WRITING ABOUT THE BATTLE AT BANZAI PT.
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John Lindgren
 

 

 

 

 

If there was a single letter that explained the back-story of the building of this website,  it is this. 

 

 

EXTRACT LETTER FROM JOHN LINDGREN TO BILL CALHOUN (UNDATED)

John Lindgren

 

 

Bill Calhoun
Commanche TX

 

 

Dear Bill,

 

I have been working mainly on the 503d Corregidor action and have read all the current historical work of any note and other published material, as well as studying the documents, maps, photographs, etc, held by the National Archives and elsewhere only to find that I have very little from the participants themselves. 

A long time ago I was on a troopship, the USS Eltinge bound for Bremerhaven: anticipating a dull trip I had a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace which in most ways is a very dull book. What wasn't dull was his theory of the battle where he describes the action at Borodino not as some great strategic clash that will decide the fate of Europe but thousands of small struggles among confused and bewildered soldiers who only know what is happening to them and a few of their comrades that are nearby. They are so confused that they never know whether they were brave or cowardly soldiers or whether they have properly done their duty because no one tells them except in a general way perhaps. Not only are they uncertain about the battle and even themselves, there is really no one to talk to about it unless they had experienced the same thing. 

This leads me to another theory which has to do with why there are so many veteran's organisations and why when the old soldiers get together the pervasive "hospitality room" flourishes. Enough of this, we have more serious matters on hand. The closer you get to the individual soldier doing the dirty work the closer you are to the truth in the war. I have corresponded with many people as I tried to get some personal accounts of this particular night. This Christmas I decided to bite the bullet as opposed to biting the marshmallow as I had been doing before and sent a letter to every one of my former comrades in arms in D Company, who were listed in the 503d association directory. I decided to get as much as I know about Endo's attack in the letter and to make the outline as clear as possible. I did all of this to impress my comrades in D Company that I had done some work on this battle and that I was hoping to get some serious responses. I didn't get an avalanche of replies but the replies I did get were of astonishingly excellent quality. Not some rambling mindless "war story" but cold hard detailed facts. I have in two months learned more than in all the years I have spent studying the battle at "Banzai Point" as D Company calls Wheeler Point. 

I selected the "banzai" from among the many D Company engagements on the island for several reasons, not the least of which was that it was the bloodiest fight that the company would ever fight, where 13 of our men lost their lives in a battle that raged for no more than 3 hours and probably for considerably less time. What is even more amazing is that two entire rifle platoons and one rifle squad were for all intents and purposes, out of the fight. Endo's attack by a force of at least 600 men, mainly marines, was the only planned attack in any strength against the 503rd during the entire operation on the Rock. There is hardly a mention of it in the official documents. Here is what the 503d Historical Report dated 6 March 1045 had to say about it: 

"Later that day (i.e. 19 February) at 0530 hour, an organized attack in force was made against our perimeter. The battle that followed lasted until0800 hour at which time the enemy withdrew. A few enemy penetrated as far as two Battalion CPs before being killed. We sustained numerous casualties although few in comparison to those inflicted. No other organized attack was made during the period on the western end of the Island" (Or anywhere else for that matter I might add.) 

I don't fault the regimental S3 because that was how the reports were traditionally written but I believed that there was a bit more to it than that. I was there for the whole terrifying night and it made a deep impression on me and I never really ever forgot it. I also never forgot those young men who died there far from their homes. Probably more than anything else I wanted to talk to someone about it, to someone who understood it and perhaps even cared about it. I wanted others who knew nothing of it to listen to the story too, because I think that what these men did there that night was eminently heroic and well worth a moment of someone's time to listen to."...Desperately they fought like men expert in arms. And knowing that no safety could be found. Save from their own hands." (Robert Southey 1744-1843) 

I really got started on the whole research project when I first read "Corregidor, the Sage of a Fortress" by the brothers Belote and took issue with their description of the battle at Wheeler Point. I knew that Al Turinsky had died from a bullet wound because he fell on my feet in a narrow aisle way behind a wall where we were firing at the attackers coming up Cheney Trail. The Belote's had the time wrong when they said the attack began at 0530 since it began nearly two hours earlier. The regimental S3 was wrong about it too and that is probably where Belote got his time. There were a few other things that were wrong as well. They also had an excellent chapter on their sources and I began there and then to do my own research. I first wrote to the National Archives and got some 503rd documents, among them the S3 Journal and the Daily Operation Reports. These were helpful but of course I wanted more. I wrote several letters trying to get one thing and another from Washington but got nowhere. I wrote to Belote (James) because he said he welcomed inquiries from serious scholars and complained about my treatment at the Archives and also set him straight on Turinsky. If I were to write him today very little of what he wrote about D Company would pass inspection. I knew that that time was wrong too but I had no actual documentation for my feeling so I passed on that. To my surprise Belote promptly answered and told me that if I were serious about the research that I would have to go there myself and dig out what I wanted. That is exactly what I what I did and it was very good advice. In spite of my criticism the Belotes' book is one of the very best and if you haven't read it, you should. 

I have accumulated quite a hoard of documents and correspond with a number of people both within and without the 503rd. I have spent a total of nearly a month and a half during the past two summers at the Archives in Washington. I have been concentrating on Corregidor for the most part but I also have some material on Negros and Mindoro that one day I hope to expand on. Early in the game I found that when you visit the modern military branch of the Archives, you had better have a very good idea of exactly what you are looking for because if you don't you are swamped with the huge amount of material and trying to do it all means you end up doing nothing. I have a collection of xeroxed periodicals, photographs, company diaries, and fortification plans, nearly of them pertaining to the Rock. I have begun to assemble, at least in a preliminary way, material that I have written at onetime or another that is stored in disks and I can't really see what I have until I get this task completed. I work very slowly (and I like to think carefully) so it may be some time before I get to daylight. 

It's a very satisfying hobby and while I enjoy gardening and working on cars, I am thinking of the future when that will be too much for me (and I might add I find little joy in this prospect). I am very happy that I was lucky enough to have found this type of research suited me. I find that lately I have been spending a great deal of time on it, probably more than I should. One thing that has inspired this increased activity was after I heard Henry Buchanan had died. I realized I was the last of five people that held off Endo's marines on the north side of the promontory at Wheeler Point. Foley and Turinsky were killed that night. Gifford died of meningitis on Negros. Buchanan, as I said, died of natural causes a year or so ago.

 

 

TTFN,

Jungle Fox

 


 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

         

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