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11th Airborne Division – May 1945 (2)

187th HQ Company, from 11th Airborne Yearbook 1943

After the fall of Mount Macolod, the one remaining Japanese stronghold in the 11th A/B’s area of operation on Luzon was Mount Malepunyo, a welter of conical hills covered with tangled rainforest and bamboo thickets surrounded by slopes and interlaced with sharp ridges.  There were no roads within the 30-square-mile area of the mountain.

Gen. Griswold felt that Malepunyo was such a formidable Japanese bastion that he planned to give Gen. Swing the 1st Cavalry to use along with Swing’s 11th A/B.  But – just before the operation was to take place, Griswold would only attach the 8th Calvary Regiment .

The 187th Regiment of the 11th A/B, shorthanded and weary after fighting for Mt. Macolod, was sent to Tiaong, to prevent enemy escape on the east.  This would put them around the north shore of Lake Taal.  The 188th was moved to Alaminos on the south and kept the 8th Calvary at the “Grand Canyon” at the northeast and the 511th on their right flank.

Gen. Farrell gathered 7 battalions of artillery and spread them out around the foot of the mountain.  When the operation went into affect, fighter-bombers pounded the Japanese strongholds.  The American paratroopers could actually see the enemy race underground and to their positions when they hear the aircraft overhead.

Major Davy Carnahan of the 187th said, “We had ambushes up and down the river for a distance of about 10 miles, endeavoring to cover every possible crossing.  In those ambushes we accounted for some 4 hundred Japanese captured or killed.

About 2400 hrs. one night, movement across the bridges was noticed.  …  The surprise was complete and deadly, some 100 enemy being killed and wounded, including some high-ranking officers.  The strange looking objects seen on the bridge turned out to be sedan chairs that all the Japanese officers were being carried in.”  [The troopers would later discover that Gen. Fujishige’s auto had broken down back in March.  But the general was not being carried, he walked out leading 200 men and was not captured here.]

Carrying out the wounded, 11th Airborne Div.

At the end of May, the 187th was sent to Manila to relieve the 20th infantry.  The city was in dire straits.  Vast areas had been destroyed, industry was non-existent, they had very little in the way of utilities, there was no police force and dance halls were springing up on every corner.

Smitty was not here, but as part of Gen. Swing’s service staff, he would have been with his general.  Plans were heavily into talks about the invasion of Japan.

According to the 11th A/B’s G-4 officer, Major John Conable, “We were to be the lead division of XVIII Airborne Corps under Gen. Ridgeway.  Our division and the 13th Airborne Division were to parachute onto the peninsula forming the east side of Tokyo Bay and establish a beachhead for a couple of armored divisions…. I can remember poring over aerial photographs of the area, trying to find some decent jump fields.  We didn’t find any.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Bond Jr. – Bradford, PA; US Navy, WWII

Richard Brunk – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511/11th Airborne Division, Chaplain

Stanley Chambers – Ipswich, ENG; Royal Air Force, WWII / British Navy, pilot (Ret. 44 y.)

Peter Firmin – Harwich, ENG; British Navy, (artist)

James Furcinito – Syracuse, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Joe Gondarilla – Oxnard, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Kenneth Herrell – Manchester, TN; US Army

Clarence Mayotte – Webster, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 5th Armored Division

Ronald Spetalnick – Far Rockaway, NY; US Air Force, SSgt., Flight Instructor

Arnold Tolbert – Williston, SC; US Air Force

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Korean War (9)

187th RCT jump from FEAF transports

187th RCT jump from FEAF transports

18 October 1950, General Peng and his Communist “volunteers” crossed the Manchurian border and reached the town of Pakchon under the cover of night. Disguised as refugees, by the following day, 260,000 men and their artillery began crossing the Yalu River. They traveled over the concrete road atop the Suiho dam that MacArthur had been ordered NOT to destroy. With B-29s flying overhead, the CCF troops built wooden bridges, painted to look like the river, and submerged them to be unseen from above.

314th Troop Carrier Wing

314th Troop Carrier Wing

The 187th Rakkasans, after a final debriefing were informed that due to worsening weather condition their jump was delayed. 20 October, at 1030 hours, the troopers were told to ‘chute up’ and they began boarding 73 C-119s of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing and 40 C-47s from the 21st Troop Carrier Wing. At noon, the first plane took off headed for DZ William, southeast of Sukchon. Sfc William Ignatz recalled their rendezvous in a 9-plane V of Vs over the Han River and then going north along the west coast of Korea. Fighters strafed DZ William and at 1400 hours, he heard, “GO!” The veterans of WWII in his plane yelled, “Geronimo” as they jumped and only encountered sparse sniper fire. In all, 1,470 men and 74 tons of equipment were unloaded.

The 3/187th went south of Sukchon setting up roadblocks across the highways and railroad. The 1/187th was assigned to clear the Sukchon area and secure the high ground to the north. The 1st platoon of Engineers reached Songnani-ni at 1530 hours and was met by enemy fire. The porters continued to move their equipment and reached Namil-ni. General Bowen set up his headquarters post at Chanyi-ni on Hill 97.

DZ Easy was another jump, this one southwest of Sukchon and the Rakkasans marched into Sunchon in a column of twos. Pfc Kirksey remarked on the noise that echoed in the streets as the 2,500 North Koreans tossed their weapons. The two drops at the two DZs would total 4,000 men and 600 tons of materiel. Although many of the NKPA were already heading north, the jumps were considered a success. Unfortunately, the Allied POWs they were scheduled to rescue had previously been moved. (unknown to Allied intelligence) Unaware of the Chinese presence, MacArthur flew in for his fourth visit in time to witness the jumps.

October 1950 Korea map

October 1950 Korea map

21-22 October, I Company of the 3/187th, 8 miles south of Sukchon, headed down the railroad while K Company took the highway to meet up with the 27th Commonwealth Brigade coming north. I Company was caught in an ambush by a North Korean battalion and their 120mm mortars and 40mm guns. A heavy firefight ensued for two hours. With 90 men missing, they retreated back to Hill 281. Fortunately, the NKPA withdrew to their former positions. Medic Private First Class Richard G. Wilson, with I Company, returned to the battlefield of Opari to remain and tend the wounded. Two days later, his body was found riddled with bullets. He was given the Medal of Honor posthumously for self-sacrifice.

Harvey Kurtzman comic books  - Frontline Combat & Two-Fisted Tales were so well researched that the soldiers enjoyed them as much as the home front

Harvey Kurtzman comic books – Frontline Combat & Two-Fisted Tales were so well researched that the soldiers enjoyed them as much as the home front

The 1st Cavalry discovered the POW train, that the 187th was to intercept, heading toward Suchon. Many of the prisoners had previously been executed; out of 370 Americans, 23 were still alive although two died that night. On 22 October, the North Korean capital was moved to Sinuijiu.

937th Field Artillery self-propelled 155-mm "Long Tom" guns

937th Field Artillery self-propelled 155-mm “Long Tom” guns

K Company/187th had their battle one mile north of Yongyu. After the combat with heavy fire, they entered the town and dug in on Hill 163 just north. A line of hills ran diagonally across the railroad and highway between Pyongyang and Opari; 2,500 of the North Korean 239th Regiment were dug in there. A column of these troops strolled down the road pretending to be ROKs and they got away with the ruse until dawn broke. L Company and Headquarters Company could see who they truly were and opened fire. Heavy combat again followed and 3 G.I. machine-gunners were killed. MSgt. Willard Ryals, with bullets streaming passed him. reached one of the guns and fired back. He received the Silver Star. When Pyongyang was secure, I Corps headed to the Yalu River.

Two companies of the Argyll 1st Battalion moved into Yongyu and the Australian 3rd Battalion arrived. Four companies seized the road attacking the NKPA as they went on. The CO of the Argylls, Lt. Colonel Charles Greene, had his command post attacked by a large enemy force, but even as it came down to hand-to-hand combat, the NKPA lost about 270 KIA and 200 captured against the Australians having only 7 wounded. The enemy fled and the Middlesex 1st Battalion linked up with the American 187th RCT. The Presidential Citation was awarded to the 3rd Battalion/187th, the 3rd Platoon A Company 127th Engineers and the 2nd Section of the Antitank Platoon for the battle at Yongyu and then went into reserve until their next jump. The 1st Battalion received battle honours for the Battle of Pakchon.

Click on images to enlarge.

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30 August 1950

Farewell Salutes –

Victor Keve – Brooklyn, NY & W. Palm Beach, FL; U.S. Army, WWII

Elden Arthur King – Highland, MI & Boynton Beach, FL; U.S. Army, Korea

Carroll Madison – Richmond, VA & Lake Worth, FL; U.S. Navy, WWII signal-man aboard ship, Atlantic Coast and D-Day

Joseph Jackson Paul – N. Palm Beach, FL; U.S. Army, SSgt. WWII

Philip Vultaggio – Amityville & Massapequa, NY & Delray Beach, FL; U.S. Army Pfc 115th Infantry/29th Division, WWII

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Resources: “Rakkasans” by Gen. EM Flanagan; “Korean War” by Stephen Badsey; “MacArthur’s War” by Stanley Weintraub; Palm Beach Post; National Archives;Tiny Tot Comics; U.S. Army Military History Institute

11th Airborne Division and 187th Regiment

colors

As many of you know, this site is dedicated to my father Everett “Smitty” Smith, the 187th Regiment and the 11th Airborne Division as a whole. It is with this in mind that I am continuing the posts into the Korean War era and will then return to the very beginning of WWII, Pacific Theater.

1943 Camp MacKall Yearbook

1943 Camp MacKall Yearbook

The entire 11th A/B wrapped up their obligations in Japan for the occupation as of January 1949 with most of the 187th Regiment boarding the General Hersey for transport on 19 February. They docked in New Orleans, LA on 17 March and began heading to their new home at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. General Swing had remained their commander until January 1948 and in May 1949 they were under Brigadier General Lemel Mathewson and the 188th Regiment was deactivated. The 187th was reorganized and designated as the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, with Col. Harvey Jablonsky in command.

Letter from Gen. Swing to his men

Letter from Gen. Swing to his men

The flimsy gliders that they had developed and used in the war were sent to the museums at Forts Bragg and Bennington and the 11th A/B spent their fall of 1949 honing their airborne and physical fitness programs. In the spring of 1950, they returned to Camp MacKall, NC were Smitty and the division were first formed into a top unit and stunned the ‘brass’ with their outstanding performance in the famous Knollwood Maneuvers. I covered the Knollwood Maneuvers at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/camp-mackall-the-knollwood-maneuvers/ . The new 11th then participated in Exercise Swarmer over that same terrain.

Division HQ's Officers

Division HQ’s Officers

1 August 1950, Col. Frank Bowen Jr. faced the his men of the 187th Regiment in Theater Number Three and announced that the troops were slated for movement overseas. On 27 August, they became the 187th Regimental Combat Team along with the 674th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, A Company of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, Battery A of the 88th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion and units of MPs, quartermasters, parachute maintenance riggers and medics. 1 September they were separated from the 11th Airborne Division. The 187th RCT “Rakkasans” were being sent to Korea and we will follow them in future posts.

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In December 1950, Major General Lyman Lemnitzer took command of the 11th A/B Division and were transferred to the 3rd Army to consolidate the airborne units. Between 1950 and 1956, the commanders would change six times as they became situated in Germany. They were deactivated 1 July 1958, but reactivated in February 1963 as the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 30 June 1965, when they were once again deactivated; the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was formed.

patches of the 11th A/B

patches of the 11th A/B

I wish to convey a special Thank You to Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. USA (Ret.). Not only as the author of The Angels:A History of the 11th Airborne Division and Rakkasans, but as the commander of the 11th A/B’s B Battery of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and a columnist for Army Magazine. Being that Smitty’s records were lost in the St. Louis fire of 1973, his knowledge and memory were of great assistance to me.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

I have had the honor of receiving two phone calls from the general, during my initial research, in which he thanked me for my letters to him. Both of those occasions will remain highlighted memories for me which I shall never forget.

Click on images to enlarge and read. Thank you.

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Farewell Salute –

Joe Zack Thompson – Dallas & Humble, TX; U.S. Naval Air Corps, WWII

Dr. Douglas MacInnis – Wisconsin & Laguna Beach, CA; Surgical Army Captain, Korean War

Murray Michael Rothberg – Agoura Hills, CA; U.S. Army, WWII

Harry Daily McCament – Plano & Houston, TX; U.S. Navy, Korean War aboard the USS Randolph CVA-15

Salvatore Cintorino – Rochester, NY; U.S. Army, WWII ETO, Purple Heart

James Wallis – Dallas, TX; U.S. Navy, WWII

John B. Boy – Johnson City, TN & LaBelle, FL; U.S. Navy, WWII, captain of the USS C350 (subchaser), USS PC613 (patrolcraft) & the USS Holton, DE-703 (destroyer escort).

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