(How the Hunters lived and died rescuing POWS in Los Baņos)
By: Colonel Frank B. Quesada, USA, Ret.


Pre-Landing Preparation

Col Eleuterio (Terry) Adevoso, [PMA Class '44] Overall CO of the Hunters ROTC Guerrilla, set up its general staff headquarters in Nasugbu, Batangas, some 80 miles, southwest of Manila Bay, composed of the following:

Order of Battle
Col E. Terry Adevoso----------------- Overall Commander
Col Frisco San Juan [PMA '44]---------Chief of Staff
LtCol Jaime Ferrer--------------------G-1
LtCol Marcelo Castillo [USNA '35]-----G-2
LtCol Rigoberto Atienza---------------G-3
LtCol Willie Nomfort------------------G-4
LtCol Gustavo Ingles [PMA '45]--------Inspector General
LtCol Juan Daza-----------------------Chief District Intel
Maj Ambrosio Liwanag------------------Sp. District Intel
Maj Dionisio Sebial-------------------Dist. Spl. Troop Cdr
Capt Did Foz--------------------------Gen. Hqtrs. Troop Cdr.

Combat Teams
44th Regiment--------------led by LtCol Mike Ver [PMA '44]; Co-founder of the Hunters, was killed in action before the Los Baņos action.
44th Provincial Regiment--LtCol Tereso Pia
45th Regiment-------------LtCol Honorio Guerrero
              ExO---------Maj Emy Casas
46th Regiment-------------LtCol Vic Estacio
              ExO---------Maj Jaime Piopongco
47th Regiment-------------LtCol Emmanuel de Ocampo
              ExO---------Maj Eufracio Villanueva [PMA '44]
47th Regiment, Manila-----LtCol Hermie Atienza
              ExO---------LtCol Alberto de Joya
48th Regiment-------------LtCol Jose Borja
48th Spl Regiment---------LtCol Leopoldo Coronel
48th Spl Regiment---------Maj Godofredo Carreon [Gen. Swing's Own Guard, PMA '44]
49th Regiment-------------LtCol Juanito Ferrer [PMA '44]
49th Spl Regiment---------Maj Calixto Gasilao
Spl. Intel. St. Michael---Maj G. de Guia

Other Special Intel Net
Spec. Cdtr. Intel Net-----Capt. Frank Quesada [Associate, PMA Class '44, Los Baņos site]

Other intelligence nets, all of them PMAyers Class '44 are:
LtColonels Victor Punzalan and Pedro Galvez in Pangil, Laguna;
Daniel Adea and Benites Roque in Paete, Laguna
Jose Perlas in Sta. Rosa, Laguna
Domingo Alcasid in Calamba, Laguna
Capt. Antonio Nieva, Lancer Net in Quezon province
Maj Mauro Caballes [PMA Class'45] in Pagsanjan, Laguna

Note: The full Order of Battle including all the names of the men of Hunter Units could not be listed here owing to lack of space.

Joint Liberation Effort

The Hunters, 45th, 47th, 48th and the 49th Regiments awaited for the landing of the liberation forces of the US 11th Airborne Division, led by Maj Gen J. M. Swing in Batangas province.

On October 20, 1944, Gen MacArthur personally waded ashore at Palo, Leyte along with Philippine Pres. S. Osmena and his Cabinet members of the exiled Philippine Commonwealth - with the allied liberation force.

Guerrillas were ordered to increased harassment activities against the enemy to put more pressure on them, likewise to keep them on the run while allied liberation forces landed in Luzon and other islands.

8th Army's Landing in Nasugbu

Finally, the US 8th Army landed in Nasugbu on January 31, 1944 led by LT. Gen. Robert Eichelberger with the 11th Airborne Division, were met by Adevoso and LtCol Juanito Ferrer, Co of the 49th Hunters Regiment without much resistance on the beach.

From Nasugbu, the liberators mounted a joint-liberation campaign in southern Luzon and the drive for Manila from the southern corridor.

6th Army Landing in Lingayen

In northern Luzon, the US 1st Cavalry Division landed in Lingayen, Pangasinan, Luzon -- in a racing contest with the 11th Airborne in the south retake to Manila, consequently culminated in the dramatic rescue of all the 3,700 American POWs imprisoned at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila by the US Cavalry assisted by Filipino and Chinese guerrillas.

Hunter's Quest - Los Baņos POWs

Long before arrival of the US liberation forces, the Hunters had clandestine intelligence operations that gathered precise inside information about the POWs in Los Baņos and their enemy guards. Many prisoners were long-time friends of Hunter families before the war.

Los Baņos was within the operational area of the 45th Hunters Guerrilla Regiment under Col. H. K. Guerrero and Inspector Gen. Col. Gustavo Ingles.

Early in 1943, the Hunters have hatched its own rescue plans for the POWs, however, they badly needed coordination and logistics from the US liberation forces to ensure safety of the POWs and success of the rescue.

Soon after the landing of the US liberation forces in Nasugbu, the Hunters updated its plans for the rescue of the POWs in Los Baņos. The US Army had also earlier learned of the Los Baņos POWs and from previous Hunter's intelligence reports.

Intelligence Preceding Rescue

This author, having several friends in Los Baņos, also being quite familiar with the terrain, was dispatched by Adevoso to Los Baņos on a detached-specifical intelligence mission to consolidate the flooding stream of valuable information about the POWs and the enemy guards.

There were a wealth of intelligence items coming from several clandestine units operating in the area [i.e. the Mary Mendoza-Josefa Escoda-Concepcion Iniguez sorties, Col. R. Price a.k.a Romeo Espino, the Espino and his brothers [Gustavo and Arturo] of the PQOG guerrilla from professors of the UP College: Cedana, Pantaleon and Iniguez, not to leave out the civilian sources comprised of the Paelmo, Palis and Deang families, and the integrated USAFFE guerrilla intelligence net under Col. Gaudencio Tobias [PMA Class'41]. A flowing stream of information was more than enough to equip rescue planners in conceiving a masterful plan of rescue.

Master Plan Conceived

All these were consolidated for consideration of the US 11th AB and Guerrilla headquarters. Intelligence reports were validated by the Hunter's G-2, Col. Marcelo "Middy" Castillo, [US Naval Academy Class '35] assisted by Col. Roberto Atienza, G-3, who would later be chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines after WW II.

My pre-war college chums, Phil Avancena, R. Aquino and relatives in Los Baņos provided me adequate cover while dodging Japanese spies and troops. I was very lucky to remain unscathed operating inside enemy lines. I never had to sleep in a place twice being hunted by enemy spies.

However, my other comrade, Maj. Daud Mancon of the Markings unit was ambushed earlier by the Japanese spies [the Makapilis] on his way from Calamba to Pansol, but went down gloriously taking dead aim at least four of the enemy before he passed on.

Local Operatives

Local operatives all made my job a bit easier operating in Los Baņos and adjacent towns of Bay and Calauan, Laguna while sorting out and revalidating intelligence reports. Other chums Maj. Cesar Jacinto, Cpl. Jovenal Tan of Bay, Capt. Arsenio Marfori and Cpl. F. Celino of Calauan, Laguna were also quite helpful in putting up more nets that were sources of information and of the courier's relay complex.

It was also quite a perilous job of interfacing with aloof members of the Bureau of Constabulary [the unit under close Japanese supervision] in Calauan, however, which were found to be sympathetic to their resistance movement. This penetration was made possible by Col. Agapito Heredia, Sr. [a fellow alumnus of the PMA Class '41], who brainwashed his men and later brought the whole company of turn-coats, including their arms to join the guerrillas.

Col. Ingles - Overall Coordinator

Adevoso had earlier directed Hunters Inspector Gen., Col. Gustavo Ingles [PMA '45] to act as overall operations coordinator of the Los Baņos POWs rescue in collaboration with the 11th Division. Precise intelligence, authentic maps, sketches, and overlays on the AMS map were produced, expertly developed by Ingles that were dispatched to the rescue planners at headquarters.

In the same token, crack Hunter women guerrilla operatives [led by Lt. Cristina Figueroa] successfully smuggled out as much information from the POW camp, which they hid in their undies while they passed through enemy checkpoints and sentries.

The 11th Airborne Expertise

Those precious information were shared with the General Staff of Gen. Joseph M. Swing of the 11th Henry Muller, G-2 and Col. Douglas Quandt, G-3 and other staff as the top planners, who fine-tuned the final strategy of the assault-rescue. It culminated into a very detailed meticulously planned wonderful air-sea and land joint liberation of the POWs.

POWs Escapees Joined Ingles

Just before the rescue, a few POWs in contact with Col. Ingles escaped from the internment camp and joined Ingles. They were: Bob Schaefer, Peter Newsome, George Gray and Zervoulakus - who had a brother Tony, in the Hunters guerrillas.

Newsome would later be awarded the Order of the British Empire by King George after the war for his daring guerrilla activities that help liberate the Philippines.

POWs: Peter Miles and George Gray were able to slip out of the camp and helped verify the latest camp guard movements, strength and fortification, etc. which were provided for Ingles.

Never had an operation afforded so much prim and accurate intelligence that helped top-planners at headquarters to meticulously employ air-sea and land units that would participate in a well-laid raid calculated to ensure success.

Hunter's Guerrillas Exploits

Noteworthy of mentioning, the Hunters had many successful experiences and expertise in storming and liberating fellow guerrillas from the enemy jails in the immediate past. And by no means the Los Baņos rescue operation was not their first, but was a cinch - and a piece of cake, so to speak. They were formidable and quite familiar with the terrain of their staging areas in each of their assaults, which had the support of the townspeople.

As a matter of fact, it was not too long in the past when Col. Ingles himself and Raul Manglapuz [Associate PMA Class '44] who would later be Secretary of Foreign Affairs after the war, were rescued and freed by the Hunter's earlier raid of Muntinglupa National Penitentiary in Rizal, along with 200 other prisoners, shortly before the allied forces returned to the Philippines.

Ingles would play a pivotal role in the whole Los Baņos rescue after surviving the barbaric torture chambers of the notorious death cells of the "Airport Studio" and "Fort Santiago" under the dreaded Japanese "Kempei Tai" [Military Police] in Manila. Very few survived captivity in those execution cells of captured prisoners. The mere mention of "Fort Santiago" in those days meant execution of prisoners.

Jittery Enemy POW Guards

It was verified by intel-operatives that enemy guards received a standing secret order to massacre all the POWs if and when the allied liberation and guerrilla forces are approaching Los Baņos.

Guards appeared very jittery about the surging battle victories of the allied forces in Luzon. As a matter of fact, sorties of US observation planes had already been flying near the vicinity of the POW camp.

Somehow, the enemy could sense their impending defeat and they grew more abusive against the POWs and innocent civilians in the town. Guards also suffered lack of food and supplies. Food rations of the POWs were almost depleted. And the Japanese even took away whatever was previously left to the prisoners.

Precise Intelligence Uncovered

The Simbu [Japanese] defense line in Southern Luzon was in near collapse. And the order of massacre of the POWs had been activated. The appointed day and hour was left to the discretion of the camp commander. This was prime intelligence which was verified by planted agents inside the POW camp.

Ingles, in turn, immediately reported the information to Adevoso, by radio, who in turn, relayed it to the 11t AB and Guerrilla Command headquarters for immediate action. Thus, the Los Baņos assault-rescue operation received priority implementation.

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