United States Marine Corps Fourth Regiment Band in World War II

We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Angels of Bataan
US Army and Navy
WWII POW Nurses
Malinta Tunnel Hospital We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Malinta Tunnel Hospital
Corregidor Island, Philippines
Angels of Bataan We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
 
Corregidor map We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
In the autumn of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Imperial Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of the Bataan Peninsula and the tunnels of Corregidor Island, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells and shrapnel. But the worst was yet to come.

After Bataan and Corregidor fell, 66 US Army and 11 US Navy nurses were herded into Santo Tomas University internment camp in Manila, capital city of the Philippine Islands, the Navy personnel later being transferred to Los Banos, where organized to continue to apply their medical skills for all in the camps, they would endure three years of fear, brutality, and starvation. Once liberated, all having survived the war, returned to an America that at first celebrated them, but later denied them the veterans benefits that they deserved.
US and Filipino troops, victims of Japanese bombing attacks on Bataan, Philippines, in an open air field hospital after receiving medical treatment on April 11, 1942. Limited for space, the hospital at all times had patients that needed attention. (AP Photo)
April 11, 1942 US and Filipino Troops, Victims of Japanese Bombing Attacks on Bataan Peninsula, Philippines, in Open Air Field Hospital After Receiving Medical Treatment
Santo Tomas Interment Camp We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Santo Tomas University, Manila Internment Camp
Santo Tomas Interment Camp Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
M4 Sherman Tanks Liberation of Santo Tomas 1945
Santo Tomas Interment Camp Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
On the evening of February 3, 1945, a Sherman tank barreled its way through the front gates of the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila, Philippines. The tank, a composite hull M4 Sherman named the “Battlin Basic” by its crew, belonged to Company B of the U.S. 44th Tank Battalion and was the first glimpse of liberation for over 4,000 civilians – mostly Americans and British citizens, including Australians and Canadians – interned at the university from January 1942 to February 1945. Santo Tomas was the largest of several internment camps established by the Japanese throughout the Philippines.

Santo Tomas Raid

By Peter R. Wygle*

One of the most awe-inspiring yet historically little remembered missions of World War II in the Pacific were the four rapid-fire prisoner of war liberation raids in the Philippines. These four raids, Bilibid, Cabanatuan, Santo Tomas, and Los Banos, all took place in a one-month period between late January and the end of February, 1945, and the men who planned them faced many of the elements of potential failure; the raids, with the exception of the Bilibid liberation in Manila, were independently planned in very restrictive time-frames by at least three different headquarters; they involved every branch of the American military, with enormously important help from, and sacrifice by, the Filipino people and their guerrilla Army; and they employed practically every method of attack and means of transportation known to man. In spite of all this potential for confusion and failure, each of the rescues was pulled off without a hitch. These prisoner raids – collectively – killed, wounded, or scattered about a thousand enemy troops and resulted in freedom for almost eight times that many allied prisoners of war, including the largest number of American civilian internees ever taken prisoner by an armed enemy in the history of our nation. All of this while sustaining relatively light – though certainly not insignificant – casualties among the American forces and their supporting Filipino guerrillas.

MacArthur Impressed

Legend has it that General MacArthur was so impressed by the Cabanatuan raid by elements the 6th Ranger Battalion – which was still in progress at the time – that he went immediately to MG Mudge’s 1st Cavalry Division headquarters in Guimba. There he ordered the formation of a ‘Flying Column’ to accomplish the same thing with the 3,700 civilians interned at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Nobody knew about the 1,300 or so military and civilian prisoners at the old Bilibid prison which was only a few blocks from Santo Tomas.

The oratory attributed to the general during this conference was typically MacArthur: “Go to Manila! Go over the Japs, go around the Japs, bounce off the Japs, but go to Manila! Free the prisoners at Santo Tomas and capture Malacanang Palace and the legislative buildings.”

Two-thirds of this grandiose mission was practicable from where the 1st Cavalry Division sat. Santo Tomas and Malacanang Palace were in the north end of Manila, the same side that the 1st Cav was on, but the legislative buildings were on the south side of the Pasig River. This large river runs east-to-west through the middle of Manila and there were only three or four bridges across it. The chances of the Japanese destroying the bridges and turning the river into a major obstacle were pretty good. If the Japanese managed to do this, it would make the legislature buildings relatively hard to reach.

The ‘Flying Column’

When MacArthur decreed the formation of the ‘Flying Column’ the 1st Cav troops, to whom he had decreed it, had come ashore at Lingayen Gulf on 27 January. 1945 after 72 days of continuous combat in the mountains of Leyte, and the division had just completed its move 35 miles south from Lingayen to Guimba, arriving there on the 30th. As fierce as the combat on Leyte had been, the memory that usually gets shared by the 1st Cav Troopers that were there is the fact that during 40 of those 72 days, 35 inches of rain fell. The Troopers had earned some rest, but there was to be none. They received “MacArthur’s Flying Column” decree on the day after they arrived at Guimba. MG Mudge spent the rest of the 31st gathering the troops he thought it would take to accomplish his new mission. These troops included, in addition to parts of the 5th Cavalry and 8th Cavalry Regiments and some miscellaneous support people, the 44th Tank Battalion, a bunch of air cover from Marine Group 24 and 32 and – luckily – a Navy demolitions expert, Lieutenant (JG) James Patrick Sutton. MG Mudge divided the Column into three serials, assigning missions to each, and, at one minute past midnight on the morning of 1 February, 1945, led them out of Guimba. The race to Manila was on!

The Column, carrying only four days’ rations and the absolute minimum in arms, ammunition and fuel, had to tread carefully for the first few miles because the Cabanatuan prisoners were still being evacuated across its path. Once in the clear, however, it fought its way at top speed down Highway 5, slowing for a day of heavy firefights at Cabanatuan and Gapan. An ambush at a road intersection during the fight at Gapan cost the life of LTC Tom Ross, commander of the third serial. This was the serial with most of the 44th Tank Battalion assigned to it.

After this fierce early fighting the Column sped south, depending totally upon the Marine flyers for flank security. The 1st Cav moved toward Manila, pausing only to bypass blown bridges and to engage the Japanese in hit-and-run fighting. It hit a snag however, at the Novaliches Bridge just south of a road junction that became known as “the Hot Corner”. They were still about ten miles short of Manila.

Mines had been set, the fuse was lit, and the Japanese were laying down heavy sniper fire on the bridge to discourage all efforts to prevent its destruction. Bypassing this particular bridge was not an option because the gorge was deep and the river was swift. It was here that having Pat Sutton along turned out to be a stroke of good fortune. He, apparently protected by some sort of a providential force field that seemed to repel sniper bullets, ran out on the bridge and cut the demolition fuse, enabling the Column to cross the river with dry feet.

LT Sutton also helped in clearing a path through a minefield further south on the approach to Manila. His next running – with his brand new Distinguished Service Cross – was for Congress where he won a Tennessee seat in the House of Representatives.

After the Column crossed the river at Novaliches it moved down Quezon Boulevard straight toward Santo Tomas Internment Camp and Malacanang Palace.

Inside the Prison Camp

Inside the prison camp, 3,700 apprehensive civilian men, women and children were watching the approach of the tracer-bullet fireworks in the evening sky with a strange mixture of excitement and dread. After three years in the “protective custody” of the Japanese Army, they were excited that SOMETHING was happening – even if they didn’t know what it was – but mixed in with this excitement was dread of the possibility that the pyrotechnic display was, in truth, being caused by the bad guys headed their way with malice in their souls. Rumors had been rampant for some time that the Japanese intended to kill all of their prisoners.

Late on 3 February, 1945, after a couple of wrong turns and some heavy fighting in the mixed-up outskirts of Manila, the Santo Tomas column picked up CPT Manuel Colayco, a Filipino newspaperman and clandestine intelligence officer, who guided them to the main gate of the prison camp. At about nine in the evening, after a brief flurry of resistance by the Japanese guards during which CPT Colayco was fatally wounded by a grenade explosion, the 44th Tank Battalion’s M-4 Sherman “Battlin Basic”, closely by the “Georgia Peach” knocked down the gate and the war was nearly over for the internees.

The Flying Column was 66 hours into its mission. With time out for the fights at Cabanatuan and Gapan, and delays in bypassing some of the blown bridges, it had covered 100 miles. The 1st Cav had toeholds – tenuous as they might actually have been – at Santo Tomas and at the Malacanang Palace.

Liberation

For the Santo Tomas internees, their liberation was followed by a night of delirious happiness, a standoff and hostage crisis in one of the campus buildings, and two or three days of murderous artillery dueling.

The artillery battle resulted when the few hundred men of the 1st Cav, not having all that much Manila real estate under their control, had to set up their artillery inside the Santo Tomas complex and begin making enough noise to discourage thoughts of counterattack in the minds of Admiral Iwabuchi and his twenty thousand marines defending Manila. The good news was that no counterattack materialized; the bad news was that the presence of American artillery in the front yard invited counterfire from the Japanese, and the internees were in the middle. This several day artillery duel caused the only prisoner causalities of the Santo Tomas liberation – with the possible exception of a couple of internees who reportedly ate themselves to death in the first day or so. Seventeen internees and several 1st Cav Troopers were killed in this exchange of fire and many more were injured.

After the shooting died down, only a couple of months of stomach aches from the unaccustomed good food and headaches from the seemingly endless interminable processing stood between the ex-prisoners and, for many of them, repatriation.

*This is an excerpt from a paper by Peter R. Wygle entitled “Jeb Stuart Would Have Loved It!” that covers the four mentioned POW camps. Pete Wygle was a civilian internee at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, a boy of about ten or 11 years old at the time. He also authored the book, “Surviving a Japanese POW Camp”, served on active duty in Korea and later in the Army National Guard retiring as a Colonel. He was also very active in the American Ex-Prisoners of War Association. Pete died of cancer in September 2003. Pete’s widow, Nancy, graciously provided a copy of this paper for inclusion in the 1st Cavalry Division Museum archives. Edited for publication in SABER by Robert W. Tagge, Member of the Board of Governors, 1st Cavalry Division Association and Executive Director of the 1st Cavalry Division Museum Foundation.

US Marine Corps Aircraft Group 24 Douglas SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) Dauntless Dive Bomber Planes of Fame Chino CA Angels of Bataan Corregidor
US Marine Corps Douglas SBD Dauntless Close Air Support
On 12 December 1944 US Marine Corps Aircraft Group 24 (MAG-24) moved from Bougainville to stage at Milne Bay, New Guinea for further movement to the Philippines. On 11 January 1945 the MAG CO, Colonel Jerome, USMC Air Corps, and OPSO LtCol McCutcheon, arrived on Luzon to pick the airfield site that eventually became Mangaldan airfield. U.S. Army engineers moved quickly with the construction of Magaldan airfield, and MAG-24 aircraft started arriving on 25 January 1945. For the campaign MAG-24 and MAG-32 would combine to form MAGSDAGUPAN (MAGSD). The first missions would occur on 27 January by VMSB-241 and by 31 Jan MAGSD would host seven squadrons and 174 Douglas SBD (Scout Bomber Douglas) Dauntless Dive Bombers. At first, the missions were different than the Close Air Support that MAG-24 had trained for under McCutcheon. The first targets were far behind front lines at San Fernando or Clark Field with the objectives being assigned the previous day using a cumbersome command and control process that required approval all the way up to the Sixth Army. For these first few missions once the Marine dive bombers were in the air no further ground control was furnished.

Fortunately, on 31 January Gen MacArthur gave MAGSD opportunity to prove the utility of Close Air Support. General MacArthur ordered the 1st Cavalry division to make an audacious advance of 100 miles to Manila and free the internees at Santo Tomas. The assignment of MAGSD was a unique mission of guarding the 1st Cavalry Division flank with a standing nine plane patrol from dawn until dusk. With some "superior salesmanship and a determination to show the soldiers what Marine flyers, under proper front line control could do for them," the MAGSD was able to attach two Marine Air Liaison Party (ALP) jeeps to follow the 1st and 2nd Brigades of the 1st Cavalry. The standing nine plane patrol reconnoitered ahead of the flying column spotting the Japanese positions and routing the forces around ambushes.

On 2 February 1945, a portion of the Cavalry was blocked by a Japanese battalion which occupied a ridge that was reported to withstand an entire division. The attached ALP was able to call the SBD patrol to complete multiple shows of force and allowed the Cavalry to route the Japanese without the SBDs firing a shot. The same day the SBD patrol completed an ad-hoc bombing run ahead of the 1st Cavalry line in which all bombs landed within a 200 by 300-yard area and left the target in shambles. Finally, the ALP demonstrated the increased speed of communication when a Regimental commander dashed to one of the MAG ALP jeeps to report a Japanese fighter in the area. An officer in the ALP pointed to a burning fighter 2,000 yards away which had been destroyed by two P-51s the ALP had vectored in. Within 66 hours the 1st Cavalry arrived in Manila, and the Marines of both MAG-24 and MAG-32 had proven their ability to make the innovative changes in Close Air Support work. The MAGs received commendations from both the Brigades and the CG of the 1st Cavalry. However, the division historian summed up the Marines contribution the best: "Much of the success of the entire movement is credited to the superb air cover, flank protection, and reconnaissance provided by Marine Air Groups 24 and 32."

Santo Tomas Interment Camp Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army Nurses Luzon Bataan Corregidor
US Army Nurses Liberated February 3, 1945
The Battle of Manila, which raged throughout the month of February 1945, cost the lives of over 100,000 Filipinos and completely destroyed Manila, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world at the time and commonly referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. According to General MacArthur, next to Warsaw, Manila was the most devastated city in WWII. It is ironic that whereas Hitler’s order to burn Paris went unheeded, thereby saving Paris, General Yamashita’s command to leave Manila without defending it, which would have saved the city, was also disobeyed, but with contrasting and devastating consequences. Yamashita was tried at the U.S. High Commissioner’s Residence – now the U.S. Embassy in Manila – and later hanged for war crimes.
Los Banos Internment Camp Rescue
Los Banos Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
US Navy Nurses Liberated February 23, 1945
Los Banos Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
LVT-4, Landing Vehicle Tracked (Amtrac)
Los Banos Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Amtrac Amphibious Assault Vehicles
Los Banos Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Baatan Corregidor
 
Angels of Bataan We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
The civilian internment camp near Los Banos had been established by the Japanese in December 1942 at the Agricultural College of the University of the Philippines, located about 21/2 miles southeast of the town. Held within the large, fenced compound of more than 30 buildings were 2,147 internees of various nationalities, including 1,575 Americans.

The raid on Los Banos, located 40 miles behind Japanese lines would entail a four-pronged attack. The 511th PIR Provisional Reconnaissance Platoon under Lieutenant George E. Skau, aided by local guerrillas, would move into an area opposite the camp prior to the strike. Then, simultaneous with a parachute drop of Lieutenant John M. Ringler’s Company B of the 511th PIR and an amphibious landing by Major Henry A. Burgess’s 1st Battalion, minus the airdropped company but reinforced with a platoon from C Company, 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion and two howitzers from Battery D, 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, the recon platoon and guerrillas would eliminate the sentries along the wire.

While the amphibious force, landing in LVT-4 amphibious tractors or amtracs of the 672nd Amphibious Tractor Battalion rolled up onto the beach from Laguna de Bay and continued toward the camp, the company of paratroopers would link up with the recon platoon and guerrillas and wipe out the rest of the garrison. When the amphibious force reached the camp, it would deploy to the south and west to block any reaction by the Japanese.

The fourth force would form a flying column composed of the 1st Battalion, 188th Glider Infantry Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Ernie LaFlamme, the 675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 472nd Glider Field Artillery Battalion, and Company B of the 637th Tank Destroyer Battalion and move by road around the southwest end of Laguna de Bay up to the gates of the camp. This force, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert H. Soule and designated “Los Banos Force,” would bring enough trucks with it to carry out all the internees and paratroopers. If the fourth group could not reach the camp, the internees could be ferried out in the amtracs across Laguna de Bay while the paratroopers fought their way out. The raid was scheduled for dawn on February 23, 1945, a moonless night.
Los Banos Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Liberated US Navy Nurses with Admiral Kincaid
Los Banos Rescue We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
 
Angels of Bataan We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
 
Angels of Bataan We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
 
Angels of Bataan We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Liberated US Army Nurses Receive Bronze Star Medals
Angels of Bataan We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
 
We Band of Angels Elizabeth Norman book cover World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
We Band of Angels
Elizabeth Norman
In December 1941, American bases in the Philippines were caught in a raging battle when Japanese forces attacked. Nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war. They later endured three years of fear, brutality and starvation in internment camps.

Once liberated, they returned to an America that at first celebrated them, but later refused to honor their leaders. Norman reveals the letters, diaries and riveting firsthand accounts that explain what really happened during those dark days, woven together in a deeply affecting saga of women in war.

Elizabeth Norman is a professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She is the author of “Women at War: The Story of Fifty Military Nurses Who Served in Vietnam 1965-1973”, “We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Women Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese” and co-author with her husband, Marine Corps Veteran and former New York Times reporter, Michael Norman of “Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath”. The book was on the New York Times best-seller list for nine weeks and a Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist.


Norman’s awards include the American Academy of Nursing National Media Award, The University of Virginia Agnes Dillon Award, a Certificate of Appreciation from the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, D.C. and an Official Commendation from the Department of the Army for her military research.
 
Angels of Bataan Films
Donna Reed and John Wayne 1945 They Were Expendable We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Donna Reed and John Wayne
They Were Expendable 1945
US Army Nurse cares for wounded in Malinta Tunnel on Corregidor Island, the Philippines after Imperial Japanese attack and before transfer to Bataan Peninsula.
We Band of Angels World War II POW US Army and Navy Nurses Bataan Corregidor
Claudette Colbert
Paulette Goddard
Veronica Lake
So Proudly We Hail 1943
At the start of World War II in the Pacific, Lieutenant Janet Davidson (Claudette Colbert) is the head of a group of U.S. military nurses who are trapped behind enemy lines in the Philippines.
80 Years Since Attack on
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December 7, 2021
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