Navy SEALs Open Up About Daring Rescue Mission To Save 500 U.S. Prisoners

 January 31, 2024

On January 30, 1945, a remarkable act of bravery unfolded in the Philippines. The 6th Ranger Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Henry Mucci, embarked on a high-stakes mission to liberate Allied prisoners from the Pangatian POW Camp near Cabanatuan City.

This raid, marked by exceptional courage and strategic insight, liberated over 500 prisoners of war.

These prisoners, many of whom were survivors of the harrowing Bataan Death March, faced imminent execution. American Guerrilla leader Maj. Robert Lapham had received intel about the Japanese War Ministry's "kill-all order." This alarming news came in the wake of the tragic execution of 139 American POWs at the Palawan POW camp on December 14, underscoring the urgency of the mission.

The 6th Ranger Battalion's Brave March to Cabanatuan

The 6th Ranger Battalion, renowned for their combat prowess, prepared meticulously for this mission. Their task was formidable: infiltrate enemy territory, outnumbered and outgunned, to rescue their fellow countrymen.

The assault team, comprising 128 members, faced an estimated 225 Japanese troops at the camp, significantly less than the anticipated 500. However, in the surrounding area, a staggering 8,000 Japanese troops were stationed, adding to the perilous nature of their operation.

Armed with M1 Garands, Thompson submachine guns, BARs, 1911s, and bazookas, these brave men embarked on a 20-mile trek behind enemy lines. The mission's operational plan, astoundingly concise, was encapsulated in a single-page OPORD.

The Night of the Raid: A Tactical Triumph

As night fell on January 30, the Rangers initiated their assault. The meticulously planned operation commenced at 1945 hours. Their approach was stealthy yet assertive, culminating in a decisive and swift attack on the camp. The success of this operation was partly attributed to a well-timed distraction: a P-61 ‘Black Widow’ night fighter flew over the camp, drawing the guards' attention and boosting the morale of the imprisoned allies.

The logbook entry for January 31 in the 6th Ranger Battalion's records starkly summarizes the outcome: "Mission Accomplished. Casualties: Capt. Fisher and Corporal Sweezy were killed in action; Pvt Peters and Jack were wounded. Enemy casualties were estimated at 250 by the Rangers and 300 by the guerrilla forces. 510 prisoners released from Japanese prison." This figure was later revised to 512 rescued prisoners.

Reflecting on this historic event, bestselling author and former Navy SEAL Jack Carr, who has extensively researched military operations, acknowledges the significance of this raid. A seasoned combat veteran, Carr underscores the tactical brilliance and unyielding courage the Rangers and their Filipino allies exhibited.

The Cabanatuan Raid - A Testament of Bravery and Sacrifice

The rescue at Cabanatuan stands as a testament to the resilience and bravery of those who fought against overwhelming odds. It remains a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made during World War II. The 6th Ranger Battalion's actions saved hundreds of lives and demonstrated the profound impact of determined, collective effort in the face of adversity.

General Douglas MacArthur, a leading figure in the Pacific theater, reportedly expressed immense satisfaction with the raid's outcome. His words resonate with the gratitude and pride felt by a nation for its brave sons and daughters.

In remembering this daring rescue, it is crucial to acknowledge the contributions of all involved, from the seasoned leaders to the brave soldiers who risked everything. Their legacy inspires generations, serving as a beacon of courage, determination, and unwavering commitment to duty.

As we reflect on this historic event, let us honor the memory of those who served and sacrificed. Their actions at Cabanatuan remind us of the enduring spirit of resilience and bravery inherent in the human soul.

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