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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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Prelude to Smitty’s Combat

Jungle training for the Second World War was held for the benefit of the soldier’s immediate situation, but its effectual results led into the establishment of the Special Forces. This is typified by the creation of the Recon Platoon of the 11th Airborne Division and the Alamo Scouts. Out of these units we witnessed the outstanding operations of today’s special troops. In New Guinea and further combat experience, what these men learned went on to be vital assets for the future generations of soldiers.

The advantage of being acclimated to a different climate and acquainted with the strange terrain served to aid them in their survival and the success of their missions.

New Guinea, just before Leyte

Although the 11th A/B was small in size and short of arms and staff, they accepted orders normally issued to full size divisions. At this time, many people believed that MacArthur was obsessed with recovering the Philippines from the Japanese and perhaps he was, and with good reason. FDR had promised him serious military assistance in 1942, but it never arrived. As a direct result, MacArthur was ordered by his president to abandon his men on the islands and escape to Australia. The Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. had not only lied to one of his generals, but caused the forced surrender of American and Filipino citizens and military personnel. The infamous Bataan Death March and ultimate fall of the Philippines into Japanese control was the end result.

But here — the invasion of Leyte — would be, by far, the greatest operation of the Pacific. For the first time, the combined forces of MacArthur and the overseas bomber commands would be joined with the vast armada of Admiral Nimitz. Land and sea would simultaneously explode into action. The Japanese government also knew in their heart of hearts that the battles fought over the Philippine islands would decide the outcome of the war.  Unfortunately, intentionally or not, FDR not only found a way to leak the plans of Leyte’s attack, but diplomatic sources in the Kremlin gave the Japanese a forewarning and the the enemy became determined to make the Philippines an all-out effort.

Certain matters would need to be dealt with by the soldiers, Allied and Japanese alike. For the Japanese, the concept of using retreat as a strategic tactic was confusing and unheard of by their standard of protocol. The very thought of retreat was a disgrace and therefore forbidden. The American G.I. was equally befuddled by hara Kiri and kamikaze techniques. The purpose that suicide accomplished in a battlefield was beyond their comprehension – yet these and many more differences had to be confronted. (The official name of kamikaze was Tokubetsu Kogekitai and was not quite as popular in Japan as some have been led to believe.)

Gilliam-class APA

Many historians , looking back on the naval battles we recently discussed, compared the forces of Nimitz with throwing a right cross and MacArthur’s troops following through with the left punch – the enemy did not stand a chance.

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.

Nine 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. 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.”

 

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernest Nernhoft Jr. – Memphis, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, ‘The Hump’

Ronald Blackham – Weaverham, ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, Cpl., 3rd Batt. ‘Coldstream Guards’, KIA

Murray Goff – Bellingham, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, aerial photographer

Standing Guard

Maxx Hammer Jr. – Carbondale, Il; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, pilot, ‘Flying Tiger’, KIA

Jules Hauterman Jr. – Hampton, MA; US Army, Korea, medic, Cpl., KIA

Henry Jennings – Newburg, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot

Ed Murray – Ridgefield, WA; US Army, WWII, CBI

Mark Pedone – Garfield, NJ; USMC, WWII, PTO, 1st Marine Division

Donald ‘Butch’ Russell – Newark, DE; US Army, 11th Airborne Division, MSgt.

Robert Shearer – Hawera, NZ; 2NZEF # 022982, WWII

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October 1944 (4)

USS Samuel B. Roberts

USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413)

Halsey was battling Ozawa’s Decoy Force at Cape Engaño where the last surviving Japanese ship from the Pearl Harbor attacks, IJN Zuikaku was ablaze and abandoned.  The Chitose was dead in the water.  Commander Hathaway’s USS Heerman was badly damaged, along with the Hoel, Johnston and Samuel B. Roberts.

IJN Chikuma

IJN Chikuma

When Halsey retreated south, the remaining ships had planes out that proceeded to hit the IJN Chikuma and Chokai before they too retreated.  The Zuikaku sank and hour later the Zuiha succumbed, followed by the Chiyoda.

In less than 7 hours ____

At 0750, escort carrier GAMBIER BAY, dead in water, is continually hit by 8-inch shells, set afire and floods.

IJN Chokai

IJN Chokai

At 0805, CruDiv 4’s CHOKAI, hit and set afire by numerous bombs from KITKUN BAY’s aircraft, goes dead in the water. At 0807, GAMBIER BAY, capsizes and sinks.

At 0814, Vice Admiral Kurita orders all ships to assemble and head north. At 0850, CruDiv 7’s CHIKUMA and TONE, followed by CruDiv 5’s HAGURO and CHOKAI, pursue “Taffy Three’s” escort carriers. At 0853, CHIKUMA is attacked by four TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers from “Taffy Two”. She is hit in stern port quarter by a MK-13 aircraft torpedo that severs her stern and disables her port screw and rudder.

At 0907, CHIKUMA reports to YAMATO that she has been torpedoed and is unnnavigable. Then at 0920, CHIKUMA reports that she has lost a propeller, is making 18 knots, but is unsteerable. At 0930, CHIKUMA reports she is at 11-25N, 126-48E and making nine knots.

At 1020, Force A reverses course towards Leyte Gulf. At 1105, CHIKUMA is attacked by five TBMs from KITKUN BAY. She is hit portside amidships by two torpedoes and her engine rooms flood. Power is lost. She comes to a stop and takes on a list to portside. At 1110, destroyer NOWAKI is dispatched to assist her.

After 1415, CHIKUMA is attacked by three TBMs from ORMANNEY BAY led by VC-75’s CO, Lt Allen W. Smith. Three torpedoes hit her portside near amidships. NOWAKI takes off her survivors then scuttles her with torpedoes. At 1430, CHIKUMA capsizes and sinks by the stern at 11-25N, 126-36E.

USS Heermann at Battle of Samar, by: Dwight Shepler

USS Heermann at Battle of Samar, by: Dwight Shepler

26 October 1944: 65 miles SSE of Legaspi, Philippines. At 0054, NOWAKI is crippled and set afire by gunfire from Task Force 34.5’s VINCENNES (CL-64), BILOXI (CL-80) and MIAMI (CL-89) and DesDiv 103’s MILLER (DD-535), OWEN (DD-536) and LEWIS HANCOCK (DD-675).  At 0149, NOWAKI, dead in the water, is sunk by gunfire and torpedoes from the destroyers at 13N, 124-54E. NOWAKI goes down with all hands, including CHIKUMA’s survivors.

Ship list from Wikipedia:

Allied losses:

The United States lost six warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf:

Japanese losses:

The Japanese lost 26 warships during the Battle of Leyte Gulf:

Listed Japanese losses include only those ships sunk in the battle. After the nominal end of the battle, several damaged ships were faced with the option of either making their way to Singapore, which was close to Japan’s oil supplies but could not undertake comprehensive repairs, or making their way back to Japan where there were better repair facilities but scant oil. The cruiser Kumano and battleship Kongo were sunk retreating to Japan. Cruisers Takao and Myoko were stranded, unrepairable, in Singapore. Many of the other survivors of the battle were bombed and sunk at anchor in Japan, unable to move without fuel.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – in Naval Training –

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Farewell Salutes –

Chester Bochus – Licoln, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Ralph Gardener – Battle Creek, MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO & CBI, 9th Air Force, Transport Command

Margaret Jaffe – Santa Cruz, CA; US Army Nursing Corps, WWII1e12f2d7f401d503e1678a3a20527afb-jpglord-kitcheners-farewell-salute

Harold Knowles – Bathhurst, NB, CAN; RC Signal Corps, Korea

Richard Lonien – Everett, WA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Brian P. Odiorne – Ware, MA; US Army, Iraq, 2/82/3/1st Cavalry Division, cannon crew

George Russell – Clifton Heights, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Company C/152nd Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Elwin Swigart – Molalla, OR; US Army, WWII, ETO

John Keith Wells – Lakewiew, TX; USMC, WWII, PTO, 5th Marine Div., Lt., Navy Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Leonard Woods – Christchurch, NZ; RAF # 1330880, WWII, Warrant officer

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A Soul Lost in a Faraway Jungle – Part 2

Our good friend Koji Kanemoto gives us a view from both sides of the war.

Masako and Spam Musubi

It is believed I occupy a potentially unique position when it comes to looking at history as it pertains to the Pacific Theater in World War II.  I am American first and foremost and have studied WWII history out of curiosity.  As expressed in the description of my blog, my viewpoint is from “one war, two countries, one family”.  However, one potential uniqueness is that I am able to read a bit of Japanese; you may be amazed to read what is written about WWII from the Japanese viewpoint of history. As such, I believe each battle will have in the background two broad, driving and dissimilar viewpoints: one from America and one from Japan.  The attack on Pearl Harbor is one example. But that is but the surface on war’s history – a high altitude view.  One that can be easily manipulated politically. But being on the ground dealing…

View original post 1,246 more words

This WASP Couldn’t Wait to Fly

To honor our females veterans.

Writing of Kayleen Reusser-Home

marty-wyall-in-googles

Mary Anna (‘Marty’) Martin Wyall – WASP

One benefit of interviewing World War II veterans is the opportunity to develop friendships. My husband and I consider Marty Wyall a friend. Below is a shortened version of her story from my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans. You can hear Marty speak about her World War II experiences here. She’s still a spunky gal!

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Mary Anna (‘Marty’) Martin Wyall of Fort Wayne learned about the WASP program from a magazine ad while studying bacteriology at DePauw University in 1942. The idea of flying intrigued her. “There was a war on and I wanted to help my country,” she said.

Her family was not keen on the idea. “Mother thought it was morally wrong for me to join the WASP,” she said. “She came from the Victorian era. I told her she would have to accept it…

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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 – 

LX_WWII_Veteran_Visits

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

outhouse-1-640x480

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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