“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.
“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.’
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.
Military Humor –
Farewell Salutes –
John Carrington – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division
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
While some of the troopers continued to await the arrival of the good ole’ American jeeps to replace the coal-burning vehicles in Japan, General Swing was striving to make the occupation as bearable as possible. They had endured some horrendous hardships and accomplished more than anyone expected from them and he felt they deserved whatever he could provide. On his orders, a Japanese auditorium was transformed into the 11th Airborne Coliseum. The complex was large enough to hold a theater that would seat 2,500, four basketball courts, a poolroom with 100 tables, a boxing arena that held 4,000 spectators, six bowling alleys and a training room.
Aside from the sports theme, the coliseum contained a Special Services office, a snack bar, a Red Cross office and a library. I can just picture my father spending some off-duty time in the poolroom or bowling alley. When I was growing up, we had a pool table in the basement and Smitty would teach me how every shot was related to angles and geometry. My aim improved – once I figured it out.
In the fall of 1945, an Olympiad was held in Tokyo for all the troops stationed in Japan and Korea. Football became the highlighted game. The 11th A/B Division coach, Lt. Eugene Bruce brought them to winning the Japan-Korea championship. They then went on to take the Hawaiian All-Stars in Mejii Stadium with a score of 18-0. This meant that the 11th Airborne Division held the All-Pacific Championship. The troopers went on to win in so many other sports that by the time the finals were held for the boxing tournament at Sendai, the headlines read in the Stars and Stripes sports section:
Ho-Hum, It’s the Angels Again”
On the reverse side of the photo seen above, Smitty wrote, “This is the hotel where we are now staying. That dot in the driveway is me.” The 11th A/B commander had made his home here on 16 September. After the occupation, it re-opened for business as a hotel, but unfortunately was destroyed by fire on 2 March 1969.
The division had a reputation for mission accomplishment despite being nearly half the size of other divisions. This was often attributed to their somewhat unorthodox methods. This carried over into their occupation of Japan. General Swing converted an old Japanese factory and had it turning out American-style furniture for the troops. General Headquarters wasn’t very happy about the project because they wanted the Japanese to build furniture for the entire command. But Swing was not one to wait for all the red tape. After General Eichelberger inspected the better-than-GHQ- standard brick barracks under construction, he said to Swing, “Joe, I don’t know whether to court-martial you or commend you.” (Later on, he was commended Swing.)
Resources: “Rakkasans” and “The Angels: A history of the 11th Airborne Division” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan; Everett’s scrapbook; Wikipedia
While the 511th regiment was held up at the Paranaque River, the 674th regiment moved in to assist them. The evening of 4 February 1945, the smoke and flames inside the city of Manila could easily be seen.
The Japanese Naval Air Service was stationed at Nichols Field where they had antiaircraft weapons that would shoot at the American planes overhead or positioned to aim directly at the troopers on land. The enemy 4th Naval Battalion had secured Fort McKinley and other Japanese units filled in the gaps in between.
On 7 February, the 188th reg. and the 2d battalion of the 187th headed across open terrain toward Nichols Field where they encountered tremendous resistance. It would take four days to create a solid defensive line diagonally across the air field. On this date, a member of the 511th would make contact with a patrol of the 1st Calvary near the Philippines Racing Club, but the Japanese were still defending Nichols Field complex, the center of the Genko Line, as though they were protecting the Emperor himself.
At this time, the 2d of the 187th was attached to the 511th. The CP (Command Post) was in a spanish-style house with a wall surrounding it, and it was receiving 20mm AA fire. One shell went through a window and killed Colonel Haugen (C.O. of the 511th), but Gen. Swing, Col. Tipton and Capt. Barker were unharmed.
By 12 February, enough was enough. Swing sent the 2d of the 187th to attack Nichols Field eastward, while the 188th and the 1st of the 187th drove in from the south. Under continuous fire, they attacked the enemy pillboxes and emplacements. The enemy’s fierce counterattack was repelled and most of the field was in U.S. hands by dusk. They did need to continue fighting throughout the following day.
By the time Valentine’s Day rolled around, the 188th and the 2d of the 187th turned toward Fort McKinley. Gen. Eichelberger felt that the results were “one of the most daring feats of the war” being that there were only seven infantry battalions in the entire division. There was also no rest for the weary, even the truck drivers were running supplies 19 hours a day and Gen. Swing used a cub plane to land and see what was happening at the front lines. Dad always said that it was an everyday occurence to have Swing on the point. And now, the 457th regiment was in position on Tagatay Ridge to provide support for the MSR (Main Supply Route).
current news – A 16 year old French boy found a WWII duffel bag in his grandfather’s attic and returned it to 92 year old Army veteran, William Kadar in Indiana. Kadar last saw the bag in Nov. 1944 – one week before the Germans captured him.
Also, in a town just a few miles from me, 20 WWII veterans of WWII received France’s Legion of Honor Medal. Anyone who served in France during the war is eligible to apply for this.
Remember to click on photos for a larger view.
By 1300 hours on 3 February 1945, General Swing had most of his division back together and he made the Manila Hotel Annex his CP (Command Post). The beautiful hotel seen in the picture above (10 months later) had been looted and ransacked long before the Americans got there, but it would suit their purposes. Frank Smith, a reporter for the Chicago Times reported that Gen. Eichelberger stated at the Annex, “The 11th Airborne Division is the fightingest goddamn troops I ever saw.”
Highway 17 would now begin to turn into a two lane concrete road. This seemed like a good sign for beating Gen. Krueger to Manila, but the 11th was short on trucks and the fuel to move them. Gasoline arrived on the 4th, delivered by ten C-47s. Forward scouts reported that the road was fairly safe as far as Imus and the 511th regiment moved out.
The 188th and the 1st of the 187th finished clearing out Shorty Ridge of the enemy and then they too moved toward Manila. It was here that Swing altered the missions of some of his units. General Hildebrand of the 187th was told to secure the main supply route (MSR) and was given control of the thousands of guerrillas of Batangas and Cavite provinces. Controlling and organizing the guerrillas was a difficult operation as they would remain loyal to whoever ran what section of which province. Coordinating their missions and tracking them and getting them supplies was extremely tedious in comparison to an Army unit. The guerrilla reports were not always reliable either. Eichelberger, in one, was told that Manila was burning to the ground. The general looked out his window and could see for himself that there was one small trail of smoke. Active patrols of the 187th, though shorthanded, drove the Japanese farther back into the mountains as they continued to move to an area south of the capital city.
On the 4th, the calvary, under Brig. Gen. Chase, arrived to release the 510 prisoners of Santo Tomas and Bilibid prison. Also on this date, General MacArthur released a communique that Manila was free and in our hands, BUT as was his nature, he was a bit hasty in his reports. The Sixth Army coming down from the north and the Eighth Army (which was actually the 11th A/B) approaching from the south, had much work to do ahead of them. The 187th set their sights on the airfields and the areas where the Japanese manned the AA (anti-aircraft – also known as ack-ack) guns.
I have to maintain on January 31, 1945, as this is where the actions of Smitty and the 11th Airborne Division become quite confusing. While the 221st medical is attached to the 187th, the 187th itself is split and send in alternate directions. Up until now, the division has been maintained fairly well in secret from the Japanese, but it is here that Gen. Eichelberger not only wants to allow the enemy knowledge of their existence, he wants to (in his words) pull a “monumental bluff” and splash the landing across the newspapers.
The men hit the beach with only their necessities on their backs; their personal items would not be seen for two months. The Eichelberger/Swing strategy began at dawn with the convoy’s arrival at the shore. 0700 hours – eighteen A-20’s and nine P-38s strafed the beaches.
0715 hours – the navy began to shell the landing area with rockets from the LCIs and shells from the destroyers.
0815 – cease fire, beach party lands
0822 – no opposition from enemy reported; first wave of 8 LCVPs lands, men head toward Nasugbu only 1500 yards away.
0945 – the 188th was through Wawa, Nasugbu and the airstrip.
1030 – the 187th begins landing and immediately joined up with the others to head up to Tagatay Ridge. One unit of the 187th remains to defend Nasugbu, one battery of the 674th assists. The 102d AAA AW Battalion and the 152d AA-AT Battalion set up antiaircraft defense on the beach.
1300 – the beach was clear – Eichelberger and Swing head down Highway 17
1400 – Gen. Swing notified Admiral Fechteler that all the men were ashore and he would resume command. Little did the 11th know that for a few brief hours, they were under the command of a naval admiral!
1430 – all key elements were 8 miles from the beach and at the Palico Bridge. It was saved just as a squad of Japanese were about to blow the steel and wood structure.
1600 – the 188th set up a CP in the Palico barracks.
All companies continued to moved forward. Artillery, rifle and machine gun fire erupted shortly afterward.
The monumental bluff was created by: a flying boatload of correspondents that blasted the news that the “Eighth Army had landed on Luzon,” and Eichelberger ordered Swing to have the 187th and 188th move as quickly as possible, fire as much artillery and weapons and create as much dust as possible. All vehicles raced down the dirt roads, guns blazing and air strikes thrown in made the division appear to not only be of immense size, but that they also had an armored unit with them.
They would now be coming up on the infamous Genko Line; a stretch of blockhouses and pillboxes that contained guns from Japanese warships, 20mm, 6 inch, etc. The enemy had dug massive octopus traps called takotsubo. All this needed to be destroyed before liberation of Manila and elimination of the 20,000 soldiers waiting for them within the city limits. For this action, the 11th would be granted the Presidential Unit Citation.
The 187th went down the steep southern slope of Tagatay and progressed to the north shore of Lake Taal where they were ordered to take Tanauan. The 127th Engineers carved out a road on the vertical cliffs for them.
For more current WWII news – According to The Week magazine: A World War II veteran was able to hear a symphony he wrote 67 years ago, for the first time, when the U.S. Army Orchestra premiered it in Washington D.C. Retired Colonel Harold Van Heuvelen, 93, was inspired by his experiences as a soldier to write the symphony in 1945. When his son found the music, he launched a campaign to have the Army play it. The composition drew rapturous applause and a standing ovation for the composer.
Also – When Joshua Neldorf celebrated his bar mitzvah in Sept. he decided to donate $13,000 (most of his gifts) to Operation Mend which provides medical services to American soldiers with facial injuries. His generosity was inspired by a family friend, Sgt. Louis Dahlman who was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007.
Locally – south of me, submerged in 240 feet of water, a World War II Navy F6F Hellcat was located off of Miami Beach. Florida was used for training Navy and Marine pilots during that war. Since the nearly intact wreckage is embedded in the sand and upside-down, it is not known if the pilot is buried with his plane.
21 January 1945, General Swing announced to his force that he was ordering a division review. The 11th Airborne Division was being transferred to the command of the Eight Army and the reviewing officer was would be none other than General Eichelberger, the top commander, himself. Field Order Number 17 informed Swing that the 11th A/B must pack up and move on to the island of Luzon, P.I. Upon arrival they would be expected to retake Manila, destroy the Japanese Genko Line of defense and release all internees being held captive at the prisons, especially Los Banos.
Luzon was the most populated, the most highly developed and the most historical island in the archipelago. It was also a land of wild boars, birds, snakes, reptiles, feral dogs, tons of insects and an enemy hiding within the cogon grass at every turn; the plant had coarse spikes with “silky” hairs that made your skin feel as though hundreds of creatures crawled beneath it. There was always a threat of dengue fever; contracted from a mosquito and if left untreated resulted in bleeding and death. It was here that Smitty contracted a mild case of malaria, but quinine and stubbornness kept him out of the hospital. (He always said that he was one of the lucky ones, but I witnessed one relapse and can not imagine what the unlucky ones had gone through.)
War or no war – Hollywood would continue to be Hollywood. Gloria Vanderbilt had separated from her husband of two years, Pat deCicco, two months before she was to inherit $4.5 million. Ida Lupino filed for divoece from her husband, Louis Haywood. Obviously, the rich and famous were having a rough time of it during the war.
Then, you have the opposite spectrum. One of many, many examples being – Rod Serling, best known for his televisions shows, “Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery,” was a Pvt. in the 11th A/B and would earn a Bronze Star.
24 January, General Swing issued Field Order Number 10 that specifically outlined their orders. To accomplish their task, 120 ships and landing craft would be used to transport the troops, equipment, ammo and replacements for the division up northward approximately 400 miles. They were now numbered 8,200 men, about six thousand short of a normal division.
Personal note – As people remember Pearl Harbor and honor those that gave their lives, please bear in mind that December 10 thru 13, the Japanese 16th Division went ashore at Lamon Bay, Luzon, P.I., stormed across the island to Tiaong and then headed for the capital, Manila. The Japanese took total air superiority almost immediately. The American and Filipino troops became encircled and the end result would be the Bataan Death March. I will have further information as I bring the U.S. troops into Luzon.
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 later during their actual 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.
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 combines 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. Field Marshall Hisaichi Terauchi communicated orders for additional men and supplies, while General Yamashita attempted to convince his superiors otherwise. The general did not wish to remove men and arms from the more important island of Luzon, especially as transportation would now be a major problem — thanks to the U.S. Navy. 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. This topic will be discussed in a later post as the action unfolds.)
Admiral Halsey led his famous fleet in the battle to clear Leyte Gulf and neighboring waters, thereby opening the way for troop landings. It was during the battle for Surigao Strait that Admiral Mitscher turned in early for some sleep and said to his aide, “It’s alright. Admiral Halsey is in command now.” But, all kidding aside, the Japanese had a very formidable navy and it would take more than one admiral to complete and win the last large sea battle of the war. Many historians , looking back on these ensuing battles, 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.”
Being as their cruise took so long, Smitty had a chance to write home once again, Letter XIV will be included in the next post.
Personal note – Most acknowledgements will be at the end of this blog in the Bibliography; such as the photograph above which came from “The Pacific War Encyclopedia on-line.”
Please remember that if any photograph is too small for you to make out clearly, simple click the photo to enlarge.
Letter IX “A Day’s Venture” Monday 6/26/44
Yesterday, being Sunday, a day of rest, I decided to ride around this place and see something. I made up my mine though that this sightseeing tour of mine, this time, would be done as a civilian completely forgetting I’m in the army. You have to do this in order to see the place in its true light, otherwise if you don’t all you can see is hardship and work. With my mind cleared of Khaki, I set forth in a jeep with a buddy of mine; who I dare say couldn’t see the sense of our venture.
As we drove along in the still quiet, the thought kept coming to me of the enormous job the boys before us had to confront and overcome. Here and there along the way you could see some old emplacement or deserted village. These villages were really something to see with their straw-thatched roofs and open sided houses. We wouldn’t call them shed, but that is just what they looked like.
One can readily understand why the authors of those travelogues really go all out when describing these islands. You forget the heat as cooling breezes blow over you from the coast and the shade of the giant coconut trees gradually engulf you.
We passed one spot close to the coast that suddenly shook us with the horrible realization of our place and mission. It wasn’t large or spread out, but all was peaceful and quiet though men were gaily chatting and swimming nearby. We entered by an archway on which was inscribed, “Japanese Cemetery.” We passed now upon some of the little white markers all neatly lined up and lettered. Although they were once an active enemy, one could not help but see the shame and waste of war.
We looked around the beach for a while, then decided to go in for a swim. The water here is amazingly warm and clear. You could never believe it unless you could see it as I have. How crystal clear and immune of blemish this water here is. Why, to peer down 25 feet and see bottom is really an easy thing to do. The bottom is sand, sand at its finest and whitest literally covered with shells of every shape and color with here and there a grotesque piece of coral. You can really pick out the coral as it shows up a faint green while the shells throw all colors of the rainbow up at you until your eyes are completely dazzled by the many-colored lights.
By this time, the sun was well on its way toward the horizon and dusk rapidly approaching. Here and there a faint star twinkled until suddenly the sky was almost completely covered with thousands. The moon finally appeared in all its bright glory and reflected itself a hundred times over on the waves before us. The end of the day had come and with it also my venture into a world never to be forgotten. This day will long be remembered and stored with the rest of my most treasured memories.
Good night! And may God bless you, Everett
PS. I shall write to Joe Dumb as soon as I send this letter on its way. Be good and take care of yourself.
Smitty always made mention of how hard the soldiers before him had to struggle. He noticed that no matter how hard people or nature tried to disguise their surroundings, the scars of war were everywhere. In New Guinea, my father had a clear view of the battle remnants of General Robert Eichelberger’s Australian and American troops from when they fought on a similar terrain and in battles as fiercely intense as Guadalcanal – on each island the territories had to be taken inch by inch. (Many veterans know of what I speak.)
Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, Chief of Allied Air Forces, in the southwest Pacific sent his complaints to the War Dept. and Gen. “Hap” Arnold, head of the U.S. Army Air Forces to explain just that in 1942:
“… The Japanese is still being underrated. There is no question of our being able to defeat him, but the time, effort, blood and money required to do the job may run to proportions beyond all conception, particularly if the devil is allowed to develop the resources he is now holding.
“Look at us in Buna. There are hundreds of Buna ahead for us. The Japanese there has been in a hopeless position for months. He has been outnumbered heavily throughout the show. His garrison has been whittled down to a handful by bombing and strafing. He has no air support and his own Navy has not been able to get passed our air blockade to help him. He has seen lots of Japs sunk off shore a few miles away. He has been short on rations and has had to conserve his ammunition, as his replenishment from submarines and small boats working down from Lae at night and once by parachute from airplanes has been precarious, to say the least. The Emperor told them to hold, and believe me, they have held! As to their morale — they still yell out to our troops, “What’s the matter, Yanks? Are you yellow? Why don’t you come in and fight?” A few snipers, asked to surrender after being surrounded, called back, “If you bastards think you are good enough, come and get us!”
“…I’m afraid that a lot of people, who think this Jap is a “pushover” as soon as Germany falls, are due for a rude awakening. We will have to call on all our patriotism, stamina, guts and maybe some crusading spirit or religious fervor thrown in to beat him. No amateur team will take this boy out. We have got to turn professional. Another thing: there are no quiet sectors in which troops get started off gradually, as in the last war. There are no breathers on this schedule. You take on Notre Dame every time you play!”
It was after this one month later after this report that the specialized training for the 11th A/B began and the War Dept. also saw the need for improved weapons for this “new type of war.” Under the direction of Colonel William Borden this effort resulted in: 105-mm and 155-mm mortars, flamethrowers, ground rockets, colored smoke grenades and the skidpans for towing heavy srtillery in muddy terrains.
But – still at this point – only about 15% of the Allied resources were going to the Pacific.
(These two photographs are courtesy of the World War II Database. ww2db.com)