Jump on Aparri

Luzon

Luzon

With his thoughts still focused on his R&R in Australia, Everett “Smitty” Smith landed back at Lipa City, P.I. only to discover that a mission was scheduled. The last remaining organized Japanese group, the Shabu Forces, were hold up in the northeast corner of Luzon and General Swing had organized the Gypsy Task Force to take them out. On his orders, this unique unit would include “all Camp MacKall veterans.” This would include men from the 187th Infantry, the 511th, the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, a platoon from the 127th Engineers and two platoons from B Company. Despite Gen. Krueger’s disapproval, Lt. Col. Henry Burgess, now 26 years old, would be the commanding officer. (Smitty was at the ancient age of 30, one of the oldest paratroopers besides one other soldier and a few of the officers.) Col. Lahti (31) would be CO for the reserve unit.

C-47 Skytrain ("Gooney Bird")

C-47 Skytrain (“Gooney Bird”)

Col. John Lackey, CO of the 317th Troop Carrier Group, with very little notice, began loading 54 C-47s and 13 C-46s at 0430 hours, 23 June 1945. His plane was the first to leave Lipa airstrip and the constant rumbling of the planes soon became “Vs” in the open skies. Within the transports, every man appeared as a clone to the next. Individuality was lost among the uniforms, bundled parachutes and rucksacks filled to capacity with ammunition, first-aid, water and C-rations.

Each man stood and checked the chute of the man beside him when the “Gooney Birds” lurched at 0900 hours; the smoke flares from the forward Pathfinders were spotted and green lights flashed for the paratroopers. The stick of men hooked up to the static lines and proceeded to jump into vertical development. With mandatory, disciplined silence, the traditional battle cry, “Geronimo,” is only heard within the imaginative faculty of 1,030 men. All these diverse personalities would react separately to the same experience.

1,030 men jump on Aparri, Luzon

1,030 men jump on Aparri, Luzon

Each man, for his own reasons, volunteered for the perilous duty that might end his life. Each man went through various stages of development and arrived at the same destination. Each man had been chosen for their good health, general toughness and honor. A jump into combat is reality in its most crystalline form.

As the ground races up to meet the troopers, they see the tall, thick fields of the sharp kunai grass, flooded rice paddies, carabao ruts and bomb craters – all would prove dangerous. The Task Force would lose 7%, two men killed and 70 wounded as they landed in 25 mph winds. The battle-hardened paratroopers collected their flame throwers, howitzers and rifles from the gliders and reassembled with “Espirit de Corps.”

C-46 Commando

C-46 Commando

The 11th Airborne battled the Shabu Forces on a 75 mile hike in 120 degree heat to connect up with the Connolly Task Force. The combined goal was to prevent the enemy from escaping into the Cagayan Valley and out to sea. Lt. Col. Burgess met Gen. Beightler, on 26 June, and received a rather snide remark about how his men had saved the 11th A/B. Burgess became quite red-faced and replied that he was under orders to save the 37th Division. Gen. Swift, standing off to one side, laughed and said, “Well, you SOUND like one of Swing’s boys.”

The Gypsy Task Force marched away to the 37th’s Headquarters to request C-47s to transport the unit back to Lipa. Burgess was denied and told to countermarch to Aparri and have the trucks take them south to Manila. That would mean they would still need to march another 55 miles from Manila to Lipa. Instead, the men bribed the C-47 pilots with Japanese swords, guns and various other paraphernalia in exchange for a flight back. (Necessity is the mother of invention.)

Bold headlines exploded in the Australian newspapers: U.S. Paratroopers Land In Northern Luzon – “After the 11th A/B Division made their air-borne landing near Aparri on June 23rd., using their gliders for the first time, carrying howitzers, jeeps and mobile equipment. Each trooper jumped with 100 pounds of gear strapped to his body.”
In the 26 June 1945 issue of The Army News – “On Saturday, from 600 feet into paddy fields, the 11th Airborne dropped near the port of Aparri in a surprise move against the Japanese forces in northern Luzon. They used their gliders for the first time in the southwest Pacific…”

"Jumpin' Joe" Swing

“Jumpin’ Joe” Swing

3 July, General Swing made an offical note stating that he had implored the higher echelon of the Sixth Army two months previous with a plan to drop the entire 11th Airborne Division onto northern Luzon back when Gen. Krueger’s men were having so much trouble with the Japanese in Balete Pass. He expressed his frustration that his own plan to attack Aparri had gone unheeded. The Japanese had been given the opportunity to withdraw just enough to unite with reinforcements.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Resources:
Angels: History of the 11th Airborne Division, Rakkasans (both books by Gen. E.M. Flanagan) and The Pacific War (John Davison),Trove Australian archives. photos : AOL images

Sorry to be reposting this, but it has NOT shown up in the Reader under my Tags. So, I’m trying it again. Thank you for your patience.

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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 March 7, 2013, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Barbara Sherman

    My Dad was in the 11th Airborne and after freeing POWS ( landed at Atsugi)was transferred to the 27th infantry and fought with them. He wouldn’t talk much but I am trying to get as much information on his service as possible.. His name was James A Malone. If you could help I and his grandson would appreciate it Thanks

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    • I presume you have tried NARA (archive records) and received the reply that Mr. Malone’s records were lost in the St. Louis fire along with 16-18 million others. To help you start –
      It would help to have his regiment number or company? Was he one of the original troopers trained at Camp MacKall, NC? If so, I can give you a link for the 1943 Yearbook to find his picture.
      You and his grandson qualify to be Associate members of the Assn, if you care to join. The quarterly newspaper has a “Wanted Man” column, you could ask for anyone who knew Mr. Malone.
      Gen. E.M. Flanagan wrote “Angels: The History of the 11th Airborne Division”, “Rakassans” (about the 187th Regiment), and “Angels at Dawn: The Los Banos Raid” – all can be located here at reasonable prices.
      http://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-angels-a-history-of-the-11th-airborne-division_em-flanagan/514722/#isbn=0891413588

      Keep in touch. If there is anything else I can try to do to help – don’t hesitate!! All the best to you, Barbara.

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  2. Nice blog, I must confess like many that the war in the Pacific is not as well researched or remembered in the UK as the war in Europe is. I was unaware of the Airborne involvement as everything seems to focus on the USMC and Army to a lesser extent, so you live and learn.

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    • It certainly is not your fault for not knowing. Even at the time, the Marines were always in the spotlight for the Pacific and the Army for Europe. TV and movies always seem to highlight Europe and our school systems just skim over everything. I’m glad you learned something and hope you enjoyed this along the way.

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  3. Another excellent post. Thank you.

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  4. Interesting this one. My grandfather survived WW2, my granduncle didn’t (he died in the Bataan Death March). My grandpa has passed on now but I never got the chance to know him better (stories for another day that one). I’ve always been fascinated with history, though, especially when my family and I drive north and see those markers along the road to tell us those valiant men walked that path at some point in that infamous march. I imagine my grandpa and all those marching along as we drive past. My aunt told me once how grandpa cried so much as he recounted that part of his life while making his case for extra dollars to add to his veteran’s pension (he became a US citizen later in life), and how he survived as POW during the march.

    Interesting stuff here…

    Warmly,
    Mary

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    • Mary, very happy that you stopped in. Feel free to tell us any and all stories you might know of these brave men. Bataan is a disgrace that only FDR can take the blame for and those stories are sad, but those men deserve to be remembered.

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      • Thank you, and I am glad somebody feels that way about Bataan 🙂 Yup, I will remember and tell my kids to remember also.

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        • Once my father’s story is basically told, I will be back-tracking. A lot of the battles were never mentioned here as yet due to the fact that Smitty was only drafted in 1942. Many battles have gone unnoticed by the education systems, such as Alaska, Burma, etc. so anything you want to add – feel free.

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  5. Crystalline indeed. I cannot imagine what these moments were like. And the ages of these brave men. It floors me to think that the fate of the free world depended on the actions of those 30 and under…mostly way under 30
    A great generation …we should all then be a grateful generation!

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  6. A fascinating story. You are doing a great job and I appreciate it. At the time these things were happening we knew nearly nothing about it back home. Our neighbors had a son in the south Pacific for two years without ever knowing where he was. They would get letters from him sometimes but they were always censored to the point that they said almost nothing. No live photo-communications in those days.

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    • That’s one of the reasons I do the guest posts with Greatest Generation, people today can not imagine a world without tv, internet and smart phones. They don’t have a clue what their parents and grandparents lived like. Thanks for the compliments.

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  7. Insightful stuff once again, gpcox. Nice research efforts…

    Your report of using captured Japanese souvenirs as barter was a good reminder of war. Bartering was such a part of daily life amongst front line personnel…and the rear echelon. Old Man Jack’s father was also in the USN as a baker and was on a nearby island. He’d shuttle “relatively” fresh cakes and cookies on board a B-25. When Jack would be alongside during unloading, he’d trade some of the “goodies” for cigarettes or other favorites.

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  8. Very well written. I love your choice of words and phrases.

    Frankly, I am unimpressed with the current crop of ARRRUGGH! coming out of Hollywood. It somehow cheapens the discipline and dedication of the modern warrior.

    Your style lends credence to my belief that men fought in WW2 due to a passion and conviction to put matters right, and even outrage by what the enemy committed. I salute and respect them and their sacrifices must forever be etched in history.

    Whereas now, one can’t help but feel that warriors die just so some blue suited crook can laugh his way to the bank.

    Sorry, if I ranted.

    Keep going – I love what you are doing here.

    Peace, Eric

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  9. What a horrifying view it must have been to see the landing options they had as the ground got closer. Great details overall, some a bit confusing to follow but when I realized i was looking at multiple viewpoints, I figured it out. Love that the gliders were put in use.

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    • Thank you for your comments, but what was confusing? I want to improve, so I can’t have my readers being “at sea” on the events.

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      • It is more keeping track of the different units than anything else. I have very little military background and often have to think and diagram to sort out who is doing what.

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  10. Fantastic picture of the 1030 jump.

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  11. With your blog you have made all of the men with 11th Division more famous than John Wayne!

    Five stars!

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  12. One of the greatest posts on this blog… I was sitting with the paratroopers in the C-47!

    As for Espirit de Corps it is Esprit de Corps

    Un des meilleurs billets sur ce blogue… J’Ă©tais assis avec les parachutistes dans le C-47!

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    • I reread this twice to find the mistakes and you still found one. You should be an editor. Thanks for the compliments tho.

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    • Pierre, Really…. you don’t look old enough to have been in the war. I thought you were a descendant. I’d very much like to take a look at your blog. Could you please put the link up for me, again.

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      • Hi Mrs. P,

        Are you sure you want to read my blog… make that blogs?

        This is my newest one.

        http://443squadron.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/in-homage-to-arthur-james-horrell/

        It’s about someone whose great uncle died in the war. She wanted some help with her research. She found the right person.

        I did not have any close relatives who died in WWII, but I got interested in aviation when I was 10 years old. That was in 1958. That interest never dwindled.

        I became a history teacher… well sort of. Taught only 2 years out of 34. Then retired and went back to study translation. Then I got hooked on blogging. I have been blogging since 2008. First about genealogy, then… this happened in my life.

        http://athabaskang07.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/hcms-athabaskan-april-29-1944/

        This blog which is the English version of another one led me to write more blogs as people shared what they knew about their relatives during the war.

        How many? Many…

        So when I say that this blog about Gail’s father is amazing you know it comes from someone who knows about blogging and history.

        Pierre

        Like

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