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Gen. Robert Eichelberg’s Leyte

Col. Aubrey Newman depicted in Leyte 1944, “Follow Me” H. Charles McBarron

“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.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur with Maj. General Joseph Swing, Lt. Gen. Richard Sutherland, and Gen. Robert Eichelberger. (US National Archives)

“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.’

457th Field Artillery/11th Airborne Div., Leyte

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.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Carrington – Philadelphia, PA; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division

Norman Fraser – No. York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

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

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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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December 1944 (1)

 

Japanese destroyer sinks in Ormoc Bay

6 December – the main thrust of Operation Wa on Leyte, P.I. was provided by the Japanese 26th Division, minus the battalion that was attempting to protect Ormoc, but the enemy found it difficult to maintain their schedule given to them by the Manila headquarters.  General Suzuki requested a 2-day delay, but he was denied.

Only 300 Japanese paratroopers of the 16th Division were left after desertions to jump on the Buraen airfield.  The 700 troopers of the 3rd Parachute Regiment, flying in from Luzon, ran into heavy flak and lost 4 planes.  The remaining Japanese

Major Shirai Tsuneharu suiting up for Leyte jump.

aircraft dropped their troopers on the 11th Airborne Headquarters Company.  [Smitty’s unit] (an eye witness story on this will appear on another day.)

8→9 December – 500 more enemy paratroopers were assigned to to jump on an airfield above Ormoc near Highway 2, but they landed 5 miles north of their target.  Col. Mitsui, with poorly armed service units, was dug-in on a high ground position below the city waiting for support.  MGen. A. Bruce’s US 77th Division broke through the defense.  He sent the following message to Corps Commander, John Hodge: “HAVE ROLLED TWO SEVENS IN ORMOC. COME SEVEN, COME ELEVEN.”  [referencing to the 77th; 7th and 11th divisions].

9 December – two more enemy convoys were enroute to Ormoc Bay.  The first convoy had 3,000 men of the 8th Division and 900 tons of matériel and supplies in 5 transports, 3 destroyers and 2 sub-chasers with an escort of about 30 fighters.  US Marine Corsairs sank 3 transports and then one more was sunk in a combined USMC/Army aircraft effort.

The other convoy of 2 destroyers and 2 transports carried 700 men, tanks, and mortars.  These were spotted by the destroyer Coghlan which proceeded to sink one of the Japanese vessels.  Despite the fact that so many enemy ships were destroyed, a very large number of reinforcements made it to shore, but their effectiveness was hampered by the amount of supplies that went to bottom of the ocean.

11th Airborne encampment, Leyte.

13 December – 1,800 prisoners at Santo Tomás, Luzon began marching to Pier 7 to board the enemy “hell ship” Oroyoku-Maru.  It was sunk 2 days later near Subic Bay by American carrier aircraft.  Angry Japanese guards shot at the men trying to escape the ship’s sinking hull and those struggling in the water.  Those that made it to shore were sent out on other ships 27 December and 2 January.  Out of the original 1800 Americans, 1,426 perished.

Also on this date, the cruiser USS Nashville and destroyer USS Haraden were damaged by kamikaze pilots.

15→20 December – The Visayan Force [ between Mindanao and Luzon are the Visayan Islands – Cebu, Panay, Negros, Leyte and Samar.], the US 24th Division landed on Mindoro just off the SW coast of Luzon.  The island only had a small garrison, but 4 abandoned airfields that would soon be used by the US Army Air Corps.  The 503rd PRCT came ashore.  They could not jump in due to the weather.

+ Maryann Holloway’s father saw a lot of what transpired here – her father’s story on the USS Hornet.

On and over Luzon, US carrier aircraft destroyed 225 enemy aircraft in 3 separate attacks.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Russell Curione – Toms River, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-17 tail gunner, MSgt. (Ret. 20 years)

Drew DeVoursney – Atlanta, GA; USMC (Ret.), Iraq

Philip Helms – Halifax, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETO, Ordnance

John ‘Jack’ Kelly – Broad Channel, NY; USMC, Korea

Jack Lapouraille – BelAir, MD; US Navy, WWII, USS Salerno Bay

Joseph Maltese – Emmaus, PA; US Army, WWII, Sgt., emergency communication

Gene Nooker – Cheyenne, WY; Manhattan Project, WWII

Louie Piszor – Green Bay, WI; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Sea Bee shovel operator

William Ryan – Parma, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 82nd Air Engineer Squadron

Franklin Stearns Jr. – Conway, NH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th Airborne Division

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25 November 1944

Lieutenant Yamaguchi’s Yokosuka D4Y3 (Type 33) Suisei diving at Essex, 25 November 1944. The dive brakes are extended and the non-self-sealing port wing tank is trailing fuel vapor and/or smoke

Aircraft from the Task Forces 38.2 and 38.3 both bombed The Japanese shipping off central Luzon in the Philippine Islands.  Planes from the American aircraft carrier, USS Ticonderoga (CV-14), sank the enemy heavy cruiser IJN Kumano in Dasol Bay.  Hellcats and Avengers from the Ticonderoga, Essex, Langley and Intrepid attacked a Japanese convoy and sank the IJN Yasojima and landing ships.  The enemy army cargo ship Manei Maru was sunk and the Kasagisan Maru was damaged.

Kamikazes broke through the US Navy’s defenses and pushed on to attack and damage the USS Essex, IntrepidHancock and Cabot.   The following 4-minute video is actual footage.

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Military Humor – Disney & Looney Tunes at war – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Curcio – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Gasconade

Calvin Davis – Virginia Beach, VA; US Army, WWII, PTO & Korea (Ret. 28 years)

Saying goodbye to the Greatest Generation

James Hanson – Framingham, MA; US Army, 503/11th Airborne Division

Ray Hickman – Kodak, TN; US Army, WWII, ETO, 137th Ordnance, Sgt.

Joseph Kerwin – McAllen, TX; US Army, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Sgt. Major, 82nd Airborne (Ret. 30 years)

Arthur W. Manning – UK; RAF, WWII, ETO, 249th Squadron

Ralph Mohl – W.Chester, OH; US Merchant Marine, WWII

James Munro – Melbourne, AUS; AIF, WWII, Brigadier (Ret.)

Donald Noehren – Harlan, IA; US Army, Korea, HQ/2nd Combat Engineers/2nd Infantry Div., POW, KIA

Thelma Powers – Sedan, NM; Civilian, WWII, ATO,  Elnendorf Field, Alaska, air traffic comptroller

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And so it begins….

11th Airborne Division on Leyte

22 November 1944, the 11th Airborne Division received orders to relieve the 7th Infantry Division along the Burauen-La Pag-Bugho line and destroy all enemy on their way and in that sector.  While the 77th and 32nd divisions converged on the valley, the 11th moved into the central mountain pass from the east.  During this time on Leyte, the 11th A/B was under the command of the Sixth Army.

24 November – General Swing, commander of the 11th Airborne Division, moved his HQ to San Pablo.  To protect the 5th Air Force HQ of Gen. Whitehead he moved the 674th and 675th Glider Artillery Battalions to the mission which instantly made them infantrymen.  Contact patrols went out from the 187th Regiment to keep abreast of the 7th Division’s movements.  Some would witness their first “banzai attack.”

Field Order Number 28 instructed them to continue through a very rough and densely forested area called the Cordillera.   The rainy season dragged on and on and the mud not only caked on their boots (making it difficult to walk), but it ate clear through the footwear within a week.  The uniforms began to rot away.  The men were quickly beginning to realize why the natives wished to be paid in clothing rather than food or cash.

Action map

One part of the Headquarters Company was left guarding the perimeter of Mawala and the remainder of the unit went upstream to Manarawat to defend that perimeter.  The 221st Airborne Medical Company, with two portable surgical hospitals, took nip-thatched huts and lined them with parachutes.  Despite the trials and tribulations of the troopers after they landed between Abuyog and Tarragona just four days previous, they proceeded in their mission to relieve the 24th and 37th infantry divisions.

Considering the advances the U.S. forces had already gained, especially at the ports and airfields, the Japanese Imperial Headquarters sent an edict to their troops demanding the destruction of Dulag and Tacloban airstrips.  Japanese paratroopers immediately set out to jump on the Burauen airstrip; some missed their targets and landed on other airstrips.

Yank magazine

Also on this date, the 5th Air Force (now known as the Far East Air Force, Southwest Pacific Area), sent B-24’s and B-25’s to bomb Bacolod Airfield and Ipil on Negros Island.  They also hit bridges and barges in the Ormoc area.  Sasa Airfield on Mindanao was bombed as well.  All throughout this month, the FEAF and the 7th Air Force made persistent runs on Iwo Jima.

During November alone, 23 inches of rain fell and the battles for Leyte were being won during four typhoons.  Roads began to collapse and wash away, mud slides abounded and distinguishing a rice paddy from a campsite was impossible.  Foxholes were completely flooded.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Curcio – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Gasconade

Mark DeAlencar – Edgewood, MD; US Army, Afghanistan, 7th Special Forces, KIA

Stewart Dennis – Port Lincoln, AUS; RA Air Force LAC # 122461

Harold Evans – Spokane, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, E/188th/11th Airborne Division

William Fagan – Bethlehem, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart

Ralph Harkness – Tampa, FL; US Navy, WWII, ETO, Captain (Ret.)

Robert Milner – Haynesville, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-51 pilot “Little Rebel”

Jeanne Newhouse – San Diego, CA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Fred Otto – Greene, ND; US Navy, WWII,PTO, Seaman 1st Class, USS Vicksburg

Mary Philpo – Detroit, MI; civilian, B-24 aircraft parts, Willow Run

Vernon Weber – Saint Donatus, IA; US Navy, WWII


Smitty and Leyte

There were a few dogfights everyday above Bito Beach between Zeros and P-38s, but at night there was a rather unique spectacle watched by the men.  Some of you might remember an episode of the television show, “M.A.S.H.” entitled “5 o’clock Charlie” – this had to be where they got the idea for that particular episode.  The 11th airborne had their very own “Washing Machine Charlie” routinely chugging overhead.  On a daily basis, his old engine coughed around so loudly he could be heard for miles.  His flight path was so predictable that sounding the air raid alarm seemed ludicrous to the troops.  The bomber only succeeded in landing one shell after his many raids and it happened to hit the causeway.  The engineers were forced to return and rebuild the breach.

My father told me that he would just shrug it off when he heard “Charlie’s” plane overhead.  He only hoped that all of the Japanese planes were in such rotten condition and the pilots had the same cross-eyed aim.  (Too bad it wasn’t true.)

US Army Engineers on Leyte

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Unfortunately, Smitty did get to know some of the natives better, as I was to discover one day as we watched the news about Vietnam.  When it was mentioned that the soldiers found it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, my father grunted and slowly shook his head.  When I questioned him, he replied that he was very concerned about the welfare of our troops.  Not one to discuss combat, I needed to prod him for an answer.  He looked at me once and after that I could see that he was reliving the event.

US Army soldier being operated on, Leyte.

“In the Philippines it was the same way.  You couldn’t tell an ally from a makapili, that was one of the Filipinos who decided to side with the Japanese.  We woke one morning and our usual Filipino woman who came to clean up the tent reported ill and her husband showed up to do the work in her stead.  I had to go on patrol, so I didn’t think too much about  it.  My buddy was assigned to some detail and stayed back.  When I returned to camp, things didn’t feel normal.  I knew something was wrong and I headed straight for my own tent.  I don’t know why, I just knew the trouble was there.  I found a detail cleaning debris out of it.  The Filipino husband had straightened out our tent (lord only knows why) and left my buddy a surprise in his bunk – a grenade.  They pull that same crap in Nam.”

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Between his last letter and the following one, the 11th Airborne Division went through combat enduring some of the worst weather imaginable.  The four days of monsoon rains made the smallest hill a slope of greasy mud and the flat terrain into knee-deep quagmires.  The mud would cause a condition of the skin, especially their feet that the men would refer to as “jungle rot or swamp rot.”  The troopers bivouacked under palm fronds in the coconut groves near Abuyog and Balay Baban villages trying to stay as dry as possible.  The supplies, ammo and other war materiel had been separated and camouflaged and stayed dryer than the men.  Natives and Filipinos worked to help accomplish this task and they were paid in pesos, food or clothing – whichever item they found most necessary.

Rain and mud of Leyte, another enemy.

It had been reported by The Courier Mail in Brisbane, Australia, that the mud was unique, “… a thin yellow soup, porous like quicksand and sometimes bottomless, yet the Americans made headway …”  The heavy humidity soaked everything they possessed, including their meager rations, but they were hard-pressed to remain on alert at all times.  The conditions proved beneficial for the enemy; their replenishment of food and ammunition were only hindered, while it became near impossible for the troopers.  Making matters worse, there were no fixed battle lines and the Japanese were getting their supplies through the blockades.  Wherever our men went, they encountered Japanese marines and suicide guards.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charles Achatz – Center, CO; US Navy, WWII

Tom Amberry – Grand Forks, ND; US Navy, WWII

Walter Collins – Dorchester, MA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Robert Fatum – Grand Rapids, MI; US Army, WWII, PTO, Purple Heart

Donald Knode – Albuquerque, NM; US Navy, WWII, Intelligence translator

Kenneth Mitchell – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII, ETO & PTO

William Schaf Sr. – Albany, NY; US Army, Korea, 187th ARCT, Medic, POW

Selwyn Thompson (102) – Kerikeri, NZ; 2NZEF # 062165, WWII

Harry Tye – Orinoco, KY; USMC, WWII, Pvt., KIA (Tarawa)

Kenneth Weihl – Tucson, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, 451st Bomb Squadron, radio/gunner

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Landing the 11th Airborne Division

Medic on Leyte

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.

11 November – 9 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 from Oro Bay with an escort of 9 US destroyers. 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.”

The division’s historian noted, “Fortunately, the trip was made in Navy-manned ships.  It was fortunate because the food we had was the best we had eaten since Camp Stoneman, California…  As far as we were able to determine, the trip was uneventful – with one exception.  One sub did venture within detecting range, we were immediately sent to out emergency positions.  But a DE took off after the Jap craft and the alert was called off.

“Aboard ship, troops spent their time talking endlessly about the immediate and post-war future.  Some gambled the days away… Now we had time to ponder and we found ourselves ready for combat.  We didn’t know then – no one knew – how soon we were to be committed; but it came sooner than any of us anticipated.  The Angels were about to make some fighting history.”

Activity map

When the 11th airborne landed at Bito Beach, Leyte, they immediately began to unload the ships.  The troopers worked around the clock, even as the tail end of the convoy was being attacked by Zeros.  (The Japanese most certainly had other planes, but the G.I.s tended to call them all Zeros.)  The beach gradually became an ammo dump as Bito Beach was surrounded by water on three sides and a swamp covered the fourth, it was technically an island and therefore they were unable to move the crates out until the engineers built them some bridges.  Throughout all this, air raids were being called which impeded progress all the more.

19 November 1944 – a kamikaze sank one of the transport ships only 1,500 yards offshore.  It was left where it sank, sticking partway out of the water.  The men used it as a sight to adjust the artillery aimed at the sea.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – 

Cecil Hotel, Westminster, RAF’s 1st HQ

A reminder that Britain’s Royal Air Force will celebrate their 99th Birthday, having been formed 1 April 1918.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Blair Cummings – Scarbourgh, ME; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Hilary P. Jones

Frank Dallas – Fayetteville, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/11th Airborne Division (Ret. 27 years)

Robert Glade – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Korea

Iris Hunter – Warwickshire, ENG; RAF, WWII

Emmett Kirkpatrick – Roanoke, VA; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Robert Lilley – Ft. Gratlot, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Arthur McNamara – Boston, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Richard Morgan – Rollings, MT; US Army, Korea, A Co/187th RCT

Gale Tedball – Eugene, OR; US Navy, WWII, USS Detroit

William Young – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force #  4310091, 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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Liberty Belle’s Last Flight

A survival story for heroes in October 1944.

IHRA

Balikpapan. A Japanese stronghold in the earlier part of the Pacific war. At the time, it was heavily defended by some of Japan’s best pilots, and the Allies hoped to change that soon. General George C. Kenney in particular felt that if Fifth Air Force was to destroy the oil refineries on the island, it would be a huge setback in Japan’s attempt to hold onto its position in the southwest Pacific. Over the summer, Kenney directed the 380th Bomb Group to bomb several refineries in the area, with little success, though they were a factor in some fuel shortages. By September, he was eager to send his forces back to Balikpapan. There were a few missions flown by the Thirteenth Air Force and the 90th Bomb Group, however, approximately 40% of the planes flown on these mission were either lost or too damaged to be put back in service…

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