Tuesday, December 19, 2023

December 14, 1944, Palawan Massacre

Plaza Cuartel Park
main square next to
the Palawan Survivors
Memorial (POW Camp 10A).
It was not rain that dampened their skin. It was airplane fuel. Buckets of it were tossed on the 150 emaciated POWs hunched down in narrow air raid trenches. The Japanese guards quickly followed with torches to light the men on fire.

The trench with the officers was the first to be set ablaze. The POWs in two other trenches tried to escape. But if grenades did not stop them, then the machine guns that had been positioned outside did. Wounded survivors were tortured by having their fingers and toes set afire. Their begging to be shot provoked more laughter from their tormentors.

If a man somehow made it past all the attacks, he was hunted down and killed. Of the 30-some who tried to escape the conflagration, only 11 actually were able to swim across the bay to be rescued by Filipino guerillas.

Such was the December 14th afternoon at Puerto Princesa, on the Philippine island of Palawan facing the South China Sea. The POWs had been there since August 1942. They were Marines, soldiers, tankers, and airmen captured months before when Bataan and Corregidor fell.

With only hand tools and one wheelbarrow they cleared the jungle and broke up the coral to build an airfield for the Imperial Japanese Army. Today, the airstrip they constructed rests below the Antonio Bautista Air Base, an important anchor of the U.S.-Philippines alliance and focal point for joint maneuvers with Japan.

It may be by coincidence that the Japanese selected December 14th to murder the POWs. And maybe not. For on December 14, 1799, George Washington died at his Mt. Vernon home after five decades of service to his country.

To learn more about the Palawan Massacre read Last Man Out or As Good as Dead.

Most important, please leave a tribute or a flower at the Find A Grave site for the Palawan Massacre. Most of the men are buried in a mass grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in Missouri. Click here for the virtual memorial.

Never Forget

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