New Orders for the 11th Airborne

Lt. Gen. Joseph May Swing

21 January 1945 – Gen. Swing announced to his 11th Airborne Division that he was ordering up a review as they were transferring to the 8th Army and the reviewing officer would be none other than Gen. Robert Eichelberger.  Swing had received Field Order Number 17 which gave him the order to prepare for Luzon.

Luzon was the most populated, most highly developed and the most historical island in the archipelago.  It was a land of wild boars, birds, snakes, reptiles, feral dogs, tons of insects and an enemy hiding within the cogon grass at every turn. (the plant had coarse spikes with “silky” hairs that made your skin feel as those hundreds of critters crawled beneath it.)  There was always a threat of dengue fever, that is contracted from a mosquito and if left untreated resulted in bleeding and death, and we can’t forget malaria.

The 6th Army, under Gen. Krueger, was already in the midst of all this trying to reach Manila.  MacArthur had told Eichelberger how upset he was at their slow progress to get to the capital and added, “speed up your ‘palsey-walsey,’ Krueger doesn’t radiate courage.”  Ergo – a rivalry was born and a race between the 6th and 8th Armies would exist – the problem was – the 11th A/B had been given more than one priority as their mission.

Generals Swing and Eichelberger making plans for the 11th Airborne

As X-Day approached, the pace of activity increased dramatically.  The division’s supply loading plan put the responsibility on the unit commanders.  The G-4, Roy Stout, set up a special section to load the 11th and all ran efficiently despite not knowing what vessels the Navy would be sending.  But on 25 January, most of the supply ships were completely loaded within 24 hours.


The LCI’s (Landing Craft Infantry), arrived at 0700 hours on 27 January and a convoy of almost 100 ships pulled out to sea that afternoon, under the command of Adm. Fechteler, and headed south through Mindanao Sea and then swung north.  The LCI’s were crowded and there were no cooking facilities, the men ate “10-in-1” rations rather than having the customary steak and eggs before a landing.

Adm. Flechteler

Most of the sailing days were spent in map study, planning and orientation.  All the troopers would be so well briefed on the terrain from aerial photographs and mock-up reliefs that their landing somehow felt like déjà-vu.  Excess baggage was not carried – only what the men could carry on their backs.  Personal baggage would not be seen for 2 months.

General Eichelberger wrote his wife, Miss Emmalina, of the beauty in watching the large naval convoy and he marveled at their expertise.  He noted the Navy’s ability to keep their sense of humor, despite the seriousness of their voyage.  Before landing on 31 January, he heard over the loud speaker system, “Sick call _ all sick, lame and lazy report to sick bay.”  He also commented that Gen. Swing was grand to deal with.

Eichelberger would write in his book, “Now the stage was set for what I regard as one of the most thrilling exploits for the Pacific War – the 11th Airborne’s dash for Manila”

References: “Our Road to Tokyo”, by Gen. Robert Eichelberger; “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division,” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan Jr.; “Rakkasans” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan and “Dear Miss Em”, by Gen. Robert Eichelberger

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

June Boykin – Philadelphia, PA; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

James E. Carl (101) – Tulsa, OK; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO,P-51 pilot, Lt. Colonel (Ret.)

Sea Captain

Kenneth Dower – New Haven, CT; US Navy, WWII / USMC, Korea

Myles W. Esmay, Utica, NY; US Army, WWII, CBI, 1st Lt. # 0-491925, Co B/236th Engineer Combat Battalion (Merrill’s Marauders), KIA (Myitkyina, BUR)

William Jordon – Waynesville, NC; USMC, WWII / US Army, 82nd Airborne Division

Calvin Keaton – Ironton, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO

Dennis F. Melton – Waverly, TN; US Air Force, Nigeria, SSgt., 768th Expeditionary AB Squadron/Nigerian AB 101

Harry C. Nivens (100) – Pinesville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 101st Airborne Division, Purple Heart

Claude White – Dyersburg, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Chief Water Tender # 2948177, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor, HI)

Ian Woodrow – brn. IRE; British Merchant Marines, WWII

William M. Zoellick – Cook County, IL; US Army, Korea, Pfc # 26368528, Co B/1/9/2nd Infantry Division, POW, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

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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 February 28, 2022, in First-hand Accounts, SMITTY, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 102 Comments.

  1. Luzon does not sound like the kind of place anyone would want to visit for any reason. That 11th Division was special and always had some kind of special assignment. Did find it strange that General Eichelberger found beauty in the naval convoy. Only a General would think like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, perhaps. Seeing that many ships sailing in one direction for one goal, would look pretty to a general. Smitty thought tracer bullets at night were beautiful – if you didn’t have to think about what their purpose was.

      Like

  2. You are well on your way to write a major treaty on modern war. 👏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so interesting. I like this story. Thank you for sharing. 😊🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent post…thx for posting!

    Regarding the Philippines, I used to know a man who was on the Bataan Death March. He had many interesting stories to tell. I’m so grateful to all of the brave people who fought for our freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always enjoy your reflections on the Philippines.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a great read, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A great read! Thank you for posting 👌

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I know my father caught malaria over there during the war. What a gauntlet these soldiers went through!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It was nice going through the blog. You know GP, when we are sick, body needs healthy fluids than a fool meal. Once I was affected with Dengue fever. I drank more water and fruits juices in regular intervals without getting admitted into the hospital and was healed. The only thing we have to do is take rest. Was recovered in a week. No need to worry when a person is sick.Have a good day and Happiness Always be with you.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Malaria’s one thing, but Dengue is quite another. They don’t call it ‘breakbone fever’ for nothing. One of the side benefits of reading your entries is that it’s made discussions of certain recent events more understandable. That forty-mile-long convoy headed to Kiev is one example. What I’ve read here about the difficulty of maintaining supply lines and such has taken on a whole new reality.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You bring up a good point, Linda. In the era I write about, there were no computers to figure the logistics, yet I do not recall ever reading about Allied soldiers going hungry.
      Here, today, with most everyone carrying a computer in their pocket (and calling it a phone), Russian soldiers are already hungry, running out of fuel and other supplies after less than a week. It’s hard to comprehend.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Onder welke druk zullen die soldaten gestaan hebben in vijandig gebied vol gevaren voor hindernissen maar ook bedreigt door planten en insecten.
    Hou er de moed dan maar in

    Liked by 3 people

  12. This was an excellent read GP. How terrifying and amazing at same time. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the horrifying to keep your sanity haha. Thanks for the post!/

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Gosh, not easy to got the service done, when there also was rivalry and a race. Maybe sometimes this will force the last reserves, but the new location does not sound like a preferable place. Thanks for sharing, G.P.! Have a nice week! xx Michael

    Liked by 3 people

    • And you as well, Michael. I thank you very much for stopping by and reading it. Everything that affected my father means a great to me.

      Like

  14. The daunting conditions are so well described here

    Liked by 3 people

  15. The jungle in the Philippines sounds a lovely place ! What a pity that the Japanese felt they had to seize it all, and then somebody had the job of getting rid of them all!
    By the way, I loved the cartoon at the awards ceremony. It reminded me strongly of the reality of many of the music awards ceremonies we get on TV.

    Liked by 6 people

    • haha, you are exactly right, John!
      Good analogy about the award. I thought it was like the children’s “participation” trophies for being in a sport where they didn’t even keep score. 🙄😏

      Liked by 1 person

    • The cartoon was a lot like “Elbonia’s Got Talent,” where judges say, “When you came out on stage, I got one look at you and thought, “Hooooee, this guy is really gonna stink, and I was shocked to find out you weren’t mediocre as soon as I heard you sing. Maybe you could do something about those awful teeth.” The horrible part is, those shows are scripted! They say those things intentionally.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Is it just me, or does Eichelberger’s phrasing of “one of the most thrilling exploits for the Pacific War” have a touch of Boy’s Own Adventure about it? No acknowledgement of the threat the men were approaching?

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think he might have been trying to explain the exuberation of getting so close to Japan. Eichelberger had spent a very long time involved in taking back New Guinea. And you know what the Australian and American soldiers went through to do that.

      Liked by 2 people

    • For the sake of morale, it’s unwise to mention the danger. The men knew all too well what the downside of battle is. Inventing an upside takes a lot of creativity, for which we must give Eichelberger credit.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I take your point, and it is well founded, but I understood in this context Eichelberger was writing after the war. I think GP has hit the nail on the head. With the exhilaration of finally being so close to Japan, and ‘perhaps’ an end in sight, that is how the commander in the know felt.

        Liked by 3 people

  17. I never get tired of reading your posts. Real people. 💔

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Great story of preparation. More to follow I hope. Thanks, GP.

    Liked by 4 people

  19. Luzon was one hellhole alright, everything from dengue fever to wild boars — it’s great how those guys always kept their sense of humor — but, dammit, no steak and eggs before landing! Now that’s a tough break. (Just gave me a hankering for steak and eggs — my dinner tonight.)

    Liked by 4 people

  20. “Having the customary steak and eggs before a landing” – knowing it might be their last supper. The Cogon grass has sharp edges on its leaves and can cut your skin. I know someone who went near it when he wanted to shave his legs and let the cogon grass did it for him.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Actually, I think the steak and eggs was more for the protein energy they would need, but for many , you are probably right.
      A handy item for shaving indeed, Rose.
      Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Bad enough having to fight the enemy, but having to cope with the local plant life and insects makes it doubly miserable.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Very dramatic writing, but then, history is dramatic, isn’t it. Was MacArthur often blunt and sarcastic? Great post.

    Liked by 5 people

  23. Love that binoculars reference to the need for an asset transfer document. >grin<

    Liked by 5 people

  24. Good history, GP. BTW, if I haven’t mentioned before, you always pick great graphics for the Farewell. Section.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. What a huge undertaking! How crucial planning and logistics are really comes into play.

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Really enjoy reading about the exploits of the 11th Abn.

    Liked by 4 people

  27. Interesting to have inter corps rivalry as a strategy to move things on!

    Liked by 4 people

  28. I loved this episode, GP. I had to look up “10-in-1” rations” which came as a surprise because I have read so much about WWII. Supply Officers are unfairly maligned–Putin’s tanks running out of diesel is a current example if your logistics efforts can not meet the demands of the moment. Your cartoon reminds me of a sailor on my husband’s first ship, who got an award for keeping all of the coke machines operational during their WestPac. Six months later, he got a Dear John letter from his boyfriend on the Midway while the ship was in drydock. He was the duty Supply person and ran around the barge, where everyone was quartered while the ship was in drydock, setting fires. They took him off in handcuffs. He was returned to the ship the following day. The CDO had to hustle him off the ship before some of his shipmates tried to kill him because he had almost murdered some of them who were trapped below decks by the fires.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Trust the Navy to keep their sense of humor!

    Liked by 5 people

  30. Great reading today, GP. I feel the tension building.

    Liked by 4 people

  31. The tension builds! A good read!

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Thank you, Bruce.

    Like

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