A Soldier's Journal
John A. Olson
98th Chemical Mortar Battalion
1 - An Inductee becomes a Soldier
2 - Basic training at Camp Roberts
3 - We make it back to Fort Lewis
4 - Our country goes to war
5 - A second and longer sea voyage
6 - Training and playing in Australia
7 - Into the active combat zone
8 - A TD outfit becomes a CMB
9 - We re-take the Philippines
10 - Headed home
John Olson (known as Olee to his friends) was my technical sergeant counterpart in the 98th Chemical Mortar Battalion when we both worked in Operations. He also was a great friend. We shared many personal and war experiences throughout New Guinea and the early part of the Luzon campaign. Several weeks after landing on Luzon, we separated and served in different battle areas. On returning to the USA, we remained close friends and even though we ended up living on opposite ends of the country, we spoke often on the phone and got together for visits when our schedules permitted. He passed away about 3 years ago and I was very fortunate to have had one last visit with him shortly before that. In this photo (click to enlarge), I am on the left and Olee is on the right.
Right after the Hollandia landing in 1944, Olee told me he was keeping a diary and a recorded history of his Army experiences. He let me read it and then asked me if I would write a short foreword for him. I obliged and jokingly dedicated the book to myself. Since it was a tongue in cheek comment on my part, I wasn't expecting it to remain the opening for his story and I certainly didn't think anyone would ever read it. I was definitely not expecting to write a second foreword or dedication almost 70 years later but I am really glad that I got the chance. I am writing this as an introduction to our story that was written by John Olson during our service with the 98th in the Pacific campaign of WWII.
former 1st Lt, 98th Cml Mortar Bn
August 24, 2011
Possessed with New Guinea mud, saturated with thoughts of the same color, I will try redemption by dedication. Any man whom God gives the ability to shoot dice, deal black jack and whittle at the same time, or scratches ten feet in rock when a "Charlie"* whistles, deserves all the prosperity and fortune this epic might bring.
Secondly, I dedicate this to that idealist and steadfast friend, Technical Sergeant Bill Adams. His comradeship, loyalty, and good tolerance are the guide of this Diary. May his fortune and this book's popularity be mutually successful.
*"Whistling Charlie" is the nickname for the Jap 77mm mountain gun which they used very effectively against us at Dot Inlet and Tambu Bay, New Guinea.
Tech. Sgt. Bill Adams
ForewordAs I have mentioned previously, this is a very unusual book. One reason is probably due to the fact that the fellow who wrote it is a rather peculiar character. The other reason, being the fact that it is not laid out, or perhaps I should say planned, in any particular manner. It is more or less a combination scrap book, diary, album and information resume. Some parts may be uninteresting but The Reader should find a few worthwhile things to merit his or her time used in reading these pages. If so, the author will feel that in addition to having something priceless for him, the pleasure given to others was well worth the effort used to compile this book. If the author gets back to that place called home, with all his faculties and finds his home as he left it, he will never regret his time served in the Army. It is the greatest experience any young man could ever be subjected to anyplace. Where in civilian life could a young man travel as we have, meet as many different types of people, make as many friends, learn the value of organization and cooperation, have the opportunity to figure out for himself the varied problems that arise in Army life, see real suffering and sacrifice and gain that indispensable appreciation of his home and family. All this and more go together to make up the greatest education a man can receive; an education not available to any civilian in the world….at any price.
Yes, I even believe that though the men beef about the Army, six months after they receive their Honorable Discharge and the newness of civilian life wears off, there will be a longing (maybe slight, but a longing) to get back for awhile to all the buddies and the old grind which most of us grew to like in spite of ourselves.
With all these things in mind, I leave the foreword and proceed with vim, vigor and vitality on the pages to follow.
John A. Olson
1 - An Inductee becomes a SoldierIt was on the 24th of March, 1941 that Uncle Sam informed me that he would appreciate it if I would take a little military training by sending me the now famous little letter headed: "Greetings, your friends and neighbors have selected you for...", and so on and so forth. I was ready to go after all the neighbors with a 12 gauge but was talked out of it. On the morning of the 26th, with a small suitcase in hand, I was ready to take on some of this "Greetings" stuff. I said good-bye to Mother and went with Dad to the Kelso Draft headquarters. After shaking hands with Pop and watching him drive down the street in the old Olds, I was for the first time completely alone to face anything that might arise in my young life.
I sat down on the steps and waited until everyone had arrived, none of whom I knew from Adam's cat, and then accompanied them to the Columbia Hotel Coffee Shop for breakfast. There were twenty five of us fellows all told. Believe me; they made money off of us even if we didn't pay for the meal. Some of the boys couldn't eat because they were thinking of leaving everything they had been used to for so long, some had a pretty rough night prior and some didn't feel like eating for a lot of reasons. I was one of the latter.
After breakfast, which by the way looked very good, we loaded up into a big North Coast Lines bus. My buddy Harold and his folks were there to see us off. We shoved off for Tacoma dreading every step before us in our new life. I sat by a big logger whose name was Hansen, but he didn't prove to be very talkative and I didn't feel much like batting the breeze either for the first time in my life, so we rode the whole trip in silence.
About nine A.M. we rolled up to a stop at the induction station and we were immediately shot upstairs in a rather busy looking building with a lot more forlorn looking characters. We were given a handful of papers and told to strip down to the clothing Mother Nature allotted us. What a show! There were short, tall, fat, skinny, bony, Charles Atlas's and myself all assembled in one room. We started in one door and kept right on going until our valves, plugs, pistons, gas lines and all the rest were thoroughly checked. After this we were taken down to a restaurant, of course we were dressed, and had our last dinner as a civilian. We then went back upstairs and into a line for finger prints. The Army is one line after another: physical exam line; chow line; wash line; canteen line; beer line (Australian pubs), and in some cases a latrine line which will come out a little while later (A latrine is a form of a privy whether it is located inside a building or outside). Then we sat down and waited. This is another standby in the Army: "Hurry up and Wait"
Here is where I first came into contact with, or maybe I should say "heard", Banjo Wichers. He hailed from Sunnyside, a very noble little town way over in eastern Washington. He possessed a guitar, knew two songs and couldn't sing either one of them. No one can say he didn't try. His two masterpieces were "The Wabash Cannonball" and some song about" kiss her once for me Jack". He sang first one and then the other until everyone knew them better than he did; it didn't take us very long.
Pretty soon, in waltzed some Jaboney being paid by the U.S. Army, and told us all to stand and repeat after him the following word... Then he said: "Men, you are now part of The United States Army." Well sir, now I had a new boss who paid me $21 a month to act like a soldier and do as I was told by someone who couldn't make a go of it on the outside. "Now you will go to Fort Lewis and have your first Army chow" was the first thing we heard.
We piled into various regular Fort Lewis buses and were taken to our new home. Contrary to popular opinion, we were not assigned to our regular outfits but placed in a reception center to await shipment to our respective training camps. Here we were turned over to a lively looking chap with two stripes on his arm. He took us to our barracks in which we were to live and bed down. Then we were marched to the tune of "Hello Rookies" from some of the veterans (some of them had been there for at least three days) to get our blankets, sheets and pillow cases. We took them to our kip, laid them on our bunks and went to our first army chow. In the mess hall we took large trays and received our meal cafeteria style. Our main dish was spaghetti and plenty of it. I usually like this delicious morsel, but this meal just didn't appeal to me.
Back to the barracks we went and learned how to make our beds the army way. It seemed very complicated to me and I guess I never would have made my bed right if it hadn't been for a lad who had spent a hitch in the three C's (Civilian Conservation Corps. - Editor) The following morning we were put to work on the mop and bucket brigade to clean up the barracks. What I mean is that they really make you clean up, too. Not a speck was allowed to be on the floors, rafters, window sills or in the washroom. One fellow had the detail of cleaning the stairs. The inspecting officer found a string out of the mop on one of the steps. Just as soon as the officer left, the fellow who had muffed the works was detailed to wash every step with a toothbrush and a tumbler of water. It took him until about three o'clock that afternoon to finish the job.
Next came the familiar policing of the area. Every little match, piece of paper and cigarette butt had to be picked up. You are taught how to get rid of a butt without leaving a mess on the grounds. No; you don't stick them in your pants cuff. Just break the paper on the cigarette length-wise, scatter the tobacco and wad up the paper and throw it away. When traveling, the army leaves the ground they camp on cleaner than it was when they arrived on the spot.
We had been fed and bedded down, and now it was time to be clothed. We marched to the supply room and they started to throw clothes at us. This was really a riot. We just kept cramming the clothes in the barracks bag as fast as we could. The only thing they were particular about was the size of the shoes. Big guys had small clothes and little guys looked like they were wearing O.D. gunny sacks. The smell of moth balls was stifling.
We dropped our barracks bags off at our kips and, smelling like a bunch of walking moth balls, walked into the pill rollers domain. Here we were shot and scratched and blood tested. All told, we have been shot or scratched for smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever, typhoid, typhus and cholera. A person would think we were human pin cushions. Then came our aptitude tests to let them know how smart we were. I bet they were rather disappointed when they read my results.
I heard someone yell Olson! Whoops, who knows me here, I thought to myself. Then I spied a sergeant with a slip in his hand. My first detail! I was detailed to the shoe department of the supply room, lacing all sized shoes up the first three holes. This was so it wouldn't take them so long to fit the rookies with new shoes.
We were confined to a small area for about a week and a half. Wichers was still banging away on "Kiss Her Once For Me Jack" and "The Wabash Cannonball". One night we cut a couple of his strings while he was down eating chow, but he procured some more that same evening.
Next morning we were called together and were issued our dog tags. Every soldier is compelled to wear them at all times, even when bathing and sleeping. They are also knows as meat tags for very obvious reasons. When a soldier gets cut down on the field of battle, one tag is cut off for record and the other stays with the body until burial. It is then tacked on his cross. We were also given our shipping orders at this time. Most of us were to go to Camp Roberts, California. This joint was situated somewhere midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. We sent a form card home telling our folks where we were going. I was pretty sick to think I was going so far from home after I had my heart set on Ft. Lewis. Little did I know that later on I would be over 10,000 miles from home.
2 - Basic training at Camp RobertsWe climbed on the train that evening about eight o'clock. My bunk mate was a fellow known as Whitey and he was first rate. The army always makes the fellows double up in the lower bunk and one man gets the upper. We ate just as if we were traveling as civilians with porters and all. The next morning I awoke to the strains of "The Wabash Cannonball". All these cars and I had to be in the same one as his nibs.
It took us about three days to reach our destination. When the train stopped at a dirty little town known as San Miguel, we were immediately loaded up on army trucks. The trucks hauled us to mud-bound Camp Roberts. It was so muddy that we had to unload right onto the barracks porches. Welcome to sunny California.
Roberts was a brand new camp and we were the first ones to move into this particular part of it. The carpenters were still building barracks and our new home was just as the workers had left it. Bull dozers had pushed mud into great piles in order to level off enough for the foundations of the buildings. The mud was so mushy and deep that the fellows didn't dare step off the improvised boardwalks for fear of getting a hot foot from Hades.
We were assigned to D Battery, 53rd Artillery, a 155mm howitzer outfit. The rain was coming down so hard and the mud was so slick that we had to do our first week's training inside the barracks. This consisted of facings, guard duty and learning our general orders. Everyone has to know his general orders from private to officer.
Getting back to the mud in sunny California, here is an incident that happened one day. A sergeant actually went clear to his hips in mud when he stepped off the boardwalk going to the mess hall. He had on hip boots and it took three GIs to pull him out. They didn't know much about sergeants then, or they would have probably left him where he was. He was so mad he walked into the showers, clothes, boots and all, to take a shower. This also helped to cool him off as he was really racing his motor.
Believe it or not, Washington finally lent California some sunshine and the area dried up enough for us to level it off with shovels. We also trained on 155s for about a week. Good deal Olson, I managed some way to get in the same barracks with that darn guitar. It wouldn't have been so bad if the guitar were alone but everyplace the guitar went, Wichers was sure to follow. I'll give credit where credit is due; he was trying to learn "San Antonio Rose".
One morning about fifty of us were picked out of ranks and told to report to the mess hall. Well, thinks I, they finally caught up with me, but what are they going to use fifty K.P.s for? We all sat down at the tables and were given more papers containing aptitude tests. Those who did well were to be transferred to C Battery, 55th FA Battalion, which was a wire communications outfit. I did OK on the test and it was here that I received my thirteen weeks basic training. I was happy in one respect as I finally got away from that guitar.
The non-coms in this outfit were a bunch of swell guys from the first soldier on down. They were old horse-drawn-artillery men and really looked good in their riding breeches and campaign hats. I gave it all I had in this unit because it was very interesting work. We remained together here long enough to make a multitude of friends, so the lonely days were over.
One morning after we had fallen out for reveille, the first sergeant asked if there were any truck drivers in the ranks. About twenty five hands immediately shot up into the air. "Report to the supply room" was the order. Our 25 proud volunteers marched to the supply room and were issued 25 brand new wheel barrows. The moral of this little story is: "Don't volunteer for anything in the Army".
I met a fellow from Longview and, as luck would have it, he lived in the same barracks as me. It looked as if we were set now, as we were naturally buddies. The first Sunday after being transferred to the 55th, Abe asked me if I would go to church with him. I did, and that Sunday morning I met one of the finest men I have ever known. He was the chaplain and held the rank of major. Chaplain Garrett was a very nice looking man with snapping dark eyes. He hailed from the panhandle of Texas. His wife always accompanied him to the services to play a small collapsible organ they always brought with them. Major Garrett had a very unusual way of delivering his sermon. For instance, on the story of David and Goliath, he might say: "Now Davey was a little fellow but he used his head instead of force. He said to himself there must be some way to down that big guy." Then, after the sermon, he would say next Sunday we will see how Daniel got out of that mess with the pack of lions. I never missed one single service all the time I was at Roberts.
Well, a guy can't be lucky all the time, so consequently I got my first guard duty and kitchen police. I can remember at one time I thought a kitchen police was a fellow who guarded the ice box. Guard duty consisted of walking around an area for two hours with a club. I guess Uncle Sam couldn't trust us with a gun just yet. K.P. was a little different matter. The first time I was on this dreaded detail, I washed every china dish for 200 men. By the time I finished the breakfast dishes, the ones from dinner were coming at me. The next time I was on "Private's nightmare", I grabbed a couple of sacks of spuds and drug them out into the shade and took all morning to peel away at them. Yep, darn near all the spud was peeled away.
We ate good here at Roberts, especially on Sundays. On this day of the Sabbath we usually had some kind of fowl accompanied by dressing, spuds, gravy, vegetables, cold drink and pie and ice cream. It wasn't bad at all for Army chow.
We were being taught, or rather they were trying to pound into our heads, the telephone, switchboard, wire duties of a lineman, and also map reading, vehicle driving, some radio, semaphore and small arms firing. We were also taught that a telephone wasn't called a telephone but an EE8A; switchboards were either a BD 71 or a BD 72; wire, 110 or 110 B; flashlight batteries were BA 30s and the flashlight a TI 122A. The Army had a number for everything from a truck to shoe grease.
When the 155s and the 75s were put into position, we laid the wire. Without wire communication, firing is impossible. Therefore, every time we went on a maneuver, we were the first ones in and the last ones out. Our first general visited while we were working on one of our little problems in the field. Our truck drivers really used to tear around so we could lay the wire as quickly as possible. The general and our CO were standing on top of a small knoll watching the guns going into position when with a roar we came tearing by stringing wire to beat the devil. "There goes that wire laying bunch of hellions from the 55th", said the CO. We surely put on a great show for the old man.
You have never lived until you have spent a night out in the field in a pup tent. By golly there is only room for a pup in one of them and a darn small one at that. It surely is nice to be short when you are sleeping in one of those darn contraptions. A tall man has his head out one end and his end out the other. We found that the only time that there is lots of room in a pup tent is when a rattle snake crawls in or even a nasty old black widow spider. Scorpions are nice, too. California has lots of these cute little sleeping partners.
We built a big open air arena in which to hold large stage shows. Camp Roberts at that time was the biggest replacement center in the west. The entire personnel of the camp couldn't fill this giant arena to capacity. The grand opening was really GRAND. Among the celebrities who participated were Mickey Rooney, Jane Withers, Chico Marx, Virginia O'Brien, The Nicholas Brothers, Jane Russell, Basil Rathborne, Gracie Fields, Red Skelton and many others. The first program alone was well worth the effort it took to build the arena. I was very fortunate, I thought, in that I met Jackie Robinson while we were in Roberts. Anyone who follows football knows him as one of the greatest backfield men who ever played for UCLA. I really got a thrill talking to him. At that time he was Physical Director for a CCC camp near Paso Robles, California.
The time was drawing near when we would be through our basic training and assigned to our regular outfits. Abe and I asked Major Garrett if he thought it would be possible for us to go to Ft. Lewis. He said he would see if he could help us by seeing the battalion skipper. Men started to leave us going over to a new camp across the river. Most of the fellows who went over there received good ratings as they were to make up the non-commissioned officers ranks. There were just a few of us left when one night, Joe Smaker, Abe, Re and myself were told to pack our equipment. We were going to join the 218th FA at Jolon, California where this unit was on maneuvers. We didn't know where this outfit was from, so we thought Major Garrett's efforts were in vain.
3 - We make it back to Fort LewisWe rode around all night long in trucks with other fellows we didn't know, looking for the 218th. They were still on maneuvers so they were kind of hard to find. About midnight, they stopped the truck and dropped Abe off at the 146th FA. After riding until wee hours in the morning, we finally found our new outfit. The next morning at daybreak, the war stopped. Of course the first thing we did was ask what part of the country this outfit was from. Boy we surely received a surprise when the answer was Ft. Lewis. I was really happy. Re transferred into the 148th FA, so that left Joe and I alone.
Now that Abe had left me, Joe and I became buddies. We pitched our pup tents together and where one of us was the other was not very far away. We were about the same build and must have looked a little alike because some of the fellows thought we were brothers. We were known as the gold dust twins for awhile.
This was a National Guard outfit and we had the idea that they had a dislike for selectees. We found that we were very mistaken. They were a great bunch of guys even up to the non-coms. Most all of them were real young fellows like ourselves. This battery was by far the best outfit I have ever been in. They were a 75mm howitzer unit being used for anti-tank purposes. The only type of communication they used was radio. There we were; well trained wire men and no wire to work with. Oh well, that's the army all over. They put us in a gun section where we were as much at home as in a detachment of WAC personnel.
About the 3rd of July, we prepared to leave Hunter Liggett Military Reservation at Jolon. On the 5th, we pulled out heading for Ft. Lewis by motor convoy. We had a very pleasant trip except for bad cases of dysentery. Dysentery is more commonly known to the soldier as the GI's. Many a fellow was to be seen with familiar roll in his hand leaping over a fence when the convoy stopped for such things. Some didn't have time to get as far as the fence.
We crossed the Oregon-California border and went through Eugene and then to Portland. Oregon, you know, is that state just south of God's country. We camped at Swan Island airport. Here I was only forty miles from home. Wow! As the 218th was a Portland outfit, the plan was to stay here for about four days. The boys could all get passes to go home and would get a chance to parade in the city.
Our first sergeant was a dark little Italian by the name of Bob Domenico. I swore the first time I laid eyes on him that I wouldn't like him. Later on, after I got to know him, I found him be the best top kick in the whole darn regiment. He is without a doubt the best line first sergeant that I have ever seen. He called the battery together after we had pitched our pup tents and said there would be passes for everyone who lived within 15 miles of Portland until the following day at noon. All those who wanted passes were to raise their hands. A bevy of hands shot upward and among them mine sneaked its way up. The sergeant said to me, "Where are you from?" I answered, "Kelso". He knew as well as I did that Kelso was at least 45 miles from Portland. He hesitated and then said, "Let's see; that's only about 15 miles from here, isn't it?" and he kind of smiled. I sure took off before he decided to lengthen that distance.
About 8 P.M. I got on the North Coast bus and started for home. Up to this time the folks thought I was still in the land of fruit and nuts. It was almost ten o'clock when I opened the gate and entered the yard. The folks had gone to bed and all the lights were out. Tippy, my little pooch, never even let out a bark. He knew me the moment I stepped into the yard. After knocking at the front door and not getting any results, I went around to the back. While I was walking around the house Mom had gone to the front door. When I knocked at the back, she saw my overseas cap through the window. Then the big fuss began. Dad never even got out of bed but did pipe up with "What the hell is going on out there?" I went into the bedroom and turned on the light and then this came from the same source: "Well, I'll be ______ if it isn't Jack." I only had until the next morning at ten so we stayed up all night talking. I made it home four days out of the five that we were at Portland.
We started our last leg of our journey to Ft. Lewis and made it in one day. Joe and I started our training on the 75s but we didn't like it because wire was still in our blood. We tried to transfer into an outfit that had wire but the old man wouldn't let us go. To kind of make us feel a little better, he put us in the radio section. The only thing we knew about radio was that we could turn a civilian set on and get Bob Hope. They sent us to 41st Division radio school for one month to learn C.W. That's Morse code [Continuous Wave - Editor].
Then came the time we were changed over into Company A of the 41st Anti-tank. It sure hurt our pride to be called company instead of battery. Once an artillery man always an artillery man, I guess. Joe and I were ham operators in this new set up. Major Swift was our new CO. He was called potato nose or Wallace Beery among the men. I have yet to see a man who looks more like Beery than bubble nose did.
My stay at Ft. Lewis was very enjoyably spent. I had two furloughs, one for ten days and one for fifteen days, going home pretty near every week end. I only missed two weekends because I was in the hospital with blood poison in my thumb derived from Washington maneuvers at Shelton. Miller had spent most of his time in the hospital since we had left California and he received an honorable medical discharge because of asthma and TB.
I heard that my buddy from home, Myron Brown, had been drafted and was in the reception center over at the main fort. I found him in the same barracks that was my home when I boarded there. The next morning he left for Camp Roberts. Later he went to Ft. Ord, California, to the 64th Infantry.
Uncle Sam had some very good news for some of the boys in the service. It seems as if he thought that fellows 28 years old or older were of no use to him, so he was going to give them the one thing that is the chief ambition of every man in the Army; an Honorable Discharge.
I said every man but I take that back. That means everyone but the few career men, of which I knew one. Our replacements for the men we lost came over from Camp Roberts. Among them were two of the best fellows I have ever met anywhere. They both hailed from Arkansas. Jay T. (Juicy) Ashabranner and Maynard V. (Pappy) Beeson. Beeson is strictly from the hills. He even looks like a hill country man. He is a long legged raw boned squirrel hunter from the old school. And along with the rest from Roberts came Banjo Wichers. I finally resigned to my fate as it looked as if he was going to stick as close to me as a Siamese twin.
Everything went along according to camp routine until around the middle of November. We started to crate everything we had. The rumor was that we were going to the Philippine Islands. The army is darn near run out of rumors but it is surprising how accurate they can turn out to be in the end. Army rumors are labeled as first, second and third holers. It seems as if most of them are made up while sitting and thinking.
I had Thanksgiving at home and, a couple of days after I got back to camp, the old man called us all together and said, "Men, the time has come, we are moving out on a long trip." He then gave instructions to all those who had cars to take them home that night and we would be given passes long enough to allow us to go home and get back to camp again. Joe was very happy as it meant he got a short pass home.
4 - Our country goes to warWe were to ship out of San Francisco. After arriving at the Embarcadero, we loaded into a little river boat called the "Slocum". It took us right by Alcatraz to Ft. McDowell, better known as Angel Island. We stayed here about one week waiting for our boat to be loaded. It was while we were here that the grand old man who was in command of the 41st Division passed away. General White was really a man's man. The cause of his death was given as the result of dysentery that he came down with while on the Jolon maneuvers.
They had the most efficiently run mess hall I have ever seen at Angel Island. They fed us three breakfasts, three dinners and three suppers with about 900 men attending each meal. It took about 200 KP's to take care of all the work. The meals were excellent and they gave you all you could eat.
Juicy, Pappy and Olee (that's me) were lucky enough to get a pass into Frisco one weekend. None of us had ever been into the Golden Gate City before but we did pretty good for three rookies. Things started with an elevator episode. After getting our rooms located, which was somewhere near the top of the hotel, we came out into the hall and entered the elevator. There wasn't anybody there to run it, so Juicy says, "Olee; you run her." There was a whole string of buttons all numbered and I punched the one with a B on it because I thought it meant bottom floor. Imagine our surprise when the B button took us into the basement. We came up to the first floor and walked out where the old geezer behind the counter gave us a withering look.
That night we took in China Town, Forbidden City, International Settlement, Fisherman's Wharf, Downtown and the big USO center. We had a racket on the taxis. They charged so much a mile for one person but would take a whole load of fellows anyplace in the city limits for one dollar. About six of us would pile in whether we knew each other or not and it would cost us about fifteen cents per man.
Loading up on our first troopship was nothing like it is in the movies. Where were the bands, the flags, the confetti and the throngs of people lining the piers? It just isn't like that in reality. Our boat was the former luxury liner Matsonia, now renamed the USAT Etolin. She was far from luxurious now. No one has any idea how many men can be put in one place until they see Uncle load a troopship. Sardines have as much room as a skunk in a pup tent compared to what we had. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and out into the blue Pacific, we thought it would be a long time before we would see the U.S. again.
I was sleeping out on the deck the third day out, all curled up in the sun, when I started to feel cold. On opening my eyes I found myself in the shade. This could mean only one thing; we had turned around. That night we were told to close our portholes and leave them closed. The crew had painted them all black. We also had to wear our life belts at all times. About nine o'clock we were told that Japan and the U.S. were at war. A lumber freighter two miles ahead of us had been torpedoed and the captain of our ship had picked up her SOS and immediately turned back for San Francisco. Twenty minutes later he received official orders to come back to port.
The following morning we received a little scare from an airplane. It circled around at a distance and suddenly broke into a dive right over the ship. For a minute we couldn't tell whether it was friend or foe. She signaled us that she was to be our escort back into port.
The third morning after we had turned back, we steamed into San Francisco Bay. After we had stopped, a destroyer pulled alongside and someone aboard her yelled to the skipper of our ship: "Boy, we sure are glad to see you get in." We were the last boat into the harbor and immediately after we unloaded we were taken to the Golden Gate Park. We stayed here two days and then were moved to the Presidio into brick barracks. Our job was to go on guard duty on the docks and keep an eye out for sabotage. I operated a radio on a radio prowl car. Our Christmas and New Years were both spent in Frisco. Oh yes, Joe, Juicy, Pappy and I were made PFC's the day we arrived in port. We were pretty proud as there were a lot of old timers in the outfit that were still privates.
Once more we trekked up to Ft. Lewis. We again stopped at Swan Island in Portland on January 5th, 1942, and I got to go home for a couple of hours for the last time for a long time. The unit stayed at Ft. Lewis for a short time, then we moved to North Cove, Washington, and set up our 75s for beach defense. There was a wire net in our set up, so Joe and I, having had wire training, handled the whole communication end of it. We operated the switchboard, put up all the lines and installed the phones just like old times. I celebrated my 23rd birthday here, and some of my buddies bought a big cake from the bakery wagon, put a big candle on it and we celebrated. The spirit was there, anyway.
The latter part of February, we went back to Ft. Lewis and traded our 75s in for 37mm guns. Our outfit was reformed into a brand new organization known as the 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion under the command of Major (Bubble Nose) Swift. Our company was designated as Company C, and today we still are the TD's. Joe and I had lost all interest in radios, so we decided to learn the 37mm gun. Right after the change, we packed all our equipment in a day and a half, boarded a train, and started for New Jersey. About the third day on the trip, Joe, Juicy, Pappy and I were promoted to corporals.
The trip took us through Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Our staging area was Fort Dix, New Jersey, where we stayed for about two weeks. Here at Dix we came in contact with our first boys from Brooklyn. We referred to these fellows as either the Dodgers or the Dead End Kids. Anyone who has had anything to do with any of the boys from Brooklyn will understand why we dubbed them with these names.
5 - A second and longer sea voyageThe United States Army Transport (USAT) Uruguay was our second liner episode. She was a bigger liner than the Etolin but turned out to be a regular hell ship. We pulled out saying good-bye to Miss Liberty and watching the famous New York skyline fade from view. This was the first of March and our overseas duty started then.
We were in a large convoy this time. The other troop transports include the Argentina and the Santa Paula. Our protection consisted of one carrier, about four cruisers and a host of destroyers. Down the eastern coast we went, which at that time was pretty dangerous. The water was well populated with hostile submarines. At least two subs were sighted and sunk. We went within a few miles of the north coast of South America and then turned and entered the Panama Canal. Here we left the Atlantic fleet, or rather they left us, and we lay over at Balboa awaiting our turn to go through the Canal.
On the Uruguay we had only two meals a day. Breakfast was about the same the whole trip consisting of hard boiled eggs, boiled fish, mush and a cup of coffee or water. We used fresh water to bathe in the first few days of the trip but later on we couldn't get enough to drink. This was our main problem the whole trip.
Eighteen of us, complete with barracks bags and equipment, were crammed into one stateroom. The only advantage we had over some of the other boys was that we had a bathroom containing a washbowl and toilet. The latter proved to be invaluable.
They had a lot of turkey stored on board for chow which looked like a very good deal until we were served with it, and then things began to pop. Every man that ate any of it was overcome with the worst case of G.I.'s (dysentery) I have ever seen, or maybe I should say had. Our little room came in very handy.
An observer from another ship would really have seen some fine scenery if he had taken the time to look our way. When some of the fellows in misery couldn't get into the latrine, they used the rails of the ship for the same purpose. When you gotta go you gotta go, and believe me these boys hadda go. The fellows that were caught down in the ship at night just used the bath tubs, hallways or the first thing they could find. Boy oh boy, what a mess. One 1st Sgt. had it so bad they took him to the ship's hospital on a stretcher.
After a couple more meals of turkey, they found out what the trouble was and threw all the foul fowl overboard. I often wonder if the sharks had the same trouble that we did. We had about 500 Army nurses on board, some of which had a pretty rough time. It looked as if we were going to face this kind of chow until a bunch of our cooks walked in and took over the kitchen. Fortunately, the meals got noticeably better.
Our turn came to go through the locks and we went on down and stopped at Colon. After we had gone through the locks proper, I took advantage of the fresh water and spent most of the trip in the bath tub. We took on a little water at Colon and dropped some soldiers off who went back to the States on furlough. Passing through the locks was very interesting. It was the first time most of us had ever seen the real jungle. At Colon, much fun was enjoyed by throwing coins to natives of the village. Young and old alike would scramble for pennies.
As we were the last ship through the locks, we didn't get our full load of water before the main convoy pulled out. The Pacific Fleet didn't give us much of an escort but I guess most of them were busy elsewhere. Maybe we lost more at Pearl Harbor than most people think.
It was getting hotter all the time we traveled along our way. At night the port holes had to be closed so the heat in the rooms was stifling. The men would sweat so much that the canvas on the bottom of their beds would be wet through. We were rationed one cupful of water at each meal and about a cupful in our canteens for the night. This didn't go far as we perspired so. I have never been so thirsty in my life as I was at times on the Uruguay.
After a very lousy trip of about thirty three days, we sighted land. It proved to be one of the islands belonging to the Society Group. We anchored in a beautiful lagoon just off the island of Bora Bora. This was a paradise. It had everything in looks that any tropical haven I have ever seen in Technicolor has. This was a lot more breathtaking, however, as this was the natural and real McCoy. Uncle Sam had a few troops stationed here but not enough to spoil it. There were no docks or large manmade objects to spoil the natural beauty of this tropical wonderland. The island comprised mostly of a large volcanic mountain that rose majestically and blended into the blue haze that seemed to hang over the whole island. The sun turned the mountain into an orange hue which lost itself towards the base and became a maze of beautiful green tropical palm trees.
Coral reefs reached out into the blue lagoon where natives dived and swam from their quaint little outrigger boats. In no time at all they came out to our ship in their dugouts with bananas, coconuts and paw-paws. Someone had taught them the meaning of the word dollar because they asked one "dolla" for everything they had to sell, whether it was two coconuts or two bunches of bananas.
Colored cloth for the women on our ship went over big. The native women were well proportioned but the ones we saw were far from being Dotty Lamours. Both males and females were very skilled at diving for coins.
The whole boat was given permission to go in swimming and men poured out over the decks and out through the portholes. This was the only good part of the trip so far.
We took on a little more water from a destroyer and we were on our way again. Flying fish were plentiful in these warm waters. We argued a lot about whether this species of fish really can fly or not, but the ones I saw had little wings and flew low to the water for distances of about one hundred yards.
After a few more days of travel, we sighted the mainland of New Zealand. We stopped in the harbor of Auckland, the biggest and principal city. We took on water and traded some money and souvenirs for fruit and all kind of goodies. We were some of the first Americans to come over here, so our money and our customs were very new to these people. It was here that I saw my first Anzac's with the brim of the slouch hat folded up on the side. They did their way of close order drill, which differs largely from ours, and received a big ovation from the boys on board ship.
From New Zealand to Australia was just a short cruise. We unloaded at the port of Melbourne. All told we were on the water forty two days. Land looked and felt might good to us landlubbers. The President Coolidge, later reported sunk, was in port when we arrived. I didn't know at that time that Myron Brown was on board. He was in the 164th Infantry heading for New Caledonia.
6 - Training and playing in AustraliaWe transferred from the boat to a train that highly resembled The Toonerville Trolley. On this narrow gauge railway we were transported to Seymour, about sixty miles from Melbourne. We had many experiences while we were here in this area. We made many good friends, both male and female. Our weekend passes were much looked forward to and, if I were to relate all the things that happened while we were in town, it would take hours. I will say though that I met a very nice young lady by the name of Helen Penny while in Melbourne. It is only too bad that she is so far from the good old U.S.A. At any rate, the most pleasant time of my overseas service was spent in Australia.
While at Camp Seymour all was not play. Training was tough as we were being prepared to chase the Japs out of New Guinea and stave off an attack on Australia if it came. All the Aussies were in the Middle East fighting for Mother England so it was all up to us. We had field problems, long marches, gunnery practice, class room studies, overnight problems, black out marches and jungle training. We also were drilled with amphibious landings from boats onto the Aussie beaches.
I had the pleasure of going to Camp Pucupunyal, and Aussie Tank Corp Headquarters, and riding in one of our lend-lease General Grant tanks. This Corp was being formed of Australian Militia just being called into service. After the demonstration, we ate at their sergeants mess and then had beer in their canteen. These Aussies surely do go for their suds as they are bloody great beer drinkers.
Most of the boys were getting a good healthy tan and were pretty well back to normal after our long journey of getting here. Things were getting to be just like home when about the middle of July we moved again.
This time our journey was by train up the coast through Sydney, Newcastle, and Brisbane and on to a soldier-crowded burg called Rockhampton. Five different times we changed trains because each province had a different gauge railway.
Rocky was our home for seven months. I was a little more fortunate than most of the fellows because on weekend visits to town, I met a very nice family who treated me like one of them. Their name was Moon, and Mr. Moon was a captain in the home guard and had served in the last war. It was just like having a second home and Mrs. Moon was just like a mother to me. They were grand people and surely treated me swell.
One month out of the seven was spent in Gladstone, a pretty little seaport town. Our duty here was to guard the docks and the coast. In Rocky, I was promoted to the grade of sergeant in charge of the security of the machine section with Pappy Beeson as my corporal. Joe was made sergeant about two months later.
On our return trip to Rockhampton from Gladstone in January, I was transferred to Headquarters Company and again promoted, this time to Technical Sergeant which was two grades higher. Pappy was immediately made a sergeant and took over my old job.
While we were here, I heard from Myron and learned he had gone to Guadalcanal where he was wounded with shrapnel and sent to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. By now he should be enjoying a thirty day furlough home as he certainly deserves it.
March 1943, moving day came again. We went to Gladstone by train and then loaded onto the USAT Bontekoe, a Dutch ship transporting troops and supplies to New Guinea. I was on advanced detail to load all our company equipment which developed into the job of loading the whole battalion's equipment. I didn't mind though, as I got every night off to go to town.
7 - Into the active combat zoneWell, we were finally headed for the War Zone and the Japs. After sailing for two days, we stopped at Townsville Harbor; it seems like we're up to the old business of taking on water again. Our protection is one plane, one cruiser and one destroyer escort. There are two other ships besides ours, the Hansacker and the Von Heimskirck. Things are a little better for me on this trip as I am in a stateroom with another T/Sgt and a M/Sgt and we are traveling in the same class as officers except that we eat with the rest of the men.
Our point of destiny is Oro Bay which the Japs have bombed three times since we started on this trip. We pulled out of Townsville, this being our 15th day, and we are just about across the Coral Sea where we can see land on the horizon. We should be either in Port Moresby or Milne Bay this afternoon. Things may get interesting soon.
We unloaded at Milne Bay 10 April 1943 (Easter Sunday). I spent the next day out in the bay on an invasion barge looking for our ship which had gone out to hide among the islands until we were ready to go aboard her again.
The next two days were spent on an outpost checking and spotting all ships and planes. This was the first chance I had to try out my jungle equipment in the real jungle. My hammock really worked swell.
On the 14th, we were ordered to load back on the ship for our trip to Oro Bay. We were mostly all loaded when we got a red alert at 10 A.M. A few minutes later, 100 Jap planes came over, very beautiful as they exited from a large white cloud, the sun shining on them which made them look like giant silver birds. Then those same birds started to lay their eggs and right there they ceased to be pretty.
We were all in a ditch along the road and most of the bombs dropped into the bay and on the other side of the peninsula. Some of the shrapnel from the bombs came our way but nobody was hurt. The Hansacker and the Von Heimskirck were both sunk; the latter, while trying to run to the other side of the bay, was hit by a torpedo bomber which slapped one right down her number five hatch. Anti-aircraft fire brought the plane down and she made a big splash in the water.
The Von Heimskirck was loaded with ammunition so the captain grounded her on a reef and she blew up all night long. One Nip bomber chased a corvette all over the bay but never did hit it. We counted seven Jap planes go down in smoke from where we were. A person doesn't think of the danger that he is in as he watches planes shooting at each other and trailing away from their formation in a string of smoke and finally bursting into a sheet of flame in the sky.
Right after Bill Adams and I climbed out of the ditch, a cluster of coconuts fell right where we had been lying. They are very dangerous when they make a direct hit.
April 15th. We were on our way to Oro Bay, scheduled to arrive at 11 PM, the 18th. We arrived on schedule and unloaded during the night by barge. The docks have all been blown up by the Nip air attacks. I am in charge of unloading and sorting the battalion's equipment at a distributing point.
The rain certainly came down in torrents. Coffee at three in the morning really hit the spot.
Reports from Tokio Rose (Jap Radio) states that eleven enemy ships were sunk and ten thousand troops were killed in the Milne Bay raid. No Japs have come over here as yet.
We are busy setting up camp and making maps of the area. There are no complete maps of this bay area so we have to make our own.
April 24th. We went five miles north of Buna. It was pretty near impossible to get through with a blitz buggy and you had to make your own roads in places. What a sight there was up there. There were smashed Zeros all over the airport area that had been caught on the ground by our planes. Smashed Jap trucks, tanks destroyed, pill boxes smashed, acres of coconut palms with their tops all shorn off by artillery fire, and wrecked Jap landing barges all met the onlooker's eye. Sanananda was the same way. Although most of the fighting in this sector ended in January, the stench of dead bodies was terrific. In places the dead sons of heaven were buried with bull dozers. We brought a few souvenirs back to camp with us, such as rice bowls, helmets, bayonets and teeth out of Jap skulls for watch chains.
Still no Jap bombers. Can't understand it. Tokio Rose says that all Americans in Oro Bay and Buna have only twenty four hours in which to live. Boy oh boy, I wonder who she thinks she is kidding.
Our days work takes in mostly making maps of the defense of the Oro Bay district. We just got a new skipper. Good old Captain Marshall. Although he is new to most of the boys in this company, he isn't to Adams and I. He had been our Skip in old D Battery before coming overseas.
May 1, 1943. Have been running transit with Lt. Olsen. We surely covered a lot of rough country. Tore our way through the jungle and waded through rivers and swamps. Native villages were plentiful. These natives are really a riot. One finally got up enough courage to look through the transit. We had previously set it on a G.I. shoveling about a quarter of a mile away. The native looked at the fellow through the transit, then he would walk around to the front of the instrument and look off in the field about 50 feet away expecting to see him. It finally got too much for him so he walked away with a puzzled look on his pan.
Our big rumor now is that we will be in Frisco in October. I put in for Officers Candidate School. Went before Major Morris for an interview and will go before a board on the 12th.
May 14th, 1943. The Nips gave us a visit with their bombers (Mitsubishis) escorted by Zeros. I was lucky enough to be on one of our observation posts, so I got a bird's eye view of the whole thing. They had eighteen bombers and came over the bay in formation from the southeast. They never break formation no matter how many are shot down. The reason for this is believed to be because they have a severe shortage of bomb sights, so the whole formation has to drop their bombs off of the lead plane.
As they dropped their eggs, a huge column of fire and smoke went into the air. They hit a large tar dump, an asphalt dump, an oil dump and an ammo dump. They dropped somewhere in the vicinity of 60 bombs. We saw our boys knock down five of the bombers into the sea and one of our fighters also dropped into the water. One of the five planes turned out to be the Nip squadron leader. Our intelligence found part of his body, some log books, reports of their flight and a large flag.
May 19th, nine enemy bombers came over during the night. Our ack-ack went into action along with the searchlights and they got one bomber. We have no night fighters here as yet. The anti-aircraft fired 498 rounds at 18,000 feet. The eggs dropped by the bombers all lit way out in the bay hitting nothing but lots of water.
It's the end of the month (May) and nothing more exciting has happened outside of a few alerts. Two P.T. boats chased a sub away from the harbor the other night. And Japs sunk a hospital ship down the line someplace that was headed for Australia.
June 11th, 1943. Three bombers came over during the night and dropped some bombs in the bay and also in a Negro camp (our soldiers). They killed one Negro and blew the kitchen sky high. The division photographers took pictures of my section during their work.
June 12th. We had another small raid at 7:30 PM. Our ack-ack got one more nip.
June 17th. They came over again and dropped their bombs in the 532nd Engineers area. We had casualties, with one killed and four wounded. We investigated the area and found that one bomb lit right in the middle of a tent but all the men were in their slit trenches and suffered nothing more than shock from concussion.
From here on things were pretty quiet. Our Air Force was now here in quantity and the nips didn't try much funny business. We spent most of our time performing regular duties. Making maps, investigation and detonating Jap bombs and booby traps kept us pretty busy.
Lt. Olsen and I took the section to Buna, Maggot Beach and Sanananda. A short time later, Lt. Olsen left for Australia to get a bad knee treated. Sgt. Adams and I were put in charge of dock details under Lt. Prendergast. We worked on this for about a month prior to going north.
About the 15th of August, 1943, Captain Brighton asked me how I would like to make a trip to Nassau Bay to get a party of officers and return with them to Oro Bay. Naturally I jumped at the chance.
We left on the 16th at 4 PM on the Kira-Maru which was a small schooner built in Hong Kong. On the next day we arrived at Morobe, covering the distance of about 100 miles in 12 hours. At 4 PM, the 17th, we climbed on a LCV (Landing Craft Vehicle) bound for Nassau Bay and arrived at our destination at about 8 PM. Our troops had just taken this spot so there was quite a bit of Jap equipment lying around. We went through a Jap medical, ordnance and quartermaster dump which proved to be very interesting. This was the spot where we lost about thirty five LCVs making the landing. There was fifteen foot surf which gave the boys no end of trouble.
After picking up our officers, we left for Morobe again at 10 PM by Aussie Trawler. We arrived at 4 AM the next morning. That afternoon I was fortunate enough to get a ride on a P.T. boat. One of my good friends had a cobber who was a skipper on one of the little boats so he arranged a ride for me. This bunch of PT's was under the command of Buckley of Bataan fame. You will remember him as the guy who took General MacArthur out of Corregidor on PT-41.
August 24th. Have been cooking in the C Company kitchen up until today. A fellow goes where he is needed up here. Some of our boys lost a barge load of supplies going to Nassau so we radioed back to Oro Bay for some more. Adams arrived with the fresh supplies.
Lt. Salmon asked for volunteers to go up to Tambu Bay where things are pretty hot right now. Adams, Van Luven, Lenehan, Tiny Nelson and I volunteered. At 2 PM we again boarded a LCV and headed for Tambu. I got to drive our craft for about a half an hour while the regular pilot worked on the motor. Midway we changed onto a LCT because our crate was having trouble with the water pump. We arrived at Nassau at 8 PM.
August 25th, 1943, at 7 PM, we left Nassau for Tambu, arriving at 9 PM. Our front lines are about 800 yards from here. We made our bivouac right close to Roosevelt Ridge. This spot was very hard for our troops to take. We moved into a kip back in the jungle about 300 yards from the beach. Our artillery fired right over our heads all night long. That first night it kept us awake but we soon got used to it. One battery of 75s is only 100 yards to our rear. We were told that we are subject to Jap mortar and artillery fire so we dug ourselves in below the surface of the ground.
August 27th, Lenny and I took our rifles and went to the top of Roosevelt Ridge and then followed it until we could hear our patrols shooting. We thought we had gone far enough for that day. Up until now we didn't know what our lot was going to be.
August 28th. This morning we found what we are to do while we are here. We are going to lead and guard native pack trains to the front lines. This is the only way there is to get supplies in and the wounded out. These trains are known as bong trains. The men who were previously doing this job were due to be relieved so we are slated to take over.
We left about 7:30 AM with one hundred fifty natives packing water, C rations and ammunition. There were 15 guards. We had to go over Roosevelt Ridge and down through a valley on the other side. The far side of the ridge was in full view of a Jap observation post on Lokanu Ridge. Just as we gained the shelter of the valley below, the Japs dropped some 77mm shells on the trail we had just come over. The natives immediately looked at us when the shells started to whistle to see what we were going to do. You don't dare look as if you are scared or the whole bunch of them will go bush. We put on kind of a forced grin and they all thought everything was alright. After we skirted Lokanu, which was in the hands of the enemy, we climbed C ridge to three of our infantry companies.
The trails were muddy and so steep that a mule couldn't climb them. We just carried our rifles or Tommy guns, a bandolier of ammunition and our canteen tied to our belt, and believe me we were pooped by the time we got back to camp. Those little bandy legged natives would carry about four and one half gallons of water apiece. We weren't supposed to let them carry more than forty five pounds. I certainly have a lot of respect for those boys. When we got up to the last company, we were about 45 yards from the Japs. You darn near had to belly your way all the way in for those last few yards.
August 29th. We lead the pack train to the same destination as the previous day. No enemy fire on us, thank goodness. I sent the train down in charge of another non-com and stayed up on the ridge watching one of our snipers, an Indian boy, pecking away at some Japs on a distant ridge. He didn't get any while I was there but he was giving them a darn rough time.
While we were sitting in our kip at 8 PM, we were shelled by the Japs. They were using their 77mm mountain gun and they practically bracketed our tent with about forty rounds of high explosive. One shell hit about 40 feet from our kip. It surely jarred us in our holes and it put twelve shrap holes in the top of the kip, tore all our mosquito bars to ribbons and punctured Moon Mullin's canteen that was laying at the head of my slit trench about a foot above my noggin.
After it was all over, I found that my heels were knocking together. I thought it was due to the fact that I was cold from lying naked on my stomach in the wet sand. When I tried to stop them from shaking I found it to be impossible. What a peculiar feeling one gets when under fire for the first time. Your mouth goes dry and your stomach seems to be touching your back bone. Every shell coming in seems like it is going to land right in your hole. The guys would keep making remarks such as: "That one was plenty close", "I thought those little so and so's couldn't shoot", and "Things are getting awfully uncomfortable around here".
Of course the enemy was trying to knock out our artillery, but their shells were falling short. After they quit shelling us our artillery really gave them everything they had for about one half hour. Evidently the Nips were really dug in well because they came right back out and fired about four rounds, as much as to say, "I'm still here, Yank".
I forgot to relate how our former battalion CO, Lt. Colonel Charles Fertig took Roosevelt Ridge. In the First World War, he attained the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Artillery and spent quite some time in France. On returning to America he resigned his rank and started over as a 2nd Lt. in the Infantry. At the beginning of this war, he was again a Lt. Colonel. This stood him well as he knew both branches of the service well.
The previous commander was having trouble taking the ridge, so commands were changed and the job was given to Colonel Fertig. He pulled the infantry back off the ridge and opened up on it with all the artillery he had including 37's, Bofors, machine guns and a 155 rifle. They fired 10,000 rounds of ammunition point blank into the ridge. The entire hill was cleared of brush and trees as if a bunch of slashers had gone through there. The ground was all plowed up with shell holes. When the infantry advanced they met hardly any opposition whatsoever.
August 30, 1943. We moved our kip to a new location away from our artillery and up against the ridge so the mountain gun or "Whistling Charlie" couldn't reach us. Our artillery blasted away all night long last night. We are getting used to it now.
August 31. The end of the month and today we climbed up to a freshly captured Jap perimeter at Grandview. I guess that is what our artillery was making so much fuss over last night. Grandview is so named because of the swell view of Salamaua from this vantage point. Our boys have captured 60 rifles, 7 machine guns and a "Whistling Charlie" here.
Salamaua seems to be about 1800 yards away but that is a long way in the jungle. We can see the Isthmus very plainly from up here.
September 1. I took it easy all day. Rinsed a few clothes in a stream and took a bath. Our boys on these ridges really have it tough. It is all red clay and they are solid red from one end to the other. Some of them haven't had a bath for 30 days. If it rains, they just lay in their holes until morning, then they use the red water in their holes to wash. After they wash, they bail it out with their tin Kelly's. They only get one canteen of water every eighteen hours.
September 2. Went back up to Grandview and observed our mortar and artillery fire on the Isthmus of Salamaua. The Aussies of the 17th Brigade are advancing down the Markham Valley and are lobbing their artillery from there. I would surely hate to be down on the receiving end of that fire.
September 3rd. We packed up our equipment for a move. We are to hike over to Dot Inlet just on the other side of Roosevelt Ridge. After making the painful climb with full pack and taking a rest, we started over the crest of the ridge. Immediately "Whistling Charlie" opened up on the ridge. We retired to the Tambu side and lay doggo for half an hour while Mr. Nip let go with everything he had.
His target was our artillery again, but the first ten minutes of shooting, his shells all lit short up on the ridge where we were. When he quit firing, we knew that our big stuff would start shooting, so we lit out over the ridge like scared rabbits, taking advantage of our shells keeping the Japs from shooting. We didn't stop until we had arrived at our destination.
Our new job is to unload LCV's at night and haul mortar ammo to the guns during the daylight hours. We set up our camp at the base of Lokanu Ridge. Now we knew that the only thing that could give us much trouble was mortar fire, but the only thing we neglected to take into consideration was that we had seven mortars right in our area. This naturally would be a target for the enemy if they found out they were here.
Our time is really taken up now by work. During the day, we haul mortar ammo in clusters of three and six for about a half a mile through a native sugar cane patch. The clusters weigh from 60 to 80 pounds apiece. Nights, from 9:30 to midnight, we unload all kinds of supplies from LCV's. We can't understand why the Nips don't shell us at night while unloading the landing boats. They surely can hear us coming in with them as they make enough noise to awake the dead.
The mortars were moved, so we have a day to ourselves. Colonel Fertig called in for about two hours. He said he wanted to get away from his headquarters and the war for a few minutes. After he started talking, all he could talk about was the war. He gave us the following information which I found rather interesting.
The Japs are having a pretty bad time of it now. The natives have left them because of the rough treatment and the shortage of food. The Nip now has to carry all of his own supplies. Japs, to the natives in this area, are their number one hate.
The PIB (Papuan Infantry Battalion) boys are doing a wonderful job up here. These are fellows who show exceptional ability and are sent to a school to learn the Aussie rifle and a few things about our equipment. They are also taught enough Pidgin English so that a white man can understand them. Colonel Fertig had very high praise for one of these boys by the name of Tapiola.
This boy was a former Rabaul native and was brought to New Guinea by the Japs and, when they mistreated him, he came over to our side. He was sent to the PIB School and emerged as one of the best boys in the outfit. All the other fellows worship him.
Fertig became his No. 1 boss, and Tapiola was always the scout for our Intelligence and Recon Platoon. This platoon spent most of its time behind the enemy lines and so far has never had a casualty.
Most natives are very undependable for information. When we ask them for some information as to how many Japs are in a certain area, and if they think by the tone of our voice that we would like to hear that there are Japs in the area, they will oblige by telling us that the Nips are thick in the area. Tapiola was one of the few that could be trusted in his reports. One native told me how Tapiola got some information for Colonel Fertig in regard to strength of Japs in a certain sector.
Tapiola started out of camp and when he had gone a little way into the jungle, he took off his issue shorts and made a breech cloth out of vines and leaves. Then he kept going until he heard a Japanese patrol coming into the sector where he was supposed to get his information. He stumbled into them sucking in his stomach and looking half starved. He explained to the Japs that he had been a prisoner of the Americans and that they had mistreated him. He showed them some scars of which he made a big story. Actually he received the scars while working for the Japs.
They took him in to get information out of him and he went on phony patrols for them on his own, but when he was in their camp his black eyes were taking in every detail. About the fourth day he went on a patrol right in to Colonel Fertig where he gave a very accurate report of strength, armament and morale of the enemy troops.
He was worth his weight in gold. In fact, the Colonel thought so much of him that he tried to get him attached to the 162nd Infantry, but the PIB Headquarters wouldn't approve it.
Fertig told us that he went up to the front to see a Private Daniels who hailed from Tennessee. This man had killed fifteen Japs since he had been up there. He said, "You know, Colonel, these damn Japs are crazy". Fertig asked how he arrived at that conclusion and he answered: "Well, I just sit in one place and wait til a Nip comes along and crosses that opening over there and let him have it. Another Jap will come out to pick up his buddy and I got another one. I shoot three or four, one right after another before they quit coming."
Our artillery fired for four hours on some enemy pill boxes in a perimeter and, when the infantry patrols went in, they still drew fire. The Nips were dug in some twenty feet in places. They had big rooms in places dug out in the hillsides. Some of the rooms would hold thirty men.
The Colonel also said he inspected the dead Japs after the fall of Roosevelt Ridge and he counted some 350 to 400 men and all were clean shaven and had much cleaner clothing than our boys. The Jap is far from being "a dirty little Jap" in this particular sector. There is still an estimated 4,000 enemy troops between us and Salamaua. We have about 1,000 fighting men. The Colonel left us, saying it was very refreshing to get away from the war for a couple of hours.
September 10th. The Nips shelled us with mortar fire at 7 PM, wounding Dick Bueler through the upper leg. Shelled again at 11:30 PM but there was no damage. I don't like this mortar business because the first shell always catches you standing up. At least "Whistling Charlie" gives you a couple of seconds to hit the ground.
September 11th. They shelled us again at 7 AM with mortars and mountain guns. The mountain guns couldn't get at us but they lobbed the mortar shells in. The first shell caught both Lenny and I standing up. It landed in a ration dump about 75 ft away, wounding one man in the ankle and knocking him down. A nail from one of the boxes in the dump landed on Lenny's bed. We dove into our slit trenches and the next one lit about 20 ft from our kip, riddling our tent to shreds and cutting down my gun and pack rack. This shell cut two fingers off of Houstan's right hand. He was sitting up in his hole about 10 ft from us and he had just reached to take his cigarette out of his mouth when it got him. He went wild and ran as hard as he could go, falling over a brush pile and yelling at the top of his voice. It affects some that way. The same shell caught Coster, a mortar man, as he was jumping into his hole and ripped his stomach wide open. A medic, disregarding the shelling, ran to his aid but he was beyond saving and died about ten minutes later.
Bill Adams dove right out of his bed roll into his trench. There was about five gallons of rain water gathered in the canvas flap above him. When the close shell lit, a piece of shrapnel ripped a big hole in the flap and all that cold water came down on Bill. I guess he thought they had got him for sure because he really let out a war whoop.
A fellow dove in my trench on top of me without warning and scared me so bad I pretty near creamed my jeans.
At 4 PM they shelled us again but did no damage. We moved our kip down on the beach and dug in and built a splinter proof shelter about five feet down in the ground. When we didn't have anything to do but shoot the breeze, we hung are feet down in our hole so we could tumble in double quick time.
They shelled us again at 6 PM. Again no damage was done. It looks like our shelter is a peach.
Earlier this afternoon a flight of six Mitchells came over and dropped bombs on Salamaua. After they unloaded their eggs they circled around and strafed the target area six times. Boy, it sure was a pretty sight. There is a big battle going on out at sea this evening. It looks like enemy planes attacking a convoy. There is an awful lot of ack-ack fire being thrown around out there. We heard a rumor that Italy has surrendered. Hope so.
The total casualties today were one killed and two wounded. Coster, the mortar man, was buried in our little cemetery under the coconut palms on the beach. Father Monahan officiated. Just a few words about Father Monahan.
He was certainly a wonderful man who didn't know the meaning of the word fear. Every day he would tramp up to the front lines alone to see the boys. He would carry mail to them and take writing paper, gum, candy drops and other small things that he could pack. On Sundays he would give services to as many of the men that he could get to. One time while giving a service, with the men down on their knees, Father was reading out of a bible and a Jap sniper clipped some leaves from a tree behind him, but he didn't stop the service. After he finished, two of the fellows quietly left and took care of the annoyance.
Father Monahan has several citations for bravery, like pulling men out from under fire that had been wounded. With Chaplains like him, how can we not have faith?
September 12th. This morning we went to Lokanu ridge planning to climb over it as the Japs have just been driven off. Just as we got to the top, the Nips threw over about forty rounds from a "Charlie", so we stayed on our side.
All of the 3rd Battalion is moving up and lots of supplies are coming with them. Our old battalion executive officer is in charge of this battalion and is doing a bang-up job.
The Japs shelled opposite our kip at two LCVs but had no luck. Moon Mullins was delivering a message to Major Morris when the Japs opened up this morning. The shells were landing all around poor Moon who was really rooting in the mud. One lit in the mud right in front of his face and stuck there. It was a dud and, when we saw Moon, he was as white as a sheet and couldn't even talk. He must be carrying a rabbit's foot.
Our patrols are in Salamaua. I guess she has fallen. All the native old men, children and Mary's that were being held by the Japs are released and are coming through our camp on their way to a new camp under ANGAU. We gave all the little kids candy until we ran out. Gee, they were a pitiful looking lot of people.
I ran into my former boss boy who was in charge when I was leading bong trains. He came running up to me and said, "All Japs gone Salamaua?" I told him yes, that I thought they were all gone. "Did you chase them out?" he asked, wanting to know if the Americans did the chasing. Again, I answered yes. "Good", he said. "I want to give you two coins". Upon saying this he gave me a New Guinea shilling and a penny. I will keep them as one of my greatest treasures because it meant so much to him to give me something that I would make a fuss over.
We are moving to the Francisco River by landing barge this afternoon and made our landing just this side of the river at 4:30 PM. It was a bad surf (about 6 ft) and in landing we lost one barge. The Japs had been there a short time before us as we found one dead Jap who had been shot through the head by one of our patrols and he was still warm. We set up a guard in case a wandering Nip patrol might come in close.
Nothing happened during the night out of the ordinary and the next morning at 3 AM we loaded on a LCT and about a half hour later we landed on the Isthmus of Salamaua. The town was vacated by the Japs about the 11th and Aussie and Yank troops were in by the afternoon of the 12th.
This old place is really blown to pieces. There is hardly a building left intact on the whole town site. Every house has been scarred by bomb or shell. We were among the first troops in after the patrols, so we did pretty good in the souvenir hunting, which seems to be part of war.
The bank of Salamaua had been blown open and cleared out as far as currency was concerned. We picked up a lot of cancelled checks. Tiny Nelson, who weighs about 220 pounds and stands 6 six feet two in his stocking feet, found a Jap naval uniform that fit him perfectly; so you can see the Japs are not all small.
There were tons of clean clothes and they were good clothes, too. We were all wearing Japanese uniforms as our clothes were pretty well shot. I found a Jap bicycle that was in pretty good shape and a newsreel man took my picture while I was riding it.
We made our kip in an old Jap concrete pill box. One of our 1,000 pound bombs had blown up a house about twenty feet from it and never even shook the pill box. It left a crater about thirty feet deep and twenty feet wide, so we figured that the pill box was the place for us.
The Salamaua air strip was so badly pounded by our bombers that a piper cub would have trouble landing on it because of the shell holes, and they can land on a handkerchief.
September 14th. We unloaded landing boats all day. The beach is getting lined up with supplies. It is hot as the dickens here and water is really scarce.
September 15th. We left Salamaua at 2 PM and arrived at Tambu at 3:30. Left here at 4 PM and arrived at Nassau at 6 PM. Lae has fallen. Boy they sure have those old Nippers on the run now.
September 16th. We left Nassau on the SS 1, a captured landing barge better known as the poop deck pappy. Arrived at Morobe at 4:30 PM.
September 17th. Left Morobe at 4:30 PM on the St. John bound for Buna. Rained real hard and we were all out on the deck. Passed right through a very large convoy of landing craft with naval escort.
September 18th. Arrived at Buna at 11 AM. I hardly recognized the place it had changed so. Red Cross huts, Salvation Army tea huts and seemingly hundreds of warehouses. I caught a truck going to Oro Bay and it was piloted by Fuzzy Wuzzy's. It was the funniest thing I have seen for a long time. One of them steered the vehicle and the other shifted the gears. They never ground them once on the whole trip.
September 19th. I reported to my company commander.
September 21st. I signed up for OCS again but I think I am too late. Took a crack at Transportation Corps this time.
September 23rd. Went to Dobodura and boarded an air transport to Port Moresby. The purpose was to take a blood test for the OCS exam. Arrived in Moresby in thirty minutes. Flying over the Owen Stanley Range is a very impressive sight. What a rugged range of mountains these are. One can realize what a tough time the Aussies and Yanks of the 32nd Division had driving the Japs over this barrier to Buna and into the sea.
September 24th. We can't get a plane back because the pass through the range is closed. Had a very pleasant experience today. Talked to the first American woman in nineteen months at the Red Cross. My but American femininity is wonderful. She happened to be from Portland, Oregon. I also operated one of the printing presses in the Guinea Gold office.
September 25th. We finally begged a pilot to hop us over the range. The clouds hung in the valleys looking like giant rivers flowing. Arrived at Doby (Dobodura) 34 minutes later, then used the old thumb to Oro Bay. I'm spending the afternoon writing letters and eating some goodies out of a package from home. There are nurses here now, so it's time to pull out. This place is getting too civilized. Up to now I have ridden in or on about every kind of transportation facility except a submarine.
September 27th to 30th. Went to my first show in forty days. Our section is to handle all details and vehicle transportation in the base. Operations are running very smooth. We are handling supplies for the fighting troops up north.
October 1st through the 11th, 1943. Everything is about the same. On the 10th the Nips dropped a few eggs on Dobodura.
October 12th. Our air force made the biggest raid ever pulled in the SWPA. Bombers and fighters from Milne Bay, Port Moresby and Dobodura took part. The reports so far are as follows: Sunk two destroyers, one submarine and tender, three big cargo ships, 45 light cargo ships, 70 harbor vessels and knocked down or destroyed on the ground approximately two hundred enemy planes. They dropped 350 tons of bombs and expended 500,000 rounds of ammunition. Other damages include warehouses, dumps and ground installations.
October 13th. Japs bombed here again at 0400 this morning. Dropped some eggs in the bay and some in the 491st Port Battalion area. No damage and no casualties.
October 14th. Adams and I went before the OCS board, the only two from the Battalion that made it. At 2130 hours, the Japs laid a string of bombs across the bay doing no damage. An M.P. shot at my blitz buggy. Couldn't get my lights out for the black out as the switch jammed. He was kind of jittery, I guess.
October 15th. A large force of enemy dive bombers and Zeros came over today at 0830 hours. This is the largest raid we have ever had. I guess it is supposed to be a retaliation raid. Our P-38's and 40's intercepted, completely breaking up the enemy formation. They shot down fifteen dive bombers and nine Zeros (four probables). Most all of the planes fell into the ocean. We had a wonderful view of the whole thing and we listened to the pilots over our short wave radios. Here are some of the things we heard: 1. "Dive bombers and Zeros all around me". The answer was… "Well, get off of their tails and give someone else a chance." And… "Aw, go to hell." 2. "All enemy aircraft out of area; leave those P-40s alone." 3. "See a whole mess of dive bombers below me. OK, let's go down and get the bastards."
October 23rd to 30th. Passed OCS board. Most of this period was spent in the hospital for malaria and yellow jaundice. Rumors are pretty strong that we will get furloughs to Australia.
November 1st to 30th. Not very much doing except normal duties. Nips raided the night of the 14th but did no damage. Phyllis Brooks, Una Merkel and Gary Cooper were at our camp and ate chow with the enlisted men. Sgt. Thomas and I escorted the two actresses through the mess line and into the mess hall. Gary Cooper sat at the sergeants table because of his movie he made entitled "Sgt. York". I gave the three of them a canceled bank check from Salamaua. Gary borrowed my carbine for about a week to hunt wallabies with. When it came back it was in perfect shape.
December, 1943. The highlight of this month was that I left for Australia on a fifteen day furlough. Flew to Port Moresby and spent Christmas there. We had all the chicken and turkey we could eat. Pappy Beeson and Juicy Ashabranner got their furlough, too. We boarded the SS Contessa, a furlough ship, and headed for vacation land. Her boat code name was the Z 96. She is a very famous ship due to the fact that she was the ship that ran the blockade through the Suez Canal when they first started to fight there. She ran some narrow river that no other boat could go up because they didn't have shallow enough draft. She made it through with a full load of ammunition and saved the day. The Chief Steward on her has the nickname of Mario the "Unsinkable". He got this name because he has had so many ships shot out from under him, and he is still sailing. There was a big write up about the ship and her crew in the Saturday Evening Post.
After arriving in Sydney and checking in, we boarded a train for Melbourne. Pappy and Juicy got to go with me so we were all set for a good time. We got into Melbourne on January 6th at which time our fifteen day furlough began. There is no need to explain here that we had a good time. I spent about one hundred and eighty dollars but it was worth every penny of it.
Our fifteen days being up, we went back to Sydney where we laid over at Warwick Farm awaiting a leave ship to take us back to New Guinea. When we got back we found that the outfit had moved from Oro Bay to Boreo.
We are to go into extensive training with regular M-10 Tank Destroyers. All furloughs had been canceled so the fellows were very unhappy when we told them about the good times we had in Aussie land.
The way I got to go was just lucky. We had to go by section. There were only four fellows in our section at the time. Bill Adams couldn't go because he was broke. Trant wanted to go second because that is when his buddy was going. Kaelke just naturally wanted to go last; so what was I to do? Lucky me.
February to April, 1944. The 12th of February I had another birthday. I'm about ready for an old age pension now. I spent most of the month of February helping to build our new camp. Boy, it sure is a dandy. Big showers, uniform mess halls, canteen, refrigerator, theatre and tents to live in with electric lights. How can we stand it? We have a new battalion commander now. He is Colonel Cochrane from the 218th Field Artillery, part of the 41st Division.
8 - A TD outfit becomes a CMBAbout March 1st we turned in all our M10 equipment and drew 4.2 inch mortars. This is the biggest mortar made by the U.S. and we have the first ones to come to the SWPA. They were used very successfully in Italy. Under the new set up, I am Battalion Ammo Sergeant and I have a section of thirty two men. The ammo is really coming in and so far we have received about 14,000 rounds. Boy, are we busy. It looks like we will be going up north to combat by the 12th of April. I sincerely hope so because maybe if we get another campaign under our belt, we might get to go home. A few boys have left for the States on the rotation system. So far it is a very poor system, as just the sick, lame and lazy are getting the breaks.
I went to the firing range and watched the boys fire the mortars. Boy, they are really good. They can lay them big shells right in there without any trouble at all.
April 6th, 1944. We got that old moving notice again. We boarded a Liberty ship and sailed out of Oro Bay; our destination this time was Finschaven. The trip took two days and we arrived on the 8th. I had a big job loading the ammo on the boat at Oro Bay. I worked all one day and that night. The next morning, still without sleep, I helped Sherm load his trucks.
On arriving at Finschaven, we went to a muddy camp on the highest hill around these parts. Our view was nice as we were on a spot overlooking the harbor. We stayed here until April 11th, at which time our companies were assigned to different infantry units for a mission. Bill and I volunteered to go with C Company and had it all set to go with them, when we were notified that we were going up in charge of 18 men each. What our job would be was not known and we never did find out. We were to land on D plus 2 or the second day of the invasion.
April 20th, we loaded up on a LST. I was on one boat with Major Preston, and Bill was on another with Colonel Cochran and Captain Saunders. We pulled out in a convoy of 12 LST's, two Liberty's and six destroyers. On the morning of the 22nd, we could see fires and explosions on the beach of Hollandia.
On our trip we skirted the Admiralty Islands so close that we could see the lights there. Part of the convoy left us for a landing at Aitaipe. We went in at Hollandia while another force consisting of the 24th Division went in at Tanemara Bay.
During the night of April 24th, some Jap planes dropped flares all around us trying to locate our boats in the bay. Our destroyers laid a smoke screen completely over us so the Nips couldn't and didn't find us.
April 25th, we lay out in the bay all day waiting for the tide to come in high enough to allow us to go over the coral reefs. Naturally we didn't have any idea how successful the landing had been and for all we knew we might land right in the middle of something big.
April 26th, we landed. The Infantry was already up to the air strips and we found out that our boys were really going to town. The campaign had more or less been a push over. The fire and explosions we saw from out in the bay had been started by Jap bombers trying to blow up their own supply dumps on the beach in order to stop us from using any of their gas, oil or food. But they made a lucky hit and got our dump instead, getting an ammunition, gas and ration dump.
On the night of the 26th, after wading in the salt water all day and unloading the LST's, we walked about three miles up the beach and camped for the night.
April 27th, we walked back down the beach and took a LCV to Pim Jetty. We then walked about seven miles to Division Headquarters with the sun really beating down on us. I arrived ahead of the rest of the group and arranged for billeting. By the time they arrived, I had the camp spot picked out. The Division had no rations for us that night, so we prepared as much as we could and got to bed.
That night we lay out in the jungle without the benefit of even a raincoat. Our packs were on the blitz buggy which had bogged down behind a bunch of heavy engineer equipment. The Japs had built the road over a swamp using only light poles for corduroy. Some of our heavy equipment sank completely out of sight. I saw a couple of D-8 Cats down in the mud clear above the seats.
April 28th. The following morning we hiked back down the road and got our packs. We came back and set up a temporary camp and put out a security guard. There were a few dead Nips around and prisoners were coming in all the time. Also, lots of Hindus and Indians were giving themselves up. They were forced to work for the Japs building roads and the like.
The booty was plentiful and all first class equipment. Among the equipment found in this area were first class dental facilities, radio and radar units, 300 Ford trucks, chinaware, power hack saws, drill presses, beautiful new big lathes that had never been taken out of cosmoline, generators, rations, Saki, beer and other things too numerous to mention. The Ford trucks were machined in Canada, assembled in Malaya, captured by the Nips there and shipped here.
April 30th. We started on a hike down the road with Major Preston to Hollandia to see "Hot" Bill at C Company. We had just started when we heard a Nip 25 caliber go off. We immediately took cover on the side of the road. Major Preston and I went into the brush on one side of the road while some infantry boys searched the other side. A few minutes later we heard a couple of shots and a hand grenade go off, and we knew they had seen something. Sure enough, they had ended a Jap's sniping days for Tojo forever.
The rest of the trip to C Company was uneventful. We stayed there all that night. Most of the boys in the company really had a lot of souvenirs. Six of them had nice sabers and the rest had chinaware, flags and the like.
May 1st. We went back to our camp at Division Artillery. In the afternoon we went clear back to the beach to A Company. After we had our business transacted, we went back to our camp again.
May 3rd. Captain Saunders and a bunch of us guys went seven miles north of Lake Sentani. We passed through an old Jap village but didn't find anything, as the infantry had burned everything to the ground.
Today the Nips bombed a hospital on the Pancake, killing three and wounding twenty. One of the twenty was Captain Rushing from Portland who used to be in our battalion.
May 4th. I went to Hollandia to count 4.2" ammo for a report to 24th Division Headquarters.
May 5th. Returned by way of Pim Jetty.
May 6th. Spent all day just laying around and taking it easy for the first time since we landed.
May 7th. Walked to west side of the lake and boarded a mosquito boat with the Major and four others and rode around the outskirts looking for Nip signs. We didn't see even a three toed footprint on the whole expedition. We did see the biggest native village I have ever seen since I've been in New Guinea, though. It was built on stilts on the lake. It was a very clean place and had a nice big church, probably built by the Dutch missionaries. The Dutch have done a marvelous job with the natives here.
May 8th. We moved our camp to White Beach 3, the original place we landed when we first came here. We moved in an old Jap truck that we had fixed up. It ran like a top even though it didn't have any brakes.
May 9th. We arrived at the new area right on the beach. I am in charge of a logging detail cutting large trees and snaking them out with a D-8 Caterpillar tractor. This was right down my alley and even though we got wet and muddy clear to our ears, I really enjoyed it.
May 11th. I took a party of procurers and picked up a bunch of cots for the gang to sleep on.
May 12th to 14th. Worked on area.
May 18th. I took a trip to Pancake prior to joining the 24th Division. They are located close to Cyclops strip. Had to land at White Beach 2 as our main ammo dump is on fire. Some fellows had heated a pot of Java close to some ammo and had gone away leaving the fire burning. The result being, we lost a terribly large amount of equipment. We built a fire wall to prevent the fire from taking everything on the beach. Gigantic explosions took place and hundreds of tons of ammo and gas went sky high. It was a very pretty spectacle, but we realized that there was a lot of precious stuff going to pot. One explosion showered us with shell fragments.
May 19th. Early morning, we saw the fire pretty well under control. We started for our new home. It took us all day to go 25 miles with a truck as the roads were all one way traffic through the mountains.
May 20th. I went to Corp Headquarters and when I came back I found seven letters waiting for me. Oh happy day!
May 24th. I went on patrol up into the hills and found an old Jap bivouac area. Got 23 letters today.
May 26th. On patrol again for about 12 miles. We found Jap field phones still hooked up and an abandoned radio station with equipment all mutilated.
May 27th. Had an air raid but no bombs dropped. Our boys threw up lots of Ack-Ack.
May 28th to June 8th. We cleaned up the area and layed around.
June 9th. Moved nine miles further north toward Tanemarah Bay. Cleaned new area. Sgt Samson was hit by a fallen coconut and taken to the hospital. Bill, Captain Saunders and I went on a short patrol to a native village. We made very good friends with the head man who went by the name of Pillipus. He got another native by the name of Yon and they were our guides up a canyon. They showed us their garden and said the Japs keep coming out of hiding at night and steal their bananas, corn, etc. to keep alive. Our black companions didn't like going up in this country at all. They looked very much relieved when we told them we wanted to go back. They even took us back by way of a short cut.
June 28th. Heard a rumor that Lt. Russell was killed and Lt. Lillie wounded at Biak Island.
July 1st. Sherm came up to our camp with the rest of the rear echelon.
July 4th & 5th. Bill flew up to Biak. The report on Lt. Russell was true. Our D Company did a bang up job there. Lt. Lillie was shot by a sniper in a very embarrassing spot.
July 6th. Our battalion is officially named the 98th Chemical Mortar Battalion.
July 16th to July 20th. Hauled ammo over muddy and practically impassable road for 30 miles.
July 23rd. Bill left on furlough to Australia.
August 7th. I experienced my first earthquake. Mess kits fell off of the racks and the tents swayed back and forth. Sure is a sickening feeling.
August 20th. Sherm left for the good old United States on furlough. Now that both he and Bill are gone, I'm a lone wolf. Biggest trouble is there is nothing to wolf around here.
August 22. Was a red letter day. Bob Hope's show was here and what a show. He had Jerry Colona, Peggy Thomas and Frances Langford with him. Boy, what a treat.
August 28th. Hot Bill came back with lots of wild stories about his leave. The best being one about his going out with a girl and when he asked her what she did at the place where she worked, she said…"Oh, I'm Chief Crane Operator at the Iron Works." Boy, I bet she was a dainty little mass of muscle.
August 30th. I left by C-47 transport for Wakde Island on a mission to A Company. Arrived at my destination in 45 minutes. Took a LCM to Toem on Maffin Bay. I delivered my safe hand information and started back to Hollandia on September 1st.
September 10th. The quota boys left for home today. This is the first bunch to leave for about four months. Sutton and Dragich left in this bunch. From now on there is nothing happening but the everyday training schedules and camp life. One thing that boosts our morale is that the beer ration is coming in good now. We get about twelve bottles at a time.
Our A Company took part in the action at Moratai but didn't run into much trouble. A and D Company are supposed to be at Sansapor while B is down at Aitape. Bill is down with B Company. C should join B very soon. This is in preparation for the big push on the Philippines. Lts. Stubbs and Woebbeking are captains now.
September 18th. The Major just told me I was alerted to go down to Aitape, tomorrow or the next day.
October 1st. Didn't go to Aitape as yet. Took trip to a native village with Bill, Captain Saunders and Brannon to bargain for bow and arrows. We all got a set of them. It cost us a can of Bully Beef. While we were there we saw a native church service. The minister was all dressed up in white sheets. A baby started to cry while the service was being held and the minister just jabbered a couple of words without even looking off the bible, and the woman took her baby and left. We also saw three bare back sided kids about five years old singing "Pistol Packin' Mama". You could surely tell that those darn Yanks had been there.
The quotas are leaving regular but they are so terribly small. We have a new battalion commander (Major Batlin), also new S-3, S-4 and S-2. They are all Chemical Warfare Service men. Captain Saunders and Brighton left for the good old USA.
October 14th. Had a big surprise today. I was eating chow and a fellow came into the mess hall and said hello Jack. I looked up and couldn't even recognize him. He said, "I am Bob Huntington"; then I remembered who he was. Boy, he had lost an awful lot of weight. That evening we sure had a big visit together. Later on in the evening I got a blitz buggy and took him back to his outfit.
October 18th. Had a very interesting time today. Lt. Marienthal and myself were detailed to take the white phosphorus out of a 4.2" shell. White phosphorus is ignited immediately upon contact with the air. This makes it very ticklish to handle. We drilled a hole partially through each side of the shell casing and then put the shell in a large container of water so that the liquid would just cover the shell. After drilling the holes on through under the water, we heated it and the phosphorus came oozing out through the holes. The phosphorus, being heavier than water, stayed on the bottom of the container. After the water cooled, the WP was brittle resembling peanut brittle, but was a gray color. By putting on a pair of rubber gloves, one could break small pieces of it off and throw it on the ground. As soon as the water evaporated, the WP would burst into flame. These shells are used for smoke screens, harassing the enemy and burning out positions such as pill boxes.
I may go to Aitape on the 19th or the 20th.
October 27th. Spent all day loading ammunition on the J. Maurice Thompson, a Liberty ship, prior to shipment of the remaining two companies of the Battalion.
October 29th. All personnel and equipment loaded for shipment to Aitape. Pulled out on the 30th from Hollandia and arrived at our destination at 5 PM.
December 1st. I was left in charge on the boat to see that all the trucks and ammo got off ok. The water is pretty rough and it makes it hard to unload the big vehicles. Finally got it all unloaded and got off the boat onto the beach with Sticks on December 3rd.
December 4th we set up a temporary camp. Our camp is in the biggest coconut plantation in New Guinea. It is controlled by the Lever Brothers Soap Company. They surely have some large holdings over in the South Pacific.
I have been very busy since coming down here. We have no Ammunition Officer so I handle the whole show. My job was to see that the Battalion had all the ammunition of all calibers and descriptions that it needed for the Philippine Campaign. Our mortar ammunition was most important. We took about 30,000 rounds of the stuff with us. Other ammo included 30 and 50 caliber, carbine, 45 caliber, rocket, grenades, rifle grenades, mines and flares.
December 24th. We celebrated our Christmas today. Not a bad one either, considering everything. We had a good dinner with all the fried chicken we could eat. Lots of beer, too. Our packages all came in as the Army Post Office had been saving them so that we would get all of them at the same time. We figure that our luck might run out for some of us so we had better enjoy this Christmas as much as possible.
One of our boys just got a cable from the Red Cross that both his Mother and Father were killed in an automobile wreck back home. He has been told that he will not have to go with us to the Philippines and that they will do everything they can to get him a furlough home.
December 25th. Packed all our stuff and tore the camp down on Christmas day in preparation for loading on boats again.
December 26th. We loaded on LST 486, Army number 13, in ducks. The surf was real rough and every time we would start out for the boats we would get drenched by big waves rolling right over us. We were 13 men, on LST 13, scheduled to go in on the 13th wave.
December 27th. Pretty good deal on this trip so far. We have more conveniences than ever before on a boat trip. Everyone from T/4 and buck Sergeants up, get bunks to sleep on. We get three meals per day, one fresh water shower each day and plenty of fresh water to drink. This is much more than any of us expected.
9 - We re-take the PhilippinesDecember 28th. We are scheduled to pull anchor at 4 PM.
December 29th. We did pull anchor yesterday on time. Our convoy consists of 11 destroyers, 17 LST, 22 LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) and 21 APA's. The latter are Army Personnel Carriers and look much like any transport.
December 30th. Everything is as usual on a trip of this kind. We crossed the equator and this makes the first time that we've been on our side of the imaginary line since we came over three years ago.
December 31st. No celebration for us this New Years Eve. We did drink a couple beers that we had saved from our Xmas issue.
January 1st, 1945. Had a swell turkey dinner today. Spotted two aircraft carriers at the rear of our convoy. There are about 270 ships with us all together now. We have 90 in our convoy and there is a convoy ahead of us and one behind us. I never saw so many ships before in my life.
January 2nd. We had an air alert today. Supposed to be at Leyte on the 4th. Everything else is as usual.
January 3rd. One air alert today but no planes spotted. Will be just off Leyte at 4 in the morning.
January 4th. Another alert but no planes. Spotted the Philippines for the first time. We had one of the most beautiful sunsets this evening that I have ever seen. The ships on the horizon just seemed to blend in with the hue of the setting sun.
January 5th. First real alert today. A navy spotter on our LST saw a submarine off the starboard bow of our boat, about 200 feet away. It submerged immediately. Whether our Navy got it or not is not known. The whole convoy started to zig-zag as soon as the warning was passed on. A destroyer arrived right on the spot and sat their listening for the sub but didn't throw any depth charges while we were in that vicinity. We were just off the Los Negros Islands. Should start seeing excitement about tomorrow.
January 6th. Nothing.
January 7th. This morning the whole convoy is shooting ack-ack. The sky is full of black dots denoting anti-aircraft bursts. The alert was given at 6:30 PM. One Jap dive bomber came in at our ship. He dropped two bombs off our port bow. One bomb was a near miss, the other a dud. It put out all the lights on the boat and broke a water main on the port side. At this particular time the only ship that was firing was ours. They hit her with everything they had. The Nip turned a complete twist over our boat, just missing the bridge, and crashed into the sea just off our stern. The Commander of the convoy wired our boat the words, "Good Work". The next morning they painted a Nip flag up on the bridge.
January 8th. There was a Jap American Naval engagement last night. Results unknown. At 5 AM a Jap plane straddled a LST in our convoy with bombs and crashed into a LST in the rear convoy. I don't care much for these suicide diving characters. 8 AM, Jap dived into an APA in the rear convoy. Started a fire on board ship.
January 9th. All our heavy naval ships are shelling the beach. Boy, they surely are throwing the steel around. We made a feint at Aparee at the northern tip of Luzon last night to draw the Japs up there, then pulled back out to sea and maneuvered into position in Lingayen Gulf. This is where the Japs landed when they came to the Philippines.
The whole bay area has been covered with a huge smoke screen laid down by destroyers. One Jap plane was driven off by terrific ack-ack by the whole fleet. Our planes are up now flying around. Started into shore at 1300 hours.
A Jap dropped a bomb on a light cruiser and then crashed into a battleship. This battlewagon had a visiting British general and admiral and a Newsweek reporter on board. The British general and the reporter were killed.
Reports from shore by radio say that all is going well. Opposition is fairly light. Jap artillery and mortar fire from the hills are raising hell on the beach. This is why we didn't go in on schedule. The Nip artillery has the beach bracketed with zone fire. 1800 hours now. 1900 hours; have real good air cover. One of our war ships just made a nice hit on an enemy plane bringing him down with a splash. We have been ordered to lay out in the bay for awhile until the Nips quit shelling the beach a little.
January 10th. I wish we would go into shore. I don't like this laying out here like a decoy for a bunch of suicide ducks to dive on us. At 0100 this morning, the convoy was shelled by a large gun on shore, presumably a naval gun. We got a near miss from it. A shell whispered low over our boat waking all the fellows up that were sleeping on deck.
0645 we have a Nip plane diving and strafing our convoy. They finally got him after about ten minutes of letting him have his own way about things.
There were Jap torpedo boats and demolition barges in the bay last night. Also Jap suicide swimmers with charges of high explosives were swimming up to the small ships and blowing themselves up in an effort to sink the craft. Boats had orders to shoot at all floating debris as there might be a Nip under it.
Last night a ship took a shot at a plane with landing lights on and scored a lucky hit. At first it looked as if someone had lit a match way up in the sky. The light kept getting bigger and bigger until the plane exploded just before it hit the water.
0800 Jap broadcast picked up by our boat admits our sneak attack here. They report that both sides are losing heavily. They also report that one of their special attack corps crashed into a Battleship sinking it immediately.
0930 we started for White Beach 1 and 2. Japs are dropping mortar shells along the rear of LSTs on the beach. Hit one in the rear. It blew the Navy crew on the rear guns in all directions. The Navy laid more smoke screens and we pulled back into the bay as the shells were landing on the shore and into the water where we were supposed to land.
1115 we hit the beach and received no shell fire. Must be lucky or sumpin'. Yep, set foot on Luzon for the first time after starting for here over three years ago.
The Infantry must have had it fairly easy on the beach as there are no dead Nips near the shore at all. San Fabian is really laid low by the naval bombardment. We hiked up the railroad for quite a long ways. There are lots of Filipino people standing on the sided of the road yelling: "Victoree". They are very poorly dressed. Lots of them are wearing burlap pants and skirts. I saw my first rice paddies, carabao and artesian wells. It looks a lot better than New Guinea already.
1530 hours dug in with Bill. 2315 to 0230 Jap artillery shells whistled over our position and landed down on the beach.
January 11th. I moved away from the rest of the gang to White Beach 2 to organize an ammo dump for our 4.2" ammunition. Worked all day fixing up the dump and issuing ammo. In the evening I went to a bivouac area and dug my hole. Japs shelled the area all night long. They bracketed the area with 12 inch shells weighing about 900 pounds each. One shell would go over us out to the beach and then one would land in short of us. I heard a couple of duds land in a swamp about 300 yards ahead of us. These big old shells sounded just like a freight train going over us. No sleep for me under these conditions. The 12 inchers hit one LST killing three and wounding fifteen. Also killed and wounded nine on the beach. We also had two air attacks.
January 12th. Worked the ammo dump all day. Went up to battalion headquarters to stay overnight and get away from the shelling. The skipper was surely glad to see me as he knew where I had been. Bill said when they heard the shells hitting down on the beach, they said, "I'll bet old Olee is catching hell tonight. The big boy laid a few rounds down on the beach.
January 13th. It is believed that the big guns that are shelling us on the beach are big rifles captured from us at Bataan, Singapore and Manila. The order of the day from Headquarters to the Navy and ground forces is to get these guns at all costs.
January 14th.The big boys were at it again last night. They didn't open up until about 0200 hours. One explosion, I think it was a tree burst, blew sand and gravel all over me. Something hit my watch breaking the crystal and stopping it. That is too darn close. Moved up to the rest of the outfit at Corp Headquarters.
January 15th. The big guns have been silenced. The 158th Regimental Combat Team went in and got them after our planes softened them up a little. Had a good quiet night after last night. Went up to the forward elements of the 169th Infantry today. Took mortar parts up to one of our platoons. Saw a Navy plane crash and blow to bits. The pilot bailed out. The plane hit a Filipino hut killing two occupants.
January 16th. Went to Finnegan's platoon at Damortis with mortar parts. They also got some bad ammo that I have to inspect and make a report on to Headquarters. Tilly got killed up at C Company command post last night. Japs infiltrated and one shot Tilly in the forehead while he was still sleeping. Never knew what hit him.
January 17th. Jap plane went over last night but didn't drop anything. Probably recon unit. Went up to C Company just south of San Jaciento.
January 18th. There were Jap patrols in the area last night. Our perimeter fired all night long. They got six Nips at the artillery about 300 yards down the road. They used flame throwers on a radar unit and a prime mover. A few of them went in ahead of the rest and unscrewed the barrels out of the fifty caliber machine guns mounted on the artillery's trucks. Infantry patrols got 32 Japs in all in this valley today.
Captain Webb is in the hospital with shrapnel in this thigh. He was missing for two days. He had gone out with an Infantry patrol looking for mortar positions and got pinned down by Jap fire for thirty six hours.
Went to C Company with a radio. They have moved on to Pozzorubio.
January 19th. Joe Weitz and myself had a little small arms fire coming our way this morning down on the beach. Japs dressed as native women carrying rice on their heads got through the lines and started a little rumpus. There weren't many of them so the fellows on the perimeter took care of them.
January 20th. All quiet last night. Went to within 2 kilometers of San Manuel. Infantry patrols had been in the outskirts of town but were forced back out by the Nips. Saw Juicy, Weedy and Stink. They have been firing a lot of shells into the town trying to soften it up for the doughboys.
January 21st. Stayed around camp today and took it easy. Ran across a Filipino boy about six years old with three rows of lower teeth. The older boy with him said that was very common in the Philippines.
We can pick up the Japs talking to one another up in the hills. What a lot of mixed up dribble drabble their lingo is.
Some of our outfits have Indians in them. The 158th Regimental Combat Team that I mentioned previously is one of them. They use the Indian boys for sending messages over the telephone as the Nips couldn't figure it out.
January 22nd. Captain Dymond and I went to the first and third platoons of B Company. They were situated way back in the hills. There are lots of Filipino guerillas back in those mountains and they are a crazy lot. Most of them wear sun tans and you can spot them for a mile. They do a lot of perimeter duty for our outfits on the line so our boys can all get some sleep at night. These Flips (Filipinos) never dig a hole and black out doesn't mean anything to them. They sit out on the side hills smoking and jabbering back and forth. One night a bunch of them shot pretty near all night long. Our boys were getting kind of nervous. When they asked their sergeant who was in charge of them, how many Japs they got, he said, "Oh, we never saw any Japs. We just shot a lot of ammunition so the Japs would know we were here."
On the way back to camp from B Company, we were fired upon by Nip artillery. One shell hit right along side of the road up ahead of us about 200 yards. We made a run for it and they lobbed two more in behind us but they were quite a way off.
January 23rd. B Company again today with Major Batlin. Saw two dead Japs and two dead carabaos lying by the road on the way up. There was a pill box up ahead, so we stopped and asked the Yank in it what had happened. He said that early that morning the Nips came walking up the road leading the carabaos, evidently hoping they would pass for Filipinos. The Yank in the pill box just sprayed them with a little fifty caliber machine gun lead and got Japs, carabao and all.
January 24th. Lt Stanchina and I went to Lt. Bells platoon up at C Company. While we were there, we had to hit the dirt because the Nips were laying in a little artillery. We also went to within view of the Nips up at Johnson's platoon. You could see them scurrying around in front of their pill boxes. It was here that the Infantry were forced back by Jap fire so they called for fire from our mortars.
Johnson fired white phosphorus first to get his bearings. The phosphorous caught the grass on fire right in front of the Nip's pill boxes. They came running out with sacks and their shirts to try and beat the fires out. After a pretty good number of them got out there, Johnson fired about ten rounds of high explosive into them and blew them all to kingdom come.
This same day, Stanchina and I followed some Jap combat wire for about two miles. Finally we thought we had better get out of the blitz buggy and look around a little. We walked up to the top of a hill and could see our own artillery and mortar shells bursting on Jap positions. We got out of there but quick.
That night Major Preston came in asking for a couple of volunteers for a little job. I was the only guy in the tent that felt up to it so away we went. We had to go to C Company in blackout. Boy, it was touchy business. About five miles from C Co. command post, there was a fork in the road being guarded by military police. We asked him how things were up the road. He told us to be darn careful as the last car to come out of there was under continuous sniper fire. Major Preston just said to me, "Sarge, let's go. Make this old buggy go as fast as she can and don't stop for nothing." We made it through without a mishap. Captain Staudacher at C Company said he wouldn't make that trip for any money. He said he was afraid to even walk across the road at night.
January 25th. Drove one and a half ton truck today hauling supplies. About 1650 hours a Jap plane came over our area strafing. I stood and watched him go over. Could see those big red tomatoes on his wings as plain as day. The pilot in the cockpit was looking down at us as he went by. He was pretty near out of sight before the red alert was given. He surely sneaked in neat. Probably came in real low and fast so that the radar units couldn't pick him up.
January 26th. Stanchina and I went up to Johnson's platoon again. Flip guerillas got nine Japs along the road between the time we went up and came back. While we were talking to Johnson an automatic weapon made us scamper for cover. All the bullets whizzed over us. Had an air alert last night but no planes came over.
January 27th. Stayed at camp. The rear echelon came in from Aitape and Sansapor, New Guinea. They brought a whole six by six load of Christmas mail with them. We are pretty happy today.
January 28th. Went to San Manuel with Major Preston. We really saw a sight. Got into the town right behind the Infantry and tanks. We surely got a lot of Nip tanks here. Lots of them were still burning, along with the Nips in them. There were lots of dead Nips lying around, most of them pretty well singed and torn up. It was pretty gruesome. They tried to hold this town with tanks dug in as pill boxes. I really got some good pictures of this mess. (Ed: At the right is a photo of one of those destroyed Japanese tanks, click to enlarge).
January 29th. A Jap plane strafed last night but just shot up a rice paddy. Went to Johnson's platoon with Preston. We saw an air strike by P-47's about 800 yards away. It was really beautiful. They threw in bombs, rockets and then strafed the dickens out of the place. Got plinked at by a lone sniper on the way back. Preston wanted to stop right out in the open and go look for him but I just kept right on going.
January 30th. It is a good sight to see the Filipino children going back to school again. They have dug out all their old school books and are studying the democratic way of life again. They seem to be mighty happy, too. Saw a captured Jap 150mm mortar. We thought ours was big, but theirs is taller than me when it is elevated to its full height. We are going to move tomorrow.
January 31st. Moved to Rosales airfield and set up camp.
February 1st. Went up to C Company and two platoons of D Company. Watched D Company lay down a smoke screen for the Infantry to advance through. The Japs are shelling Pozzorubio again.
February 2nd. Taking it easy at camp.
February 3rd. Took over Major Preston's job as liaisons agent to the companies. He transferred to ASCOM Headquarters. He is going to be in full charge of restoring telephone communications in Manila. He used to work for Bell System in civilian life. He laid out and put into operation the dial system in Atlanta, Ga.
Bill went to B Company to go on the line and got a direct appointment. The colonel wanted me to go to A Company for the same thing. I can't see the percentage in it. No use sticking my neck out now that I've been over here this long just for a stinking gold bar. The glory is for someone else as far as I'm concerned. There are lots of eager beavers.
February 4th. Took the C and D Company runs today. Have a driver now. He never drove before so I'm teaching him the tricks of the trade. Five GI's, myself and two Flips flushed a Jap out of a cane patch and shot him full of holes near Pozzorubio. Had to run an enemy shelling at Sison. They dropped five shells in as we were going through about 200 yards from the road in a bunch of houses. My driver learned driving pretty fast as he didn't waste much time getting down the highway.
February 5th. Made long run to D Company at Marseil-seil. Very uneventful trip.
February 6th. C Company today. No excitement.
February 7th. Cleaned and repaired my Jeep.
February 8th. Went out looking for A Company alone. Made it clear out to Agbennawaug. Couldn't get a driver so I went all alone. I was way out where the grass was about six feet high in places along the road. I slowed down for a rough bridge and just before my wheels touched it, a sniper let go at me. The bullet bumble bee'd right close. I just hunched over the steering wheel, shoved the buggy in second and tromped on the gas. About four miles down the road I came across a guerilla headquarters, so I stopped and reported it. They loaded up a whole truck load of Filipinos and took off to look for the sniper.
I made a 180 mile trip that day before I finally found the outfit. Of course I had to give a report when I got in. Col. Batlin really gave me a raking over the coals about going out alone. He then issued a written order that no person would leave the Battalion area alone.
February 9th. Went to Damortis to B Company. All quiet up there.
February 11th. Entered the 5th Field Hospital at Carmen with 104.4 fever. The old malaria bug got me.
February 12th. Another birthday for me. Spent all day catching up on my mail.
February 18th. Finally talked the doc into letting me go back to the outfit. He told me to take my own treatments and if I had any reoccurrences to report right back to him because he wasn't supposed to let me go.
February 19th. Right back on the job again. Went to A Company at San Nicholas.
February 20th. Took the B and C Company run with Murray, my driver. Japs dropped five rounds of artillery shells in a creek bed a way down stream about 500 yards.
February 21st to 26th. Took steady runs to A Company. Nothing out of the ordinary doing.
February 27th. Sherman came back from his furlough to the States. Boy is he fat. Gee, it's good to see the big lug again. Now I have first hand information about Mom and Dad.
February 28th to March 16th. Went on routine runs. Forded a river five times going to A Company up the Villa Verde Trail. The water came right up in the buggy. We had to take off the fan belt in order to make it.
Watched A Company drive a five man Jap patrol off of a burned over ridge. They used about thirty rounds of ammo. Went up to Puncan and San Jose. The road from San Jose to Puncan is known as highway Number Five. It runs through Balete Pass and on to Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines which is now the headquarters of the Japs in northeren Luzon. The pass is also held by the Nips. They are dug in solid rock and it looks like it will be a rough job driving them out. Burned Jap tanks and civilian autos are plentiful along the road.
March 18th. Brought in one of those Jap 12-inch 900 pound shells for our intelligence section. Had to tip the trailer over to get it out.
March 19th. About fifteen of us fellows had a big feed at a little Chinese girl's place. Her name is Nene. We had, among the many fine dishes of food, the following: Chow Mein, poncit, fried chicken, chicken and noodles, roast pork, breaded shrimp, shrimp salad, crab meat, chopped hard boiled eggs and some kind of sweet bread. She wouldn't take a cent because she told us she was grateful to the Americans for driving the Japs out of the Philippines.
Before the War her father was a big wholesale dealer in rice. They had a big Oldsmobile sedan, and two International trucks. Of course the Nips took them. Nene is a very smart girl and here is an example of it.
When the Nips came around to buy stuff off of the people in the Islands they didn't care how much they had to pay for it because they had an unlimited supply of invasion money that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. The people had to take it or be beaten and have their produce taken anyway. Nene charged exorbitant prices for everything, as much as 1000 Pesos for a dozen eggs. She didn't keep this worthless currency like most people though. She made frequent trips to towns and bought jewelry, watches and all kinds of small things that had real value. These she hid in her chimney and when the Yanks came back and established a sound basis of trade she sold all these things to the townspeople for good solid cash.
March 20th. Started to build a base camp for headquarters. Am in full charge and have 24 natives to do the work. They can build anything out of bamboo. I have a boss boy in charge of the fellows.
March 30th. This is Good Friday. Saw a big religious parade in Rosales. Nene was in it. This is the first parade they have had in three years as the Japs wouldn't let them have them before.
Oh, yes; I went back up Highway Number Five last week. Boy they are sure blasting those Nips in the pass. I saw a battery (four) of Long Toms-155 rifles, two batteries of 240mm howitzers and a whole mess of 155 and 75mm howitzers along with tanks firing their cannons using indirect fire.
Spent the whole month of April on the camp. Have two boss boys and about fifty boys working for me now. She surely is a dandy camp, too. We have quarters for 108 men plus the officers. Also have a tent for the medical detachment, 36 ft. tent for the I & E section, the same for the S-1 offices for the Sgt. Major, S-3, S-4, Communications, Commanding Officer, Hdq. Orderly Room, mail tent, an enlisted men's and officers recreation hall, big Hdq. supply tent, three large storage tents for the S-4, a large building for the kitchen and mess hall, maintenance shop for Sherman, two latrines, a shower with six heads for the men, one for the officers with two heads, the only theatre with a roof in the entire area and a big 1,000 gallon water tank set up on top of a platform. Our kitchen even had running water in it. Everything was lined up with an aiming circle. In other words, it was all surveyed in so as to be perfect.
May 3rd to May 6th. The camp is all built, so the skipper told me I needed a vacation. He gave me a three day pass to Manila and also gave one to Sherman to keep me company. Boy that town is really torn up. Everything is priced so high that it is impossible to purchase anything. The Walled City is laid low and the business district is completely burned out.
May 8th. Today is Mom's birthday, God bless her. Germany surrenders. It doesn't affect us so much because we have a long way to go over here yet.
June 1st. Dad's birthday. Jack Closner has been to see me twice. He is stationed at Clark Field. We surely had some good talks together. Think I will go home on rotation in the next few days. I'm just sweating out my orders now. Have been relieved of all duty.
10 - Headed home
June 10th. Left the battalion today with a bunch of other fellows and headed for a casual camp in Manila prior to shipment to the USA.
June 24th. Got on board the M.S. Weltrevreden, a Dutch boat. She is very clean and painted gray and light blue. We have really good chow served cafeteria style. They even furnish the plates and everything.
June 28th. At 8 AM we pulled into the Caroline Island group. Left at 5 PM.
June 29th. Changed our course to East by North.
June 30th. Traveled east all day today.
July 2nd. We passed by the Marshall Islands. There sure are a mess of ships here.
July 6th. Passed over the 180th meridian (International Date Line). This makes it so we have two Friday the sixths.
It is getting colder all the time now. We have no escort as there is no need for one now. We passed by the Hawaiian Islands but too far away from them to even see the palms. This boat we are on is on its way home to Holland. The crew hasn't been to their country and homes for six years.
Friday, July 13th, 1945. We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge and were greeted by a boat with a band and loaded with girls giving us a welcome. Boy oh Boy; what a day. Exactly three years, four months and thirteen days since I left this grand country.
July 16th. Arrived at Fort Lewis. At noon, the 18th, my Army career came to a finish and none too soon to suit me. I ate my last Army meal in the very same mess hall that I ate my first one. I can say the last one tasted much better than that first one, too. Well, civilian life, here I come. The future looks very bright right now.
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