Page Header - A Small Piece of War


Don Abbott


Around the middle of 1992, there was a good deal of talk in the World War II veteran circles about plans for the 50th anniversary of the big events of World War II in Europe, such as the Allied landing at Normandy. The 50th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor had already come and passed.

As usual, the Southwest Pacific received only scant attention.



True, there was talk of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the landing on Leyte in October 1995 but not much was being done to commemorate other significant events.

The 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team had participated in at least eight major campaigns in the Pacific, including three Combat Parachute jumps. But it did not appear anyone was making plans to commemorate the events we’d been involved with.

I’d had never considered organizing a tour before and had no experiences along that line. Tours I’d seen which had been organized by professionals some times were not really doing what the travelers would prefer. I felt I knew what our people should do and see in order to really commemorate the historic events we’d known 50 years ago.

As a starter, I drafted up preliminary itineraries and plans for the commemoration of our three combat jumps. The Annual Reunion of the 503d took place in Rapid City in July 1992. I took these plans to the Board of Directors for their consideration and possible approval. Since it would not cost the Association any money and the Board would not have to do any of the work, the ideas were enthusiastically received.

Our Commanding Officer, Retired Brigadier General George M. Jones was present. His health had gone down hill, steadily, since that time and he was unable to travel with us.

The General liked the proposals, particularly, those dealing with a return to the Philippines. He was, especially, insistent that we should be in contact with Fidel Ramos, the President of the Philippines with whom he had a special connection.

Fidel V. (Edie) Ramos had just been installed as President the previous month. Earlier he had been a four star General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces. I had met General Ramos in 1987 while he held that post under the then President Corazon Aquino.

Information about the proposed trips was included in several of the quarterly newsletters sent out by the Association to the members. The suggestion we travel back to Nadzab, our first combat jump, and Noemfoor, our second combat jump, was abandoned, after virtually no one expressed any interest. In the case of Nadzab it as probably just as well because I’d been warned crime conditions in New Guinea were very bad. It is just as well there was little interest in Noemfoor because there did not appear to be any facilities for tourists on the Island.

The proposed return to the Philippines which would include Manila, Corregidor, our third combat jump, and Negros received considerable interest. Over the remaining two plus years, many people expressed serious interest with as many as 55 people at one time, definitely, planning on going. When the final count came and everyone had come up with their money, 43 people made the trip. Another seven 503rd people, fearing we would not have room in our group traveled with another group and participated in some of the events with us.

In April 1993 I made another return trip to the Philippines – my fifth. This time, I took special notice of things which would need to be reflected in our detailed planning.  During all my previous trips I’d stayed with native families on Corregidor. I’d been in the Hotel on Corregidor but this time I looked it over with the thought we would be staying there.

Then I made my first return trip to the Island of Negros where we had been fighting when the War ended in August 1945. That side trip was to contact Alfredo Montelibino, the Mayor of Bacolod, Negros. This is the largest city on the Island and has a population of about four hundred thousand people. I also wanted to see Raphael Coscolluela, the Governor of Negros Occidental. I got along very well with the Mayor and the Governor. The latter named Tina Lapres an assistant on his staff, to be my contact.

Upon my return to the States I chose a Philippine tour company. It was Rajah Tours International. Fortunately, they have an office in San Francisco so communications were much easier than dealing with Manila, their headquarters. They took care of all transportation arrangements, luggage handling and hotel accommodations for us.

Now I’d like to tell you about some of the HIGH POINTS of the trip and how they came about.




sj5.jpg (81222 bytes)

4Francis O'Neill, Don Abbott, Gen. Wayne Downing, Ed Pater, Henry "Hoot" Gibson & Robert "Cracker" Atkins all talking about it.