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  Sweet Memories Linger from New Bilibid  
  By Margaret (Whitaker) Squires  
  Dear Leo,  
  In review to your suggestion, for the story that I had volunteered:  I went looking over the past “Winds Aloft” publications in Martin’s wartime files for Newsletter #10 and 11 and his “Aw, Mom!” story.  During my search, I found the special history issue published in the Fall of 1999, that had been given to me by Wally Scherer at Martin’s memorial service.  In it were the lists of those killed in action, and particularly heart-wrenching to me, were the names of three Co. E fellows who were killed April 22, 1945:  Pfc. Harold P. Ressler, Pvt. John H. Cornett (known as “Henry,” but everyone called him “Slim”), and Pfc. Ward L. Bates. Jim Patton was another saddening casualty on the list.  
  The following diary excerpt may not mean very much to anyone but me, but it may explain why Co. E of the 511th PIR is dear to my heart.  I’ll start with some background from the pages of my diary, written July 1, 1945, at Rocky Ridge on Lake Whatcom near Bellingham, Wash., where a loving aunt and uncle had opened their home to my sister, Betty and me until we were situated in college and high school.  They also had been surrogate parents to my older brother before the war, when he had attended the University of Washington before going into the service in the Asian theater and becoming navigator on a B-29.  After the war, my father remained in Manila for a while, and my mother returned there, after accompanying my sister and me to the States.  I was eighteen years old when I wrote this story and will begin with our liberation from the Los Baños Internment Camp.  
  February 23, 1945:  At 7:00 a.m., as everyone was standing in the road in front of our barracks, waiting to be counted for roll call, we heard a drone in the sky.  We looked up to see 9 aircraft flying low over the ridge toward the camp.  Company B, led by Capt. John Ringler of the 511th Parachute Inf., 11th Airborne, jumped out and landed about 1000 yards outside of the camp. (Insertion on the margin of the diary page: several fellows from C of 127th Eng.; others from A and C Company of 511th came in Amtracs).  At the same time we heard shots within and around the camp, these were from the Airborne Reconnaissance Platoon and guerrillas.  
  I’ve described the excitement and mad joy of the internees so often in letters that I’ll skip it here and just keep it in memory (sorry about that).    
  After the battle in camp, in which most of the Japanese were killed, with the exception of a few including the hated Konishi who escaped, the Amtracs of the 672nd Amtrac Bn. came charging in through the fence. In a state of euphoria, we hurriedly packed as many clothes as we could stuff into one suitcase apiece, fortunately in my rush and excitement, I remembered to grab my Los Baños notebook diary. (My Santo Tomas diary I had left with a friend and roommate back in Manila, not daring to take it with me to Los Baños.  I gratefully retrieved it from her later, complete with all her cute little commentaries in the margins).  Dad carried his suitcase with difficulty, but slowly made his way down from his barracks (which was located above ours) to join us.  
  We were loaded into the Amtracs, left a burning camp behind us and trundled down past the town of Los Baños to the lake, where some of us ran into a skirmish.  Betty, who had found a perch up front, near the machine gunner, had to climb down to a safer spot. Later we found out that the Amtrac sides were not really bullet-proof for heavy gunfire, but in blissful ignorance we didn‘t care, and anyway our machine-gunner was protecting us.  
  We plowed right into the lake and chugged across it in a flotilla of 56 Amtracs full of dazed, happy internees. Our water-going metal steeds pulled in and came aground at Cabuyao, where we scrambled out and waited through the noon hour for the Amtracs to return with their second load.  During that last phase many internees had to walk to the lake, from the burning camp under sporadic gunfire, protected by GI’s who returned with them in the last Amtrac.  We were taken by truck behind enemy lines to the ex-political New Bilibid Prison at Muntinlupa.  
  We arrived at New Bilibid around 4 p.m., Mother, Betty, and I were assigned to double bunks on the second floor of Barracks 2; Gene and Margo and their mothers were there already, getting squared away.  Dad found an empty bunk in the men’s section that took up the other half of Barracks 2. We were given two army blankets apiece--one to put under us, folded around the boards that we slept on, and one to put over us.  After getting settled and cleaned up, we stood in line outside the mess hall for a skimpy meal of bean soup.  The army was taking no chances on letting us kill ourselves by overeating. Some Santo Tomas internees had stuffed themselves after their February 3rd liberation and had gotten deathly ill.  Rations soon increased, however!  
  Muntinlupa was the base for the 41st Field Hospital, which after a couple of days pushed on. The 21st Evacuation Hospital took its place.  Because we were right in the war zone, all the casualties were brought here for front-line immediate treatment.  
  For the first few days and nights I went out with a boy I had been dating in the Los Baños camp. However, he and the other camp boys soon resigned themselves to taking a back seat to the strong, healthy, well-fed GI’s. Like good sports, Ken and Dave (the older brother of one of my best friends) did the next-best thing.  It was they who methodically screened the GI dates for Margo, Gene, and me, who triple-dated, calling ourselves the Three DisGraces of the Order of the Hibiscus.  
  Jack, another Los Baños friend, introduced me to Frank Krhovsky the first evening.  Frank was one of the boys who had rescued us.  He was in Co. C and had been in the 3rd Amtrac.  The second evening I met Ward Beaver.   After Ward it was a case of one GI after another.  Frank left camp the day after I met him to fight down at Los Baños.  Gene, Margo, and I tore around everywhere together, visiting the hospital and triple-dating.    
  At this time, Co. E of the 511th was bivouacked around the perimeter of Muntinlupa, and Dave introduced us to three of the fellows who were able to get free for several evenings.  We spread one of our blankets on the ground, in the field behind our barracks, joining dozens of other internees and GI’s who were also sitting on blankets, exchanging addresses and stories of home or camp.  
  A four-man dance band had been formed to play on the roof overlooking the parapet above the main entrance of the prison.  Dave had gotten to know three boys from the hospital M-1 tent, who scrounged uniforms to exchange temporarily for their maroon “MD-USA” pajamas and robes.  They gallantly rose to the occasion to escort us to the dance, although they were suffering from acute yellow jaundice and not feeling a bit well.  
  In between dances we stood looking over the parapet.   A perimeter had been dug below us and looked very lonesome and ghostly.  Co. E. was on guard.  The moon was coming up in the east, shining directly over the valley in front of us, lighting up tin roofs here and there, bringing into relief the foxholes scattered over the valley field.  The dancers paid little attention to the moon.  They were having such a good time.  
  Down on the other side of the administration building Slim, Ward (Bates), and Harold sat on their cot adjacent to the clinic barrack.  A street light near them illuminated part of the Co. E group of buddies piled on two cots, talking and laughing.  Slim and Harold looked a little glum, and though they joined in the fun and laughter I could tell they wished they were up where we were, dancing.  
  As we watched the moon rise higher we listened to the thunder of guns in the distance.   It sounded awfully close, and we decided that it came from Antipolo.  A few flashes of lightning played around in the north.  Every single star was out. The dance band was great but we left and went down to our blanket on the field before the players finally collapsed at about 2:00 a.m.  Our escorts were about ready to collapse, as well, but they manfully held themselves together long enough to get us “home.”  
  The next afternoon we visited the hospital, and that evening went out with the three Co. E-ers.  Did we have fun that night!  The movie was good, and we had a swell time. Again we spread the blanket down on our regular spot on the field.   Harold was so much fun and such a darling, I just can’t grasp that he would be dead soon----he, Slim and Ward.  
  We were having a gay time while Harold put us into stitches imitating Captain Wade and everything, and we were quite unprepared for what came next.  A captain approached us and squatted down near the blanket.  He introduced himself and said, “I’m looking for Captain Wade.”  There was something strange about him; he peered into all of our faces and he wasn’t quite steady.  Slim told him that Captain Wade was probably in the Co. E tent.  The officer didn’t move.  He just sat there for a minute. We went on talking and laughing.  After a while he began to talk.  “I lost six of my favorite boys,” he said so quietly and unhappily that we paused and listened to him. “Six of my best, finest boys.  I knew three of them better than a man would know his sons.  Thirteen of my boys were killed.  Six of them were my favorite boys.  Three of them were like sons.”  
  He kept repeating this until I thought I would go crazy.  Slim and Ward and Harold squirmed, and you could see them begin to realize that no matter how hard they tried to get their minds off those guns booming in the distance, it wouldn’t work.  A whole field of people surrounded us, but the war, too, was not only around us but also with us.  For a half an hour he stayed, telling us about the battle around Los Baños, how he was wounded, and he kept talking about his “favorite boys” and why he loved them and how they were killed.  He kept going into details until I could hardly keep from bursting into tears.  Tears were running down my cheeks.  Harold saw them and pressed my hand.  His morale was down lower than it had ever been, I guess---I know mine was, and goodness knows how he thought he could comfort me.  He needed it himself.  
  Slim had fallen asleep.  Typical Slim.  He knew when to fade out of the picture.  Margo was nearly going crazy trying to keep in the same position so as not to wake him up.  Finally the captain heaved to his feet, and with a few melancholy parting words and sympathetic murmurs from us girls, he shoved off.  He headed for Liz and Dean Marks’ blanket and joined them. (Leo, this is where I found Deane Marks’ name, when thanks to you I re-read the story.  Thank you for your information about him.  I just talked to Liz, who had headed up our last internee reunion in San Antonio in 2003.  She was sorry to know that Deane had died the month after Martin.  She still treasures the Japanese notebook that Deane had given her, also a Japanese flag with Japanese names or phrases covering the white area of the flag, apparently inscribed by different people.  
  In fact, I now remember when she showed them to me when I visited her and Walt last year.  (She had shown them to Martin when we had visited them in 1995).  In the red circle (we called it the Fried Egg) he had written “From Fort McKinley, Feb. 12, 1945.  To the ‘iceberg’ that knows all about Ormoc Bay (there is a joke here, but after all these years she couldn’t remember the story).  Signed Deane Marks, 511 Para Inf.  St. Paul, Minn.  Phone NE4428 (just in case).”  Liz remembers him well, a good-looking, fun date!  She had come up from Santo Tomas in Manila, as we all were pals and commuted back and forth in a way that we gasp about now---we agree we would never have let our daughters run around like we did.  But those fellows were perfect gentlemen and we never had to worry about anything but good intentions---a fun time for us. We woke Slim up.  Gosh, but we were a silent six-some.  We just couldn’t seem to get back our gaiety.  Finally we decided to go in.  The boys were taking off the next day, so we promised to see them off.  
  A fire escape pole dropped through the middle of our second floor to the ground floor.  For a time the boys had contemplated using it instead of the stairs, after saying goodnight to us.  Tonight they did.  Harold took a look at it and attacked.  Down he disappeared.  Five seconds later Slim followed him.  Then came Ward with the blanket.  All three of them were packing their guns and helmets, as they had sneaked away from the guard post, and they made quite a sight.  
  The next morning the people down below excitedly described their sensations as those three paratroopers in full regalia had skimmed down the pole one after another.  When the third had zoomed down they thought the whole 11th Airborne was descending on them.  But it stopped at three.  
  Upstairs, Margo, Gene, and I just went to pieces.  We howled with laughter until tears flowed out of our eyes in regular waterfalls.  Those cute boys, doing that crazy stunt, just sort of killed us.  After the nervous tension of the evening, the goofy sight set off the spark.  We rolled against the walls in agony.  I laughed so hard; I thought I’d burst.  We couldn’t stop, even when we were exhausted.  We ate our midnight snacks in gulps and gags, undressed, climbed up and tumbled onto our hard bunks. We were usually pretty careful about stealing in quietly at that hour, but I heard my mother give a sigh of relief and roll over in her bunk below me.  It was about 3:30 a.m.  
  The next day at noon we went down to see Co. E off.  The six of us sat in the gutter at the eastern end of Barracks #2 in the shade and waited for the trucks to come in.  About half an hour later a dozen other Co. E-ers joined us. They were nervous and excited.  Back into the thick of the battle they were going in a few hours.  We sat and talked about odds and ends.  Slim and Margo were very quiet.  For a couple of minutes Harold and I got up and walked over to Mr. Hill’s tent and spoke to him.  He and Harold came from the same place, and Mr. Hill was going to look up Harold’s parents when he got home.  
  In rolled the trucks---and Co. E would be soon going off to war.  I felt as if I were going to pass out.  While we had been waiting, a dozen ambulances had come tearing through the gate and had unloaded their patients almost in front of our eyes.  Now these swell boys were going to the very place from which those wounded boys had come.  In they piled.  In no time the trucks were full.  Ward had the machine gun and rode in a separate little wagon with a few other boys.  Slim gave Margo a big hug and a kiss, and on he got.  Harold gave me a hug, and I got a bruise from the beautiful Jap sword hanging from his belt that lasted for weeks.  Off they went in a cloud of dust.  We were the only internees down to see those wonderful boys off.  
  Later on, one evening after Margo had left for Australia, practically all of Co. E sneaked into camp.  Gene and I came back from supper to find a couple of dozen boys parked in front of our barracks.  We were in a quandary, not wanting to break the dates we had made earlier, because one was a patient due for an operation the next morning.  It seemed that Harold and Ward decided to come up and see us before they were to shove off further south.  Slim decided to come, too.  So did Muggsie and Bud, and before they knew it, the whole outfit was up.  Jack Bandoni and Jim Patton came, too.  They swiped a jeep and twenty of them piled on it, and up they came. (In the margin of my diary I had written: their captain sneaked up, too--they bumped into him).  
  Well, Harold and Ward argued with us for half an hour---no, they were there from 5:00 to 6:45!  Our dates were coming for us at 7:00. We finally made arrangements to meet Harold and Ward out front at 10:00.  Our dates arrived right on time, we saw a movie, and at 10:00 excused ourselves.  The boys were out on the front plaza waiting for us.  Someone had swiped the jeep they had swiped, and they were quite upset over the fact that they might have to hitchhike back.  They had to be in their area by 7:00 o’clock for roll call the next morning.  They saw a truck standing near the hospital and tried to make off with it, but it was locked or something.  Finally Muggsie came tearing in.  “We’ve got a jeep!” he shouted.  “Hurry up before they catch us.”  
  Bud drove the jeep in through the gate and the boys scrambled on.  You couldn’t see the jeep for the boys.  Muggsie had threatened to kiss me that afternoon, but now he didn’t ask me, he asked Harold.  Apparently I had no say in the matter!   “I guess so,” grinned Harold.  “After all, we’re buddies, aren’t we?”  So Muggsie charged at me and enthusiastically gave me a terrific kiss.  Then he charged at the jeep.  Just as he was about to climb on amidst the noisy boys, he changed his mind, charged back and kissed Gene, and leaped on the jeep just as it was gaining speed.  Gene and I didn’t mind.  Muggsie was a cute dynamic blond from Seattle.  The jeep was off down the road before we realized that Harold and Ward had missed it.  However, they weren’t perturbed. Apparently they planned to go back some other way.  I guess they eventually stole another jeep.  They gave us good-bye kisses, and we walked down to the gate with them.   
  They set off down the road, beyond the barbed wire, toward the shooting and explosions.  
  I never saw them again.  Slim, Ward, and Harold were killed on the 22nd of April 1945 at Sulac, Luzon.  Gene and I were aboard the U.S.C.G. Eberle near Honolulu on the way to the States, and Margo was on her way to Australia at the time.  I wonder how the other boys are.  
  For a time I corresponded with a number of them, especially a young 21st Evacuation Hospital patient who had stolen my heart until I met Martin.  Every February 23 and Memorial Day I think of Co. E. and say a little prayer.   
  Martin, whom I met in Bellingham where his parents had moved during the war, had played a vital role in the liberation of Los Baños.  We fell in love, were married, and had a wonderful family and fifty-two happy years before he was felled by a stroke.   Before he joined the Reconnaissance Platoon he had been in Co. E of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, always proud to have stood tall as a member of the 11th Airborne.  
  Ed Note: Margaret was 18 when she was liberated from Los Baños.  She was housed in Barracks #2, shown in the photo that was taken, during her stay at New Belibid in Feb. 1945.  Martin & Margaret shown during their 50th Wedding Celebration.  Martin passed away on Feb. 1, 2000.  Margaret still keeps in touch with the 11th Airborne Recon. Troopers & their wives and is an Associated member of the 511th PIR Association.  Currently she lives in Des Moines, WA.  She recently contributed to the two-hour review, The Rescue at Dawn: The Los Baños Raid, by the "History Channel."