Through Fire and Through Water.
I was up before daybreak the morning of February 23rd, 1945, and in my private prayer place I thanked God for all His goodness to me, for my health and strength through the trying days, for healing the sores on my ankles and legs, for the new shoes, for fellowship and comfort and His cheering Word and all its promises, and for my Savior Jesus Christ who died for my sins. I also thanked God that rescue was coming soon, though I did not know when.
With the dawn of morning light I had a fire started and my little handful of rice on the stove cooking. It was seven o'clock, and in the areas between the barracks other fires were burning as other internees were stoking their little clay stoves to prepare breakfast, then suddenly we saw coming out of the north several large planes flying low and fast. As the first one flew past our camp, from an open door in its side several soldiers came dropping in quick succession, their parachutes opening and lowering them into a field below. The same thing happened as each of seven or eight planes flew over. In a moment our stares of astonishment were changed into shouts of joy. Those still inside the barracks came running out to join us in the shouting and rejoicing. Rescue was come!
It is wonderful to be saved. Our rejoicing as we saw our rescuers coming down can be compared in a small way to the shouts of the saved who are loosed from Satans bondage by the blood of Jesus Christ, and can say as did David, "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God."
While we were still shouting rifle fire was heard sounding out from somewhere near the front gate of the camp. We learned later that most of the Japanese garrison had been out there on a section of paved road doing their morning calisthenics as was their custom every day, while unknown to them a band of Philippino guerrillos was hiding close by in a jungle filled gully. This band of guerrillos entered the camp together with the paratroopers, wiping out most of the Japanese garrison as they did so. Soon we saw a big American soldier come walking down the aisle of our barracks with a Tommy-gun in his hands, followed by a number of little Philippinos all armed to the teeth and with rifles almost as big as themselves.
Around the camp the several guard houses now were under attack by our soldiers. Each guardhouse was surrounded by a high bank of earth, a good protection against rifle and machine gun fire, and on this day the guards seemed to all have machine guns, which we had never seen there before, and they began spraying the camp with a deadly fire. We all lay flat on the floor and took cover as best we could. The mat sides and palm leaf roofs of our barracks were no protection against bullets, but what saved us was the roughness of the grounds outside. It was perhaps an hour before the machine guns in the guard houses had been quieted by means of mortar fire or by hand grenades, and during this time I crawled out several times to replenish the wood in my fire to keep the rice cooking, for I thought we should have to eat anyway.
When the fighting died down, and the last of the Japanese had either been killed or driven into the jungles, the soldiers came through the barracks again telling everyone to pack their most valuable belongings into a small bag or suitcase and prepare to leave immediately. We were all, to assemble at the college athletic field just outside the camp to the north. In a few minutes I was on my way with my suitcase on my shoulder, and not having time to eat my rice I poured it into a tight lidded can which I tied up in a napkin and carried with me. At Sallys barracks I found that she had already packed and gone, and I found that Jackie and Jimmy had left their barracks also. There was quite a crowd of us as we surged along the camp streets. On one side was the barracks that had housed the Japanese soldiers, and it was burning from one end to the other. On the other side of the street another barracks was in flames about half of its length, and between these towering flames we all walked, sometimes having to dodge the pieces of burning palm leaves that drifted down upon us. We knew that the whole camp would soon be gone.
When we drew near the north side of the camp we could hear the rumble and roar of great engines. The double barbed wire fences had there been crushed flat to the ground, and in the open field outside we could see a large number of giant, caterpillar treaded vehicles, something like army tanks. In the front of each one sat two soldiers, one the driver and the other with a large machine gun. A tall, switch-like antenna also protruded into the air from each one. When they had all swung around and lined themselves up, the rear ends of each tank opened and lowered to the ground like a drawbridge giving a view into their barge-like interiors. By their wet sides and the water trickling off of them I realized that they were a kind of amphibious tank troop carrier, something I had read about in a mechanics magazine before the war when it was considered a sort of inventors pipe dream. These amphibious troop carriers or "amtracks," as they were called, had come through the waters of the Laguna de Bay during the darkness of the early morning hours timed to arrive at our camp just now in order to take us out from behind the Japanese lines.
In the crowd of internees that were milling about I soon found Jimmy, Jackie and Sally. All were so happy and so interested in talking to the soldiers, who seemed to be having just as grand a time as we were. The paratroopers, who had arrived first, were all a part of the 11th Airborne, U. S. Army. Because there were not enough of the amtracks to carry all of us in one trip, they asked for the sick and the women and children to get in first, after that as many of the others as they could carry were permitted to go aboard. I saw that Jimmy, Jackie and Sally were all able to go, then I remained behind to walk with about six hundred other internees together with the paratroopers and the Philippino guerrillos down the road toward the Laguna de Bay. I struggled along carrying two suitcases, Sallys and mine, and they seemed to grow more and more heavy along the way.
The sun was now high and hot, and I was both hungry and thirsty. Beside the road ran a small stream of water, very dirty, and I did not dare to drink of it. As we walked through the little village of Los Banos the people all came out to greet us. One shopkeeper was handing out coconuts to all who would accept them. I took one eagerly and gratefully for in it were pure water and also food. Soon I had cracked the coconut on a rock and was drinking the sweet water from inside, then while hurrying to keep up with the others I tried to pry out some of the meat to eat, for I had still had nothing to eat that day nor the night before.