Sunday, March 19, 2023

My Great Uncle Was Rescued in The Famous Los Banos Raid

               A change of pace today. 

Here's a snippet from the history books. The Los Banos Prison Raid by Philippine guerrillas and American paratroopers.

My Great-Uncle Leo Stancliff from Bakersfield, California was a civilian POW during WW II. This account mentions someone from Hydesville in Humboldt County, California.

His name was Herman Beaber and he (with foot notes from his son John) wrote a book about his experiences titled: "Deliverance! It Has Come!" 

In late 1941 war broke out in the Philippines with the Japanese. Many endured imprisonment, including some ministers who were interned at the Los Baños Internment Camp located about 40 miles south of Manila in the Philippines.

They were Willie Jamieson from Chirnside, Scotland; Ernest Stanley from England (internment at Santo Tomás); Leo Stancliff of Bakersfield, California; Cecil Barrett of New Zealand; and Herman Beaber of Hydesville, California, who kept a diary during their time as prisoners of war (1942-1945).

On January 6, 1942, Herman and his fellow ministers were picked up by the Japanese and were taken first to the Rizal Memorial Stadium where they were registered. Then they were bundled back into the car and taken to Santo Tomás University grounds.

They later were released and allowed to continue their church work. (With the exception of Ernest Stanley who chose to remain in Santo Tomás as an official interpreter for the Internee Government). 

They were allowed to have religious services on Sundays only, from January 15, 1942, until they were taken to prison at Los Baños on July 8, 1944, along with all the other American missionaries in the area.

Los Baños was the former University of the Philippines. The Agricultural School at Los Baños was located in a town on the island of Luzon.

It had been converted into an internment camp. It was a plot of about 55 or 60 acres with a barbed wire fence around it, for more than 2,000 civilians who had the misfortune of falling into Japanese hands at the beginning of the war.

As time passed and as the Japanese began to lose the war, things became very desperate at the Los Baños prison camp. While Herman Beaber's diary does not record that they were tortured, they nearly starved, and many in the camp died from disease and slow starvation.

Herman wrote in his diary... "Naturally there is theft of food in camp. It is considered a major crime. We see people (respectable people) looking into garbage cans for banana skins, etc. (If you want a real delicacy... Fry some banana skins in rancid coconut oil.) People going to points in camp several blocks away will have to sit down to rest. Fights occur in the food lines. Some have eaten bugs and beetles - so they say."

Herman left from the United States for the Philippi in 1940 weighing 202 lbs. at 6'3" and he weighed 140 lbs. when he was finally rescued on February 23, 1945. 

On that day American soldiers freed over 2000 prisoners at Los Baños in a daring guerrilla and paratrooper rescue, just one day before they were all to be executed by the Japanese.

Former Army Chief of Staff General Collin Powell proclaimed, "I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid. It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies." 

Former Army Chief of Staff General Colin Powell proclaimed- "I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid. It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies."

Herman Beaber wrote..."Let me say that you who have never been deprived of seeing Old Glory and all she stands for, for three long years, cannot understand what that sight would mean. We feel heavily indebted to our rescuers. (No greater love has a man, than to lay down his life for another) We are mighty proud to be citizens of a great country like the United States. On the other hand, we are grateful to God for His care and protection, and now that He has spared our lives... we feel more inclined than ever to give Him our best."

As it stands, my Great Uncle Leo passed away on Oct.29th, 2005. Herman Beaber passed away on Feb. 5th, 2001. This article first ran on June 12, 2009, in this blog.

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