"We Moved out with the 1st platoon and several men from
Company headquarters. I don’t remember and made no notation of the reason
why 1st Sgt. Baldwin, operations Sgt. Luie Commander, and several others
were with us rather than being back with the company at Hill 390. The 2nd
platoon had already returned to the company. Searching as we went along we
arrived at the springs around noon. We had no rations. All rations were
carried across the island by “boon train”, i.e., native carriers guarded by
our cooks. The Battalion Mess Officer was in charge of the trains. We dug
for sweet potatoes in the native gardens and looked for anything else
edible. The talk was that supplies would soon be delivered by boats coming
down Broe Bay.
As ordered, I
set up a base at the water hole and sent out two reconnoitering patrols, one
under Lt. Ball with four men north toward Bawa and the other under Pfc.
Sulkey (one of the old 501 men and a potential non commissioned officer)
with four men to reconnoiter to Ridge 200 and the native garden. They were
to return by 1500hrs. Sulky came in at 1500hrs reporting no signs of enemy at
Ball did not return.
After about thirty minutes my concern
had increased to anxiety, and I moved the platoon north to look for him.
There were many trails. One seemed to head directly east to Broe Bay,
another led north and others led to the northeast. The maps were of no
help, because no trails were shown. Sulky was confused and no help. He did
not think the northeast trails led toward Bawa.
We took the north trail
which was well travelled. This trail led directly to the native garden on
the north of Ridge 200. All this was further east than it appeared to be on
the map. I wonder if there was even a village at Bawa. We could see native
huts around the perimeter of the large garden. McCarter killed a Jap the
first hut we approached. There was a fire going and rations for several
people were being prepared. Looking around and across the garden we saw the
smoke from many camp fires. The enemy were here in large numbers. We left
We retraced our steps to the springs and, much to our surprise,
found six Jap bodies here and quite a bit of rations - including a wooden
bucket of fish heads. The Japs had evidently been preparing a meal of rice
and fish heads. This had to be the work of Ball’s patrol.
that Ball’s patrol was headed for Inasi we headed that way moving very
rapidly hoping to make it before dark. Had we not made it we would have
been forced to spend the night outside the perimeter. Our rule, once
dark had fallen, was that anything that moved was Jap.
We were also very hungry, hoping that rations had come in and that at least
we might open a box of "K" Rations for our evening meal.
Ball and his
patrol had ended up in the native garden at Ridge 200, too. The trails
fooled him, just as they did us. They approached the gardens and saw Jap
activity. Estimating a large group of enemy here, they quietly withdrew.
They'd taken a different trail back to the springs and missed us.
the thicket, they heard voices, and thought it was us. Walking on in,
they came face to face with about twenty Japs who were preparing their
evening meal. Without hesitating, they charged right into the Japs, firing
as they advanced. The Japs fled in panic into the swamps, leaving their dead.
Ball's patrol thought
they hit at least six more.
had done this outmanned, and probably outgunned, but surprise had been with
them. With three M-1 rifles, one M-1
carbines and one Thompson Sub Machine Gun, their training had paid off.
Good fortune isn't always just dumb luck.
We made it
back just before dark.
The next morning Lt.
"Bitsy" Grant was ordered to take his "D"
Company Platoon north to the water hole. Intelligence still was not
convinced that a large group of Japs were there. About a mile out of Inasi
they hit an ambush. One trooper was killed. If the Japs had not tripped
the ambush prematurely the results could have been much worse.