Leyte | First-hand account – Purple Heart Hill

Purple Heart Hill

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.

Japanese woodpecker


“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.

Col. Robert Soule

“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, (Smitty’s unit)..  The bloody battle for Purple Heart Hill had lasted for almost 5 weeks.

11TH AIRBORNE HOSPITAL ON LEYTE

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

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor –

“It says: ‘I am an American with 94 points and if lost in enemy territory, Please Get Me Home”‘

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Barnett – Philadelphia, PA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Allen J. Blake – Algona, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Medical/503/11 Airborne Division

Anthony Costanzo – Queens, NY; US Army, WWII & Korea

TAPS

Francis L. Coune (102) – Tampa, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 pilot

Bob Dole – Russell, KS; US Army, WWII, ETO, Colonel, 10th Mountain Division, Bronze Star, Purple Heart  /  U.S. Senator

Buford H. Dyer – Barberton, OH; US navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

William W. Hail – Los Angeles, CA; US Air Force, Vietnam, Lt. Col. # 553421612, pilot, 1131st Special Activity Sq., MIA (Quang Tri Provence, SV)

James L. Quong – Norman, OK; US Army, Korea, MSgt., Co. D/1/32/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin, NK)

Mary Schmaelzle – Springfield, MA; Civilian, WWII, Pratt Whitney

Carl A. Scott Jr. – Savannah, GA; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

Richard A. Umstead Sr. – Chelsea, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, radioman

F. Jackson Worthington – Ontario, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

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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 December 6, 2021, in First-hand Accounts, SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. I thank you for supplying so much information in a manner that is accurate and compassionate. 🙂

    Like

  2. The casual way these veterans state the most amazing things is … well, amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for telling the stories, GP. That was good footage of the medical side of it, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Awesome article and recount of truly sad stories. My great grandfather actually served in the battle of Leyte gulf!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And we all know what Sherman thought of war.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for your like of my post, “Revelation 20;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Can’t imagine those 5 weeks fighting in a hill called Purple Heart Hill…

    Liked by 3 people

  8. So many others have commented on what caught my attention: five weeks’ worth of battle for that hill. Apart from everything else those men have to teach us, their willingness to persevere in circumstances like that stands in sharp contrast to a generation or two who haven’t a clue what deferred gratification looks like. Of course they wanted out of there; but they stayed.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you very much for that comment, Linda. Some people ask me why I have blogged about the Pacific side of the war longer than it actually lasted – I think you found the answer!!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Bedankt voor de verhalen uit de eerste hand die kan je hier alleen lezen

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Thanks for telling the stories. On this 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I realize how polarizing the subject matter is now in our society, and I wonder how we will carry the memories into the future divided. We cannot forget about history but is there a way of remembering those who have sacrificed for us and yet do so in a way that heals? Can we do both?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I do believe that wholeheartedly. But I know there are those who look for things to be angry about. All I can do is try to teach the history and hope the reader comes up a proper and sane reaction.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Aim for the Cat – 😉 I got a good laugh out of that.
    Very Interesting history – thanks !

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I enjoyed that, thank you for sharing. Pfc J Chiesa anticipated much of modern warfare with his answer to the colonel. After D-Day, going across Normandy eastwards, much use was made of air support by Hawker Typhoons, armed with rockets. They waited in taxi rank style and, on occasion, the troops on the ground were able to order an air strike on the enemy positions ahead of them, rather like phoning for takeaway.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Enjoyed this post and that supplies video was interesting

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Killer post, GP. Not often a person who who walked the walk actually tells what happened.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. These first-person accounts are outstanding, GP. Thanks. I enjoyed the video as well. Also, thank you for the farewell salute to Bob Doyle.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. As soon as I read the title, I knew what I was in for. What a battle.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. No prizes for interpreting the name

    Liked by 2 people

  18. It is good to see in the film clip that the good old Piper Cub was so useful out in the jungle.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. It says a lot for the basic training given to those drafted into the services that they could react automatically in a situation like that described.
    Loved the sniper….

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Awesome. 5 weeks! PFC Chiesa’s tactic of bombing the hell out of the hill sounded logical to me, and it looks like it worked.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Purple Heart Hill? Then does the Purple Heart Medal come from this event? 😉 Great, I’ve learned something again. Thank you, GP! Wonderful information! These old video recordings with planes always a little bit look like the first steps of mankind learning to fly. xx Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Love the first-hand accounts, GP. The cartoons are wonderful, especially the Aim for the Cat. Tomorrow is the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. We also lost another member of the Greatest Generation with Bob Dole’s passing (which you acknowledge above). I miss politicians I respected whether I agreed with their politics or not. Now, it’s “Here, hold my beer”.

    Liked by 6 people

  23. I love the first hand accounts, GP, but they really make you think. Five weeks of battle. Being in a kill-or-be-killed situation, seeing a friend die in front of you and having to move on and do your job. These are things that were expected of those brave men, and they met those expectations. Thanks for bringing this story to us.

    Liked by 4 people

  24. Were surgeons trained as paratroopers to parachute into the jungle to operate on the wounded?

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Five weeks for one hill. Sherman was right when he said “War is Hell”.
    The dog/sniper photo is hilarious, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Once again brutal, but you have to admire the humour : Purple Heart Hill ! Humour eased that generation through so much really

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Looks like the prayer did work! What a day that was with a western style (rifle) duel. The Colonel seems wise and humble enough to listen to a Private. These are really good war stories you have compiled that happened in Leyte, GP! Unfortunately, it was not tackled that much in our Philippine History class. Blessings to you and your family!

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Great post and an interesting video!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Another harrowing account and example of WAR IS HELL….which got me thinking about and researching the origin of the word HELLFIGHTERS. I found this and thought you might find it educational (for want of a better term):

    https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/the-harlem-hellfighters-video

    Liked by 3 people

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