The Los Baños Prison Camp Raid
(The Philippines 1945)
by Gordon L. Rottman
This book is number 14 in the Osprey Raid series.
Usually I give my opinion after I present the Review; however, I’m compelled to say right up front that the author did a fantastic job writing this book. It reads like a novel, unfortunately it was real life/war. I believe it would’ve made a great movie.
The book is broken down into seven sections: The Introduction, Origins, Initial Strategy, The Plan, The Raid, Analysis, and Conclusion. The author begins by explaining that this rescue was more spectacular, but less publicized than the Cabanatuan and it was overshadowed by the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima on the same day. The Los Baños Prison Raid was masterfully planned and almost flawlessly executed and the fate of 2,100 men, women and children hung in the balance.
The Introduction is broken down into two subsections: The Philippines Go to War and Los Baños Internment Camp. In these subsections the author gives a little background as to what ensued after the attack on Pearl Harbor as far as 9,000 Americans living in the Philippines. Eventually 7,000 were sent to Santo Tomas University in central Manila, where they were incarcerated until the Los Baños internment camp was made ready. The author mentions the different commandants and their varied approach toward their prisoners.
Eventually in July 1944, Maj. T. Iwanaka arrived and his rule proved to be brutal toward the internees. At the Los Banos internment camp the prisoners lived with inadequate sanitation facilities, the water supply was contaminated, the food sources were insufficient, and the camp was infested with lice and bedbugs. The rice paddies were a breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitos. Here the author includes a detailed illustration of the entire camp.
Origins – MacArthur’s famous promise, “I shall return…” came true after taking four months to secure the rescue of the internees of Cabanatuan and Santo Tomas. The author briefly discusses the raids that took place. Their concern now turns to the 2,130 internees at Los Baños, which is 30 miles south of Manila.
Strategy – In this section the author covers the approach to Los Baños, the situation and condition of the internees there. He describes the bravery of several of the internees who sneaked out of the camp, linked up with guerillas for passage to the Americans to give vital and pertinent information for the raid. At this point you feel like you’re reading a novel. He goes onto discuss the background of the 11th Airborne Division, their deployments and state of readiness or lack thereof.
In the Plan detailed explanations as to what type and how many battalions will be needed for the rescue are discussed. Due to continued fighting some Battalions could not be spared, some were scattered assisting other units, and yet others suffered too many casualties. He also discusses the type of artillery that was available.
The author takes you through the selection process for the men chosen for this mission. In the Mission Planning all phases are discussed including the different groups with various qualifications and equipment. In the Final Plan – 7 US Forces will be involved. Here it is learned that the enemy plants to execute the inmates while the US military is hurriedly finalizing the new rescue plan. An operations area map of the Los Baños Raid is included here. In the Objective the author gives a thoroughly vivid detailed description of the entire layout of the internment camp including the terrain. The enemy’s physical condition, strength in numbers and equipment positions are brought to light in this section.
The Raid is divided into seven subsections:
· Initial Deployments a list of Raid Task Forces as of 2/23/45; an organizational command chart of the Los Baños Task Force as of 2/23/45 and Parachute Amphibious Forces; the Soule Diversionary Task Force as of 2/22 – 2/24/45 is provided.
· The Attack – is written step by step as all the Forces converged on the the camp. Included in this section is a two page map spread showing the liberation as it commenced on 2/23/45.
· Success and Evacuation – here the author describes the camp, the inmates various emotions and behaviors. Once again giving step by step details of the massive evacuation including what went right and didn’t. The author also includes a two page color illustration of the evacuation together with actual photographs.
· Soule Task Force Actions – this is a brief overview is given of Col. Soule’s position and some of the diversionary tactics he utilized to minimize casualties.
· Withdrawal- The Return – is a very brief section but the author is long on getting you the reader to feel their emotions.
· Analysis is exactly that, a reflection in hindsight of what went right, what went wrong and what could’ve gone wrong and been disastrous. Even the best laid plans are only as good as the circumstances allow. It makes you appreciate the excellent US military training and the fine soldiers who are able to ‘think on their feet.’ Sometimes with all the planning it just boils down to being in the right place at the right time.
· Conclusion – What was originally feared is exactly what took place. The Japanese massacred over 1000 Filipino civilians in retaliation. Some quit because of this disturbing information is learned here.
This covered what seems to be all aspects of this raid and more. Even the irony found in the Postscript is interesting.
Paperback: $18.95 PDF $15.16 ePub $15.16