A Sentimental Journey

 

A former POW, a survivor of the infamous Palawan massacre during WW2, came to town incognito last week on a sentimental journey. With the help of Dr. Linda Ganapin of the Palawan State U, I was able to locate him and spent almost an entire day with him interviewing and taking pictures. My article is due to come out in the Inquirer hopefully next week.

schloat9.jpgDon Schloat, 86, is one of the 11 American POWs who survived the Japanese prison facility located in the center of the old Puerto Princesa town during the War, a place now called Plaza Cuartel.

It was in this hellish camp where over 150 American prisoners were massacred by the Japanese Kempetai on December 14, 1944. Fearing an American siege of Palawan was beginning, the Japanese officers ordered the herding of the prisoners into the prison’s underground air raid shelters where they were doused with gasoline and burned alive.

Don was lucky to have been transferred to the Bilibid Prison before the massacre. He had been captured and beaten following an escape attempt and was being tried by court martial when it happened. But he knew all those who had died and had written a book on the war.

Don’s name is inscribed in a bronze memorial marker at the center of Plaza Cuartel, now a quite garden beside the main Roman Catholic Cathedral and frequented by school children for its shade and playground.

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Chatting with schoolchildren at the Plaza Cuartel:

“I didn’t realize kids here speak English well… during my captivity, I will be executed if they caught us talking to the locals.”

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“There used to be six coconut trees standing here in the middle of the camp. They would tie up erring prisoners against the trunk and beat them with wooden planks in full view of the other prisoners.”

 

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Etching on the bronze marker to take home a memento. After the War, Schloat went on to establish a successful career as a cartoon animator in Disney.

“No one wanted to escape. They just wanted to wait for the Americans because they knew the war was going to end. On that night of my attempted escape, there were four of us. All of us were captured. I found out later that the other two were executed.”

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A visit to the Palawan State University where Schloat agreed to donate war memorabilia to the PSU Museum. (From left: faculty member, PSU President Dr. Teresita Salva, Schloat, PSU Vice President Dr. Erlinda Ganapin, me)

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The marker stood atop one of the bunkers where the American POWs were herded into and burned to death. Those who had managed to crawl out were razed down by machine gun fire or stabbed by bayonets.

“I think of the 11 folks inscribed here, all have already died and I’m just the only one hanging in there. “

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A friendship is forged.

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9 Responses to A Sentimental Journey

  1. Teng says:

    Sir Dempts, it was nice seeing you this afternoon sa Itoy’s. Love that picture of you and Schloat. I forgot to do that when I was interviewing him.

    I hope your Blog starts promoting Plaza Cuartel as a very important historical site in Puerto Princesa. Sabi nga, to be able to understand the future dapat alam natin ang history natin.

  2. Holly Thomas says:

    My grandfather is William Balchus… one of the 11 survivors. He is still alive today. Is his name on the marker? I’d love to see a picture of it.

  3. Teng says:

    For Holly Tomas — WM J. Balchus from Martinville, New Jersey is your grandfather? I have a photo of the marker. I’d be happy to send it to you in your email, Holly. You may get in touch with me at celesteannarformoso@gmail.com

  4. Dempto Anda says:

    @Teng. Thanks
    @Holly. I will try this week to etch the marker for you as requested and will post more photos here.

  5. to holly thomas!!
    i read where you said your grandfather is a survivor of the palawan massacre is there any way you would ask if he knew james a pitts they sometimes called him j or jay…he was killed in that massacre and was my dads cousin…… this story haunts me as i didnt hear of the story until a couple yars ago and his mom and dad and sister are all deceased and i want to find more on this forgotten soldier…..thank you so much for any reply and my sincere thanks to your grandfather for his service to our country… and i am sorry for what he went through and glad he survived…

  6. Vern Holm says:

    Hi. I was surfing the web as I often do looking for additional information about my father’s exploits during World War II. Dad (Holger Larsen Holm) served on Corregidor with Battery Chicago of the 60th Coast Artillery. He was a prisoner of war at Cabanatuan, Bilibid, Palawan and later at Funatsu, Japan. Dad was one of the 300 soldiers who helped build the airstrip on Palawan. He was fortunate enough to have been transferred back to Cabanatuan prior to the massacre. We live in Northeast Iowa and Dad was a lifelong friend of Glenn McDole (of Des Moines, Iowa) who was one of the few Americans to escape the burning trenches on Palawan and make it home alive. My father passed away in May, 1995.

  7. Joe Balchus says:

    Vern My dad william was in the 60th coast artillery and is one of the 11 palawan who made it out. He lives in calif. with me now he was from Pa. He turned 87 in oct. feel free to contact me.

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