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


Living POW's Testimonials

Nothing could be more veritable than the firsthand and personal accounts by the POWs themselves and the different versions of their liberators as well.

Just after their rescue, Lewis Thomas Watty, vice president of the POW committee had this to say, and I quote:

"The ensuing fight went on for very long minutes without letup, enemy defenders caught by total surprise were pinned and cut down mercilessly by liberator's fire. The Hunter experience through the years in irregular warfare paid off handsomely. It was also true of the paratroopers who were veterans of he South Pacific before they landed in Luzon."

Clyde de Witt, another member of the POW committee related his personal experience, to wit:

"None of us could live through this and will ever forget the crowded and exiting events of that memorable morning of February 23rd.

"From the western side of the camp came sounds of rifle and machine gun fire. This, I learned later was from Filipino guerrillas who had infiltrated into the area and were timed to operate against the Japanese guards on the western boundary of the camp, almost simultaneously with the dropping of parachutes on the eastern boundary.

"Guerrilla troops were all over the place. They seemed to rise out of the ground and I can vouch for the fact that they showed no mercy against the enemy.

"In addition to their rifles, they carried 'bolos', their beloved huge razor sharp knives that made sure the enemy had gone to meet their ancestors.

"A little brown man, with a handkerchief around his head with a feather stuck into the headband, was the first Hunter I have ever seen.

"When I learned later of the great part they played in our rescue, I felt that I owed him and his organization a debt of gratitude I could never repay. I am sure the other Los Baņos internees felt the same way." De Witt said.

Another POW, a Protestant missionary, Carol Terry Talbot, whom I met during the raid among the POWs in Los Baņos, later had written a book entitled "Escape at Dawn". She dedicated a page in the book with my picture with a caption, to wit:

"To Colonel Frank Quesada: who helped in our rescue from Los Baņos internment camp… honoring the Filipino guerrillas, Col. Quesada, then a Captain of the Hunters ROTC Guerrillas, who rushed into my barracks during the rescue.

"Creeping into foliage near the prison camp, some of the pathfinders [guerrillas] had the mission of sending smoke upward to mark the landing zone for paratroopers who would be descending by parachutes.

"Accomplished by guerrillas, more of these intrepid men had to deploy themselves in hiding around the prison camp so every Japanese sentry in the outposts and pill boxes was covered.

"When the planes flew in and the liberators decimated the sentries and neutralized enemy guards doing physical exercises in the morning, while their arms were stacked and unattended.

"What could go wrong? Only one thing. If any word of this rescue leaked out to the Japanese, the nearly 10,000 Japanese troops of Gen. Fujishige, just eight miles from the prison camp, could commit a horrible massacre of the POWs and the rescuers."

US Army Official Dispatch

After the joint rescue operation, the following official dispatch [which was published by the US Army along with the US Army poster series entitled "The American Soldier" that portrayed the Filipino Guerrillas in Los Baņos read as follows, to wit:

Official Account of the Raid

"By the time the airborne company could join the assault, most of the guards had been killed or driven from the posts.

"When the reminder of the parent airborne and pack howitzers arrived by amphibious tractors, the remaining pillboxes were taken and the force turned its attention to the sole reason for the entire mission: the liberation of the 2,147 internees from certain death. By 1:30 p.m. that day, the last of the internees, paratroopers and guerrillas had been evacuated from Los Baņos. Apparently, the entire Japanese garrison had been killed."

Enemy's Revenge

A few days after the astounding rescue, the enemy in full force vengefully returned to Los Baņos to reclaim their ignominious loss of face, a distinct disgrace to any Bushido warrior of the Rising Sun.

Upon seeing that there were no POWs in sight that escaped the unreserved order of massacre of the POWs, the Japanese turned their ire and wrath towards the remaining innocent civilians in town who failed to heed the counsel and warning from the guerrillas that there may be a retaliation by the Japanese who might return to Los Baņos.

And the enemy did, as they mercilessly massacred thousands of the senior menfolk, women and children, and burned their houses as well as those in the adjacent towns suspected by the enemy for having collaborated with the liberators.

Puzzling Aftermath

The townspeople never understood the aftermath and never forgave the liberators for the rescue operation of the 2,146 Americans and allied POWs, which they believed was the cause of the massacre of the people of Los Baņos.

Specific orders were for all liberators to proceed to liberate other areas. None of the liberators were left in Los Baņos except for the local guerrilla homeguard unit [the PQOGs] who also had their own orders to join the US forces in the campaign in southern Luzon.

The Defiant were the Victims

Those civilians, who defied the warning by the liberators for them to leave Los Baņos, consequently became the victims of the wholesale massacre by the inexorable Japanese troops who ran berserk.

Lessons of War and Peace

Someone said, "When war's declared and danger's nigh, God and the soldiers – is the people's cry. But when peace is once more achieved, God is forgotten and the soldier is slighted."

And in the course of events when the veterans are slighted, no one but them can only speak more eloquently for peace, their sacrifices, the tolls and ravages of war – than them, who saw the face of e enemy in combat.

And the Hunters- ROTC Guerrillas have said; "Only those who are not afraid to die for freedom, are fit to live in a democracy for which a price was dearly paid."

A greater crusade we need now than history had ever known is for world peace, liberty and equality. As the world turns each day, towards the new millennium, government and politicians are once more inebriated with borrowed power from the people, disremembers the veterans who made democracy safe for everyone. And the veterans are once more mistreated.

Post-War Hunters

It can be said that majority of the Hunters completed their studies and became professionals. Majority of them became high government officials and top military officers.

Most of them also became politicians who have helped rehabilitate the Philippines.

Hunters in Politics and Government

The Hunters is a closely knot fraternity, and a formidable political group, remained as a single nonpartisan group, but with some members who chose to be in both dominant political parties.

Individually, they have shown uncanny leadership in many fields. As President Johnson said, "Unity does not mean unanimity."

Hunters has his own mind and heart and his own political philosophy and conviction honored and respected by other Hunters. Exposed to constant pressures since the war, they have made them as good crusaders for what is right.

In order to protect themselves they have divided political leaders to be in both dominant parties so whoever is in power, he, as Hunters will always be on power. And they are always ahead in the race in the top berth of their adopted parties.

They have learned the artful tactics under any administration. Whatever party they may represent, they have always crusaded for good government. The top consideration is to protect the Hunters first.

-- end --

Back to previous part Go to Author's biodata
Go Back Next