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The rescue of 516 prisoners of war by American soldiers and Filipino guerillas from the Pangatian Concentration Camp in Cabanatuan City on January 30, 1945 has been described as one of the most daring and successful rescue missions of its type in the annals of military history.

That event is immortalized in stone in the Pangatian War Memorial.
 


The memorial is along the Cabanatuan-Palayan road in Barangay Pangatian, some eight 
kilometers from the city proper. It is hard to miss -- its steel fence and manicured lawn
provide a stark contrast to the surrounding rice fields. For 20 years before World War II,
the site served as a military training camp, but during the Japanese occupation it was 
converted into a concentration camp for Allied prisoners of war, mostof them 
survivors of the infamous Death March.
 


Once inside the gates of the compound, 
one's attention is drawn to a lone marker... 
 


... a tribute to American and Filipino soldiers
who died on that hallowed ground.
 


A long dirt road between rows of cypress trees leads to the memorial.
 


The elevated, circular Pangatian War Memorial, built in 1982, is the only place
in Nueva Ecija where the American flag flies side-by-side with the Filipino flag.
For a good reason: it is, after all, an American shrine
maintained by the U.S. Battlesites Commission.
 


The focal point is a huge marble niche with
simply the name "Cabanatuan" engraved on it.
 


A marble tablet atop the niche explains the significance of the site.
 


Off to the right side is a memorial to West Pointers who died in the concentration camp.
 


Engraved in marble are their names 
and the class years to which they belonged.
 


At the far end of the compound are two long memorial walls.
 


Listed are the names and ranks of the 
American servicemen imprisoned in the camp.
 


A marker commemorates the dedication of the memorial wall
during the time of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos, himself a war hero.
 


No structure remains of the original Pangatian Concentration Camp
save for the concrete foundations of a water tank which have been
left untouched at the back of the memorial.
 


On April 6, 2003, the provincial government inaugurated a second memorial
on a piece of land adjacent to the U.S.-maintained memorial.
 


The first memorial honors the heroism of Americans in the liberation of Pangatian POWs;
the new memorial, on the other hand, pays tribute to the Filipino guerillas
who participated in that momentous event.
 


The provincial government's memorial sits in the middle of a lush mango orchard
which further underlines the Filipino character of the site.
 


Atop a circular platform are two identical markers from the National Historical Institute,
one in English, the other in Filipino...
 


...recounting the exploits of Filipino guerillas -- Squadron 201 led by
Captain Juan Pajota and Squadron 213 led by Eduardo Joson -- 
in the liberation of the Pangatian POWs.
 


The Pangatian War Memorial -- a testament to the bravery
and heroism of Novo Ecijanos.
 

Digital photos and text by Ramon R. Valmonte
April 2003

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