70th Anniversary: If You Think ISIS Invented Murder…

Of course, in every war, the way to win is to kill the enemy in combat. However, in World War II, as the Germans showed us with their death camps and Japanese with the Bataan Death March, sometimes inhumanity can get much worse.

In October, 1944, American forces landed in the Philippine islands of Samar and Leyte, starting the campaign to recapture territory taken by the Japanese in 1942.

On January 30, 1945, as the campaign advanced on the island of Luzon, a unit of Army Rangers proved that great courage can be combined with great humanity. As American forces approached the capital city of Manila, intelligence reports from Filipino guerillas revealed disturbing information.

There was a prisoner of war camp near the village of Cabanatuan. Held in it were more than 500 American POWs, who had been there for three years, living in conditions of horrible starvation and abuse.

The Japanese had recently murdered 150 at another POW camp on the Philippine island of Palawan. Further, orders had had been intercepted from Tokyo to kill all POWs, so that the American troops couldn’t free them.

I was with an advanced Navy unit on the island of Samar when I heard of the Rangers’ success in saving of all the POWs in the Cabanatuan camp on that late January day. Some were so emaciated, each Ranger could carry two to the rescue trucks.

Several months later, after we moved up to Manila as the war was ending, I rode a PT boat to the recently recaptured island of Corregidor in Manila Bay. It had been turned into a POW camp for Japanese soldiers. As I passed by the barbed wire enclosure, and looked beyond the GI guards, I could see the healthy-looking prisoners lined up for heaping helpings of U.S. Army chow.

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