Leyte, eye-witness account from Gen. Robert Eichelberger

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, left, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, right.

“Eighth Army took over Leyte on Christmas Day.  There were 8 divisions fighting there when I assumed command.  When the 32nd Div. and 1st Cavalry broke through on a narrow front, GHQ described the Leyte campaign as officially closed and future operations as “mopping-up.”

“Actually, the Japanese Army was still intact.  I was told there were only 6,000 Japanese left on the island.  This estimate was in serious error.  Soon, Japanese began streaming across the Ormoc Valley, well equipped and apparently well-fed.  It took several months of the roughest kind of combat to defeat this army.  Between Christmas Day and the end of the campaign, we killed more than 27,000 Japanese.

Leyte painting, “FOLLOW ME!” by Col Aubrey Newman

“Many others, evacuated safely by bancas (small boats), and reappeared to fight the 8th Army on other islands.  I called these singularly alive veteran troops the Ghosts of Leyte.

“I am a great admirer of Gen. MacArthur as a military strategist…  But I must admit that after 6 years serving under him, I never understood the public relations policy that either he or his assistants established.  It seems to me ill advised to announce victories when a first phase had been accomplished…

“Too often, as at Buna, Sanananda, as on Leyte, Mindanao and Luzon, the struggle was to go on for a long time. Often these announcements produce bitterness among combat troops, and with good cause.  The phrase “mopping-up” had no particular appeal for a haggard, muddy sergeant of the Americal Division whose platoon had just been wiped out in western Leyte…  Or to the historian of the 11th Airborne, who wrote:

‘Through mud and rain, over treacherous rain-swollen gorges, through jungle growth, over slippery, narrow, root-tangled, steep foot trails, the Angels pushed wet to clear the Leyte mountain range…  It was bitter, exhausting, rugged fighting – physically the most terrible we were ever to know.’

11th Airborne field artillery on Leyte

The combat infantryman deserved the best and usually fared the poorest in the matter of sugar plums, luxuries and mail from home.  The home folks in America were vastly generous, but transport to the front could not always carry out their good intentions.  Ammunition and rations came first.  This – the G.I. could understand… But, it was disconcerting to find out he had only been “mopping -up”.

“If there is another war, I recommend that the military and the correspondents and everyone else concerned, drop the phrase “mopping-up” from their vocabularies.  It is NOT a good enough phrase to die for.”

This post is from “Our Jungle Road to Tokyo” by General Robert Eichelberger.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Clifford H. Bailey – Acoma, NM; (Acoma Indian Reservation); US Army Air Corps, Japanese Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Benjamin R. Bazzell – Seymour, CT; US Army, Korea, Cpl; HQ/57FA/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

Chester Benoit – Putnam, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 503/11th Airborne Division

James E. Cruise – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, Navigator/ Flight Officer

Charles W. Harpe Jr. – Ashland, KY; USMC, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Captain (Ret. 33 y.)

Anthony F. Mendonca – Waipahu, HI; US Army, WWII, PTO, Co A/106/27th Infantry Division, KIA (Saipan)

Lawrence Overley – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII, Fire Controlman 2nd Class #3820643, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor, HI)

Robert Leslie Putnam – Mason, OH; US Army Air Corps, Japanese Occupation / Korea, 188 &187th/11th Airborne Division // Deputy Sheriff, Police Chief

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/224877961/robert-leslie-putnam

James N. Stryker – W.Nanticoke, PA; US Army, Korea, Sgt., Co. L/3/23/2nd Infantry Division, KIA (Han’gye, SK)

Morris E. Swackhammer – Binghamton, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO, Pfc., Co. C/1/143/36th Infantry Division, KIA (Fraize, FRA)

Flora Wilhelm – Evansville, IN; Civilian, WWII, aircraft riveter

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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 13, 2021, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 107 Comments.

  1. Thank you the story and providing an education on this blog site.
    I will reblog your new post
    https://sarkarifocus.com/category/jobs/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Americaoncoffee

    McArthur knew enough American psychology to successfully use it against the Japanese. When he said he’d be back, he did return kicking many Japanese out of the Philippines.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Last night hubby and I watched Hacksaw Ridge. Eye-opening movie! As I read your post, I was brought back into this Okinawa battle. Thank you for sharing these stories, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You need to learn what real humility is and stop living off the laurels of others in the past that you can’t light a candle to, living in your artificial world of ego caressing or clicks! Grow up!

    Like

    • I do not consider honoring my father and others that fought for us ( such as your right to criticize my site ) as caressing my ego. I don’t make money on this site, nor have I ever taken credit away from them.
      Try having some patriotism or refrain from visiting here.

      Like

  5. Amazing recollections and stories.

    Like

  6. Thank you once again for the stories and for providing an education on this blog site, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In regard to the tribute posted to my Dad, Robert Leslie Putnam, he was never in the “US Army Air Corps” as stated in the post. He was in the 11th Airborne Division twice. From 1945 to 1946 and from 1953 to 1956. During his second stint, he was in a “Heavy Drop” unit with the 11th Airborne, helping to drop supplies from C-119 Flying Boxcar aircraft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, agreed Paul. But the 11th A/B was part of the Army Air Corps until 1947 when the Air Force was formed and the 11th stayed as part of the Army. If it offends you in any way, I will be happy to edit it for you.

      Like

      • Right. The time period that Dad was in Heavy Drop, was well after 1947. As I stated, he was in Heavy Drop during his second stint which was an enlistment (he was drafted the first time). This was from 1952 to 1956 in the 11th Airborne of the US Army. The first couple years of his second stint he was an assistant platoon sgt. training new troops, then after his back injury he went to Heavy Drop. All at Fort Campbell.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Right. Dad was in the 11th twice. Drafted at the end of WWII, (1945-1946) and re-enlisted during Korea (1952-1956). I posted here in March 2019 of his injury at Ft. Campbell in 1955 and then his obit that I linked in Dec 2021 has the full story of his life & service including his transfer to Heavy Drop after his back injury. This was 8 years after the Air Corps became the Air Force. He was never a part of the Army Air Corps. Thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I need to add that Dad was an (airborne) infantryman both times that he was in the Army, but during his second time in, after his 1955 back injury, is when he went to Heavy Drop and also the Parachute Maintenance group. Thx again.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. On using the term ‘mopping up’, i think it’s more to address the general public and give them some morale boost. McArthur was always a media item, and he wanted to show the public that he was winning his war for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for all of the good work that you do with your blog, and for your continued following and likes of my posts. I appreciate your friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, Helen Devries on the above comment put it right, mopping up, it’s picking up the shit left, and that’s the worst part of it.
    Happy Holiday season for you GP

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Buone Festività ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That sounds like such a difficult time, GP. And thanks for the humor. Nice to end with a smile. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and beautiful new year. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So much was learned about MacArthur after the fact and it’s lucky for him there wasn’t internet and social media then. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It was probably pretty difficult for the families waiting at home to understand why “mopping up” was taking so long too.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. GP, you ended this on a truly powerful note. Well done. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. We surely take Christmas for granted nowadays…

    I hope you have a blessed holiday season and I wish you all the best in 2022.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Another post with so much information I never knew! Thank you GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The army hated that word “mopping up,” and I don’t blame them. I remember Matt saying his brother was “mopping up” in Okinawa. In spite of MacArthur’s personality flaws, he is revered among Filipinos!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Great post! Thank you for keeping this history alive.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Mopping up does not seem like a phrase for this kind of combat. MacArthur must have been feeling his Wheeties and wanting to make things sound better than they were. That’s not worth the lives of so many.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It wasn’t just Mac using the term. It was common for the second wave of troops to be called that.
      Dan Antion’s father was there and certainly did not appreciate the wording.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. There are times when ‘mopping up’ is exactly the right phrase, but it generally is more suited to cleaning up my kitchen after an unfortunate accident than carrying out an extended military operation! That underestimation of Japanese troop strength is interesting, too. An intelligence failure is one thing, but wishful thinking is another. Sometimes it’s hard to determine which is in play.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve heard a lot of derogatory and laughable comments about military intelligence, but as you say, it is difficult to know which was happening here. Too bad they didn’t have the technology of today to help them.
      Thanks, Linda!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Wat een geweldige strijd weer, gelukkig waren er de leuke momenten getekend in de cartoons vol humor ,die me deden glimlachen

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dank je, MaryLou. Zoals we allebei weten, is elke strijd moeilijk en niet zonder slachtoffers. Daarom is de militaire humor zo belangrijk voor hen en voor ons.

      Like

  23. I can see where “mopping up” would offend people who were required to sacrifice their lives for this phase of the operation.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. If you are interested in two possible stories for this site, contact me at kerriblogger@gmail.com.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I see this like Pete! Words are sometimes very important. xx Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I have to agree about the badly-used phrase ‘mopping up’. Where the Japanese and the German SS were concerned, ‘mopping up’ involved extremely hard fighting, and many thousands of killed and wounded.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Thanks for this very illuminating post GP. I agree with Eichelberger and have mixed feelings about MacArthur. His prima donna personality may have led to the humiliating and costly disaster in Korea in November 1950.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know a bit about Korea, but what exactly are you mentioning with November 1950? The Battle of Unsan or the start of the Chosin Reservoir?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Apologies for being unspecific but yes I’m referring to the collapse of all UN forces near the Yalu River border with China under a massive Chinese counterattack that began around November 25, 1950. The collapse stretched from the Ch’ongch’on River in the west to the area around the Chosin Reservoir in the east. If reports are accurate and I remember correctly, MacArthur ignored many troubling reports about a Chinese build up and likely intervention that his forces would be unable to withstand. On the other hand, MacArthur was also responsible for conceiving and executing the brilliant Incheon landings near Seoul in September 1950 that cut communist supply lines, relieved the Pusan Perimeter, and totally change the course of the war in favor of the UN forces. It may be that MacArthur left tens of thousands of US and UN troops in an untenable situation near the Yalu because he couldn’t contemplate the possibility that he might be wrong about Chinese intervention. That’s a layman’s opinion. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

        Liked by 1 person

  28. An excellent piece which shows that at least one of the top brass understood the reality of combat and the horrors that so many men had to endure in pursuit of victory.
    I tried Wikipedia but I couldn’t really find an answer. Had MacArthur ever fought in prolonged combat such as the “mopper-ups” were involved in?

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Fascinating post, GP. Did the military ever get rid of the words “mopping up”?

    Liked by 2 people

  30. I remember being in grade school when Truman fired MacArthur for insubordination. We kids thought he was a hero and couldn’t understand. Like George Patton, MacArthur was a larger-than-life character that was needed in those times. I can’t imagine it felt good to hear your commander so far off base when it came to actual conditions. I get that feeling about Joe Biden but don’t have to face enemy bullets in addition. Super post, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. It’s obvious from the article that General Eichelberger cared deeply about the men who fought and died under his command.

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Intel was way off. Yikes. And love the McChrystal humor.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Well done, GP. General Eichelberger said what he was thinking, and I think he was right.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. Father used to refer to mopping up operations as ‘following the Lord Mayor’s procession’, from the annual procession of the new Lord Mayor of London, mostly horse drawn in that period, which was followed by crews of men picking u the shit.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Love GEN Eichelberger’s account. McCrystal lived at Ft. McNair when I worked at NDU. I kept looking to see how long he stayed in his quarters. Can’t remember how long it was but it was longer than I expected. Great cartoons as always.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. I think I’ll print this out the next time we visit Pittsburgh and I’ll tuck it in next to my dad’s headstone. Thank you GP for publishing this account and thanks to this General for saying what my dad would have loved to have heard. You made my day!

    Liked by 8 people

  37. Loved the military humor today, GP!

    Liked by 3 people

  38. It’s no secret that MacArthur was rather egotistical. One could argue that this character flaw sometimes rubbed people the wrong way–from the POTUS on down to his personnel.

    Liked by 5 people

    • True, but it was his enthusiasm for grandiose statements that endeared him to the Filipino people. I think he might have been going for depressing the enemy’s hopes to win.
      Thanks for coming, Swabby!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Pingback: Leyte, eye-witness account from Gen. Robert Eichelberger – Nelsapy

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