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True story never been told: The Great Raid. Shocking facts: "kill w/ silence", 16mil leaflets scattered. Pearl Harbor's Surprise

By WcP.Movie.Critic - Posted on 07 December 2011


WWII Oct 1927: Japanese warlords complete secret blueprint for conquest of China, Pacific, then invasion of US

WWII July 26, 28, 1945: 'Mulusatsu' (kill with silence) is Japanese PM's response to Allied ultimatum to surrender

WWII August 3-9, 1945: millions of leaflets warning citizens to evacuate were dropped on Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other cities before the atomic bombs

WWII August 15-16, 1945: junior officers break into palace attempting to assassinate Emperor Hirohito for surrendering

Leland Lester: 90-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor

The U.S. Navy battleship USS California (BB-44) slowly sinking alongside Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (USA), as a result of bomb and torpedo damage, 7 December 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was front-page news the next day, and some newspapers even managed to put out special issues the same day of the attack.


The Great Raid is a 2005 war film about the Raid at Cabanatuan, adapted from William Breuer's book of the same name. It tells the story of the January 1945 liberation of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp on the Philippine island of Luzon during World War II. It is directed by John Dahl and stars Benjamin Bratt, Joseph Fiennes, James Franco, Connie Nielsen, Motoki Kobayashi and Cesar Montano. The film opened in theaters across the United States on August 12, 2005, three days before the 60th anniversary of V-J Day.

The real-life efforts of Filipino guerrillas are also specifically highlighted, especially a stand at a bridge that delayed Japanese reinforcements. These units fought alongside Americans against Japanese occupiers during the war.

In the winter of 1944, World War II was coming to a close. The Japanese held some of the American prisoners who had survived the Bataan Death March in a notorious POW camp at Cabanatuan and subjected them to harsh treatment; many prisoners were also stricken with malaria. At the time of the raid the camp held about 500 prisoners.

The film opens with the massacre of prisoners of war on Palawan by the Kempeitai, the Imperial Japanese military's secret police. Meanwhile at Lingayen Gulf, the 6th Ranger Battalion under Lt. Col Mucci is ordered by Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger to liberate all of the POWs at Cabanatuan prison camp before they are killed by the Japanese. The film chronicles the efforts of the Rangers, Alamo Scouts from the 6th Army and Filipino guerrillas as they undertake the Raid at Cabanatuan.

The Palawan Massacre
During World War II, in order to prevent the rescue of prisoners of war by the advancing allies, on 14 December 1944, units of the Japanese Fourteenth Area Army (under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita) herded the remaining 150 prisoners of war at Puerto Princesa into three covered trenches which were then set on fire using barrels of gasoline. Prisoners who tried to escape the flames were shot down. Others attempted to escape by climbing over a cliff that ran along one side of the trenches, but were later hunted down and killed. Only 11 men escaped the slaughter and between 133 and 141 were killed.

The massacre is the basis for the recently published book Last Man Out: Glenn McDole, USMC, Survivor of the Palawan Massacre in World War II by Bob Wilbanks, and the opening scenes of the 2005 Miramax film, The Great Raid. A memorial has been erected on the site and McDole, in his eighties, was able to attend the dedication.

For further details, see the Axis History Forum: Massacre at Palawan.

The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer, by the Imperial Japanese Army, of 76,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of prisoners.

The 97 km (60 mi) march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.

On April 3, 1942, after three months of siege, the Japanese Fourteenth Army, led by Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma staged an attack on U.S.-Filipino forces in the Bataan Peninsula. The siege had weakened the U.S.-Filipino forces, who were suffering extensively from malnutrition and disease. The attack smashed their defensive lines, leading to a surrender by U.S. Major General Edward P. King. The Japanese planned the march in order to move 78,000 prisoners from the southern Bataan Peninsula, removing them from the theater of operations, in preparation for their siege of Corregidor. They were to be marched 25 miles to the central collection point of Balanga, after which they would be marched an additional 31 miles to the town of San Fernando. From there, they were to be transferred by rail to Capas, where they would then be marched 9 miles to the abandoned military outpost Camp O'Donnell.

The march of death

Prisoners were stripped of their weapons and valuables, and told to march to Balanga. Many were beaten and mistreated. The first major atrocity occurred when between 350 and 400 Filipino officers and NCOs were summarily executed after they had surrendered.

Because of the lack of food or water until they had reached Balanga, many of the prisoners died along the way of heat or exhaustion. Prisoners were given no food for the first three days, and were only allowed to drink water from filthy water buffalo wallows on the side of the road. Furthermore, Japanese troops would frequently beat and bayonet prisoners who began to fall behind, or were unable to walk. Once they arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to rapidly spread amongst the prisoners. The Japanese failed to provide them with medical care, leaving U.S. medical personnel to tend to the sick and wounded (with little or no supplies).

In June, 2001 U.S. Congressional Representative Dana Rohrabacher described the horrors and brutality that the prisoners experienced on the march:

"They were beaten, and they were starved as they marched. Those who fell were bayoneted. Some of those who fell were beheaded by Japanese officers who were practicing with their samurai swords from horseback. The Japanese culture at that time reflected the view that any warrior who surrendered had no honor; thus was not to be treated like a human being. Thus they were not committing crimes against human beings.[...] The Japanese soldiers at that time [...] felt they were dealing with subhumans and animals."

Trucks were known to drive over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue, and "cleanup crews" put to death those too weak to continue. Marchers were harassed with random bayonet stabs and beatings.

From San Fernando, the prisoners were transported by rail to Capas. 100 or more prisoners were stuffed into each of the trains' boxcars, which were unventilated and sweltering in the tropical heat. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll of the prisoners. After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final 9 miles to Camp O'Donnell. Even after arriving at Camp O'Donnell, the survivors of the march continued to die at a rate of 30–50 per day, leading to thousands more deaths. Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese dug out with bulldozers on the outside of the barbed wire surrounding the compound.

The death toll of the march is difficult to assess as thousands of captives were able to escape from their guards (although many were killed during their escapes), and it is not known how many died in the fighting that was taking place concurrently. All told, approximately 5,000–10,000 Filipino and 600–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O'Donnell.

Remembering Pearl Harbor: "When I start my computer up, my ship is right there on the screen," 90-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor veteran Leland Lester says as the Microsoft Windows chimes open. "There she is. The U.S.S. Pennsylvania." Leland Lester presses the power button on his computer in his McCann Village apartment to get a visual reference. He points out the damaged vessels' positions from his desktop background. "The old Oklahoma. I saw it roll over. The old Utah, it was our target ship, it was just tankered in there, and the Japs bombed it too."

The 90-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor sits back down. Adjusting his Hawaiian shirt, he pulls out a photo album. Describing aerial pictures taken from his recent helicopter tour of Honolulu, Lester tells how the houses shown rising up the mountains in the images were not part of the scenic view he used to enjoy during afternoon bike rides before the Japanese invasion.

The landscape is not the only thing that has changed in the years since Pearl Harbor. As the greatest generation begins to fade into the pages of history, remaining survivors such as Lester try to keep their stories alive. The Newton veteran has returned to Pearl Harbor only twice since the end of World War II — once in 1995 and on Dec. 7 of this year for the 70th anniversary remembrance and celebration. But with fewer and fewer survivors around to make the trip, the future of such celebrations has been put into question. "We're hoping there will be more, but it will be the last one I'll be going to," the 90-year-old said. Although in good health for his age, Lester admits trips like that can put stress on hips and knees. For nearly 10 years, Lester and his children have hosted a local Pearl Harbor survivor reunion. Held annually around Mother's Day, the event is hosted at the Newton Christian Conference Center.

December 7, 1941: where my husband-to-be and I were on that awful day - It was a beautiful, cool, sunny day, the sun's rays shining ever so bright by the water's edge. As we sat nearby, we listened to the big-band music we loved to hear and enjoyed each other's company while making plans for the future. Life seemed so wonderful and peaceful... The radio broke the news: The attack by Japan, the death of thousands of our naval forces and more, the destruction of ships. We could hardly believe this was happening so far away at Pearl Harbor, while it was so peaceful where we were. My generation knows the heartache of when the Japanese attacked our country. I knew the sadness and tears seeing your loved one leaving, the goodbyes, wondering if you would ever see them again. I was a part of that era. It was my youth that I felt was taken away by the attack, when John joined the Navy.

AP Honolulu - Lee Soucy decided five years ago that when he died he wanted to join his shipmates killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Soucy lived to be 90, passing away just last year. On Tuesday, seven decades after dozens of fellow sailors were killed when the USS Utah sank on Dec. 7, 1941, a Navy diver took a small urn containing his ashes and put it in a porthole of the ship. The ceremony is one of five memorials being held this week for servicemen who lived through the assault and want their remains placed in Pearl Harbor out of pride and affinity for those they left behind.

‘WAR!’ How a stunned media broke the Pearl Harbor news For a time on Dec. 7, 1941, millions of Americans were getting their news about the attack on Pearl Harbor through a person named Ruthjane Rumelt. She was an aide to White House Press secretary Stephen T. Early, and she relayed pieces of the story as it came in to reporters in the White House press room. At the Redskins-Eagles game, in Washington's Griffith Stadium that Sunday, the Associated Press football writer got word from headquarters to keep his story short, because: "The Japanese have kicked off."

And an editor attending the game got a telegram from his frantic wife, addressed Section P, Top Row, Seat 27, opposite 25-yard line, East side, Griffith Stadium. It read, "War with Japan. Get to office. "

That surprise attack by Japanese planes on the complex of U.S. military installations in Hawaii was not just one of the most significant moments in American history, it was also one of the biggest news days. On Wednesday — the 70th anniversary of the attack — the National Archives is hosting a special program on Pearl Harbor and the media.

Titled "It Is No Joke — It Is a Real War: How Americans First Learned of Pearl Harbor, "the free program is being held in conjunction with the Newseum and is scheduled to be moderated by veteran broadcast journalist and scholar Marvin Kalb. The program is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the main Archives building downtown. In the decades since the attack that plunged the United States into World War II, many have recounted where they were that day, but fewer have said how they found out.

Radio was then the dominant medium, Kalb said Tuesday. "There were 45 million radios in the U.S.," he said. "And people were listening to the radio an average of four and half hours a day. Newspapers were way down below that. So the most important means of communication was the radio."

Across the country, broadcasts of all kinds were interrupted. In New York, an announcer on WOR broke into a Giants football game. "We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin... Flash. Washington. The White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Stay tuned... for further developments..." Another radio reporter delivered a dramatic account from the roof of a building in Hono­lulu. "We have witnessed this morning... a severe bombing of Pearl Harbor," the reporter said, speaking deliberately over the background static.

"The city of Honolulu has also been attacked and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours... It is no joke. It is a real war." Most Sunday newspapers had been printed before the early morning attack and missed the news at first. The Hono­lulu Star-Bulletin came out with "extra" editions Sunday to announce the calamity.

"WAR!" its headlines blared.
On the East and West coasts, the story didn't break until later in the day, and many newspapers carried their first detailed reports the next day. In San Francisco, the Chronicle’s giant headline — "WAR! " — took up the top third of the front page.

In Washington, The Post proclaimed: "Japan Declares War Against U.S. " The 27,102 fans at the Redskins game — Washington won, 14-7 — were not told of the attack, but the public-address announcer summoned numerous VIPs and military officers to report to their headquarters throughout the contest.

At the White House, worried crowds gathered outside the iron gates while, inside, Ruthjane Rumelt passed bits of the unfolding story from her boss to the press. At 3:18 p.m., she entered the press room and said: "So far as the President's information goes, and so far as we know, at the moment, the attacks are still in progress. In other words, we don't know that the Japanese have bombed and left."

Back in Hawaii, the last Japanese planes had departed about 30 minutes earlier, littering Pearl Harbor with smashed American ships and thousands of dead, and leaving the date one that would live on in infamy.


Photos courtesy Miramax Films, US Navy, Wikipedia, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Newton Daily News

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