Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War luncheon honors WWII civilian POWs held in the Philippines

<strong>As Los Baños camp burns and a Japanese infantry division approaches, rescued prisoners from the Los Baños Camp are evacuated by amphibious tractors across the Laguna de Baye, a large lake south of Manila.</strong>

Survivors of WWII civilian Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camps, along with family, friends, POW camp liberators, and people interested in history, will be gathering at 11:30am on August 20 for a luncheon and reunion at the Long Beach Petroleum Club, 3636 Linden Avenue. Featured speaker Wanda Damberg will discuss her experience smuggling medical supplies into the camp. Other POW camp survivors will also be sharing their experiences and stories.
During WWII, the Japanese held 14,000 Americans as POWs in East Asia. Many of these people were held in camps near or in Manila, Philippines, where they suffered severe deprivation and starvation. Eleven percent of them died in captivity.
Featured speaker Wanda Damberg volunteered to help out at the hospital in the Santo Tomas camp not long after she arrived in 1942. Concerned about the critical shortage of lifesaving medicine, she joined a group of Filipino people who was smuggling medicine into the camps. Had she been caught, she could have been killed. In late 1944, she was transferred to the Los Baños camp, where she continued with the smuggling operation until liberated.

<strong>Adults and children explore the 44th Tank Battalion’s Sherman “Battlin Basic” the day after it broke through the gate of Santo Tomas, leading the 1st Cavalry flying column into the camp. The tank traveled 100 miles into Japanese occupied territory to liberate the prisoners. </strong>

By February of 1945, people in POW camps were dying at an increased rate due to starvation and starvation-related diseases like beriberi, a nervous system ailment caused by a vitamin B1 deficiency. General MacArthur authorized two great raids to liberate the remaining POWs before they could be executed on orders that had been sent from Tokyo. Both attacks were carried out with minimal casualties to American forces and rescued civilians.
The 1st Cavalry “flying column,” a small mobile unit of less than 800 men, raced 100 miles through Japanese occupied territory to the outskirts of Manila. Led by a band of Filipino guerillas, the small unit entered the city at dusk and liberated the Santo Tomas camp. They defended the camp until reinforcements arrived a few days later. The old Bilibid prison was also captured, liberating more military and civilian POWs.
The 11th Airborne Division liberated the Los Baños camp in a surprise attack. The three-pronged operation included an airdrop of a company of paratroopers, a simultaneous attack from the jungle by Filipino guerillas, and over water support by troopers in amphibious tractors. With a division of Japanese infantry moving to recapture Los Baños, the camp was immediately evacuated.
Anyone interested in attending is invited to the luncheon. The event is $25; reservations are required and must be made by August 13.

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One comment on “Bay Area Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War luncheon honors WWII civilian POWs held in the Philippines
  1. The bottom pic is not the Sherman named “Battlin Basic”…that bottom pic shows an LVT…(landing vehicle, tracked)

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