Dorothy Still Danner Nurse Corp, U.S. Navy
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.]
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.
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060