Page Back  
  Home Page  
  Rosebud, Texas Man Directs Sensational Raid To Free 2147 Prisoners  
  Lt. Col. Joseph Weldon Gibbs and His Amtracks Take Leading Role in Spectacular Assault on Last Known Jap Camp in the Philippines; Most of the Japanese guards Slain, Only Two Filipino Guerrillas Killed; Internees Overjoyed.  
     
  Lt. Col. Joseph Weldon Gibbs of Rosebud, Texas always said his 672nd amphibious tractor battalion was the best outfit in the army and today he had new proof to offer his amtracks' role in the liberation of 2147 civilian internees from the last known Japanese prison camp on Luzon Island.  In one of the most exciting rescue operations of the Pacific war, 500 soldiers of the 5llth Parachute Infantry Regiment, plus Gibbs' amtrack unit, plus about 200 guerrillas stabbed some 40 miles from Manila through territory held by 8,000 Japanese troops to bring to safety the 1589 Americans, 329 Britons, 56 Canadians, 89 Hollanders, 22 Poles, 10 Norwegians, 16 Italians, one Frenchman and a Nicaraguan held at Los Banos prison camp.  
     
  American casualties in the sensational operation totaled two soldiers wounded and two internees slightly injured. Eleven Navy nurses and two civilian nurses were among those liberated.  It was two hours before dawn Friday on Luzon Island Col. Gibbs loaded his amtracks with picked troops of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment and started chugging across Laguna De Bay southeast of Manila toward Los Banos.  
     
  Col. Gibbs had a rendezvous across that choppy water he had to deliver his cargoes of crack Airborne troopers through the beach, jungle and hills on the far side at a given minute, so they could attack the Los Banos camp garrison at the same time that the 11th Airborne Reconnaissance Platoon and Filipino guerrillas closed in from the jungle and paratroopers dropped from the skies.  
     
     
 
 
 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  Col. Gibbs got 'em there on time for a Dramatic Attack & Rescue  
     
  The amphibious force, the 11th Airborne Div. Recon. Platoon, the jungle wise Filipinos and the green clad paratroopers fell on the prison camp in a dramatic surprise attack at precisely 7:00am Feb. 23, 1945.  The Nipponese, including their commanding officer, his staff and 243 guards, were out in the dawn's early light doing their daily calisthenic exercises when the liberators struck, said Associated Press dispatches from Manila.  
     
  In a brief, bloody battle, most of the Japanese guards were killed  
     
  Then the second half of Col. Gibbs' job began.  The amtracks, those steel boats with cleated tracks which move with equal ease on land or water, had to carry everybody from Los Banos to the other side of the huge Laguna De Bay, to safety within American lines nearly 50 miles away.  Working with clockwise precision, Gibbs and his amtracks loaded up and ferried out the internees and 11th Airborne soldiers.  Except for sporadic sniper fire, which was silenced quickly, the strange and wonderful caravan met no opposition.  
     
  The Tribune-Herald phoned Mrs. Gibbs to tell her about her husband's feat.  She lives down at Rosebud, with their two children, Annyce, 7, and Joseph Allen, 2.  "Weldon is having the time of his life on Luzon," Mrs. Gibbs laughed. "He says he is crazy about what they're doing there, says he just can't get enough of it.  You know, he's the type who thinks everything he has is the best there is.  He's really proud of his battalion." His wife said the colonel, who is 35, is called Joe by his soldier comrades, "but I call him Weldon, just like his parents did."  
     
  Gibbs is a six-foot, 200-pounder with black hair and hazel eyes.  His last, letters home, dated Feb. 8 and 9 were full of the fun he's been having in the liberation of Luzon, about how Mrs. Gibbs disclosed that Col. Gibbs' executive officer is another Rosebud man, Capt. Jack M. Tarver, 33, whose wife is the former Miss Frances Wheelis of Waco. Mrs. Tarver and their two children, Grace and McLane, also live in Rosebud. Col. Gibbs' parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. K, Gibbs, live in Marlin.  
     
  Gibbs finished Rosebud High school in 1928, graduated from Texas A. and M. college in 1932, worked at Kaufman and then at Corsicana as a soil conservation service engineer.  He kept up his reserve commission, and in 1941, entered the army as a first lieutenant.  In April, 1942, he was sent to Camp Hood. He stayed there two years, first doing adjutant work, later taking a line command and finally, about a year ago, activating the 672nd amphibious tractor battalion which he now heads.  Tarver was another charter member.  
     
  The unit went to Ft, Ord. Calif., last April for; combat training, and went overseas last Sept. 15. As part of the 37th division, it has been in the thick of the fighting for the Philippines. Associated Press Correspondent Dean Schedler rode with Col. Gibbs in an amphibious tractor on the tense journey to Los Banos  Gibbs' amtrack led the long, ghostly column across the rough waters of the island sea, then turned aside and herded the others up the beach, into the jungles and up to the hills behind the town of Los Banos where the prison camp was located.  Schedler and another AP man, C. Yates McDaniel, sent the following description of the condition and spirit of the liberated throng:  
     
  As the Yanks entered the camp, their hopes sagged when no internees were sighted. A Filipino, bleeding from a Japanese bayonet wound, directed them to the barracks. There the internees, clutching little bags of clothes, hugging children beside them, crying and yelling greetings came pouring from the buildings.  
     
  One American said: "Oh God, its been a long time we have waited for just such Hollywood American stuff." In an amtrack under machine gun fire on the way out of Los Banos one woman said: "After so many years of Japanese war, what is one more little affair, give me another one of those cookies."  
     
  Better Than Santo Tomas  
  The internees at Los Banos were in better physical shape than the 3700 civilians liberated at Santo Tomas, They had better food supplies than the others until October 1944.  Recently the Japanese cut the rice allowance to a starvation 170 grams a day.  Many of the rescued were thin and pale but generally looked better than the starved Santo Tomas people.  The internees, lined up for morning roll call were ordered back into the barracks and surrounded by a defense guard of Yanks. As speedily as possible they were moved across the bay in amtracks to a safe rendezvous.  
     
  Gen. Douglas MacArthur who ordered the rescue, said Providence was certainly with the doughboys and the guerrillas.  He declared "Nothing could be more satisfying to a soldier's heart than this rescue.  I am deeply grateful."  
     
     
      
 
                              
 
                                  
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  Joseph W, Gibbs retired as a Col., in the U.S. Army.  He passed away in Fort Worth, Texas on Jan. 8, 1965.  
     
  Editing provided by Leo Kocher G-511th  
     
  Copyright © Leo F. Kocher  
  11th/511th Airborne