It’s been called the textbook operation of World War II. It was the greatest prison rescue ever; over 2000 prisoners of war liberated and not one them or their liberators killed. Unbelievably, the liberation of Los Banos prison camp by the 511th Parachute Regiment and Hunter’s Philippine Guerrillas went largely unheralded. To share the story of this amazing operation, the MacArthur Memorial hosted Jeremy Holm, author of When Angels Fall: From Toccoa to Tokyo, the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II.
The February 1945 raid to rescue prisoners of war is considered the model for an airborne operation. The History Guy remembers the Raid on Los Baños during World War II.
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Col. Henry A. Burgess US Army 11th Airborne WWII Battle of Manila & Raid on Los Banos 1988 Reunion of Airborne and POWS Internees of Los Banos Interment camp Manila Philippines. 1942 to 1945 History is what is remembered.
Cpl. Terry Santos was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on 10 October 1921. Upon joining the Army, he underwent basic training at Fort Ord, California. After completing basic he volunteered for the still-new parachutists, better known today as paratroopers.
After graduating from jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, Terry volunteered for special warfare training which comprised training in special weapons, Morse code, semaphore, and sailing. Completing the course, he was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division which was headquartered at Camp Mackall, North Carolina.
When the 11th AB sailed for New Guinea, Terry volunteered to serve with the famous Sixth Army Alamo Scouts and received jungle training, hand-to-hand combat training and all infantry weapons training on New Guinea. After graduating from the program's 4th Class, Terry rejoined the 11th Airborne for the division's brutal and bloody Leyte and Luzon campaigns.
For full details on the 11th Airborne's history, please visit http://www.511pir.com.
While he was a legend within the division among the Angels, Terry is best known for his role in the 11th Airborne's historic raid on the Los Baños Internment Camp where as one of the division's recon scouts Terry helped neutralize the Japanese guards and rescue 2,142 men, women and children and escort them back to safety on Amtracs across Laguna de Bay. This audio-recording interview is of particular interest to those learning about the raid as Terry relates in detail an intriguing tale of the operation.
For his part in the raid, Terry was award the Silver Star, America's third highest decoration for valor.
After the war, Terry returned home and attended San Francisco State University on the G.I. Bill and became a hydraulic engineer.
In 1988, Terry and his fellow Alamo Scouts were awarded the Special Forces Tab recognizing the unit as a forerunner of the modern Special Forces.
18 years later, in 2006 the eighty-five year old Terry was leaving a restaurant in broad daylight when a mugger approached to jump the retired Angel. Reacting with instincts honed through weeks behind enemy lines, Terry brought his cane up and crushed the man's "vitals", then proceeded to pummel him with the cane. A passerby called the police and when they and the medics arrived, the only one to need medical attention was the mugger who had broken ribs and crushed kneecaps.
When the astounded officers asked Terry if he did the damage, he responded, "No, my cane did."
Terry died died of pneumonia on April 3, 2020, in San Francisco, California, just six months shy of his 100th birthday. He was the last living member of the 11th Airborne Division's famous Recon Platoon, or "Ghost Platoon". Terry Santos was the last surviving member of the 11th Airborne Division's Reconnaissance Platoon.
Audio from the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Fred served in World War II as a paratrooper in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment from Camp Toccoa to Tokyo. During the war, Corporal Stafford trained on New Guinea and then fought on Leyte and Luzon in 204 days of combat.
Elements of Fred's 511th PIR earned several unit citations, including the Presidential and Filipino Presidential Unit Citations. They were chosen by General MacArthur to be the first unit into Japan and to guard both himself and the docks used by the dignitaries during the surrender ceremonies onboard the USS Missouri.
For more information, visit www.511pir.com.
Richard fought in World War II with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division. After completing parachute training at Fort Benning, Richard trained with the regiment on New Guinea and then fought in the Angels' vicious campaigns on Leyte and Luzon, including the retaking of Fort McKinley and participating in the famous raid on Los Banos. He was wounded after the Aparri Operation and evacuated on a hospital ship to San Francisco then was discharged.
Jim Holzem was a part of the 511th Paratrooper Regiment in the pacific theater and participated in the Los Banos Raid. He then transferred into military intelligence before the end of the War.
Music: YouTube Community Library 'Grass'
Special thanks to: The Frontiers of Flight museum in Dallas, TX
"Each reel shows U.S. POW and civilian internees, recently released from Japanese camps in the Philippines, being interviewed. In addition, reel 1 shows facilities in a hospital tent and nurses taking temperatures; reel 2 shows cases of jungle rot; reel 3 shows explosions in Manila as pockets of Japanese resistance are mopped up, and liberated civilian internees mingling with U.S. troops in the streets of the city; reel 4 shows an officer, in the course of interviewing an internee, diving for cover as an artillery shell explodes nearby; reel 5 shows internees being transported by truck to an airfield where they are loaded on planes bound for the U.S., and internees explaining how articles were hidden from the Japanese in wooden legs and radio sets; reel 6 shows U.S. troops advancing through a town and along a road, internees being evacuated from a camp by truck and amphibious vehicle, and the sick and injured being transferred from such vehicles into ambulances; and reel 7 shows a girl duet singing to the liberated internees."
National Archives Identifier: 13722
BPR 1083 Interviewing Philippine Internees 1945
War Department Bureau of Public Relations film, no. 1083
WWll Personal Stories of Civilian POW's from Santo Tomas, Los Banos Prison Camps in the Philippines. 1941 to 1945 Stories of survival and camp life and rescue by Liberators U S Army, Air Force & Navy.
Part 2 Internees and Liberators Personal Stories
Part 1 is Keynote Speaker Claude A Buss.
Recorded in 1988
To learn more about The Los Baños raid and the 11th Airborne Division in World War II, please consider purchasing a copy of our books on the Angels: