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National Airborne Day – 16 August

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“Airborne All the Way”

Author unknown

$_35

These men with silver wings

Troopers from the sky above

In whom devotion springs

What spirit so unites them?

In brotherhood they say

Their answer loud and clear.

“Airborne All the Way.”

 

 

 

These are the men of danger

As in open door they stand

With static line above them

And ripcord in their hand.

While earthbound they are falling

A silent prayer they say

“Lord be with us forever,

Airborne All the Way.”

One day they’ll make their final jump

Saint Mike will tap them out

The good Lord will be waiting

He knows what they’re about

And answering in unison

He’ll hear the troopers say

“We’re glad to be aboard, Sir,

Airborne All the Way!”

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For another outstanding poem in honor of the U.S. Army Airborne – Please visit, Lee at ……

https://mypoetrythatrhymes.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/happy-birthday-us-army-airborne/

Click on images to enlarge.

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Personal Note – icon_lol

Please check out the honor365 site– they have honored Smitty  !!!!

I was very proud that they requested dad’s information.

 

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Military Humor –

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Melvin Alsager – Mount Home, ID; US Air Force, 28th Recon Squadron

Harold Davis – Zanesville, OH; US Army, WWII, PTO, Silver Star, Bronze Star, KIA

John Freitag – Ashland, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, POWhalfstaffflag

Victor Greenblatt – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, navigator

Christopher M. Harris – Jackson Springs, NC; US Army, Afghanistan, Spc, 2/504/1 BCT/82nd Airborne, KIA

Jonathan M. Hunter – Columbus, IN; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt., 2/504/1 BCT/82nd Airborne, KIA

Dr. Janet Kemp – Carthage, NY; Civilian, VA’s National Mental Health Program Dir.; VA Crisis Hotline, Ret. 30 years, Service To America Medal

James Miles – Dallas, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, Lt.Col. (Ret.)

Henry Soderholm – Malden, MA; US Air Force, Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret.)

Thomas Vogt – St. Louis, MO; US Army, WWII & Korea

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Gen. Robert Eichelberg’s Leyte

Col. Aubrey Newman depicted in Leyte 1944, “Follow Me” H. Charles McBarron

“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.

“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.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur with Maj. General Joseph Swing, Lt. Gen. Richard Sutherland, and Gen. Robert Eichelberger. (US National Archives)

“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.’

457th Field Artillery/11th Airborne Div., 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 informational quote 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 – 

John Carrington – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Norman Fraser – No. York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Virgil Hess – South Bend, IN; USMC, WWII, PTO

Thomas Kinsman – Renton, WA; US Army, Vietnam, B/3/60/9th Infantry Div., Medal of Honor

Roger ‘Whitey’ Lebon – Pana, IL; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Anne Morrissy Merick – NYC, NY; civilian war correspondent, Vietnam

Roger Moore – London, ENG; Royal Army Service Corps # 372394, Captain, (beloved actor)

Amos Smith – Houma, LA; US Army, WWII

Richard Tuff – Salem, OR; US Navy, WWII, USS Enterprise

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

Wayne Wills – Hampton, VA; US Coast Guard, WWII

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December on Leyte

11th Airborne member with carabao and herder

In the hills west of Burauen, Gen. Swing ordered Col. Harry Wilson into the hills.   According to Chief Warrant Officer Nelson, “We moved off light, each man carrying his own weapon, with ammo and 2 day’s K rations.  In our wake moved Lt. Eli Berheim’s supply train; its rolling stock a herd of sluggish, patient carabao loaded with heavy weapons, spare ammo and the heavier signal equipment.  Such was the life in the ‘modernized war.'”

Eli Bernheim had more than his share of trouble with the carabao and resupplying the 2nd Battalion/187th Regiment/11th Airborne Division.

“I had the problem of getting adequate ammo resupply to the battalion area through the incredible mud.   Col. Wilson has issued me a substantial amount of pesos.  I bought a number of carabao and a couple of young Filipino herders.  We built some heavy bamboo sleds and dragged the ammo to the battalion area…

“I became somewhat notorious as the chief of the carabao pack train.  There were some humorous incidents.  We didn’t know that males and females had to be separated.  Unfortunately, we had one females who went into heat and the males started fighting and goring, resulting in some severe wounds.

457th Field Artillery Battalion

“The Filipinos kept yelling “creosote, creosote” which we didn’t understand until it became apparent that this was the prescribed treatment for gore wounds.  We had no creosote, but there was the usual supply of the World War II delight – Dubbin, and for once it was useful.

“I won’t go into the details on the horrors of the march through the mountains, I can recall more than one night spent in a hole with water up to my chin or in places where you couldn’t dig a hole and tried to sleep on the mud covered by a poncho.

“Eventually, we could take the carabao no further.  We lost 2 heavy machine-gun cradles when a carabao fell off a ridge.  We finally turned the animals lose and the herders tried to backtrack,  I don’t know what ever happened to them.”

While Lt. Bernheim had his hands full supplying the 2nd/187th, the 1st Battalion had been patrolling deep into the area behind Bito Beach going after and successfully eliminating a number of the Japanese who had survived their transport crashings.  The battalion moved by amtracs to occupy the east end of San Pablo airstrip.

A battery of the 457th/11th Airborne was preparing to make a jump on Manarawat.  Normally 12 C-47’s were required for the firing battery to make the jump, but Colonel Nick Stadherr only had one.  To spare the battery from making a trek across the mountains, the pilot chose an area 500′ x 150′ for the drop zone (DZ).  With cliffs on all sides, the 11th Airborne historian wrote:

“…tremendously proficient jump-mastering by Col. Stadherr, who personally jumped each planeload, landed all equipment and men in 13 plane trips, directly in the center of the field… No injuries were sustained, even though the men jumped from 300′.  From that day on, A Battery provided 360° support to all the infantry fighting in the area.

This information is from, The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division, by Lt.General E.M. Flanagan (Ret.).   Gen. Flanagan was the commander of B Battery/457th Parachute Field Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Army – Practical Joke.

‘Every war game scenario I’ve run has you picking up the check.’

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ray Aders – Lelcester, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, Graves Registration

Michael Beard – Sussex, ENG; British Navy, WWII, HMS Vengence, radioman

Lois Dinnadge – NZ; NZWAAC # 809017, WWII

Elroy Hempstead – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Sgt.

Elmer Kessel – Independence, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Jack LaFleur – Island Heights, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO & Korea

Albin Lozowski – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Adolph ‘Len’ Scott – Dryden, MN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Belleau Wood. aviation machinist mate

Kenneth Trickett – San Bernadino, CA; US Navy, WWII, USS Price, fire control

Joseph Zasa – Mountain Brook, AL; US Army, WWII, PTO, Corps of Engineers

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Japanese Airborne Attack 11th Airborne

Gen. Robert Eichelberger

The first eye witness account is from General Robert Eichelberger, Commander of the Eighth Army on Leyte as written in his book, “Our Jungle Road To Tokyo”

“There is a memento of this struggle now in the Military Academy at West Point.  [General] Joe Swing gave it to me, and I sent it on from the Pacific.

“During the fighting on an airstrip, two ducking and dodging American GI’s – Allen W. Osborne and Eustis A. Jolly – were hand-carrying ammunition to the troops under fire.  They noticed a large Japanese flag fluttering in a tree and, being incorrigible souvenir hunters, decided to acquire it.

“Each time they attempted to shinny up the tree, they were met by a fusillade of Japanese bullets.  So they changed their tactics.  They got an ax from their truck and while still under fire, chopped down the tree.  That hard-won Japanese flag now hangs in the West Point museum.

“How can you explain youngsters like that?  Despite the calamity howlers they continue to exist.  Whatever challenge the future holds, I think Americans can meet it.”

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Gen. Henry Muller, Jr.

This condensed eye witness account was written by BGen. Henry J. Muller, Jr.; courtesy of “The Drop Zone” website and published in “The Voice of the Angels” newspaper, Matt Underwood, Editor.

“TRANSPORTS!!” – “JAPS!!” – “PARATROOPERS!!”

“The time was 1800 hours, 6 December 1944 and at first it sounded like a swarm of bees in the distance.  Then it became clear.  No paratrooper could mistake the drone of a formation of troop carrier aircraft.  Someone outside shouted “AIRCRAFT!!” – then many – “JAP TRANSPORTS!!” – “PARATROOPERS!!”

Situation map 6 December 1944

“The division staff dashed out of the mess tent looking skyward.  By now, a dozen parachutes had opened above us and everyone began firing at them.  I even emptied 2 clips from my .45 at the nearest parachutists.  Most jumped well beyond our HQ, landing in and about the San Pablo airstrip.  Only a few who jumped too soon dropped over us and floated down just north of our perimeter.

“There was considerable rifle fire from the vicinity of the airstrip and some from the HQ area.  Someone ordered that the generator be shut down as the lights could attract sniper fire.  Each section had been required to dig foxholes and trenches around their tents, although rather shallow soil piled on the upper rim provided cover from small arms fire if one kept low.

“During the night, the G-3 Col. Quandt prepared a plan for a provisional battalion of Ordnance and Quartermaster companies, with odds and ends of Service and Administrative troops, to counterattack across the airstrip at first light.

“The firing had subsided, but we had no contact with the small aerial resupply detachment at the strip.  So early that morning, Gen. Swing and I, accompanied by his aide and dismounted driver, made our way to the airstrip for a first-hand appraisal of the situation.

“Our counterattack had cleared the field… the Japanese paratroopers had withdrawn into a wooded area north of the strip.  They had burned some of our light aircraft along with small stores of aviation fuel and various supplies which were part of our resupply effort for units in the mountains.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News –  if anyone is looking for my V-E Day post here today, simply type in V-E Day into the Search bar in the top-right-hand corner of the post.  You will be brought to my past 4 posts commemorating that great day!

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Military [Airborne] Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Davis – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, K/47th QM Regiment

Graham Harding – Hawkes Bay, NZ; RNZ Army # 442167, WWII, 27th Battery, Signal Corps

Norman Hatch – Boston, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO, Photographic Services, combat-cameraman

Freddie Henson – Klamath Falls, OR; US Army, Korea, A/57/7th Infantry Division, KIA

Edward Kitchell – W.Milford, NJ; US Navy, WWII, Sea Bee

Anthony Lipari – Racine, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, aerial engineer, Purple Heart

Kyle Milliken – Falmouth, ME; US Navy SEAL, Somalia, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator, 4 Bronze Stars, KIA

Donald Omodt – St. Paul, MN; US Army, WWII & Korea

Thomas Strath – Ottawa, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, pilot

Russell Turner Jr. – Houston, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO,  11th Airborne Division

Moray Watson – Sunningdale, ENG; British Army, Northamptonshire Reg., Captain, (beloved actor)

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[In a past post in July 2015, I did an article on the wartime cameramen with Norman Hatch mentioned.]

Sgt. Norman Hatch

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December 1944 (1)

 

Japanese destroyer sinks in Ormoc Bay

6 December – the main thrust of Operation Wa on Leyte, P.I. was provided by the Japanese 26th Division, minus the battalion that was attempting to protect Ormoc, but the enemy found it difficult to maintain their schedule given to them by the Manila headquarters.  General Suzuki requested a 2-day delay, but he was denied.

Only 300 Japanese paratroopers of the 16th Division were left after desertions to jump on the Buraen airfield.  The 700 troopers of the 3rd Parachute Regiment, flying in from Luzon, ran into heavy flak and lost 4 planes.  The remaining Japanese

Major Shirai Tsuneharu suiting up for Leyte jump.

aircraft dropped their troopers on the 11th Airborne Headquarters Company.  [Smitty’s unit] (an eye witness story on this will appear on another day.)

8→9 December – 500 more enemy paratroopers were assigned to to jump on an airfield above Ormoc near Highway 2, but they landed 5 miles north of their target.  Col. Mitsui, with poorly armed service units, was dug-in on a high ground position below the city waiting for support.  MGen. A. Bruce’s US 77th Division broke through the defense.  He sent the following message to Corps Commander, John Hodge: “HAVE ROLLED TWO SEVENS IN ORMOC. COME SEVEN, COME ELEVEN.”  [referencing to the 77th; 7th and 11th divisions].

9 December – two more enemy convoys were enroute to Ormoc Bay.  The first convoy had 3,000 men of the 8th Division and 900 tons of matériel and supplies in 5 transports, 3 destroyers and 2 sub-chasers with an escort of about 30 fighters.  US Marine Corsairs sank 3 transports and then one more was sunk in a combined USMC/Army aircraft effort.

The other convoy of 2 destroyers and 2 transports carried 700 men, tanks, and mortars.  These were spotted by the destroyer Coghlan which proceeded to sink one of the Japanese vessels.  Despite the fact that so many enemy ships were destroyed, a very large number of reinforcements made it to shore, but their effectiveness was hampered by the amount of supplies that went to bottom of the ocean.

11th Airborne encampment, Leyte.

13 December – 1,800 prisoners at Santo Tomás, Luzon began marching to Pier 7 to board the enemy “hell ship” Oroyoku-Maru.  It was sunk 2 days later near Subic Bay by American carrier aircraft.  Angry Japanese guards shot at the men trying to escape the ship’s sinking hull and those struggling in the water.  Those that made it to shore were sent out on other ships 27 December and 2 January.  Out of the original 1800 Americans, 1,426 perished.

Also on this date, the cruiser USS Nashville and destroyer USS Haraden were damaged by kamikaze pilots.

15→20 December – The Visayan Force [ between Mindanao and Luzon are the Visayan Islands – Cebu, Panay, Negros, Leyte and Samar.], the US 24th Division landed on Mindoro just off the SW coast of Luzon.  The island only had a small garrison, but 4 abandoned airfields that would soon be used by the US Army Air Corps.  The 503rd PRCT came ashore.  They could not jump in due to the weather.

+ Maryann Holloway’s father saw a lot of what transpired here – her father’s story on the USS Hornet.

On and over Luzon, US carrier aircraft destroyed 225 enemy aircraft in 3 separate attacks.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Russell Curione – Toms River, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-17 tail gunner, MSgt. (Ret. 20 years)

Drew DeVoursney – Atlanta, GA; USMC (Ret.), Iraq

Philip Helms – Halifax, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, Ordnance

John ‘Jack’ Kelly – Broad Channel, NY; USMC, Korea

Jack Lapouraille – BelAir, MD; US Navy, WWII, USS Salerno Bay

Joseph Maltese – Emmaus, PA; US Army, WWII, Sgt., emergency communication

Gene Nooker – Cheyenne, WY; Manhattan Project, WWII

Louie Piszor – Green Bay, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Sea Bee shovel operator

William Ryan – Parma, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 82nd Air Engineer Squadron

Franklin Stearns Jr. – Conway, NH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th Airborne Division

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Eye Witness Account – Leyte

Leyte-Patrol

Leyte patrol

These events took place in November 1944, therefore please do not be offended by any offensive language.

This was written by Pfc Deane Edward Marks, Light Machine-Gun (LMG) Platoon/HQ2/11th Airborne Division.  From “No One Smiled On Leyte,” published in the “Voice of the Angels” newspaper, Matt Underwood, Editor.

“…It was still raining.  We had no idea where we were going.  Someone mentioned Ormoc, wherever that was.  We heard that somewhere ahead, part of the C/511th was surrounded by the Nips.  We didn’t have any idea what the hell was going on.  After a day or two of walking, we arrive where the C/5511 had been.  Now, I see my first dead man, he was a trooper.  Now I realize what was going on.  It was real, real.  Somehow the mud seemed wetter, the rain colder and the stomach emptier.

Type 96 LMG

“…every now and then they would open up with their “woodpecker”. [name given to the Japanese Nambu 6.5mm light machine-gun Model 96] … the only thing you do is drop to the ground and roll over a time or two so when you lifted your head, you would not be in the sights of the shooter … ole Vicbert D. Sharp, LMG Platoon Sgt., starts wiggling up the side of the slope with his M-1.  He stopped, saw a sniper in a tree, then another and with 2 quick shots, using Kentucky windage, he got the both of those Nips.

“One day we climbed up a very large plateau and moved up our LMG.  We didn’t know why – shucks we never knew WHY we did anything.  We just kept putting our feet in the mucky brown footprint in front of us.  About 2 hours after we set up, we looked out into the valley and ‘holy cow!’ here came this C-47 barreling at eye level perhaps a thousand yards to our front … a slew of red and yellow parapacks dropped and troopers started jumping …  We finally figured out that they were the 457th Airborne Artillery also part of the 11th Airborne!

Cameraman on Leyte

“We headed back to our perimeter around a place called Lubi …we looked up to see at least 6 C-47s flying at 6-8 hundred feet overhead.  I found out later that they were Japanese “Tabbys” (a DC-2 built in Japan), loaded with a few hundred Nip paratroopers headed for the airstrips around Burauen … raised hell for a few days and nights and were finally driven off by the HQ Company/11th Airborne.  (Smitty was there.)

“All the time the rain kept falling.  We were all damp and cold.  After dark, one’s eyes got big as saucers.  You couldn’t see 5′ in front of you and your imagination would run rampant.  There were Japanese out there and one consolation was, they were just as wet, muddy and cold as we were.  Sitting in your foxhole at night and waiting to see if they would try to slip through was something else.  You were full of anxiety….”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News –50

To Remember – April 25th is ANZAC Day!  To view this blog’s posts on that memorial day – type ANZAC Day in the search box [top right].

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Valor with Honor” will be screened on Vimeo starting May 2017 for Asian Pacific Heritage Month.    “Valor with Honor” not only records the deeds and emotions of the veterans of the 442nd, but highlights the difficult struggle of the brave Nisei both on and off the battlefield.



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Military Humor –

“THIS WASN’T COVERED IN THE MANUAL!”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Allen – Little Rock, AR; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Bullwheel

Clifford Cursons – Wellington, NZ; RNZ Army # 239426, WWII, gunner

Arthur Gordon – Rochester, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Cabot

Gary Hardman – Newcastle, AUS; RA Navy, Vietnam, HMAS’ Ibis & Parramatta

Robert Kabat – Cleveland, OH; US Army, 17th Airborne Division

Michael Mastel – Hague, ND; US Army, WWII, PTO, surgery technician

Walter Roderick – Fall River, MA; US Navy, WWII

Richard Saggau – Denison, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 101st Airborne Division

George Teale – Vineland, NJ; US Army, WWII

Jack Wilson (106) – Willow Springs, IL; US Army, WWII

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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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