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Palawan Massacre. On Palawan Island in the Philippines, Japanese forces anticipating an American invasion pushed 150 American POWs into an air raid shelter, doused them with gasoline, set them afire, and then machine gunned, bayoneted and clubbed to the screaming men to death. Miraculously, eleven escaped to tell their story. Last Man Out: Glenn McDole, USMC, Survivor of the Palawan Massacre in World War II is one of these inspiring accounts of survival and perseverance.
One hundred and twenty-three are now buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.
Nearly 3,000 American POWs had died in Cabanatuan. Further thousands had been transported to Japan for slave labor from the camp. Remaining were the sick and dying.
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The nighttime raid, under the cover of darkness and a distraction by a P-61 Black Widow, surprised the Japanese forces in and around the camp. Hundreds of Japanese troops were killed in the 30-minute coordinated attack; the Americans suffered minimal casualties. The POWs were escorted back to American lines, often with Rangers carrying two emaciated men on their backs. In the end, the rescuers rounded up nearly 60 caribou carts to transport the survivors. The rescue allowed the prisoners to tell of the death march and prison camp atrocities, which sparked a new rush of resolve for the war against Japan when it was made public in March 1945.
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The raid was considered successful—489 POWs were liberated, along with 33 civilians. The total included 492 Americans, 23 British , three Dutch, two Norwegians, one Canadian, and one Filipino. The rescue, along with the liberation of Camp O'Donnell the same day, allowed the prisoners to tell of the Bataan and Corregidor atrocities.
The Great Raid was soon followed by additional successful liberations, such as the raid by the 1st Cavalry Flying Column of Santo Tomas Civilian Internment Camp on February 3, raid of Bilibid Prison on February 4, and the 11th Airborne's raid at Los Baños on February 23.
A poorly worded and inaccurate joint resolution by Congress directed then-President Ronald Reagan to issue a proclamation designating April 12, 1982 as "American Salute to Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Memorial Day".