Bold Rescue On Luzon Frees 513 Ragged Pows
Fifty years ago this month: Part of The Seattle Times series, appearing the first Sunday of each month, highlighting the events and people making the headlines in wartime Washington State. James R. Warren, director emeritus of the Museum of History and Industry, is an Army veteran and former German POW.
On Feb. 1, in a daring raid 25 miles behind Japanese lines on Eastern Luzon Island in the Philippines, 121 Americans and 286 Filipinos of the 6th Ranger Battalion rescue 513 Allied prisoners of war from Cabanatuan camp. Many had been prisoners for more than three years. Hundreds of other prisoners had earlier been transferred to work camps in Japan, and additional hundreds had died of malnutrition and disease.
The enemy guards, surprised by the attack on Cabanatuan, offer little resistance. Nearly 100 POWs, too weak to walk, are carried out on the backs of husky Rangers or ride in carabao carts. The Rangers, returning at night, repulse a Japanese attack by destroying a dozen tanks and killing hundreds of the enemy. Ranger casualties include 27 dead.
The lean, ragged captives arrive at the American camp to a warm welcome from young soldiers fighting to redeem the islands for which the emaciated veterans fought valiantly and hopelessly more than three years before.
Several Seattle men are among those rescued. Marine Sgt. Stanley Bronk, Navy Lt. Knute Engerset and Marine Sgt. Milton Englin are mentioned in the first news release. One of the Ranger officers leading the rescue, Capt. Robert Prince of Seattle, reports several thankful prisoners hugged him.
Manila is taken by allied forces on Feb. 6 and Corregidor on Feb. 26, releasing more prisoners. First Lt. Ethel Thor of Tacoma was one of 69 nurses freed. Civilian prisoners who are reported saved include Mrs. Robert Wabrauschek and daughter Leslie, 5; Donald McCann; John Buttery and his wife, Harriet Rasmussen, and Ben Ohnick, all of Seattle.
Meantime, several in Seattle anxiously await information of loved ones still in captivity, among them Mrs. A.T. Greathouse, whose husband, a lieutenant colonel, is interned in Manila, and Mr. and Mrs. Ray Miller, whose only child, Maxine, was a civilian employee at Cavite when the islands fell.
The Japanese earlier had sent many captured allied officers north to Manchuria to prevent their rescue. Among them are Seattleites Brig. Gen. Joseph Vachon and colonels Donald Hilton, Louis Bowler, Napolean Bourdeau, Ray O'Day, and possibly Loren Wetherby. Also in the Manchurian prison camp are colonels Nunez Pilet of Tacoma and Malcolm Fortier of Spokane and Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright of Walla Walla.
Elsewhere in the Pacific war, carrier planes and B-29s bomb Tokyo several times during the month.
On Feb. 18, U.S. Marines storm ashore on Iwo Jima. Five days later, they raise the Stars and Stripes on Mount Surabachi. However, Japanese resistance is ferocious, and not until March 26 do the last few hundred enemy mount a final suicide attack. They are wiped out by the 5th Marine Division.
The Iwo Jima battle results in 20,500 Japanese dead and 200 taken prisoner. American casualties total nearly 6,000 dead and 17,200 wounded.
Incidentally, one of the first allied aircraft to land on an Iwo airfield just minutes after it is secured is piloted by Marine Lt. Harvey Olson of Seattle.
In the European Theater, the U.S. 8th and 9th Air Forces and the British RAF drop 73,000 tons of bombs on Germany during February. The historic city of Dresden is devastated when incendiaries and high explosives from 245 Lancaster bombers start firestorms on the night of Feb. 13. The next morning 450 U.S. B-17s pummel the city. More than 130,000 people die in the attack, most of them Germans.
On Feb. 4, the Allies announce that all German forces have been pushed out of Belgium, ending the Battle of the Bulge.
From Feb. 4 to 11, the Big Three - Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin - meet at Yalta to discuss final war plans.
Local names in the headlines
Casualty lists grow longer each day. After three years of war, nearly every little town and hamlet in the state has its casualties to mourn. These few examples in February prove the point:
-- Bothell, with a population of 794 in the 1940 census, lost Lt. James Strong, who was killed in Europe, and Pfc. William Hert, killed in the Pacific;
-- Bellevue, which was unincorporated, listed Pvt. William Hart, killed in Europe, and Pvt. William Tiemeyer, wounded in Europe;
-- Kirkland, with 2,084 residents, counted Pvt. Jero Kanetomi, killed in Europe; Seaman George Szento, missing in the Pacific Theater, and S/Sgt. Edward Kardong, killed in France;
-- Medina, unincorporated, reported Pfc. Donald Leach killed in Europe, and
-- Mercer Island, unincorporated, reported Sgt. Richard Jones, taken prisoner in Germany.
The first Marine to command a carrier group is Lt. Col. William Millington Jr., 31, who is in charge of a Corsair squadron on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Millington, the son of a Seattle physician with the Medical Corps in Europe, attended Garfield High School and graduated from the University of Washington in 1936. - Feb. 1.
Lt. Ray Scott is home in Seattle on recuperative leave. His arm had been shattered by a grenade during a German attack on his paratroop platoon in August 1944. He had hid in a farmhouse until morning, then started back toward American lines only to be captured by German infantrymen. After interrogation, he'd been taken to a hospital at nearby Valence, France, where German medics had repaired the wound. Five days later, as he was lying in bed wondering what would happen to him, he had heard the approaching sounds of battle. The Germans had retreated, leaving Scott in the hospital, where American troops found him. He will receive further treatment at the Army hospital at Fort Vancouver. - Feb. 2.
Masako Takayoshi, a nurse, was training supervisor at Harborview Hospital until she and other Japanese Americans were interned in 1942. She accepts an offer to return to her old job and is welcomed by many of her nurse friends, but some sign a petition objecting. Two days after the article appears in The Times, Staff Sgt. Archie Bolon, home on furlough after 33 months in China, Burma and India, tells the newspaper that he has served beside Japanese-American soldiers who fought valiantly. He scolds the nurses who did not welcome Takayoshi back and says: "If they could see the Japanese Americans fighting on our side, they'd change their minds in a hurry." - Feb. 2 and 4.
Lt. John Cosper Jr., of Seattle, is home on leave after escaping from internment in Switzerland. A bombardier on a plane damaged by enemy fighters and flak while over Germany, Cosper acted as navigator and guided the plane to an emergency landing in neutral territory. He was held for seven months before his escape, the details of which are a military secret. - Feb. 4.
Students in four history classes at Lincoln High School establish a memorial at the new King County Blood Bank in memory of Lt. Starr Sutherland Jr., who was recently killed in action in Europe. Sutherland had attended Lincoln, where his father is history teacher and tennis coach. - Feb. 4.
The Relief for Norway Committee is sending 20,000 pounds of new and used clothing, quilts and other articles collected in Seattle to the war-distressed people of Norway. - Feb. 7.
From "somewhere in India," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Douglas Egan, formerly with General Steamship Corp. in Seattle, sends word that he is seeing much of the Far East. He adds: "I look for some great times for Seattle in the postwar shipping world. There should be plenty of trade with the Far East whenever the war quiets down in the Pacific." - Feb. 11.
Virtually every physically qualified man under 30 in Washington, regardless of his technical skill, will be in uniform by July 1, predicts the local Selective Service director. - Feb. 12.
The sinking of a Seattle cargo ship by enemy action adds the names of 24 Seattle merchant seamen to the missing list. A War Department accounting indicates 185 Washington State merchant mariners, 40 of them from Seattle, are war casualties to date. - Feb. 13.
During 1944, the Seattle Division of Todd Shipyards repaired, overhauled or converted to war service 576 ships. The company also built 17 destroyers in Seattle and 11 escort aircraft carriers in Tacoma in 1944. - Feb. 14.
The Women's Victory Corps begins a house-to-house effort to find available rooms in private residences for war workers. - Feb. 14.
Western Union has trained a special staff to deliver War Department casualty telegrams to Northwest homes. Gladys Hoxsie, who has been delivering such telegrams for three years, says: "If it is a woman and she is alone, I ask if she would like to have a member of the family or a neighbor with her when she opens the telegram. If it is a `missing in action' telegram, I say, `Well this isn't as bad as it might be.' " - Feb. 25.
Four Washington State men wounded in the Battle of the Bulge have reached Madigan General Hospital near Fort Lewis. They are Sgt. Archie Hoefer of Seattle, Pvt. Erik Torland of Edmonds, Pfc. Marvin Allen of Selah and Pvt. Dean McFarran of Olympia. - Feb. 26.
-------------- MORE RESOURCES --------------
Most units active in World War II have veterans organizations. If you wish information about an organization, send the name of the unit in which you served and your name, address and phone number to James R. Warren, Seattle Times, Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.
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