Category Archives: SMITTY

11th Airborne Division – end of 1944

 

Gen. Swing and his staff during a briefing on Leyte.

My father swore that this incident occurred, but on which island, I can not say. Although Smitty already felt great respect for his commander, General Swing, he developed even more after witnessing this event: “A bunch of us were hunkered down due to the resistance we suddenly encountered. Everyone dove for cover and tried to figure out where the bullets were coming from except one guy still standing and looking around. (The general did not have his insignia on his uniform.) One G.I. yelled out, ‘Get down you f–kin’ jerk! You want your head blown off?’ I looked over and saw it was the old man himself and thought jeez is that soldier ever going to get reamed when we get back. But, the general got down.  I asked him later that evening why he let the soldier off without a word, and answered that the kid was right!”

General Joseph Swing
[On the back of this photo. Smitty wrote, “My General”]

There are other stories about Swing that are quite similar, including one where, rather than getting down, he actually walked over to the palm tree where the sniper was firing from and pointed him out as the U.S. sharpshooters dropped him.
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Leyte, 1944

From the moment the 11th Airborne landed on Leyte, the fighting was heavy, but they made excellent process across the island. Suzuki’s Thirty-Fifth Army became desperate, especially after the fall of Ormoc, which cut off his troops from their naval supply.  Smitty’s division would soon be put back in reserve as they rest up for Luzon.
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11th A/B on Leyte, 1944

While on Leyte, the 11th A/B was attached to General Krueger’s Sixth Army. A superior reference guide to the movements of this unit can be found in the various books by, Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. (Ret.). The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division gives detailed accounts by the author, who himself was the commander of the 11th Division’s B Battery of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. And – a very nice man I might add. I was privileged to have two phone conversations with the general.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

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By the end of December, the enemy had suffered 113,221 casualties and lost 2,748 planes.  The American loss was reported at 11,217.  This time also marked the point when Japanese General Yamashita sustained perhaps the greatest defeat in his country’s history.  Ninety percent of enemy troops on Leyte were killed or committed suicide.

From Saipan, Allied B-29s were beginning to make their bombing runs over mainland Japan.

21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes.  Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.”  (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.)  He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.

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Personal Note –  About Intermission Stories – We will continue with following the chronologically and have more stories about Smitty after what I call the Intermission Stories that are filled in between the end of one year and the start of the next.  They are eye-witness accounts, data, stories that have been missed in 1944 or are leading up to 1945.  We have so many new followers, I felt it needed some explanation.  There will also be home front episodes.

I hope you all find something you’re interested in, maybe a chuckle or two or even a tear.  Please feel free to contribute any story you know about from veterans you’ve known or had a discussion with – or even your own story.  Also, remember the Farewell Salutes are for anyone to contribute to, the veteran need not be recently deceased.  Simply put their information in the comment section and I will put them on the following post.  Have a wonderful weekend everybody!!

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Military Humor – 

BUDGET CUTS

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Farewell Salutes –

Sylvan Alcabes – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII

E. Lee Bowman – Broadway, VA; US Navy, WWII

Daniel Doyle – Sarasota, FL; US Army, Major

Thomas Fahey Jr. – Boston, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Margarito Gomez – KS; US Army, WWII, CBI, Corps of Engineers, Bronze Star

Henry Hickman – Palmerston, North, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 403004, WWII, Flt. Sgt.

William Hoks – Lola, WI; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Douglas Lane – Chatham, CAN; RC Army, WWII, 17th Field Reg/3rd Forward Observer Unit

Lawrence Smith – Poughkeepsie, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, Yeoman

Leroy Zeedyk – Kankakee, IL; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, LST-169

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December 1944 (3) – 11th Airborne Div.

007 (800x598)

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.

“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.

Colonel Robert “Shorty” Soule, a Major General during Korean War

“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.  The bloody battle for Purple Heart Hill had lasted for almost 5 weeks.

Japanese WWII “woodpecker”

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

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frederick Crosby – San Diego, CA; US Navy, Vietnam, pilot, Lt.Comdr., KIA

Norman Fraser – North York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Henry Glenn Jr. – Largo, FL; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Temple Hill – Marshville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 top turret gunner

Freddie Knight – Panama City, FL; US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam,Night Fighter (Ret. 27 years)

Tommy Manns – Abilene, TX; US Navy, WWII, radioman, USS Telfair

Remington Peters – CO; US Navy SEAL, 2 deployments, SWO 1st Class

Thomas Sherman – Chagrin Falls, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Joseph Valderrama – brn: SPN/NJ; US Coast Guard, WWII, ETO, USS Faunce & Breckenridge

Frances Weill – Donora, PA; civilian, WWII, torpedo construction

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And so it begins….

11th Airborne Division on Leyte

22 November 1944, the 11th Airborne Division received orders to relieve the 7th Infantry Division along the Burauen-La Pag-Bugho line and destroy all enemy on their way and in that sector.  While the 77th and 32nd divisions converged on the valley, the 11th moved into the central mountain pass from the east.  During this time on Leyte, the 11th A/B was under the command of the Sixth Army.

24 November – General Swing, commander of the 11th Airborne Division, moved his HQ to San Pablo.  To protect the 5th Air Force HQ of Gen. Whitehead he moved the 674th and 675th Glider Artillery Battalions to the mission which instantly made them infantrymen.  Contact patrols went out from the 187th Regiment to keep abreast of the 7th Division’s movements.  Some would witness their first “banzai attack.”

Field Order Number 28 instructed them to continue through a very rough and densely forested area called the Cordillera.   The rainy season dragged on and on and the mud not only caked on their boots (making it difficult to walk), but it ate clear through the footwear within a week.  The uniforms began to rot away.  The men were quickly beginning to realize why the natives wished to be paid in clothing rather than food or cash.

Action map

One part of the Headquarters Company was left guarding the perimeter of Mawala and the remainder of the unit went upstream to Manarawat to defend that perimeter.  The 221st Airborne Medical Company, with two portable surgical hospitals, took nip-thatched huts and lined them with parachutes.  Despite the trials and tribulations of the troopers after they landed between Abuyog and Tarragona just four days previous, they proceeded in their mission to relieve the 24th and 37th infantry divisions.

Considering the advances the U.S. forces had already gained, especially at the ports and airfields, the Japanese Imperial Headquarters sent an edict to their troops demanding the destruction of Dulag and Tacloban airstrips.  Japanese paratroopers immediately set out to jump on the Burauen airstrip; some missed their targets and landed on other airstrips.

Yank magazine

Also on this date, the 5th Air Force (now known as the Far East Air Force, Southwest Pacific Area), sent B-24’s and B-25’s to bomb Bacolod Airfield and Ipil on Negros Island.  They also hit bridges and barges in the Ormoc area.  Sasa Airfield on Mindanao was bombed as well.  All throughout this month, the FEAF and the 7th Air Force made persistent runs on Iwo Jima.

During November alone, 23 inches of rain fell and the battles for Leyte were being won during four typhoons.  Roads began to collapse and wash away, mud slides abounded and distinguishing a rice paddy from a campsite was impossible.  Foxholes were completely flooded.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Curcio – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Gasconade

Mark DeAlencar – Edgewood, MD; US Army, Afghanistan, 7th Special Forces, KIA

Stewart Dennis – Port Lincoln, AUS; RA Air Force LAC # 122461

Harold Evans – Spokane, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, E/188th/11th Airborne Division

William Fagan – Bethlehem, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart

Ralph Harkness – Tampa, FL; US Navy, WWII, ETO, Captain (Ret.)

Robert Milner – Haynesville, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-51 pilot “Little Rebel”

Jeanne Newhouse – San Diego, CA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Fred Otto – Greene, ND; US Navy, WWII,PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS Vicksburg

Mary Philpo – Detroit, MI; civilian, B-24 aircraft parts, Willow Run

Vernon Weber – Saint Donatus, IA; US Navy, WWII


Smitty and Leyte

There were a few dogfights everyday above Bito Beach between Zeros and P-38s, but at night there was a rather unique spectacle watched by the men.  Some of you might remember an episode of the television show, “M.A.S.H.” entitled “5 o’clock Charlie” – this had to be where they got the idea for that particular episode.  The 11th airborne had their very own “Washing Machine Charlie” routinely chugging overhead.  On a daily basis, his old engine coughed around so loudly he could be heard for miles.  His flight path was so predictable that sounding the air raid alarm seemed ludicrous to the troops.  The bomber only succeeded in landing one shell after his many raids and it happened to hit the causeway.  The engineers were forced to return and rebuild the breach.

My father told me that he would just shrug it off when he heard “Charlie’s” plane overhead.  He only hoped that all of the Japanese planes were in such rotten condition and the pilots had the same cross-eyed aim.  (Too bad it wasn’t true.)

US Army Engineers on Leyte

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Unfortunately, Smitty did get to know some of the natives better, as I was to discover one day as we watched the news about Vietnam.  When it was mentioned that the soldiers found it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, my father grunted and slowly shook his head.  When I questioned him, he replied that he was very concerned about the welfare of our troops.  Not one to discuss combat, I needed to prod him for an answer.  He looked at me once and after that I could see that he was reliving the event.

US Army soldier being operated on, Leyte.

“In the Philippines it was the same way.  You couldn’t tell an ally from a makapili, that was one of the Filipinos who decided to side with the Japanese.  We woke one morning and our usual Filipino woman who came to clean up the tent reported ill and her husband showed up to do the work in her stead.  I had to go on patrol, so I didn’t think too much about  it.  My buddy was assigned to some detail and stayed back.  When I returned to camp, things didn’t feel normal.  I knew something was wrong and I headed straight for my own tent.  I don’t know why, I just knew the trouble was there.  I found a detail cleaning debris out of it.  The Filipino husband had straightened out our tent (lord only knows why) and left my buddy a surprise in his bunk – a grenade.  They pull that same crap in Nam.”

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Between his last letter and the following one, the 11th Airborne Division went through combat enduring some of the worst weather imaginable.  The four days of monsoon rains made the smallest hill a slope of greasy mud and the flat terrain into knee-deep quagmires.  The mud would cause a condition of the skin, especially their feet that the men would refer to as “jungle rot or swamp rot.”  The troopers bivouacked under palm fronds in the coconut groves near Abuyog and Balay Baban villages trying to stay as dry as possible.  The supplies, ammo and other war materiel had been separated and camouflaged and stayed dryer than the men.  Natives and Filipinos worked to help accomplish this task and they were paid in pesos, food or clothing – whichever item they found most necessary.

Rain and mud of Leyte, another enemy.

It had been reported by The Courier Mail in Brisbane, Australia, that the mud was unique, “… a thin yellow soup, porous like quicksand and sometimes bottomless, yet the Americans made headway …”  The heavy humidity soaked everything they possessed, including their meager rations, but they were hard-pressed to remain on alert at all times.  The conditions proved beneficial for the enemy; their replenishment of food and ammunition were only hindered, while it became near impossible for the troopers.  Making matters worse, there were no fixed battle lines and the Japanese were getting their supplies through the blockades.  Wherever our men went, they encountered Japanese marines and suicide guards.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charles Achatz – Center, CO; US Navy, WWII

Tom Amberry – Grand Forks, ND; US Navy, WWII

Walter Collins – Dorchester, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Robert Fatum – Grand Rapids, MI; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Donald Knode – Albuquerque, NM; US Navy, WWII, Intelligence translator

Kenneth Mitchell – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII, ETO & PTO

William Schaf Sr. – Albany, NY; US Army, Korea, 187th ARCT, Medic, POW

Selwyn Thompson (102) – Kerikeri, NZ; 2NZEF # 062165, WWII

Harry Tye – Orinoco, KY; USMC, WWII, Pvt., KIA (Tarawa)

Kenneth Weihl – Tucson, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 451st Bomb Squadron, radio/gunner

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Smitty’s Letter XV – “Landing”

All ashore that’s going’ ashore…..

November 1944: Two Coast Guard-manned landing ships open their jaws as U.S. soldiers line up to build sandbag piers out to the ramps, on Leyte island, Philippines. (AP Photo)

As the ships drew closer to Leyte, the American soldiers already on shore were being hampered by logistical problems which caused a severe delay in capturing the island.  When the 11th A/B division arrived, General Hodge was finally able to move General Arnold’s 7th division and their plans came together.

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Letter XV                                         Landing                        Somewhere in the Philippines

Dear Mom,

We landed here in the Philippines yesterday morn, but before leaving the ship, the Japs treated us with their honorable (?) presence in the form of bombing planes.  Shore batteries kept hammering at them in the gloom of a misty a.m. and the tracer’s bullets reaching up to the planes made a very pretty but gruesome sight.   The way those tracer shells can pick out the planes you would think that they had a score to settle and just can’t wait to even it.

We landed finally on the beach, being taken to it in those much touted and not highly praised enough landing boats.  How boats can ground themselves  on land the way they do and still get off again unscratched is really a marvel.  Those boys who handle them also deserve a lot of credit and, as Winchell would say, “A great big orchid is due.”

The natives here were real friendly and helpful in a dozen different ways.  They ran up to the landing boats as soon as the bow of the boat sunk its bottom into the beach and helped us carry off our burdensome equipment.  It reminded me of Penn or Grand Central Stations with porters running helter-skelter all over the place.  The only thing missing to make the picture complete were the tell-tale red caps on their heads.

November 1944: U.S. landing ship tanks are seen from above as they pour military equipment onto the shores of Leyte island, to support invading forces in the Philippines. (AP Photo)

It wasn’t long after landing that we were organized into work groups and sent off to our chores.  Work kept on until we were hours into the night despite the fact that again, Jap planes came over.  I am happy to report that they will not be able to do so again, that is – not the same ones.

During the day we were handed K-rations for our dinner and after the excellent food we had aboard ship, they sure tasted like hell.  Just before dark last night, we were allowed a few moments to ourselves and at once set to work getting our tents erected.  Here again, the native men came in handy helping us to either put up the tents or dig our slit trenches.  Of course they don’t do any of this work for nothing, but for items such as undershirts, trousers, soap or most anything in the line of clothing.

I will write more about the people in a later chapter.  After all, you can’t do well to write about them on so short an acquaintance.  Right now we are busy setting up a camp decent enough to live in.  Having a few minutes to spare in between tents.  I thought I’d write this down before it completely slipped my unrententive and feeble brain.  There goes the whistle calling us back to work now, so until the next ten minute rest period, I’ll close with loads of love and car loads of kisses,

Love, Everett

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Max Brown – Alma, MI; US Army, WWII, Military Police

Harold DeRose – Indianmound, TN; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Robert Fairbank – Gilbert, AZ; US Merchant Marine, WWII

Boy Scout Farewell Salute

Victor Galletly – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 44189, WWII

Zeb Kilpatrick – Hendersonville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, C/457 Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Leo ‘Bill’ LeFevre – Jamestown, ND; US Army, WWII

David Maxwell – Brisbane, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII

Jose Ocampo – San Jose, CA; US Navy, WWII

Dick Patterson – Fort Worth, TX; USMC, WWII, PTO

Anthony Randi – New Haven, CT; US Army, WWII, Cpl.

Donald Thompson – Spokane, WA; US Army, WWII

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Landing the 11th Airborne Division

Medic on Leyte

As General Eichelberger said more than once: “The 11th Airborne Division are the fightingest men I’ve ever seen.” And the largest and most violent armed conflict in history was about to start for these men.

November of 1944 arrived and with that came packing up for the next destination, Leyte, Philippines. It also meant the arrival of the rains, an understatement to say the least. Such downpours are alien to those who do not live in the tropics. Even the darkness is unique when it arrives in a flash and the blackness envelops everything like a sweeping shroud. A man’s eyes can no longer be trusted; he stands as though blindfolded.

11 November – 9 APA’s (naval transport ships designed to attack) and AKA’s (cargo ships designed to attack) would be required to carry the 11th A/B on to their target from Oro Bay with an escort of 9 US destroyers. Due to the constant barrage of weather, the journey lasted from Nov. 11 until the 18th. The Battle of Leyte was officially code-named “King II Operation.”

The division’s historian noted, “Fortunately, the trip was made in Navy-manned ships.  It was fortunate because the food we had was the best we had eaten since Camp Stoneman, California…  As far as we were able to determine, the trip was uneventful – with one exception.  One sub did venture within detecting range, we were immediately sent to out emergency positions.  But a DE took off after the Jap craft and the alert was called off.

“Aboard ship, troops spent their time talking endlessly about the immediate and post-war future.  Some gambled the days away… Now we had time to ponder and we found ourselves ready for combat.  We didn’t know then – no one knew – how soon we were to be committed; but it came sooner than any of us anticipated.  The Angels were about to make some fighting history.”

Activity map

When the 11th airborne landed at Bito Beach, Leyte, they immediately began to unload the ships.  The troopers worked around the clock, even as the tail end of the convoy was being attacked by Zeros.  (The Japanese most certainly had other planes, but the G.I.s tended to call them all Zeros.)  The beach gradually became an ammo dump as Bito Beach was surrounded by water on three sides and a swamp covered the fourth, it was technically an island and therefore they were unable to move the crates out until the engineers built them some bridges.  Throughout all this, air raids were being called which impeded progress all the more.

19 November 1944 – a kamikaze sank one of the transport ships only 1,500 yards offshore.  It was left where it sank, sticking partway out of the water.  The men used it as a sight to adjust the artillery aimed at the sea.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

Cecil Hotel, Westminster, RAF’s 1st HQ

A reminder that Britain’s Royal Air Force will celebrate their 99th Birthday, having been formed 1 April 1918.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Blair Cummings – Scarbourgh, ME; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Hilary P. Jones

Frank Dallas – Fayetteville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/11th Airborne Division (Ret. 27 years)

Robert Glade – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Korea

Iris Hunter – Warwickshire, ENG; RAF, WWII

Emmett Kirkpatrick – Roanoke, VA; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Robert Lilley – Ft. Gratlot, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Arthur McNamara – Boston, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Richard Morgan – Rollings, MT; US Army, Korea, A Co/187th RCT

Gale Tedball – Eugene, OR; US Navy, WWII, USS Detroit

William Young – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force #  4310091, WWII

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Smitty’s Letter XIV – “On the Move Again”

 

Letter XIV                                    “On the Move” (again)                        undated due to censorship

Dear Mom,  We have been at sea now for three days heading toward someplace the Land and the great white father in Washington only knows.

As I sit here writing this, I just can’t help but feel like a very small insignificant part of something so vast that the mind can’t in any way begin to comprehend what it is all about.  Here I am on a ship heading out to something, someplace, and it was all planned probably months ago, miles and miles away from anywheres near here.  Suddenly it all takes form.  Transports and other ships stream into the harbor and just as quickly and quietly we are made loose and moving out.  It all happens so fast and so smoothly that you can’t help but admire it all.

Of course, as serious as it all is, the army just can’t help but be the cause of many amusing incidents.  When we first landed in New Guinea we got lost looking for our camp and coming down to the boats, the trucks again got lost and so we had to travel up and down the beach until finally, instead of us finding the boats — the boats found us.  Climbing up the gangplank with our packs and duffel bags always provide an amusing incident or two, but at the time seem pretty damn dangerous.

On board ship, we are once again packed in like sardines down in the hold.  Once shown our bunk, we proceed at once to get rid of our equipment and dash up on deck to pick out some spot where we can spend the night,  It isn’t long after this that the details are handed out — and so — what could have been a very pleasant voyage soon turns out to be anything else but.  I was lucky in that I was handed a detail that only worked for an hour each day, but the poor guys that hit the broom detail were at it all day long.  All we could hear, all day long, over the speaker system was: “Army broom detail, moping and brooms, clean sweep down forward aft, all decks.”  They kept it up all the time until soon one of the fellas made up a little ditty about it and sang it every time we saw a broom coming down the deck.

The food was excellent and really worth talking about.  On the first trip coming over from the states, we dreaded the thought of eating, but on this ship, it was more than a welcome thought.  Generally, when you go to a movie there are news reel pictures of convoys of ships and the men aboard.  They always try to show you a few playing cards or joking and say that this is how the boys relieve the tension they are under.  Well, I don’t know about the seriousness of the situation was anything like what the news reels portray.

Of course, it was a strange sight to see the boys at night line up at the side scanning the sky and distant horizon.  This was generally though at night and early dawn.  What we expected to see, I don’t know and what our reaction would be, if we did see something — I hesitate to predict.  It won’t be long after this letter is written that we will land or at least sight our destination, so wishing  to be wide-awake when we do, I’ll close this letter now and hit the hay hoping I sleep an uninterrupted sleep.

Till next time, “Good night and pleasant dreams.”                          Love, Everett

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – For those of you who will be in the Fredricksburg, Texas area…..

http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joan Abery – Darley Dale, ENG; RAF, WWII

Emil Adams – brn: Slovakia/US; US Navy, WWII, CBI, Annapolis graduate

David Altop – Salt Lake City, UT; USMC, WWII, PTO, radio operator

George E. Bria (101) – brn: Rome, ITAL/Waterbury, CT; AP war correspondent, ETO

Otis ‘Roger’ Humphrey – Montpelier, IN; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Charles Johnson – Wichita, KA; US Navy, WWII

Lucien Legault – Windsor, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII

John Mumford – St. Petersburg, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 318/325/15th Air Force, KIA

Marion “Flee” Pettygrove – CA; USMC Women’s Corps, WWII

James Summitt – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, radioman

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Smitty’s drawings and a cold shower

Various Army latrines

Various Army latrines

Smitty did not write home about his experience with the showers. (Unfortunately, I do not remember which island this story occurred on.)

He was coming back into camp after having a nice cold shower.  He walked back with a towel wrapped around his middle and held it closed with his left hand.  The jungle appeared quiet except for the buzzing of the insects whizzing around him.

WAC Invasion

He said, “You know how annoying just one mosquito can be when it’s hovering by your ears.  This was like a swarm and I tried like hell to use my right hand to swat them away from my face.  When I began to approach our tents there was not one man to be seen and I couldn’t imagine where they all went.  As I got closer I could hear the G.I.s yelling and they were waving their arms as they crouched in their tents, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.  Besides, I was too preoccupied with swatting the bugs. 

“When I got back to my tent complaining about how aggravating the bugs on the island were, I asked them what all the hooting and hollering was all about.  All they kept doing was checking my skin and asking if I was alright. 

Somebody yelled, ‘Those were no jungle bugs — that’s shrapnel!’  When they discovered that I had been hit, someone happily said that I could put in for a Purple Heart.”

WAC Invasion

WAC Invasion

After a good laugh between Dad and I, I asked if he ever put in for the medal.  He laughed again and said that he was too embarrassed.  “For one thing I felt stupid for not realizing what was going on and second, I didn’t want to be grouped into being one of those guys that put in for a Purple Heart every time they nicked themselves shaving.  It would be like taking something away from the men who actually did get wounded and deserved the medal.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

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WWII Veteran Honors Gen. George Patton

Proving that patriotism cannot be measured by a person’s race or culture, World War II, Korea and Vietnam War veteran Robert Nobuo Izumi has lived nearly his entire life serving our country.  Izumi, who is a Japanese-American, was forced into an internment camp with his family shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In June 1944 he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all Japanese-American unit. Read more about Izumi’s career and his visit to Luxembourg American Cemetery to honor Patton.

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Military Humor – 

sadsack38

Sad Sack on latrine duty

Proud of a job well-done.

Proud of a job well-done.

latrine_duty

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Farewell Salutes – 

Louis Baron – Beechwood, OH; US Army, WWII

Thomas ‘Duke’ Davis – Huntsville, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Clarence Herbin – Pillager, MN; Merchant Marines / US Army, WWII

'On Guard' by SFC Peter G. Varisano

‘On Guard’ by SFC Peter G. Varisano

Jack Kurtzer – Bronx, NY; US Navy, WWII, USS Rogers, Sonarman

Olzy ‘O.M.’ Mabry – Great Falls, MT; US Navy, WWII

David Nicholls – Sydney, AUS; RA Navy # NX269979, Captain (Ret.)

Margaret Percival – San Diego, CA; US Navy WAVE, WWII, yeoman

Ernest Rose – Sheboygan, WI; US Army, WWII, ETO

William Schilperoort – Seattle, WA; US Navy, WWII, mine sweeper

William Shields – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, pilot

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Smitty – Letter XIII

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Back in the states, people were still dancing to the tunes of The Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie and Artie Shaw.  They listened to the songs of Doris Day, the Andrew Sisters, Lena Horne and Rosemary Clooney.  But, some others weren’t so lucky, in the army there was always latrine duty, as depicted in the following letter from Smitty.

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Letter XIII                               Latrines                        Wednesday 9/5/44

Dear Mom,

Many are the times you have heard me refer to the latrines.  Never before had I any conception or realized the amount of genius and mathematical figuring that was necessary for the building of one of these casual looking comfort stations.

Yesterday I had the dubious honor of being selected, with four other disgruntled G.I.s, to labor on a detail whose sole aim and mission was the digging and building of a latrine.  It seems that in order to get a latrine built correctly there also has to be present a lieutenant and a hard to please sergeant.  Their presence is essential due to the fact that if they weren’t around, it would never get built, no less started and to supervise the completion and finesse details of the finer points necessary for sanitation and the comfort of the men.  You can most generally find these two worthy in some far off spot, away from all the work.

slit-trench

slit-trench

To begin with, a place is chosen suitable for a latrine, generally about a half mile from the nearest inhabitant and well hidden in the brush and woods.  This is done for the very simple reason that it affords the stricken G.I. a chance to brush up on his long forgotten tracking and compass reading lessons, also the hike involved tends to make up for the many he has missed.

You wait then while the Lt., in a very business-like manner, marks out the length and width desired.  When finished, he gives you a short speech on the importance of the detail and the time limit allotted, ending with: “Good digging fellows.  I know you can do it, as you are the picked men!”

You pick up your shovels and picks and gloomily get to work.  First, the picks are put into play loosening up the stubborn ground.  Then, the shovels get to work removing the loose dirt, making sure to pile it evenly around the hole.  This procedure is followed until finally you have now a hole six feet long by five feet in width with a depth ranging anywheres from six to eight feet.  Try as you may to dig less than six feet, the sergeant always has a ruler handy which he guards with his life.  One would think that a latrine hole that size would last forever, but as I found out, in the army — they don’t.

pit latrine

pit latrine

Next step is to lower into this hole oil drums whose both ends have been removed.  This end cutting process is something foreign to us as they had another detail doing that the day before.  I understand though that it is a highly skilled job in that keeping the ax blades from chipping is quite a problem.  These drums, once lowered and set side by side, draws to a close the crude laborious end of the job.

Boards, saws, hammers and nails now appear along with some overbearing would-be carpenters.  They proceed to build a coffin-like box which looks more like anything else but a box.  This affair, when finished, is fitted over the hole, covering completely the hole and part of the piles of loose dirt spread around the outer fringe.  This type of latrine box is called the settee type.  It is very comfortable to sit on if rough boarding isn’t employed.  When the box is completed to the satisfaction and sitting height comfort of all present, holes are then cut in the top.  These holes are oval in shape, but of different width and shapes.  The rear end of a G.I.’s anatomy, I’ve found, has many varied shapes and sizes.

The next thing to put in an appearance is the latrine blind and screen.  This is very simple, although at times men have leaned back into it and got tangled up in the canvas, bringing it where the blind should be.  While the blind is being put up on a long pipe, funnel-shaped at one end comes up and demands a lot of detailed attention.  The height of this pipe, when set, is a trial and tribulation to all and never satisfies all who use it.  This funneled affair is intended for what all funnels are.  The directing of a stream of water.

The Lt. and sergeant now come out of hiding, inspect it and proclaim it a job well done and worthy of their time and supervision, strutting off gaily chatting, leaving us to find our way alone, unguided and without a compass, back to our tents.  We, in the building of this latrine were fortunate in that we only had to erect it once and it was the correct position.  Generally, you dig three or four only to find out that it is out of line somehow with the next latrine a mile away.

Army field latrine

Army field latrine

Generals, colonels and majors all visit while you are at work.  Their presence is also needed for the fact that when they are around, you stand at attention and in that way get a moment’s rest.  The captain generally comes out to see how you are doing and always tells you to hurry it up as the boys back in camp are prancing around like young colts and doing weird dance steps all the while hoping that they can hold out until its completion.

When once finished and back in camp, you are kept busy giving the boys directions as to where it is and then have to listen to them gripe about the distance away from their tent the blame thing is.  It is, I have found out, a thankless detail and one I intend missing the next time there is one to be built.There are of course different types of latrines as the illustrations show, but most of those are for troops on the move.  Now, why they should say, ‘troops on the move’ I do not know, for certainly no matter whether in the latrines or on the way to it, you are most certainly moving.

Before any G.I. finds the latrine, the flies are already there.  No latrine is a latrine until after a family or two moves in.  They too are necessary in that without them as an annoying element, some men would never leave, others would fall asleep, while others would use it as an indefinite hiding place from some hike or detail.  Latrines are also necessary for rumors.  Until a good latrine is built, rumors around the camp lay dormant.  Many new and strange acquaintances are made and the souls of many a man have been saved while sitting in this sanctuary place of appeasement.

No place in the army gets the care and attention of a latrine.  Orderlies are assigned daily to see to its cleanliness.  Medical inspections are twice a week, while on Saturdays it has to stand a general inspection.  It is the haven of good-fellowship, conversations and a relief to all men in the end.

Hoping I have portrayed for you the army’s version of a rest station, I’ll close, as the flies in here are very annoying and the fellow standing and waiting for me to leave is going into a rage and walking up and down all the while eyeing me up and down as if to kill.

Ending this in a hasty departure and on the run, I am always,  Your son, Everett

Click on images to enlarge.

[Smitty’s illustrations will appear in the following post.]

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Weston Boyd – Leesburg, FL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Dante Bulli – Cherry, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-26 pilot, SAC Col. (ret. 32 yrs), Bronze Star

painting "Take a Trip With Me" by SFC Peter G. Varisano

painting “Take a Trip With Me” by SFC Peter G. Varisano

Arthur Cain – No.Hampton, NH; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Roy Countryman – Longview, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division, 1st Lt.

Thomas Feran Sr. – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII

Betty (Garber) Follander – Clinton, MA; cadet nurse, WWII

William McCurdy – Harrisburg, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

Seth McKee – McGehee, AR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot, General (Ret.)

Patrick Stewart – Hawkes Bay, NZ; RNZ Navy # 7563, WWII, signalman

Clarence Young Jr. – Portland, OR; US Army, WWII, Africa & CBI, Engineers

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Smitty – Letter XII

The 11th Airborne Division, still in New Guinea  and continuing to specialize their training – little do they know that they are coming closer and closer to their time for combat.  Their commander, General Swing, awaits the word from General MacArthur.

Backpacking the good ol' fashion way

Backpacking the good ol’ fashion way

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Letter XII                                                       ?? Problems ??                                           0800 Sunday 9/3/44

Dear Mom,  We will start off first with “Webster’s” definition of the word — problem.  “A question for solution, and a proposition to be demonstrated.”  This is all very true, only in the army, although it is demonstrated, it never turns out in a satisfactory solution.

For some unknown reason, the hint of a problem soon-to-be gets around long before it is ever officially announced.  When once you hear about it, you begin to wonder just how you will get out of going and wonder if going on sick call will help.  The best thing is to try to get on some detail, but generally, the details floating around loose at that time are of such a nature that going on the problem is much easier.

No one likes or cares for problems including the officers and non-coms, except maybe a few who are bucking and hope to show their leader that they have tactical and sure-fire P.F.C. abilities.

No matter how easy or simple the problem, you always have to carry around a load of unnecessary equipment.  On the day set forth for the problem they put up a list of the stuff you are to take with you.  After an hour or two spent trying to get everything into the pack, just big enough to hold a pair of socks, a tent, poles, rain gear, poncho, insect repellent and your toilet articles, you are pretty well tired out and lie down for a few minutes rest.  You no sooner do that than the sergeant will come around with a revised list of equipment and again you unpack and re-pack.  This goes on through the day until finally in utter despair you pick up your duffel bag and carry that on your back.

Finally the whistle blows.  You hurriedly put on your pack, pick up your rifle and dash to fall in the formation forming outside.  After standing there for 30 or 40 minutes, you realize that all your rushing was in vain and that you have a chance to untangle yourself from the pack harness and straighten it out.  You no sooner start to do this than the order comes to pull out and get going.

While marching out, it suddenly dawns on you that a quick visit to the latrine would have helped, but is now impossible to get to.  After walking for two hours, your pack feels like a ton and your five-pound rifle now weighs twenty.  The heat is slowly getting you down and you begin to wonder, is it all worth it?  Soon the Lt. comes prancing alongside of you and walking just as easy as falling off a log.  He says a few words to you, such as, “Close it up.” “Keep in line” or “How you doing fella?” as he passes by.  You wonder how the devil he can keep it up, until you take a good look at his pack.  Many are the times when I wondered what would happen if I stuck a pin in it.  Wonderful things these basketball bladders.

When finally you arrive at the next to last stop, the Lt. calls his men around him and proceeds to try and tell them what this problem is about and what we are supposed to do.  We are all too tired to listen in the first place and in the second place — don’t give a damn.  All this time you watch the Lt. and soon you realize that he didn’t much care for the problem and is probably just as annoyed as you.

When you finally hit the place where the problem is, confusion takes over and the problem is started.  Orders are given and not carried out, cause generally the G.I. has been told before to do something else, so that by the time order is restored, all is in a worse shape than before.  The Lt. takes out a map to try and locate himself and is only to find that the map he has is the one relating to last week’s problem.  No matter, from then on, where the C.P. and assembly area were to be, now, wherever you are at that particular moment will become the C.P. and assembly area.  If the rest of the company was fortunate enough to locate the right place — the hell with them — let them find us.

You are then assigned to different spots and told to dig in.  Now, digging in calls for some thought.  If you just dig a slit trench, it doesn’t call for much work, but you can always be seen and so you can’t sleep.  But, if you dig a larger hole, called a foxhole, you can safely sleep away the night and also — the problem.  Myself?  I go for the foxhole on the slit trench side as it affords me the opportunity of sleeping in a horizontal position.

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Soon the whistle blows announcing the end of the problem.  You awaken to find that it is the next day and that once again you slept through the whole mess.  Questions are asked as to who or what side won, did the enemy get through and a thousand and one others.  Before leaving the place, you now have to shovel the dirt back into your hole, as leaving blank open holes around are dangerous to life and limb.  When that is completed, you put your backpack back on and trudge your weary way back.

Upon arriving back in camp, critiques are held and then you find out what you were supposed to have learnt while you were out there.  I have always been of the opinion that if critiques were held before going out, it would save us all a lot of trouble and also make going on the problem — unnecessary.  Once back in your tent, you unpack and think that now you will lie down and have a little nap, only to find out that the detail you tried to get on in order to miss the problem has materialized and that you are to get up and get on it.  Oh, weary bones, will they never have any rest?

Don’t give up, for after all, the war can’t last forever.  One thing you can always count on though, problems are the pride and joy of the army and will continue on being as long as there is an army.

Hope I’ve confused you as much as we are.  I’ll leave you as that damn detail has come up and so I’ll have to carry my weary body out and hope I last out the day.

Confused as all hell,    Everett

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But training goes on …..

New Guinea, training. Notice the date on the picture – 

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

John ‘Spike’ Adochio – Miltown, NJ; US Army, WWII

Nevin Biser Jr. – Columbia, SC; US Navy, WWII

Joseph Chadwell – Tullahoma, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 101st Airborne Division

Edward Elder – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, USS Seawolf, KIA

US Army division salute for outgoing & incoming troops

US Army division salute for outgoing & incoming troops

Alan Fewer – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force  # 413053, Squadron 485 & RAF 232, WWII

Bee Jay Garrison – Bethany, OK; US Army, WWII, PTO

Clare Hollingworth – ENG; Telegraph war correspondent, WWII, ETO

John McGrath – Calgary, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, (Ret.)

Bruce O’Brien Sr. – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, SeaBee

Joseph ‘Pip’ Paolantonio – Wayne, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Cpl., 472 Glider Field Artillery/11th Airborne Division

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