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Lieutenant Dorothy Still Danner Nurse Corp, U.S. Navy (continued)

Liberation
The rescue plan was complicated because it was out of the ordinary. Thus far, the Americans had only liberated prisoners in their line of advance. But a Los Banos rescue meant going far behind enemy lines to rescue a little over 3,000 people. Paratroopers themselves were to be dropped over Los Banos and attack in conjunction with infantry who would come ashore in amtracs (amphibious vehicles) from a nearby lake. These amtracs would then evacuate many of the civilians. The raiders already had a map of what the camp was like given to them by an escapee, Pete Miles. Miles and the Filipino guerrillas would act as scouts and guides for the troops. The plan was to sneak up behind all the guard houses in the camp and at the specific moment everything would happen at once.

We didn't know the rescue was going to happen, so we were all feeling pretty low. I was on duty that night. There was a newborn baby and I was trying to feed her with what little powdered milk was left. The mother could hardly nurse the baby. She hadn't had enough nourishment herself. It was just about 7 in the morning [23 Feb. 1945]. 1 had the baby in my arms when I noticed smoke signals going up. Nobody paid any attention to them. Then, all of a sudden we saw a formation of aircraft coming over. As the paratroopers started jumping out, the guerrillas and soldiers around the guard houses began killing the Japanese there. Then the amtracs came in, crashing through the swali-covered fence near the front gate.

I was holding the baby and covering her ears so that the noise wouldn't affect her. An amtrac pulled up in front of the hospital and the American troops jumped out. Oh, we never saw anything so handsome in our lives. These fellows were in camouflage uniforms wearing a new kind of helmet, not those little tin pan things we were used to seeing. And they looked so healthy and so lively.

They were to take the internees out and any that could walk were to go back with troops in the trucks that came overland with the diversionary force. The internees were not military-minded and they just went in all directions. They didn't want to leave anything. The firing was mostly over in about 15 minutes but it took awhile to evacuate the internees. In fact, the American troops actually had to set fire to the barracks to get the internees moving.

Eventually, the troops were able to get about 1,500 people on the amtracs and the rest overland, I left on an amtrac in the second wave. Remarkably, I think there were only two soldiers killed and one internee injured. This whole thing went off with just the most amazing precision that you could imagine. [In retaliation for the raid, the Japanese murdered 1,500 inhabitants of the nearby town of Los Banos. For this and other crimes, LT Konishi was later tried as a war criminal and executed.]

Homecoming
After being liberated from Los Banos, we were flown to Leyte. We were taken to Admiral Kinkaid's [VADM Thomas C. Kinkaid was Commander, 7th Fleet and Southwest Pacific Force] headquarters, where we ate dinner with the Admiral. They served us beautiful steaks, which of course we couldn't eat because our stomachs had shrunk so much.

It was surprising to see how much publicity we got. On Leyte we began to see the flashbulbs going off and then as we got closer to home, more flashbulbs. When we landed in Oakland there was quite a reception for us, including a lot of photographers and media. Then they gave dinners for us. It was quite an affair.

We also had a very thorough examination in Oakland and went on 90-day recuperative leave. My health had been good, but while I was in Los Banos I developed the dry type of beriberi, as had many others. It was very uncomfortable because I ached all over and my knees buckled. There was nothing I could do for it because it was caused by malnutrition. Our diet was not very good, especially during the last few months before our rescue. But I quickly recovered once I was able to eat good food again.

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