Glenn McDole was born in Nebraska in 1921. He moved near Des Moines, Iowa in the 1930s and attended high school in Urbandale, then joined the Marine Corps in 1940 and was stationed in the Philippines. He was at the Cavite Naval base, near Manila, on Luzon when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, initiating the Second World War. McDole became a prisoner of war when Corregidor fell on May 6, 1942. He was sent to Cabanatuan Camp No. 1, then joined a work detail and, along with approximately 300 other men, eventually ended up in a prison camp at Puerto Princesa on Palawan Island on August 12, 1942.
McDole and the other prisoners were put to work building an airstrip. On March 13, 1943, McDole suffered from an attack of acute appendicitis and underwent an operation without anesthesia. Infection set in, and McDole's abdomen ruptured. The only American doctor in the camp sewed it, but when the thread did not hold, he had to sew shirt buttons along the incision site.
By late 1944, only half of the prisoners taken to Palawan were still alive. In November 1944, the men were ordered to dig three trenches and several pits, which were covered with bamboo logs. The Japanese feared an American invasion and decided to execute the 150 remaining prisoners. Thus, on December 14, 1944, the Japanese guards issued a false air raid alarm and forced the men into the trenches, which were supposedly bomb shelters. McDole stood in the opening of one of the trenches and informed the others of what was happening. He saw the Japanese approaching with torches and buckets full of gas, which they poured onto prisoners in the first trench and then ignited the bamboo logs, shooting anyone who tried to escape.
McDole and the other men in his trench had managed to dig a tunnel leading to a cliff with a sixty-foot drop to the beach, and it was through this tunnel that McDole fled and hid under a pile of garbage for two excruciating days. He then took cover in a sewer outlet. On December 18, he swam five miles to the beach, where he climbed aboard a fishing trap. A Filipino found him, but McDole was forced to leave with another escapee, Sergeant Bogue, due to the imminent approach of a Japanese patrol. On Christmas Eve, McDole and Bogue reached the free Philippines. McDole was evacuated by an American command on January 21, 1945.
McDole went to college when he came home, and he became an Iowa highway patrolman for 29 years as well as a Polk County sheriff for 12 years. He served for one year at the Marine Corps Base Camp in Pendleton, California during the Korean War. He wrote a book, entitled Last Man Out (2004), about his experiences on Palawan. McDole passed away on September 3, 2009 in Alleman, Polk County, Iowa.