Gilman D. Knutson

Liberated from Jap Prison in Philippines Eau Claire Man Describes Experiences
Sergeant Gilman D. Knutson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Anton Knutson, Hastings Way, liberated from a Japanese prison camp in the Philippine Islands by American soldiers, says it was like a western movie thriller in a letter "to the folks at home," written February 24, the day after his sensational rescue. 

Sergeant Knutson, a graduate of Eau Claire High School, enlisted in the Army in 1937 at Fort Knox, KY and was sent to the Philippines in 1939. 

His mornings there were devoted to his Army duties and, afternoons and evenings, he attended the University of the Philippines, at Manila. 

His enlistment expired just before the Jap attack at Pearl Harbor, but he was still on Luzon, when the Japs invaded and was taken prisoner, after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. 

His letter, the first real contact with his home folks in three years, follows:

Dramatic Rescue
"Yesterday on the 23rd, I, along with about 2,100 other prisoners, was rescued from the clutches of the Imperial Japanese Army in what may go down as one of the most timely, best-planned, best-executed, as well as most dramatic, rescues of a large group in history. 

"You probably have seen, in the movies, scenes depicting a group of hungry, thirsty, tired pioneers in a fortress, fighting off a mob of yelling, bloodthirsty savages and, in the final reel, the noble defenders are about to expend their last few grains of powder in a dear, but futile effort, fending off the fierce, ferocious, fatal finale when, over the horizon and out of the dawn with the proper sound effects of clattering hoofs, shots, and sound of a bugle, of course, came the U.S. Cavalry to the rescue, just in the nick of time. 

Hungry, Tired, Weak 
"Well—our rescue was similar, in many respects.  We were hungry, tired, weak and apathetic from three years of malnutrition, six months of which were designed, intended, consciously-planned starvation. Internees were dying off at almost one a day of starvation. Eighteen people escaped through the barbed-wire fence; two of whom were killed. The Japanese quartermaster was a cruel sadist by the name of Konishi. The commandant we had probably also had sadistic traits, but I think he was a mental defective. Between the two of them, they cut our chow down to pitiful portions; I will give statistical details in later letters.

"Like the characters in the second paragraph above, we, too, were down to our last few grains—but these were our last few grains of palay (unhulled rice), not powder, and we were warding off death by starvation, rather than death by a more bloody means. 

"Similar to the aforementioned movie, we, too, were in the last reel. We reeled as we walked, and the local food situation had never looked blacker. This time, however, the cavalry was mechanized (amphibian tanks) and airplanes, parachute troops, and guerilla troops. There was considerable shooting.  I heard that the rescue party had two men killed and two wounded and that some 400 odd Nips were obliterated. 

"I saw one of the latter lying in a ditch beside the road, as I walked out of the burning camp, to get aboard one of the amphibious tanks which took us out.

Most Pleasing Sight
"The most beautiful and most pleasing sight, which I have ever seen, was the view of those parachute troopers descending from their planes under their umbrellas about 7 a.m. the other morning! 

"Back in December of 1941, Roosevelt is alleged to have said, 'Help is on the way!'—Well, it had finally arrived. Fortunately, not too late, this time. A few of the internees were wounded by flying bullets but, as far as I know, none were killed.

"My health is poor—due to malnutrition, but I have all my limbs and faculties. I have not been wounded, but I am physically weak. I tire very easily. I do not have much physical strength, although I can walk around all right. I fatigue mentally quite easily and cannot concentrate well. My myopia is  worse, although not troublesome. My strength is returning under the auspices of the U.S. Army, and I am on the road back to good health again. I weighed 198 pounds when  I was working in the kitchen in Santo Tomas camp in 1942. Three days ago, I weighed 146 pounds. I hope to reach 200 pounds in two months.

Received Two Letters
"I received two letters while I was a prisoner of the Japs; both were from you—one dated March 15, 1943 and the other, August 25, 1943. These were received in April 1944. 

"Today (February 24, 1945), I received one letter from you, dated November 30, 1944, and one from Mother and Dad, dated November 17, 1944. And, Sis, would you please forward or send copies of my letters to the folks for me? I presume you have access to a typewriter, so I will send most of my letters to you."