10. The Great Raid on Cabanatuan
During WWII, the Imperial Japanese Army became notorious for their unusually cruel treatment of war prisoners. When Allied ground forces were defeated in Philippines, Over 3,500 American soldiers became Japan’s POW. Because they could be used as bargaining chips, U.S. citizens were kept alive. But two years later, when the Allies returned in 1944, they had no intention of bargaining with Japan.
By January of 1945 only 1,500 or so Americans were still (barely) alive in Japanese prison camps. And that number would be down to 0 in a few weeks – less then it would take to move in position for an all-out offensive. So, instead of waiting for heavy infantry, 121 U.S. Army Rangers volunteered to take on twice as many enemy soldiers in a rescue mission later hailed as the war’s “largest raid operation.”
The assault was over in under 30 minutes. Losses were surprisingly small (six wounded and 11 dead). It took hundreds of Japanese Imperial troops to take out a dozen U.S. Rangers. Most importantly, over 500 Americans who were considered MIA came home that year. The mission was the inspiration for the 2005 blockbuster film ‘The Great Raid.’