The Cabanatuan Prison Raid, The Philippines 1945, Gordon L. Rottman

The Cabanatuan Prison Raid, The Philippines 1945, Gordon L. Rottman

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The Cabanatuan Prison Raid, The Philippines 1945, Gordon L. Rottman

The Cabanatuan Prison Raid, The Philippines 1945, Gordon L. Rottman

This third entry in Osprey's new Raid series is the first to deal with an unfamiliar topic - the rescue of over 500 POWs from a Japanese camp at Cabanatuan on the Philippines in January 1945

As in the first two entries in the series the tightly focused topic of this book allows Rottman to set the raid firmly in context. We start with a look at how the POWs reached Cabanatuan, before moving onto a brief summary of the American return to the Philippines and the atrocities that convinced them that they needed to rescue the remaining prisoners in the camp before they were massacred.

We then meet the main players in the rescue - the guerrilla bands that had kept up the fight during the period of Japanese occupation, the Alamo scouts - a long range reconnaissance unit, and the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion who provided the muscle for the attack.

Only after providing all of this background does Rottman move onto the raid itself, looking at the plan, the march to the camp, the attack itself and the evacuation of the rescued prisoners. This section makes up most of the book.

The balance of Rottman's text makes clear how important the planning and preparation was to the success of the raid - the attack itself only begins on page 49 out of 64, and that doesn't feel at all late. This book also makes it clear just how much the success of the raid depended on the local guerrillas, who guided the Rangers to the camp, protected them on the march, prevented a Japanese infantry battalion from interfering and played a major part in the evacuation (without in any way playing down the achievements of the Scouts or the Rangers).

The result is an engaging account of one of the most successful raids of the Second World War.

Initial Strategy
The Plan
The Raid

Author: Gordon L. Rottman
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2009

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Rescue at Cabanatuan

On 6 May 1942, Lieutenant General (LTG) Jonathan M. ‘Skinny’ Wainwright IV surrendered the last American forces in the Philippines to the Imperial Japanese Army. With that capitulation more than 23,000 American servicemen and women, along with 12,000 Filipino Scouts, and 21,000 soldiers of the Philippine Commonwealth Army became prisoners of war (POWs) . 1 To add to the misfortune, about 20,000 American citizens, many of them wives and children of the soldiers posted to the Philippines, were also detained and placed in internment camps where they were subjected to hardship for years. Tragically, of all the American prisoners in World War II, the POWs in the Philippines suffered one of the highest mortality rates at 40 percent. About 13,000 American soldiers captured in the Philippines died, and many thousands of them were shipped throughout the Japanese Empire as slave laborers . 2

1 Considered by many military historians to be the greatest defeat of U.S. forces in any conflict, the chaotic conditions following the fall of the Philippines make it difficult to accurately account for all American and Allied persons that became captives of the Japanese Army. The problem of accountability was compounded by incidents such as the ‘Bataan Death March,’ and similar acts of mistreatment, as well as the later Japanese policy of relocating prisoners throughout the Japanese Empire to perform slave labor tasks in support of its war effort. Moreover, few records of the early days of the Philippine Campaign survived the war. All these factors combined to make accurate personnel accounting of prisoners and detainees difficult. In addition to the figure of 23,000 American soldiers, sailors, and Marines taken captive in the Philippines, tens of thousands of American citizens, many of them dependent wives and children of the soldiers, were also detained and subjected to the same harsh conditions as prisoners of war. The figures cited are from: Office of the Provost Marshal General, “Report on American Prisoners of War Interned by the Japanese in the Philippine Islands,” 19 November 1945, copy on Internet at: , accessed on 27 February 2017. See also: Louis Morton, The Fall of the Philippines, The War in the Pacific (Washington, DC: GPO, 1953), 454-55, 579-83.

2 Although accurate numbers are difficult to ascertain due to lack of documentation on the part of the Japanese, there have been some studies made comparing pre-war records with wartime and post-war accounting of survivors. The cited 40 percent mortality rate comes from: William P. Skelton III, “American Ex-Prisoners of War,” Independent Study Course, Released: April 2002, Department of Veteran Affairs, Employee Education System, on Internet at: , accessed on 22 March 2017, 11. Robert E. Klein, et al, “Former American Prisoners of War (POWs),” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, April 2005, on Internet at: , accessed on 22 March 2017, 4.The U.S. Army alone counted 25,580 soldiers captured or interned in the Philippines. Of that number, 10,650 died while a POW. Those figures do not include U.S. Navy or Marine Corps personnel, nor civilian detainees. The same source also soberly notes that 30 percent of the captives died in their first year of captivity.

A POW in Cabanatuan Prison drew this sketch of an inmate giving water to a sick POW. (Library of Congress)

The fate of the Americans left behind in the Philippines weighed heavily on the senior leaders who escaped. General of the Army (GEN) Douglas A. MacArthur’s staff closely tracked the status of Allied POWs on the islands. Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) (MacArthur’s Headquarters in Australia) asked several guerrilla units to pinpoint the locations of POWs and internees in the Philippines. They were to establish contact with them and report. This information would be used to develop rescue plans . 3

3 A number of period documents highlighted the need to task guerrilla forces to gain information regarding American prisoners of war (POWs) and details on prison camps. For example, see Staff Study for the Chief of Staff, “Subject: Development of Contact with American POW in Japanese Camps,” 11 December 1943, reprinted in Charles A. Willoughby, Editor-in-Chief, Intelligence Activities in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation, Documentary Appendices (II), Volume II, Intelligence Series (Washington, DC: GPO, 1948), 2-6.

In late 1944, reports of the Palawan POW Camp Massacre traveled quickly to SWPA (see article). The initial information came from the guerrillas who assisted survivors after escaping. The horrific details prompted SWPA to dispatch amphibian aircraft to recover the escapees. Once in Australia, eyewitness accounts of the mass execution caused military leaders to swear to prevent other atrocities. Thousands of other prisoners were still held by the Japanese, including the thousand or so still believed held at Cabanatuan, on Luzon Island . 4

4 For more information on the Palawan Massacre and its influence on increasing the need for rescuing POWs from similar fates, see the preceding article (Michael E. Krivdo, “Catalyst for Action: The Palawan Massacre,” Veritas: Journal of Army Special Operations History (14:1) in this issue. For good secondary source accounts from the survivors’ perspective, see: Stephen L. Moore, As Good as Dead: The Daring Escape of American POWs from a Japanese Death Camp (New York: Caliber, 2016) and Bob Wilbanks, Last Man Out: Glenn McDole, USMC, Survivor of the Palawan Massacre in World War II (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2004).

Jonathan Jones

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The Great Raid

Download or read book entitled The Great Raid written by William B. Breuer and published by Miramax Books online. This book was released on 17 August 2005 with total page 288 pages. Available in PDF, EPUB and Kindle. Book excerpt: The Great Raid film will be showing in theatres across North America starting on August 12, and the screenplay is co-written by Miramax author William B. Breuer and Hampton Sides. The movie stars Benjamin Bratt, Joseph Fiennes, James Franco, Connie Nielsen and Martin Csokas. The Great Raid is a must-have for fans of WWII books. Breuer expands on the information in the bestselling Ghost Soldiers with descriptions of the military efforts of Gen. MacArthur operating from Australia from 1942-1945, and much more on the clandestine operations in Cabanatuan Town. Throughout the book are powerful, first-person recollections from the men who ran the underground operations in the Philippines, as well as the families back home receiving news that their loved ones survived.

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Over the last couple years in the Army, I have become fascinated by military history, especially when it involves Raids. I think every kid who watches a movie of commandos or airborne troopers coming down from the sky, imagine themselves there at the scene. Or perhaps going behind enemy lines and liberating emaciated POWs. Well, this book shows you how the real men got the job done and how forward thinking and initiative allowed the men of the 6th Ranger Battalion to launch one of the most successful liberation's of the Second World War.

It goes from tactics, to firearms and the men behind the operation as well as the Guerrilla element that helped make the op happen. And who knows, perhaps in the future, when the nation is at war with some else, perhaps there will be Major Mucci's and Captain Prince's to liberate POWs held deep in enemy territory.

On 30 January 1945, during the Luzon campaign, an American force made of Rangers and Alamo Scouts who earlier infiltrated behind Japanese lines, attacked a Japanese held POW's camp at Cabanatuan - in the same time a large force of Phlippine guerillas prevented the arrival of any rescue of reinforcements by shredding to ribbons a 1000+ strong battalion of Japanese infantry supported by tanks. Guerillas also later assured the transportation of wounded Rangers and especially of rescued POWs, who were almost all in very, very bad shape.

This raid was made necessary by the atrocities committed previously by the Japanese against allied POWs - there were indeed reasons to believe, that those prisoners would be all massacred once the front line approached to the camp. Also, the POWs were almost all sick and exhausted from years of malnutrition and mistreatments and they were slowly dying - every day their numbers dwindled. In fact, one of rescued sick POWs died a couple of minutes after the camp was captured, literally in the hands of his saviors who were carrying him to safety. Later, once the Japanese retreated, remains of 3000 POWs (including 176 West Point graduates) who died there from malnutrition, disease and bad treatments since 1942 were found in mass graves.

The raid was a huge success as 489 POWs and 33 civilian internees were liberated - two more POWs, both very sick, died before reaching allied lines. Most of Japanese garrison of the camp (200+ regular guards and a small Kempeital unit which just stopped for the night) was destroyed. Two Rangers, Captain James C. Fisher and Corporal Roy Sweezy, were also killed - seven more were wounded. Incredibly, Philippine guerillas, even if they waged a very tough fight against a whole Japanese battalion, escaped without even one man killed - although 21 were wounded.

This book is well written and structured, is very much to the point and gives a lot of details. Lot of things can be learned from this book, like a good description of allied leaders in this raid: Lt Colonel Henry A. Mucci for the Americans and Captain Juan Pajota for the Philippinos. I also learned for the first time what name the Japanese were giving to the guerillas who fought against them - unsuprisingly, it was the same as the one used by the III Reich: "bandits" ("hizoku").

A good point, not always present in other books about this famous raid, is how big a problem were local communist guerillas, the Huks - who fought against the Japanese, the pro-Japanese locals, but also against Philippine government in exile and the Americans. In fact they were at war against the whole world.

Illustrations and maps are good and there are two colour plates by Howard Gerrard, although only the first one is good and interesting - the second one is a waste of place.

Bottom line, this is a good, solid book about an extremely succesful military operation carried for possibly the noblest cause of all - saving completely defenseless and mostly very sick people from certain death. Americans call it "The Great raid" and it probably deserves this title, even if in Europe most people reserve this distinction to the British commandos raid on Saint Nazaire in 1942.

The Cabanatuan Prison Raid: The Philippines 1945

Gordon L. Rottman entered the US Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces and completed training as a weapons specialist. He served in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969–70 and subsequently in airborne infantry, long-range patrol and intelligence assignments until retiring after 26 years. He was a Special Operations Forces scenario writer at the Joint Readiness Training Center for 12 years and is now a freelance writer, living in Texas.

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The Cabanatuan Prison Raid - Gordon L. Rottman



In the early hours of April 10, 1942 Japanese troops herded thousands of US and Filipino servicemen into columns on the southeast end of Bataan Peninsula near Mariveles. Other groups of prisoners were marched from Bagac on the far west side of central Bataan. They were about to begin what was to become the most notorious mass atrocity inflicted on US forces. The morning before, MajGen Edward P. King, Jr., commanding the Bataan Force, had surrendered 11,800 Americans, 66,000 Filipinos, and 1,000 Chinese-Filipinos to LtGen Homma Masaharu of the Japanese 14th Army. These men had been fighting ceaselessly for four months and for the last two had been on half rations or less. They were suffering from malnourishment, beriberi, extreme fatigue, malaria, and dysentery.

These troops, from a peacetime army, had never been taught how to conduct themselves in captivity and naively expected to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. They had no idea what to expect and, with the short notice before their surrender, they had made no preparations.

The Japanese, regardless of assurances of humane treatment during surrender negotiations (one Japanese officer informed the Americans, we are not barbarians ), were inadequately prepared for dealing with so many prisoners. They had expected the battle to continue and for many of the enemy to fight to the death as they would have done themselves. MajGen Kawane Yoshitake, transportation officer for the 14th Army, was given the task of planning the movement of the prisoners. He made preparations for only 25,000 detainees, not the eventual 79,000. Moreover, Japanese officers and soldiers had no idea of their obligations under the Geneva Convention and had been taught to despise Western protocols.

The Japanese plan was to move the thousands of already exhausted, starved, and ill prisoners north to Camp O’Donnell, a former Philippine Constabulary base with inadequate quarters and facilities. They unrealistically planned for the prisoners to carry their own rations and water. The problem was that virtually no rations remained, there was little to carry water in, and most US trucks had been disabled when the surrender was ordered.

What became known as the Bataan Death March threaded up Bataan’s eastern coastal road through the sweltering jungle and sun-baked coastal plain. Surrendering troops had been formed up in scattered assembly areas and units broken up. Chains of command and unit cohesion disintegrated. Men were separated from their buddies and it soon became an every-man-for-himself situation. At different points some prisoners were given a can of food or a little rice. It is not known how many died by the end of that first horrible day. The exhausted prisoners slept in the open amid swarming mosquitoes and were driven to their feet at sunrise. Covering 10–15 miles a day, they were beaten northward to San Fernando, 63.4 miles from Mariveles. It was the dry season, but humidity was high and the temperature reached a scorching 104°F (40°C).

Besides these hardships, the brutalities inflicted on the men by their guards were horrendous and inexcusable. In addition to the lack food and water, no medical treatment was provided and the guards were often violent. Filipino civilians who tried to give prisoners food, water, and aid were driven off. Filthy water and even mud was lapped up from ditches and ruts by prisoners who soon suffered from stomach cramps and diarrhea. Prisoners falling out or unable to get to their feet after the rare breaks were shot or bayoneted on the spot, if not decapitated by sword-carrying officers and sergeants. Japanese troops aboard trucks passing the columns randomly bayonet-slashed and shot prisoners. Often, prisoners attempting to aid others were also killed. If a prisoner was found with Japanese money, mementos, or even items purchased before the war and marked Made in Japan, it was assumed that these had been taken from Japanese dead and so the bearer was butchered. Prisoners died of their previous wounds, dehydration, heat exhaustion, starvation, and from illnesses contracted earlier. In their weakened condition few were able to slip away.

It took five or six tortuous days, depending on where prisoners started from, to reach San Fernando, the men arriving between April 12 and 24. Over that time the wounded and sick still in the hospital were forced out on the death road as they were considered recovered by their captors. There the men were packed in boxcars: 100 into baking hot, fully enclosed cars designed for 40. They traveled 30 miles to Capas with more dying during the four-hour ride. A 7-mile march to Camp O’Donnell followed. All the time they had no idea how far they were to travel, where they were going, or when the nightmare might end.

Some 9,200 Americans arrived at O’Donnell with an estimated 1,200–2,275 dying en route.¹ An estimated 42,800–50,000 Filipinos² made it to the camp, with about 9,000–14,000 perishing. Approximately 2,200 Americans and 27,000 Filipinos died in O’Donnell, where mass burials were daily occurrences and some prisoners even died digging their own graves.

Some 79,000 American and Filipino troops were force-marched up the war-battered Bataan Peninsula for a torturous 64-mile nightmare. Thousands died owing to starvation, illness, fatigue, and outright murder. (US Army)

The Japanese had made virtually no preparations for the Death March, making little food and water available and not even permitting civilians to give it to the staggering prisoners. (US Army)

Contrary to popular perception, the prisoners captured in Corregidor did not take part in the Death March. Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942. On May 11, the 11,000 prisoners were loaded into three freighters bound for Manila. They were paraded through the streets to tout the Japanese victory, demonstrate America’s weakness, and humiliate the prisoners. Crammed into the Old Bilibid Prison³ near the dockyard for two or three days, they were taken by train to Cabanatuan City, and then marched to the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp No. 1. Most US prisoners at O’Donnell were subsequently sent to the Cabanatuan camp, a former training facility of the 91st Philippine Division, between June and September 1942. Prior to serving as a military training camp, it had been a US Department of Agriculture research station dating from the 1920s. For a time it was the largest POW camp in the Philippines, housing 8,000 Americans. Within two months prisoners at O’Donnell began to be transferred to Cabanatuan as the former was gradually shut down. They endured a 7-mile march to Capas still in a weakened, if not a worse state than when they originally arrived. Packed once more into boxcars, they were railroaded to Cabanatuan City and marched 5 miles to the camp. Thousands of prisoners were subsequently sent from Cabanatuan to Japan, Manchuria, Formosa, Korea, and elsewhere in the Philippines as slave labor aboard the hell ships. A final group of over a thousand was shipped off in December 1944 just before the Americans landed on Luzon.⁴

As prisoners departed for unknown fates, one incident encouraged those remaining at Cabanatuan, most of whom were too ill and disabled to travel, many being amputees. Long fearing they were forgotten, in the middle of the month, they witnessed an air battle over the camp, in which a Japanese fighter was shot down. They could not immediately recognize the aircraft or the markings as the US had changed its nationality identification after the Philippines fell, but, using Red Cross parcel playing cards showing Allied aircraft, they identified them as new Navy Hellcats – American aircraft carriers were nearby.

After the first stage of the march, and a railroad ride packed in boxcars, the surviving prisoners marched 7 more miles to Camp O’Donnell. Here prisoners carry those too weak to walk in single-pole litters. Filipino guerrillas used this same type of litter to carry weak prisoners from the Cabanatuan POW Camp three years later. (US Army)

1 It must be noted the numbers of prisoners and their death rates vary widely between authorities. Seldom will two agree.

2 In July 1942 most Filipino prisoners were paroled, but many were simply transferred to labor units.

3 This was the old national prison and now served as the Manila City

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6. THE CABANATUAN PRISON RAID : The Philippines 1945

Book Description Soft Cover. Condition: New. No Jacket. Kozik, Mariusz Gerrard, Howard (illustrator). First Edition. [2009] New First Edition First Printing of Raid 3. 64pp. Ilstd. On 27 January 1945 the 6th Ranger Battalion and the 6th Army Special Reconnaissance Unit (the Alamo Scouts) began the most dangerous and important mission of their careers to rescue 500 American, British and Dutch prisoners-of-war held at a camp near Cabanatuan. This daring plan was fraught with difficulties - the rangers had to struggle with harsh jungle terrain, 30 miles behind enemy lines against a far larger force, knowing that if their secret mission was leaked, the POWs would be massacred by their captors. Yet, with the help of a Filipino guerrilla force, they managed to liberate 513 prisoners and kill 225 Japanese in 15 minutes, while only suffering two losses themselves. Relive the dramatic rescue in this action-packed account, complete with bird's eye view and battle scene artwork. Gordon Rottman details the build-up to and execution of the operation, analyzing the difficulties faced and the contribution made by the guerrillas. This is a story not only of extraordinary military success but a compelling tale of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Pictorial card covers. Clean bright tight unmarked. For full appreciation see pictures. Order with confidence - trusted seller with excellent customer feedback. *PayPal* Accepted. Seller Inventory # 026930

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