Letter from General Joe Swing
On Christmas Eve, 1944 General Joseph M. Swing composed a letter to his father-in-law, General Peyton C. March to sum up the actions of the 11th Airborne Division on Leyte. Random House has granted me permission to reprint this letter originally published in “THE ANGELS: A History of the 11th Airborne Division,” by E.M. Flanagan Jr. (received from Mrs. Mary Anne Fullilove, nee Swing) and published by Presidio Press. I thank you.
Am just back from a few days in the mountains, as a matter of fact I’ve walked clean across this d____ island and it wasn’t the most pleasant jaunt I ever took. Wish you could see these young men of mine fight. It would do your heart good to see the calm joyful manner in which they kill the rats. I really believe this is the first time the Japs have run against American troops that never stop coming. It has been the custom in this so called jungle warfare for troops to start “holing up” an hour or more before sundown and form their so-called perimeter from which they never venture forth until after cooking individual breakfast at daylight – taking an hour to do so. As a result, the Japs bivouac at their ease, have scouts watch the formation of the perimeter and then heckle our troops all night. We changed that – made my troops keep going until dark, then dig in so the Japs don’t know where we are located and finally got them to the point where they would start out just before the crack of dawn without breakfast. As a result, we’ve killed about twice as many Japs in proportion to our own casualties as had any other division. The last day, the 22d, when we busted out of the hills to where the 7th Division was sitting on the beach – the dawn attack caught 300 Japs sleeping outside their foxholes and we slaughtered them there with bayonet, knife and hand grenades. From then on it was a field day – had four battalions in column. As fast as one showed the least sign of tiring, sent the next one thru and by noon, we had done 4,000 yards – took a break for breakfast and at 1430, we were on the beach and the 7th Division bivouac. Counted approximately 750 dead Japs and didn’t go down the cliffs where many of them rolled off – captured two mountain howitzers, 1000 rounds of ammunition, 16 light machine guns, seven heavies, and the Japs left engineer, signal and medical supplies and many split-toed shoes along the trail. Have told the Corps commander if he wants to walk from Burauen air fields to Ormoc beach all he has to do is put a clothes pin on his nose and let a man with a strong stomach guide him.
Our identification shows that we cleaned out the 16th and 26th Division completely. The two had consolidated in the Mt. Mahonag region and initiated the attack on the airfields in conjunction with the paratrooper attack of Dec. 6th. Have killed the Chief of Staff of the 16th Division and most of the staff of both divisions but unable to locate the two commanding generals. Prisoners of war say they were replaced by new commanders but believe they were evacuated by air. Of course the devils bury their officers and booby trap their bodies so we’ll never know.
Am taking a week to evacuate to the beach and reequip for an airborne operation, but as I told you some time ago the staff is a pain in the neck to me so far as having little imagination. Afraid they can’t supply us once we’re in and we have practically supplied ourselves with cub planes for over a month in the mountains. Come under Eichelberger’s command on the 26th. He has already sent word he wants to see me about an airborne operation, so maybe we’ll have a chance to do our stuff. You probably surmised the orthodox manner in which they will attack Luzon. Have a spot picked out south of Manila that would give the so and so’s fits if I can convince the powers to land me there. Xmas greetings,
General Peyton C. March (12/27/1864 – 4/13/1955) is known to World War I enthusiasts as the commander of the United States First Army. Also, then as Army Chief of Staff, he created additional branches, one being the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Posted on March 14, 2013, in Letters home, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged 11th airborne, Army, family history, Gen. Swing, History, Leyte, Military History, Pacific War, Philippines, Smitty, WWI, WWII. Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.