February 1945 (3)

Flamethrower

While advancing, the 11th Airborne encountered heavy barrages from machine guns, mortars, artillery and grenades streaming from tunnels and caves above the highway.  After the enemy was eradicated, the command post dug in on the side of the road.  In the middle of the night, they were attacked.  Headquarters Company used flame throwers and rifle fire to fend them off.

My father, Smitty, would wrinkle his nose at the mere sight of a flame thrower on TV.  He said, “Once you smell burning flesh, it stays with you.  There’s nothing worse.  Every time I see one of those things flare up, even in a movie, I can smell the fuel and flesh all over again.”

The importance of Manila cannot be stressed enough. The natural harbor has served as a strategically situated port for commerce and trade for centuries. Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay are connected by the Pasig River.

Pasig River before the war.

Following the initial American breakthrough on the fourth, fighting raged throughout the city for almost a month. The battle quickly came down to a series of bitter street-to-street and house-to-house struggles. In an attempt to protect the city and its civilians, MacArthur placed stringent restrictions on U.S. artillery and air support. But massive devastation to the urban area could not be avoided. In the north, General Griswold continued to push elements of the XIV Corps south from Santo Tomas University toward the Pasig River.

Late on the afternoon of 4 February he ordered the 2d Squadron, 5th Cavalry, to seize Quezon Bridge, the only crossing over the Pasig that the Japanese had not destroyed. As the squadron approached the bridge, enemy heavy machine guns opened up from a formidable roadblock thrown up across Quezon Boulevard. The Japanese had pounded steel stakes into the pavement, sown the area with mines, and lined up old truck bodies across the road. Unable to advance farther, the cavalry withdrew after nightfall. As the Americans pulled back, the Japanese blew up the bridge.

117th Engineering Batt./37th Div. on Luzon

The next day, 5 February, went more smoothly. Once the 37th Division began to move into Manila, Griswold divided the northern section of the city into two sectors, with the 37th responsible for the western half and the 1st Cavalry responsible for the eastern part.

By the afternoon of the 8th, 37th Division units had cleared most Japanese from their sector, although the damage done to the residential districts was extensive. The Japanese added to the destruction by demolishing buildings and military installations as they withdrew. But the division’s costliest fighting occurred on Provisor Island, a small industrial center on the Pasig River. The Japanese garrison, probably less than a battalion, held off elements of the division until 11 February.

The 1st Cavalry Division had an easier time, encountering little opposition in the suburbs east of Manila. Although the 7th and 8th Cavalry fought pitched battles near two water supply installations north of the city, by 10 February the cavalry had extended its control south of the river. That night, the XIV Corps established for the first time separate bridgeheads on both banks of the Pasig River.

US Army, Luzon

The final attack on the outer Japanese defenses came from the 11th Airborne Division, under the XIV Corps control since 10 February. The division had been halted at Nichols Field on the fourth and since then had been battling firmly entrenched Japanese naval troops, backed up by heavy fire from concealed artillery.

Only on 11 February did the airfield finally fall to the paratroopers, but the acquisition allowed the 11th Airborne Division to complete the American encirclement of Manila on the night of the twelfth.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – B-17 ‘Memphis Belle’ 

Memphis Belle

17 May 2018, the inspiration for 2 movies, the ‘Memphis Belle’ will be put on permanent display, on the 75th anniversary of her 25th mission, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.  She is now fully restored!!

110 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433

for GPS instructions: 5717 Huberville Ave., Riverside, OH 45431

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Military Humor – Bill Mauldin style – 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Burton Atkinson – Toronto, CA; RC Army, WWII, ETO, (attached to British 8th Army)

Glen ‘Swede’ Bergau – Dalkena, WA; US Army, WWII

Arthur Bowkett – New Plymouth, NZ; Royal Marines, WWII, Cpl.

Robert Covington – Grantsville, UT; US Army, Korea

Hyman Fine – Bethesda, MD; US Navy, WWII, Cmdr. / US Air Force, Pentagon

Leo LeBlanc – providence, RI; US Army, WWII, ETO,8th Armored Tank

Roy Miller – Glen Cove, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-17 navigator

Henry Nowak – Philadelphia, PA; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea

Donald Pittman – Kansas City, MO; US Navy, WWII, Korea, (Ret. 20 y.)

David Toschi – San Francisco, CA ; US Army, Korea

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 22, 2018, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 102 Comments.

  1. I believe Smitty was spot on regarding the smell of burnt flesh, certain smells are retained in your senses for a lifetime, I still occasionally get the scent of Saigon, or the markets and harbours on a breeze now and then, something triggers the memory. Don’t read much about Flame throwers being used in modern warfare these days, seems we have evolved and have better weapons now. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The personal aside about your father is heartbreaking. I’m also interested to hear Macarthur making a decision to make it difficult for fighting the enemy in an attempt to try and preserve civillian lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t even imagine the horrors that Smitty saw.
    God Bless Him and Hand Salute

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel for these veterans, and what triggers such memories. At least your father talked about it with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sir, thank you for posting this great history lesson, I am going to reblog this article for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some interesting battle strategies here. When the next war comes, I am going to take the position of filming and documenting it all. And that is with the help of modern technology. Keeping in mind that next war will ensue before 2025.😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • No sure I’ll be here 2025, but one never knows. You might just have picked one of the more dangerous roles – keep a camera drone handy when getting close to the front, eh?!!

      Like

  7. Vlammenwerpers gebruiken tegenover mensen…verschrikkelijk.Al die wreedheden wat voor een ras is de mens en oorlog het zal nooit stoppen.We mogen niet vergeten dat mensen hun leven hebben gegegeven voor onze vrijheid.Geld,macht en geloof zijn de boosdoeners en ze blijven bestaan

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Flame Thrower was an horrific weapon – for a horrific foe – who started the whole thing.
    Nobody forced them to kill millions of people and take their lands or treat other people like animals. In that, they were a perfect to Hitler’s bunch. Can you imagine what they world would be like if these guys had won?
    And after all this they didn’t want to apologize to admit to what they had done.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Flame throwers and burning flesh – I wonder whether the smell (stench) is any different from BBQ meat?

    We tear into and eat animal flesh (notice, even the word “flesh” sounds offensive when used to describe our meals) without batting an eyelid – yet retch when we see human limbs strewn about.

    I suppose that’s how we are hard-wired.

    And I suppose flame throwers are not banned – even now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Flame throwers are banned where they might cause harm to civilians, but they are very rarely ever used today.
      Being as I never smelled human flesh burning, I had to locate the best answer I could …
      Burning muscle tissue gives off an aroma similar to beef in a frying pan, and body fat smells like a side of fatty pork on the grill.you probably won’t mistake the scent of human remains for a cookout. That’s because a whole body includes all sorts of parts that we’d rarely use for a regular barbecue.
      When a whole human body burns, all the iron-rich blood still inside can give the smell a coppery, metallic component. Full bodies also include internal organs, which rarely burn completely because of their high fluid content; they smell like burnt liver. Firefighters say that cerebrospinal fluid burns up in a musky, sweet perfume.
      Burning skin has a charcoallike smell, while setting hair on fire produces a sulfurous odor. This is because the keratin in our hair contains large amounts of cystine, a sulfurlike amino acid.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, GP – much appreciate your reply. Learned some things today.

        In Singapore, the dead are cremated in ovens. Well sealed and odourless. But I understand in some countries such as India there might still be open cremations – but I might be wrong.

        In case you wonder about my macabre interest – well, as an author, I might one day have to write about this 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Smitty’s response to images on TV are in stark contrast to mine. I never had to go through any sort of warfare. We see so much of it in fiction on our screens that it has almost made me immune to the reality.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. There’s a good bit I don’t know about earlier methods of warfare. Somehow, I’ve been living under the assumption that flame throwers were used against buildings, tanks, or other “things” — not against people. One of the things that worries me about evolving moderns methods of warfare, such as the use of drones, is that the cause and the effects are so widely separated people can do awful things without any conception that terrible things are being done. The video “games” that feature warfare only make the problem worse. It seems to me that we’re being desensitized to many things that will cause us real problems in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I can’t begin to imagine the results brought about by a flamethrower, but your dad’s description is as close as I need to be, G. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It is hard to imagine or even have an idea of what it takes to be a soldier, to experience what they have experience. I think its impossible, but what its possible for us that haven’t seen battle is to pray for our soldier and their wound, those seen and unseen and always pay our respect for them. What you wrote about your dad, (the smells) reminded me of my cousins (Iraq)…thank you for keeping his memory alive and reminded me of their sacrifice.

    Caleb

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The flamethrowers were scary stuff, indeed, and one hates what they did to the ecology.
    Seems the Battle of the Bridge was squarely won by the enemy!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I had a big whooof of flame from a thrower mounted in a bren-carrier pass very close to me once. In the dark the crew had no idea I was there (I shouldn’t have been, mea culpa). Just a brief near miss, but quite thought provoking. Ye gods …

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I’ve never smelled burning flesh. I think I’m glad. I have enough other memories that won’t leave me alone!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Flame throwers are very effective but terrible weapons. I can imagine it did stay with Smitty haunting him for the rest of his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. How awful for your father to have such a ghastly memory lodged in his mind, so that every now and again, it is awakened.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Impressive, hearing your father’s personal account of having seen flamethrowers in action. Unforgettable, I’m certain. Happy to hear Memphis Belle is at WPAF. It’s been several decades since I was at the museum. It wasn’t far from where I grew up. On my first visit as a kid (I think with the Cub Scouts), the museum was still full of displays of the handmade things WWII POWs in Europe and Asia had done in camps, since the war had only been over maybe 15 years at that point. Probably they’re filed away now. But I saw the LATEST technology: an X-15!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish kids today would go on field trips more often to these museums. Maybe it would instill some patriotic pride in the younger generations!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That, and provide some context and substance to lists of dates, names, events they encounter in whatever study they get in school that often lacks immediacy and relationship to the lives of people. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, the way schools teach history is useless. Names and dates give no perspective.

          Like

          • Not to wear this subject out … I think about this fairly often. There’s an enormous amount of STUFF to learn, and it’s extremely difficult to put it in context. For example, only NOW am I getting my arms around the Napoleonic era. I just read War & Peace. Well, duh, difficult to understand what Tolstoy’s lecturing us about (and boy, does he lecture) unless you know how Russia, Austria, Prussia, German and England all fit into the fabric of the time. So, kids do have to learn some chronological/thematic frameworks, but filling in the human stories takes enormous effort. I don’t know how to do that without reading, reading reading. Thanks for putting up with this.

            Liked by 1 person

  20. I hadn’t known flamethrowers saw much use in the war… glad to have learned another new fact from your site! I’m fortunate enough to have never smelled burning flesh like that, but I live not far from a hospital, and when they have their incinerators burning, you know it’s not regular household waste they’re burning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the Pacific, the Japanese often hung out in the caves and tunnels and wouldn’t come out to surrender, so the flame thrower was used – an awful death. I can’t imagine living near that hospital!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Wonderful post!

    That is so exciting about the “Memphis Belle”! I will be visiting the Air Force Museum in April so hopefully I’ll get to see her! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Still laughing at those Mauldin cartoons!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. When reading Smitty’s comment about flame throwers, I had a flashback to when I was 8 – 9 years old and trying to quiz my maternal grandfather about his experiences in WWI. He had done “trench duty” in France. He refused to talk about it. As a child, with romanticized visions of war in my head, I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t talk about his time in the war. Now I get it …

    • 

    On a different topic, if you haven’t seen “Darkest Hour”, go see it! There are some historical inaccuracies, but altogether it is a fine film and Gary Oldman is most convincing as Churchill. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, is a Churchill scholar who recently published “Churchill’s Trial”. Gary Oldman is a friend of his. Arnn put together a 1 minute video touting the movie: https://lp.hillsdale.edu/darkest-hour/?appeal_code=MK118EM4&utm_campaign=darkest_hour&utm_source=housefile&utm_medium=email&utm_content=video_review_email1&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8jzMDFyZQMwjTDEeqUf_TTaTORj752sI39IElze9AjA_XUG8BteX6OJQg-RGfnpIxtGgqAoE-Oa5AKlRbZ5dH7wIKV1Q&_hsmi=60103052

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Street fighting is a grim thing.clearing houses, every meter is hard fought. The guys that took Manila were seriously brave. I sure wouldn’t want to face a flamethrower. Those things were thankfully banned, but probably necessary in these circumstances. Reading these posts makes me realize how good we have it today. We complain a great deal, but when I read things like this, I realize that I don’t have much to complain about at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Your father’s memory and its lasting effects tells this story as clearly as your description of the maneuvers and strategies of the fighting armies. Where was he when the battle for Manila was going on?

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I saw pictures of Manila before and after the war and it is sad to see the results of what the war did to the city. Manila will never be the same again. One could only wish for the old times to return.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I was horrified about the terrible effects of a flame thrower. While all weapons are designed to kill, some weapons have been banned by the Geneva convention and I wonder whether flame throwers according to your knowledge are now on the list, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As far as I know, weapons such as flame throwers are illegal to be used where civilians may be hurt, but otherwise legal on soldiers. They aren’t really used these days anyway. Good question, Peter.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. It’s not necessary as the hard battle was won, but I do often wonder what might have happened if it had been lost at such a stage in the Pacific war.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. My generation and succeeding ones have been desensitized by war movies and violence in media so much that we’ve never realized these scenes bring back traumatic memories from those who actually lived through the war.

    As for Manila, do you know that the city has never quite recovered from the destruction of WW2? It used to be called the Pearl of the Orient, pre-war. It would never be again. If you come here now, it still looks like a war zone. Sure, there are pocket developments with skyscrapers and landscaping, but most of the city is just squalor.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Smitty was spot-on about burning flesh. During all my time as an EMT, I attended many serious burns cases, and large fires. Burned people is something that never leaves your senses.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Fascinating, and the addition of Smitty’s thoughts make it that more real – and horrifying. Once again, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: February 1945 (3) | PenneyVanderbilt

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