Short war stories
Caribou were often used as pack animals in the Philippines, but with the constant monsoons, they often became bogged down in the muck. The troopers of the 11th discovered one other difficulty that no one apparently thought about previously – keep the males and females separated! When the occasion arose that a female went into heat, the chaos that erupted between the males turned out to be more than the G.I.s could deal with.
The region west of Ormoc Bay had a difficult range of mountains that subsequently created a barrier. The terrain was a combination of broken ground and low hills in the north with fields either under cultivation or covered with cogon grass. In the southern high hills and rocky ridges were grasslands that emerged into dense forestation. This would become the only possible route of escape for the Japanese.
It seemed that General MacArthur’s promotion to General of the Army would require assistance from many sides. It posed a problem in the respect that there was no such object as a five-star insignia in existence in the Pacific. A clever Filipino silversmith created one from a miscellaneous collection of Dutch, Australian and Filipino coins.
Being the tomboy that I was, I often pestered my father for more war stories. I had read and re-read the scrapbook countless times but I wanted (for some strange reason) to know exactly what war and the combat experience my father went through was REALLY like. Certainly Smitty wasn’t too thrilled to tell his “little girl” the horrors that went on, but after sizing me up he started talking.
“I’ll only tell you this story because the guy deserves to be remembered. I didn’t really know him, maybe he was one of the replacements. He was just a kid, but he probably saved my life and the rest of the camp too for that matter. He had guard duty on a little nothing of a bridge. No enemy was supposed to be in the area. We weren’t expecting any confrontation, but I know from experience that the poor kid had to be a nervous wreck. Best we could all figure was, he heard something out there. It could have been anything. Lord knows there are enough birds and animals around, hell – the bugs are big enough to rustle the leaves and the jungle gets blacker than you can imagine. More and likely he yelled out for a password and didn’t get one back or didn’t like what he did hear. The Japs used to call out ‘Hey, Joe’ a lot; they thought we were all named Joe. Maybe the kid was so scared that he just pulled the trigger. Whatever happened, he began shooting into the jungle on the far side of the bridge. The rest of us guys shot out of our bed so fast we nearly came out of our skins – grabbing our rifles and scrambling to get out there.
“The Japs were storming the bridge and that kid kept shooting till he finally fell. We think we finished off the rest of them and we made a count. (Counting how many enemy dead) I came back across that bridge and looked down. The kid had nearly been shot in half. All I could do was salute.”
Smitty always had a “far-away” look when he spoke about the service and the war, but you really had to pry the stories out of him.
By the end of December, the enemy had suffered 113,221 casualties and lost 2,748 planes. The American loss was reported at 11,217. This time also marked the point when Japanese General Yamashita sustained perhaps the greatest defeat in his country’s history. Ninety percent of enemy troops on Leyte were killed or committed suicide.
From Saipan, Allied B-29s were beginning to make their bombing runs over mainland Japan.
21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes. Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.” (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.) He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.
(click photos to enlarge)
Posted on November 28, 2012, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged 11th airborne, Army, family history, History, Leyte, Military, Military History, Pacific War, paratroopers, veterans, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.