At noon on December 14, 1944, 150 American POWs building an airstrip on Palawan Island in the Philippines were sent to their recently constructed air raid trenches. Quickly, the Japanese troops doused them with buckets of airplane fuel and set them afire with flaming torches, followed by hand grenades and machine gun fire. Miraculously, 11 men escaped to the sea and were rescued by Filipino guerrillas.
Don Schloat (d. 2010), a San Diego artist and veteran who was a prisoner at the camp before the mass murder there, was the driving force behind a 2009 memorial at the site of the killings. With the help of the municipal government of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital, a permanent monument now graces a city park to honor the men who were slain (above).
The site of the massacre actually has had a small monument that displays the names of the handful of survivors — Schloat’s name is mistakenly included — but there had been no official memorial to those who were killed.
The new one is a simple obelisk with bronze faceplates that tells the story of what happened and bears the names of the men who died there. A bronze statue created by Schloat sits atop the memorial. It depicts a tortured male figure writhing in pain as flames rise from his feet.
Schloat had been an Army medic at Bataan before being imprisoned at Palawan early in the war. Nearly two years before the massacre, Schloat tried to escape but was quickly captured and sent to Bilibid, a POW camp in Manila.
He spent the rest of the war there, racked with dysentery, beriberi, pellagra and scurvy. He learned of the massacre after he was liberated Feb. 4, 1945.
For an accurate accounting of all the POWs who were killed and survived see HERE.