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  The Los Baños Raid, How Did The Fire Start?   
  by Walter Hettlinger  
  When we were notified that my light machine gun (LMG) platoon was to augment “B” Company of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment for the Los Baños raid, we quickly went to work making sure that our equipment was in first class condition.  All tracer rounds were removed from the ammunition belts as a precaution against starting fires, unintentionally.  Two of my machine gun section were attached to the “B” Company’s platoons.  This left myself and S/Sgt. Ed. Misch without a definite job.  Platoon Sergeant T/Sgt. Russ Appleyard and Section Sergeant S/Sgt. Martoglio, had been evacuated for wounds received at Nichols Field.  
  After I was briefed at Nichols Field, I conned some pilots out of two cartons of cigarettes, these became very useful during the rescue at the Los Baños Camp.  After we landed a short distance from the Camp, “B” Company with my machine gun sections attached, entered the Camp and engaged the Japanese guards vigorously.  After all the Japanese were subdued, 1st Lt. John Ringler, C.O. of  “B” Company, S/Sgt. Mish and I (2nd Lt. Hettlinger) went into the barracks to inform the internees to leave the barracks and go to the parade field, with a minimum of baggage.  
  The internees literally mobbed us to get information.  This was getting us nowhere, so I went into a barracks and give the apparent leader a pack of cigarettes to distribute amongst the rest to get the internees out of the barracks and onto the parade field.  This quickly became a mob scene, as the internees had not smoked an American cigarette for over three years.  The cigarettes seemed to divert their interest momentarily, so I proceeded to another barracks.  I ran into S/Sgt. Mish, who was having the same problem trying to get the internees out of their barracks.  I then informed S/Sgt. Mish that we had to burn the internees out of their “beloved homes.”  
  I then moved clear of the barracks and checked the wind direction.  I used the old proven wet finger method, I knew that some Superior Being was on our side that morning.  So I told Mish to torch one barracks by igniting the swalli of one building, while I torched the other two buildings.  The barracks were in three rows of six barracks each, this made the torching easy.  After the barracks starting burning, it did not take long for the internees to leave and head for the parade field, with minimum baggage.  The wind carried the fire to the next row of barracks, doing a very efficient job of helping the internees to decide quickly, what items they should carry out with them.  
  I lost my ZIPPO cigarette lighter somewhere along the way when we flew to Japan to begin occupation duty, but I will remember it forever.  
  Epilogue: Walter Hettlinger,(retired LTC U.S. Army) passed away Sept. 12, 1998. Walt will always be remembered for getting married over the telephone during the fall of 1946 (11/12/46), to Dora Lebbedies, who then resided in Chicago,IL.  
  Courtesy of "WINDS ALOFT" Quarterly publication of the 511th PIR Association