Diary of Herman Beaber kindly passed on to me from his son John Beaber
Fri. 7:00 a.m. Feb. 23, 1945 FREE and Happy!
The great day has come, and what a day of days! This is how it happened:
Feb. 23, we got up as usual but wondering if there would be roll call as there had been none the evening before. At 7 a.m. Leo was getting the fire ready so he could cook us a little lugaw for breakfast as soon as roll call was over. Earlier in the a.m. about 5 a.m. or so, we had heard the mighty roar of many motors. Leo and I remarked that it did not sound exactly like planes but when it died away to some extent we agreed it must have been planes operating in the distance. But at 7 a.m. sharp we heard and saw nine large transport planes flying low, and passing close to the camp; perhaps one mile to the east. Even as we all watched, we saw doors open and paratroopers came tumbling out.
OH! What a sight! With a tropical sunrise for a background we saw about 150 parachutes open one after another and settle slowly earthward out of our sight behind the distant trees. We knew help had come but had little time to contemplate this good event before rifle fire commenced to the west of our camp. It was guerrillas with American Officers who had been waiting there for hours. At first the firing was desultory, then it came in quick volleys, and machine guns started to sputter. Bullets whizzed and buzzed through the camp and whined in high shrieks as they glanced off objects. One spent bullet came into our cubicle, smashed a coconut shell an tapped Leo on the back, part of the shell fell on Willie. I was hugging the floor, looking out under the large crack beneath the door at the Filipinos and Americans sneaking into the camp, their rifles ready. The guerrillas were armed with bolos, sticks, and knives, as well as rifles ready. They were a motley crew but they defeated the Japs in quick order. It was over in less than an hour.
All the Japanese guards were killed, I believe. Some say there was a garrison of 200 or 300. Planes hovered overhead; Jap stores were being blasted, burned and destroyed. As the firing died down a bit we heard the roar of motors again, the same we had heard earlier. Then we saw the – large amphibious tractors. We wondered how they had gotten through the Jap lines, which we thought, and it turned out to be correct, were some miles to the north. Then it dawned on us that the amtracs had come across the water, down the lake, and for the express purpose of rescuing us. The military leaders knew that if they pushed the Japs back through our camp, most of us would be killed or wounded.
Judging by the atrocities, the Japs have committed in Manila and elsewhere, the rumor that we were to have been executed that next day may have been true.
The order came for us to pack what we could and get ready to leave as we were still behind Jap lines and troops might come in at any time to retake the camp. The paratroopers were on guard to the south, the amtracs had brought troops who were on guard to the north, and we had to hurry! We boys ate a little hot lugaw, which Leo had managed to keep cooking, packed all we could carry easily and got out.
The camp was burning, as they did not want the Japs to find anything after we had left. There were 54 amtracs. Each one held about 25 to 35 people with luggage. All the hospital cases were carried out, and not an internee was lost in the maneuver. We started loading about 9 a.m., with more American boys pouring into the camp and planes keeping guard overhead. Sometimes it seemed as if all the rifles and machine-guns in the world were being fired. The air was full of whines, snarls, and streaks of red. Three civilians were slightly wounded and two soldiers were killed.
The amtracs loaded up and started out. We entered the water about 10 a.m. Had some skirmishes with Japs who were up the lakeshore a ways. We answered their fire and then moved out further into the lake so they could not reach us. That was when the three internees were wounded. We landed at Cabuyao just before noon. Army trucks and ambulances met us there. The amtracs returned to the scene of the rescue to get the troops and a few more internees. They made the trip OK as our main forces were pushing down the lakeshore and kept the Japs busy. We were brought here to Muntinlupa, New Bilibid Prison. The Army is caring for us and all is OK. Fighting is still going on in Manila. We can see the fire and hear the guns night and day.
Will just add that we are now living on mashed potatoes, roast beef, and gravy, with all that goes with it. My weight got down to 140 pounds but is going up fast. Willie left us on Saturday March 10th. Cecil left about Wednesday March 21st.
We feel heavily indebted to our rescuers, and are mighty proud to be citizens of a great country like the United States. On the other hand, we are grateful to God for His care and protection, and now that He has spared our lives we feel more inclined than ever to give Him our best. The consciousness of His presence, and the knowledge that our friends in every land were remembering us gave us courage and strength; and kept us hoping for final deliverance…