Los Baños Internment Camp
the author of this article, was among the first group dispatched to build Los Baños in 1943. The
dramatic rescue of the prisoners by the 11th Airborne Division is still
considered one of the best-planned actions of World War I, with a minimum of
casualties to the
In the early months
of 1943 the Japanese authorities in charge of the internment of American and
Allied civilian nationals in the occupied
Accordingly, on May
14, 1943 seven hundred and eighty-six single male internees and twelve
Early on, the
commandant put the internees to work, excavating the gradual slope in order to
erect barracks. On the basis that there were insufficient rations to support
hard manual labor, the internees’ governing committee protested. The Japanese
finally relented and resorted to contracting with outside interests for both
the excavations and barrack construction. From photos on file of the housing
for military prisoners at
Before the barracks were ready for occupancy, on December 10, 1943 an additional two hundred and seven internees from Santo Tomas arrived. Between that arrival and the next one, twenty-six barracks with adjoining toilet and washroom facilities were completed, after which, most of the permanent buildings were vacated and occupied by the Japanese garrison. Then, on April 7, 1944, five hundred and thirty men, women and children, again from Santo Tomas arrived. In December, 1944 the last transfer from Santo Tomas took place with the arrival of one hundred and fifty more. The total was now one thousand, six hundred and eighty-five POWs, not counting the religious contingent who were brought in as small groups during this last year. A final count of inmates upon liberation was 2,146.
As in Santo Tomas, the internees governed themselves through the Internee Committee, whose governance was subject to approval of the commandant. Teams of workers were assigned to the various details involved running the camp kitchen, collecting firewood, maintaining the truck garden, sanitation work, carpentry and plumbing, public works, etc.; the whole myriad of tasks that a small town of over two thousand would require. The wonder of it all was that it was accomplished with very few resources.
In 1944 the
an air assault by the 511th Airborne, a
Amtracs head into the Laguna de Bay carrying the rescued prisoners
from Los Baños
to safety at Multinlupa inside the
Freed Prisoners from Los Baños are served a meal by the Army at
they were taken after their rescue.
Former prisoners plant a memorial tree at Los Baños to commemorate
the 60th anniversary of the liberation in 2005.