Leyte 1944 | Another Eye Witness Account

John Holland, 11th Airborne Division

For another insight into the landing at Bito Beach, Leyte, John Holland, of the 675th Glider Field Artillery/11th Airborne Division speaks here…

“February 18, 1943, I was assigned and shipped by train to Camp MacKall, Hoffman, North Carolina, and I arrived on the 22th.  The Army had started their 1st Airborne Division, which included glider and paratroops together.  A division of about 8,000 included artillery, infantry, engineering, anti-aircraft artillery, tanks and support units.

“I was assigned to  675th Field Artillery, Battery A unit.  This was a unit of 105 howitzers, short barrel with split rails to fit in the gliders for transport to battle areas.  I was in the Communication Section which had to set up telephones and switchboards to all positions and also radio.

After landing on Leyte… ” Further enemy action did not occur until just before dark when 3 Japanese planes came in from the east, over the high area inland and dropped 2 bombs; one was a dud and the other exploded just east of our area. The planes circled and started back to us, then turned away as 7 of our planes intercepted and shot down a Zeke.

Spotters | 11th Airborne

“Then about dark, we heard incoming shells and we all hit the fox holes.  All shells hit either on the beach or short of our position.  At about 2000 hours, a groups of Japanese soldiers started hollering and running to our position.  We killed all but one and he fell into a large hole before he got to us.  The next day, just north of our position, several LSTs landed cameramen and reporters.”

John’s unit stayed on the beach for 2 more days and nights under fire from enemy planes an ground troops.  On the 4th day, they began to move inland.  It took the 2 weeks to push through the center of Leyte’s rough terrain to the coast.  When they got there, they helped the people of the villages put their houses back together.

Many of our soldiers were stricken by yellow jaundice and malaria.   We received replacements and started moving to several small islands, securing them and cleaning pockets of Japanese soldiers from them..”

This excerpt is from an article that first ran in “The Voice of the Angels” newspaper for the 11th Airborne Div. Assoc.

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Military Humor – 

“Them wuz his exack words – ‘I envy th’ way you dogfaces git first pick o’ wimmen an’ likker in towns”‘

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Farewell Salutes – 

W. Emmett “Bud” Barnes (103) – Coeur d’Alene, ID; US Army, WWII / US Army Reserves (Ret.30 y.)

Guerrino “Reno” Belmessieri – San Francisco, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Pfc.

Farewell

Larry Goergen  (100) – Osage, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Patrick J. Hernandez – Harlingen, TX; US Army,108th MP Co./503/16th MP Brigade

Octavious Mabine – Portsmouth, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Mess Attendant 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor, HI)

Carl Madsen – Weldon Spring, MO; US Air Force  /  NFL re-play official

Melva Phillips – Sal Lake City, UT; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

Thaddeus Piekos (101) – White Plains, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Armand C. Sedgeley – SD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, bombardier

Lloyd C. Wade – Westminster, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Abraham Woods – Marion, AL; US Army, Vietnam, Pfc. # 63004267, Co. C/4/9/25th Infantry Division, KIA

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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 November 1, 2021, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 104 Comments.

  1. I LOVE to read eyewitness accounts.
    A true window into the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for another eyewitness account, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I may be late to the party, GP, but I’m so glad I didn’t miss this one. I enjoy the first person stories. They help bring us a true perspective as to what war is really like. I think if more people told and read these stories, we might have less of an urge to fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was important and a great read, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. GP, you continue to find such extraordinary accounts of this part of history. Thanks so much for sharing them, and presenting them in a way that makes them even more interesting. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. GP, hearing you express disgust for woke culture many times, I thought you might get a kick out of the James Carville tweet, that I read via an article written in the UK

    “What went wrong is just stupid wokeness. Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Wash. I mean, this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools. I mean that — people see that,” Carville said.

    “It’s just really — has a suppressive effect all across the country on Democrats. Some of these people need to go to a ‘woke’ detox center or something,” he added. “They’re expressing a language that people just don’t use, and there’s backlash and a frustration at that.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My Navy father was at Leyte. He was aboard the cruiser USS Phoenix and fought at Surigao Strait. Later, not sure exactly how much later, his ship docked there, and his cousin, an Army captain, learned my father’s ship was in the battle and had docked. So he got in his jeep every day, drove to the Phoenix, and waited for my father to come down the gangplank. After a few days, my father did this and his cousin drove him around the immediate area in his jeep. Then they heard some shooting in the jungle, and my father asked him to go where the shooting was, as he was curious as to what was happening. Well, his cousin told my father he was crazy and didn’t take him into the jungle. That was my father!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Lulu: “So … in the army you get to dig big holes and then sit in them? Do you think I could join the army?”
    Charlee: “I don’t think it’s quite like digging for gophers in the yard, Lulu.”
    Chaplin: “Yeah, and you’re so scared of the artillery at the base, I really don’t think the front lines are the place for you.”
    Lulu: “Hmm, good point. I’ll just keep digging holes in the yard then.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really appreciate your internet friendship, and the likes that you put on my posts. Your work is very good, and I encourage you to continue with the same degree of excellence that you put into all of you work. Please consider how your articles may affect other people, people who live around the world, and that, unfortunately, you will probably never meet. Still, you bless people with you facts and ideas, and will bless even more, as time progresses.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. History reading in books is so different than reading letters from soldiers.It must be so dangerous on the beach between bombs ,the ennemies and shooting. Soldiers are so strong but things as war stay always as nightmares

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Reading about the personal experiences just breaks my heart but also makes me proud of them all for being so brave!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This really caught my attention: “I was in the Communication Section which had to set up telephones and switchboards to all positions and also radio.” We’ve nearly forgotten what it was like to have to “make do” with Princess phones, let alone rotary phones and operators. Communications was critical, and they made it work. Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Only one reason why they were the Greatest Generation. The tales of their ingenuity, stamina and reason are nearly endless. I dare say, Linda, that we will never see another generation like them!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you! I love reading the actual words of people who lived through these situations…historians can spin things one way or another, but I believe the truth comes from the uncensored words of those who were in the middle of the action.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. A terrifying night. Sounds like they got through the attack without any casualties though. Is that correct?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I also looked up Octavious Mabine. I’m thankful for the DNA testing that can be done these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “Octavious Mabine – Portsmouth, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO…”

    Octavius Mabine was killed aboard USS Oklahoma, December 7, 1941. Identified, Nov. 24, 2020. A rosette will be placed beside his name on the Walls of the Missing at Punchbowl Cemetery to indicate he has been accounted for. It is expected that his remains will be transferred to Arlington National Cemetery.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. More real history from real young men in a faraway land. I should think it would be possible to tell the story of a whole campaign using just letters back to Mom and Dad!
    That’s a lovely photograph of a funeral by the way. I love those big old horses. They’re the sort that used to carry knights in armour around, although not in the USA obviously!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The horse and carriage are used at Arlington Cemetery. The Old Guard” is a term used for The 3rd U.S. Infantry, which is the Army’s oldest active infantry regiment, predates the Constitution, tracing its origin to 1784. The unit was designated the official ceremonial troop of the Army. Those buried there and other areas are our knights.
      Thank you for everything, John.

      Like

  18. Another great post, GP. Thank you for bringing the personal stories to this history. Always a pleasure reading your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Can’t even imagine the terror of having bombs bursting all around as you hid away in a foxhole. Then having to suffer from terrible diseases as you moved on. Not a pretty picture.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. My dad did the same job of setting up the radio and telephone communications. His eyesight was too bad to trust him with trying to shoot anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thanks, G, for another tale of just how difficult it was. Enjoyed the cartoon of the guys in the blown out town. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Malaria, dysentery, and venomous snakes were prevalent in the Philippines and most likely worse than fighting the Japanese. Love the cartoons about cruise ships. They don’t know anything about hardships. Pathetic!.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you for another view, GP. Super cartoons too.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Reblogged this on Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News and commented:
    “Then about dark, we heard incoming shells and we all hit the fox holes. All shells hit either on the beach or short of our position. At about 2000 hours, a groups of Japanese soldiers started hollering and running to our position. We killed all but one and he fell into a large hole before he got to us. The next day, just north of our position, several LSTs landed cameramen and reporters.”

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Appreciated always learning more … thank you GP and always the images make me wonder what were they thinking and reflecting on…history. 🤓🙏have a good day ~ smiles hedy

    Liked by 1 person

  26. One cant really put themself into this situation. Malaria and the war itself. Horrible days, and a unclear future. Thanks for sharing another piece of the past, GP. I hope you had a nice Halloween, and stay furthermore well. xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • I decorated for Halloween, but being in an ‘over 55 community’ we did not get any kids trick or treating. Rather quiet night except for somebody shooting off fireworks for about an hour.

      Like

  27. An uncle was at Anzio…anti malaria pills were issued and those who took them were hors de combat for a few days which upset the planning somewhat! He did not take them and ended up carrying out the duties of thise who were ill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Strange, I never heard of anyone getting sick in the PTO from the Atabrine, but everyone is different, eh? Your Dad must have just been thrilled with that development! ugh!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Good report of what the troops went through. It amazes me. The joke about how tough it was for the stranded cruise ship says a lot. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Love the ‘toons and the how he describes the hardship. I think that disease has been a serious factor in many of the wars we have fought–disease changes with the war/location.
    And soldiers preferring the disease to the medicine hasn’t really changed. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Picking up dangerous diseases often caused more damage than weapons

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Great Post GP. Yeah, the Military’s legacy in combatting malaria makes for some nightmare reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many refused to take the Atabrine because of how it made your skin look. Even if you took it, it was still possible to get the disease, but not as strongly. Remember, the Americans had never fought in such territory before.

      Like

  32. Fortunately, the Japanese forces cannon aiming techniques were faulty.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. This account goes to show that illness and disease were just as dangerous as the enemy.
    Thanks, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  34. I appreciate this.

    Like

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