We also got an
allowance of beer. Naturally the bottles were not cold. The brand was
Top Hat and was 3.2 % alcohol. The best way to get the bottles cold was
to put a group of them together and empty a fire extinguisher at them.
It only worked as long as we could get the extinguishers. A mistake was
made by the brass by issuing weapons to us on the same day as a beer
ration. Someone took a machine gun and stitched a row of bullets through
the camp commanders tent. Fortunately for the commander he wasn't in it;
however our luck wasn't as good. After we had gone to bed for the night
the officers called all of the battalion out to stand in company
formation on the road. We fell out in all states of dress. Some were in
casual fatigue uniform, some in underwear, some had boots on, some had
raincoats; just about every combination conceivable was represented. The
officers walked up and down the rows of troopers looking presumably for
the guilty party(ies). If they found them it wasn't broadcast. What did
happen was the battalion was divided into two groups and marched off
into the night for a five mile trip. As usual our officer stayed with
us. It didn't take very many yards before the troopers said what the
hell and started to run, in formation of course. We were going to show
that commander that making us march was no punishment at all.
orders came through and we were assigned to different destinations. Mine
was to go to the Philippines. We boarded a ship and after sailing for a
day or two we off-loaded onto a craft called Landing Ship, Tanks (LST).
This thing looked like a large shoe box with sides about 10 to 12 feet
thick. The front end was a ramp that could be let down and the back was
several feet thick where the propulsion system and steering were
located. It was about 15 feet out of the water and could not have been
very deep below the water line. There were not many troopers on board. I
suppose there were other vessels carrying more of us replacements.
troopers were sent up from Lae, New Guinea to Leyte, PI. .We were being
transported through the Philippine Islands (PI) from Leyte in the south
to Mindoro. Mindoro had an airfield. A great thing about being on a ship
run by the Navy was that we had hot food prepared on realistic stoves
and ovens. We even got fresh baked bread, the first I had eaten in
during the transition between islands we ran into a typhoon. In such a
small vessel the pitching, tossing, and yawing made life very
uncomfortable to say the least; however, it did not last long and we
reached Mindoro without further incident. I was assigned to the 503rd Regimental
Combat Team, 1stBattalion Headquarters Company and to the S2
(Intelligence) section. We lingered on Mindoro for a few weeks learning
the philosophy of the unit and experiences of those troopers who had
survived previous invasions and battles. Since there were many areas of
the PI still under control of the enemy we didn't yet know where we were
to engage the enemy. Paratroopers in the South Pacific were a rarity. In
European theaters, paratroops were jumped into areas in Division
strength and many times in more than one division. Where we were, it
took some planning to get a regiment dropped into an area.
Soon we got the
word that our target was Corregidor. We were briefed on our assignments
and when we were scheduled to jump. Two battalions would go in the first
day and the others, including us would be on the next day. There were
two drop zones, one was the parade ground and the other the golf course.
C-47ís would be in two parallel columns at 800 feet. Eight troopers
would jump from each of the planes as they passed over the jump point.
So there were no more than 16 in the air over each zone as the planes
followed closely behind the one in front.
A further point
of interest was given us and it was that the island was 400 feet above
sea level. This means the guys would be in the air a very, very short
time before they hit the ground. Each C-47 had to circle the route until
all the troops had jumped. Didn't sound like fun but we were to young
and full of stuff (expletives deleted) to worry about minor things.
We had been
issued our weapons and were ready to go. On the day I was to jump we got
word that there had been a very high casualty rate, even though the air
time was so little. Not only was the enemy shooting but there was a wind
that blew some of the guys away from their zone. But we replacements
didn't care we were anxious to get to fight at last. As I consider
things at this late date it seems that all the horror that those who
survived the previous battles and what they had told us about it just
didn't sink in. Somewhat like taking advice from our parents, we were
sure we knew better or that it didn't apply to us.
The issued weapon
for us was the carbine as it was short and fit well under the parachute
gear; however, my choice was for an Ml Garand rifle. This was packed in
a long bag, called a Griswold bag, that became buckled behind the
reserve chute. Since it was very inflexible and required some assembly
of the rifle I chose just to fasten the rifle itself to the harness;
that meant it was ready for use as soon as we got down. We picked up our
chutes, put them on, and boarded the planes.
The flight seemed
to last forever as we were all anxious, scared, and excited. As we began
to get closer to Corregidor the Colonel had us diverted to a field up
the west coast of Luzon to Subic Bay. We were all transferred to Attack
Personnel Destroyers (APD's) [ed. note: this designation is found in the
book Corregidor, the Rock
Forest Assault by Lt.
Gen. E. M. Flanagan, Jr.; p~249. After studying the picture, my first
memory is probably right - I landed from one of the LST's.] These took
our group back down the coast to the island where we went ashore by
walking off the boat into the water and onto one of the two beach areas.
This one was on the south beach between the main body of the island and
the Malinta tunnel.
Back to the
invasion. As we were rushing onto the beach, a Japanese machine gun
opened fire on us. Seeing a disabled enemy tank just in front of me, I
flopped down in the sand making sure that the tank was between me and
the gunner. Almost immediately after raising my head I was shocked to
see a circle of white cloth tape just in front of my nose. Having the
combat engineering training experience I knew immediately that it was a
mine. You can bet that my eyes began looking for some other place to go
and just off to my right I saw a very deep shell hole. A very quick dash
and jump - into the hole I went.
I believe that my
landing was from the middle of the three LST's. The tank is out in front
of that one and I ducked around the back end. You can see the size of
the hole a few yards away. There were a couple of other guys there too.
We waited until someone took care of the machine gun. We were told to
climb the main part of the island and locate ourselves overnight. My
luck was good as a few others and I found a coastal gun emplacement or
bunker of concrete and we stayed there during the night. It was not one
of those deep sleep nights you can bet your boots on that.
The next morning
we climbed to the top and were located in the Battalion Hq. building.
This was located on the east end of the parade ground. To the north were
barracks buildings, south was the golf course, and behind the building
some distance away were the water towers. A common joke was that since
we were on the top and the Japanese were on the downhill sides (all the
way around) we had them surrounded. Patrols were sent out each day to
try to eliminate or capture the enemy.
For a day or two
my function was to attend briefings on what was going on. Once it was my
turn to get the groupís canteens filled with water. That required taking
all the canteens to the big water tanks, climb the ladder to the top,
climb down the ladder to the bottom through the holes created by the
bombings to where the remaining water was about waist deep. After
carefully maneuvering around so that the mud from the bottom was not
stirred up the canteens were filled and then the climbing process was
reversed. While I was down in the water the word was passed that I was
wanted by the Captain. Upon arriving at his position he told me that
tomorrow I was to go along with a company going down the east side and
bring back my observations of what was there. One of my buddies was to