February 23, 1945 - Six Notre Dame men are freed from prison camp by Domers

By Olson

Father Jerome Lawyer C.S.C. (ND grad) had just finished offering morning mass for the prisoners of the Los Banos Philippines prisoner of war camp. Most had been held captive 3 years. Father Lawyer had offered a prayer at that service that the starving men would be freed from their Japanese captors.

"Father Lawyer turned from the altar, and glancing up, saw a sky polka-dotted with parachutes. Liberation day came that day. Leading paratroopers to liberate the prisoners was a New Yorker, John Finneran (ND class of 1933), first lieutenant of the 511th Parachute Infantry, 11th Airborne Division."

In the ensuing battle 243 Japanese guards and militia were killed. The American paratroops lost 2 men. None of the prisoners died. After the fighting subsided, Lt Finneran soon discovered that 6 of the prisoners were fellow 'Domers' - 4 of whom were from the order of Holy Cross.

  • Father Lawyer C.S.C. Portsmouth OH
  • Father Robert McKee C.S.C. (ND '36) Malone NY
  • Brother Theodore Kapes C.S.C. (ND '41) Hazelton, PA
  • Brother Rex Hennel C.S.C. Evansville, IN

Two other Notre Dame men were among the prisoners:

  • Michael Adrian (ND '25)
  • Tony Alsobrooker (who attended ND from '25 to '27)

Members of the Holy Cross Congregation had been trapped in the Philippines en route to the Bengal mission in 1941 when the war started.

Father Lawyer in a letter that he later wrote to the ND Alumni office, noted that the 6 ND captives met Lt Finneran soon after the liberation. The next day, 2 more Notre Dame alums were discovered among the Airborne paratroops- Cunningham (ND '31) and Bill Back (ND '41-'43).

Wrote Father Lawyer: "...it didn't take long to establish a Notre Dame club here."

Keywords: world war ii, father lawyer, john finneran, father mckee, brother kapes, brother hennel, michael adrian, tony alsobrooker, bill back

Posted On: 2015-04-01 00:25:03 by Olson


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