Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rescuing General Wainwright

After General Wainwright surrendered the troops on Corregidor, the men were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese. A gaunt General Wainwright was then present at the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri. Here is the abbreviated story of his rescue by a man named Hal Leith, a member of the OSS sent on a special mission to rescue POWs after the war’s end. They did encounter a hiccup early on in the mission; some of the Japanese troops they encountered were unaware that the war had ended.

Hal Leith was assigned to the OSS early in his Army career, mainly because of his proficiency in several languages and the ease with which he learned them. After the six man rescue team parachuted into Manchuria, four of them were met by a Japanese patrol that had no knowledge of the war ending. After being blindfolded and taken to the Kempeitai headquarters, they were released and received help from the Japanese in carrying out their mission to rescue POWs. After finding out that General Wainwright was not at Mukden POW camp, which was also freed by the rescue team, arrangements were made to get Leith and another member of the rescue team, Major Lamar, to Hsian, 150 miles away where he and others were being held.

Shortly after their arrival at the camp in Hsian, they met with and freed Generals Wainwright, King and Moore along with other notables from Great Britain and other allied countries. Major Lamar returned to Mukden for official orders while Leith stayed with the freed prisoners in Hsian. After a few days, Leith began the journey back to Mukden with the freed POWs. It was during this journey that General Wainwright made Leith his “aide de camp.” At the time of the jump, Leith had been promoted to Staff Sergeant but was unaware of that and thought he was still a corporal. General Wainwright complimented Leith by saying he had “done the job as well as any Major could have done.”

There is much more to this story and Hal Leith will be at the symposium to tell his account of this little known but remarkable piece of history. He will be speaking the morning of Saturday September 18, and there is still time to get tickets. Go to and follow the link for the 2010 Symposium. Also, stay tuned for more blogs about presenters at this year’s program.