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Los Banos – conclusion

Los Banos in art

 

Inside the Los Baños compound, all was suddenly noise and confusion. “That morning, as I walked out of the barracks with my family to line up for 7:00 am roll call, I looked up into the sky and over a field near our camp saw several C-47 transport planes,” the paratroopers took approximately 15 minutes to assemble and move the 900 yards or so to the barrier around the compound.

Los Banos line of amtraks

“After a rapid assembly,” remembered Lieutenant Ringler, “there was only minor enemy resistance, which was eliminated.” Some of the men used a dry riverbed on the edge of the drop zone that angled toward the camp to provide cover as they rushed forward.”

467th Reg. support

“Within 20 minutes of the first shots, the firing seemed to die down. Most of the Japanese guards were either killed or fled to the south and west, away from the incoming paratroopers. All the guards doing their morning calisthenics in an open area to the south of the compound were either killed or scared off.

Los Banos liberation, pic taken by Jerry Sam

“Although most of the sentries and pillboxes had already been silenced, some had to be eliminated by the Company B paratroopers”, remembered Robert A. Wheeler, a 12-year-old internee.

Los Banos evac internee on stretcher

Young internee Bill Rivers remembered, “A whole herd of the damnedest vehicles I’d ever seen, roared into the camp. When I saw the white star with the two bars on each side, I feared that the Russians had somehow rescued us, as I’d never seen that insignia before. But when I heard one soldier profanely order [another soldier nicknamed] ‘Red’ to give him the field phone, I believe I heaved a sigh of relief.”

Dr, Dana Nance & wife, Anna in TN 1939. Only medical doctor in camp

Two of the first men to jump out of the amtracs were General Whitney and his mysterious civilian companion. As Major Burgess recalled, the two men went into the camp and after a short time General Whitney came out carrying “several boxes well tied together containing documents which he deemed to be of considerable military significance. I didn’t believe it at first, but he was really sincere about keeping those boxes together and was with them all of the time.”

USN nurse Dorothy Sill (US Navy pic)

Although the contents of those boxes were never made public, it is believed that the information on the captured papers was used against the Japanese during subsequent war crimes trials.

 

About 9:30 am, 21/2 hours after the Los Baños Raid had begun, Colonel Gibbs and his fully loaded amtracs finally began the slow crawl back to San Antonio and Laguna de Bay. Those people that could not fit in the amtracs began walking back to the beach.

Maryknoll sister before becoming prisoners

Father William R. McCarthy, an internee Catholic priest, remembered those that walked. “Men, women and children followed,” he wrote, “bundles under their arms or dangling from sticks, carrying their scant possessions with them…. With many others we walked over the highway of freedom against a background of flames, as one straw barracks quickly followed another in an all-consuming fire fanned by the morning breeze.”

Registration and temporary housing back at Old Bilibid

Unfortunately, when the Japanese discovered that the Los Baños prisoners had been spirited away from under their very noses, they retaliated against the Filipino residents in the barrio of Los Baños. Shortly after finding the internment camp empty and destroyed by fire, the Japanese rounded up an estimated 1,400 Filipinos, tied them to the stilts holding up their houses, and set the structures on fire.

For these crimes and for others committed against the Filipino people and the internees at Los Baños, Lt. Gen. Fujishige and Warrant Officer Sadaaki Konishi, a brutally sadistic supply officer at the camp, were summarily found guilty by the subsequent war crimes commission and executed.

Sadaaki Konishi – as a POW himself

This was an extraordinary operation , expertly carried out in one day of dramatic courage and cooperation in battle.  Not one person was lost saving 2,122 people.

 

Resources: The Los Baños Raid and History of the 11th Airborne Division, by Gen. E.M. Flanagan Jr.; Rescue at Los Baños, by Bruce Henderson.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Masao Akiyama – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII, ETO, 100th Battalion

Billy Bates – Dallas, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, LT., P-51 pilot

Max Desfor (104) – Rockville, MD; Korea, War photographer, Pulitzer Prize

Ralph Finch – Santa Rosa, CA; US Army, WWII, medic

John Gazo – Windsor, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, 408 “Goose” Squadron, POW

Carlos Hathcock – North Little Rock, AR; USMC, Vietnam, Gunnery Sgt., Silver Star

Gustave Jacobsen – Tacoma, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 gunner 32 missions (Ret. 33y.)

Maureen Lancaster – Norwich, ENG; WRAF, WWII, radio operator

Bernard Madnick – CT & Delray, FL; US Navy, WWII, USS Ellyson

Verrill ‘Sonny’ Worcester – Jonesport, ME; US Army, Vietnam, Iran, Sgt. Maj. (Ret. 22 y.)

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Los Banos (2)

New Bilibid Prison

Heading out from New Bilibid Prison, the group also turned south down Highway 1 and eventually turned off at Mamatid, along the western shore of Laguna de Bay and about five miles above the San Juan River. Here, the entire convoy went into bivouac under a canopy of trees. Major Burgess finally informed the men about the upcoming mission, specifying the role of each company, the engineers, and the two gun crews.

Dry riverbed route to Los Banos

That afternoon the convoy of 54 amphibious tractors of the 672nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Joseph W. Gibbs, moved out. The amtracs had been sitting at the Manila racetrack for a couple of weeks before making the trek southward through the streets.  After traveling along Highway 1 to Muntinlupa, the convoy turned east and crawled into the waters of Laguna de Bay. Traveling southward until just after dusk, Colonel Gibbs led his amtracs ashore near Mamatid to join Major Burgess’s waiting paratroopers, engineers, and artillerymen.

Finally, in the late afternoon, the reinforced Company B paratroopers moved out of New Bilibid Prison. Before the men left, the plan was revealed to them.  Word had come in from Filipino guerrillas that the Japanese were going to execute all the prisoners on the morning of February 23rd.”

Skau and his recon platoon and about 80 Philippine guerrillas moved over to San Antonio, a small shoreline barrio located about one mile east of the village of Los Baños. Leaving a few recon men behind to mark the beach with white phosphorous grenades, the rest of the band headed inland.  “Traveling overland through rice paddies, taking circuitous routes in order to skirt by the various enemy listening posts and outposts, it took us 10 hours to arrive at our objective [i.e. the internment camp],” wrote Terry Santos, the lead scout of the recon platoon.

Filipino guerrillas depicted in art

“Just as we crested the bank of Boot Creek [on the south side of the prison pen],” wrote Terry Santos, “enemy fire erupted at 3 minutes before 0700. This alerted the Japanese gunners in the pillboxes.”

Terry Santos, lead scout, 11th Recon

Charging the positions, two of the four recon men in Santos’s squad were wounded, and one of the 12 Philippine guerrillas with them was hit before two pillboxes were silenced. “Then suddenly a third, unreported machine gun opened fire on us,” Santos remembered. “We spotted this machine gun on a knoll near a large tree overlooking our exposed position. We kept it under fire until B Company troopers reinforced us.”

Nipa-style barracks for the internees.

Up above, the pilots spotted the intended drop zone, a small field to the west of the compound. “As we crossed the edge of the drop zone,” co-pilot Parker stated, “Major Don Anderson ordered the jump.

Picture by Jerry Sam w/ his secret camera.

The Japanese at Mayondon Point, an outcropping just west of San Antonio, fired upon the noisy, incoming horde of amtracs but scored no hits. As soon as the first wave of LVT-4s hit shore, one of Major Burgess’s paratrooper platoons scrambled out of the vehicles and set up a defensive perimeter around the beach. At the same time, the two 75mm pack howitzers were offloaded and went into action, firing at a Japanese position on a hill to the west. The empty amtracs and those in the succeeding waves then started down the road to Los Baños, 21/2 miles away.

To be continued…

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Merrill Bibens – Springfield, VT; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Ward Choate – Timber Pines, FL; US Coast Guard, WWII

courtesy of Cora Metz poster designs.wordpress.cm/, US Army

Marvin Edwards – Jacksonville, FL; OSS, ETO

Louis ‘Honey’ Guidroz – Westwego, LA; US Army, WWII

Malcolm Hayles – Monroeville, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 79th Fighter Squadron, pilot

Allen Koster – Rocky River, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Korea, Annapolis grad., destroyer escorts & Intrepid

Frank Mann – Juneau, AK; US Army, WWII, Lt.Colonel

Charles Pappas – Worthington, MN; US Army, WWII, PTO

Marvin Reynolds – Shell Rock, IA; US Army, WWII

Elsie Thomson – Perth, AUS; AW Army Service, WWII

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Los Banos (1)

Generals Eichelberger and Swing discussing plans of operation on Luzon

“I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid.  It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.”

____ General Colin Powell, US Army, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 25 February 1993

By this time, Everett “Smitty” Smith was an NCO and when I’d asked him many years ago if he was part of the Los Baños Raid, he said, “No, I was occupied somewhere else.” As best as I can find in my research, he was busy with the rest of the 187th near the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion that was commanded by Captain Flanagan. (The captain would later become Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, author of many WWII historical books.) Although Smitty wasn’t at this dramatic feat of the 11th Airborne Division, it deserves any and all the attention it gets.  It is an operation that anyone associated with the division remains proud of to this day.

Lt.General E.M. Flanagan

G-2 Henry Muller was required to collect any and all intelligence that he could, from anywhere he could find it – that was his job.  A grower from Mindanao who had recently traveled south from Manila told him how awful the prisoners of Los Baños were doing.  This was the first Muller had heard of the camp.  It turned out Gen. Swing, commander of the 11th Airborne Division also had not been told about it.  They presumed that being it was outside the area of their orders from MacArthur to be the reason of this lack of info.  But Muller could not forget what the grower had said, “They are in pitiful shape.  They’re dying.”  He had to find out all he could about that camp.

BGen. Henry Muller, Jr., G-2, 11th A/B Div.

During the attack toward Manila, Swing’s staff had been gathering intelligence and drawing up plans for the raid on Los Baños, located 40 miles (other resources say 26 miles), behind Japanese lines. As envisioned, Swing wanted his planners to use both an airborne and amphibious attack. Swing wanted his paratroopers to land near the prison compound and destroy the Japanese garrison while his amphibious force swept across Laguna de Bay equipped with vehicles for transporting the internees to safety. Additionally, Swing felt that a diversionary attack was crucial to draw the Japanese troops away from the camp.

The raid would entail of a four-pronged attack. The 511th PIR Provisional Reconnaissance Platoon under Lieutenant George E. Skau, aided by local guerrillas, would move into an area opposite the camp prior to the strike. Then, simultaneous with a parachute drop of Lieutenant John M. Ringler’s Company B of the 511th PIR and an amphibious landing by Major Henry A. Burgess’s 1st Battalion, minus the airdropped company but reinforced with a platoon from C Company, 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion and two howitzers from Battery D, 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, the recon platoon and guerrillas would eliminate the sentries along the wire.

Jerry Sams at Los Banos. pic taken w/ his hidden camera

While the amphibious force amtracs of the 672nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion rolled up onto the beach from Laguna de Bay and continued toward the camp, the company of paratroopers would link up with the recon platoon and guerrillas and wipe out the rest of the garrison. When the amphibious force reached the camp, it would deploy to the south and west to block any reaction by the Japanese.

Margaret Whitaker helping her mother wash her hair at Los Banos

The fourth force would form a flying column composed of the 1st Battalion, 188th Glider Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Ernie LaFlamme, the 675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 472nd Glider Field Artillery Battalion, and Company B of the 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion and move by road around the southwest end of Laguna de Bay up to the gates of the camp. This force, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert H. Soule and designated “Los Baños Force,” would bring enough trucks with it to carry out all the internees and paratroopers. If the fourth group could not reach the camp, the internees could be ferried out in the amtracs across Laguna de Bay while the paratroopers fought their way out. The raid was scheduled for dawn on February 23, 1945, a moonless night.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Samuel Baney – Houma, LA; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Robert Conway – Lubbock, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 43rd Infantry

Edward Duncan – Clyde, MI; US Army, WWII

Jill Farquharson(102) – NOR; Air Transport Aux. “ATA Girl”, WWII, ETO, pilot

Charles Jonason – Howard Beach, NY; US Navy, WWII

Albert Kirlin – Lincoln, NE; US Air Force, PTO Occupation

Elenor Peat – Dargaville, NZ; RNZ Air Force # W4377, WWII

Wallace Stack – Levittown, PA; US Army, SSgt., 82nd Airborne Division

Paul Tomas SR. Ambry, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Steven Zozaya – Kingman, AZ; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

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Los Banos Raid

Los Banos camp, university building

Los Banos camp, university building

23 February 1945 demonstrated the result of teamwork between General Swing and his troops, the Filipino guerrillas and the intelligence supplied by an escapee of the interment camp of Los Baños, Peter Miles. The man’s photographic memory gave a detailed layout of the prison and the exact sites of the guards and armaments. Mr. Miles had memorized the strict regimental daily routines of the Japanese and the specific times when the guards changed shifts and had their exercise periods, which would put them a safe distance away from their weapons.

By this time, Everett “Smitty” Smith was an NCO and when I’d asked him many years ago if he was part of the Los Banos Raid, he said, “No, I was occupied somewhere else.” As best as I can find in my research, he was busy with the rest of the 187th near the 457th parachute FA Battalion that was commanded by Captain Flanagan. (The captain would later become Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, author of many WWII historical books.) Although Smitty wasn’t at this dramatic feat of the 11th Airborne Division, it deserves any and all the attention it gets. It is an operation that anyone associated with the division remains proud of to this day.

Maryknoll sisters before interment 1942

Maryknoll sisters before interment 1942

href=”https://pacificparatrooper.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/losbanos_07.jpg”>11th set fire to the barracks before leaving 11th set fire to the barracks before leaving[/caption]

Amtracs approaching Los Banos (bottom left of pix)

Amtracs approching Los Banos (bottom left of pix)

[

caption id=”attachment_588″ align=”alignright” width=”300″]Ringler's jungle route Ringler’s jungle route[/caption]Los Banos camp was originally the University of the Philippines Agricultural School. It was situated forty miles southeast of Manila and on this date in history was 26 miles behind enemy lines. This operation needed a multi-pronged attack using each principle of war to the maximum. (The 9 principles will be explained in the following post. It will help explain this complicated operation) Above photo shows actual path taken to sneak to the camp.)

The guerrillas provided intel and also guided Lt. Skau’s reconnaissance platoon into position under the cover of darkness. The army did help supply them with radios, ammunition and food, but the loosely organized groups also later stole the 11th’s supplies, calling it a justified gift.

First Lt. John Ringler was in charge of those troopers who would drop 900 yards from the camp. They made their jump at approx. 500 feet instead of the usual 700-1,000′ since the drop zone was so small and the men would have less exposure time. They made three V’s-in-trail by the nine Douglas C-47s from the 65th Troop Carrier Squadron, 54th Troop Carrier Group. Some of the men ran across open fields to achieve their assigned positions. Ringler and his company went down a riverbed from the northeast (photo) while others came from the south and southeast.

Internees rescued

Internees rescued

Major Burgess went across Laguna de Bay with the amphibious vehicles as the main attacking force. The noisy amtracs slowly made their progress to shore with hopes the enemy had not heard their arrival. Once on the beach, the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion dismounted at San Antonio to defend the area.

Los Banos missionaries reunited w/ their families

Los Banos missionaries reunited w/ their families

On land, Lt. George Skau and his 31-man platoon infiltrated with the Filipino guides and banca crews. (a sailing vessel usually used for fishing and trade) Once the men eliminated the tower sentries and guards, the soldiers attacked and entered the camp. The internees ran into their barracks or ditches when the firing began. One man said that at the start of the war, they were still using WWI materiel, so when they spotted the domed helmets of the troopers, they believed the Germans were there to help the Japanese. When the reality of the situation became apparent to them, the G.I.s had over 2,000 excited and hysterical people to contend with, but many of them were unable to walk. Every moment was crucial as the enemy could arrive at any minute. Sometime during this period, the guerrillas faded back into the jungle.

wounded internee for transport

wounded internee for transport

The 11th Airborne’s G-4 amassed 18 ambulances and 21 trucks to take the 2,122 internees to the New Bilibid Prison, where they would remain for a few weeks before being shipped home to the U.S.. They had been prisoners for three years.

CECIL BARRETT, HERMAN BEABER, LEO STANCLIFF & WILLIE JAMIESON

The 188th had some casualties while confronting the enemy, but not one person was killed during the raid. The story of the Los Banos Raid was downplayed in the newspaper because of the fall of Iwo Jima. Reporter Frank Smith was at the raid, so the story did get out somewhat. (a photo of a headline will be in the following post.)

Internees arrive at Mamatid

Internees arrive at Mamatid

Sister Mary Beata Mackie, after release

Sister Mary Beata Mackie, after release

The Japanese supply warrant officer, Sadaaki Konishi, who actually ran the camp, was able to escape the American raid unharmed. He, along with others of the enemy and the YOIN (Filipinos that were pro-Japanese – makapili) continued to kill and burn the homes of the surrounding population. He was later accused of six counts against the laws of war, tried and found guilty of five charges. Sadaaki Konishi was executed on 17 June 1947.

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