11th A/B and Ormoc, Leyte

A modern view of Leyte's mountains and jungles

A modern view of Leyte’s mountains and jungles

During November alone, 23 inches of rain fell and the battles for Leyte were being won amidst four typhoons.  Roads began to collapse and wash away, mud slides abounded and distinguishing a rice paddy from a campsite was impossible.  Foxholes were completely flooded.

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The Saturday issue of the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, QLD.), on 9December 1944 had bold headlines splash across the front page:

Daring American Landing In Rear of Ormoc

          Ormoc Harbor, the enemy’s rear, an amphibious operation with air and naval support went three miles south of Ormoc and headed north catching the enemy unawares.

          They seized the center of the Yamashita line from the rear and split the enemy forces in two.  The enemy landed parachute troops during the night in the vicinity of San Pablo.

          The latest landing was one of the most daring tactical moves of the Leyte Campaign.

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On the evening of 10 December, the Fifth Air Force found themselves under attack.  The Headquarters Company set up a strong perimeter around the 44th Station Hospital as surgeries were being conducted.  Nineteen of the enemy were killed and the on-going surgical operations never missed a beat.  The following day, patrols were sent out and they discovered Japanese soldiers lying in rice paddies in front of the hospital pretending to be dead.  Another seventeen of the enemy were eradicated.  (By tradition, the Japanese soldiers tried to always lay face-down, even if dying, so as to protect their private areas.)

The 11th Airborne Division went up against extremely heavy resistance at Rock Hill.  Not until five days later, after intense combat, did the area fall into American hands.  It was 18 December 1944.  After continued patrols and forward motion, the 11th managed to catch some of the Japanese unawares and others sound asleep at Hacksaw Hill and the area was secure by 23 December.

They had cleared a treacherous pass from Burauen to Ormoc (see map in previous post) which resulted in leaving 5,700 enemy forces mortally wounded in their wake.

During this campaign, on 12 December, Smitty turned thirty years old.  One day as a youngster I asked him what he could possibly be feeling at that time.  I expected him to say something to the effect that he was surprised to be alive, but knowing my father as I do, I should have known better.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I was about to turn thirty, most of the officers were younger than me, I was older and wiser, but – there I was still in a mud slide and tripping over caribou dung.  What can you do?”

32-Luzon(1945)-2

While some of the men were confined to fighting up in the mountains, the division’s newspaper called the Static Line, used a piper cub plane to drop bundles of the publication down to the men.  This was the only news of the outside world that the troopers could receive.  One day, a roll of the papers was dropped with a note attached addressing it: “To the girls, with the compliments of Art Mosley and Jack Keil, Phone Glider 3.”  It was discovered later that the WAC camp received the roll meant for the 11th airborne.

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Though hungry and tired, there were those who still found the time to locate something humorous.  In The Argus, out of Melbourne, on 7 December 1944, a correspondent reported a cute story that Smitty, somehow, must have read, for I remember him telling me this story as a youngster:

The Sad Case of Tokyo Rose

          “The Miami Beach Rod & Reel Club raised $500.oo to buy “Tokyo Rose” some new phonograph records.  Tokyo Rose is the name Americans in the Pacific have given the Japanese broadcaster who gives Americans swing music between propaganda items.  The club learned that “Tokyo Rose” has only six pre-war records, all badly scratched.  Many Americans who cannot tune into the United States rely on “Tokyo Rose” for music.

The club asked President Roosevelt to deliver the records by ‘bomber’ over Tokyo.”

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The real Tokyo Rose was Iva Toguri D’Aquino, an American citizen of Japanese and Portuguese decent and a graduate of UCLA with a degree in zoology.  She had been caught in Japan while visiting her sick aunt when the war broke out.  She also claimed that she did not care for Japan or have an amiable relationship with the rest of her family.  The moniker, “Tokyo Rose,” was attributed to her by the American troops.  The name she originally used was “Ann,” short for announcer.  She would go on the air and call herself “Your Little Orphan Annie.”  Her salary equaled $6.60 per month.  D’Aquino was sentenced to ten years in prison and given a fine of $10,000.

Ruth Hayakawa, also an American, substituted for Iva on the weekends.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 24, 2012, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Every post is another history lesson!
    Recently saw Unbroken and American Sniper. I’m sure that there may have been some inaccuracies in American Sniper, but whatever the case, we cannot do enough to honor our soldiers. My husband and I sat in the theater and cried yesterday after American Sniper and then talked about what our servicemen might be doing at that same time to give us the freedom to go to a movie. God Bless Our Servicemen!

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  2. It seems I’m backtracking… 🙂 I see a 2012 date on this wonderful post. FYI, my Hiroshima cousins and I have uncovered my uncle’s Japanese military records. We now know he fought against the 12th Cavalry on 11/26/1944 at Mt. Badian on Leyte; he was also there by May, 1944. Where did you find your combat reports?

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  3. great story! i sympathize with your dad, having spent bdays and christmas holidays in the field. yup, those were difficult times and a big sacrifice right there. my salute!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. I sympathized with him as well, but he just shrugged his shoulders and said that everyone had to do the same. That sure was some generation!!

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  4. Celebrating a birthday in those conditions would not have been a very Happy one. Thanks for sharing the story of Tokyo Rose.

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  5. Pierre Lagacé

    missing images

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  6. What a way to spend a birthday, let alone a milestone birthday!

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  7. It’s very interesting to read this story from someone who was actually there. Neat.

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  8. Nice info. I also heard that story before from my grandma and about how Americans liberated their province (Leyte).

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