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  The Recon Platoon at Los Baños  
 
  by Terry R. Santos, 11th Airborne Div. Recon Platoon  
 
  The battles of the Pacific during World War II have recorded two major events, which occurred during the month of February 1945. The first, and most publicized, was the invasion of Iwo Jima by the U.S. Marines and the subsequent raising of the American Flag atop of Mount Suribachi on February 23rd. The second, less known and less publicized action, took place at an internment camp near Los Baños, Luzon in the Philippine Islands also on February 23rd. Inasmuch as this memorable event may have been under-publicized, or even overlooked by the historians it was a never to be forgotten experience for the Internees, the POWs and Liberators at Los Baños.  
 
  Our particular unit, referred to as the Provisional Reconnaissance Platoon, 11th Airborne Division (receiving two Distinguished Unit Citations) was privileged to spearhead this liberation effort.  
 
  I would like to digress for a moment and explain the reason we were designated a Provisional unit, by definition, temporary or conditional. In the lexicon of the Army, this meant that we did not officially exist. The Recon Platoon was not an authorized organization unit of the 11th Airborne Division. Therefore, members of the Recon Platoon, for administrative purposes, were assigned on paper to various units within the Division. We became the ghosts, the "Snooper," men who weren’t there. The Platoon was the brainchild of General Swing, who wanted a small, well-trained, all volunteer unit to deploy as he deemed necessary and without explanations. Our liaison was Lt. Col. Muller, the Division G-2. The Platoon was composed of 30 enlisted men, of which three were non-coms and one officer, Lt. Skau. However, at the time of the Los Baños raid, we were down to 22 men. We were informed at the outset, that no promotions in rank would be forthcoming, and sure enough none were. The Army's recognition of General Swings wisdom and foresight led to the authorization of a Table of   
  Organization and the expansion of the Recon Platoon to full Troop size near the end of the Luzon campaign, just prior to our departure for Okinawa.  
     
  The Mission at Los Baños  
     
  The Recon Platoon was assigned three important tasks for the raid:  
  1. Mark the beach landing zone for the Amtracs.  
  2. Mark the Drop Zone for B-511th .  
  3. Neutralize the Japanese sentries, at the guard   posts, pillboxes and bunkers at the moment B-511th jumped at the timed hour of 0700.  
     
  Our assault team (Ed. Note: One of several assembled for the raid) was comprised of troopers: Botkin, Call, McFadden and myself, together with a squad of 12 Philippine guerrillas. Our assignment was to knock out the two Japanese pillboxes with our machine gun. Being we did not have a light machine gun, we used a Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.).  
     
  Let me state, without equivocation, that were it not for the Filipino guerrilla guides, with their intrinsic knowledge of the terrain, the Recon Platoon would have never found the various strong points, the Drop Zone, or the Beach Landing Zone, in the dark of the night. They took us overland through flooded rice paddies, circuitous routes in order to skirt the various enemy listing-posts and outposts. It took us about 10 hours to arrive at our objective near the Los Banos prison. Just as we crested the bank of Boot Creek, at 3 minutes before 0700 hours, firing erupted. This alerted the Japanese gunners in the pillboxes and as we charged their positions, the first bursts from their machine guns wounded troopers, Call, Botkin and our faithful Filipino guerrilla guide. We continued firing until we silenced the pillboxes. Then suddenly a third, unexpected, and unreported machine gun opened fire on us. We soon spotted its location on a knoll, near a large tree, overlooking our exposed position. We kept pouring fire into the area until the B-511th troopers reinforced us to eliminate it. To the best of my knowledge, our assault team suffered the only casualties during the raid.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  About the Author: Terry currently lives in San Francisco, CA. and still keeps in touch with Recon members and their wives.  
     
  Minor editing provided by Leo Kocher  
     
  Courtesy of "WINDS ALOFT" Quarterly publication of the 511th PIR Association  
     
  Ed. note: It was later confirmed that two guerrillas, Sgt. Atanacio Castillo and Cpl. Anselmo Soler were killed during the raid by the Japanese.  It was estimated that about 80 Japanese guards were killed during the raid.  Contrary to original reports, the Japanese Los Baños camp commander, Konishi was not killed. He was later observed, working as a Filipino labor, by a liberated internee.  The internee notified the local police, who jailed him.  He was subsequently tried for war crimes and sentenced to prison and hanged.