The 2ESB as Seen by Yank
WRITTEN FOR "YANK"
"That Aussie Ninth Division on Borneo must be all replacements," S/Sgt. William J. Cheramie, of New Orleans, said. He was talking to a group of Second Engineer Special Brigade veterans gathered in his tent, all members of the 532d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment.
"Yeah," T/4 Dean L. Driskill, of Dola, Ohio, said. "Most of the Ninth Divvy men we put ashore and ran supplies to at Nassau Bay must be home now - those that are still alive. We were lucky to be with them for our first operation; nothing since then has seemed as tough as Nassau Bay."
"Remember, we got our first air raid just as the fourth wave hit Red Beach," SISgt. Harold B. Horseman, of Lexington, Ky., said. "And they gave us two more that afternoon, and one that night-June 29, 1943."
"Kump - Dick Kump, from Brooklyn - wasn't he killed that first day?" T/4 Angelo M. Tubelino, of Rochester, N. Y., asked. "No, I remember now; it was during the second raid on D-plus-one.
"Kump was a guy with a lot of nerve. He used to say, 'I came over here to fight and I'm going to fight.' He kept his Fifty on that Zero all the way down. After he dropped there at his gun I saw the Zero dive into the sea.
"Afterward I painted a Jap flag on what was left of our LCVP. She never did float again; we just left her there on the beach."
"Ken Jacobs stuck by his gun that afternoon, too," Pvt. Gomer B. Griffith, of Newcastle, Pa., said. "Lost his arm, left arm. Verne juul was wounded, too, along with Lt. Foster."
"The Japs had the air practically to themselves in those days," Lt. Thomas B. Huffman, of Willcox, Ariz., said. "But one raid turned out to be hilariously funny-at least to me. We had run our support boat up to Yellow Beach, where it was quieter and we could get a little rest from the night-long supply runs we'd been making from Morobe up to Nassau Bay.
San Jose, Leyte, Philippine Islands. 562 Engineer Boat Maintenance
Battalion Seahorse Theater. This theater had seating capacity of 7,000
"Smitty-you remember Smitty, a very fastidious guy, always cleaning his fingernails - Smitty and two more of the crew went ashore to look at this abandoned native village just in from Yellow Beach. They were scrabbling around for souvenirs when the Jap planes came over, about 15-strong, as usual.
"Smitty took off for any cover he could find, and dove headfirst into what he took for an abandoned Jap slit trench. The two others dove in on top of him. And they stayed there all during the raid, although they'd discovered their mistake as soon as they dove in; it wasn't a slit trench, but an abandoned Jap latrine. . . .
"They had to throw away all their clothes before we'd take them back aboard, and spent about an hour trying to wash off in the surf."
"Remember the Busu River mission, Beyers?" asked TI/5 Anthony Bugdumus, of Detroit.
"I'll never forget it," T/4 Robert L. Beyers, of Richmond Hill, N. Y., said. "The Ninth Divvy's advance troops lost nearly all their equipment getting across the Busu, and were pinned down over on the Lae-side by Jap fire. We got orders to run a resupply mission to them. The river was swollen with rain."
"Rain!" Tubelino exclaimed. "That's all we had at Nassau Bay - rain."
"Remember, Tube," Beyers asked, "just as we came around that bend in the river the Japs opened up on us with mortars from Lae and gunfire from that Jap ship anchored offshore? We had to turn back. But then when they told us how serious the Aussie position was up there across the Busu, we started out again. Took ten more men aboard so we could unload in a hurry. And, Tube, you'll remember that it was just because the rain was falling even heavier then that we got up to the Aussies without being hit."
Palm Beach, Oro Bay, New Guinea, 1944. 592 Engineer Boat and
Shore Regiment theater.
"Maybe so," Tubelino said, "but they were feeling for us with mortar shells all the way up the river, lobbing them at the sound of our engines. The cox on the other Charlie Hund, from Kansas - got his ramp down, his load of medical supplies off and his ramp back up again, but when we got in there with the ammo the ramp stuck about half-way down. Then we couldn't get it up or down-LCVP ramps never were any damned good.
"We finally ended up by passing our load of ammo out through the 'window' in the ramp, one box at a time, with the mortar shells splashing closer to us all the while. And by the time we had all the ammo off, the 'V' was half-full of water that had come in through the open ramp, and we were stuck hard and fast.
"But Hund backed his 'V' up to us and kicked enough water under our bottom to free us."
"That saved the day - or night, rather - for that Aussie patrol," Cheramie said. "Let's see - Lt. Huffman, Beyers, Tubelino, Bugdumus and Hund-you were all decorated for that, weren't you?"
"Yes, and we'd go through it again - not for the Bronze Stars, but for the Ninth Divvy," Beyers said. "They were great soldiers."
"They'd share anything they had with you, even that precious tea they're so nuts about," Tubelino said. "By D-plus-four at Nassau Bay I was smoking the dam' stuff - 'Bushel's Australian Tea.' It's not too bad if you've got to have a smoke.”
"Raw and new to it all as we were then, the Aussies were the most consoling bunch in the world-easy-going, casual, never excited, but always right on the ball."
"They certainly took care of Earl Fryar when he had all his clothes blown off in that bombing," Cheramie said. "He was wandering around in the jungle, naked and dazed, when the Aussies found him; they clothed him, fed him and took care of him for three days. They remembered who he was. Mike Kelly as the only man with Fryar to survive that bomb-hit - and he's back home in a Boston hospital."
2 ESB Dance Band in the Philippines, 1945. Left to right, Front Row:
Tec. 5 Bernard G. Bullis, Tec 4 Frank O. Novak, Tex. 5 Felipe G.
Sandoval, Tec. 4 Wayne Bernier, Tec. 5 Richard A. Carlton, Tec.
4 Thaddeus S. Piaseczny (leader). and Tec. 5 Frank A. DelVecchio,
Back Row: Tec. 5 Glen N. Miller, Tec. 4 Frank J. Carone, Tec. 4 Dino
A. Orlandi, S/Sgt. Gilbert J. Anderson, Tec. 5 Guy Crapple and Pfc.
Edward Olvia. Note the salvaged parachutes used as drapes.
"Say!" Bugdumus exclaimed. "Remember those range signals the Japs set up along the beaches every night, trying to suck us in? We ran in on one of their lights one night - got within 50 yards of the beach when they opened up."
"When you think back on it," Driskill said, "the Nassau campaign seems like something out of another war than the one we're fighting now. Then the Japs had the air, PT boats were all the Navy we ever saw, and you felt cut off from the world - no radio, no news, just beach and sea and jungle and rain and mud and japs. . .”
. . . Tambu Bay, Salamaua, Finchhafen.
"Another formation? My aching back!"
"You should have been along at Finsch' when we had a company formation for presentation of awards right in the middle of the operation," said Sgt. Arthur W. Hoyer, of Reading, Calif., and the 532d's shore battalion.
"General Heavey and the Regimental CO were both on hand for the ceremonies, which didn't come off because it turned out that some Navy officer had walked off with the General's pack by mistake, so he didn't have anything to give out. Then the CO gave us 'Inspection, Arms,' and live ammo flew all over the place; he'd forgotten we all had full clips in our M-1's.”
"Every night the Japs had been making a bomb run diagonally across our area - later on the Aussies caught the 'abo' who was signalling them in with a flashlight, and turned him over to his fellow tribesman, who beheaded him. Well, anyhow, we put up a tent for the visiting firemen right at the end of the diagonal run-'Bomb Alley.' But of course that night the Jap planes didn't come over at all."
"One thing I never did get straight," said Pvt. Richard W. Terbush, of Minneapolis. "How did we get the advance dope that the Japs were going to land on the beach in back of us that time?"
"There's two stories on that," said First Sgt. Carl L. Tidd, of Placerville, Calif. "According to one, a Jap radio message to their forces on Satelberg Ridge was intercepted and decoded. According to the other, a captured Jap signal officer gave the whole show away.
San Roque, Leyte, Philippine Islands, 2 ESB Theater, built in 1945.
"But nobody I've ever talked with has yet figured out why the Japs on Satelberg didn't come down from the ridge that night junior Van Noy broke up the attack from the sea almost by himself. The intercepted message called for a coordinated attack from the ridge and the sea. If they bad come down from Satelberg that same night I don't think we'd be here to talk about it. As it was, they came down off the ridge the next night and we had one hell of a time getting them to go back up again, because as it turned out there were about twice as many of them as we'd expected."
"I remember when we went down to Scarlet Beach the morning after the Japs tried to land there," said Lt. Warren A. Plamondon, of Jackson, Calif. "The Jap barges were still there, stranded by the low tide, riddled with 50-caliber slugs and choked with dead. And there must have been more than 200 dead Japs scattered over the beach, all the way, up to within about ten yards of where Van lay slumped over his gun."
"Say, do you remember that other junior - junior Johnson?" Terbush asked. "Odd… He was in charge of a grave digging detail I was on. When we finished the job assigned, he said, 'Let's dig one more.'
"And that one turned out to be his. . . .”
"Finsch' was a rough go all around - unloading cargo, running supply roads and trails through and bringing up ammo all day long, then manning the perimeter at night," Hoyer said. "And all of it on a diet of Aussie bully beef and those hardtack biscuits we used to call 'daisycutters.' "
“Between the chow, the air raids - we had 57 in the first twelve days; remember? - and the dysentery, it was miserable," said Cpl. Philip J. Machiuska, of Hempstead, N. Y. "One morning I had to jump to my gun with my pants down."
"That's nothing," Terbush said. "Most of us were running around in just a pair of shoes after we were ordered to discard our jungle suits. That order was given after an Aussie patrol captured two Japs wearing our spotted zoot suits and carrying M-l's."
"Tokyo Rose used to announce every night that our landing on Scarlet Beach had been wiped out," Tidd said. "One night she denounced the Aussies for unethical warfare, because they had used the first shot from a Bofors they'd been setting up to knock down a tree with a Jap sniper in it. Unethical as all hell."
"Better than that, remember the time we reported a Jap 77mm being set up just below Katika Village?" Hoyer asked. "The Aussie gun crew took a look through their glasses, thanked us, then sat down again. Every 15 minutes all day long I'd take a look at the Japs digging their gun in - was I worried!
"Then, late in the afternoon., just as the Japs were shoving the first shell into the breech, the Aussies fired one round. . . . Knocked out gun, crew and emplacement. Later on I asked one of the Aussies whv they'd waited so long before firing and he tells me: "We wanted to see the bloody bastards work.”
"First thing I saw when we hit Scarlet Beach," said Machiuska, "was an Aussie starting to boil up 'a spot of tea' in his billy. Later on, the Aussie Salvation Army was always up front with hot tea and coffee."
Palm Beach, Oro Bay, New Guinea. 542 Engineer Boat and Shore
Regiment and 262 Medical Battalion Theater, built in late 1943.
"You remember that Aussie who ate up all the stories we could feed him on Paul Bunyan?" Hoyer asked. "A long time afterward he wrote me that it was really Paul Bunyan who took Satelberg Ridge."
"Remember the time the Japs came down from Satelberg and tried nine attacks on Katika Hill?" Machiuska asked. "That was the time Nick Hanchulak dismounted a Thirty' from a 'V' and nailed it to a coconut log. That way he had only one field of fire, but he did such good work with the gun that they gave him a Bronze Star for it.”
"And was he lucky! I saw Jap machine gun fire sweep to both sides of him but the firing interval must've always come just when they were zeroed in on Nick."
"The medics caught a lot of hell at Scarlet Beach," Lt. Plamondon said. "That time Jack Butts came down with acute appendicitis the only medical officer left was a lieutenant fresh out of school. But the way he handled the operation, with Butts laid out under the headlights of a jeep on a stretcher, he might have been the Surgeon General himself. We had to cut the lights and stop the operation three times because of Jap planes over the area, but the lieutenant did a good job, and Butts is walking around today."
"Only good thing about the air raids was the fresh fish we used to pick up out of the sea afterward for chow," Macbiuska said.
I'll never forget D-day on Scarlet Beach and the night that followed," Tidd said. "Between air raids, getting dug in and setting the guns up on the perimeter, we were busy as a bunch of cats with dysentery. And then, between raids, the CO decided that he wanted a CP tent set up. When we came out of out foxholes after the next raid, what was left of the CP tent was draped in the treetops."
"If we'd known then what we know now, I don't think we'd be alive," Hoyer said. "The japs had the air, we had damned little support from the sea, the Japs were into the area every night. . . .I guess we had beginners' luck
. . . Tami Island, Lae, Arawe. . . .
"After we proved how good the 4.5-inch rocket really was at Satelberg Ridge," S/Sgt. Chandler A. Axtell, of Thornton, Ill., said, "we were organized as a provisional support battery for the Brigade, and assigned to the 112th Cavalry for the Arawe operation.
"You remember - our rocket batteries were mounted on DUKW's then. Worked out all right, too. We intercepted about 15 Jap barges loaded with troops when they tried a counter-landing, and sank eight of them."
. . . Cape Gloucester. . . .
"The First Marine Division? Sure, we - the Brigade support battery - were assigned to that Division at Cape Gloucester," T /4 Edwin A. Polley said. "It was another rough go; took the Marines nearly three days to get around 'Bloody Point.'”
"The thing I remember, though, is the Japanese counter-attack we broke up with rockets on the second day of the landing; the rockets knocked out about 200 Japanese troops.
. . . Tualik, Long Island, Saidor, Sio, Los Negros. . . .
"The worst one was the Admiralties - don't you think so, Coppolino? We'll never see anything like Los Negros again, at least not until we hit Japan," said PFC Joe Mangano, of Brooklyn and the 592'd Shore Battalion.
"Remember that guy who popped up aboard our LST while we were staging at Cape Sudest?" Sgt. Dominick Coppolino, also of Brooklyn, asked.
"You mean 'Wild Bill’,"' Sgt. Donald J. Gaynor, of Lambertville, N. J., said, 'Wild Bill' Doakes, or whatever his name was. A character, strictly a character. Didn't know where he came from or where he belonged; just knew he was on the wrong ship. Even after he was assigned to a squad he always turned up for formations in the wrong one."
"You know what I'll never forget about the Los Negros operation?" PFC. Allie B. Shockley, Selbyville, Del., asked. "The glad hand we got from those First Cavalry boys when we came ashore at Momote Plantation in the sixth wave."
"Man, they jumped up all around us to shake hands," Mangano said. "Then somebody asked them -must've been Wild Bill - where the front line was."
"Yeah," Coppolino said. "And they told us; 'You're standing on it.' The Japs were just across the strip."
"At that, the Cavalry was only about l00 yards in from the waterline. Soon as we got back on the beach - and that was damn soon after they told us where the front line was, we started unloading ammo and organizing the beachhead. I remember Jimmy Green pushing sand jetties out to the LST's with his dozer while the snipers potted at him. He couldn't hear them for the racket the 'dozer made, but his guard, Chet Ravmer, would cut loose with his M-1 each time he thought he'd spotted a sniper in a tree."
"As for digging in that night," Gaynor said, "well, we tried, but you would have needed a jackhammer to get down in that coral-about two inches of coral sand on top, then solid coral. So we just piled up coconut logs to give us some protection, and set the Fifties' and Thirty-sevens up inside them."
"Remember," Mangano said, "just at dusk everything began to happen? The weapons platoon cut loose on the eastern point of Hyane Harbor, trying to knock out a Jap gun position, the Cavalry boys began to move across the strip, the Japs began to counterinfiltrate, and the casualties began to come back. The Japs came up screaming in the dusk:
"'Me kill Yankee dog tonight!'
"We were under orders: No firing. So we just huddled there listening to what was going on all around us.
"That was the night the 49th Sea Bees learned how to use hand grenades. They'd been working on the Momote strip when they could, during the day. Later they got a Presidential citation for the job they did. But that night they learned from the Cavalry and from us how to arm and lob a hand grenade - they had to learn."
"D-plus-one wasn't so quiet, either," Shockley said. "First thing we had to do was move the ammo dump - a jap recon plane had spotted it while we were unloading on the first day. Before we were through with that beach, we'd moved the ammo dump three times. And all the while the supplies were pouring in - more ammo, food, medicines."
"We were pretty damned busy that second day," Coppolino said, "what with moving the dump, toting supplies and diving for our log shelters whenever the planes came over.
"I remember once I dove into an abandoned Jap coco log cave with Bill Lasswell he was our 'First Soldier' then; he's gone home since to Freehold, N. J., and Hal Berkley - he's home, too, in Davidsville, Pa., and Pete Cifelli. A Jap plane zoomed down and dropped a big one right beside us. After the explosion we just sat there like we were frozen until Cifelli said, in a voice like he just couldn't believe it:
"Well, what do you know? He missed us!"
At the end of the second day on Los Negros all troops were warned to expect a Japanese counterattack that night. Weapons zeroed in on the eastern point renewed fire; an attack from there was expected by rubber boat, another by land from the tip of the western arm of the bay, and still another from the Japs across the strip.
"They came through all right that night," Mangano said, "not organized You know, but like madmen, firing in all directions. Some of them we found the next morning were armed with knives and bayonets lashed to long bamboo poles. To cut down machine gunners and artillerymen with, I guess. But when they came over we cut loose with every thing we had - artillery, mortars, machine guns, small arms, Then some English-speaking Jap officer screamed out:“Hold your fire - too high!” Somebody in our lines - a GI, I guess, hollered back: "Blow it out your -!" T/5 John 0. Ross, of Iola, Kansas, had been pouring himself a cup of Coleman stove coffee as Mangano talked. Finding it too hot to drink, he said: "Yes, and that isn't all the Japs yelled that night. The boat battalion was ashore, and we could hear the Japs screaming, 'The Japs have broken through! Retreat! If they'd yelled, 'Fall back!' we might have paid some attention.”
1 July 1945. Special staff of the Headquarters 2d Engineer Special Brigade, veterans of eight - two amphibious cambat landings in the New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago and the Philippine Islands, take time out for a group photo with their Commanding General William F. Heavey, just prior to his departure for a well - earned rest in the United States. Officers shown in the photo include: Bottom Row: left to right: Capt Perry B. Klein, Houston, Texas, (Med. O); Capt. Charles D. Whittaker, Columbia, S. C. (CWO); Capt. Richard Ives, Mason City, Iowa. (Asst. S - 3); Col. Benjamin C. Fowlkes, Selma, Ala., (Ex. O.); Brig. Gen. William F. Heavey, Washington, D. C. (Commanding General); Maj. Paul H. Jacobs, Hastings, Neb., (IGD); Capt. Clinton L. Galvin, Little Rock, Ark., (Chaplain). 2nd Row: Standing: left to right: CWO Charles G. Walker, Olyphant, Ark., (Pers. O.); Capt. Harlie M. Goss, Williams, Arizona, (Asst. S - 4); 2d Lt. John M. Clonan, Bronx N. Y., (assst. S - 4); Capt James L. Thompson, Fargo, N. D., (Sig. O.); Capt. Milton O. Spelts, Jr., Lincoln, Neb., (Aide-de-camp); 1st. Lt. Charles F. Rogers, Brookline, Mass., (Asst. Fin. O.); Major Robert F. McCrea, Bloomington, Ind. (I & E. O.) Top Row: Standing: left to right: Capt. Sidney D. Rogers, Raleigh, N. C., (S - 1); Capt. Mortimer A. Clift, Great Nect, N. Y., (S - 2); Lt. Col. Karl W. Blanchard, Joplin, Missouri, (S-3); Capt James R. Virtue, Buffalo, N. Y., (Ord. O.); 1st. Lt. Clifford F. Kluck, Oklahoma City, Okla., (Postal O.); 1st Lt. James E. Moore, Ogdensburg, N. Y., (Adjutant) Capt. Clyde D. Stafford, Oak Park, Ill., (Comdt.); Capt William R. Ryan Ottine, Texas. (QM O.)
"One Jap sneaked into one of their old caves where about a dozen of our boys had holed up for the night. He jumped T/14 Robert Kinder with a knife there in the pitch blackness. When Kinder yelled for help, hanging on to the Jap, the Jap yelled back "Let me go! I'm a Yank!" "From outside we could hear the commotion in the cave. Everybody cut loose with Tommy-guns, carbines and pistols - nine or ten men were wounded. And the Jap who started it all never was found; must have crawled out while the shooting was going on.
"Another T/4 name of Knockrinder was lying there in the cave nursing his hand, paralyzed by one of the Jap's slashes. Someone tapped Knockrinder on the shoulder; he jumped, sure the Jap was back until the chaplain identified himself and whispered: " 'Son, are you ready to meet your Maker?'" 'Ready as I'll ever be,' Knockrinder told him."
"That sunrise on the fourth day was the finest I'll ever see," Mangano said. "The Japs attacked the night before; drove the Cavalry back and to our left, and we got orders to fight to the finish. But when the sun came up we still held the beach, and the Japs had fallen back across the strip again.
"The Cavalry moved back up, spraying the treetops with lead to knock out any snipers that might've crawled up there during the night. And the first thing we took four Jap prisoners and about seventy-five of their prisoners - fifteen Chinese boys and sixty Sikhs who’d been captured in the fall of Hongkong."
"That was the day the 'First Soldier' bawled out Wild Bill for not doing a good job of burning out the latrine," Shockley said. "So Wild Bill goes back with about four gallons of gas to finish the job. Tossed it in and a match after it, disregarding the CO and four enlisted men. who were seated there until the explosion. Wild Bill. . . . "
"And that was the day we found all the souvenirs," Gaynor said. "Remember the sake? After the medics okayed it, we passed it out in the chow line."
"And remember Hank Smith from Girard, Ky.?" Mangano asked. "Remember he found the Jap payroll and every man in the company had his pockets stuffed full of real Japanese yen?"
"Carl Bennett found the Jap garrison flag," Shockley said. "He turned down 300 Aussie pounds for it from one of the air corps boys. Carl wanted the flag to decorate the Elks' Club back home. It must be hanging there now; Carl's an over 40 civilian."
"That was the day Tokyo Rose warned us: ‘Get off Los Negros in six davs or be annihilated’," Mangano said.
"One of those days along in there we found that dental plate with the name 'Doakes' scratched on it. You remember that Coppolino: You announced that a plate had been found marked 'Doakes,' and that the owner could have it if he'd see you."
"Yeah," Coppolino said. "When I looked over at Wild Bill he was doing a double take. Said to himself: 'Doakes? Doakes?' then felt of his mouth and hollered out, 'Doakes.' Why, that's me!' "
"What I'll never forget," Mangano said, "is my first sight of American boys lying dead.. I don't know. . . . Made me feel patriotic as all hell somehow. . . . Even now I couldn't praise those First Cavalry boys enough; when I saw them going across the strip that first time I thought they should all be made generals on the spot.”
"There's a nice American cemetery there now. The Saturday Evening Post took a picture of it -remember? And we petitioned the Post to send a print of the picture back to Jimmy Boyle's mother in Taunton, Mass., so she could see how nice Jimmy's grave was fixed up.
. . .Papitalai, Lonibruni Point, Maizus Island, Hauetvi Island." The support battery gave our new rocket LCM, the ‘Tarfu Miru' a real baptism of fire in the Admiralties," said S//Sgt Roger Wince, of South Bend, Ind. "Los Negros, Lombrum Point, Manus, Hauewi - we were in close support of all those landings - threw everything we had aboard the Tarfu at the Japs except our Coleman stove."
. . . Pitjlilu Island, Lorengau, Yaleau Plantallon, Talasea, Hollandia." Compared to what we'd been through before," S/Sgt Paul F. Broomhall, of, Portsmouth, Ohio, said, "the Hollandia operation was a breeze. The support battery was assigned to the 532d for the operation, and the 532d was landing the 41st Infantry. But the Japs ran out on us, both when we hit the beach at Hollandia, and later, when we took a regiment from the 41st across Lake Sentani."
Tanahmerah Bay, Wakde.“ Best staging area the 542d ever had, Hollandia," The Voice from Brooklyn said. "Yeah. We got in on the 'revenuer's raid' the boys pulled off down there, so when we brought our LCVP out to load aboard the LSM, we had her bilges loaded with bottles of saki.” "We got the Coast Guard crew of the LSM all half-stiff, with special attention to the galley personnel. So we ate well both days we were under way for Wakde." "The night before the landing at Wakde they put all our small landing craft over the side, enough small boats from the 542d to make up six assault waves," T/5 Douglass C. Brush, of Lakewood, R. I., said. "We didn't sleep much, not because Wakde was going to be anything new to us - Wakde was our fourth assault landing, but because of the shelling from the Navy and Aussie cruisers standing off the island, and from the 155's on the mainland. The shells sounded like freight trains going overhead. What a racket!"
"We loaded the 163d Infantry at Toem on the mainland early the next morning," said T/5 Patrick Nokes, of Seattle. "From the beach it was less than a half an hour's run to Wakde, where we didn't figure there was any resistance left after 12 hours of shelling. I remember I was leaning over the gunwale when I saw a lot of splashes in the water and said, 'Gee, look at the fish jump!' "Then the first wave began to pass us coming back our from the Wakde beach. Looked like they were radio-controlled; not a man visible. Then I knew it wasn't fish making those splashes." "Me, I'm drinking a cup of coffee on the way in, and leaning on a writing table we'd built in the well deck." the V from B said. "I nearly fell on the deck when a slug knocked the table down. From then on into the beach all you could see aboard was humps and helmets.” "But when we dropped the ramp, the boys from the 163d took off like veterans right into everything the Japs had going-machine guns, mortars, small arms. The Japs even had one of our 20mm's going that they'd taken from an American plane knocked down on the island."
"It was one of those Twenty shells that hit Curley right in the chest," said PFC Morris Sandberg, from Brooklyn. "And that was where Brush got the Silver Star," Nokes cut in. "Bob Russell he was the cox on Brush's LCVP - Russell got it in both legs. "But first he yelled at us to get down, that we were getting heavy fire," Brush put in Yes," Nokes said. "Then Brush took the wheel and finished the run into the beach, but while the troops were piking off, Brush was hit, too. By the time the engineer had the ramp back up again, he had a first aid bandage on, and ran the 'V' back to the aid station at Toem." It's a miracle they didn't get Frisbee - you know Bob Frisbee, that T/4 from Valley Park, Mo.," said the V from B. "He had the last boat in, in the last wave. When he dropped the ramp on the beach, the infantry scooted for the prone on the sand. Frisbee yelled at 'em to come back; they'd all forgotten their packs. And when they had those off, Frisbee saw that they'd left their grenades aboard. "All this time the lead is zinging around Frisbee, and mortar shells dropping in the water alongside as the japs felt for the range. Well, after Frisbee yelled at the infantry again to come back and get their grenades-which they did, his boat was riddled. It sank about 400 yards offshore.
"That wasn't much of a loss, since Frisbee's 'V' had about 16,000 miles on it by then, and we picked Frisbee and his crew out of the water right away. Only the engineer was wounded." "The infantry wasn't very far inland even when we came ashore on D-plus-one," said T,/4 Anthony J. Castellano, of the Brigade's 562d Engineer Boat Maintenance Battalion. "The CO put two riflemen on the 'dozer Ken Persell - he's home now; with the 36 points for his kids he had a total of 117 - was operating to clear us a maintenance beach and pile up sand jetties for the LSM's."
Sandberg strolled back into the circle with "Cocky," a bedraggled white cockatoo with pale green topknot, perched on his shoulder. "If Cocky only had a bigger vocabulary, he could write a lot of the Brigade history," Sandberg said. "He's probably got more points than any of us - must be over 40, too. He came with the outfit while we were training at Rockhampton, Australia. Used to rate a T/4 but he nipped the CO on the fanny yesterday as he was coming out of the showers."
"Red alert! Red alert!" squawked Cocky.
"See?" Sandberg said. "He remembers Wakde."
"The Jap bombing over Wakde was the most accurate I've ever seen," Castellano said. "Remember the night they dropped one on a dump of one thousand 1000-pound bombs? The whole island lifted three feet out of the water." "The Japs weren’t any more accurate there than anywhere else we've been," the V from B protested. "It was just that they couldn't miss if they hit the island, there was so much on it - troops, equipment, AA guns, planes, dumps."
"Remember that full-dress, full-of-saki, parade attack the Japs staged?" Brush asked. "It came about dusk on D-day. They marched over a crest about 200 yards inland in company front, toward where an aviation engineer battalion had their trucks parked. The Japs killed three or four of the drivers, then rolled gas drums under the trucks and set them afire. Then set a whole fuel dump off with grenades, and touched off an ammo dump the same way.” "After they'd all been cut down we went up to have a look. They were all wearing wool uniforms-wool mind you, in that heat - with the buttons polished, and dress caps and leggings. They even had their shoes all polished. I knew they were peculiar all right, but that's the most peculiar thing I ever saw them do."
"Remember the Tor River operation?" asked T/4 John A. Walden, of San Francisco. "It was tough because it went on for so long - three weeks."The Tor was only about l00 yards wide but it ran right across the infantry route West to Maffin Bay from Toem. We were up there with two LCM's and a 'V' to ferry patrols across when the Japs still held the western bank. And we could only get in or out of the river across the bar at its mouth once a day-at high tide. Upriver about a mile was a strongly-held Jap barge base.
"The first four patrols we took across were driven back by heavy Jap fire. We tied up there against the eastern bank for about a week, under fire whenever the Japs felt like throwing a few slugs at us. And if they began to fire on us at night we had to pray for the infantry to drive them into the ground again with machine gun fire. We couldn't crawl up on the bank and get in a foxhole; the infantry had orders to shoot anyone moving above ground. “Well, the fifth patrol we took across was able to drive the Japs back far enough to set up a perimeter, and we took part of a company of combat engineers across to start work on a bridge. The infantry knocked off the first Jap patrol to return, but that night 200 more Japs attacked the position.”
"An engineer officer set fire to our ammo dump so we could see who we were shooting at, and we took our boat upriver to where we could bring our Fifties to bear on the Jap flank. The attack was broken up, but the Japs kept right on trying during the nights that followed. Like I said, that was a tough three weeks. . . . " "A lot of guys try to run down the Maffin Bay operation that came after that," the V from B said, "but it was a rough go, too."
"But Wakde," Castellano said, "I don't ever want to see that place again - or anything like it."
. . .Demta, Wari, Biak, Noemfoor. "The support battery took 30 Buffaloes and the Brigade rocket LCM's Tarfu Maru, Snafu Maru, and Fubar Maru in on the Noemfoor operation," TI/4 William L. White, of Kansas City, Mo., said. "'We crawled ashore to anchor the left flank of the 158th Infantry. Thirty japs we hadn't seen coming ashore charged out of a shellhole about 25 yards away. We mowed 'em down with a Fifty'."
. . . Wardo, Separi, The Philippine.f; Dinagat Island, Leyte at Palo, San lose, Cathalogan, Ormoc and Palompon. . . . "For the Leyte operation," T/5 Kenneth A. Dittmayer, of Detroit, said, "the Susfu Maru had been added to the support battery, along with Elmer's Dream and a new rocket boat named The Hotbox. We furnished the close-in support while the Brigade's landing craft carried the 24th Division to the beach. After that we moved over to Cancabato Bay and set up a water perimeter to cover the San Jose strip from the West.” "Joe Morgan sawed the wing off one Jap plane with his Fifty' the first day we lay there. Later on we knocked down a Jap bomber with a demolition crew aboard heading for the strip at about 300 feet altitude. The support battery's guns were the only guns that opened up on that bomber, because the pilot had asked for and received permission to land. They thought he was a Yank coming in."
. . . Mindoro: Bongabong, Buena Vista, Poro Island, Ponson Island. "Mindoro was the worst the support battery ever had it from the air," T/5 William F.. Artiott, of Port Huron, Mich., said. "We averaged 23 attacks per day during the time we were lying out there in 'Iron Bottom Bay.' When we weren't standing to our guns, we were picking up the crews from the ships the Japs sunk. "Air attack wasn't the only trouble the japs gave us at Mindoro. They brought a naval task force in and shelled us for three and one-half hours from just outside the bay."
. . . Marinduque Island, San Marcelino., Subic Bay, Nasugbu, Mariveles, Corregidor. . . ."I think the worst shore fire the support battery ever met came off Corregidor," S/Sgt Axtell said. "Corregidor was the oddest place I ever heard of to stage a college reunion, but Lt Don Davis had one there--and with a Jap, too. "We picked this Jap up swimming away from Corregidor, and he turned out to have graduated from Pomona College out in California just a year after Lt Davis got his sheepskin there. "The Jap said he shot his CO to escape, and when Lt Davis asked him what he thought of the war, the Jap said: "'We are fighting a useless war that we can't win.'
"The funny thing to me about Corregidor," said T/5 Rex C. Hammond. of Columbia, S. D., "Was that we made the landing in support of the 503d Paratroop Battalion. We used to tangle with the 503d pretty regularly when we were in training down in Cairns, Australia. They were browned off because we wore paraboots.” "They seemed to be delighted to see us again when we brought the infantry ashore on The Rock. After that I got shunted off on the two screwiest operations I've seen yet, Caballo and Fort Drum.
"Caballo is that little rock island that lies a little less than two miles West of Corregidor. The 151st Infantry had sent a patrol over there while the Corregidor operation was still under way, but they'd found that they just couldn't get at the Japs holed in along Caballo's rocky spine. "We went back up to Subic Bay and loaded aboard two of these Navy cubes that hold 1600 gallons each, along with 800 feet of four-inch invasion-type pipeline, and a couple of men from the 133d Engineers. Our coxswain, Bill Griffin - he's back home now in Centerville, Ala., on TDY - couldn't figure out at first what the hell they were going to do with our 'M."'"He found out soon enough when they pumped those tanks full of a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline," said Pfc John W. Chaffee, of Richford, Vt. "It looked to me like a hell of a way to fight a war, but maybe I thought that way because it was my first operation, and I was scared."
"After we made fast to Caballo," Hammond said, "the boys from the 151st lined up along the bottom of the slope, so they could open up on any Nippies who popped out, as they did from time to time. There was no beach we could hang the 'M' on; Griffin had to hold her against the side of the island with the motors while she wallowed up to her catwalks in the sea because of the weight we were carrying." "And all the while we lay there, the infantry boys were throwing slugs at the Japs as they'd appear, the mortar shells the Japs were lobbing blind over the hill were dropping in the water around us, and the engineers up on the hill were coupling the pipeline together," Chaffee said.
"It seemed like hours to me before they got the pipe all coupled up, and the nozzle pointed at one of the vents. Then they coupled the pipeline to the pump between the tanks and in ten minutes we had poured the entire 3200 gallons in on the Japs. The 151st laid a mortar shell somewhere near the vent, there was a tremendous whoo-oo-sh! and flames and smoke shot 150 feet into the air."
"Next day we gave the island a double dose," Hammond said, "3200 gallons in the morning and 3200 in the afternoon. And the nice thing about the second day's treatment was that we added four drums of Jap alky to the mix. The japs began firing immediately we came within range, but the 151st knocked them back into their holes again, and we resumed the hot oil treatments." "One Jap surrendered to the infantry on the second day, while we were coupling up with the pump," Chaffee said. "He popped up on the crest mother-naked and came sliding down on his fanny. We got a good look at him when the infantry brought him over to the 'M' for safekeeping: he looked as though he'd caromed off every wall, floor and ceiling in the Caballo caves.” "He appeared when the water we used to prime the pump began to run out the nozzle of the pipe. At the same time we could hear the Japs inside chattering and gibbering, arguing about surrendering, maybe. This time when the mortar shell ignited the mix the first explosion was followed by eight or ten others at intervals of about five minutes. Ammo going up, I guess."Later we learned the Jap had told G-2 that there had been between 200 and 250 Japs on Caballo originally. So we gave it two more days of the hot oil treatment. After that there wasn't any more resistance left on Caballo."
"Fort Drum, that 'concrete battleship' in Manila Bay, was more of the same, except in the technical details," Hammond said. "A wooden drawbridge was built on the superstructure of an LSM, then laid down over the top of the thirty-foot walls of Fort Drum that come down sheer to the sea. "And since a pipeline wouldn't lay against those sheer walls, we borrowed a four-inch fire hose from the Manila fire department. But that wasn't very satisfactory either; it snagged and ripped on the reinforcement rods exposed when our shellfire crumbled the concrete along the top, and it burst when we first tried out the pump." "Yes, and that oil-and-gasoline mix was sprayed all over the 'M,' " Chaffee added, "while the Japs were throwing incendiaries at us whenever they got the chance. You can see how scared I was, with that fuse burning away up above and the pump only running at half-speed.”
"You see, the boys from the 113th Engineers had lit that fuse figuring on sucking the tanks dry in ten minutes as we'd done before, with the pumps running full speed. And that fuse connected with one 500-pound aerial bomb and 500 pounds of TNT. So finally the sergeant from the 113th went up and cut the fuse. Phew!” "When everything was in working order again, the sergeant relighted the fuse, and in about 12 minutes we had 2000 of the 3200 gallons pumped into the rock. The sergeant decided that was about enough, and we shut off the pump. He began to uncouple the hose, but it stuck. All the time he was working on it, I was waving a knife over the hose and asking him: " 'Shall I cut it loose? Shall I cut?' "You see I was thinking about what the CO had told us before we went on the Drum mission-that there's to be other Brigade craft standing by 'to pick up survivors.' And I didn't want to be that kind of a survivor. But the sergeant finally got the hose uncoupled, and we pulled off about 1000 yards to where the LSM had gone after we got the hose in place.
"Then all hell broke loose. Steel doors took off like P-38's when the first blast let go. The second blast rained pieces of the island all over Manila Bay, and when the third one let go, the whole island seemed to rise up like a hippopotamus, and then settle back down again. " Nobody went on the island for three or four days - they had to wait for it to cool off."
. . . Samar, Capul, Biri, Macarite, Puerto Princesa."By the time the infantry got to Puerto Princesa - they'd landed further up the bay and looped back around to take the air strip - we had the souvenir market cornered," said Cpl Charles Hathcock, Jr., of the 562d Engineer Boat Maintenance Battalion. "When the shelling began I guess the Japs didn't even wait for breakfast: we found an officers' mess table completely set, with hot rice on it.” "We found cases of ammo, Jap battle flags, weapons of all kinds and about a hundred cases of saki. Two months after the landing we were still picking up the Japs who had taken to the hills--miserable-looking specimens, starved and sick with malaria."
. . . Burias, Ticao, Lamery, Romblon, Simara, Batangas, Tigbauan, Guimaras, Inampulugan, Cebu. . . "Everybody in F Co. thought Cebu would be just another routine job of organizing beachheads," said PFC John H. Rutherford, from Williams, W. Va., and the 542d EB & SR. "By that time we'd been through a lot. Even when we were going in to the beach we thought the explosions we could see were only mortar shells. But we found something .new had been added when we saw live men from the Americal Division lying in the water, unable to cross the beach, and those that had started across it lying dead beside huge craters. Helmets and packs were -floating in the surf; 17 out of the 50 Buffaloes that had come ashore were knocked out and their crews dead.” "The beach was thick with mines." "Shore Battalion CP sent down immediate orders to leave the beach marking and preliminary organization to the Navy, and begin immediate clearance of the minefield," Lt Horace L. Cheek of Durham, N. C., said. "The infantry had mine detection equipment with them but it was useless because of the heavy concentration of iron ore in the ground, even in the sands of the beach. "Our first job was to clear lanes so that the infantry could start moving inland. From the time we landed we were working under sniper fire from the trees and from a church steeple down in Cebu City. The weapons platoon brought in two snipers stripped to the buff, I remember, and other snipers opened up on their own men from the trees."
"Those snipers," Pvt Alfred W. Thompson, of Blakely, W. Va., said in an exasperated tone. "They cut down on me and Nagy while we were taking out a couple of detonators. I flopped flat on my face. When I got up again I began to shake like a jitterbug because I had just missed the detonator of another buried mine by about an inch.""I dove into a foxhole," said PFC John Nagy, of Cleveland, Ohio. "Right between two live mines. . . . "After that I kept a clear spot in mind to dive for when they opened up on us again. Lots of guys say Jap snipers are poor shots, but I've seen too many men killed by Jap snipers to believe that."
"We had whole areas of the beach cleared by the end of the first day," said PFC Steve Sabo, of Apollo, Pa, "and most of the rest of the mines marked. What gave me the worst shakes I had all day was stepping on a mine detonator square and hard. It didn't go off because it had been bent over by a Buffalo track. After that I had to sit down for a couple minutes; it only takes four or five pounds pressure to set one of those detonators off." "It was a hasty field," Lt Cheek said. Originally a Brigade enlisted man, the lieutenant is a Brisbane OCS graduate."The mines were mostly homemade jobs, armed with B-1-A tail fuses - the inertia type, C-3-A push-type fuses, and 75mm. artillery shell fuses. Even so, if the Japs had left anything more than a few snipers behind they could have given us one hell of a lot of trouble. "That was just a sample for all of us of the kind of mine-laying the Japs will give us from now on. Up to now they haven't had the terrain for extensive mine laying, but boys, it will be ideal for mines from here on in to Tokyo."
"Remember Schwartz, Lieutenant?" Nagy asked. "You know: Norm Schwartz, from Cleveland. He came into breakfast on D-plus-one absolutely green. Most of us slept in foxholes, but he swung a hammock. And when he rolled out in the morning he found that his fanny had been swinging back and forth all night about six inches above the detonator on a 500-pound aerial bomb that was buried there." "That first night ashore on Cebu wasn't too bad," Rutherford said, "Only two Jap planes came over. In fact, we took them for P-61's until they began dropping their eggs inland, and diving on the ships out in the straits. The Japs don't come up with the kind of air opposition anymore that we used to get in the early days on New Guinea."
"I'll never forget that second day when a captain brought some Quartermaster troops ashore right across the last uncleared area on the beach. I was off down the beach aways and when I yelled and hollered at them they couldn't hear me; the area was taped off, too. When I got back there again I counted 25 live mines in between the marks of their footsteps. "Things like that happen sometimes. Eldon Kirk, that kid from Washington Courthouse, Ohio, he ran his 'dozer right over a live mine, but the flanges kept the track from operating the detonator." "How about that job you did for the artillery, Mann? "Nagy asked. "Got a Bronze Star for it, didn't you?" "Yes," T/5 Thomas K. Mann, from Glenrose, Texas, said. "It was just a job the 57th Engineers didn't have the equipment to do, so they called on us. They had these Nineties ashore but no way to get them into firing position up on top a small mountain. So I pulled it up with my cat'.
"They said I was under sniper fire while we were digging the Ninety' in but I couldn't know about that, because the cat' made too much noise. But then I hauled that second Ninety' up that 3000-foot trail I had to dive off a couple of times because they were throwing mortar fire at me. I started to dig in the second Ninety, but the artillery called it off when the mortar fire got too heavy. Said it was a job for a combat cat. I think so too." "After the first week," Nagy said, "it was just the old routine again: Moving supplies up, clearing a camp area, taking the mines out of the streets and clearing away the debris. "But since then I've been organizing a little romance in my spare time. Cebu City is the best deal we've had since we left Australia in '43."
. . . Mactan, Pulupandan, Legaspi, Masbata, Bacon, Incena, Busuanga, Tagilaran,
Batan Island, Lipata, Rapu, Dimasalang, Carabao, Danao, Dumaguete.. Catmon, Sagod,
Pasacoa, Macalalar Bay. The China coast? Tokyo Bay?