Monthly Archives: February 2013
This momentous event was previously only briefly mentioned. The four Naval Battles that occured in three days time certainly deserve much more. Since an explosion of action occured with such a multitude of vessels, I have added a map for both this section and part 2 in an attempt to clarify my explainations.
To begin the story of Leyte Gulf, one must first relate what had occured at Formosa. Vice Admiral Shigeru Fukudome commanded the Second Air Fleet as they spotted the first wave of Admiral Mitscher’s aircraft carrier’s 1,378 sorties flying in at them on 12 October 1944. Fukudome felt that his “Tojos” and “Zekes” outnumbered the Americans and relished seeing planes drop like flies – until he realized that they were his own planes. One-third of the Japanese fighters, plus damage to hangers and other ground installations was the end result. By the time the third wave of American aircraft arrived, no enemy planes were in the air, so they bombed randomly and at will. Six hundred Japanese aircraft had been destroyed. Some of the enemy did manage to instill damage to the cruisers Canberra and the Houston and reported back to Fukudome that Halsy’s fleet was severely crippled. It is apparent that Japan was already using young and inexperienced pilots.
Halsey had the Third Fleet containing Mitscher’s 16 fast carriers, 6 new battleships and 81 cruisers and destroyers. (This must have been quite an overwhelming sight to see on the high seas.) MacArthur controlled the Sixth Army (200,000 men), General Kenney’s Fifth Air Force on five islands and Admiral Kinkaid’s Seventh Fleet. All this arrived in Leyte Gulf at the island’s east coast. Japanese Admiral Toyoda, who devised the enemy’s battle plan, divided his navy into three forces: Admiral Takeo’s Center Force coming from Singapore while Admiral Nishimura’s Southern Force came from the south through Surigo Strait with the rear-guard under Admiral Kiyohide right behind them. The third part, the Northern Force was a weak link with only four aircraft carriers. And, then there was Admiral Ozawa, who came from Japan with only two battleships and eleven light cruisers and destroyers to be used as a decoy.
On 23 October, Kurita’s Center Force was spotted by two American submarines, the Dace and the Darter and Halsey was notified. The Third Fleet turned east. The next morning, a serch plane from the Enterprise and a bomber from the Fifth Air Force located Nishimura’s Southern Force. Mitscher’s carrier planes were ordered to attack the Kurita fleet. Fukudome sank the Princeton </em, but left Kurita without air support, his superbattleships, the Musaski and the Yamato </em, were forced to use their 16" and 18" guns with the sanshikidon shells. (6,000 steel pellets per shell). U.S. bombers from the Cabot and Intrepid managed to hit the Myoko, Yamato and the Musaski. Darter & Dace sunk the Atago & Maya and damaged the Takan. Darter unfortunately ran aground shortly after and the Dace left to assist her. Pilots from the Enterprise & Essex chimed in on a battle that looked like chaos and sounded like the end of the world.
Kurita turned westward after the Musaki was sunk. This caused Halsey to feel that the Center Force was no longer a threat and went in search for the main danger. What he was to discover was Ozawa’s Northern Force (the decoy). Working without ample intelligence information, Halsey swallowed the bait, just as Yamato had expected in his original plan. Halsey attacked. With miscommunication between Admirals Halsey and Lee, Halsey raced north while Kurita’s Center Force and Nishimura’s Southern Force returned to Leyte Gulf.
MacArthur was furious to find that Halsey had endangered the landing troops, but the admiral felt that he answered only to Nimitz and his primary order was the destruction of the enemy wherever he had the chance.
PT boats darted toward Nishimura to launch torpedoes, none scored, but the position information was transmitted. The destroyer Remey fired and sunk two Japanese destroyers and 39 PT boats prepared to cross the “T” (This maneuver is where one fleet cuts in front of the enemy in single file allowing every ship to fire broadside while the enemy can only use their forward guns). With the absence of aircraft, this was perfect and they blocked the Japanese from entering the gulf.
Oldendorf on the Louisville held his guns quiet until the enemy was at 15,600 yards and then ordered, “Open fire.” Every ship opened up at once. Within 18 minutes, the battleships West Virginia, California, Tennesse, Maryland & Mississippi fired approximately 270 shells from their 14″ and 16″ guns. The cruisers blasted at least 4,000 rounds from their 6″ and 8″ guns and the destroyers launched torpedoes. All but one of Nishimura’s vessels were crippled or sunk. Only the destroyer Albert W. Grant was damaged. The Japanese rear-guard Southern Force retreated.
Remember to click on any photo to enlarge for better viewing.
8 June 945, Cpl. Everett Smith found himself and four others from the division on leave in Australia and Smitty was determined to have a good time! Those that went to Brisbane on the same orders for TDY were:
Lt. Col. Francis W. Regnier MC HQ 11th A/B Div.
Major George K. Oliver INF HQ 11th A/B Div.
T Sgt. Manuel C. DeBeon Jr. 187th Glider Infantry
Tec 4 Beverly A. Ferreira HQ 11th A/B Div.
The orders were signed by Major E.W. Wyman Jr., Adjutant General
My father never told me very much about his R&R and probably for a good reason. (For one, my mother was always around listening.) He did say that when he first arrived in Australia, he wanted a haircut and a shave. While the barber was working on him, he remarked that the pores in Smitty’s nose appeared enlarged. My father answered, “You spend five months in the jungles of New Guinea and see what your nose looks like.” Dad said after that, his money was no good. Everyone in the barbershop made such a fuss over him that henever got a word in edgewise. They were so extreely grateful to anyone who helped to stop the Japanese. Smitty did always tell me he wished he could make a trip back there; he thought Australia and her people were great, but sadly, he never did.
Perhaps the young lady, Joan, was the reason Smitty wouldn’t talk about his time on leave.
June events –
9 June – U.S. Marines land on Aguni Shima in the Ryukyu island chain and Japanese defenses crumble on Mindanao, Philippines.
10 June – Australian troops land at Brunei Bay, Borneo and by the 25th, they capture major oil fields and the island of Tarakan.
21 June – As Japan commanders commit suicide and 7,500 soldiers surrender, Okinawa falls. The devastating figures:
approximately 100,000 Japanese soldiers dead and a loss of 8,000 aircraft (4,000 shot down by combat missions)
7,613 U.S. Marines and Army infantry killed
31,807 U.S. wounded
U.S. Navy lost 4,900 seaman, 36 vessels sunk and 368 damaged
U.S. lost 763 aircraft
More current news –
Recently I discovered that a WWII Marine veteran was living nearby. Joseph Dryer Jr. landed on Iwo Jima 68 years ago as a lieutenant. A Japanese hollow point bullet (dum-dum) came directly at his chest 26 days later. It hit his dog tags, cut off his locker box keys and drove everything into his chest. But, he was too tough for one bullet – at 91 years young, he lives in his Palm Beach home today surrounded with emorabilia of his amazing life. Let’s give a salute.
References: The Palm Beach Post, Everett’s scrapbook, Angels: History of the 11th A/B, by Gen. Flanagan; The Pacific by John Davison
Personal not – I believe my next post will be a flashback to the Battle of Leyte Gulf. I will do my utmost to do it justice.
While families at home went to the latest movie (either glorifying the war with romance or as an escape from the constant reminders of war), carnivals or to work, the Sixth Australian Division attacked and occupied Wewak, New Guinea. This is relevant because it housed the headquarters of the Japanese Eighteenth Army. A major boon for the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations).
23 May, at least 65 square miles of Tokyo had been incinerated by bombs and napalm. Later, the same action was taken over Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe. This left over 100 square miles of the principle Japanese cities devastated and one-third of the country’s construction destroyed. Japan’s factories were demolished.
Young Japanese girls wore headbands that designated them as Special Attack Force members. Daily they would recite the Imperial Precepts for Soldiers and Sailors before they began a twelve-hour shift in a makeshift factory in Kokura, Japan. Here they were producing 40 foot balloons to carry a bomb package across the ocean as they were released to drift on the Pacific jet stream. A total of approximately 9,300 of these weapons were made and about 342 reached land, some as far east as Ontario, Michigan and Nebraska. Some were shot down or caused minor injuries and one hit a powerline of the nuclear weapons plant at Hanford, Washington. But – 5 May 1945 – near Klamath Falls, Oregon, a pregnant woman, Elyse Mitchell and five students were killed on their way to a picnic. These were the only casualties of the war in the 48 states.
The 11th Airborne continued their patrols, moping up details and training at Lipa. General Swing had another jump school built that created 1,000 newly qualified paratroopers. The new glider school concentrated on the “snatch pickup” method, whereby a CG-4A Glider on the ground with a towrope and a C-47 with a hook. As the plane goes overhead at an altitude of 15 feet, it snatches up the glider and brings it to 120 mph in a matter of a few seconds. (The noise from the plane, shock and whiplash must have been overwhelming.) With May drawing to a close and the Japanese Army being pushed to the northeast corner of Luzon, the men of the division began to realize something was up.
Research derived from The Mail Tribune (Oregon newspaper), Film Links 4U. com, the U.S. Army & The Last Great Victory by: Stanely Weintraub.
1 May 1945, the recon platoon found a company-sized unit of the enemy in the 187th’s zone of responsibility. The 2d battalion, along with 81mm mortars and LMGs (light machine guns) spread out to attack the enemy on three sides. F Company had a kill count of 92 Japanese versus one man of theirs missing the following day. From 3 May on, the fighting was considerable. 10 May, with the situation easing, the division left the area to be patrolled by Filipino guerrillas and was once again united and prepared to set up their base camp amongst the ruins of Lipa.
During the month of May, a new T O & E (Table of Organization and Equipment) was put into effect as replacements finally arrived. A battalion was added to each glider regiment. The 188th Infantry and the 674th Field Artillery became parachute units. The 472d Field Artillery Battalion was added to Division Artillery and the 187th became a Para-Glider Infantry Regiment. For the first time since their creation, the 11th A/B totalled 12,000 men.
7 May 1945, the war in Europe was over, the famous V-E Day, and the men of the 11th Airborne were very happy for their counterparts in the ETO, but they knew the Japanese would remain solid and faithful in their convictions. The fighting in the Pacific would continue, it was a matter of honor. My father, Smitty, had told me of the hatred the G.I.s felt for the enemy and granted, he wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of getting shot at, but he said he had to have respect for their patriotism and tenacity. (Yamato damashii – Japanese spirit and Bushido – the way of the warrior.) Now, the troopers began to wonder if they would receive ample reinforcements. Rumors began to fly. (Actually, 6 May 1945, 8:41 p.m. Eastern War Time, in Reims, France after 5 years, 8 months and 6 days, the Third Reich ended.)
10 May, the 11th A/B Division regrouped outside Lipa. If a soldier was not at an outpost or out on patrol, he was helping to build a camp in the coconut groves with those all too familiar pyramidal tents. Bamboo and steel matting was used to raise the tents up about a foot since it was about to become rainy season once again. Between two mountains, USO shows and movies began to arrive and a jump school and glider classes were held for the “green” replacements.
11 May, was the first span of 24 hours in a total of 101 days that no one from the 11th Airborne Division had killed one of the enemy. Their average before that had been 93.8 Japanese per day and during that time General Swing was unable to afford even one company to be in reserve. (I believe this in itself deserves a commendation.)
Some stories thrill you with their courage and American ingenuity. The tale of the USS Bunker Hill, her rescue ships and the brilliant resolution that Captain Seitz developed is an ideal example. Unfortunately, on 12 May, the USS Hugh W. Hadley is also hit by a OHKA piloted bomb.
Current News – In Topeka, Kansas there is a new World War II exhibit to open this summer at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum. The 10,000 square foot collection of 78,000 items will be on display through 2016. Their aim is to make the story compelling to young people and to spark their interest in history. It will reflect the movement of U.S. forces during the war and into the surrenders of Germany and Japan. The curator, William Snyder said, “It’s hammering home how different things were, just getting people to realize how much slower things were.”
Remember to click on a photo or newsclipping to see the detail or read. V-E Day photo is curtesy of Female Imagination. wordpress.com. USS Bunker Hill photo from the VFW Pictorial account of WW2. We express our thanks.
During March, Japan’s city of Osaka and Kobe were devastated and enemy resistance collapsed on Iwo Jima. The U.S. began its bombardment of Okinawa and kamikaze aircraft became a persistent threat to the Navy.
“Operation Iceberg” (Okinawa) began in 1 April with the U.S. Tenth Army (6th Marine Division and 1st Marine Division) making their landings. Their objective was to advance west and then north on the island. The U.S. Army XXIV Corps (7th Infantry Div. and 96th Infantry) was ordered to clear the southern region. The units encounter very little resistance at their initial targets, but 130,000 Japanese soldiers were prepared for battle in the interior area and rougher region of the island.
18 April, Col. Pearson brought in tanks and 155mm howitzers to coordinate with the 187th and their fighting would continue for two more days. The 11th Airborne had pushed the Japanese back to Malepunyo. On the 19th, any cave found near the 1st battalion was sealed. Those hideouts discovered near Cuenca Ravine had gasoline drums rolled into them and were ignited by grenades. This not only killed a number of enemy soldiers, but also eliminated the vegetation that would normally provide cover and possible infiltration routes by the enemy. When the battle for Macolod was over on the 20th, the regiment had 13 casualties and 11 wounded.
General Fjishige gave an interview on 27 May 1946 at the Luzon POW Camp No. 1. He said, in reference to the plans for Macolod, that he took one month of planning and organizing the defense himself. He had their positions so well camouflaged that they could not be detected by land or air and were stocked with some of the best troops he had. The general stated that whoever attacked Macolod deserved the highest U.S. Army honors.
The next operation was Malepunyo. The exhausted men of the 187th were sent to Tiaong to relieve the 188th and allow them to join up the 511th regiment and the 8th Cavalry while they (the 187th) would remain to cut off any Japanese fleeing the high ground. The 187th laid ambushes for 10 miles and confirmed some 400 enemy killed or captured. During three simultaneous banzai attacks coming across the bridges, the 187th were told by a prisoner that they had nearly caught Gen. Fujishige.
Swing received orders to “go it alone, capture Mount Malepunyo and destroy all the Japanese thereon.” This was an area of thirty square miles of hills with a mangled rain forest and bamboo thickets. It had no roadways and was surrounded by wet slopes intermingled with sharp ridges. At one ridge, the troopers spotted fifty to sixty Japanese about 300 feet below them bathing in a stream as if they were oblivious to a war shattering the world around them. The men of the 11th A/B were certain that there was nothing luckier than to literally catch the enemy with his pants down!
after one fray, a patrol of the 187th found a Japanese diary attesting to the starving conditions the enemy were facing. The book read that they were without any communication to or from their headquarters. They were praying for help from Manila and hoped they would die bravely in their fight with the Americans. (Any papers found on the enemy were immediately handed over to a Nisei G.I. for translation).
All throughout April, the U.S. Marines land on the smaller islands surrounding Okinawa.
On 17 April, President Truman extended the lend-lease act, thereby giving a grand total of $39 billion for Europe’s war effort. The U.S. only received $5.5 billion in return.
29 April, Mussolini and his mistress Signorina Petracci were executed and hung by their heels in front of a filling station nd Italy surrenders. (I have a photo of this, but feel it is not suitable for all viewers.)
Remember – click onto any photo to enlarge.
Judy Guion was kind enough to have me back to her blog, greatestgenerationlessons.wordpress.com, for another article. I sincerely hope that her readers and mine will be pleased with the result. Thank you all for your support.
I’m pleased to present this Guest Post from gpcox addressing how the Technical and Ground Forces all worked together to create success in their endeavors, which ultimately won the war. Without cooperation between all seven departments, nothing could have been accomplished.
As readers of my blog, pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com are aware, my father, Everett “Smitty” Smith was a sharpshooter trained as a paratrooper and gliderman with the 11th Airborne Division in WWII, this put him in the Ground Force. But, neither he nor the rest of the soldiers would have gotten very far without the Technical services as each department of the Army worked to support the other. Should one fail in the chain, a devastating domino effect might hinder or stop the rest.
The Technical Services of the Army Service Force during WWII was comprised of seven departments: The Corps of Engineers, The Signal Corps, Ordnance Dept., Quartermaster Corps…
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2 April, the 187th attacked and cleared the area to the base of the mountain, but were unable to hold the ridges. One pocket of the enemy were dug in between the two southern ridges and small Japanese patrols were strewn along the highway near Talisay, indicating to Colonel Pearson that the enemy held that sector. His feelings were confirmed when his CP was hit with Japanese 155mm artillery shells. The quick reactions of the 674th Glider Field Artillery Battalion to counterattack saved the 2d 187th.
8 April, General MacArthur released a communiqué to state that because of the 11th Airborne’s actions, “…all organized enemy resistance in the southern part of the island was destroyed and liberation was at hand.” As usual, his assessment of the situation was premature, but it was just the type of enthusiasm that endeared him to the Filipino people. His optimism gave them the strength to persevere through some gruesome events; such as when the 2d moved through Sulac, the men found one hundred Filipinos brutally massacred and discarded in a ravine.
7-17 April, the battles around Macolod continued making this one of the bloodiest battles the 187th ever fought. The regiment received massive downpours of artillery, but when the troopers discovered that the guns were all grouped together, they were eradicated. The 187th was exhausted by this point and diminished even further by casualties and wounded, but rest was not on the schedule.
12 April 1945, while sitting for a portrait, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, collapsed and died. The unsuccessful haberdasher, Harry S. Truman, would take over the reins of the country.
I recently learned of the passing of Beate Sirota Gordon. At the age of 22, she was on General MacArthur’s staff to shape the civil rights portion of the new Japanese constitution formulated after their defeat. Further information on this woman will be included when we reach Japan on this blog.
Guess what! Judy Guion invited me back to write another guest post on her blog, greatestgenerationlessons.wordpress.com. I hope you will all stop in next Tuesday, February 12th and tell us how I did with the Technical units.
The 11th Airborne, by 4 March 1945, had captured Ternate and the following day, some of the troopers were put into a new light. There were no airdrops and no amphibious landings. They used native outrigger canoes to land themselves on Saipang Island where the enemy was using machine-gun fire on the troopers. It was mandatory for that machinery to be eliminated. Therefore, at dawn, the canoes moved out. The paratroopers behaved like natives, but fought like soldiers and the small island outpost was cleared of Japanese.
On 8 March, the Australian newspapers reported that the 11th A/B captured Calatagan and Balayan and then advanced thirteen miles east to seize Lemery.
When General Swing moved into the stripped-down Manila Hotel Annex, General Krueger began to visit him every other day. His competitive nature tried to get Swing to back-off from pushing into Manila first by saying, “don’t stick your neck out,” but Swing replied, “It’s been sticking out a mile since we landed.”
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. This following story carried by The Army News in March 1945 is a prime example:
Three enlisted men and an officer near Manila say this happened:
Sergeant Thomas Thompson saw a shadowy figure approaching his foxhole in the 11th A/B Division on Luzon. He shouted a challenge and in a reply drew a wild shot from a Japanese rifle.
Thompson aimed, pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Private Donal Otten aimed and pulled the trigger of his rifle. Another dud.
At that point the Jap hurled a grenade into the foxhole where the Americans crouched.
The grenade failed to explode.
For the attack, the 187th, the 760th & 756th Field Artillery Battalions, the 472d, the 675th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, the 44th Tank Battalion and Company B of the 127th Airborne Engineers were used. (To help avoid what could become very confusing here, I will concentrate on the 187th.) They were equipped with 155mm howitzers, 105mm howitzers, sawed-off 105mm howitzers, Sherman tanks, chemical mortars and flame-throwers. Air attacks were brought in to assist. An entire squadron of P-47s made numerous runs with bombs and then proceeded to strafe the enemy sectors.
F and G Companies of the 187th began house-to-house fighting, but were met by massive machine-gun fire. The enemy was dug in too far underground. Napalm strikes were brought in which enabled the 1st of the 187th to go around to the north of Dita and the 2d held its position near the town. This was 27 March 1945. Both units made a frontal assault into the Macolod area the following day. The flamethrowers were used on the enemy bunkers and E and G Companies made it to the top of the crest. Their M-1 fire took out snipers and more advancement was made, but the Japanese returned with mortar fire and a withdrawal was necessary. The enemy came at them throughout the night and following morning with banzai attacks. This was a fierce and bloody battle, especially for men who have never been sent into reserve.
Please remember – click on to any photo to enlarge. Thank you for stopping to read.
As the 11th Airborne Division worked its way to Mount Macolod, other events were transpiring around the Pacific. As stated in the Los Banos post, 23 February 1945 was also the date on which Ole’ Glory was raised on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. This event was portrayed in the newspapers as the day the Americans won the island, but the Marines would actually face another month of fighting.
Tokyo received heavy bombing from the aircraft carriers on the 25th and later that night, 172 Boeing B-29 bombers dropped 500 tons of incendiary bombs on the city. (You will find that this action is constantly repeated.)
The Army’s 41st Division landed on Palawan Island, P.I. to secure the excellent port facilities for the Navy on 28 February. All through the month of March, U.S. forces invaded the numerous islands of the southern Philippines to ensure the safety of the entire country.
On 3 March, Manila was considered to be in American hands. Japanese resistance within the city limits appeared to be eradicated.
The USS Randolph aircraft carrier was badly damaged by the suicide aircraft in the Caroline Islands on 11 March. I mention this because the practice of kamikaze warfare will emerge more and more after this attack. I will be having a separate post to discuss this subject further.
Other weapons were being developed by the Japanese as the last year of the war unfolded such as the “Cherry Blossom,” the Ohka rocket-powered bomb with a 2,646 pound warhead. To be certain the pilot delivered his package to the target, he was sealed into his cockpit for a one-way journey. Clearly this was an act of desperation – not one of strategy.
Current news – The U.S. Submarine Veteran’s Pelican Harbor base wants to hear from the men that served aboard a submarine – irregardless of which era: ussvi.org/base/PelicanHarbor.asp. During the war in the Pacific, submarines were responsible for sinking 55% of the enemy ships lost. (or 1,314). Out of the 16,000 submariners in WWII, 3,500 died on the 52 U.S. subs destroyed.