|Preface||Chapter 20||Chapter 22|
In February things cooled off rapidly, or at least for a while, with targets at a minimum and planes scarce and needing overdue attention. The schedule relaxed, chiefly with shipping sweeps, radar ferrets, a few night hecklers and an occasional strike, while the line caught up with painting and odd jobs. Within two weeks, however, the welcome rest gave way to initial preparations for another move. The question then became--where? You could get any prediction you wanted to hear. Then S-2's tipped the mitt with orientation and warning talks about the Philippines, and the rumor dealers were in their element. Leyte was a favorite, closely followed by Clark Field. Cynics, however, basing their views on the record, held out for Masbate, Palawan, or a new beachhead in Borneo.
The Group, they correctly pointed out, "had never drawn anything comfortable or near civilization. So, why expect any change? Those Fifth Air Force boys would sew up Manila, Tacloban, and any other spot that would offer any night life." As for us, well, if there was a pesthole of the Philippines five would get you ten that there was where the Group would land.
That business in the orientation talk about the validity of marriages with Filipinas got a laugh.
So it went for three quiet weeks. Sansapor seemed dead with the fighters gone, without B-24's parked in the revetments, with shops and offices closing at 1530I or 1600, and extra days off. The beach wasn't very deluxe, but the strong surf running in February was good sport. Members of 'The Beach Club,' air crewmen grounded preliminary to going home, who had been accustomed to loafing and sunning in relative solitude, had to scramble for seats on the beach truck. The booming surf claimed a victim in Corp. John R. Forsythe, new 69th crewman, who unfortunately went down before his friends could reach him on February 23rd.
A gag rumor drew many a laugh, tinged with slight apprehension, at the massing of Japs on the perimeter. This was not entirely a joke, for the by-passed Nips were maneuvering along the perimeter, and an attempted break through was expected. Guards were posted on back lines of the 69th, 100th, and 390th, which abutted the jungle, and the cocking of carbines just before lights out became a familiar sound. The rumor boys took in many of the gullible with a base canard to the effect that a native runner had staggered into Group S-1 and gasped "Many Jap he come. Shoot much. On warpath," before collapsing in front of Major Clark's desk. The sequel to this hoax was an impending evacuation to Middleburg.
Subsequent to our departure, there were skirmishes on the perimeter, and occasional infiltrators sniped at jeeps near the 172nd Station Hospital. Few took these elaborate scares seriously, but there was considerable merriment over a reported defense plan for the 390th which called for all men not posted as sentinels to evacuate to the 70th area. This, it was remarked, would give the 70th boys some excellent wing shooting as the 390th leaped the ditch separating these squadrons.
Lacking a better gag about the shipping sweeps, somebody's remark that we "had worn out the floor" will have to do. These produced a few barges and some lucrative strafes on small Jap concentrations.
On February 6, Major Wolfendale did it again. Searching through formidable weather in the How-George sectors with Major Harvey, they spotted two SD's southeast of Ceram just as the sun looked up. Both Nips were in "high blower" for their shore hideout. The two Majors assisted the Fates in snipping the thread just a wee bit short, using 500-pounders and 250's. Major Wolfendale made several strafing runs, setting one of the Dogs afire, and Major Harvey rang the bell when be sent his last bomb right through the center of the second.
Of the major strikes of early February the most notable was the bombing and strafing of Matina on the 4th, led by Capt. B. A. Hedlund of the 69th.
A Nip monitoring the 69th's Capt. William W. Williams on his return from this strike would have been crosseyed and cross-eared as well as slant-eyed. "Williams, this is Williams speaking. Do you know if Williams sent out that last radio message? If he has you might ask Williams whether Williams photographed the bomb bits." No, not Gertrude Stein. It seems there were four Williamses in the crew that day: Pilot Williams, Co-Pilot Williams, Radio Operator S/Sgt. G. B. Williams, Gunner Sgt. R. F. Williams.
Attacks on Sassa and Libby airdromes on the 6th recorded 100% accuracy with 94 centuries dropped hitting smack into the target; Major Short led the 70th's nine, Captain Smith the 75th's eight.
Eight of the 75th followed Lieut. J. B. Wheeler to attack shipping in Zamboanga harbor on the 11th, accompanied by Capt. R. J. Weston and the 70th. This was our first trip to Mindanao; later Zambo was to be the scene of some rough missions. It was back to Kendari for a post-mortem on the 16th, with Captain Smith of the 75th, and Captain Burnett of the 100th sharing the honors. A good section of the buildings still standing on the south Celebes 'drome were wiped out on this strike, but its vicious guns extracted toll of Crusader planes and crews. Capt. John F. Wolfe, highly regarded 75th pilot, went down over the target and all were lost.
With this strike, the returns were almost in from Sansapor. Tactical flying tailed off to nothing on the 18th, and executive officers and their assistants took over for the move.
Again the Group could look back on a long, arduous and frequently costly job carried out to the letter of the orders. The Indies campaign, from the 42nd's standpoint, had had much in common with Rabaul. It had been a systematic pulverizing of enemy potentialities. The payoff on our work was going on in the Philippines, and we were now to join in the final destruction of the Japs in the islands where Admiral Dewey and General Arthur MacArthur in 1898 first raised the American flag over the funeral of an earlier imperialism.
Painting, taking down, crating--the by now familiar business had once again to be done and once again was accomplished with a minimum of trouble. This time again the squadrons would be split up: air and flight echelons to Morotai by organizational aircraft and C-47s; ground echeloners and heavy equipment to the new station by LST.
Capt. L. E. Davis, Lieuts. Harold Hudgins Jr., and A. J. Morganti of the 69th got a nice break during the month. They flew a 25 to Labo to check out an American major who had been in the Philippines since Bataan, living and fighting with guerrillas. On orders they spent a pleasant week eating chicken and native delicacies while the major got his hand in on the controls again.
Lieuts. J. G. McCreary, G. M. Scuffos, and R. D. Chambles, and Corps. J. T. Poff, H. W. Torrible. and J. M. Donato of the same Squadron, also drew a nice one, 30 days TD with the Eighth Army. Based at Tacloban they did nothing more strenuous than drop leaflets, while enjoying the local cuisine. Topping this, Lieuts. Joe Hobbs, A. Ottobre, and Albert Lefler of the 390th, with T/Sgt. Lumir J. Havel, T/Sgt. Herbert E. Carrier and S/Sgt. John S. Fotos pulled the assignment of flying Lieut. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger and members of his staff on a series of inspections and observations of the Philippine operations. Their junket was climaxed the following month by a visit to Manila as soon as it was possible to enter the city.
Between the 19th and the 27th the Air Echelons established themselves in the 267th Replacement Casual Camp at Morotai, while the Ground Echelons loaded LST's, and on the 28th weighed anchor for their voyage. The loading of the ships. one to each squadron, and one to Group and the 886th, was accomplished in one great push, many men working around the clock to complete tile job. A regrettable accident in loading the 69th's chattels aboard cost the life of Corp. G. T. Scaramello.
Anything that was ever said by the least inhibited Crusader about vile camp conditions was eclipsed by the remarks of the mildest after Morotai. As this publication may someday be perused by your children or grandchildren we forebear to reprint any of them. Instead we shall attempt the impossible task of describing conditions politely enough that this book may be mailed.
Uncle Dud, who used to stomp around in the Mississippi Mud, would have cut his throat if he had known what he was missing. Whoever picked that campsite should have been made to live in it. No doubt it was a fine Army dust-bowl in September. It was a reeking, clinging, voracious, and ever deepening morass of muck in February and March. When we arrived in February it was just a nice slick mud, one to four inches deep, that a GI boot could take in stride. By March 10th the incessant rains and the endless churning of trucks and jeeps and feet had deepened it to two and three feet. Out of 29 days at Morotai, it failed to rain on one day.
The price of rubber boots soared above that of whiskey; sheepskin lined flying boots were an acceptable substitute if you could get them and if you avoided the deeper mud. If you were just a plain bastard with no connections, the best idea was to use one pair of your G.I. shoes for walking and your other pair for inside your tent. However, after a while it ceased to make much difference. The tents leaked and no amount of ditching would keep rivulets from forming pools on your floor. In about three days of back-breaking labor, details of combat men succeeded in laying enough strip matting for walkways. Then you sank only ankle deep.
Combat officers awaiting their orders for rotation were put to work as "S-5's"--Camp Commandants and Transportation Officers. After a few hitches, transportation was unsnarled to some extent by borrowing some negro quartermaster six-by-sixes. These hard-working boys daily and nightly wrestled their lumbering charges through the Morotai muck so that our missions could be flown.
Sawdust and coral promised to make the tent floors reasonably dry and comfortable for about a week; then the ground refused to take off any more water, and the sawdust and gravel vanished under deep pools. One of the few bright spots was a flourishing supply of beer, better than a case per man. While the crews were up at Leyte during the latter part of the Morotai period, the 390th S-2 and S-3 tent, which served as Personnel Supply, P-X, and dispatcher's office, was floored with the cased beer being held for them. By the time they returned, the rising water had submerged the bottom layer of cases. It chilled the beer, anyhow.
Taking a shower at Morotai was a simple matter--after you got onto the system. What saved the day for Crusaders at Morotai was the availability of large number of metal-lined bomb crates. You got three of them used two as stilts under your sack. This served the double purpose of keeping you from vanishing into the mud over night or from floating away. The third box made a stand for your belongings. The metal liners caught rain water running off the tent. Then you set a stray board outside, took the old tin hat and dipped your shower up as you liked it. That saved a long plod through the mud to the camp shower, where the water was turned on for about fifteen minutes a day at the whim of the tank operator. If you outguessed him you could get a shower there. The private tank system was more reliable.
Bad as Army food sometimes got overseas, rarely would you eat K rations in preference to the mess hall's offering. Morotai changed that, too. No reliable statistics are at hand on the number of men fed at the huge, hangar-size mess hall that served the casual camp, but the noon line overlapped the late breakfast line and the evening line overran the noon line.
Night amusement was more of a problem than usual. There was a movie in back of this gargantuan mess hall, if you were impervious to water. The orderly room tents, which at first served as S-1, S-2, S-3, and S-4, very cozy during briefings, became card rooms at night, for these were sure to contain one at least of the rare electric lights. Through the drizzle there came the nightly wail of a cornettist endlessly and mournfully tootling "Wait For Me Mary" from his candlelighted, dripping tent.
The line was a choice spot, too. When possible the crew chiefs lived in the tin roofed shacks left by preceding outfits. These served as living quarters, engineering office, shops, tech supply, and miscellaneous warehouse. Roomy places.
While the Air Echeloners were contending with the above, the Ground Wing were finding things quite pleasant aboard their LST's. The chief unpleasant features were the limited bunking facilities and the tendency of the round-bottoms to roll and toss. The former was overcome by stretching jungle hammocks in every spot that could be found to accommodate them, and setting up cots on every flat space. This wasn't so good when it rained, but eventually tarpaulins were arranged to provide some degree of shelter. The food was unusually good. Moving out of Sansapor on February 28th, the convoy proceeded to Biak in calm weather and arrived without incident. After a four-day layover there that produced two very welcome items, beer and mail, the convoy started north on the 4th of March and was joined by another fleet near the Palau Islands. Now numbering 85 ships, the combined convoy headed for Leyte Gulf where the Group broke off and proceeded through Surigao Strait to Puerto Princessa, Palawan, beaching there on March 12th.
The tactical situation into which we were moving was not an entirely new one, for the Group's first Philippine strikes had been launched as far back as October and November, 1944. GHQ thought however, that the time had now arrived to match the rapidly progressing drive to northern islands with repeated jabs in the south, leading to the final liberation of the Philippines. The beachheads at Zamboanga and Cebu were in the making.
Before we again pick up the thread of our combat narrative, it seems to be an opportune time to highlight some of the history and interesting facts about the Philippines.
The Philippines, the largest island group in the Malay Archipelago, were brought to the notice of Europe by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Magellan, who was in command of a Spanish expedition, approached the Philippines from the east and entered the Archipelago through the Strait of Surigao.
After 1521, the Spanish extended their rule throughout the Visayas and northward to Luzon. In 1571, Manila was taken, and the construction of the Spanish walled city began.
For over three centuries, from 1565 to 1895, the Spanish ruled the Island. There were occasional unsuccessful attempts by the Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and English to obtain footholds in the Archipelago.
The port of Manila was opened to ships of all nations in 1837. In 1896 after 20 years of increasing disaffection, the Filipinos rebelled, seeking their freedom from Spain. The martyrdom of Jose Rizal, a liberal Filipino leader and now their national hero, gave them a further incentive. A temporary peace was concluded in 1898, but conditions were still unsettled when the Spanish-American War opened another chapter in Philippine history. The American occupation of the Philippine Islands began when Admiral Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on May 1, and Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt captured the city of Manila, August 12, 1898.
After the war between the U.S. and Spain, the Philippine Islands were ceded to the U.S. by the treaty of Paris, and as a voluntary consideration, the U.S. paid to Spain $20,000,000. Spain also relinquished to the U.S. on November 7, 1900, all title and claim to the islands of Cagayan, Sulu, and Sibutu, and other islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, but lying outside the limits described by the Treaty of Paris, the U. S. paying the sum of $100,000.
American policy has been to assure Filipino self-government. In 1907, to encourage increased autonomy and eventual independence, Congress established the first Philippine Assembly. On the 15th of November, 1935, the Congress began an era of self-government in the islands by the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. The Tydings-McDuffle Independence Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Roosevelt on March 24, 1934, and endorsed by the Philippine Legislature on May 1, 1934, provided for the independence of the Philippines in 1946. Politically, the Commonwealth is divided into 49 Provinces and 8 chartered cities (Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo, Zamboanga, Davao, Bacolod and Tagaytay). The provinces are divided into municipalities, and these are further divided into barrios.
The land area of the Philippine Islands lies between 21 degrees 10 minutes and 4 degrees 40 minutes north latitude and between 116 degrees 40 minutes and 126 degrees 34 minutes cast longitude. There are 7,083 islands, extending 1,150 statute miles from north to south and 682 miles from east to west. Of this number 462 have an area of one square mile or more; 2,441 are named and 4,642 unnamed.
The Philippine Islands divide naturally into three main groups, occupying respectively a northerly, central, and southerly position in the archipelago. They are:
1. Luzon 2. Visayas 3. Mindanao
The largest island is Luzon, 40,814 square miles. Others are Mindanao 36,906; Panay, 4448; Palawan, 4500; Mindoro, 3794; Bohol, 1554; Masbate, 1255; Cebu, 1695. The chief cities, with their populations as of January 1, 1935, are Manila, 623,362; Cebu, 142,912; Zamboanga, 131,729; Davao, 95,444; Iloilo, 88,203; Bacolod, 57,703; and Baguio, 24,122.
Other groups in the archipelago are the Sulu, or Jolo Islands in the south, the Babuyanes and Batanes in the north, the Catanduanes in the East and Culion in the west.
The population of the Philippines, most of which is engaged in agriculture, was estimated at 17,000,000 in 1941. Greater Manila, which includes the city proper and contiguous municipalities, has a population of 875,000.
The vast majority of the Filipinos are Malays, descendants of imigrants who arrived centuries ago. The Christian Filipinos are divided into geographical groups, differing principally in language. The principal groups are the Tagalogs, living in central Luzon; the Visayans, living in the central and southern islands; and the Ilocanos, in northern Luzon. Mohammadan Moros live in parts of the island of Mindanao, and in the Sulu Archipelago. Pagan tribes of a primitive culture exist in several isolated parts of the islands.
The Filipinos comprise 43 ethnographic groups that speak 8 distinct languages and 87 dialects. Tagalog, spoken by about 25 per cent of the population, has been designated the national language. About one fourth of the population read or understand English, and in all parts of the islands there are natives with some knowledge of English.
At the outbreak of the war, there were about 120,000 Chinese, mostly small storekeepers. Japanese numbered about 30,000, two-thirds of whom lived in or near the city of Davao. They have played an increasingly important part in the economic life of the islands in recent years. There were also about 5,000 American civilians, exclusive of Army personnel, in the islands. The foreign population also includes about 4,000 Spanish Nationals, a few hundred Germans, and other Europeans.
The Philippine Islands lie in the geographic heart of the Far Eastern theatre of war. They are centrally located with respect to the vital areas of Japan, China, Burma, French-Indo China, Thailand, Malaya, and the Netherlands East Indies, and constitute a pivotal point for their control. The Philippines, the most northerly segment of Malaysia, are closer to the vital areas of Japan proper and to the Chinese-held coastal area of Asia than any other part of Malaysia.
Organized resistance to Japan collapsed in the Philippines with the general surrender of the American and Filipino forces to the Japanese army at Corregidor Fortress, May 6, 1942. All communications between the United States and the islands were severed one week later. However, in Ilocos and the Central Plain Provinces of Luzon and in remote sections of Mindanao, a number of independent guerrilla units, officered by Americans and Filipinos, continued to hold out against the Japanese, despite strenuous efforts to bring them out. These units lacked supplies, particularly ammunition. Their striking power was practically nil and their freedom of movement strictly limited.
All told, there were about 115,000 inadequately trained reserves in the Philippines who had survived the Philippine campaign.
|Preface||Chapter 20||Chapter 22|