Los Banos (1)

Los Banos (1)
// Pacific Paratrooper

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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