People & Events: Robert Prince and the Raid
Planning the raid was a monumental task. It fell to C Company commander, Captain Robert Prince, a 25-year-old Stanford graduate. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci knew men; he chose Prince. Young and reserved, Prince was in many ways the opposite of Mucci. They were a perfect match.
Planning Under Pressure
It was Mucci's job to lead the men, getting them to the edge of the compound; it was Prince's job to figure out how to get the Rangers in and out of the compound with all the sickly prisoners. He had less than 48 hours to plan.
"I was very apprehensive," he recalled. "Any commander's greatest fear is the fear of failure. It preys on you. You have to keep your focus. You have to consider all the things that could go wrong, but then you have to banish them from your mind. If you think about them too long, you can't go forward -- you're paralyzed."
Prince built his plan around his two best weapons -- surprise and confusion. He wanted to get his team in and out as quickly as possible. And, of course with as few casualties as possible. The raid, he predicted, should be over in 30 minutes. He was to send two groups of guerrilla fighters -- one group under the command of Captain Juan Pajota and one under the command of Captain Eduardo Joson -- in opposite directions, to hold the main road that passed by the front of the camp. He also split the Rangers into two groups, one for the front gate and one to come through the rear. He himself would personally ensure that all of the barracks were clear and all the prisoners accounted for.
One of Prince's fears was that the surrounding countryside was so flat. He knew his men would have to crawl through a long open field on their bellies -- right under the eyes of the Japanese guards. Pajota, Mucci, and the U.S. Air Force took care of that. They had arranged to have a P-61 night fighter fly over the camp just as the men would be crossing the field. Prince recalled: "The P-61 was one of the biggest factors maintaining our surprise... And they did a wonderful job of it, including cutting out an engine to make it sound like the plane was in trouble."
The biggest challenge of the raid was choreographing so many groups that didn't know each other. All told, there would be over 1,000 people participating in the raid. There were two Filipino guerrilla groups, the U.S. Army Rangers, the Alamo Scouts, local Filipino villagers, the Air Force, and, of course, the POWs themselves.
Prince credited the success of the raid and the successful collaboration of all these disparate groups to the fact that they were operating in friendly territory. He recalled: "It was such a complex group of people, none of whom had any real dealings with each other before, not on such a scale... The main thing that made it conceivable to think we could succeed was that we were in friendly territory with friendly people. Trying to do that somewhere else, I don't think you could even come close." All the men involved agreed, without the Filipino civilians, the whole thing would have been a lot tougher, if not impossible.
The raid was a tremendous success. In all only two Rangers were killed, 512 POWs were liberated and an estimated 523 Japanese were killed or wounded. There were no Filipino casualties.
On March 3, 1945, General Walter Krueger presented the men with awards: Mucci and Prince both received the Distinguished Service Cross, the other American officers received the Silver Star, and the American enlisted men received the Bronze Star. All the Filipino officers and enlisted men received the Bronze Star.
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