Cabanatuan rescue


    WE commend Roman T. Romulo, representative of the lone district of Pasig City and chair of the committee on basic education and culture of the House of Representatives for filing House Bill No. 5791 which seeks to mandate the instruction of World War II in higher education in the Philippines.

    Romulo filed his proposal last December 2019. One of the events that should be covered in WW2 history for Filipinos was the Liberation of the Pangatian Prisoner of War Camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ejica: “Things were rather quiet until about 2000 hours on January 30, 1945, when sudden gunfire from outside the camp wiped out all of the Japanese guards in the towers. It was MacArthur’s 6th Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Henry Mucci – aided by guerrillas – walking into camp. They quickly obtained carabao carts and sleds for the bedridden prisoners.

    “That evening 511 internees were moved many miles down the road to the west in the moonlight with hardly a shot fired. Early the next morning they arrived at a transportation center, where prisoners were placed aboard trucks and ambulances and taken to Lingayen Gulf; then they were transferred to planes and flown to Manila. After suffering from more than three years of intentional neglect by the Japanese Imperial Army, they were finally ‘free men.’”

    No prisoners were lost in the operation; there were two casualties among the Rangers: Capt. James Fischer, the doctor, was killed by mortar fire near the main gate of camp. Cpl. Sweezy died from wounds.” [Colonel Eugene C. Jacobs. Chapter VII: Americans! Blood Brothers: A Medic’s Sketch Book. NY: A Hearthstone Book, 1985]
    The triumphant raid was part of the Battle of Luzon. “Following Sixth Army’s unopposed landing on Luzon on 9 January 1945, American forces raided the Japanese prison camp at Cabanatuan. The attack marked the high point of cooperation between Rangers, guerrillas, Alamo Scouts, and conventional American combat units. Ever since Lapham had notified Sixth Army of the camp’s existence soon after the landing on Luzon, Krueger and his staff had been concerned about the situation of the prisoners there. When Sixth Army’s spearheads were within 24 miles of the camp, Krueger’s intelligence chief, Col. Horton White called in Mucci and three scout team leaders and assigned to them the mission of freeing the prisoners. After the scouts went ahead to reconnoiter the position, a reinforced company of 107 Rangers infiltrated Japanese lines near Guimba in the early afternoon of 28 January. Guided by the guerrillas, the Rangers hiked through forests and open grasslands, narrowly avoiding a Japanese tank on the national highway by following a ravine that ran under the road. At Balincarin on the 29th, 1st Lt. Thomas Rounsaville and 1st Lt. William Nellist of the scouts notified Mucci of heavy traffic around the compound, causing the Ranger chief to postpone the raid until the evening of the 30th. While the Rangers rested at the village of Platero, the scouts conducted further reconnaissance from a nipa hut across the road from the camp.

    “The skillful reconnaissance and careful planning paid off in a swift, well-executed attack.

    In the early evening of the 30th the Rangers began their approach march, crawling across the last mile of open rice fields to take up a position on two sides of the camp. While one platoon, on signal, eliminated the guards in the rear and on one side of the stockade, another broke through the main gate to rake the garrison’s quarters with automatic fire, and a third broke into the prisoners’ section and liberated the astonished captives, most of who had to be carried to freedom. Within half an hour the Rangers had destroyed the installation, killing about 200 Japanese guards and rescuing over 500 prisoners at the cost of two dead and seven seriously wounded. Covered by the guerrillas, who stopped an enemy relief effort northeast of the camp, the column of Rangers and liberated prisoners finally reached friendly lines by the following morning. The feat was celebrated equally by MacArthur’s soldiers, Allied correspondents, and the American public, for the raid had touched an emotional nerve among Americans concerned about the fate of the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.” [David W. Hogan, Jr. Chapter 4: Special Operations in the Pacific.

    U.S. Army Special Operations in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1992]

    The Cabanatuan Raid was counted among the Allied victories 75 years ago. “While the 40th Division was engaged with the enemy in the hills to the west of Highway 3, the 37th Division was continuing to consolidate its forces along the line San Rafael–La Paz and was patrolling aggressively south to the Bamban River and toward Cabanatuan to the east. The 145th and 148th Infantry Regiments of the 37th Division launched an attack to the south on 26 January. That afternoon, troops moving along the route La Paz Concepcion–Magalang, to the east of Highway 3, reached the outskirts of Angeles which was secured the next day against sporadic resistance, and patrols sent on to Mexico. Simultaneously, on 27 January, elements of the 40th division attacked and captured Clark Field Runways No. 1 and No. 2 and continued the attack to secure the entire Clark Field area. On 28 January, heavy enemy resistance was being encountered throughout Fort Stotsenburg, although all of the Clark Field airfields had been captured.” [Sixth United States Army. Report of the Luzon Campaign. 09 January 1945-30 June 1945. Vol. IV. The Engineer]

    It was also in that Nueva Ecija town where activists raised the alarm against the onrushing Fascist threat seven years prior to the Great Raid: October 30, 1938. At another Communist Party meeting in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Maximo Gutierrez warned of the danger of Japan’s “barbaric invasion” of China being extended to the Philippines, and charged that Benigno Ramos is “too sympathetic” to Japan. [Hartendorp, A. V. H. (Ed.). (1938). News Summary. Philippine Magazine, 32 (12), 553-555]

    We commend Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte (Representative, Quezon City, 6th District) and his colleague Cong. Manuel DG Cabochan (Magdalo Party-list) for having filed House Bill No. 5123 (“An act mandating the instruction of readings in Philippine History II: World War II in the Philippines in senior high school last October 2019. One of the readings should be about the Great Raid at Cabanatuan. “The attack was launched on the night of 30 January 1945. Within 30 minutes the entire Japanese garrison had been wiped out and the last prisoner removed from the prison area. The Rangers’ return was covered by a guerrilla delaying action which successfully fought off approximately 800 enemy reinforcements sent to assault the strategically placed roadblocks. Meanwhile the litter patients from the camp were transported by guerrilla-organized carabao cart train to Sibul Springs, whence they were evacuated to a hospital at Guimba.”


    Filipinos should also observe the annual International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust: January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. []