December 1944 (3) – 11th Airborne Div.

007 (800x598)

Pfc John Chiesa, E Company/188th Regiment/11th Airborne and Privates Davis and Duncan were on the point going up, what would become known as, Purple Heart Hill on 26 December 1944.  Chiesa recalled:

“We just got to the top of this hill when all hell broke loose.  The Japs opened up with their wood peckers and rifles.  Duncan got hit in the rump and he went tumbling down the hill.  I hit the ground and prayed.  Finally, Davis and i jumped up and went diving over the ridge.  We could not see the Japs because they hide pretty good in the jungle.  They were firing and we were trying to fire back, but we could not see them to know where to shoot at.

“Finally, our Platoon leader, Sgt. Kelly, got up on one knee and started to point to show us where to shoot.  About that time, the Japs got him and he was dead.  He was one hell of a soldier, believe me.

“Me, Pvt. Hodges and three other guys in our company went up to the side of the hill and we laid there waiting for someone to tell us what our next move was.  While we waited, I got hungry so i turned around facing down the hill and got out one of my K rations.  I was opening up the can when 20 feet from me this Jap jumped out of the bushes.  He looked at me and I looked at him.  I think he was as surprised as I was.

“I had an M1 rifle laying across my lap.  Everything was done automatically. (Our training came in handy.)  I grabbed the rifle, turned and pulled the trigger.  He was doing the same thing, but I was luckier.  I hit him smack in his Adam’s apple.  I can still see the surprised look on his face…  The thing that will always be on my mind is that if I didn’t stop to eat, those Japs woulda killed all 5 of us.

Colonel Robert “Shorty” Soule, a Major General during Korean War

“When we came back down the hill, Col. Soule came to me and asked what I would do to get those Japs and take the hill.  I thought he was joking.  Here is a colonel, and a damned good one, asking his pfc how to take a hill.

“I told him, ‘Just bomb the hell out of them, blow the hill up.’  We went up the hill the next morning, and after a good bombardment, we took the hill.”

The “good bombardment” had come from A Battery of the 457th.  Capt. Bobo Holloway of the 188th moved within 25 yards of the Japanese position and directed the firing of the artillery, and some 105mm howitzer and 155mm guns.

On 27 December, when they stormed Purple Heart Hill, they encountered hand-to-hand combat, then proceeded to occupy the old enemy holes as the Japanese evicted them.  Those of the enemy that escaped and headed north, ran into part of Col. Pearsons’ 187th Regiment.  The bloody battle for Purple Heart Hill had lasted for almost 5 weeks.

Japanese WWII “woodpecker”

Information is from “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan (Ret.)

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frederick Crosby – San Diego, CA; US Navy, Vietnam, pilot, Lt.Comdr., KIA

Norman Fraser – North York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Henry Glenn Jr. – Largo, FL; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Temple Hill – Marshville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 top turret gunner

Freddie Knight – Panama City, FL; US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam,Night Fighter (Ret. 27 years)

Tommy Manns – Abilene, TX; US Navy, WWII, radioman, USS Telfair

Remington Peters – CO; US Navy SEAL, 2 deployments, SWO 1st Class

Thomas Sherman – Chagrin Falls, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Joseph Valderrama – brn: SPN/NJ; US Coast Guard, WWII, ETO, USS Faunce & Breckenridge

Frances Weill – Donora, PA; civilian, WWII, torpedo construction

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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 June 1, 2017, in SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 93 Comments.

  1. That is an interesting story of how a simple decision like stopping to eat can be the difference between life and death. Pfc John Chiesa was a very lucky man.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting name for the Hill, Purple Heart gp, gives some idea of why it was so named, that is a very vivid first hand account by Pfc John Chiesa.
    Always appreciate your efforts in sharing first hand accounts mate.
    Ian

    Liked by 1 person

    • There has been more than one Purple Heart Hill and not just this war, but as you say – it is a description in itself. I’m glad you found it interesting and appreciate you reading the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Had never heard of the “Woodpecker” (HMG). I did guess that it got its name from it’s sound, My scant knowledge of WWII weaponry was gained from my father who fought in the European War against the Germans. But I popped over to YouTube and found this clip:

    Obviously an effective armament.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How frightening … but the training carried them through.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Musings of a Penpusher and commented:
    Written so vividly it might have happened yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As I was reading how the Colonel asked the private for advice, it made me think about large businesses and the “missing piece” in many of their success stories that could have been fulfilled in they had only asked their “WORKERS” (in the “trenches”) for their advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A very moving story from Pfc Chiesa, GP, thanks for sharing it. It humbled me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just proves you should never tangle with a hungry soldier.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow…he stopped to eat. Makes sense but it paints a reality so very far from my experience. If I’m under stress, I can’t eat. I can’t get anything down my throat because I can’t calm down long enough to make myself chew and swallow.

    I suppose when you’re in a combat type of situation, you have to overcome that sort of thing in order to keep yourself functioning. You can’t go around shaking or fainting from lack of food (if you’ve got access to it).

    I once read an account of a soldier in Vietnam who found himself alone, contentedly sitting in the midst of the enemy dead eating a meal. At some point it occurred to him how odd that was and he reflected on how much he’d changed since being there. I can’t remember what it was I was reading but that particular passage stayed with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know a few that changed drastically after living through Vietnam. I’m certain your experience can have you imagining toll every war takes on people. Thank you for your opinion and feelings on this story, Lynn. It is always a pleasure hearing from you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a lucky snack. I assume a woodpecker is a machine gun?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I bet Sergeant Kelly, “one hell of a soldier”, didn’t get any medals for giving his life to the cause. Men like that seldom do, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do believe you’re right, John. I went into a number of sites and have been unable to locate a medal for him for this action of saving those men. You have to wonder just how many others went and their bravery unknown….

      Like

  12. I think part of the reason the colonel needed the advice is I think they are not always where the action is.So sometimes they need to hear from they guys that have been in the heat of battle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think all great leaders do that. Even MacArthur and dad’s General Swing listened to their men. [by the time the Korean War came around, Soule was a Major General himself.]

      Like

  13. I think I would have bronzed my K-ration can and kept it as a momento! –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  14. These personal recollections of close combat are frightening to read. Imagine how much worse it must have been to actually be there.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Wow, an amazing story!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I read this historic story with a lot of respect for all these soldiers

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Very beautiful blog , as usual. Thanks. Great vignette abt backpack. Ciao from Italy.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Whew. This was tense, GP. Talk about luck and a K-ration break

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I don’t know if the troops in the Pacific used this term or not – when the Allies were trying to wrest Monte Cassino from the Nazis in the Italian campaign, the artillery bombardments were called “giving the Krauts a STRONK”. I don’t know the origin of the term. One photo I saw taken at first light of an artillery assault on Monte Cassino showed the hills lit up like the Milky Way from artillery fire …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had never heard or read that expression, so I looked it up…
      Stronk is an eastern European/Russian pronunciation of the word “strong.” Most commonly used in the context of mocking or showing reverence towards something brutish or powerful that is of eastern European/Russian origin.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Your post shows again that history comes alive with personal experiences and eye witness accounts like this one in your post by John Chiesa.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Reblogged this on Chasing Unicorns and commented:
    Here’s a narrative from World War II combat that I found pretty exciting. It’s from “Pacific Paratrooper” which is an interesting blog about World War II action in the Pacific Theater.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. This post reads like an action novel, though I’m sure it’s nonfiction. What an exciting narrative! And that seems like a savvy colonel to me, asking someone who’s been up on the hill what to do about it. I think I’ll repost this one, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you found it interesting. Having some of these eye-witness accounts helps us to understand what others would not or could not tell us brings the history to light.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Ha ha love your cartoon of the soldier using a trolley bag. Our national service men are being teased for being “moddle coddled” as they all have trolley bags now instead of hauling a duffle bag when they book out of camp. National service is mandatory for all boys at 19 years to 21 years. Parents molly coddle them and will picks their sons at camp and domestic helpers or maids will carry their bags. Just like parents or maids or domestic helpers carry their children’s school bag or back pack. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Another harrowing story of the everyday life of an Army grunt. God’s hand definitely seems to play a part.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Your post is exciting as ever. It is like reading a fiction novel only that this is for real

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Such heroes. As we read these articles our conversations always come back to the strength and valor of these fighting men and women astound us and would we be a be able to show such courage in the heat of the battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I am constantly amazed in life how one little gut instinct on our part, changes things – in this case dramatically. It’s more than coincidence!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. So many bloody battles. I can’t imagine fighting like that for 5 days. I notice your last fallen hero was from Donora, PA. Conditions there in the late 40s weren’t much better than wartime conditions. It’s the scene of the famous Donora Fog, and acid rain incident that ultimately killed over 50 people – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Donora_smog

    Liked by 2 people

    • That link was quite interesting, Dan. I had never heard of that incident. So many awful reactions to the steel plant, that probably provided jobs for most of the town!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • We had relatives in that area. We visited them for a family function once, during a minor inversion. A man who was old enough that I called him ‘uncle’ (although he was probably a cousin) said the smoke meant that they had jobs to go to on Monday. My father explained that that’s why he wanted my brother and I to get an education.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. “Blow the hill up.” Definitely not subtle, but if it works, you can’t argue with success!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. That is one graphic story and shows how war dehumanizes people. Referring to his victim as a Jap must have made it somehow easier to kill him and accept killing him. Not blaming the soldier—he had to stay alive. But it sure demonstrates the evil of war.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Pierre Lagacé

    Such a vivid recollection.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. The reality of war. I can imagine the images in his mind stay with him always. What an experience 🙏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

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