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Leyte 1944 | Another Eye Witness Account

John Holland, 11th Airborne Division

For another insight into the landing at Bito Beach, Leyte, John Holland, of the 675th Glider Field Artillery/11th Airborne Division speaks here…

“February 18, 1943, I was assigned and shipped by train to Camp MacKall, Hoffman, North Carolina, and I arrived on the 22th.  The Army had started their 1st Airborne Division, which included glider and paratroops together.  A division of about 8,000 included artillery, infantry, engineering, anti-aircraft artillery, tanks and support units.

“I was assigned to  675th Field Artillery, Battery A unit.  This was a unit of 105 howitzers, short barrel with split rails to fit in the gliders for transport to battle areas.  I was in the Communication Section which had to set up telephones and switchboards to all positions and also radio.

After landing on Leyte… ” Further enemy action did not occur until just before dark when 3 Japanese planes came in from the east, over the high area inland and dropped 2 bombs; one was a dud and the other exploded just east of our area. The planes circled and started back to us, then turned away as 7 of our planes intercepted and shot down a Zeke.

Spotters | 11th Airborne

“Then about dark, we heard incoming shells and we all hit the fox holes.  All shells hit either on the beach or short of our position.  At about 2000 hours, a groups of Japanese soldiers started hollering and running to our position.  We killed all but one and he fell into a large hole before he got to us.  The next day, just north of our position, several LSTs landed cameramen and reporters.”

John’s unit stayed on the beach for 2 more days and nights under fire from enemy planes an ground troops.  On the 4th day, they began to move inland.  It took the 2 weeks to push through the center of Leyte’s rough terrain to the coast.  When they got there, they helped the people of the villages put their houses back together.

Many of our soldiers were stricken by yellow jaundice and malaria.   We received replacements and started moving to several small islands, securing them and cleaning pockets of Japanese soldiers from them..”

This excerpt is from an article that first ran in “The Voice of the Angels” newspaper for the 11th Airborne Div. Assoc.

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Military Humor – 

“Them wuz his exack words – ‘I envy th’ way you dogfaces git first pick o’ wimmen an’ likker in towns”‘

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Farewell Salutes – 

W. Emmett “Bud” Barnes (103) – Coeur d’Alene, ID; US Army, WWII / US Army Reserves (Ret.30 y.)

Guerrino “Reno” Belmessieri – San Francisco, CA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Pfc.

Farewell

Larry Goergen  (100) – Osage, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Patrick J. Hernandez – Harlingen, TX; US Army,108th MP Co./503/16th MP Brigade

Octavious Mabine – Portsmouth, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Mess Attendant 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor, HI)

Carl Madsen – Weldon Spring, MO; US Air Force  /  NFL re-play official

Melva Phillips – Sal Lake City, UT; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

Thaddeus Piekos (101) – White Plains, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Armand C. Sedgeley – SD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, bombardier

Lloyd C. Wade – Westminster, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

Abraham Woods – Marion, AL; US Army, Vietnam, Pfc. # 63004267, Co. C/4/9/25th Infantry Division, KIA

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Smitty’s Letter XV “Land”

Native outrigger canoes meet up with a Coast Guard transport.

[Please do not be offended by certain remarks, remember that these letters were written 77 years ago when people lived in another time and another world].

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 on Bito Beach, General Hodge was finally able to move General Arnold’s 7th division and their plans started to come together.

Leyte activity map | enlarge for detail

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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.

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

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Howard R. Belden – Warren County, NY, US Army, Korea, Cpl. # 12107317, HQ Co/31/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

Roger Butts – Portsmouth, VA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Cook 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Gen. Colin Powell

Elvagine “Gene” Ertzberger – Rainier, WA; Civilian, WWII, shipyard welder

Lorenz D. Haselhofer – Watsonville, CA; US Navy, USS Hancock

Sonny Karcher – Enid, OK; US Army, Cold War

Fred M. Montanari – Westmoreland County, PA; US Air Force, pilot

Larry E. Murphy – E. St. Louis, IL; US Air Force & US Army, Cmdr. Sgt. Major (Ret. 36 y.)

Steven L. Nolin – New Brockton, AL; US Army Air Corps, Japanese Occupation, 188/11th Airborne Division

Henry G. Piper Sr. – Englewood, NJ; US Army, WWII, APO (Alaska)

Colin Powell – NYC, NY; US Army, Vietnam / General (Ret. 35 y.), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Sec. of State

Edward Souza – New Bedford, MA; US Air Force

James Wallace – Brooklyn, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, SSgt., B-24 waist gunner, POW (escaped)

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Smitty’s Letter XIV “On The Move (again)”

LSTs unload at Leyte

By mid-November, Gen. Krueger’s 4 divisions held only a small fraction of Leyte and Yamashita’s reinforcements were still landing.  The weather was grounding aircraft on both sides.

18 November, the 11th Airborne joined in on the King II Operation.  The 2nd battalion of the 187th Regiment went aboard the USS Calvert to land on Bito Beach.  Being as Smitty was part of Gen. Swing’s staff in HQ Company, I do not know if he went aboard this ship.

Berthing

 

Letter XIV                                                                             “On The Move (again)”

 

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

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Lucius E. Agee – Nashville, TN; US Navy, WWII, aviation radioman, USS BonHomme Richard

Dick Barlow – Manchester, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, motorcycle dispatch rider

OUR FLAG
Courtesy of: Dan Antion

Duane E. Dewey – Grand Rapids, MI; USMCR, Korea, Cpl., Medal of Honor

Gabriel J. Eggus – NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, P-39 pilot # 0-669878, 100/71st Recon Group, KIA (Wewak, NG)

Edwin A. Jacoby – brn: GER/ Brooklyn, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO  /  Korea, Sgt.

Sam Kendrick – Wexford, IRE; US Army, WWII, ETO

David L. Long – Milwaukee, WI; US Army, tank commander, 1/72/2nd Infantry Division

Alan E. Petersen – Brownton, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 1st Lt., 345/98/9th Air Force, B-24 bombardier, KIA (Ploiesti, ROM)

Joseph M. Robertson – Paragould, AR; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 2nd Class # 2797547, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Pete Turk – Scammon, KS; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 2nd Class # 3422928, USS California, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Murray Weiss – Kellogg, ID; US Air Force

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Leyte | start of November 1944

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].

Breakneck Ridge, Leyte; courtesy of Koji Kanemoto

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.

Breakneck Ridge (highlighted) map

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.

IJN Shimakaze

10→11 November – Another Japanese convoy, carrying 10,000 reinforcements for Leyte, escorted by 4

Japanese transport under attack

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 –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Adrian Cervini – Flint, MI; USMC, Korea

Margaret Christie – Toronto, CAN; Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, WWII

Final Mission

Joseph Devlin – Johnstown, PA; US Navy, WWII, submarine service

Roy D. Eneroth – Thornton, WA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Wesley E. Graham – Watervliet, MI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor )

John Klunder – E.Elmurst, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman 1st Class, USS Fayette (APA-43)

Anthony R. Mazzulla – Bronx, NY; US Army, Korea, 1st Lt., Co B/1/32/7th Infantry Division, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

George E. Park – Bedford, MA; US Navy, WWII, Quartermaster/Navigator, USS Bunker Hill

Duane I. Pierce – Lyndon, VT; US Navy, WWII, PTO

William Potoka Sr. – Mt. Pleasant, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co C/127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division

John R. Samuelson – Page, City, KS; US Army, WWII

Jim Warnica – Clovis, NM; US Navy, WWII, PTO

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Leyte continued

LST’s # 66,67,18,245,102 on 20 October 1944

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.

Yamashita Tomoyuki, 1945

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.

airfield construction

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 surveys Leyte beach, 1944

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.”

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Military Humor – 

“You’re doing it wrong.”

Practice aircraft carrier??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Keefe R. Connolly – Markesan, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Hospital Apprentice 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Daniel Coons Jr. – Fort Madison, IA; US Army, WWII

Joe Chadwell Tullahoma, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Charles A. Day – Redwood, CA; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Colonel (Ret.)

Stanley L. DeWitt – Royal City, IN; US Army, Korea, Sgt., Medical Detachment/57th FA/ 7th Infantry Division, Bronze Star, KIA (Chosin Reservoir, NK)

Robert C. Martin – Lakemore, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, radio/gunner, Putple Heart

Mortimer Goodkin – Short Hills, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ATO (Adak, AK)

Robert Killey Sr. – Elmira, NY; US Coast Guard

Reuben Klamer – Canton, OH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, V-7 program  / boardgame developer

Michael T. MIles – Wikes Barre, PA; US Army

Joe R. Nightingale – Kalamazoo, MI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Elizabeth Thew – Hopeswell, VA; Civilian, WWII, Corsair cockpit construction / military librarian

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Leyte, Philippines begins

Leyte, Oct. 1944

20 October – the X and XXIV Corps of the 6th Army, under General Krueger, made their amphibious landing on a 25-mile (40 km) stretch of coastline between Dulag and Tacloban on the eastern side of Leyte.

At 0945, the 1st Cavalry went ashore on White Beach, the 24th Infantry Division went on their left at Red Beach and the 96th Infantry Division landed further south on Orange and Blue Beaches.  They all moved inland for about a mile, hitting stiffer resistance as they went.

MacArthur observing the beach at Leyte

The 7th Infantry Division at Violet and Yellow Beaches had the lightest opposition, but Dulag was taken by the following day.  MacArthur described the view he witnessed from the flag bridge of the USS Nashville:

“Landings are explosive once the shooting begins and now thousands of guns were throwing their shells with a roar that was incessant and deafening.  Rocker vapor trails criss-crossed the sky and black, ugly ominous pillars of smoke began to rise.  High overhead, swarms of airplanes darted into the maelstrom.  And across what would have ordinarily been a glinting, untroubled blue sea, the black dots of the landing craft churned towards the beaches.

“From my vantage point, I had a clear view of everything that took place.  Troops were going ashore at Red Beach near Palo, at San Jose on White Beach and at the southern tip of Leyte on tiny Pansom Island…”

Gen. MacArthur walking into the Philippines.

MacArthur became impatient and ordered a landing craft to carry him and President Osmeña to Red Beach for a dramatically staged arrival back to the Philippines.  But the boatload of VIP’s and press were caught in a traffic jam of vessels making an effort to the same makeshift pier.  The harassed beachmaster directed the VIP’s away and said, “Let ’em walk!” This more and likely is the reason for his surly expression in the famous photograph, despite him trying later to create a better one.

Mac went into the 24th’s area and sat on a log with Osmeña and a Signal Officer gave the general a microphone.  The “Voice of Freedom” was back on the air and Mac gave his speech, “People of the Philippines, I have returned…”  His aides noticed that the speech left him shaken and visibly moved.

By evening, a 17-mile beachfront was taken with only light casualties, but a serious enemy counter-attack came with Japanese torpedoes bombers that scored a hit on the USS Honolulu.  Approximately 22,000 enemy troops were dug into their positions in the hills behind Tacloban.


The X Corps had unfavorable conditions in terrain and sporadic mortar and artillery fire which caused them to take 5 days to complete unloading.  This however did not prevent them from the establishment of their beachhead.

MacArthur’s summary:

“The enemy’s anticipation of attack in Mindanao caused him to be caught unawares in Leyte and the beachheads of the Tacloban area…  The naval forces consisted of the 7th US Fleet, the Australian Squadron and supporting elements of the 3rd US Fleet.  Air support was given by naval carrier forces, the Far East Air Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force.  The enemy’s forces include the 14th Army Group under Field Marshall Count Terauchi, of which 7 divisions have been identified – 16th, 26th, 30th, 100th, 102nd, 103rd and the 105th.”

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Current News – Happy 74th Birthday to the U.S. Air Force 9/18/1947 

https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/?s=air+force+birthday

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Military Humor – 

“The situation in Iraq appears to be going well, gentlemen. THAT however, is a map of Staten Island.”

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Farewell Salutes – 

James C. Barnhart – Somerset, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart / Korea, Purple Heart

A. Charles Casadonte Jr. – Herkimer, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO, Co. B/111 Medical Battalion

Keith Dunker – Dayton, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Pt., pilot

Lester Flack – Guest, KY; US Army, WWII, 22 Infantry Division

Richard Gartee – Monroe, MI; US Navy, WWII

David M. Hardy Jr. – Tucson, AZ; US Navy, WWII, USS Louisville

Richard G. Hudak – Elizabeth, NJ; USMC, Vietnam, Captain

Teppo K. Jokinen – brn: Hyvinkää, FIN/ Everett, WA; Finnish Air Force

Paul Mazal – Loomis, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, P-47 pilot, Lt.  # O-763693, 513/406th Fighter Group, KIA (GER)

Andrew Pellerito – MI; USMC, WWII, PTO, Cpl. # 355031, Co. K/3/2nd Marine Div., KIA (Betio, Tarawa)

Joseph C. Rouse – Riverside, NC; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Seaman 1st Class # 2624770, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Helen Scallion – Birmingham, AL; Civilian, WWII, B-24 & 25 electrical system construction

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Current News – Battle of Leyte Remembered

Remembering the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Surigao Strait.

On 3 July, 2017, the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) commemorated those that fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

“Today we sail the same waters as those sailors did 73 years ago,” said Cmdr. J.W. David Kurtz, the ship’s executive officer, according to the statement.

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The Battle of Leyte Gulf, which took place in late October 1944, included several naval engagements involving ships from the 7th and 3rd fleets. The battle crippled the Japanese Imperial Navy, which lost four aircraft carriers, three battleships, six heavy and four light cruisers, 11 destroyers, several hundred aircraft and more than 10,500 sailors, according to History.com. U.S. and Allied forces lost one light carrier, two escort carriers, two destroyers and one destroyer-escort.

Japan’s losses allowed the U.S. to conduct a ground invasion of the Philippines. Roughly 3,000 sailors and Marines were killed in the battle, which some historians consider to be not only the largest naval battle of WWII, but the largest naval battle in history.

A moment of silence, Taps and 21-gun salute from the USS Nimitz.

“I’m proud to be here at the ceremony because they didn’t have to give their lives for us, but they did,” said Chief Religious Program Specialist Kimberly Bell, according to the statement. “This ceremony was emotional for me because every time they play taps I want to cry when I think about all that those service members sacrificed for us.”

Information and photos from the U.S. Navy.

Click on still photos to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Benny Barrick – Carlsbad, NM; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Alfred Binger Jr. – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, WWII

Les Campbell – Reno, NV; US Navy, Korea & Vietnam, Master Chief at Arms (Ret.)

Final Voyage

Frances Dwyer – Roselle Park, NJ; US Navy, WWII, Lt.

Opal Bivens – Hazelton, ND; US Navy WAVES, WWII

Robert Hamner Sr – W.Palm Beach, FL; USMC, Korea, Vietnam, Lt.Comdr. (Ret. 30 years)

Kenneth King – Everett, CT; US Navy, WWII

Jack Kinney – Independence, OH; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Ray Lashley – DesArc, MO; US Navy, WWII

Alex Soltesz – Boynton Bch., FL; US Coast Guard, WWII, USS Mohawk (CGWPG-38), radioman

Theodore Wynberg – Sydney, AUS; RA Navy, Commodore

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11th Airborne Division – end of 1944

 

Gen. Swing and his staff during a briefing on Leyte.

My father swore that this incident occurred, but on which island, I can not say. Although Smitty already felt great respect for his commander, General Swing, he developed even more after witnessing this event: “A bunch of us were hunkered down due to the resistance we suddenly encountered. Everyone dove for cover and tried to figure out where the bullets were coming from except one guy still standing and looking around. (The general did not have his insignia on his uniform.) One G.I. yelled out, ‘Get down you f–kin’ jerk! You want your head blown off?’ I looked over and saw it was the old man himself and thought jeez is that soldier ever going to get reamed when we get back. But, the general got down.  I asked him later that evening why he let the soldier off without a word, and answered that the kid was right!”

General Joseph Swing
[On the back of this photo. Smitty wrote, “My General”]

There are other stories about Swing that are quite similar, including one where, rather than getting down, he actually walked over to the palm tree where the sniper was firing from and pointed him out as the U.S. sharpshooters dropped him.
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Leyte, 1944

From the moment the 11th Airborne landed on Leyte, the fighting was heavy, but they made excellent process across the island. Suzuki’s Thirty-Fifth Army became desperate, especially after the fall of Ormoc, which cut off his troops from their naval supply.  Smitty’s division would soon be put back in reserve as they rest up for Luzon.
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11th A/B on Leyte, 1944

While on Leyte, the 11th A/B was attached to General Krueger’s Sixth Army. A superior reference guide to the movements of this unit can be found in the various books by, Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. (Ret.). The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division gives detailed accounts by the author, who himself was the commander of the 11th Division’s B Battery of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. And – a very nice man I might add. I was privileged to have two phone conversations with the general.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

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By the end of December, the enemy had suffered 113,221 casualties and lost 2,748 planes.  The American loss was reported at 11,217.  This time also marked the point when Japanese General Yamashita sustained perhaps the greatest defeat in his country’s history.  Ninety percent of enemy troops on Leyte were killed or committed suicide.

From Saipan, Allied B-29s were beginning to make their bombing runs over mainland Japan.

21 December 1944, General Swing and Col. Quandt flew to Manarawat in cub planes.  Upon landing, the general was said to look “as muddy as a dog-faced private.”  (Swing would often be in the thick of things and this description of him was common.)  He slept that night in the camp’s only nipa hut, which ended up being destroyed the next day.

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Personal Note –  About Intermission Stories – We will continue with following the chronologically and have more stories about Smitty after what I call the Intermission Stories that are filled in between the end of one year and the start of the next.  They are eye-witness accounts, data, stories that have been missed in 1944 or are leading up to 1945.  We have so many new followers, I felt it needed some explanation.  There will also be home front episodes.

I hope you all find something you’re interested in, maybe a chuckle or two or even a tear.  Please feel free to contribute any story you know about from veterans you’ve known or had a discussion with – or even your own story.  Also, remember the Farewell Salutes are for anyone to contribute to, the veteran need not be recently deceased.  Simply put their information in the comment section and I will put them on the following post.  Have a wonderful weekend everybody!!

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Military Humor – 

BUDGET CUTS

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Farewell Salutes –

Sylvan Alcabes – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII

E. Lee Bowman – Broadway, VA; US Navy, WWII

Daniel Doyle – Sarasota, FL; US Army, Major

Thomas Fahey Jr. – Boston, MA; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Margarito Gomez – KS; US Army, WWII, CBI, Corps of Engineers, Bronze Star

Henry Hickman – Palmerston, North, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 403004, WWII, Flt. Sgt.

William Hoks – Lola, WI; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

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

Lawrence Smith – Poughkeepsie, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, Yeoman

Leroy Zeedyk – Kankakee, IL; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTO, LST-169

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December 1944 (3) – 11th Airborne Div.

007 (800x598)

Pfc John Chiesa, E Company/188th Regiment/11th Airborne and Privates Davis and Duncan were on the point going up, what would become known as, Purple Heart Hill on 26 December 1944.  Chiesa recalled:

“We just got to the top of this hill when all hell broke loose.  The Japs opened up with their wood peckers and rifles.  Duncan got hit in the rump and he went tumbling down the hill.  I hit the ground and prayed.  Finally, Davis and i jumped up and went diving over the ridge.  We could not see the Japs because they hide pretty good in the jungle.  They were firing and we were trying to fire back, but we could not see them to know where to shoot at.

“Finally, our Platoon leader, Sgt. Kelly, got up on one knee and started to point to show us where to shoot.  About that time, the Japs got him and he was dead.  He was one hell of a soldier, believe me.

“Me, Pvt. Hodges and three other guys in our company went up to the side of the hill and we laid there waiting for someone to tell us what our next move was.  While we waited, I got hungry so i turned around facing down the hill and got out one of my K rations.  I was opening up the can when 20 feet from me this Jap jumped out of the bushes.  He looked at me and I looked at him.  I think he was as surprised as I was.

“I had an M1 rifle laying across my lap.  Everything was done automatically. (Our training came in handy.)  I grabbed the rifle, turned and pulled the trigger.  He was doing the same thing, but I was luckier.  I hit him smack in his Adam’s apple.  I can still see the surprised look on his face…  The thing that will always be on my mind is that if I didn’t stop to eat, those Japs woulda killed all 5 of us.

Colonel Robert “Shorty” Soule, a Major General during Korean War

“When we came back down the hill, Col. Soule came to me and asked what I would do to get those Japs and take the hill.  I thought he was joking.  Here is a colonel, and a damned good one, asking his pfc how to take a hill.

“I told him, ‘Just bomb the hell out of them, blow the hill up.’  We went up the hill the next morning, and after a good bombardment, we took the hill.”

The “good bombardment” had come from A Battery of the 457th.  Capt. Bobo Holloway of the 188th moved within 25 yards of the Japanese position and directed the firing of the artillery, and some 105mm howitzer and 155mm guns.

On 27 December, when they stormed Purple Heart Hill, they encountered hand-to-hand combat, then proceeded to occupy the old enemy holes as the Japanese evicted them.  Those of the enemy that escaped and headed north, ran into part of Col. Pearsons’ 187th Regiment.  The bloody battle for Purple Heart Hill had lasted for almost 5 weeks.

Japanese WWII “woodpecker”

Information is from “The Angels: A History of the 11th Airborne Division” by Gen. E.M. Flanagan (Ret.)

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Frederick Crosby – San Diego, CA; US Navy, Vietnam, pilot, Lt.Comdr., KIA

Norman Fraser – North York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Henry Glenn Jr. – Largo, FL; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Temple Hill – Marshville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 top turret gunner

Freddie Knight – Panama City, FL; US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam,Night Fighter (Ret. 27 years)

Tommy Manns – Abilene, TX; US Navy, WWII, radioman, USS Telfair

Remington Peters – CO; US Navy SEAL, 2 deployments, SWO 1st Class

Thomas Sherman – Chagrin Falls, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Bronze Star

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

Frances Weill – Donora, PA; civilian, WWII, torpedo construction

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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

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