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December 1944 (2)

Avenger on the deck of the USS Anzio, Typhoon Cobra, December 1944

16 December – Douglas MacArthur was promoted to Five-Star General.  It seemed that General MacArthur’s promotion to General of the Army would require assistance from many sides.  It posed a problem in the respect that there was no such object as a five-star insignia in existence in the Pacific.  A clever Filipino silversmith created one from a miscellaneous collection of Dutch, Australian and Filipino coins.

USS Langley (CVL-27), Typhoon Cobra

17 December – Typhoon Cobra hit the Philippine Islands.  TF-38 was caught off-guard and the destroyers, USS Hull, Mongham and Spence were sunk and 22 other vessels received damage.  While 150 aircraft were blown off the decks of the carriers, more than 750 sailors drowned.

19 December – Adm. Nimitz was made Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet and Pacific Areas, thereby promoting him to Fleet Admiral of the US Navy, a 5-Star Admiral.

USS Bryant

21→22 December – an American destroyer, the USS Bryant was damaged by the Japanese kamikaze pilots off Mindoro, P.I.  The Bryant had seen the plane approaching and while maneuvering to avoid collision, the kamikaze basically just clipped her and exploded beneath the waves.

22→29 December – Japanese Gen. Yamashita radioed Gen. Suzuki’s headquarters in Cebu City: “RE-DEPLY YOUR TROOPS TO FIGHT EXTENDED HOLDING ACTIONS IN AREAS OF YOUR CHOICE.  SELECT AREAS SUCH AS BACALOD ON NEGROS WHICH ARE HIGHLY SUITABLE FOR SELF-SUSTAINING ACTION.  THIS MESSAGE RELIEVES YOU OF YOUR ASSIGNED MISSION.”

Gen. Yamashita

This message would not reach Suzuki for 3 days, by which time his troops were being surprised by Gen. Bruce’s men.  The enemy fled to San Isidro and Palompon was taken by the 77th Division unopposed on Christmas Day.  Suzuki and about 10,000 of his troops concentrated at Mount Canquipot, whose eastern and western slopes made the sector a natural fortress.  They could hear Christmas carols coming from the G.I.’s.  Stragglers arrived from the Japanese 1st Division and 68th Brigade, but lost 100 men a day due to starvation.

29 December – Suzuki received a mess age from Gen. Fukue stating that the 102nd Division were leaving in boats for Cebu.  When Suzuki ordered them to remain in place – his message was ignored.  Approximately 743 men, all that remained of the prize Gem Division would evacuate by 12 January 1945.  Gen. Eichelberger’s 8th Army closed in on Suzuki and Mount Canquipot.

25 December – Yamashita informed Suzuki that he considered Leyte a lost cause and this date was originally designated as the end of organized resistance on Leyte, but the troops that remained assigned to the “mopping-up” of the island [7th Division] would beg to differ.

26 December – a Japanese naval force bombarded US installations on Mindoro and the Americans sank the IJN destroyer Kiyoshimo, (清霜, “Clear Frost”).

click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – for those finally returning home…

Homer Abney – Dallas, TX; US Army, Korea, Sgt., KIA

Robert Barnett – Austin, TX; US Air Force, Vietnam, Captain, pilot, KIA

Murray Cargile – Robertsonville, NC; US Navy, Pearl Harbor, Seaman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA

Louis Damewood – Carroll County, MD; US Army, Korea, Cpl.,HQ/3/38/2nd Div., KIA

Joseph Durakovich – Gary, IN; US Army, Korea, MSgt., KIA

William Kennedy – Titonka, IA; US Navy, Pearl Harbor, Fireman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA

James Mainhart – Butler, PA; US Army, Korea, Cpl., KIA

George Perreault – Burlington, VT; US Army, Korea, Cpl., KIA

William Ryan – Hoboken, NJ; USMC, Vietnam, 1st Lt., KIA

James Whitehurst – Dotham, AL; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc., KIA (Tarawa)

Those that still remain missing – 

from WWII – 73,060

Korea – 7,751

Vietnam – 1,611

Iraq – 6

At the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

A military ceremony was held for unclaimed cremains of five Veterans from Potter County (Amarillo), Texas. The Veterans are:

Michael Topp
Michael Papencheck
Ronald Stevenson
Laird Orton Jr.
Jerry Harris

Filipina Heroine

Magdalena Leones

Magdalena Leones

The Silver Star is the third-highest honor for gallantry in the U.S. Armed Forces. Previous recipients include Audie Murphy, Chuck Yeager, and Norman Schwartzkopf. But few people have heard of Magdalena Leones – she was a Filipino woman that served as a guerrilla soldier under U.S. command in World War II.

Leones was in her 20s when she joined the Philippine-American military effort. She is part of a small group of women – and is the only Filipino woman – to receive the award for her heroism. She died on June 16th in Richmond, California at 96-years old.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized her on June 28. “We are diminished by the passing of Corporal Magdalena Leones, Silver Star Filipina World War II veteran — the only Asian to receive this honor,” Supervisor Jane Kim said. “Corporal Leones has paved the way for many women that are breaking barriers in every arena. I look forward to her story and the story of the 250,000 Filipino World War II veterans being told for all to remember.”

Leones was part of why General Douglas MacArthur was able to return. Leones was able to gather the parts needed to make a radio that allowed communications with MacArthur, which in turn led to the invasions at Leyte and the re-taking of the Philippines.

Cpl. Magdalena Leones

Cpl. Magdalena Leones

The Army awarded the Silver Cross to Leones on October 22, 1945.

“For gallantry in action at Luzon, Philippine Islands, from 27 February to 26 September 1944,” the citation reads. “During the period cited, Corporal Leones repeatedly risked her life to carry important intelligence data, vital radio parts and medical supplies through heavily garrisoned enemy-held territory.”

“Although she knew that detection by the enemy would result in torture and execution, Corporal Leones fearlessly continued her perilous missions between guerrilla forces throughout Luzon with notable success. Through her intrepidity and skill as a special agent, Corporal Leones contributed materially to the early liberation of the Philippines.”

Lt. Gen. O.W. Griswold, commanding officer, U.S. Army, signed the citation. San Francisco’s Civic Center has had the citation and a replica medal on display in their Filipino Veterans Education Center since last January.

Rudy Asercion is a Vietnam veteran and the leader of American Legion Bataan Post 600 in San Francisco. He said that Leones’ heroism was not widely known, even in the Filipino community. “She was very private and deeply religious who never talked about her exploits,” Asercion told NBC News. “No one knew anything about her. We didn’t hear about the Silver Star until we commemorated the Leyte Landing and MacArthur’s return in 2004. Then I vetted and researched her and found out the truth. She’s a Filipina, an Asian woman. A Silver Star holder. The only one.”

Magdalena (Far right) with Leones family, 1960's

Magdalena (Far right) with Leones family, 1960’s

Leones moved to the States in the late 1960s.  She worked for the telephone company.  Family members mourned Leones in a small, private funeral.

Libingan ng mga Bayani

“Even with the Silver Star, there were no top brass, no admirals, or generals, to remember her. It’s very sad,” Asercion said. “No obit in the mainstream papers about her heroism either. Nothing.”   She will be buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani, the place where the Philippines buries its heroes.

“The biggest issue to me, is she was not recognized by anybody, in the Philippines or the U.S.,” Asercion said, still troubled by her lack of recognition. “She’s elite, a one of a kind hero.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Ian Boxall – Bellevue, AUS; RC Army, Vietnam

Alfred Cabral – Walpole, MA; US Navy, WWII

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

William Herbert – Cherry Hill, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division, Signal Corps

Thelburn Knepp – Peoria, IL; US Army, WWII, ETO, 89th Infantry Division

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

Harold Madson – Eastpointe, MI; US Army, WWII & Korea, 1st Lt.

Darby Silvernail – Huntsville, AL; US Army, Afghanistan, Medical Corps

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

Edward Yamasaki – Honolulu, HI; US Army, WWII, ETO, 442nd RCT (author)

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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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Eye Witness Account for Leyte

AMTRAC (alligator)

As November 1944 is coming to a close, the 2nd Battalion/187th Regiment/11th Airborne Division moved up from Bito Beach to the mountains just west of Burauen and it’s an eye-opener for the men.  This is the account of CWO William Nelson, personnel officer of the 2nd. wrote:

The Second was literally ferried to the new position in those strange vehicles called amtracs.  Enroute, we stared like yokels at a starlet, as we crossed the coastal plain between Dulag and Burauen, for up to this time, we had no idea of the magnitude of the American effort on Leyte.

Soldiers in a field hospital, P.I., WWII

We passed ammunition dumps by the dozen; 155 batteries; truck battalions; field hospitals and many special-unit headquarters.  Finally, as we neared Burauen, we clanked past airstrips jammed  with P-38’s.  All these installations were literally bogged down in the mud.  In fact, the typhoons of October and the continuing deluge had all but washed out the 6th Army’s Service troops and the 5th Air Force back across the beach.

Arriving at Burauen, the battalion found the dry areas – the relatively dry areas of the town already occupied by an Air Force MP platoon, an Ordnance Battalion and the 44th General Hospital.  The battalion of the 511th we were to relieve was preparing to move out.  A.F. files cheerfully informed us that the Nips bombed away at the strips almost every night, although lately his nightly application had become a bit feeble.  [Similar to what the beach troops had already been through – maybe it was the same pilot?!]

Operations maps 28 November 1944

Down near one of the airstrips was located the headquarters of our division.  This half-flooded landing field had been allotted to the 11th A/B and from it aerial resupply missions were being launched in support of the 511th.  Up on the hill, at the edge of town,was the 5th Air Force Headquarters, where it overlooked the three airstrips of its fighter squadrons.

At any rate, the job of the 2nd battalion was to protect this whole gigantic, and confused, melange, and accordingly, it occupied positions about 800 yards west of the town on a low hill dominating the surrounding flat-land.

These notations made by CWO Nelson were found in “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division” by Lt.General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. US Army (ret. 30 years).  I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with the general twice.  It will remain as a highlight of my life.

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Personal Note – 

I finally succumbed to an interview request, and you can come and see how good or bad I am at talking about myself!  Come and visit my only attempt at this!!

GP Cox in action…..

https://meetthebloggersblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/pacific-paratrooper-by-gp-cox/

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Albright – Stone Ridge, NY; US Army, 188th/11th Airborne Division

Hymie Epstein – NE; US Army, WWII, PTO, Medic, (Buna-Gona) KIA

Michael Galajdik – Elwood, IL; US Navy, WWII, fireman, (Pearl Harbor), KIA

Vernon Grow – Redding, CA; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma,( Pearl Harbor) KIA

Jack Harold – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 4242, WWII, PTO

Jessie Kuster – Hartford, CT/RI; US Navy WAVE, WWII, ETO, Yeoman

Robert Peers – Vancouver, CAN; RC Navy (Ret.), Korea, Captain

Leonard Rood – DePere, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 423rd Bomb Squadron

Louis Sanchez – Witchita, KS; US Army, WWII, ETO, 3rd Army

Melvin VanGundy Jr. – Jacksonville, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot “Little Colonel”, POW

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on images to enlarge.

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

http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joan Abery – Darley Dale, ENG; RAF, WWII

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

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

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

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

Charles Johnson – Wichita, KA; US Navy, WWII

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

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

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

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

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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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November 1944 (1)

Ordeal at Ormoc Bay

Ordeal at Ormoc Bay, FEAF, by Steve Ferguson, and can be purchased here…

https://irandpcorp.com/products/ordeal-at-ormoc-bay/

3 November – When the Japanese 57th Regiment arrived at Limon, Gen. Krueger’s 24th Division was on the other side of the mountain range.  Rather than attack the lightly defended enemy positions, he halted his troops.  For some reason, he was expecting a possible enemy amphibious landing and the US attack would not begin for 2 more days.

5→10 November – in the 19th year of Showa, for the Japanese, the G.I. mortar and machine-gun fire seemed to nearly wipe out the squad scaling the ridge.  As the brush caught fire, the Americans of I Company/3rd Battalion/21st Infantry Regiment/ 24th Division, attacked and charged over the ridge until the enemy’s big guns opened up.  Another Japanese force arrived and the US troops retreated.  This would be known as Breakneck Ridge [Yahiro Hill to the Japanese].

Leyte activity map

Even with the support of the 1st Cavalry, the soldiers were pushed back, but they would return on the 8th.  They then proceeded to continually hit the ridge until the 10th, when the Japanese 3rd Battalion was ordered to tenshin. (which means to turn around and advance).  The few survivors remaining did make it back to their supply depot.

6 November – Japanese convoy MA-TA 31 escorted by 2 cruisers and other escorting vessels was attacked by a wolfpack of US submarines, Batfish, Ray, Raton, Bream and Guitarro at Luzon.  The Ray fired 6 rear torpedoes at the enemy cruiser  Kumano and destroyed her bow.

US Hellcat fighters and bombers with Avenger torpedo planes attacked enemy airfields and shipping installations throughout southern Luzon.  The US aircraft were intercepted by about 80 Japanese fighters and a dogfight ensued over Clark Field.  The enemy lost 58 planes and 25 more later in the day.  More than 100 Japanese aircraft were destroyed on the ground.  One cruiser sank in Manila Harbor and 10 other vessels were heavily damaged.

10→11 November – Another Japanese convoy, carrying 10,000 reinforcements for Leyte, escorted by 4 destroyers, a minesweeper and a submarine chaser.  They were screened by 3 other destroyers, but were intercepted by the US 10th Fleet aircraft as they made their turn into Ormoc Bay.  Before they could reach the harbor, the TF-38 aircraft attacked.  The first wave aimed at the transports.  The second wave hit the destroyers and third wave strafed the beaches and the burning destroyers.  Nine of the ships sank and 13 enemy planes providing air cover were shot down.

The FEAF (Far East Air Force, the 5th A.F.) used 24 B-24’s to hit Dumaguerte Airfield on Negros Island in the P.I. and fighter-bombers were sent to the Palompon area on Leyte.  Targets of opportunity were hit on Mindanao.  Fighter-bombers and B-25s hit shipping and Namlea Airfield, and P-38s hit Kendari Airfield on Celebes Island while B-24a bombed the Nimring River area.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – Teamwork, Beetle-style!!

cover for Beetle Bailey comic book

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Farewell Salutes – 

Sverre Alvestad – Norway/Glen Oaks, CAN; Royal Norwegian Navy, WWII, ace pilot

Charles Cawthorn – London, ENG; RAF, WWII, Lancaster pilot (Ret. 30 yrs.), 61st Squadron, POW

Lou Duva – Paterson, NJ; US Army, WWII

Howard Engh – Gig Harbor, WA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Lawrence Hanson – St. Paul, MN; US Navy, WWII (Ret. 26 years)

Kenneth Lawson – Toronto, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, Spitfire pilot

Paul Pavlus – Panama City, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne / USAF, 82nd Airborne, MSgt.

Joe Rogers – Jackson, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, flight instructor

Albert Schlegel – Cleveland, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Capt. Pilot, KIA

Francis Took – AUS; RA Navy # 37327

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October 1944 (6)

While the Imperial Navy was floundering in their attempts to halt the persistent invasion of Leyte, Gen. Yamashita was in his headquarters at Fort McKinley on Luzon.  He was receiving very little information from his own people and upon hearing of the US landing, he was heard to say, “Very interesting.  But where is Leyte?”  [The Japanese general had only just been transferred from Manchuria.]

Yamashita did not feel that the Japanese all-out standing defense should be on Leyte and he refused to supply more troops to the island.  But he was overruled.  Gen. Terauchi, knowing that the island’s occupation by the Americans would divide their bases, so reinforcements would be sent in.

MacArthur inspecting the beach

21 October – Most of the Japanese beach defenses had been shattered by bombing and strafing and a majority of the 1st Battalion/16th Division had been wiped out.  Parts of Tacloban had been liberated by the US troops and Gen. Makino was now forced to split the remainder of his 16th Div. in half, North and South Defense Forces.

As the ground forces continued fighting, Japanese aircraft from all other bases in the Philippines arrived on Luzon to support the plans for a counteroffensive.

25 October – Gen. Sosaku Suzuki, in charge of defending the Central Philippines, still was receiving inferior or misleading intelligence and remained confident of Japanese victory because:  He still expected support from the Navy; he had glowing reports concerning Formosa; he was told that ALL US carriers had been sunk and no American aircraft were flying over his headquarters on Cebu.  Suzuki told his Chief of Staff, Gen. Tomochika, “…we are about to step on the center of the stage.  There is no greater honor or privilege.”

Two Japanese units were on en-route to Luzon:  the Japanese 1st Division [the Gem Division] to land at Ormoc on the west coast and the 26th Division at Carigara in the north.

MacArthur’s summary:

“The assault continued after a rapid consolidation of the first few days  objectives.  Numerous enemy counterattacks were beaten off in all areas during the next few days as advancing forces reported increased resistance on every front.  By the end of the third day, over 2,000 Japanese had been reported killed…

“On 24 October, elements of the XCorps began a drive up the Leyte side of San Juanico Strait, while farther south other units of the Corps pushed westward.  At the same time, the XXIV Corps directed attacks northward and westward.  The 96th Div., moving inland from Dulag, met heavy opposition from fortified positions on Catmon Hill, a terrain feature dominating the division’s zone of action and giving protection to enemy mortars bobbing shells toward the assault shipping in Leyte Gulf.  Catmon Hill was initially by-passed, then neutralized by naval guns and field artillery and finally cleared of the enemy by 31 October.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

“try to say something funny, Joe”

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Jack Agnew – Hamilton, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Leonard Beford – Falmouth, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Herbert Creacey – Roseburg, OR; US Navy, WWII

Catherine Ewell – Zachary, LA; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

Herbert Good – Bound Brook, NJ; US Army, WWII

Frank Hill –  Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Navy, WWII

Ralph Konze – Chicago, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Lt.Colonel (Ret.)

Caldon Norman – Mineapolis, MN; US Army, WWII, ETO, POW

John S. Powell Jr. – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Army, Korea, Captain

Gerald Shepler – Liberty, IN; US Army, Korea, K/3/187th Airborne RCT, KIA

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