Cabanatuan Raid / Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija
Cabanatuan City was occupied by the Japanese Military Forces on December 29, 1941. For almost a month, the city was put under the control of the Japanese and the people experienced a plethora of untold sufferings. The Nueva Ecija Chinese School (along General Luna Street) transformed into a military site and was utilized by the Japanese kempeitai to incarcerate, torture, maim and kill suspects of anti-Japanese activities. Camp Pangatian, which was once a military training camp before the war, was also converted into an internment camp for Prisoners of War (POW) who survived the infamous Death March on April 1942.
In order to completely segregate the Americans from the Filipino prisoners of wars (POWs), the Japanese began transferring the Americans to three (3) Cabanatuan prison camps, which were 5 to 8 kilometers apart, in late May 1942. When water became scarce in Camp No. 2, the POWs were transferred to Camp No. 1. In October 1942, Camp No. 3 was permanently closed and prisoners were all transferred to Camp No. 1. During the first 8 months of American POWs in Cabanatuan, 2,400 prisoners died.
The Cabanatuan market and churches, which were converted into Japanese headquarters, were accidentally carpet-bombed on January 14, 1945 by American planes. The whole town was in general disarray as human bodies were scattered everywhere. After a series of bombing raids by the Americans, Cabanatuan City seemed hopeless even though the Japanese were driven out.
On January 27, Filipino guerrillas alerted the Sixth Army headquarters of the presence of about 300-500 American POWs in a stockade at Pangatian, east of Cabanatuan. The 6th Ranger Battalion, aided by the Alamo Scouts, was assigned to undertake the rescue operation. However, the operation was postponed when Filipino guerrillas reported some 7,000 Japanese transient troops near Pangatian.
In the morning of January 30, two men reconnoitered the area and gathered enough detailed information to enable the rescue operation. That same evening, two groups of bazooka-bearing guerrillas, numbering 60 each, blocked the east and west openings to the stockade to support the rescue force that attacked the area from three sides. Some 800 Japanese, attracted by the firing, approached the roadblock and were eventually killed by the guerrillas. The guerrilla force also effectively repelled the enemy tanks and by the end of the encounter, nine of their own men were lost. By 8:15 PM, the rescue operation concluded successfully with 512 prisoners released.