The original evacuation plan had been for a task force made up of men from the 188th Glider Regiment under Colonel Robert Soule to fight their way down National Highway 1 to Los Baños, then evacuate the internees overland to Manila. The amtrac battalion was only to deliver the bulk of Major Burgess' paratrooper battalion, then return to Mamatid empty while the rescuers returned with the internees. After an hour at the camp, however, Burgess determined from the sound of firing that Soule's task force was still at least three hours away from Los Baños. At the same time, he was well aware that thousands of Japanese troops were within striking distance of his location.
At the last minute the plans were changed--Burgess decided not to wait for the task force. The internees were to be evacuated by amtrac, and the paratroopers would return to Manila with Soule's task force. Burgess directed the amtrac commander, Lt. Col. Joe Gibbs, to order his men to load their vehicles with internees, then evacuate them to Mamatid and shuttle back and forth until both the internees and members of the raiding party were all withdrawn to safety.
Organizing the liberated prisoners, most of whom were milling about the camp with little sense of order, was a problem; the internees were ecstatic about being rescued, but were hardly in a mood to fall into any kind of formation. Major Burgess observed that the internees seemed to be drifting in advance of fires that had been started in some of the barracks during the raid, so he ordered his men to set fire to the camp in such a manner that the fires would lead the internees in the direction of the main gate, where the amtracs were waiting.
By 0900, two hours after the commencement of the raid, some order had begun to appear among the internees. Those who could do so had begun the two-mile walk to the beach, while those who were unable to make the hike were loaded aboard amtracs for the journey. After the infirm were evacuated, several amtracs began to aid the walking by providing a lift to the beach.
As the internees moved out of the camp, Major Burgess and his troopers began a systematic search to ensure that all internees were accounted for and that none were still in the camp. The soldiers did as thorough a job as possible. Because many of the Filipino guerrillas disappeared into the jungle after the raid, many Americans liberated at Los Baños never knew to what extent the irregular troops had contributed to their release.
By mid-day, the Soule task force had advanced in the face of enemy resistance to a point just outside Los Baños. By then the evacuation by amtrac was proceeding quite well, as the officers of the task force could see from activities on the lake. Colonel Soule elected to halt his advance at the San Juan River and to maintain a bridgehead in the event the paratroopers had to withdraw by land as planned.
From Los Baños, the internees proceeded to the village of San Antonio, where the head of the marching column arrived at about 1000. From there, the amtracs, filled with evacuees, formed up into columns of three and slid into the waters of the lake for the two-hour journey to Mamatid. While on the lake, several of the amtracs came under fire from Japanese shore positions. Little damage was done, although one amtrac had to offload its cargo of evacuees and be towed to shore by another vessel.
By noon the remainder of the internees and the rear guard of the 1st Battalion had reached San Antonio. Burgess still had not made contact with Soule, nor was he in contact with the 11th Division headquarters. Essentially, he was on his own. Around that time General Swing flew over the beach in a light liaison aircraft. After Burgess advised the general by radio that the raid had been successful and that he planned to evacuate the remainder of the group and his own men with the amtracs that were on their way back to San Antonio, the young major was flabbergasted at his commander's reply: Could he perhaps liberate the entire town of Los Baños, then move west to link up with the 188th and keep possession of the territory they had gained?
Burgess was in the middle of contested territory with what, for all practical purposes, was a raiding party, and with strong enemy forces within easy striking distance. He did not answer the general's request, but after carefully considering his situation, he simply switched his radio off and did not acknowledge that he had received the message.
At around 1500 the last amtrac shoved off from San Antonio with the final load of internees and troops. At Mamatid the internees moved to the former New Bilibid prison, where they prepared for the journey to their homes in the United States and elsewhere.
While the liberation of the internees from Los Baños went off without a hitch, there is a dark epilogue to the story. After the 11th Airborne Division paratroopers left the area, the Japanese moved back in. Ironically, the first Americans to re-enter the vicinity of Los Baños were the same paratroopers who had liberated the camp only days before. What they found in the barrios surrounding the camp this time was both nauseating and pitiful. Whole families had been tied to the stilts supporting their houses, then the dwellings had been set ablaze, collapsing around their helpless former inhabitants. Burgess estimated that more than 1,500 Filipinos had been cruelly killed, evidently in retaliation for the rescue of the internees.
There is some question as to the identity of those who did the killing. The Japanese in the area were reinforced by pro-Japanese Filipino units commanded by Japanese officers and NCOs. Many of the villages in the region were pro-Japanese "Makapili" as well--residents at odds with their countrymen who favored a return to American control.
One Japanese soldier later identified as having played a part in the reprisals in the area--including the murder of an American family that had lived near Los Baños and had not been interned--was Warrant Officer Sadaaki Konishi, the sadistic second-in-command of the camp at Los Baños. After the war, Konishi was implicated by certain Filipinos, tried for his crimes, and then executed as a war criminal.
The following notes and pictures were provided by Freeper Andyman, whose parents were liberated in the raid.
The reference to POWs being killed refer primarily to the massacre at Palawan.
The prisoners knew something was up, some had seen shiny new American dimes months prior to the raid. They knew that Manila was being bombed, and they knew that American forces knew they were there as a couple of American fighters had buzzed the camp in the weeks prior to the raid.
Hearing my parents tell it, and mentioned in some of the books I read, the internees were so slow in going to get what possessions they still had and deciding what they would bring back home that the decision was made to set fire to the dorms to get them moving at all, not just herding them. The internees were on an 800 calorie a day towards the end.
I thought it might be helpful to note that due to the number of internees the amtracks had to make two return trips over Laguna de Bay to pick them up and San Antonio. My mother was in the first group and remembers getting fired on.
One other part is that no casualties are mentioned in your account. One of the remarkable events of the war in my opinion is the fact that all 2,100+ internees were evacuated with only 3 or 4 getting wounded, and they were minor (one got burnt by a shell casing ejected from a .50 cal on one of the amtracks that was returning fire from the shore). The 3 military deaths occurred in the overland task force.
Konishi was recognized as he was on a maintenance detail on a Manila golf course, arrested, tried, and put to death.