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History of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion
Closing comments on the Second Battle for Bougainville
March 1944 was a milestone in the South Pacific campaigns to clench the defeat of Japanese attempts to control Oceana, including Australia and New Zealand. Bougainville justified and solidified General MacArthur's strategy of bypassing and neutralizing the enemy to let them "wither on the vine." Fortunately, he and Admiral Halsey thought alike. Halsey did an admirable job of initiating the Bougainville invasion, following the strategy of "hit 'em where they aint." With the airfields, fully secured by the perimeter on Bougainville, in full operation, the Japanese bastion of Rabaul on New Britain was neutralized and would "wither on the vine" without an invasion. Bombing became somewhat of a "ho-hum" routine. Heavy bombers coming out of Australia were on a "milk run." One report showed a crew from an Australian base had loaded, in addition to their normal armament, a supply of old well-used toilets. Following the standard bomb run on the Japanese at Rabaul, this crew turned and ejected its gift of plumbing fixtures.
As indicated earlier, it took the Japanese from December 1943 to March 1944 to realize we didn't want the whole island. They were welcome to keep the mountains and most of the entire coastline. When they did react, the three heavy probes shown on Gailey's Map 9 were against "strongpoints." Had they sought weakpoints, they could have forced large-scale penetrations for further exploitation, especially against the 129th Infantry of the 37th Division (before it became a strongpoint). Its sector had no strongpoints, a disadvantage compensated for by the Regimental Commander, Col. John Frederick, who recognized the potential vulnerability and organized a defense in depth during the two months prior to the attack The position, much stronger than that of the 148th guarding Hill 700, was anchored by a large number of mutually supporting earthen and log pillboxes and protected by a double apron of barbed wire, in front of which antipersonnel mines had been laid (G, p. 161). Timing is everything!
The 23rd of March was the decisive day on which the last major Japanese thrust was defeated. Following the retreat of those Japanese still capable of moving, jubilation reigned in the perimeter and along its front. The scene of carnage was a sight to behold. Infantrymen and anyone who could get ahold of the TL pliers, normally used by telephone linesmen, were pulling gold teeth from Jap corpses. Several turned out to be just gold caps, which got the corpse a kick in the head.
Butler's attempt to get a souvenir was short-lived. He pulled a "belt of 1,000 stitches" from the waist of one. This silk belt, six to eight inches wide and worn like a cummerbund would have contained stitches collected by the soldier's mother from relatives and neighbors before he left for war. It was supposed to ensure the wearer (like the Kamikaze and Banzai deaths) 1,000 years in Heaven. Riddled with shrapnel, the bloody rag lost its souvenir value. Walking more than ankle deep in shredded leaves and branches, Butler took a broken branch to lift a dead one who was face down by putting it under the collar of a short raincoat he wore. As he lifted, the Jap slithered out of the coat - didn't seem to have a whole bone in his body (concussion?) - no shrapnel holes were visible in the raincoat. It ties in with Beinberg's report cited by Gailey, below.
Describing earlier (12-13 March) mopping up operations around Hill 700 and the restoration of the 145th's line, Gailey (pp. 155-56) cites a report of Sgt. E.R. Beinberg (145th Infantry Regiment, History of Bougainville, 19 November 1943 - 16 March 1944, National Archives, File 337 - INF (145) 0.1, 1.) Farther out from the perimeter, where a little stream wound its way parallel to it, Japs killed by the concussion of thousands of mortar shells lay with their heads, ostrich fashion, stuck under the least protection they could find.
Bulldozers were digging mass-grave ditches and pushing the bodies into them. Military police were rounding up souvenir gatherers, including many sailors who had come up to seek their "fortunes" and requiring them to drag individual corpses to the graves. At that time there was a tremendous euphoria, perhaps the feeling previously quoted by the Marine during the first nights on the island in describing the "Law of the Jungle," ... "it was still great to be alive."
Back at the mortar positions, one of the gunners had returned with what he thought was a Japanese circular canteen. About a foot in diameter, it looked much like a canvas-covered canteen, until the + and - poles revealed it to be a magnetic mine, one that had not been detonated. As he approached his mortar to show off his find, he was stopped short. Platoon Sergeant "Pappy" Mills provided him with primacord, detonator, and a short course in "bomb disposal" techniques for safely destroying the "canteen."
Officers and enlisted troops from the 129th Infantry came back in droves to see the 4.2-inch mortars they had lived to admire. The tubes looked pretty sorry - all the OD paint burned off (probably from gasoline and cosmoline burning inside) and wrapped half way up in empty sandbags, which had been kept wet to help cool the tubes. Soon a Japanese flag had been painted on each muzzle. One of the company motor pool mechanics had made a stencil and was able to find red and white paint to put the "meatball" on each gun as a sign of victory.
Results of activities ended 31 Mar 44:
- Enemy attack on perimeter repulsed, forcing them to withdraw and retreat with heavy casualties.
- Perimeter extended 4 miles to the east and southeast.
Presidential Unit Citation for Company F, 129th Inf., 37th Inf. Division
[The 37th Infantry Division in World War II, 1 November 1945 (A brief, up-to-date summary prepared by the Division press relations section as a guidebook for press and radio correspondents [NOTE-NO TV!].) Section VI. PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATIONS.]:
F. Company, 129th Infantry - For holding line on Bougainville against heavy Jap attacks and repulsing 3 major enemy assaults, 15-26 March 44.
Battle of Extension of the Perimeter 1 Apr 44 - 30 Oct 44
Co. A with 37th and Americal
1Apr 44-4 Apr 44. (1) From its position on the right flank of the 129th Inf., the 1st platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. John C. Saylor, continued firing along the Numa Numa Trail in support of the above regiment. On 1 April a 200-round barrage was fired. The platoon was released from the operational control of the CG, 37th Division 4 April, reverted to battalion control, and returned to base camp.
1 Apr 44-23 Apr 44. (2)The 2nd platoon under command of 1st Lt. Thomas R. Blackburn, from its position in support of the 129th Inf., fired 375 rounds HE along the Numa Numa Trail on 1 April. On 4 April, the platoon was released from operational control of the CG, 37th Div. and placed under operational control of the CG, Americal Div. The platoon then moved on 5 April to a position in the saddle between Hill 250 and Hill 600, in support of the 164th Inf. From that date until 23 April, when the platoon was released from operational control, CG, Americal Div and returned to base camp, 1134 rounds HE and 62 rounds WP were fired in support and harassing missions on enemy positions east of Hill 1111 and in the vicinity of the forks of the Torokina River. Firing from 15 April to 23 April was done from position south of Hill 250 near the Torokina River.
Co. C with 37th
2 Apr 44-21 Apr 44. On 2 April, one section (3 mortars or one half platoon), 1st platoon commanded by 1st Lt. T. E. Bockstahler was attached to the 148th Infantry Special Force. The section left its position in rear of the 129th Infantry and accompanied this force from O.P.(outpost) #7 across the Laruma River 3000 yards along the Numa Numa Trail, hand carrying mortars and ammunition and fired one mission of 116 rounds HE on enemy bivouac area at the foot of Blue Ridge. On 3 April the section was relieved and returned to its position in support of 129 Infantry. The entire platoon moved from the latter position to one on the Numa Numa Trail in support of the right flank of the 129th Infantry and left flank of the145th. 37th Division on 21 April, reverted to battalion control, and returned to base camp on 24 April.
(During this same period, Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. C, was supporting other 129th operations on the outpost line. One such incident is contained in his article, The 82nd Jungle Fighting Chemical Mortar Battalion.
Co. D with Americal
2 Apr 44-14 Apr 44. (1) Both platoons were relieved from operational control of CG, 37th Division and were placed under operational control of CG, Americal Division on 1 April. They moved from their positions in support of the 145th Infantry and 148th Infantry to positions in the 132nd Infantry sector near the mouth of the Torokina River. One section, 1st platoon (1st Lt. Leon E. Rubin), was emplaced on Big Magine Island and was joined by the other section on 7 April. From its positions on Magine Island and on the mainland, Co. D commanded by Capt. C. H. Saunders fired 2522 rounds HE and 125 rounds WP during the period, including on 8 April a smoke screen to cover tank infantry attack at Mavavia, fired from Magine Island by 1st platoon.
6 Apr 44 - (2) ...destroyer bombardment of the Japanese pillboxes was the preliminary to a 132nd attack designed to rid the entire area of the enemy. As the lone destroyer ceased fire and steamed away on the afternoon of April 6, a 155mm howitzer of the 221st Field Artillery and a 4.2-inch mortar of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion - the latter firing from Greater Magine Island (Lt. Rubin) - began a ceaseless peppering of the area to keep the Japanese on edge. (C., p. 171)
8 Apr 44 - (3) Based on reports received from this area (the elongated hill mass formed by Hills 165, 155, 500, and 501,) General McClure, on April 8, instructed the 132nd Infantry to clear the area of all organized Japanese resistance and to protect the area against enemy counterattacks while a strong outpost line was being established by the 1st Battalion, 25th Infantry (93d Infantry Division, Negro). Attached to the 132nd for the operation were, in addition to the Negro infantry battalion: the 3d Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment; Battery (sic) D, 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion; and Company C, 121st Medical Battalion. (C., p. 175)
13 Apr 44-22 Apr 44. (4) The 2nd platoon commanded by 1st Lt. T. H. Cotton on 13 April was attached to 3rd Bn., 132nd Infantry. It left its position near the Torokina River and accompanied infantry over the East West Trail to Hill #500. From that position, 70 rounds HE were fired on enemy installations on Hill #150. Cronin describes the action as an attempt by the Japanese to retake Hill 500, in which Companies I and L, following a heavy artillery bombardment, thwarted the enemy's ambitions. On April 16, patrols determined that the Japs held a long series of strong positions to the west and southwest of Hill 500. On the morning of the 17th, enemy fire increased in intensity as company I undertook a slow advance southward and, by early afternoon, had destroyed two pillboxes and taken three machine guns in movement around the enemy's right flank. An all-night harassing of the firmly entrenched Japanese by the 247th Field Artillery turned into a thundering preparatory concentration on the morning of April 18 as mortars of the 132nd Infantry and the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion (Cotton's platoon) joined in on the booming chorus. Advancing 3d Battalion infantrymen found that the enemy had abandoned their positions and either withdrawn to better positions on or near Hill 501 to the south or had fled across the Saua River to the east under cover of darkness. (C., pp.178-80)
On 22 April, the platoon was released from operational control, CG, Americal Division, reverted to battalion control, and returned to base camp.
15 Apr 44-23 Apr 44. (5) On 15 April, 1st platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. Leon E. Rubin, moved from Magine Island to Bougainville to position in rear of Mavavia Village. From that position, during the period 15 April to 23 April, the 1st platoon fired 1223 rounds HE and WP on enemy targets in Mavavia River Area in support of the 24th (separate Negro Infantry Regiment which, along with the 93d Negro Infantry Division, was attached to the Americal Division). On 26 April, the platoon moved by barge to a position 800 yards east of the Mavavia River. No missions were fired during the period 26 April to 22 May and, on the latter date, the platoon was relieved from operational control of CG, Americal Division, reverted to battalion control, and returned to base camp.
Co. C with Americal
22 Apr 44-24 Apr 44. On 22 April, 1st platoon (1st Lt. Bockstahler) was placed under operational control of CG, Americal Division and relieved 2nd platoon, Co. D on Hill #500, in support of 3rd Bn., 132 Infantry. 70 rounds HE and 13 rounds WP were fired on 23 - 24 April, on enemy positions on Hill #150. The platoon was released from operational control, CG, Americal Division, reverted to battalion control, and returned to base camp on 24 April.
Co. B with 1st Fiji Infantry Regt. (FIR)
4 Jun 44-9 Jun 44. (1) One squad, 2nd platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. Charles T. Carter was placed under operational control of CO, 1st Bn., FIR, on 4 June 1944. The squad carried the mortar by hand from O.P. (outpost) #9 at the edge of the Laruma River outpost held by 1st Bn., FIR, 10,000 yards (5.68 miles) northeast on the Doyabie River, where the mortar was emplaced. From 6 June to 9 June, 234 rounds HE and 24 rounds WP were fired in harassing and support missions on an enemy trail block 2000 yards to the north. On 9 June, the squad was released from operational control of 1st Bn., FIR, and returned to base camp.
The photo at right (click to enlarge) is of the squad from 2nd platoon, Co. B firing in support of the Fijian troops. Although Co. B had no part in the Battle of the Perimeter on Bougainville; they were veteran combat troops from the New Georgia campaign. Capt. Joe Van Yush, CO of Co. B, standing center, accompanied the squad from Outpost No. 9 on the Laruma River. Co. B had fired the first 4.2" round against the enemy in the Pacific, supporting the 43d and 25th Divisions in the New Georgia Group. The company went to the rear area on Guadalcanal on 3 Mar 44 and rejoined 82nd CMB on Bougainville 26 Apr 44 in time to participate in the Battle of Extension of the Perimeter. Apparently the rest area provided the troops with the latest fashion in jungle wear. Lt. Chuck Carter was directing fire from the Observation Post (OP). (Note the truncated trunk of a Banyan tree in the mortar position-result of clearing a field of fire for the mortar.)
18 Jun 44-23 Jun 44. (2) One section, 2nd platoon, was attached to 3rd Bn., Fiji Infantry Regiment (FIR) on 18 June. Early on the 21st, the section embarked in 4 LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel - the Higgins Boat) from Torokina and rendezvoused at dawn near the mouth of the Jaba No.1 River. A smoke screen was fired from the boats to cover the landing of the Fijian assault troops. The section continued in support, but no further missions were fired and it was released 23 June, reverted to battalion control, and returned to base camp.
Co. D with Americal
1 Jul 44-10 Jul 44. On 1 Jul 44, 2 officers and 39 enlisted men of the 1st platoon, under command of 1st Lt. Leon E. Rubin, were placed under operational control of the Americal Division in support of the 182nd Inf. in the Reini River-Tekessi River area. From Hill #65, the section moved on foot, hand carrying the 4.2" mortars 14,000 yards (8 miles) to a position southeast. The section fired harassing and support missions on an enemy roadblock and other installations, which permitted friendly Infantry to advance, seize the roadblock, and continue patrol activity. A total of 245 rounds HE and 20 rounds WP was expended. The section was relieved on 10 July and returned to base camp.
Co. A with Americal
17 Jul 44-1 Aug 44. Two squads with two 4.2" mortars of the 1st platoon, commanded by 1st Lt. Richard G. Anderson, were placed under operational control of the Americal Division, for support of the 164th Inf. in the upper Laruma Valley. Harassing and support missions were fired on 17 July from the Numa Numa Trail roadblock resulting in the occupation of enemy installations in the vicinity of Igiaru and Magerikopia-ia. A total of 1547 rounds of HE and 41 rounds of WP were expended. On 22 July, two 4.2" mortars were added to the section. On 24 July, two 4.2" mortars were moved 250 yards up the river and from 24 July to 1 August, harassing fire was directed on Igiaru Village and on D Roadblock. The total number of rounds expended was 186 rounds HE and 4 rounds WP. On 1 August, the 1st platoon of Co. C relieved the section.
Co. C with Americal
1 Aug 44-14 Aug 44. (1) On 1 August, the 1st platoon, Co. C, under the command of 1st Lt. Berry E. Buckner, relieved the 1st platoon, Co. A, emplaced in the upper Laruma Valley. Harassing missions were fired in support of the 164th Inf. repelling an enemy counterattack and regaining positions previously seized by the enemy. A total of 2397 rounds HE and 79 rounds WP were fired.
14 Aug 44-23 Aug 44. (2) On 14 August, the 2nd platoon, under the command of 1st Lt. John L. (Jack) Butler (the author), relieved the 1st platoon. Harassing and support missions were fired from 14 Aug to 23 Aug 44. A total of 2034 rounds HE and 79 rounds WP were expended. The 2nd platoon was relieved from operational control of the Americal Division on 23 August and returned to base camp.
16 Aug 44. NOTE: Battalion reorganized on16 Aug 44 per Ltr. USAFFE File FEGC 322 dated 25 June 1944 under T/O & E 3-25, 3-26, and 3-27 dated 7 Sep 43. T/O 3-17, 3-25, 3-36 dated 1 Apr 42 superseded. This is the action that restructured the 4.2-inch mortar companies from two platoons of six mortars each to three platoons of four mortars each. Prior to this date, Capt. Carlisle had become Bn. S3, 1st Lt. McClelland replaced Carlisle as CO, Co. C and 1st Lt. Bockstahler moved from 1st platoon leader to Company C executive officer. With the reorganization and creation of a third platoon in Co. C, Lt. Buckner and Lt. Lundquist took over the new platoon, while Lt. Foster, 2nd platoon XO in the picture, was given command of 1st platoon, Co. C.
Co. B with Americal
11 Aug 44-19 Aug 44. (1) On 11 August, one section of the 1st platoon, Co. B, under the command of 1st Lt. Leonard E. Morrow, with two 4.2" mortars established gun positions at the mouth of the Jaba River in support of the 1st Bn., 132nd Inf., and fired intermittent fire on enemy bivouac areas between Jaba 1 and Jaba 2 River. The total number of rounds fired was 31 rounds HE and 12 rounds WP. The section was returned to camp on 19 August 1944.
3 Oct 44-14 Oct 44. (2) The 1st platoon, under the command of 1st Lt. Leonard E. Morrow, fired the 4.2" mortars using HE and WP shells on Fisher Ridge and Smith Hill and an area 400 yards north of these points from positions on Doyabie River during 3-4 Oct., in support of 182nd Inf. Regt. On 7 Oct., two 4.2" mortars were moved 3,000 yards up the Doyabie River. The 1st platoon fired heavy barrages on enemy positions on West Piateripaia from 10-14 Oct. On 13 Oct. the platoon fired a harassing mission while the 182nd Inf. was relieved by the 132nd Inf. The 1st platoon was relieved from operational control of Americal Division on 14 Oct. and returned to base camp.
Co. D with Americal
14 Oct 44-30 Oct 44. On 14 Oct, the 3d platoon under the command of 2nd Lt. Harold B. House relieved the 1st platoon of Co. B, 82nd Cml. Bn. (Mtz), in the upper Laruma Valley. The platoon fired missions in support of the 132nd Inf., which were completed 30 Oct. and returned to base camp.
Activity of Hq. Co., 82nd Cml. Bn. (Mtz), 1 Apr 44-23 Jun 44. Maintaining wire and radio communication and hauling ammunition to combat companies.
Results of activities ended 30 Oct 44: Perimeter extended approximately 12-14miles east and northeast.
Discrepancy noted: Paul Ware, killed in action, is remembered by the author and by a former member of Ware's squad, William V. Mackey, as Sgt. Ware. The AGO records cited in this chapter list Pvt. Ware as KIA. Once overseas, platoons seldom came together. Being in the 2nd platoon, Butler would have little or no knowledge of actions in the 1st platoon. Mackey, a member of Ware's squad, is a much more reliable source.
Remembrance: During the period when Sgt. Ware was killed, Mackey was able to visit his younger brother in the Americal Division, until Mackey returned from the hospital to learn his brother had been killed on Hill 260, the same hill where Ware died.
Preparation for and movement to the Philippines
Combat missions on the perimeter outpost line were alternated with training and recreational activities in the months following the decisive defeat of the Japanese 6th (Rape of Nanking) Division in March 1944.
Establishing a base camp
Striving to regain a semblance of "civilized" behavior and erase the jungle mentality that was becoming all too pervasive, the 82nd CMB undertook to establish a garrison of pyramidal tents similar to the base camp we had developed on Guadalcanal. Close by the XIV Corps ration dump and in conjunction with the clearing for that massive installation, we were able to have cleared a site for the battalion. The "currency" of greatest value was booze. At this point in time, each officer was allotted a fifth (before the days of .75 liters) per month. One fifth enabled us to have an engineer sergeant get our site cleared and another to have the great Banyan logs transported to the Seabee sawmill, where similar arrangements had been made to produce flooring for the battalion's tents. The total for all that "Philippine mahogany" flooring came to a case of booze, plus 50% of the flooring cut - a deal we gladly accepted.
In the photo at the right (click to enlarge), platoon Sergeant Felix "Pappy" Mills reports the platoon "Ready for Inspection" in August 1944.
About the same time, over a period of three months, the author acquired a Colt 1911A1 caliber .45 pistol with shoulder holster and later, a Thompson caliber .45 sub-machine gun (Tommy gun) complete with four 20-round magazines in a canvas carrying bag. There was such a shortage of caliber.45 pistols in the theater that even pilots were issued carbines.
During the action described in Appendix B, The 82nd Jungle Fighting Chemical Mortar Battalion, the patrol leader, Lt. Hall, borrowed Butler's Tommy gun when he took another patrol out to recover the body of one of his previous patrol. The Tommy gun helped suppress the enemy while the body was recovered. The author found good use for it in Manila.
Amphibious Combat Employment and Training
As reported above, one section of 2nd platoon, Co. B, 82nd CMB, embarked on 21 June 1944 in 4 LCVPs, in support of 3rd Battalion, Fiji Infantry Regiment. Firing from the Higgins Boats, the section laid a smoke screen near the mouth of the Jaba No. 1 River to cover the landing of the Fijian troops behind enemy lines. This was the first successful amphibious combat employment of 4.2-inch mortars ever.
With the knowledge that the battalion was facing a lot of time on the water in coming months, much emphasis was placed on combat loading, climbing and descending cargo nets, and even the possibility that we might be called upon to support the Infantry with 4.2-inch mortar fire from landing craft as they stormed some hostile beach.
Company C had built a wall about forty feet high, thirty feet wide, and four feet deep. This wall was built right in the company area just outside the CP and was draped with cargo nets on both sides. Daily, the platoons and the company headquarters personnel, in complete combat gear, climbed up one side and down the other. There was no way to satisfactorily simulate the rocking motion of climbing out of landing craft onto the deck of a ship and down into other rocking landing craft. After weeks of this, we were looking forward to the "thrill" of the rolling sea.
From mid-September to mid-November we were able to train in firing mortars from landing craft. The 82nd CMB, following the March victory and demands for heavy mortar fire, reorganized in 16 August 1944 so that we now had three platoons of four mortars in each of the four companies (B had rejoined the battalion from New Georgia), for a total of 12 platoons. The Navy had some limitations on personnel and landing craft, so that only one platoon could be accommodated in one day.
In anticipation of training on the water and not having the greatest confidence in the "walkie-talkie" radios, we acquired semaphore flags and learned to signal between boats via wig-wag. This was particularly critical when we had one squad with its mortar in each of four LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle/Personnel). The LCVP was capable of carrying one jeep and 12 combat-loaded troops, or 30 troops without the jeep. It was an ideal craft for running four mortars against different points on a beach, as Co. B showed in support of the Fiji 3rd Bn. on 21 June (above). We found out much later that the doctrine being established elsewhere in the Pacific had settled on the LCI(M) (Landing Craft Infantry (Mortar)) with three 4.2s firing over the bow. When the invasion of Luzon was laid on, amphibious support was rendered only in the I Corps sector of the beachhead by three groups of mortar gunboats. These were manned by a mixture of chemical mortarmen from the 98th CMB and marines trained and supervised by 88th CMB personnel. See Appendix C, Mortar Gunboats.
The companies still had not been reorganized into three platoons when the above and following pictures were taken in August 1944. Pictures of both platoons, including company headquarters personnel are shown below.At the right is a photo (click to enlarge) of the 1st platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, August 8, 1944. Seated in the center are Lt. Bockstahler, Co. executive officer; Lt Buckner, platoon leader; Lt. McClelland, Co. commander; Lt. Lundquist, platoon executive officer.
At the right is a photo (click to enlarge) of the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, August 1944. Seated in the center are Lt. Foster, platoon executive officer; Jack Butler, platoon leader; Lt. Walt McClelland, company commander; and Lt. Bockstahler, Co. executive officer. In the 4th row, far right, is platoon Sergeant Felix "Pappy" Mills.
Softball was the predominant sport and one in which many troops could participate. Several fields were laid in the cleared area bounding the fenced-in ration dump. With the beach within walking distance, much of the free time was spent there. Discarded wing tanks were readily converted into kayaks and helped troops enjoy the calm water of Empress Augusta Bay.
Gailey includes in his account of the improved living conditions for the troops in the summer of 1944, after the perimeter was secure and both sides had adopted a defensive posture, a relatively amicable environment, at least in localized situations. Two such are included here. The first involved a recollection of a former infantryman:
A large baseball field had been cut from the jungle on Bougainville not far from the Piva fighter strip. After things had settled down after the 2nd Battle of Bougainville, and the perimeter stabilized, someone noticed a raggedy-assed Jap way out in the shadows of the jungle off right field watching a game. Field glasses later verified this supposition. He came back for other games and was soon a regular fan, cautious but regular. There was no easy way to get to him and no officers of the "gung-ho" variety were informed. Bedsides, the 37th GI's figured He can't be all bad; - he somehow managed to root for 37th teams, showing his approval of hits and runs for the home team! He was somehow indicative of the rapport developed all along the perimeter by summer 1944. (G. p.186)
The second incident, reported by Gailey, also reflects the 37th Division situation and confirmed the close proximity of the quiescent Japanese:
One night some captured Japanese film of the sinking of the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier, was being shown along with the regular Hollywood movie at the 37th Division theater, possibly at Loewe's Bougainville. As the Jap planes laid bomb after bomb and torpedo after torpedo into the listing Lexington, there suddenly came shouts of Banzai! Banzai! from the tangled but huge branches of a banyan tree on a near side of the row of seats. A Jap had hidden himself to watch the movie but was overcome with patriotism at the sight of his comrades in the air force sending an enemy ship to the bottom. He was pulled from the tree with no trouble and entered the POW compound, perhaps the last victim of the carrier Lexington. (G. p187)
Evening movies, which had been discontinued in early March, were resumed. The most memorable was the one starring Lena Horne singing Happiness is a Guy Named Joe. Loewe's Bougainville even featured a visit by Bob Hope, Jerry Colonna and Frances Langford. No report is known of how the Japanese jungle press covered the event.
Hello Aussies, goodbye Bougainville
Meanwhile, there was a continuing need to improve defenses and guard against a resurgence of starving Japanese seeking revenge. XIV Corps was aggressively patrolling in all sectors and pushing its outposts deeper into the jungle. Not all was fun and games, as both the 37th and Americal Divisions continued to take casualties and inflict more of the same on the starving and despairing remnants of the once-feared Japanese 6th Infantry (Rape of Nanking) Division, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, and naval elements of the 4th South Seas Garrison.
Japanese troops, perhaps more officers than enlisted personnel, evidently kept diaries and liked to express their contempt for Americans. One such report we had after the battle, taken from a dead Japanese, complained that Americans are poor jungle fighters - they destroy the jungle. That was greeted by 82nd CMB troops as a compliment! We were not there to play Tarzan with them. If they wanted jungle fighting, the Fiji troops had already demonstrated superiority in that game. Our ability to destroy the jungle was something the Japanese high command, along with much other intelligence, should have considered before launching their ill-fated expeditions.
While we were getting spoiled with excesses in the jungle, the brass had been busy scheming to measure our tolerance for more misery. On or about 1 November 1944, the battalion was alerted for movement. Companies A and B, along with Headquarters Detachment, moved directly for Luzon with the 37th Division. Landing rehearsals were conducted en route in New Guinea. Companies C and D were loaded onto an LST and took off on the first leg of a trip full of adventure. Debarking at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, to join the 40th Division, these two companies prepared to engage in the fulfillment of General MacArthur's pledge, I shall return. We would spend the holidays drinking beer, courtesy of the U.S. Navy, at Manus in the Admiralties, a side trip to Lae, New Guinea, an action-packed journey for a month through the plains and mountains of Central Luzon, another month of thrills in Manila and a cruise of Manila Bay before the inevitable journey to the beautiful Sierra Madres above Manila. Of course, Big Mac had already satisfied the I Shall Return spirit when he waded ashore at Leyte in October 1944. What he really meant, in case anyone missed the point, was a return to his pre-war home in Manila NOW!
The 3d platoon, Co. D, 82nd CMB, under command of Lt. Harold B. House, had the honor of firing the parting 4.2 shot in support of the 132nd Infantry, Americal Division, before we sailed, literally, into the sunset from South Pacific to Southwest Pacific.
The perimeter had been secured and expanded 12-14 miles and was in good shape to be handed over to the Australian II Corps which, with more than thirty thousand men, appeared to be adequate to the task of continuing General Griswold's concept of keeping the Japanese under surveillance and defending the perimeter against any counterattack that might threaten the airfields. Contrary to MacArthur's and Griswold's policy of bypassing and withering on the vine, General Sir Thomas Blamey, commander of the Australian army, (responding to MacArthur's slight) wanted to seek out and destroy the enemy wherever he could. As a result, aggressive patrolling and offensive operations went on until the two A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (in August 1945) finally brought an end to the slaughter. As Gailey concludes, ... a terrible toll for an island whose possession after March 1944 was of no consequence in bringing the war to a close. (G. pp.191-211)
Luzon, Philippine Islands 9 Jan 45-20 Jun 45
(The following data are from Department of the Army, AGO, Departmental Records Branch, Historical Records Section, History of Eighty Second Chemical Battalion (MTZ) (AR 345-105 and C-1, C-2, C-3,) 9 Jan 45-5 Nov 45.)
Companies A, B, C, and D, with attached ammunition squads from Headquarters Detachment, arrived Lingayen, Luzon, P.I., 9 Jan 45, 39 officers,1 warrant officer, 920 enlisted men
Headquarters Detachment arrived 11 Jan 45
Campaign: Luzon 9 January 1945 to 20 June 1945
Central Plain (from Lingayen to Manila, 9 January 1945 to 23 January 1945)
Bamban, Fort Stotsenburg - Clark Field (Tarlac Province, 27 January 1945 to 19 March 1945)
Manila (city and surrounding area, 4 February 1945 to 3 March 1945)
Shimbu Line (Sierra Madre Mountains east of Manila and along eastern shore of
Laguna de Bay, Luzon, 26 February 1945 to 20 June 1945)
Ipo Dam (Sierra Madres east of Manila and in Bulacan, 4 May 1945 to 20 June 1945)
Manila Bay (Carabao Island, 13 April 1945 to 19 April 1945)
Bataan (Bataan Peninsula, 3 May 1945 to 14 May 1945)
Commanding officers in important engagements:
Battalion commander, 9 January to 9 June 1945: Lt. Col. John D. Tolman
Battalion commander, 9 June 1945 to 20 June 1945: Lt. Col. Forrest L. Roe
Battalion executive officer, 9 January 1945 to 15 February 1945: Major Maurice G. Green
Battalion executive officer, 15 February 1945 to 20 June 1945: Major John L. Carson
Commanding officer, Company A, 9 January 1945 to 15 March 1945: Captain Alfred G. Robinson
Commanding officer, Company A, 15 March 1945 to 20 June 1945: 1st Lt. Samuel S. Hindman
Commanding officer, Company B, 9 January 1945 to 20 June 1945: Captain Joseph Van Yush
Commanding officer, Company C, 9 January 1945 to 20 June 1945: 1st Lt. Walter R. McClelland 9 January 1945 to 20 June 1945
Commanding officer, Company D, 9 January to 15 March 1945: Captain James F. Pflum
NOTE: Carlisle, in his Lines from Luzon, which follows refers to another reorganization, which reduced the number of weapons companies from four to three. This explains why Capt. Pflum was no longer in command of Co. D after 15 March 1945. What became of Co. D? It may have been transferred out to a new CMB or it may have been split among the other three companies. The latter would not explain the disposition of the twelve 4.2" mortars possessed by Company D. Carlisle may have discussed this issue in his later writings.
Central Plain Battle (9 - 23 January 1945)
The View from the Top
At this point, it is best to give the overall picture as recorded by the late Major Howard Carlisle, S-3, 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion (Lines From Luzon With 37th and 40th Divisions, Chemical Warfare Bulletin, Vol. 31, No. 2, March-April-May 1945, pp. 29-33.) Carlisle passed away in 1996. As the operations officer for the 82ndCMB, Howard was responsible for knowing exactly where the combat elements of the battalion were at all times.
Lines from Luzon
by Maj. Howard Carlisle, S-3, 82nd Cml. Bn.
This is a continued story. The locale of the first chapter was the jungles of New Georgia. Thence, the scene changed to the denser jungles of Bougainville. Now, its third installment is laid against a background of the rice fields of central Luzon, the mass of rubble once known as Manila, Pearl of the Orient, and the towering peaks of the Sierra Madre Mountains, east of the Philippine capital.
The characters are the same: the men of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion and the Japanese. The hero hasn't changed either: "he" is still the little old 4.2 mortar. Not a very fascinating group or setting you think? Perhaps you will change your mind. Let's start the chapter.
The Bougainville operation had ended several months previously and the battalion was engaged in training on that island, when the announcement was made, about 1 November, that it had been alerted for the M-1 Operation. How typical of the Army! Even the campaigns had become standardized. The camp was agog with rumors. Where would the next stop in this island hopping be? The odds were on Luzon, and, before too long, the veil of secrecy had been lifted and Lingayen Gulf on the above island was revealed as the destination.
The men of Companies "A" and "D" found themselves attached to the 37th Division, or more particularly the 148 Infantry and the 129 Infantry, units which knew through first-hand experience how valuable the mortars would be to them. "B" and "C" Companies and the 185 Infantry and 160 Infantry of the 40th Division, old friends from an earlier training period, learned that they were to work together in an operation which was not to be simulated.
Although they may not have enjoyed the additional cruise, "B" and "C" Companies sailed to Cape Gloucester, New Britain, for staging purposes. The other two weapons companies and Headquarters Detachment moved directly from Bougainville. After two landing rehearsals on Huon Gulf, New Guinea, and a ten-day sojourn at Manus Island (in the Admiralty Group) where the beer flowed freely, the men hoped D-Day would never come. It did, however, on January 9, 1945, and it was called "S"-Day.
Making a beachhead was something these boys had only read about until that morning at 0930. The surf was rough, landing conditions were decidedly unfavorable, and the reception by the Nips was expected to be tougher. But, there were no Japs with cocked rifles and knee mortars to receive the surprised groups of men who waded ashore with the mortars.
The opposition continued to be negligible as the infantry pushed inland rapidly. The mortar men pushed in right after them, and they pulled, too, the mortars. Some of the trucks were not unloaded until late on S+2 and the carts became very unwelcome appendages. The men in "C" Company were fortunate: they found a squad of enthusiastic Filipinos to whom pulling the carts was something of a lark. Another time, they commandeered a few carabao carts and, when the carabaos became balky, the civilians grasped the shafts. Any abandoned Japanese vehicle, which could move at all, didn't stand idle very long. The advance continued almost unabated for the next week, and the battle cry of the troops became, We wish the Japs would stop and fight so we could give our feet a rest.
During the morning S+1, Lt. Joel L. Foster's 1st platoon, Co. "C," had stopped for a break. Foster was hiking down the road with the infantry commander when the point spotted four tankettes moving toward them. In characteristic Texas fashion, Foster asked that his men be given a chance to stop the tanks. The Colonel was dubious, but he assented, and soon thereafter 19 rounds of HE found their mark in the armored vehicles. Two of them were hit cold, and the other two were stopped long enough for a tank destroyer to move in for the kill. Foster didn't drop the rounds in the turrets, but he did stop the tanks.
Bridgeless rivers and swamps impeded the march on Manila not at all. Trucks were discarded for LVTs and LCMs at such times, and the footwork began on the other side. The trucks could catch up later. One day, moving in such fashion along two different routes, Lt, Leon E. Rubin's 1st platoon, Co. "D," and 1st Lt. John L. (Jack) Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. "C," found themselves back to back in the churchyard at Camiling, set up to fire in opposite directions. It was a rather surprising reunion for both of them.
Keeping track of the whereabouts of his companies kept the CO, Lt. Col. John D. Tolman constantly on the run, while Capt. Leroy S. Croxton, the S-4, drove his jeep 4,000 miles chasing down supplies for them. It was the job of Capt. Albert J. Smith and his Headquarters Detachment men to insure that the battalion CPs were habitable, as they were established in rapid succession from Binmaley at Lingayen Gulf to Manila. Capt. Robert J. Brooks, S-2, was charged with the responsibility of choosing the locations of them and his efforts found the headquarters comfortably ensconced several times in magnificent mansions.
The unpredictable Japs determined to make their first stand in the cavern-studded mountains west of Bamban. It was Lt. Walter R. McClelland's "C" Co. which started the ammunition ball rolling toward the present total and "B" Co., commanded by Capt. Joseph Van Yush, which carried it along in the Bamban area. Before the operations there and at nearby Fort Stotsenburg were concluded, well over 25,000 rounds of 4.2 ammunition were expended. That they were not wasted is attested to by the dead Japs and ruined equipment, which littered the landscape. An Artillery (no less) officer, who watched Lt. Sidney Diamond demolish an 8" coastal gun, made an appropriate comment, "That 4.2 is the best weapon to come out of this war."
In the Clark Field-Fort Stotsenburg sector, the resistance encountered at Bamban was continued and intensified. At various time all four companies fired missions there and the first planes that landed and took off from Runway No. 1 were only 1000 yards behind us.
Company "D," and especially the 2nd platoon of Lt. Theodore H. Cotton, will not soon forget January 31, 1945. On that day, their mortars emplaced on the parade ground of the old army post, they watched while the American Flag was raised at Fort Stotsenburg, three years after it had been torn down. They weren't only watching either: they were firing at the Nips only 2000 yards away. Their fire was like an accompanying salvo to the raising of the flag, signaling the return of freedom to the Philippines.
From their positions amid the wrecked Rising Sun planes at Clark Field and the crumbling barracks at Fort Stotsenburg, all of the companies except "B" again began to move down the central Luzon Plains. Co. "B" seemed to like that area so well that it stayed there for six weeks, until the last vestiges of opposition had ended. During that period, three divisions in two corps were supported, and on one noteworthy day, one platoon fired for three battalions in two regiments! The race to enter Manila first became a heated contest by two veteran divisions (37th Infantry and 1st Cavalry.) The battalion was represented by Co. "D," the 1st platoon of which entered the outskirts of the city in the early hours of 5 February, just a few hours after the infantry. Not the least of the rewards received by these pioneers was the free beer at the Balintawak Brewery, just outside the city limits. Some high-minded individual had pulled the tap and the beer literally flowed into the streets. The mortar men had time only to stop and fill their helmets with the ice-cold brew, as they continued their march into the city.
The honor of firing the first 4.2 mortar shells in Manila is due this platoon, also. The date was 6 February; the time, 1630; the target, the beautiful General Post Office. The Japs had been chased across the Pasig River, leaving destruction and horror in their wake. The southern half of the city, with its large number of concrete public buildings, now heavily fortified, and the river as a barrier, made a formidable zone of attack. In an attempt to preserve, if possible, the government edifices, a ban had been placed on artillery and aerial bombardment within the city. However, that order was soon rescinded when it was realized that by no other means could the enemy be routed. Thus, the Post Office, from which had been issuing steady streams of fire, was the first to feel the impact of the powerful 4.2. After a succession of HE and WP shells, which set several large fires, killed many Japs, and forced the evacuation of the building by the remainder, only a burned-out shell of blackened walls remained. It would be a long time before it would be used as an APO, as a three months old Southwest Pacific Newsmap had promised.
For the next month, Companies "A," "C," and "D" supported the 37th Division in the "Battle of Manila." They aided, ruefully but immeasurably, in the reduction of the "Pearl of the Orient" to ashes and dust. Almost 20,000 rounds were expended in killing and driving the enemy out, building-by-building, floor-by-floor, and room-by-room. Every important building from the Manila Hotel to the City Hall was a target for the mortars, and the famous old walled city, Intramuros, received its proportionate share of mortar bombardment.
When the last Jap in Manila had been killed, the Luzon campaign did not end for the 82d. From the cement sidewalks of the capital, Companies "C" and "D" moved to the narrow trails of the steep Sierra Madre Mountains east of the city. Here the so-called Shimbu Line had been organized and the Japs had prepared positions in the caves and on the mountaintops, similar to those in the Zambales Mountains west of Bamban. When "B" Company concluded its stay at Fort Stotsenburg, it too moved to this area to add its firepower to that of the other two companies in support of the 6th and 43rd Divisions. (The reorganization of the battalion at this time gave only three companies for use in the Corps instead of four.) [Company A was eliminated and Company D was redesignated Company A. JB]
The fighting in this area is still in progress but only mopping-up operations remain. As expected, the 4.2s played a part in breaking the Shimbu Line, and already 50,000 rounds have been fired there. Statistics of the number of Japs killed and equipment destroyed might make interesting reading to the fact-minded, but "B" Company likes to remember the 4,000-round, ten-hour smoke screen it maintained in front of Mt. Mataba, and "C" Company's third platoon will remind you of the day it brought fire to within 30 yards of our troops, and the next day 225 enemy dead were counted in the area.
The Luzon operation isn't over, but the remainder of it is not expected to be as spectacular as what has gone before. The battalion has been in continuous action since D-Day (at present writing, 85 days.) More than 105,000 rounds of ammunition have been fired, of which figure 100,000 rounds were fired in a 67-day period. Lessons have been learned, comrades have been lost, and mistakes have been made, but the essential fact remains that the mortar men have again proved their right to a high to a high place on the honor roll of this campaign. Read what the Corps Commander thinks of them:
HEADQUARTERS XIV CORPS
AG 330.13 - U
Subject: Service of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion
To: Commanding Officer, 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, APO 453.
1. With the departure of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion from my command, I desire to express my personal appreciation and official commendation to you and your officers and men for the outstanding manner in which they have discharged their duties during their lengthy service with the XIV Corps.
2. Through long association and mutual participation in three operations against the enemy, I have come to know the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion as an aggressive, energetic, and thorough combat organization, highly trained in its arm and possessed of the stamina required for sustained operations under adverse conditions. Faced initially with the necessity of educating supported troops with the effectiveness and fire power of the 4.2" chemical mortar, the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion readily demonstrated its efficiency and won for itself a major role as a supporting arm. Through their spirit of teamwork and cooperation, their adaptability and resourcefulness, and their outstanding devotion to duty over a long period of combat, the officers and men of the 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion merit the highest praise; their accomplishments have constituted a valuable contribution to the success of the XIV Corps.
3. The 82nd Chemical Mortar Battalion has long occupied a place in my command that will not easily be filled. I shall look forward to the time when we may again combine our efforts against the enemy.
/s/ O.W. Griswold
Major General. U.S. A.
Has the story been dull? Have the characters been uninteresting? Did the "hero" miss his opportunity? You have changed your mind, haven't you? The next chapter is waiting to be written. Look for it soon.
NOTE: A follow-on article, Breaking the Shimbu Line, appeared in the next issue of the Chemical Warfare Bulletin for June-July-August 1945 as a "Special to the BULLETIN." No author is identified and it deals exclusively with Company B. Reference to that article will be made after the Manila story is completed.
Map 4, at right (click to enlarge), from Robert Ross Smith, U.S. Army in World War II, The War in the Pacific, Triumph in the Philippines, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1963, p. 116 graphically explains how Rubin and his 1st platoon of Company D, attached to the 129th Infantry, 37th Division and Butler's 2nd platoon, Company C, attached to the 160th Infantry, 40th Division came back to back in a graveyard in Camiling, firing in opposite directions on 15 January 1945. The 129th Infantry of the 37th had been attached to the 40th Division for the initial phase, while the remainder of the 37th protected the left (eastern flank) of XIV Corps and maintained contact with I Corps in the mountainous terrain to the east. (Further references to Smith's work will be indicated as (S. and page(s) number (s)).
A battalion of the 129th, supported by Lt. Rubin's 1st/D, 82nd CMB, crossed the Agno River at Wawa and marched south along a dusty road to Camiling, where Route 13 (National Highway) comes in from the northwest. A battalion of the 160th Infantry, 40th Division, supported by Lt. Butler's 2nd/C, 82nd CMB, came down from Aguilar the same day. (S. p. 117)
As indicated on the map, the 160th Infantry, 40th Division led the drive south along the National Highway toward Manila and the attached 129th Infantry, 37th Division converged with the 160th after both had been ferried in DUKWs across the Agno River. The 2nd platoon/C was firing to the west and 1st/D to the east. This was to change dramatically at Bamban as the 40th was ordered to make a 90-degree "hard" right (west) into the Zambales Mountains above Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg while the 37th was pitted against the 1st Cavalry Division (the 82nd CMB's old training partner at Fort Bliss, Texas in 1942) in the "Race for Manila."
Following are comments and experiences that are intended to dovetail with Major Carlisle's foregoing account. Although they may differ in some detail, his report of actions on Luzon and in Manila provides a background for the details of this history-as seen from the ground (and below.)
Flashback - Kamikazes attack convoy
Manus in the Admiralty Group has a reef-enclosed lagoon large enough to hold all the fleets of the world - as told in a word from the bridge of the USS Knox (APA - attack personnel auxiliary). From New Britain, we sailed to Manus to await the other convoys arriving from other locations. While there, over Christmas 1944, we had beer boats taking the troops into one of the atolls where softball fields had been laid out and huge Navy walk-in reefers were loaded with cold beer. It seems there was a requirement to have one officer in each boat and he would sign for the 30+ troops in the boat to get beer. No one ever called to pay the tab, so there was no reason not to sign. After a day of fun in the sun, the blood boats carried the troops back to the Knox or whatever ship they were from.
After Christmas, the entire convoy sailed to Lae, New Guinea, for landing rehearsals. Then back to Manus and more beer over the New Year, following which the huge convoy sailed for Luzon (the hard way). We passed through the Surigao Strait south of Leyte into the Mindanao Sea and were informed that we were passing over the Japanese Fleet in the Mindanao Deep, over 34,000 feet below sea level, following the successful sea battle off Leyte. The convoy steamed northwesterly into the Sulu Sea South of Mindoro from where it threw a tight arc northward in the China Sea on the West side of Luzon and made a still tighter hook South into Lingayen Gulf.
On the way from Manus to Mindanao, Kamikazes struck several times at the convoy. Each time, the Navy sounded general quarters, at which time all Army personnel were to scramble below decks and be "dogged" down. That didn't appeal to the author (although not from New Hampshire, that state's motto: Live Free or Die strikes a chord in his Irish heritage), so it was down a fore ladder (stairwell) and immediately up an aft one onto the fantail. That deck, having been cleared, provided many good sights (out of sight) for excellent views. One memorable scene was where a Japanese plane headed into the convoy from the front climbing through a sky filled with ack-ack bursts. He had selected an escort carrier (CVE) astern the Knox and dove like an arrow through a storm of anti-aircraft fire. Just what looked to be 100 yards from impact he was hit but still managed to crash into the carrier's starboard gun turret and cause a fire before falling into the sea. We later learned he had killed twelve gunners. Evidently, he didn't carry a bomb.
D-Day landing with 40th Infantry Division
(NOTE: As Carlisle mentions, this occasion was referred to as S-Day. Perhaps the large number of beachheads in the Pacific gave the planners migraine and they found it easier to remember that S stands for Lingayen or Luzon. There is no justification for such coding in the DOD Dictionary of Military Terms (on that site, click on D and scroll to D-day), an official document managed by the Joint Doctrine Division, J-7, Joint Staff. That dictionary tell us S-Day means: The day the President authorizes Selective Reserve callup (not more than 200,000.) Call it what you like - it was de-day!
When the APA Knox dropped anchor in Lingayen Gulf we could see some of the damage to other ships in the convoy. Close by was the St. Louis, which had its radar mast torn away by a Kamikaze, evidently without a bomb and unable to penetrate to the deck by the ship's antiaircraft fire. Another ship had been struck just above the water line, leaving a dent and burned paint. At least three suicidal Japanese fliers had earned "1,000 years in Heaven." Who can say? How else would they "live free?"
All was hustle and bustle below decks as we secured our helmets and weapons in preparation for the climb down the cargo nets to the waiting landing craft. One small, redheaded infantry lieutenant remained in his bunk until others talked him into getting ready to debark. Later conversation revealed he was the first member of the 2nd Bn., 160th Infantry, to be killed on the beach. He was said to have had a premonition.
Co. C, 82nd CMB, landed in about the sixth wave (who was counting?). As landing craft were loaded, they would move to an assembly area and circle there - as shown years later in the movie Away All Boats, Away! starring Jeff Chandler - until commanded to move to the Line of Departure (LD), then make their run into the beach. All in all, an impressive and highly successful operation as far as landing troops. We had to dash off into the surf for a few yards, but happy to have gotten that far.
As if to emphasize American air superiority over the beachhead, a "flying boat" (PBY) headed straight in to the beach at a seemingly leisurely pace and low altitude. A Japanese Zero streaked down out of the Sun to attack the PBY, when two American P38s, the "twin boomers," dove from opposite flanks and intercepted the Zero in a ball of fire.
Although it was, generally speaking, a "cold" beach in that sector, there were isolated instances of Japanese resistance. Philippine guerrillas were starting to come out of the mountains and were bumming cigarettes from the Americans. About 1,000 yards in from the beach and along the National Highway leading south to Manila, we came across our first Jap in the Philippines - happily, a dead one. Guerillas had killed, stripped, and mutilated him.
Starting the long march
Back on board the Knox, days before the landing, one of the daily XIV Corps Officers Calls was remembered several days after the hike south had started. It was one in which Lt. Gen. Griswold was being briefed by his Deputy Chief of Staff G-3 (Operations) as to detailed preparations. The question from G-3 to the Corps Engineer was to the effect what have you brought to bridge the rivers we'll have to cross? The reply indicated that local timbers and materials would be used. That didn't happen. We walked twelve days pulling the mortars and ammo on carts. Two rivers were crossed, first the Agno in amphibious DUKWs; the second, unknown, we waded and the march resumed. The only timber recalled was a grove of coconut trees we passed through near a small barrio with huts made of Nipa grass. At that point, one of our fighter planes, maybe from a carrier, streaked so low over the column that he clipped the tops and showered us with fresh coconuts, for which we were thankful. Our benefactor pulled up and wagged his wings, seeming to cheer us on. As part of our combat load, each man carried ashore in his pack rations for nine days: 9 Cs, 9 Ds, and 9 Ks. C-ration meals came in two small cans for each meal. The "entrée" can contained pork and beans, stew or hash. The second can held cigarettes, dehydrated coffee, powdered lemonade, hard-tack biscuits, and a small packet of toilet paper, which we usually carried inside the webbing of the helmet liner. The Cs were quite bulky to carry (18 cans for 9 meals), so we would open all cans of "accessories" and stuff the contents into packs, pockets or wherever and discard those 9 cans. Ds were supposedly nutritional - a highly fortified bar of figs and "stuff" - and were easier to carry, one bar per meal or 9 for the 9 days. Each bar was about the size of a Milky Way but that's where the resemblance ended. K rations came in a "Cracker Jack"-size box and generally were more edible, but too much bother. The carts, in addition to carrying the mortars and ammunition, also were piled with packs.
The fact that we had 9 day's rations and walked for 12 days, before our trucks, including the kitchen trucks, caught up to us didn't seem to matter. We carried a mess spoon in a shirt pocket and ate out of the cans, stopping only at night. Close to the twelfth day many of us were going from both ends. Stomachs probably had shrunk. No one seemed anxious for anymore Cs. Much more would be welcome later on.
General MacArthur on the road
Back along the way, during the second day, the 2nd platoon was spread out along the road headed south and maintaining contact with the 2nd Battalion, 160th Infantry, CP. The point of the infantry column was about 300 yards ahead and the infantry troops were moving through dry rice paddies, widely dispersed. While we were maintaining a position of readiness on the march, a jeep approached from the rear and the author halted the mortar platoon. Soon it was evident General MacArthur was approaching. Lt. Butler reported to him and he got out of the jeep asking where was the head of the column. Pointing to a small barrio about 300 yards ahead, Butler stated it had just reached there. The general's sergeant-bodyguard with Tommy gun preceded him down the road about 50 yards while his jeep driver kept close behind. Apparently satisfied, he remounted the jeep, we exchanged salutes, and the jeep turned and went back toward the beach.
We all felt good about having met "the Man." Although there was the usual "Dougout Doug" rhetoric, most of us realized the general was a military genius. He had saved many lives and cut years off the time spent overseas. Bypassing the Japs in the Solomons and in New Britain, rather than attempting to destroy them was a masterful stroke. The enemy "withering on the vine" was effectively neutralized at minimum cost.
That visit by the general, unrealized by many at the time, was part of the anxiety he was feeling about the slowness of the pace. Carlisle states that some of the trucks had not been unloaded by D+2. Fortunately, the Japanese chose not to oppose the landing and presented only minor opposition (delaying actions) in the center where the 40th Division advanced. It would have been a slaughter for any mechanized defender. Logistically, that beach was a disaster. The Japanese, it seems, were not the brightest bulbs in the marquee. Given their fascination with "1,000 Years in Heaven" and the author's 20-20 hindsight, the beach was the place to play that card. Bad enough we didn't know the problems that awaited in the shallows of Lingayen Gulf. The Japs had invaded by the same route three years earlier. Were they not concerned or were they overly confident in their "meatball" conquests?
The long, shallow gradient along the XIV Corps beaches was ideal for LVTs, LVT(A)s, and DUKWs, all of which made their way to dry land without difficulty. However, most LCVPs grounded in shallow water some 20 to 30 yards offshore. Next, engineer special brigade LCMs (Landing Craft, Mechanized) grounded about 50 yards off the beaches. Navy LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) stopped 75 to 80 yards out, and LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) grounded by the stern 50 to 100 yards seaward of the LCTs (125 to 180 yards from the beaches). (S. p.118)
Most of the LSTs had stuck on a shoal or sand bar that, fronting much of the length of the XIV Corps beaches, had not been detected during the study of pre-invasion aerial photography or by hydrographic survey operations on 7 and 8 January. Attempts to send trucks ashore through water that deepened on the landward side of the shoal proved futile. At some of the XIV Corps beaches LSTs had grounded so far out that crews had to use three causeway sections to reach dry land and even then bulldozers had to push sand ramps out from shore at some points to reach the inland end of the third sections. ...most of the shore party bulldozers required for the task were still aboard the very LSTs awaiting discharge. (S. pp. 118-19)
Furthermore, there was no sense of urgency about bridging the first major obstacle, the Agno River. A blitzkrieg this was not! Georgie Patton would not have gotten his tanks ashore and even he probably would have been "miffed."
General Krueger (Sixth Army commander) now instructed General Griswold, the XIV Corps commander, to send more troops south of the Agno. On the evening of 15 January, Griswold accordingly directed his engineers to construct crossings over the Agno so that heavy equipment could move toward Manila and larger forces could be supplied south of the river. As of 17 January (D+8), XIV Corps had lost about 30 men killed and 90 wounded, compared to I Corps (in the mountainous terrain to the left or east) losses of 220 killed and 660 wounded. (S. p.118)
Bamban, Fort Stotsenburg-Clark Field (27 January - 19 March 1945)
At the end of the 12-day hike, our trucks and jeeps were able to cross the rivers and catch up to us. By this time, Captain now Major, Carlisle had moved up to become the Bn. S3 and Lt. Walter McClelland was our new Co. C commander. Shortly after the trucks caught up, McClelland came up in his jeep and brought a huge cherry pie on a big flat tray. It was a Godsend!
The 160th Infantry had been fighting Jap delaying actions for about 16 days when we reached Bamban, a sugar-refining town and ran into very tough fighting. The town lies about 70 miles south and a bit east from the landing beach at Lingayen Gulf. To the west of town are the Zambales Mountains where the Japanese had for months (maybe years) been preparing caves and tunnels above Clark Field and Fort Stotsenburg as the northwest anchor of their defense of Luzon.
Company C was supporting the 160th and platoons were attached to the infantry battalions. The 2nd platoon supported the 2nd Bn., commanded by Lt. Col. Lex Stout. That's about all known for sure! The two pictures of the 1st and 2nd platoons of Company C, plus Headquarters personnel in August 1944 show McClelland as company commander, Bockstahler as company executive officer (XO), Buckner, 1st platoon leader and his XO, Lundquist. In the 2nd platoon are seen McClelland and Bockstahler again, Butler (the author) platoon Leader, and Foster, 2nd platoon XO. Lt. Sidney Diamond does not show in either picture. He joined C Company shortly after those pictures were taken.
After the reorganization on 16 August 1944, which created a third platoon in each of the four weapons companies, many changes occurred. Going back a bit, changes came about earlier with the departure of the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Shimonek who was replaced by the Bn. XO, Major Tolman. Tolman was replaced by the S3, Capt. Green, in turn moving Capt. Carlisle from CO, Co. C to that Hq. position. Company C saw McClelland move to CO and Bockstahler from 1st platoon leader to Company XO. As soon as Company C arrived by LST at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, McClelland had to report to 40th Division Headquarters and left Bockstahler in charge of unloading the company and its equipment.
The LST had not quite reached dry land, necessitating everyone to work in water between ankle and knee deep. Bockstahler was fair skinned and may have picked up some jungle rot on his ankles in Bougainville. Working in shorts in the salt water and sand, he soon developed a fearsome-looking condition about the ankles, whereupon he threw his personal gear into a jeep and had the driver take him to the evacuation hospital. The driver returned before McClelland. When he (McClelland) did, he learned he was without an XO. Bockstahler had made it in time to catch the next plane to New Guinea, from where the next stop was Hawaii.
In Carlisle's Lines from Luzon, he describes Foster on "S+1" as leading the 1st platoon of Co. C. No mention is made of Buckner. He and Lundquist may have moved to the new 3d platoon. Lundquist was later wounded on Luzon. The author met Buckner in 1951 in Korea. He was still with the 4.2-inch mortars, either with the 2nd CMB or its successor infantry heavy mortar company.
As the 40th Division turned hard right (west) and prepared to scale the heights of the Zambales ridges that were running west to east, the 2nd Bn., 160th Inf. was looking for an approach to its mountain objective. Prior to this, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, had fired several missions in and about Bamban and was now in a firing position facing west along the road to Manila. With Foster leading the 1st platoon, Butler was without a platoon executive officer. Platoon Sergeant "Pappy" Mills very ably filled that slot. He didn't have to be reminded to set up a perimeter defense of the platoon and its vehicles. The platoon had its two Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs) and Mills had made some deals along the way. We never bypassed weapons along the route, so that the ¼-ton trailer on the jeep looked like a rolling arsenal. Included were a .50 cal. MG, a pair of 60mm mortars and a bazooka. Lots of ammo for all weapons, including carbines and Butler's cal. .45 pistol and Tommy gun, was carried on the trucks.
Lt. Col. Stout wanted to reconnoiter an approach to his battalion's objective, which later was designated Stout Hill. Leaving the Tommy gun with Mills, Butler was carrying a .45 in shoulder holster, a carbine, binoculars, and map case. With Carmichael carrying the SCR 300 backpack - Phillips was left at the gun position with the Jeep and other SCR 300 - we took off to the west with Stout and his small party of three other officers and his sergeant-bodyguard complete with Tommy gun (shades of MacArthur.)
Proceeding through a narrow draw, we were looking for a way to ascend the tree-covered ridge to our left. About 100 yards in from the road we spotted a place in the wall of the ridge where tree roots had been exposed by erosion. Leaving his carbine and map case with Carmichael, Butler climbed up about 30 feet and found a grassy slope in the trees. Searching the area for a few minutes, and satisfied that they had not been detected, Butler went back to where he had ascended and told Stout and party it was all clear. The party slowly climbed up and Stout (who really was) collapsed on the ground. Butler was embarrassed and felt that he had been a "smart-ass show off kid." Stout was a big man over 6' and snugly in the 200 + lb. range, certainly old enough to be Butler's father. Butler was 25 years old, barely 5'8" and less than 150 lbs. soaking wet.
After a short rest, Colonel Stout arose and wanted to examine the ridge. Except for the line of trees we had sheltered in, the ridge was covered with the 10' tall Nipa grass so common to the area. On the way down the Central Plain, we had been exposed in a few barrios to Nipa "wine," available for a cigarette. Maybe the grass was a "wannabe" sugar cane - the Filipinos were able to ferment it and make the godawfullist concoction they called wine. It soon became evident we couldn't see much through that grass, so the logical (?) solution seemed to be: burn it off. Whereupon, the wind being favorable, Butler got on the radio to Mills and had him deliver a volley of four rounds WP so it would impact about 100 yards in front of Colonel Stout's party. Pretty soon we had an industrial-size grass fire clearing the ridge and had started to move forward, cautiously. We hadn't gone 100 yards when suddenly the wind shifted to a westerly and the smoke was coming toward us. Someone spotted two Japs running toward us under cover of the natural smoke screen. With the expectation that we may have hit a hornet's nest of Japs, we called off the recon party for the day and hauled ass off the ridge a helluvalot quicker than we went up. Colonel Stout was satisfied that this was a ridge leading to his objective and a doable approach. Now it became desirable to burn it bare as far as range would permit, which the 2nd platoon would do the following day.
From the 2nd platoon, Co. C's, position along the highway to Manila, it would not be possible to reach Colonel Stout's objective nor to burn off all the Nipa grass along the ridge leading to it. Early the next morning, since the 2nd Bn. had set no time for the assault, Butler decided to explore the draw he had been in the previous day to search for a suitable position farther up the draw. The risk of having vehicles trapped and unable to turn around to get out of there necessitated a reconnaissance on foot. Taking one squad, without mortars, and Carmichael with the SCR 300 backpack, the party started up the draw. About 300 yards into it, it began to narrow and steepen. That route was abandoned and return to the firing position by the road was started.
The Sergeant Who Failed
As the squad was moving back to the road, keeping alert and dispersed with at least five yards between each member of the party, Carmichael bringing up the rear with the radio, a shot rang out. Without halting, the word was quickly passed up the line, "Carmichael's hit!" Starting to run back the trail, Butler hollered to the squad leader (Sgt. D_____) "D_____ lets go." His response halted Butler momentarily, "I'm not goin' back there!" Startled, Butler took time only to reply, "You son-of-a-bitch," and ran back about 50 yards to where Carmichael was still walking. A sniper, probably having spotted the radioman on the way into the draw was waiting for him on the return trip. Trees apparently limited his field of fire and he fired almost straight downward. The bullet caught the rear rim of Carmichael's helmet and tore the steel. Fragments of the steel rim or the bullet wounded him along the lower neck and at the top of the spine. Anxious to leave that area, Butler took the radio, opened Carmichael's first aid pack on his belt, and had him hold a compress to the wound while they kept moving. The squad was told to pick up the pace.
As soon as he reached the gun position, Butler radioed to McClelland, the company commander, and reported the incident. He replied that he was sending Sgt. Bonamo, company communications sergeant, up in a jeep to pick up Carmichael and Sgt. D. No more was learned of either one. Carmichael probably was evacuated to the hospital and Sgt. D broken down to Pvt. D and shipped out to some other unit.
Phillips, the platoon jeep driver and radioman, was able to suggest a replacement for Carmichael and train him sufficiently to handle the SCR 300 at the firing position, where platoon Sergeant Mills would also instruct him. Going back to the actions on Bougainville following the Battle of the Perimeter, Butler's time was mostly spent as forward observer and Mills served as platoon "Executive Officer" at the guns.
There but for the grace of God
Shortly after the incident with Sgt. D, Major Carlisle, Bn. S-3, called on the radio to let Butler know Lt. Col. Stout's 2nd Bn., 160th Infantry, was getting ready to move out from a position about three miles south of Butler's position along the highway and Carlisle was planning to send Lt. Sidney Diamond's 3rd platoon of C Company to support Colonel Stout. Butler told Carlisle he could be there in time to support 2nd/160th and proceeded to do so. Stout's people had found an approach to his objective about three miles south of where he had been searching the previous day. The new approach allowed the use of trucks, climbing from the road onto highground parallel to the highway, to travel back north and turn left (west) onto the ridge we had started to burn the day before. About noon, the 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, was in position and firing WP to clear the ridge to the west of Nipa grass (and Nips) as far as possible at that time.
At the start of the Luzon campaign, Companies A and D had come ashore with the 37th Infantry Division, while B and C accompanied the 40th Division. Sidney Diamond's 3rd platoon, Co. C, had been attached to Lt. Col. Stratta's 1st. Bn., 160th, and Butler's 2nd platoon, Co. C, to Lt. Col. Stout's 2nd Bn., 160th. Both infantry battalions were about to launch attacks to the west to clear parallel ridges in the Zambales above Clark Field.
As Carlisle's Lines From Luzon relates, all four mortar companies fired missions in the Clark Field-Fort Stotsenburg area during this last week of January 1945. The action of Cotton's platoon of Company D at Fort Stotsenburg on 31 January, described on the same page, may have been the last in that area, except for the continuing support of Company B, which now found itself as the sole supporting 4.2-inch unit for the 40th Division and diverted to the strongly entrenched Japanese in the caves of the Zambales.
Carlisle's report also tells of an artillery officer being impressed by Lt. Diamond's ability to demolish an 8" coastal gun. The Japanese had hauled coast artillery guns and guns from abandoned ships and planes, as well as antiaircraft guns up to the Zambales and emplaced them in caves.
Within that last week and shortly after Butler was able to return to support the 2nd Bn., 160th Infantry, Diamond was killed. This may or may not be a discrepancy in Carlisle's Lines from Luzon. Unfortunately, he makes no mention of Diamond's death, nor of to what unit he was assigned. The author recalls learning from Carlisle or McClelland that Diamond was supporting Lt. Col. Stratta's 1st Bn., 160th Inf., clearing the ridge to the south of where Butler was with Stout's 2nd Bn. and that Diamond had moved out into an opening in order to better observe his target. That's what forward observers do!
While Diamond was on one knee, focusing his binoculars, a Jap knee-mortar round dropped exactly below him. The knee-mortar was little more than a grenade launcher. It has a slightly curved baseplate and a tube about 18 inches long with a spring-mounted trigger in its bottom, which is activated by a lanyard on the exterior of the tube. The small curved baseplate, rumor has it, led some to kneel on one knee and try to fire it from the other thigh-resulting in broken thighs.
The War Department Records, which are cited in the opening of this chapter, cover under Campaigns and Durations:
a. Luzon - from 9 Jan 1945 to 20 June 1945.
b. Occupation of Japan - from 1 September 1945; "occupation of Japan current."
Included here, from those same WD records, are the following data pertinent to the foregoing discussion regarding Lt. Sidney Diamond:
Losses in Action: Officers and Enlisted Men - Luzon Campaign
(1) First Lieutenant Sidney Diamond, O1036120, Co. C
(2) Second Lieutenant Ronald E. Lundquist, O1039086, Co. C
(3) First Lieutenant Richard D. Anderson, O1035261, Co. A
(4) First Lieutenant Harold B. House, Co. D
(1) Sergeant Russell A Focht, 33345925, Co. C
(2) Sergeant Clarence J. Harden, 372100449, Co. C
(3) Sergeant Neal Glenn, 3440463
(4) Sergeant Robert. Tannehill, 35308219, Co. A
(5) Sergeant Barney M. Kresge, 33345376, Co. B
(6) Private First Class John Rapach, 33281318, Co. C
(7) Private First Class Daniel E. Carmichael, 34399289, Co. C
(8) Private First Class William C. Denisar, 33233009, Co. B
(9) Private First Class Robert M. Hull, 33246124, Co. B
(10) Private First Class Charles Miller, 34360019, Co. C
(11) Private First Class R. L. Grove, 16085134, Co. C
(12) Private First Class Ernest W. Klocke, 36509548, Co. C
(13) Private First Class Russell E. La Fever, 33489964, Co. B
(14) Private First Class Charlton H. Lloyd, 38121178, Co. B
(15) Private First Class Loy R. Saferite, 37501364, Co. C
(16) Private First Class Stewart W. Rolubold, 35356681, Co. C
(17) Private First Class Hoye B. Taylor, 38513011, Co. C
(18) Private First Class Boyd B. Humphries, 34125591, Co. A
(19) Private First Class Reino Kelly, Co. D
(20) Private First Class Albert H. Krause, 36509528, Co. C
(21) Private First Class Washington C. Pereira, 38173827, Co. C
(22) Private First Class Herman B. Weeks, 34421686, Co. C
(23) Private First Class Joseph Tipton, 38403534, Co. C
(24) Private Eldo Straber, 35810841, Co. B
(25) Private Joseph S. Vitale, 32616196, Co. C
(26) Private James R. Shaeffer, 35626588, Co. C
(27) Private James J. Ward, 32308777, Co. C
(28) Private Dumage, Co. C
(29) Private William H. T. Harris, 3986130, Co. C
Enlisted men: 2
Enlisted men: 27
In summary, Lt. Diamond was assigned to Company C at the time he became one of the four officers listed as "Losses in Action." Only one officer of the four was killed. Diamond's name, being listed first of the four "Losses" evidently means he was the 1 KIA. That pattern seems to hold with the enlisted men - of 29 Losses in Action, two were killed. First on the Losses list is Sergeant Russell A. Focht. He was one of Butler's four squad leaders and was killed east of Manila in action with the 1st Infantry, 6th Division, against the Shimbu Line in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Next on the EM list of losses is Sergeant Clarence J. Harden, also from Company C. He is remembered as a great field soldier - definitely not a "garrison" soldier.
When the 82nd CMB left Camp Swift, Texas, Harden was in the local lockup in Bastrop, Texas, for some "drunk and disorderly" type charge. He was released to the battalion, traveled under guard to the port and served in the brig during the trip to New Caledonia. In combat on Bougainville Harden came into his own, was recognized for his leadership, and promoted to corporal.
Harden was awarded the Bronze Star twice within two months and promoted from corporal to sergeant for actions with the 6th Infantry Division on Luzon between March and May 1945. His number two position on the list of losses does not necessarily mean he was the other KIA. EM are listed alphabetically by grade. The author recently received a picture taken in 1994 which includes Harden and three other 82nd CMB vets.
Copies of pertinent general orders are at Appendix E.
Comment: The general orders in Appendix E show that, on 4 May 1945, Sgt. Harden and Corp. Vanderslice chose to remain under a heavy Japanese mortar barrage to apply a tourniquet to a third buddy whose arm had been blown off and assist in his evacuation. Harden, although "seriously wounded" and in "extreme pain" voluntarily remained to aid the third man. As previously noted, Harden is second on the list of losses and Focht is first. Butler knows Focht was killed. Sgt. Harden probably died from his wounds. He and Vanderslice probably were in Foster's 1st platoon; that would make three Bronze Stars in the 1st platoon from the Shimbu Line actions during the same period. Butler recalls how PFC Sanford (Sleepy) Knight, easygoing and powerfully built, carried the wounded Foster off a hill one night - and Foster, the ex-cavalryman, was big!
General Orders 45, Hq., 6th Division, 5 April 1945 awards Corporal Harden a Bronze Star for action near Mount Bayangan on 17 March 1945. Smith refers to this locale as Mount Bay(t)angan and as being on the corps (XI) objective line, toward which General Patrick (CG, 6th Div.) would direct the 20th Infantry, following their securing of the southern third of Mt. Mataba.
Later, XI Corps general orders amended General Orders 40, above, to grant Sgt. Harden the "Bronze Star Medal (Oak-Leaf Cluster) Award."
So much for War Department Records. The AGO can give name, rank and serial number for all losses, which would include someone evacuated with the crud. That same AGO, for some inexplicable reason, does not identify the KIA.
An attempt to reconcile the KIA count necessitated the jump forward to the Shimbu Line action. Now back to the Central Plain battle and the approach to Manila. The Shimbu Line will be revisited after Manila and Manila Bay.
Mount Arayat 4.2-inch mortars in the van
As the race to Manila started and the decision had been made to pit the 37th Infantry Division against the smaller, more mobile 1st Cavalry Division, wheels were in great demand, and short supply. The 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, was attached to the 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Division. Typically, the platoon was under operational control of the battalion in the attack and specifically to support the company in the attack.
Somewhere east of Bamban, Butler met the infantry commander of Co. F, who would lead 2nd Battalion, 148th Infantry, to Manila. Leaving the platoon and four 2½-ton trucks with Staff Sgt. Mills, he and the infantry captain joined with a Filipino guerrilla group in an isolated hut. The group roasted a tuber very much like a sweet potato and delicious. The guerrillas described the area to the southeast of Bamban as flat, open, with dry rice paddies at that time of year (end of January) and with no known Japanese between Bamban and Mt. Arayat, which rises 3600 feet in the center of the plain.
The company commander expressed a desire to borrow the 2nd platoon's four trucks to move his company several miles southeast toward Mt. Arayat. Being that the trucks were loaded with the mortars, ammo, and other platoon gear and wishing to cooperate but unwilling to be stranded without wheels, the suggestion was offered that the 2nd platoon move immediately to the location he planned to occupy with his company and send the trucks back for him. He agreed and 2nd platoon rapidly departed for a railroad crossing at Magalang at the foot of Mt. Arayat.
Arriving at the chosen location, the platoon quickly dismounted, unloaded the trucks, and established a mortar position within a perimeter. The four trucks were dispatched for a fast run back to the infantry. At that point, the platoon could see Mt. Arayat a few thousand yards farther southeast.
The railroad embankment was raised above the surrounding dry rice paddies and gave the advantage of higher ground along the right of way for perimeter security. The railroad ran generally west to east. One BAR and one 60 mm. mortar were sited on east and west limits of a 100-yard ellipse with the eastern weapons south of the tracks and the western pair on the north side. Likewise, the 4.2-inch mortars were sited for 360-degree coverage. On the south side of the tracks, in the direction of Mt. Arayat and Manila, one mortar faced south and another east. North of the tracks, facing the direction from which we had just come, mortars were aimed to the west and north. Given the probability of an enemy attack from any point on the compass only half the mortars initially could be in defilade of the RR embankment. The .50 cal. machine gun and the bazooka were kept south of the tracks in the center of the position, assuming the most likely approach of an enemy would be along the road from the south or the railroad from either east or west. The railroad is a spur of the Manila RR; it runs west to Fort Stotsenburg and east toward Manila Bay.
For a picture of Mt. Arayat in the Central Luzon Plain and a map of the area, see the website Pictures of Arayat
Another map (Holding the Road to Bataan) of the Bamban-Mt. Arayat area, extending south to Manila Bay and Manila, can be viewed on the website of U.S. Army in World War II. This map shows the U.S. positions on 31 December 1941 to 1 January 1942 from which the U. S. Army and Philippine Scouts were holding back Japanese advances from Lingayen Gulf and blocking, temporarily, their capture of the Bataan Peninsula on the west coast of Manila Bay.
At this point, the 37th Infantry Division, supported by three of the four mortar companies of 82nd CMB, was "goin' south" in a hurry, pitted against the 1st Cavalry Division for the honor of liberating Manila. The 2nd platoon, Co. C, 82nd CMB, had saved the 37th Infantry Division about a day by being able to jump ahead with its trucks and rapidly transport an infantry company, reinforced by a 4.2-inch mortar platoon several miles.
Before leaving this milestone in U.S. military history, special recognition is due that fourth 4.2-inch mortar company left behind, along with the hard-fighting 40th Infantry Division, in the Clark Field-Fort Stotsenburg-Zambales Mountains area until 19 March Company B, commanded by Captain Joe Van Yush. He and his troops were first to fire a 4.2-inch mortar shell in anger against the Japs in the New Georgia group and were veterans also of the Bougainville jungle fighting. Now they were last to help secure the Clark Field airbase facilities and among the first Americans to freely set foot thereon since December 1941.
Clark Field, Clark Air Base, and later Clark Air Force Base, was the largest military installation in the world. It was built as an extension of, and encompassed, the old Cavalry Post, Fort Stotsenburg. The history and glory of Clark, after its recapture and eventual loss to nature by the eruption in 1991 of Mt. Penituba, can be found at the website Clark Air Base. Included in that scrapbook can be found live video of the eruption and of the then-secretary of defense, Dick Cheney.
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