Again, another POW story and still my old ones escape my eye on some CDs. This from my old friend, Ray Thompson Bataan survivor until 1999. SUBJECT: PALAWAN-MEMOIRS FROM: FVWW66A RAY THOMPSON Palawan Memoirs of Ernest J. Koblos, who survived the Massacre when 139 POWs burned. Ernest gave this account of the massacre to the press on Aug 28, 1944. He was one of 11, WW II survivors who by law of averages should not be enjoying the freedom and pleasures of their homeland, the love of home and family. For Koblos, who formerly lived in Chicago, and his ten living buddies, are the sole survivors of the infamous Palawan massacre in which 139 out of a total of 150 American POWs were executed in one of the most dastardly deeds ever to be conceived in the minds of so-called civilized men, according to a special dispatch to the Daily Calumet (a Chicago Paper), from General Hdqs. of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) in Tokyo, Japan. As if being watched over by some omnipotent power, these boys reached safety in probably the most miraculous and spectacular escape yet recorded in the history of WW II. Sixteen Japanese who are charged with the responsibility for the massacre will face a Yokohama 8th Army Military commission this month. Alva C. Carpenter, Chief of SCAP's legal section, first learned of this new addition to the already overflowing volume of Pacific war crimes while serving with the American forces that re-occupied Mindoro in the Philippines. He knew that it was a major atrocity, that justice and America demanded that the perpetrators be found and made to answer for this diabolical crime,and so, during the past three years he has concentrated his every effort on bringing to the bar of just ice those responsible for the Palawan massacre. In a recent interview Carpenter declared "at the close of the Pacific war I pledged myself to fulfill the solemn promises made to the people of the United States and the Allied Nations at Potsdam that stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals, especially those who have visited cruelties upon our POWS". To me these were no idle words spoken to appease outraged peoples; they were a mandate which I determined to thoroughly discharge and three years of investigative research have expended to this end". ONLY 11 ESCAPED Just two months prior to the occupation of Palawan Island by the American troops the mass destruction of American POWs had been perpetrated--with the exception of the 11 escapees, a complete POW camp had been "annihilated" when it became evident that the victorious forces would make a landing in the vicinity of Palawan, possibly on the island itself. Conceived in hate and born in an atmosphere of frustration, the decision to kill the American prisoners was no instantaneous burst of passion. It was a fulfillment of a premeditated plan to "DISPOSE" of the gallant defenders of Bataan and Corregidor at the time of the enemy landing. The method of disposition was the off-spring of moral depravity unsurpassed in the annals of Pacific war crimes...the individual acts of heroism displayed by the few survivors are unequaled. HOPE:B-24s SHOW In October 1944,there were remaining at Puerta Princesa POW camp at Palawan Island in the P.I., 150 American POWs. They had been sent there by the Japanese to build an airstrip--a military project designed to further the Japanese war effort against the Allied Forces. Conditions at this camp were similar to those existing in most Japanese POW camps--too little of every necessity of life, too much of mistreatment, abuse and manual labor. All the hardships that had been suffered during two years and a half were of little consequence, however, to these prisoners on 19 Oct, 1944. They could not forget the past, but the future looked brighter as they watched the first B-24 that they had ever seen raid the airstrip they had laboriously built, for the most part with hand tools, during long, arduous hours in the relentless tropical sun. It was easy for them to be lighthearted now--it would only be a matter of a short time before they would be liberated, and, as their morale soared, so that of the Japanese forces dropped to a new low. From now on, daily air raids became a part of "living" at Puerta Princesa, and so it was not unusual to hear the air raid siren at noon on 15 Dec. 1944. What was unusual, however, was the fact that the Japanese called all the Americans back to the compound from the airfield on which they were still working, filling in bomb craters now, when heretofore their captors had shown no concern for the prisoners' safety, compelling them to work on the strip even during actual raids. "We knew something was the matter but couldn't figure out what", stated Koblos. PRISONERS CORRALLED There were inside the POW compound, three large air raid shelters, having a narrow entrance at each and a cover over the top. The Japanese specifications had permitted only one entrance but after much persuasion the Americans were allowed to make two entrances. These shelter would accommodate, very uncomfortably, approximately 40--50 men each, and in addition there were several small shelters with a capacity of from one to four men each. The area was completely surrounded by a double barb-wired fence and the camp was built on a cliff overlooking the Puerta Princesa Bay. On this fateful day of 14 Dec. l944, the Japanese herded every prisoner into these shelters, saying that there were "hundreds" of American planes coming. The only evidence of an air raid was a lone Japanese sea plane which circled the camp area and the field a few times as if in response to the call of the false air raid alarm for some showing. Many of the boys were hesitant to go into the shelters--these were "helped" by prodding with bayonets and threats of being killed if they did not obey the orders to go underground. No sooner was the last man "safely" hidden from the dangers of an American air raid then two companies of Japanese soldiers, armed with buckets of gasoline,torches, rifles, machine guns, fixed bayonets and hand grenades, entered the compound and proceeded to carry into effect the plan for the annihilation of every single POW. IGNITE GASOLINE The bestial savagery of the perpetrators was unleashed as the assault began, running, screaming and laughing, they attacked each shelter, wherein the unsuspecting and helpless prisoners were trapped throwing in buckets of gasoline and igniting it with torches. Some of the men did manage to get out of the raging infernos only to be beheaded, bayoneted, clubbed to death, shot with rifles or dropped by machine gun fire. In some cases men were slowly tortured with bayonets, then gasoline was poured on first one foot and then the other, ignited, and their whole bodies set aflame. Some few were able to escape into the water by tearing barehanded through the barb-wire fences and jumping down a 50-foot cliff only to be drowned in the water when they were shot at either from the shore or from a small boat that patrolled the foreshores of the bay watching out for escapees. Men walking walls of flame, ran out of the shelters begging for mercy and for the Japanese "to use some sense" only to be shot down...others, knowing fully their fate, grabbed onto Japanese guards causing them to burn up together. Still others, bodies afire, grappled with their assailants, and were able to wrest a bayonet from one or two of the Japanese and kill them before they themselves were bayoneted to death from behind. The 11 prisoners who succeeded in escaping found temporary refuge in the caves on the beach. It was not long, however, before roving parties of Japanese began scanning every nook and corner for possible survivors--the plan being to kill every single American and so forever hide the truth of this murderous crime. Several times during the ensuing four or five hours it seemed inevitable that the hiding places of this small band would be discovered, but somehow, thorough as the search was, they were overlooked. Their ordeal was not over, however. Possibly they would find help and safety if they could reach the opposite side of the bay--a distance of about five miles through shark-infested waters, and two or three of the men could not swim...but it was their only chance and they all took it. After dark that same evening some of the escapees began to swim across--10 days later the last one to reach the opposite side was found caught in a fish trap by friendly Filipinos coming out in the early morning to gather in the previous night's catch! They escorted him, as they had done the others, to Brooke's Point where an American PBY (a US made two engine Amphibian seaplane) evacuated them to the American lines. All that remained of the 139 victims when the American forces landed were incomplete skeletons, scattered at random in the area of the camp, piles of bones in the air raid shelters, dog-tags and other identifying data--mute evidence of the sordid gruesomeness, the bestial depravity of the perpetrators and sponsors of this outrageous crime. During the past three years a staff of investigators have been tireless in their efforts to find those Japanese responsible for this atrocity. The entire islands of Japan and the Philippines have been combed and hundreds of interrogations conducted, as a result of which 16 Japanese ranging in rank from former Lt. Generals to a Private First Class will face a military commission in Yokohama to be judged for their part in this planned and premeditated execution of innocent and helpless American prisoners of war. "Unfortunately", stated Carpenter, "most of the actual participants in this crime have never been captured despite a maximum of effort to locate them, and there is every reason to believe they were killed when Palawan island was taken by the American forces. However, we do have those people who, by their acts of commission or omission or both, allowed this heinous crime to be perpetrated and we are determined that they shall answer for their actions before the bar of justice". This story published with permission from IRENE KOBLOS, the widow of Sgt Koblos, who died 1990, he enlisted in the Regular Army 1939, served in the 59th Coast Artillery in the Philippines. He returned home to US-1945- spent considerable time in Letterman Gen. Hosp. and Garner Gen. Hosp.in Chicago, as the result of his ordeal in Japanese hands. He married Irene, August 1945, they have a son John; Irene now resides in California." End" Last September the barbed wire of Puerta Princesa prison camp at Palawan held 150 prisoners of war, the remnants of a "volunteer" labor battalion brought there from Luzon shortly after the surrender at Corregidor, to build a Japanese airfield. The original group of some 300 had volunteered because they thought anything would be better than the squalor, disease and death of Cabanatuan prison camp on Luzon. Yet, two months later, 141 of the 150 were to be slain in the worst mass atrocity of the Pacific war. In a Marine Corps office at San Francisco, twenty-six year old Marine Corporal Rufus W. Smith of Hughes Springs, Texas, talked slowly and carefully: "We had been at Puerta Princesa prison camp for a little over twenty-eight months when the Japanese decided to kill us." Arriving at the camp, Smith continued, the Americans were herded inside the barbed wire, bedded down like ill-kept farm animals, and booted awake by Japanese guards at four thirty the next morning. Breakfast was one large spoonful of rice-Cambodian rice, wormy and full of rocks, which the Japanese serve in prison camps because they don't like it themselves. During the next two years the men were to eat it three times a day, with now and then a dab of a Philippine vegetable--also wormy--resembling potatoes. Even this planned ration was a starvation diet designed to keep them too weak to make trouble or to get very far if they escaped. But the Japanese reduced it even further by thieving from the supply. The Americans at Puerta Princesa, being a labor battalion were not to be killed unnecessarily. But the Japanese were specialized in beating them with pick handles--"just for nothing, "Smith said, "They'd just come up jabbering and swinging with their clubs." At various times in those next twenty-eight months, prisoners tried to escape. Two Americans who were caught were tied up and thrown into the brig, where the Japanese took turns beating them. Any Japanese who cared to could beat them, night or day. Every morning the other Americans had to pass the cage where they were lying. On July 4, 1944, the two were finally shot. Japanese prison officials always pointedly observe our national holidays. Most of the Americans who did escape managed it by breaking an arm or a leg, usually by a blow with a shovel. But if the Japanese decided it was done intentionally, they might leave the man where he fell, or throw him into a cage and leave him until he died. Some of the prisoners got away with it, and were treated and shipped back to Manila. Usually, however, someone was lying in the special cage with an unset fracture, looking out with the eyes of an animal that has spent many days in a steel trap. Every prisoner worked if he possibly could, because if he couldn't get to his feet in the morning, his ration was cut at once by 30 per cent--a ball of rice about the size of an orange. One morning last September the Japanese loaded all but 150 of the men on a ship bound back to the prison camp at Luzon. After the Japanese told the remaining prisoners that the ship had been torpedoed and all the men lost. Who could contradict them? Then, about noon last October 19, a lone B-24 raided Puerta Princesa, Palawan's capitol, sank two ships in the harbor, and strafed the town and the new airfield. With their hearts rattling against their ribs, the men looked silently at one another, and smiled when the guards weren't looking. Things were going to be all right. After that first one, raids came almost daily. And the treatment of the men by their Japanese guards went from bad to unendurable. Then they were ordered to build air-raid shelters. First they dug three roofed trenches, each long enough to hold about fifty men and each with a small entrance at each end. Smaller shelters were dug for the cooks, officers, and drivers. Some of the men were allowed t o build individual shelters; among them was Marine Sergeant Douglas. W. Bogue of Los Angeles, California, one of the nine who eventually escaped. All these shelters were inside the prison compound on a high bluff that jutted out into turbulent shark-filled Puerta Princesa Bay. Outside the double row of barbed wire a coral cliff slanted fifty feet down to the water. And when torrential rains washed away part of the trenches, repairs exposed tunnels that ran under the wire and out to the face of the cliff. Several men quietly prepared escape hatches as they worked, concealing their exits on the cliff with coral boulders or a thin shoring of earth. Then, on December 13, a Japanese patrol plane over the Sulu Sea sighted our invasion convoy that landed later on Mindoro Island. The Japanese thought it was headed for Palawan. "The Japanese guards aroused us that night with their chattering, " Smith went on, "but they finally quieted down. At four thirty we hiked off to the airfield to work as usual." About noon the guards suddenly marched them back to camp. The Americans kept looking questionably at one another and shrugging their shoulders. They had never quit work at noon before. Then the guards started beating on an old church bell they used for an air-raid alarm., The word passed that hundreds of American planes were headed for Palawan. The Japanese guards herded the men into the air-raid shelters. Sergeant Bogue took up the story. "We had been sitting in the shelters some thirty minutes," he said,"when two P-38s began circling overhead. Suddenly fifty or sixty Japanese soldiers with light machine guns, rifles, and buckets of gasoline ran into the compound." These Japanese soldiers ran directly to A company's shelter, where there were about forty Americans. They opened the narrow door, threw in several buckets of gasoline then tossed in lighted torches. Massacre on Palawan of 139 POWs, by R. W. Smith. "All of a sudden," said Marine Corporal Glen W. McDole of Des Moines, Iowa, "I heard a dull explosion, men screaming, and machine guns. We were in another hole with our heads down, waiting for the air raid, My buddy (Smith) yelled, "They're murdering the men in A Company pit!" I looked out and saw one man run out of A Company's pit in flames., He was burning like a newspaper. A Japanese machine gunner, stationed on the porch of the barracks, cut him in two." The Japanese ran now from shelter to shelter with their buckets of gasoline and their torches. As the crazed Americans came boiling up out of the burning shelters, flaming from head to foot like men made of pitch, other busy, little Japanese machine-gunned them and bayonetted them., The horrible smell of burning flesh began drifting across the compound. Below, in the pits, the few men not actually burning fought to hold on to their reason and somehow to get out. Some did get out. Some crawled up into the flaming bullet-spattered compound itself and clawed their way under the fence to reach and fall down the cliff face. Navy Chief Radioman Fern J. Barta of San Diego, California, made it this way. So did Bogue. "When I came up out of my hole," said Bogue, "it was like coming up a ladder into hell. Burning Americans were rushing the Japanese and fighting them hand to hand, I saw one man, burning like a haystack, grab a rifle a way from a Japanese and shoot him; another guard bayoneted him from behind." Maybe fifty or sixty men, maybe more got down the cliff face to the beach. Many desperate and insentient leaped and tumbled down the cliff, jumped into the bay and started swimming. They were shot to pieces by the Japanese machine gunners on the top of the cliff. The others hid in holes in the rocks,in the sewer outlet, anywhere. Smith jumped into a coral crevice next to him to wait for McDole, McDole had been right on his heels, but now he didn't show up. As Smith watched, a soldier in the crevice next to him suddenly jumped up and yelled. I'm going to get my part of this over with, he ran down to the beach dived into the water and started swimming. "He was only out about twenty yards," Smith said, "when a bullet hit him and he rolled over and shouted, they got me. Then he thumbed his nose to the Japanese on the cliff-and went under." Smith, still in control of himself, climbed unseen backup the hill and hid in the long grass almost touching the prison fence. He thought that would be the last place the Japanese would look. He hid under a ledge covered by long overhanging grass. He carefully covered himself with leaves and dirt. He estimates that this was about one o'clock in the afternoon. The whole thing had been going on only about thirty minutes. All of them could hear the Japanese using dynamite on the burned men who were still alive in the hilltop death trenches When they had finished, the Japanese scrambled down the cliff with rifles and bayonets and began combing the rocks and beach, dragging the hidden Americans out of their holes and murdering them on the spot. For the men lying panting and desperate in those holes, the afternoon was endless and terrible. A man hiding five feet away from you, a six-foot American you'd been through three years of hell with, would be dragged out and bayoneted to death by a dozen little yelling Japanese, and you didn't dare move. As the endless search went on, a lot of men who might have made it cracked up. McDole and two others were hiding in a garbage dump, completely covered by the rotting fly-crusted stuff. As a Japanese patrol neared the dump, one of the men suddenly jumped up and ran for the bay. "The Japanese shot him," said McDole, "Then, when they got within five meters of us, the second man with me raised up and said,'All right , you Japanese b------ds,'here I am and don't miss me. They shot him, poured gasoline on him and burned his body. "After the patrol went away, I made a small opening to get some air. Down the beach I saw six Japanese jabbing a bleeding mud-covered American with their bayonets. Another Japanese ran up with a bucket and a torch. The American begged to be shot and not burned. The Japanese poured gasoline on his hands and feet, and lighted it. Then the man collapsed." Smith, hidden in the tall grass up on the cliff, had a dozen narrow escapes. Twice searching Japanese grazed his ribs as they jabbed bayonets into the grass. "Once I thought sure I was caught,"said Smith,"A Japanese pulled the grass away from me and looked straight into my eyes. I felt his breath panting down on me and smelled that awful Japanese sweat they all stink of. Cold as death, I waited for the bayonet in my ribs. Three years of hell--for this! I remember praying that he'd do it right the first time." Suddenly the Japanese dropped the grass over Smith and left, he hadn't seen him. Smith stayed covered until past dark, finally everything got quiet, and the Japanese guards no longer looked for the escapees. Smith sneaked to the beach and began the long swim across Puerta Princesa Bay. Bogue had been hiding in a hole in the rocks till the rising tide forced him out of it. Looking for a new hiding place, he found Fern Barta and three others in the camp's sewer outlet. About nine 0'clock that night these five started out to swim the bay. Almost immediately they were swept apart by the strong tide, and it was ten days before Bogue and Barta met. One of the five, a Marine private, was never seen again. It was sunrise when Barta dragged himself up on the far shore of the bay and crawled into the jungle. McDole, exhausted and sick, lay in the fly-blanketed garbage dump all night and all the next day. That night he tried to swim, but the water was so rough he couldn't make it. He crawled back to the garbage dump, and for another night and day in that mess of flies and rot, praying for strength. That night he tried it again, and again he was forced back. The following night he crawled down to the shore for the third time, fell into the water, and started swimming; he would get across or drown. All night he swam and floated and swam again. He came very near dying. His mind had stopped. Like an engine stalled on dead center. His arms and legs were no longer even part of him; some strange tired motor kept them going till finally his hands were clawing suddenly and miraculously into sand. He was ashore. His head dropped into the sand. He tried hard to think who he was and what he was supposed to be doing. Finally, he crawled to the edge of the jungle and hid there all day. That night he tried swimming across a little inlet to a Filipino tuberculosis colony, but he was too far gone. He realized he couldn't swim anymore. And then in the wet heaving darkness, he bumped into the poles of a fish trap. He crawled upon it and collapsed, somewhere between sleep and death. In the morning Filipino fishermen from the Iwahig penal colony found him there. They hurried him back to their camp. There he was joined by Bogue, who had been found by Filipino prisoners from the camp after being lost for five days in the jungle. Rested and fed, Bogue and McDole were taken to the leader of the Palawan underground, who gave them horses and a guide and got them to a point where they were picked up by a Navy sea plane and flown to Leyte. At Aborlan, a town held by the guerrillas, a second party of horsemen caught up with them. One of the riders was Barta He had stumbled into Iwahig colony after spending ten days and nights in the jungle. Some other survivors, including Smith, were picked up later and flown to Moratai. Up on the cliff some of the Japanese guards were only ten feet away from Smith. Still, he had to try for a getaway when darkness came. Slowly he eased out of his hiding place and inched his way down the cliff, fearing each step that a coral landslide would bring a shower of jabbering yells and bullets. Luck was with him, Noiseless as a shadow, he moved steadily down to the shore and into the water. He had been in the water about an hour and a half when the little Japanese patrol boat combing the bay for possible survivors bore down on him. Its weak yellow light actually waved directly across him from not more than fifty yards away. But the boat turned and went on. "I started swimming again," said Smith in his slow tired drawl, "and had been out about two hours, I guess, when I heard a swirl in the water off to one side. I glanced around in time to see a six-foot shark headed for me. He came right on in and bit my right arm. Somehow--I don't know how--I reached around with my other arm and slung him loose. Then I kicked and splashed, and I must have scared him off; he didn't bother me after that." The Marine Corps public relations officer whispered to Smith; he rolled up his sleeve. There on his right forearm were the scars from the teeth of the shark that he'd "slung loose." After the Shark, Smith swam on for what seemed like years. He turned on his back for the hundredth time to rest, and made out trees on a mountain ahead of him. He turned over again and swam till his arms were strips of leather which somebody kept splashing into the water ahead of him, and he knew he couldn't swim much longer. He decided to try to hit bottom. He held his nose and went down hard. The water was only up to his armpits. Gratefully he started to walk, and that's when he almost drowned. Because his legs wouldn't hold him. He fell and swallowed the muddy water and almost drowned. He finally got to his feet and made it to the beach. It was still night, and the terrible clouds of Philippine mosquitos started swarming over him. If he lay there he'd be eaten alive. He crawled up to the edge of a mangrove swamp and coated himself, face and all, with mud. That kept the mosquitoes off. He rested a while, and then plunged into the swamp. He was naked, except for the mud. The thick growth clutched his body with clammy hands. At each step his feet seemed to sink deeper into the black ooze. He knew the alligators would get him before long. He climbed a tree and stayed there the rest of the night. Dawn was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. All that day Smith traveled through the jungle. When the growth became impenetrable he climbed up above it and swung along on the long vines from tree to tree. Occasionally he'd grip a brier vine; the hard spines cut like barbed wire. "They cut me up pretty bad," he said. But he went on, and he made it. Late that afternoon he found the wonderful compassionate Philippine guerrillas. They gathered up his skinny, bleeding, muddy body and carried him to their camp. They fed him and put him to bed. And now he was in San Francisco, on his way home to Hughes Springs, Texas--the kind of place that can help a man forget jungles and JAPANESE! This story also furnished by Mrs.Koblos, who also gave you the account of her husband in Chapters 1 through 4. In appreciation I'm sending her all ten chapters printed as she among many does not possess a computer. TO: ALL DATE: 08/09 FROM: FVWW66A RAY THOMPSON TIME: 2:47 PM PALAWAN PUSHOVER, Courtesy of Air Force Magazine, 1945. When the time came to lock the door on Japanese troop and supply movements in the South China Sea and provide a springboard for airpower in subsequent Borneo invasions, the key was the Philippine island of Palawan which points southward like a finger to the rich East Indies. "I don't want a single shot fired at the infantry when it goes ashore at Palawan. "Maj. Gen.Paul B. Wurtsmith, CG of the 13th Air Force, told his staff. And not a shot was fired. Infantrymen of the 41st Division went ashore at Puerto Princesa almost unopposed. No men were lost on D-day. The Japanese had fled to the hills. This easy invasion of strategically important Palawan was accomplished by air attacks that started early in October 1944 when Army and Navy nuisance raiders paid occasional visits. The tempo was stepped up sharply near the end of the month when 37 heavies plastered Puerto Princesa airdrome, destroying 23 parked aircraft and damaging 15 others. The Japanese garrison never recovered from that raid and the 13th's bombers continued to give the area a once-over-lightly every time repairmen began filling in the craters. On November 29, Morotai-based P-38s of the 13th Fighter Command flew their first escort mission to Puerto Princesa, but there was no interception, nor was there any on subsequent missions. The final phase of the softening-up was staged from Mindoro with both fighters and bombers of the 5th Air Force blasting the area with bomb and strafing runs. A sustained three-day attack preceded the February 28 landing. The devastated facilities found by infantrymen--buildings, runways, revetments, aircraft--were convincing proof of the effectiveness of the pre-invasion attacks. The concrete runway was spotted with 182 bomb craters. Eighteen other craters had taken care of the overruns. The bombing results looked good to everyone but the aviation engineers, who had to put the strip back into service. (Comments by Ray Thompson; I wonder what the Commanding General, the fighter pilots, the bomber pilots, and the infantrymen, who performed the above acts would have felt, had they known that American POWs were the slaves that were filling up these bomb craters after each raid. We know from other testimony, how shocked military personnel were when they found the massacred American POWs in the so called bomb shelters at Palawan airfield; NOTE- I flew off this runway for several days in the winter of '45. It was coral based and pretty solid althougth muddy at times.