was negligent of duty. Denied Knowledge of Atrocities At the end of the War, war crimes trials were convened in Manila. Homma was tried for crimes including abuses of POWs in the Philippines, atrocities related to the death march, and the bombing of Manila after it was declared an open city. Homma accepted moral responsibility as commander but maintained that he had no knowledge of atrocities until after they had occurred. According to historian Philip Piccigallo, Homma was convicted for the actions of his troops rather than for directly ordering atrocities. Homma Executed On April 3, 1946, Lt. General Masaharu Homma was executed. His wife appealed to American general Douglas MacArthur to spare his life. But her pleas were denied. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Japanese Atrocities in the Philippines

On December 14, 1945, Japanese soldiers forced 150 American prisoners of war at a compound on Palawan into an air-raid shelter. Then they doused them with gasoline and threw in a match. A Survivor's Story A few of the Americans -- a very few -- survived. Army PFC Eugene Nielson was one of the survivors. He later described the atrocity to U.S. intelligence officers: "The trench smelled very strongly of gas. There was an explosion and flames shot throughout the place. Some of the guys were moaning. I realized this was it -- either I had to break for it or die. Luckily I was in the trench closest to the fence. "So I jumped and dove through the barbed wire. I fell over the cliff and somehow grabbed hold of a small tree... There were Japanese soldiers down on the beach. I buried myself in a pile of garbage and coconut husks. I kept working my way under until I got fairly covered up...


"The Japanese were bayoneting [prisoners on the beach]. They shot or stabbed 12 Americans and then dug a shallow grave in the sand and threw them in." Nielsen hid in the garbage until the Japanese left. He then made a break for it. But the Japanese saw him and started firing. He jumped into the sea and was shot several times. Miraculously, he lived and managed to escape -- swimming for 9 hours and eventually finding his way through the Philippine jungle to American guerrilla forces. It was Nielsen's story that helped convince the American Command to rescue the prisoners at Cabanatuan prison camp. It was also his story that made the prisoners of Cabanatuan particularly terrified. Homemade Radio The Cabanatuan POWs had heard all about Palawan. They had assembled a secret radio and, in fact, knew a lot about American movements and successes in the War. The radio was ingenious. It was assembled inside a water canteen. Former POW James Hildebrand recalled how the prisoners tricked the Japanese into helping them build their secret radio: "...[The guys] were fixing Japanese radios. They would take certain parts out and tell the Japanese those parts needed replacing and it was up to the Japanese to get those parts. Well, the Japanese never asked for those parts back. And if you get enough parts, you can make a radio. And that's exactly what they did. They fooled the Japanese." Living in Fear The news of Palawan terrified the POWs. Many felt that they were next. They believed that their Japanese captors were plotting their massacre. After all, they had all seen acts of Japanese brutality firsthand. Many had been through the infamous death march where the Japanese army had marched an estimated 72,000 Americans and Filipinos 65 miles to San Fernando, Pampanga. Hampton Sides -- author of Ghost Soldiers -- estimates that 750 Americans and 5,000 Filipinos died on the march -- victims of starvation, disease, and random executions. (It should be noted that estimates vary widely. A study document put out by the Department of Veteran's Affairs puts the American deaths at 650 and Filipino deaths at 16,500. Forrest Johnson -- author of Hour of Redemption -- puts the U.S. deaths at 2,275 and Filipino deaths between 9,000-14,000.) Atrocities on the March On the march, the men witnessed arbitrary executions of their fellow American and Filipino soldiers and of Filipino civilians who had offered food or water to the marchers. Bert Bank remembers: "One of the POWs had a ring on and the Japanese guard attempted to get the ring off. He couldn't get it off. He took a machete and cut the man's wrist off and when he did that, of course, the man was bleeding profusely. [I tried to help him] but when I looked back, I saw a Japanese guard sticking a bayonet through his stomach. "On the second day, a fully pregnant Filipino woman threw some food out... this POW in front of me picked up the food and started eating it and a Japanese guard came... and decapitated that POW... And then he went and cut the stomach out of the Filipino woman. She was screaming "Kill me, Kill me!" But they wouldn't do it.


Cruelty in the Camps The POWs also experienced intense cruelty at the hands of their captors in Cabanatuan. All had witnessed hundreds of their compatriots die for lack of food and medicine. All had witnessed torture and summary executions. All had experienced Japanese brutality firsthand. Former POW Richard Beck remembered: "It's a very sinking feeling to know that you are going to be abused for a long period of time. And that's exactly what it was. It was a long period of abuse -- starvation, beatings... Some people were shot for no reason at all. So you never knew how to assess the situation, whether you should try to lead a low profile. It was a case of never knowing how to cope." The Kill-All Order The Cabanatuan POWs' fear of becoming victims of another large scale massacre were well founded. After the War, it became clear that there existed a high command order -- issued from the War Ministry in Tokyo -- to kill all remaining POWs. This order read in part: "Whether they are destroyed individually or in groups, and whether it is accomplished by means of mass bombing, poisonous smoke, poisons, drowning, or decapitation, dispose of them as the situation dictates. It is the aim not to allow the escape of a single one, to annihilate them all, and not to leave any traces." Hell Ships It also became clear after the War that the Japanese were responsible for horrific abuses of POWs aboard tankers leaving the Philippines and bound for Japan. These tankers became known as "hell ships". The Japanese put masses of men in the holds of tankers and gave them little food, light, room, or water. The men died at an alarming rate -- of suffocation, thirst, and madness. They also died of allied bombing since the hell ships were not marked with a white cross (as specified by the Geneva Conventions) to indicate POWs were on board. The men who survived these tankers became slave laborers in Japanese mines and factories. Extensive Barbarism Throughout the Pacific theater, the Japanese treated POWs and civilians barbarically. Survivors of camps in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Burma, and Laos all reported experiencing tremendous cruelty, torture, disease, and starvation. It is an astounding fact that while POWs died at a rate of 1.2% in Germany, they died at a rate of 37% across the Pacific. At the end of the War, war crime trials were held in Tokyo and throughout the Pacific to attempt to serve justice to the perpetrators of these atrocities. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Prisoners' Diseases

"It was malaria I had to begin with. Then I had dengue fever which ... Well, you are worse with dengue fever than malaria. But it is not fatal like malaria can be. Then I had amoebic dysentery and there was nothing you could do. Then beri-beri came along and there were two types. There was wet and there was dry. [I had] the wet and my head swole up and


everything swole up. And then there was the dry and there was no swelling it just hurt. Your feet hurt all the time. You couldn't put them on the ground. And then I went blind for a couple of days from some lack of vitamin." -- Bob Body, Cabanatuan POW A Museum of Disease Disease was a constant in the camp. In the first 6 months, the primary causes of death were malaria, dysentery, and starvation. As time wore on, diet-dependent diseases became more prevalent. The men suffered from all types of vitamin and mineral deficiencies which caused a host of debilitating diseases including beri-beri, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy; and which caused a ghastly array of bizarre conditions as the men's bodies stopped supplying "unnecessary organs" with nutrients. The men's hair, nails, eyes, feet, teeth, nerves, and genitals all suffered. Dr Hibbs -- the Cabanatuan camp doctor -- recalled "the whole place was a pathological museum... Most doctors would never see such cases in their entire lives." "I Can't, I Can't" The most ubiquitous disease in the camp was beri-beri which in some form affected nearly 100 percent of the POWs. Beri-beri gets its name from a Singhalese phrase meaning "I can't, I can't." It is a debilitating disease. The dry form causes intense pain in the feet. The wet form causes extreme swelling, enlarges the heart, and can cause sudden death. It is caused by vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency. Weevilly Diet The prisoners were particularly susceptible to beri-beri because of their diet which consisted mainly of something called lugao. Ex-POW Harold Amos remembered: "They gave us a little lugao. That was rice mixed with water. The worms and bugs and weevils would float to the top. At first, you'd pick them out and then after a couple of meals, why you just -- as a little protein -- ate it raw." Lugao is extremely low in thiamine because the husk of the rice which contains the thiamine has been removed. Bugs, Frogs, and Dogs On a typical day, the prisoners received less than 300 calories of this rice porridge. Many supplemented their diets with insects, frogs, and even the occasional dog or cat. In Cabanatuan, prisoners perfected the art of stealing ducks from their Japanese captors at night -- an activity they termed "gorking." Malnutrition Because their calorie intake was so low and they were required to engage in strenuous labor, all POWs suffered from malnutrition -- by far the biggest killer in the camp. Pellagra -- a disease caused by deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin) -- was one of the biggest causes of psychosis in the camps. Dysentery plagued all the POWs. Poor Sanitation Sanitation in the camp was a major problem. Fly control was the order of the day. Ex-POW James Hildebrand remembered: "They gave us a little round glass and we had to turn in 10 flies a day... That was an easy task. You could find 10 flies and turn them in like crazy."


Doctors Improvised The physicians -- like everyone else in the camp -- improvised. They smuggled and cajoled medicines and fresh fruit. They created pills for dysentery from cornstarch, guava leaves, and charcoal. They even conducted surgeries within the camp. Far too often, though, men died. Keys to Survival Due to limited medicines and facilities, survival was more clearly linked to the individual's ability to withstand disease and the harsh realities of existence. Two factors other than physiological ones came into play. The role of friends and the individual's own physical-emotional makeup. Social and Psychological Factors Friends were important. They not only could attempt to procure essentials -- medicine, a bit of extra protein, a better assignment -- but they also provided attention, encouragement, and moral support. ExPOW Tommie Thomas recalled: "I started encouraging people. I remember a boy who couldn't eat the lugao. He says 'I can't stand that stinkin' rice! It doesn't taste good.' And I said, 'Let's make a deal. I'll take a mouthful and you take a mouthful.' And that's what we did. I had some faith because that worked." Traits for Survival According to a study done in 1952 for the American Journal of Psychiatry, traits that favored survival included: A strong motivation for life with persistent exertion of will, good general intelligence, good constitution, emotional insensitivity or well-controlled, balanced sensitivity, a preserved sense of humor, a strong sense of obligation to others, controlled fantasy life, courage, successful active or passive resistance to captors, luck, opportunism, and a few preceding years of military experience. Tommie Thomas -- who survived surrender, the death march, a firing squad, cerebral malaria, and diphtheria -- exemplified this characterization. A man with luck, faith in God, and determination, he said of himself: "I had faith. I knew I was going to make it. And if anyone walked out of the camp, I was going to be one of them." On January 30, 1945 along with 511 other POWs, Tommie Thomas walked to freedom. To this day, most of the men who returned still suffer from physical and psychological ailments related to the extreme deprivation and torture they experienced as prisoners of war. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Japan, POWs,and the Geneva Conventions

The Geneva Conventions are 4 separate treaties negotiated and renegotiated by international committees between 1864 and 1977 to govern human rights during wartime. Safeguard for Doctors and Nurses Henri Dunant -- founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross -- was the first to propose International rules for the treatment of doctors and victims during wartime. After witnessing the battle for Solferino in Italy in 1859, Dunant committed himself to promote the "adoption by all civilized


nations of an international and sacred principle which would be assured and placed on record by a convention to be concluded between governments. This would serve as a safeguard for all official and unofficial persons engaged in nursing war victims." White Flag and Red Cross In 1864, representatives of 13 nations met in Geneva to discuss the plight of people wounded in wartime. On August 22, 1864, they signed the first Geneva Convention, agreeing that those wounded in war -- as well as the people and facilities catering to the wounded -- would merit non-belligerent status. Further, they agreed that prisoners should be returned to their native countries. The white flag and red cross would serve both hospitals and ambulances as symbols of neutrality. Japan's Agreements Over the course of the next century, more qualifications and rules were added to the conventions. Standards for the "humane treatment" of POWs were established in 1907 at an International Conference at The Hague, Netherlands. In 1929, the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War was signed by 47 governments. Japan signed the 1929 convention but failed to ratify it. However in 1942, Japan indicated it would follow the Geneva rules and would observe the Hague Convention of 1907 outlining the laws and customs of War. Japanese Violations That Japanese forces did not strictly follow the Geneva Conventions is hardly a matter of debate. According to Dr. William Skelton III (who produced a document entitled American Ex Prisoners of War for the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs), more POWs died at the hands of the Japanese in the Pacific theater and specifically in the Philippines than in any other conflict to date. In Germany in WWII, POWs died at a rate 1.2%. In the Pacific theater, the rate was 37%. In the Philippines, POWs died at a rate of 40%. In total, 11,107 American soldiers captured in the Philippines died. Some died in the Philippines. Others were transported and died in places like Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, or the Japanese home islands. Still others were killed in the "Hell Ships" en route to Japan -ships that were bombed by American planes or torpedoed by American ships whose crewmen did not realize their countrymen were in the transport holds. Damages Sought Today's debate revolves around how to rectify damages and compensate survivors. In 1951, a U.S.Japanese treaty sought to minimize war reparations. However, in recent years, individuals and advocacy groups have been suing Japanese corporations as well as the government of Japan, citing violations of both the Hague and Geneva Conventions.


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Robert Prince and the Raid

Planning the raid was a monumental task. It fell to 'C' Company commander -- Captain Robert Prince, a 25-year-old Stanford graduate. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci knew men. He chose Prince. Young and reserved, Prince was in many ways the opposite of Mucci. They were a perfect match. Planning Under Pressure It was Mucci's job to lead the men, getting them to the edge of the compound. It was Prince's job to figure out how to get the Rangers in-and-out of the compound with all the sickly prisoners. He had less than 48 hours to plan. "I was very apprehensive," he recalled. "Any commander's greatest fear is the fear of failure. It preys on you. You have to keep your focus. You have to consider all the things that could go wrong. But then you have to banish them from your mind. If you think about them too long, you can't go forward -- you're paralyzed." The Plan Prince built his plan around his two best weapons -- surprise and confusion. He wanted to get his team in-and-out as quickly as possible. And, of course, with as few casualties as possible. The raid, he predicted, should be over in 30 minutes. He was to send two groups of guerrilla fighters -- one group under the command of Captain Juan Pajota and one under the command of Captain Eduardo Joson -- in opposite directions, to hold the main road that passed by the front of the camp. He also split the Rangers into two groups -- one for the front gate and one to come through the rear. He himself would personally ensure that all of the barracks were clear and all the prisoners accounted for. Challenging Terrain One of Prince's fears was that the surrounding countryside was so flat. He knew his men would have to crawl through a long open field on their bellies right under the eyes of the Japanese guards. Pajota, Mucci, and the U.S. Air Force took care of that. They had arranged to have a P-61 night fighter fly over the camp just as the men would be crossing the field. Prince recalled: "The P-61 was one of the biggest factors maintaining our surprise... And they did a wonderful job of it including cutting out an engine to make it sound like the plane was in trouble." Collaborative Effort The biggest challenge of the raid was choreographing so many groups that didn't know each other. All told, there would be over 1,000 people participating in the raid. There were two Filipino guerrilla groups, the U.S. Army Rangers, the Alamo Scouts, local Filipino villagers, the Air Force, and of course the POWs themselves. Local Friends Prince credited the success of the raid and the successful collaboration of all these disparate groups to the fact that they were operating in friendly territory. He recalled: "It was such a complex group of


people, none of whom had any real dealings with each other before, not on such a scale... The main thing that made it conceivable to think we could succeed was that we were in friendly territory with friendly people. Trying to do that somewhere else, I don't think you could even come close." All the men involved agreed that without the Filipino civilians, the whole thing would have been a lot tougher if not impossible. Success The raid was a tremendous success. In all only two Rangers were killed, 512 POWs were liberated, and an estimated 523 Japanese were killed or wounded. There were no Filipino casualties. On March 3, 1945, General Walter Krueger presented the men with awards. Mucci and Prince both received the Distinguished Service Cross, the other American officers received the Silver Star, and the American enlisted men received the Bronze Star. All the Filipino officers and enlisted men received the Bronze Star. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Moment of Liberation Prisoner-of-war James Hildebrand had left dinner early that night, going back to his bunk to work on some "shoes." He was a cobbler of sorts, trading his skills fixing shoes for cigarettes and food. He was working alone in his shack when the roof literally exploded over his head. Totally confused, he ducked and ran straight into the biggest man he ever saw. Scared, he turned to run the other way, wondering what-the-hell that men was wearing and why he smelled like American cigarettes. He ran back to ask, "Who the hell are you?" But it was clear -- bullets were zinging everywhere -that the Americans had come to save them. A Massacre? Hildebrand remembers: "God Almighty, there were bullets like crazy! As a matter of fact when they hit my building, they took the top off of it. It all landed over the top of me... I thought it was a massacre. I thought this is exactly what the Japanese are going to do because Uncle Sam was getting close. That's exactly what happened at Palawan... "I got panicky. I started to run. And I ran into what I classify as a 'very gentle brick wall'." The brick wall turned out to be Lt. Murphy of the 6th Army Rangers. All Hell Broke Loose Hildebrand was not alone in his confusion. Most of the POWs were entirely stunned. The American soldiers looked huge. They were wearing strange outfits and had strange guns. Tommie Thomas recalls: "All hell broke loose. And boy, [there] were shots in every direction! They came over the top of my head." A Lot of Shooting John Cook recalls "there was a lot of shooting, fireworks, and


tracer bullets. It was like Fourth-of-July many times over... and all I could think was how was I going to cook the lugao in the morning if they are shooting up our cookware?... We were stunned... and then this man spoke.... He looked like Pancho Villa with bandoliers of ammunition strapped across his chest and hand grenades hanging off his belt. It was the weirdest sight. He just looked huge." Chaotic Half Hour The thought dawned -- they were being rescued! Through the chaos, the POWs got moving. The men couldn't take anything with them: diaries, photographs, letters, jackets, coats, shoes. They simply had to flee. Most were next to naked wearing just their Japanese underwear -- g-strings. They were evacuated in 30 minutes. Only one was left behind to be rescued later. Carrying POWs to Safety The Rangers and Alamo Scouts assisted the POWs out of the camp. Some could walk while others had to be carried piggyback or on makeshift stretchers. Water buffalo carts provided by Filipinos in the area were a godsend. Most of the men were far too ravaged to walk through the night. Mutual Admiration Society Through that long night as the Rangers and POWs walked and rolled to safety, the men got to know each other. Former POW Tommie Thomas recalls: "We wanted to know where they had been and what they had seen. And they were anxious to know how it had been with us and whether it was a rough as they had heard. We regarded them as heroes. They regarded us as heroes. It was a mutual admiration society." Freedom The next day, the POWs got their first taste of freedom. They arrived in San Francisco a week later. John Cook said: "When we got the pier, every one of us bent down and kissed the earth and then we really let out an exhale and said, 'We're finally home.'" To a man, they remained thankful throughout the rest of their lives to all those who contributed to rescuing them. Honored, At Last In August 2000, ex-POW John Cook honored the 124 Rangers, 3 Signal Corpsmen, 14 Alamo Scouts and 2 Filipino officers (Joson and Pajota) through the installation of a monument in their honor at the Ranger Hall-of-Fame, Fort Benning, Georgia.

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