Prelude to Smitty’s Combat

Jungle training for the Second World War was held for the benefit of the soldier’s immediate situation, but its effectual results led into the establishment of the Special Forces. This is typified by the creation of the Recon Platoon of the 11th Airborne Division and the Alamo Scouts. Out of these units we witnessed the outstanding operations of today’s special troops. In New Guinea and further combat experience, what these men learned went on to be vital assets for the future generations of soldiers.

The advantage of being acclimated to a different climate and acquainted with the strange terrain served to aid them in their survival and the success of their missions.

New Guinea, just before Leyte

Although the 11th A/B was small in size and short of arms and staff, they accepted orders normally issued to full size divisions. At this time, many people believed that MacArthur was obsessed with recovering the Philippines from the Japanese and perhaps he was, and with good reason. FDR had promised him serious military assistance in 1942, but it never arrived. As a direct result, MacArthur was ordered by his president to abandon his men on the islands and escape to Australia. The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. had not only lied to one of his generals, but caused the forced surrender of American and Filipino citizens and military personnel. The infamous Bataan Death March and ultimate fall of the Philippines into Japanese control was the end result.

But here — the invasion of Leyte — would be, by far, the greatest operation of the Pacific. For the first time, the combined forces of MacArthur and the overseas bomber commands would be joined with the vast armada of Admiral Nimitz. Land and sea would simultaneously explode into action. The Japanese government also knew in their heart of hearts that the battles fought over the Philippine islands would decide the outcome of the war.  Unfortunately, intentionally or not, FDR not only found a way to leak the plans of Leyte’s attack, but diplomatic sources in the Kremlin gave the Japanese a forewarning and the the enemy became determined to make the Philippines an all-out effort.

Certain matters would need to be dealt with by the soldiers, Allied and Japanese alike. For the Japanese, the concept of using retreat as a strategic tactic was confusing and unheard of by their standard of protocol. The very thought of retreat was a disgrace and therefore forbidden. The American G.I. was equally befuddled by hara Kiri and kamikaze techniques. The purpose that suicide accomplished in a battlefield was beyond their comprehension – yet these and many more differences had to be confronted. (The official name of kamikaze was Tokubetsu Kogekitai and was not quite as popular in Japan as some have been led to believe.)

Gilliam-class APA

Many historians , looking back on the naval battles we recently discussed, compared the forces of Nimitz with throwing a right cross and MacArthur’s troops following through with the left punch – the enemy did not stand a chance.

As General Eichelberger said more than once: “The 11th Airborne Division are the fightingest men I’ve ever seen.” And the largest and most violent armed conflict in history was about to start for these men.

November of 1944 arrived and with that came packing up for the next destination, Leyte, Philippines. It also meant the arrival of the rains, an understatement to say the least. Such downpours are alien to those who do not live in the tropics. Even the darkness is unique when it arrives in a flash and the blackness envelops everything like a sweeping shroud. A man’s eyes can no longer be trusted; he stands as though blindfolded.

Nine APA’s (naval transport ships designed to attack) and AKA’s (cargo ships designed to attack) would be required to carry the 11th A/B on to their target. Due to the constant barrage of weather, the journey lasted from Nov. 11 until the 18th. The Battle of Leyte was officially code-named “King II Operation.”

 

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernest Nernhoft Jr. – Memphis, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, ‘The Hump’

Ronald Blackham – Weaverham, ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, Cpl., 3rd Batt. ‘Coldstream Guards’, KIA

Murray Goff – Bellingham, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, aerial photographer

Standing Guard

Maxx Hammer Jr. – Carbondale, Il; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, pilot, ‘Flying Tiger’, KIA

Jules Hauterman Jr. – Hampton, MA; US Army, Korea, medic, Cpl., KIA

Henry Jennings – Newburg, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

Ed Murray – Ridgefield, WA; US Army, WWII, CBI

Mark Pedone – Garfield, NJ; USMC, WWII, PTO, 1st Marine Division

Donald ‘Butch’ Russell – Newark, DE; US Army, 11th Airborne Division, MSgt.

Robert Shearer – Hawera, NZ; 2NZEF # 022982, WWII

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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 23, 2017, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 90 Comments.

  1. Hi GP, next effort includes my intro and trying to make that sentence more clear … will post once you okay this?

    I met GP Cox, his writing name, on Pacific Paratrooper soon after I started blogging. His historic documentation of conflict focuses on the personalities, letters, photos and cartoons from those involved. Always ending with a list of those who have passed since his last blog. This is his first interview and as he likes to retain his mystique we carried out these conversations in our comments sections …
    It would have been titled “They Pay You More in the Paratroopers!” because when I pressed Smitty for a reason this is what he volunteered.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As always so interesiing.Unknown facts,a litlle history and a lot of stories

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A fine post, GP! I especially appreciate the fact that you pointed out FDR’s lie that help would come to the Philippines in 1942 and also that you mentioned leak of the Leyte plans, an ugly fact of the war often (and deliberately) obscured. FDR was NOT the hero he is painted as being. He was manipulative and perfidious with a double helping of callousness as a topping. I have read Kenneth Davis’ friendly biography of FDR and came away from it appalled at treachery and duplicity this hero of the Left practiced on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your first sentence was interesting. I had no idea that is why the Special Forces were started. I cannot imagine the physical discomfort that went along with the fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As always, interesting information. War! I’ll never understand it, but I appreciate and admire all who sacrificed so much. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh Smitty.. You keep him alive with your posts xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Would like to include an interview with you for my new blog “Meeting the Bloggers”?

    More people need to know about your fascinating posts documenting events, letters, the cartoons and tributes.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great story.
    Looking forward to hearing more.
    I would have loved to met your father

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Apart from the special units and all, not only the special units but regular soldiers in those type of conditions. Wich me being an ex solder forget about the fighting, the weather conditions in some cases is even worst.
    But getting into the history of FDR, which I’m really not much of a fan, but the mood in the public at that time after going through WWI was one of isolation, and FDR obviously knew this and obviously he was looking out for his own political purposes and that is why in part I think I might be wrong, he didn’t send the reinforcements so thousands and thousands of soldiers in the Philippines would live hell, and most of them they didn’t live. But Macarthur did want to stay fighting, until he was told by FDR to get the hell out of there. And leave the poor bastards at their own fate.
    FDR was more focused on Europe, If I have my history right. So it was more of a political decision than an Soldiers, Mecarthur decision. I think. I probably should catch up more on my story but I can’ t.
    What do you think of what I have said?

    Liked by 1 person

    • About the US isolation, you are correct. FDR couldn’t get the US out of the Great Depression as he promised, a war would accomplish that, plus he actually thought Churchill was his friend. So true about him being focused on Europe! Why FDR lied about a fleet being on the way, when he knew he was sending most everything to Europe is beyond me. And I don’t know if he realized he was sacrificing the US and Filipino troops when he ordered MacArthur to leave or not – no one can really know what was going on in his mind, but advisers should have foreseen the result – which would mean he considered those troops expendable.
      Thank you for your interest in this part of the war, Charly.

      Like

      • Thank you for replying in depth

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Why FDR lied about a fleet being on the way, when he knew he was sending most everything to Europe is beyond me. And I don’t know if he realized he was sacrificing the US and Filipino troops when he ordered MacArthur to leave or not – no one can really know what was going on in his mind, but advisers should have foreseen the result – which would mean he considered those troops expendable.”

        FDR knew EXACTLY what he was doing and he didn’t care that he was expending thousands of lives. Just as he knew exactly when and how the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor would come – and how he threw Admiral Kimmel and General Short under the bus and let them stay there. While it is very true that the US was still in an isolationist mood and FDR was correct that it would take an extreme event to get the US into the war, he had other ways of accomplishing that without sacrificing so many lives at Pearl Harbor. For example, since he knew (because Navy Lt. Joseph Rochefort had broken the Japanese code) that the Japanese fleet was on its way to Pearl Harbor, he could have dispatched Halsey to intercept the Japanese fleet instead of sending Halsey on that feint to Midway. No doubt that would have ended badly for Halsey and the Navy, but it would have been a far less costly way to shift American opinion to favor joining the battle than allowing the attack on Pearl to proceed.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. My Dad, Gilbert Lars Hunt was an 11th AB member and took park in Leyte. He came out a SFC and platoon leader. I have a pic of him surrounded by 14 other men – on the back of the pic he wrote: “The remains of 45 men after 3 campaigns”. Enough said.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am grateful for your father’s sacrifice. Have you thought about sending a copy of that photograph to the 11th Airborne Association? I know they would appreciate having it for the next quarterly newspaper issue!!
      Is your father still with us today?

      Like

  11. I love this: “I write the facts. My opinions are in the comments.” If only we could get you to train some of our so-called journalists.

    Speaking of getting acclimated, I’ll never forget my first night in Liberia. We’d arrived on PanAm about 1:00 in the morning, and it still was somewhere north of 100F on the tarmac. When I got to my lodgings, there was no electricity, no ice, no fan, and no breeze. The woman who helped me get settled said, “Do yourself a favor, and just don’t think about the heat. You’ll either drive yourself crazy or die.” So, I didn’t think about it — and I’ll be darned if it didn’t help!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If today’s journalists ever took a class with my journalism teacher – they’d never incorporate their opinions into a story!! Besides – I became quite aggravated reading historical books and seeing personal opinions hiding between the lines. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so I try to make my point in the comments.
      Glad to hear you didn’t go crazy or die in that heat – maybe you could teach a few folks here in FL how to do that. Whenever we have too many days in row 95 or higher, people start dropping!
      Thanks for dropping by, Linda – always a pleasure.

      Like

  12. Japan was stopped supplies from overseas.
    Therefore, Japanese cultivated “potato”, and made fuel.
    Japan’s militarism commanded civilian to “Kamikaze pilot”, and citizens could not go against it.
    The kamikaze machine was disposable.
    In order to escort it, “Shi den Kai (airplane)” was manufactured.
    However, after the defeat, the design of “Shi den Kai” was destroyed.
    I think that America does not know its existence.

    Military Humor is interesting XD!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was just reading that on your site – I thank you very much for sending me this comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Shiden Kai (the name given to a fighter as agile and deadly as any of ours – (Translated “Lightning” as I recall) was too late int the conflict to alter the outcome.
      So was the Raiden – “Thunderbolt”

      Liked by 2 people

      • 「Shidenkai」 was called [lighting],be honored!!
        Kawanishi-company which were small scale made Shidenkai.But It was top quality.
        Mitsubishi-company which was larger than Kawanishi made Raiden that power was inferior.
        At that time Japan had no remaining resources,so, could not afford to change the production.
        So, Shidenkai became a phantom fighter.
        When Japan defeated,People who made Shidenkai have been talking about the regret that they had to destroy design of Shidenkai.
        Great thanks for recalling about Shidenkai !!

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Isn’t darkness that we all fear most?

    Liked by 2 people

  14. The process of becoming acclimated must have been doubly difficult for these men who had no chance to see jungles on the family TV set!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most of the men sent over to the Pacific never even knew these places existed at all. Although I’ve lived in a semi-tropical area for 47 years, they say I don’t have clue how hot, humid, rainy or suffocating those islands can get. (and i believe it!)

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Having signed a non aggression w/ Germany, and fueling their war machine, the damn Russians were only a de facto ally; My attitude toward FDR was explained in “Of War and Remembrance – our troops were betrayed by both.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You’ve set the stage very well, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. ” … The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. had not only lied to one of his generals, but caused the forced surrender of American and Filipino citizens and military personnel. The infamous Bataan Death March and ultimate fall of the Philippines into Japanese control was the end result …”

    Naaaaah, surely not?

    Or are we judging from the viewpoint of our own tiny minds, when the Grand Game is the thing? Pawns of course are ever expendable—witness the wee sideshow that became known as Pearl Harbor.

    Next war, please don’t put me down for pawn …

    Like

    • I write the facts, my opinions are in the comments. So what is your opinion of FDR ordering MacArthur out of the Philippines in 1942 for his safety and never sending the the ships he promised? This was after Pearl and, the pres. knew how many vessels he had and he sent them to Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Looking out from the Halls Of Power, the pawns are ‘tiny minds’. The vote is the thing, how to gather that all important ticket to Power (and fame and destiny).

        The facts are revealed to We The Pawns only decades later when the principals—at whatever cost to others in the past—are no longer interested.

        It’s interesting that he never sent the ships etc he promised.
        The play’s the thing and if the promise (however empty) keeps the players on the stage … what’s it matter?

        You write the facts, and you present them well.
        I come mainly from opinion, based on my own interpretations of such facts as we can garner from any/all sources.
        The fact is that some two thousand good men were needlessly slaughtered at Pearl—your own posts tell us so. You told us that The Brass knew (they’d cracked the imperial codes) the ambush was coming but did nothing to warn the fleet.

        The fleet gave a very good account of itself, despite being caught sound asleep. How much better could it have done having been alerted, if only an hour, even twenty minutes in advance?

        I apologise if you took the ‘tiny minds’ as meaning you or the fleet.
        Not so.
        But if we are stuck with the facts and simply accept them as such we will not (r) we will not learn the lessons of history. This is where my bitterness comes from; and trust me on this, I am bitter. Very very bitter.

        As for what was in FDR’s mind in sending ships to Europe I have no idea. I guess that now outed he played what was left of his cards as he saw fittest. There are many ‘ifs’ involved: if Britain, fell; if the Axis could reach each other physically, if Russia fell …

        I try to relate history to the present day.
        But history in retrospect is always a Grand Game for the players at the top. Not for the pawns (or the scapegoats).

        Again I draw attention to USS Liberty—another disposable pawn, The only trouble is, it refused to play according to official rules …

        Like

        • Too many times members of our military are considered expendable when it comes to the “greater good”. Whether political or in a military sense, we at the moment, can only look back and speculate. And that includes the USS Liberty – what would retaliating against Israel solve?

          Like

          • Now, nothing.
            But at the time and with the resources available they could have put a wall between the guys on Liberty, unarmed, desperately fighting to live against unknown (~!) attackers determined to slaughter them all.
            It appears as if the US cannot rely on its own leadership~?

            Or are there agendas out there that We, The Pawns, know nothing about … brrrrr.

            Like

            • There are always hidden agendas, and if we were told about them – we’d probably never sleep again. Personally I am glad too many things are NOT revealed. There are all types of people out there – including those who believe everything on TV or the internet [there are even people who thought “The Flying Nun” could actually fly!!

              Liked by 1 person

  18. Great quote: “…the forces of Nimitz with throwing a right cross and MacArthur’s troops following through with the left punch – the enemy did not stand a chance.”

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Beautifully written, GP. You’ve built the suspense and fear they all must have experienced.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I experienced that rain in the tropics of Africa, G, and yes, it can be quite daunting.–Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • So, I suppose the 4-year drought in CA would have been the reverse experience, [if you were there] eh?! A friend of mine in Pomona had had enough and moved to central FL.

      Like

      • That drought was bad, G. We felt it here in Southern Oregon. A number of the pine trees on our property were close to dying. And then there was the fire danger. This winter we have been breaking records going the opposite direction. Hopefully our trees will recover. (It’s raining now.) –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I love this article! I went to selection for special forces over 14 years ago. I think if I hadn’t gone to war first I would have made it through. I was a beast back in the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Wow… such a journey to take, knowing all the while there would be danger at the end.
    Nicely done, GP. Have a thriving Thursday. Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. You may have said before, but who is Dan Heiduck of the envelope cartoons?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m afraid you didn’t miss anything. I have no idea who he is, but his daughter has a website called Kilroy was here. Her father often decorated his envelopes.

      Like

  24. Here is to Smitty and the 11th Airborne!!

    I urge all your readers to check out two new Amazing World War Two Books on the Pacific Campaign: John Prado’s “Storm over Leyte: The Philippine Invasion and the Destruction of the Japanese Navy” and James D. Hornfischer’s “The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. A very interesting read as always, GP. That’s a good point about the weather. Often an additional ‘enemy’, in its own right, if you have never seen those tropical rains (I experienced them in Singapore) it is staggering to behold how much water comes down, and for so long too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for adding in that description of the rain. I once had someone ask for a picture of those rains – you could hardly see anything beyond that wall of water!! Enjoy your evening!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. As if the battle wasn’t going to be bad enough, having to fight your own commander in chief and your allies seems a bit absurd.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. As if war wasn’t enough; to have to learn about totally alien culture, and the jungle – what they went through.

    Liked by 2 people

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