Great Raid Too Late for Colon Boys

The Great Raid is Too Late For Colon Boys


Joe Ganger

There is a movie recently released and I have, by the way, seen it. Just wanted you to know that it is based on a true story. “The Great Raid” tells the story of the 6th Ranger Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci who undertakes a daring rescue mission against all odds. Traveling thirty miles behind enemy lines, the 6th Ranger Battalion aims to liberate over 500 American prisoners-of-war from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese Prison camp in the Philippines in the most audacious rescue ever. In January 1945, an Army private named Eugene Nielsen arrived on the island of Morotai, an Allied staging base in the Dutch Spice Islands. Nielsen, a recent escapee from a Japanese Prisoner of War (POW) camp, relayed a horrific story to U.S. intelligence officers. With American troops advancing in the Philippines, the Japanese had begun slaughtering Allied POWs, many of them survivors of the Bataan Death March. A Filipino guerilla group, operating behind Japanese lines, confirmed Nielsen’s claim. The leader of that group, Major Robert Lapham, believed the Japanese would soon massacre another 500 Allied POWs, languishing at the infamous Cabanatuan POW camp on the island of Luzon. Information provided by Nielsen and Lapham set in motion a remarkable series of events, culminating in one of the most dramatic and daring missions of World War II. On 30 January 1945, barely three weeks after Eugene Nielsen’s initial debriefing, a battalion of 200 U.S. Army Rangers and Filipino Scouts stormed the Cabanatuan POW Camp, rescuing hundreds of American and British prisoners from almost certain death. Then, in a feat of equal daring, the Ranger force ushered the former POWs, many of them gravely ill, across miles of Japanese-held territory, back to American lines and freedom. One of the prisoners who died at that prison before help could arrive was Francis Gerald Snyder, a Colon boy. His parents were S. G. and Emily Snyder. Francis joined the service with another Colon boy, Jack Darwin Lewis on August 20, 1941 and they both arrived in the Philippines on November 20, 1941, just before the Japanese invasion. Both boys survived the “March of Death” or “Bataan Death March” and Snyder died at Cabanatuan on June 22, 1942. Lewis died on May 30, 1942 at another Japanese prisoner camp (Camp O’Donnell). Lewis graduated from Colon High School with the class of 1936. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Ross Lewis. The boys must have died a terrible death. Maybe this book/movie will serve as an appropriate memorial to two very brave Colon men.