Canlubang (121.14E 14.19N) was a rail junction and airstrip south of Manila in the Philippines.

Aerial photograph of Los Banos camp about to be liberated

U.S. Army. Via

Los Banos Raid. About eight miles east of Canlubang, at Los Banos (121.242E 14.178N) on the south shore of the large lake Laguna de Bay, the Japanese established an internment camp for American civilians caught in the Philippines by the Japanese invasion in December 1941. Some 2147 civilian men, women, and children were held in the camp, under conditions which, while far better than in prisoner of war camps, were nevertheless highly unpleasant. Following the American invasion of Luzon in 1945, both the civilian internees and the American high command began to fear that the Japanese would massacre the internees rather than see them released by Allied troops.

As a result, on 4 February 1945, Joseph Swing received orders from MacArthur to have elements of his 11 Airborne Division liberate Los Banos. Because Swing was heavily engaged attempting to penetrate the Japanese defensive line south of Manila, the operation did not take place until 21-23 February. Swing had excellent intelligence on Los Banos from Filipino guerrillas, aerial reconnaissance, and debriefings of Peter Miles, a civilian engineer who had escaped from Los Banos. The resulting operation was a model of planning and execution.

On the night of 21 February 1945 the reconnaissance platoon of 11 Airborne Division accompanied by about 80 Filipino guerrillas slipped across Laguna del Bay in native bancas, small boats, and in spite of moonless conditions landed precisely at the desired location just east of Los Banos. The next day this advance force infiltrated the area around the camp, securing a drop zone for paratroops and a stretch of beach for LVTs to come ashore, and positioning themselves to quickly kill the camp guards at the start of the assault. Meanwhile, a diversionary force consisting of 1 Battalion, 188 Glider Regiment, took up positions in Mamatid (121.158E 14.235N), along with three companies of 1 Battalion, 511 Parachute Regiment, who would ride the LVTs to Los Banos to carry out the evacuation of the internees. The paratroop drop south of the camp would be carried out by a fourth company of 1/511 Parachute Regiment. If possible, the LVTs would make a second trip to withdraw the paratroops, but if not, the paratroops would withdraw overland to join up with the diversionary attack force.

At 6:45 on the morning of 23 February the internees were called to roll call while most of the guards engaged in calisthenics. At precisely 6:58 the advance force lit smoke grenades to mark the drop zone, and shortly after 7:00 the firstparatroops made their jumps. Simultaneously a bazooka team from the advance force opened fire on the pillbox in front of the camp, destroying it, and the remainder of the advance force opened fire on the guard towers. The paratroops landed precisely as intended, suffering a single jump casualty, and within three minutes was racing into the camp. Within twenty minutes all 243 Japanese guards were dead without loss to either the attacking force or the internees. 

The paratroops quickly quieted and organized the cheering internees, of whom all but a few of the most able bodied men were able to squeeze aboard the 59 LVTs that came ashore. The LVTs took their passengers back to Mamatid and returned to evacuate the rescue force, who were under light sniper fire. One internee and one paratrooper were slightly wounded in the evacuation. The diversionary attack actually took more casualties than the raiding force, suffering two dead and two others wounded. 

The raid received little coverage in the American press and remains relatively unknown today: The flag raising on Iwo Jima took place the next day and had the full attention of the American  public.

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