Landing the 11th Airborne Division

Medic on Leyte

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.

11 November – 9 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 from Oro Bay with an escort of 9 US destroyers. 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.”

The division’s historian noted, “Fortunately, the trip was made in Navy-manned ships.  It was fortunate because the food we had was the best we had eaten since Camp Stoneman, California…  As far as we were able to determine, the trip was uneventful – with one exception.  One sub did venture within detecting range, we were immediately sent to out emergency positions.  But a DE took off after the Jap craft and the alert was called off.

“Aboard ship, troops spent their time talking endlessly about the immediate and post-war future.  Some gambled the days away… Now we had time to ponder and we found ourselves ready for combat.  We didn’t know then – no one knew – how soon we were to be committed; but it came sooner than any of us anticipated.  The Angels were about to make some fighting history.”

Activity map

When the 11th airborne landed at Bito Beach, Leyte, they immediately began to unload the ships.  The troopers worked around the clock, even as the tail end of the convoy was being attacked by Zeros.  (The Japanese most certainly had other planes, but the G.I.s tended to call them all Zeros.)  The beach gradually became an ammo dump as Bito Beach was surrounded by water on three sides and a swamp covered the fourth, it was technically an island and therefore they were unable to move the crates out until the engineers built them some bridges.  Throughout all this, air raids were being called which impeded progress all the more.

19 November 1944 – a kamikaze sank one of the transport ships only 1,500 yards offshore.  It was left where it sank, sticking partway out of the water.  The men used it as a sight to adjust the artillery aimed at the sea.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

Cecil Hotel, Westminster, RAF’s 1st HQ

A reminder that Britain’s Royal Air Force will celebrate their 99th Birthday, having been formed 1 April 1918.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Blair Cummings – Scarbourgh, ME; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Hilary P. Jones

Frank Dallas – Fayetteville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/11th Airborne Division (Ret. 27 years)

Robert Glade – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Korea

Iris Hunter – Warwickshire, ENG; RAF, WWII

Emmett Kirkpatrick – Roanoke, VA; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Robert Lilley – Ft. Gratlot, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Arthur McNamara – Boston, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Richard Morgan – Rollings, MT; US Army, Korea, A Co/187th RCT

Gale Tedball – Eugene, OR; US Navy, WWII, USS Detroit

William Young – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force #  4310091, 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 30, 2017, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 66 Comments.

  1. Wow! I knew very little of WW11 and only recently have I started to pay attention to that part of history. One of my distant relatives told me recently that he was on the beach on D-Day and just received the Legion of Honor medal from the French ambassador in Australia. I was so taken with the honor he received that I had to do some reading on D-Day. Of course, I knew about the atomic bombs and some other facts about the war, but the battles were a mystery. It becomes clearer to me now the hardships that people went through to protect us. I can’t thank you enough for your service.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can appreciate your renewed interest in the war, it affected the entire world and in some ways – it still does. But I do not want to mislead you in thinking that I served. This blog is about my father, his division and the war around them. One of the very few times my father put his foot down to me was enlisting – I believe being at the height of the Vietnam War had something to do with his demand I stay out.
      I am looking forward to reading more of your site – I had a good laugh to start my day. Married to a fruit bat!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In war soldiers make do things with what they have and find another solution for their problems

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent post gp, always great to read these pieces that illustrate the specific circumstances at the time, especially through the eyes of those involved, I’ve said before mate, a giant jig saw and your contributions are the pieces.
    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These posts are always educational, GP. And the cartoons are pretty good too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t really take any credit. The troops did all the work and – both combat and in their sense of humor!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • William Gindhart Jr

        Hi GP,
        My dad was a member of B Company 511 PIR. The thing he remembered the most of Leyte was the mud. Dad stayed with B Company til the end of the war.
        Thanks for your post, looking forward for more;

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good to hear from another child of the 11th, William!! I’ve been told the mud on Leyte was unique and so many have written about it! If you father is still with us, please shake his hand for me with my deepest thanks.

          Like

  5. Great post! I am always humbled and proud when I read your posts. Every story is a treasure and important to tell. Thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One of my late husband’s oldest patients was a WWI veteran – Flying Officer Sam Saunders from Ireland; a founder member of the Flying Corps. Too old for active service, he was a ferry pilot in WWII delivering newly manufactured machines to airfields all over Britain; a brave and wonderful gentleman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for bringing him to our site here, Maureen. I’m honored that you thought about Pacific Paratrooper and took the time – it is greatly appreciated.

      Like

  7. That sounds like a terrible place to land such a variety of men, thus expansive a measure of provisions…I can feel the strain working, as the fight gets nearer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am eagerly waiting on the next story.
    They are oh so spellbinding

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The men of the 11 the devision are the fightingest men I read in this post and they work around the clock.I think in wartime..everything tells but not the soldiers.Good you right about all soldiers with a lot of respect.Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Another fascinating post. I got to Korea in early winter and asked one of my Korean co=workers about the enormous ditches along the roads, “Do those really fill up?” They did but a buddy who’d been in Okinawa said Korea’s rainy season was nothing in comparison. It sounds from the writing like maybe only Louisiana boys would not have been dismayed by the conditions even without the Japanese.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. By air or by sea, the all-volunteer Airborne was trained to the fighting edge and lived up to their training. Thank you, Smitty, and all your brothers-in-arms.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for your posts, I learn something new every time I read them!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “The 11th Airborne Division are the fightingest men I’ve ever seen.”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I was not interested in WW2.
    However, I read your blog and searched fights of Leyte.
    I knew that it was different in a nuance , Japanese side wrote it for a Japanese and the United States side wrote it for an American.
    It is important that know both intention(thoughts), i think.
    I learned a lot from your glog.
    Great thanks and I’m looking for your blog :D

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wünsche dir ein gutes und schönes weekend lieber Gruß von mir Gislinde

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t think my identification of Japanese aircraft is much better than those GIs so long ago on Leyte. I have tried to master them on a number of occasions, but there seems to be a block somewhere. I suspect it is having code names like Betty and Helen rather than words that mean something like Mustang or Black Widow.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I love the pieces above it the 11th. Hoo-rah!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The 11/19 entry reminds us how God can turn what was meant for evil into something good. He didn’t cause the evil but allowed it to be used toward an advantage.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I didn’t know about the RAF’s anniversary on 1st April, my cousin is currently serving he’s overseas at the moment.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. The concept of the heavy monsoon rain in the tropics cannot even be grasped by us living in the temperate zones of the globe. Of course, I like to complain about the rain and the fog we are presently experiencing in BC.But what is it in comparison to the hardships the American soldiers had to endure in the deluge of rain?! Great post as always, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. My dad was an airborne medic in the European Theater and was shot up on his first glider mission, only he an one other combatant survived. This brings back memories of his stories. ~~dru~~

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Great joke about learning a trade.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Interesting. I did not know that the 11th Airborne landed by sea–I remember seeing a photo of paratroopers descending onto Corregidor, and assumed that the entire division jumped into the Philippines. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At this point the 503rd Regiment was not yet part of the 11th Airborne Division. That would come as they plan the action on Luzon. Then different units would jump at different times. Thank you for your interest, Dave.

      Like

  24. It’s interesting how sometimes, when I read these accounts, I focus on various things that help me imagine what this must have been like. Today I was struck by “…until the engineers built them some bridges…” Talk about having to go it alone. I’m sure there were great reasons for landing at that point, but I’m trying to imaging the stress those engineers were under. Thanks for another great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You imagined correctly, Dan. Bito Beach was actually like an island, with the swamp situation, and the engineers needed to build those ‘bridges’ time and time again. Smitty admired their ingenuity and persistence! You are more than welcome. I hope you continue to be interested in these posts as we go onward.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. That sounds like an awful place to land so many men, and so large an amount of supplies.
    I can feel the tension building, as the battle gets closer.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Keep these pieces on the 11th coming GP! Love em!

    Liked by 2 people

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