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12 - 18 NOVEMBER 1944


12 November 1944



Ship is completely loaded and battened down. Some of the cargo was rearranged by Lt. BROWN our S-3 in charge of cargo loading and unloading. When we reached Leyte Bay, a rapid unloading is mandatory. The Jap pilots have been making suicide dives with specially equipped planes on remunerative targets in the harbor; an 18,000 ton troop transport is considered remunerative.”


Aboard USS Custer in Noemfoor harbor waiting to sail.




13 November 1944



Aboard USS Custer in Noemfoor harbor waiting to sail.




14 November 1944



0700 hr:  Our convoy of 3 troop transports and destroyer escort weighed anchor and sailed anchor and sailed east to meet our convoy for Leyte; good-bye to Noemfoor. At sea we met up with 2 more groups of transports and destroyers and are heading northwest with approximately 27 ships. 15 Nov.

sailed from Noemfoor Island. Destination unknown.




15 November 1944



Another convoy of 40 ships, with escort parallel our course till sundown.




16 November 1944



Close to Palau now. Our convoy will make a left turn and ahead for Leyte harbour.




17 November 1944



First air raid alert; light ach-ach was put up by destroyers on our right flank. Three aircraft carriers were designated to cover the remainder of the voyage. We arrive in Leyte Gulf tomorrow morning at dawn, and will begin to unload immediately. It is in Leyte Gulf that the Jap suicide planes have been making their dives on shipping. The Captain of the Custer wants to unload rapidly and be on his way by sundown. This was our first voyage on a Navy vessel, in our 2 years roaming the Pacific, and tribute must be given to the capability and courtesy of the entire ship’s personnel. Nothing was too much to help us and our men reciprocated. The food was excellent, and each Co had one laundry done aboard ship. We are bringing starched khakii’s into Leyte- the first we have had since Australia, 8 months ago. The Bn sure hates to leave a clean ship and good food for the mud and questionable chow of Leyte.

Our ship moved out and joined a convoy of about fifteen transports and freighters. Our destination, Leyte Island, Philippines. The convoy was well escorted by destroyers and destroyer escorts. One of the freighters was missing its bow which had been blown off. A flat steel plate had been welded across the opening. This reduced this ship’s speed to six knots per hour which meant the convoy speed was six knots an hour. Crossing the equator, which we did soon after leaving Noemfoor, was really great. Felt almost like going home, but not quite! The Philippines were so far advanced over New Guinea that we felt we were heading back into the world again. The slow speed certainly did not bother us. We were living a life of leisure with three good meals a day.

Soon after we got underway we were told that we would have to start practicing abandoned ship drills. When we became proficient enough to be at our stations within the prescribed time the drills would no longer be required. Our officers laughed at the idea and told the ship’s executive officer who was in charge of these drills to make sure his men were clear of the passages that our men would use and to have his men ready, because our men would give them the best time they’d ever seen on their first try. The exec replied that such and such marine unit held the record and they were an elite unit that had set an unbeatable record. I know that coming off Noemfoor our outfit appeared bedraggled, and they all knew about the trooper who passed out on the Jacob’s ladder. How could we compete with fresh, well fed Marines. But, then they were unacquainted with the airborne. The crew had not been impressed with their passengers. The exec’s words were related to the men almost verbatim. Emphasis was put on the Marines who were an elite unit who had set a record that could not be beat, emphasizing our inferiority. We walked our men through the drill to acquaint them with the route and their station. Before long the abandoned ship drill was sounded, The Marines never had a chance with the superiority of the airborne. The exec checked his stop watch and double checked with other ship’s officers who were also timing. Our troops had set a new record substantially bettering the “elite”Marine record. So we had one ship’s drill on the Custer.

The ship’s crew regarded our troops with noticeably more respect after this drill. Later when we were receiving debarking instructions the exec would apologize that tear gas grenades in cases would have to be brought out on deck because of regulations. When an APA debarked troops, they had to go immediately. At times some troops did not wish to leave the security of their troop quarters. Tear gas was a cure for this reluctance. The Custer officers knew our men would resent the tear gas grenades. I know the grenades were somewhere, but they were inconspicuous because I never saw them. Richard Lampman said he did but took no offense, because they were required. He and others knew about them.

When we were in the middle of the Philippine Trench we awoke that morning, and things were quiet, too quiet, we were not moving. Many were soon on the deck about dawn. A destroyer was on our port bow attempting to pass a line in order to rig a bosun’s chair. One of the destroyer’s crew had developed acute appendicitus and surgery was necessary. They intended to transfer him to the Custer for the operation. The sea was very rough, and the transfer took several hours. The convoy soon disappeared to the northwest leaving us with two DE’s and the sitting destroyer. The DE’s patrolled back and forth on each side. The ship’s crew kept reminding us that this area east of Mindanao was well known because of high activity of Jap submarines. It wasn’t bothering us. I don’t suppose we knew enough to be afraid. The crew were the ones sweating it out. Finally the transfer was made and away we went. Travelling at high speed we caught the convoy within a few hours.

Most of us witnessed a tooth extraction during the trip. Our Regimental dentist, Captain Herbert Eppleman, was on our ship. He had an emergency kit which contained forceps; however, no local anesthesia or syringe had been included. One of our troopers developed a severe toothache. He asked Doc to extract it without anesthesia. He sat on a capstan and gripped the overhanging edges. Our good doctor removed a lower ( I believe) molar and everyone was relieved, but not near as much as the suffering patient.

The ship’s captain, Captain Terry, was to give our unit an accommodation as an outstanding unit and told Colonel Britten we were the finest unit to ever sail on his ship.




18 November 1944



0600 hr

Sighted the mts of Leyte, and will be in the harbor, lowering our boats away in one hour. Sporadic air alerts were experienced since dawn, but no direct attack on our convoy.

0700 hr

Our first LCVP touched the beach about 10 miles south of Dulag, at Tarragona.

0800 hr

The Bn is racing against time to unload the boats. The weather is perfect, but this is the wet season, and may not last long. Every member of this Bn is working the hatches on the Custer, or on shore unloading LCVP’s, LCM’s, and LCT’s. The situation on Leyte is not too bright. The Japs still have about 50,000 troops, and are reinforcing from nearby islands. The torrential rains have kept all but one of our air-strips in-operative. The third fleet’s aircraft carriers were recalled to give adequate air cover. Leyte is the staging area for the 503d RCT, and our mission, due in less than a month, is still unchanged. The inoperative air fields will make a parachute mission from this base an impossibility.

1500 hr

The last of the cargo has been lowered over the side in record time, for the Custer. Capt. Terry of the ship, bet our men 10 cases of beer they wouldn’t make it by 1600 hr. The ice cold beer will be a blessing and it was worth it to Capt Terry to weigh anchor and get his 18000 to ship out of the Jap sights. An interesting question arises here. Who got the beer? Down in F Company, one of the prime unloaders, we never heard of any such bet or saw any beer. Nothing unusual- just usual SOP for line companies.

1600 hr

Camp will be established right on the beach, which is lined for miles with a coconut grove 400 yards deep.

1600 hr

Behind the grove is swamp, all the way to Dulag, so we won’t see much of the country. Filipinos by the score welcome our landing; they are well-educated and immaculately clean, in contrast to their bamboo and grass shacks.

Arrived Taragona Leyte, P.I. 0600 hr distance traveled by boat 970 miles. Helped to load equipment from ship on to LCVP. Disembarked 1300 hr and unloaded equipment from LCVP until 1600 hr. Pitched camp 1700 hr.”

Company disembarked at TERAGONA, LEYTE, P.I.

(The correct placename is Tarragona.)

“Company stayed aboard the Custer in the harbor until Nov. 14. At this time, Co. “F” consisted of 9 Officers and 144 enlisted men. Seven in the morn. U.S.S. Custer weighed anchor and sailed as part of the convoy. Destination unknown, morale was high, as a result of the grand food served. USS Custer dropped anchor in Leyte Gulf Nov. 19, 1944. Company Headquarters and mortar platoon disembarked from Custer at 0700 hr. by LCVP and landed Maragona, Leyte Island Philippine Island at 0715 hr, First, second and third platoons disembarked at 1515 hr and landed at 1530 same date. After disembarking and landing the company proceeded to set up camp. Distance travelled by ship, approximately 1150 miles.”




 All too soon our sea cruise was over. I quote from my diary, “We landed about 8 miles below Dulog. We had quite a time unloading. All our equipment got wet, soaked. We got two Filipinos to clear our area and dig fox holes. We camped in a large coconut grove. We got our pyramidal tent set up and a pretty comfortable living.”

We landed at Tarragona (also sometimes referred to as Maragona), Leyte which is 8 miles south of  Dulag. The seas were heavy. The landing craft were hard to get into from the Jacob’s ladders. The boats were bobbing up and down several feet and bouncing from side to side, too. If one jumped just as the boat shot out sideways they could easily miss the craft and get crushed against the side of the ship by the boat bouncing back into the side.

Our barracks bags and equipment were floated in. They were then stacked on the wet beach for several days and a heavy rain every afternoon did not help. When we did get our belongings they were wet and mildewed. This period was the monsoon season for Leyte. Every day at 1400 hr rain began and lasted about two hours. During this period the rain came down hard.

We had to dig slit trenches beside our cots under the edge of the tent for easy access. The Japanese Air Force was desperate. They were after the ships out in the bay, but they would make an occasional at the cantonment areas along the beach. The greatest danger was from our own planes. Many times in chasing Jap planes along the route would be along the beach, and in their firing at the enemy they strafed us. We saw many aerial dogfights, some were very close. One took place within a few hundred yards of our area, right out in front over the bay. The Jap was coming in on fire trying to crash into a ship. P-38’s were attacking in swarms to stop his run. The plane missed, crashed into the sea and exploded.

In my diary I spoke of our using native labor. After about two hours of this orders came down that the area was “Off Limits” to natives and that was that. Ed Flash, Sleepy Miller, Walter Massey and I put up our pyramidal tent in a driving rain. It leaked like a sieve. We took it down, took it to supply and exchanged it and raised the new tent. About the time we finished the job the rain stopped. This tent did not leak.

There were many warships and merchant ships in the bay. The 7th Fleet was there, and some of its ships were plainly visible. We could see a few scort carriers which usually were on the horizon. The big boys, the 3rd Fleet’s fleet carriers, were out there for a while, but much too far away for us to see. One ship did loom big out there the first day. That was our largest transport, the “USS West Point." This ship, the “SS America” in peacetime, was our pride and joy. A Jap tried to suicide it and the Jap plane burned nearby for several hours. We could see the ship and the burning plane as we unloaded the “Custer.” I had come overseas on the “West Point” and was acquainted with some of the crew. In the late fall of 1943 the crew was somewhat aloof from the war. After all, they were serving on our largest liner, and "our largest liner will never be placed at risk by sending her into harm’s way."

I wonder what they were thinking now that they were in a real combat zone and under attack.






ARRIVAL AT LEYTE 2d Battalion unloading on Leyte Beach, after arriving from Noemfoor. The LCUP's couldn't get any closer to shore, so we floated our equipment in. We arrived in the midst of constant Jap air harassment raids, and managed to break the U.S.S. George Custer's record in abandoning ship, as well as for unloading. Capt. Terry was so pleased (relieved) he gave the staff officers some beer. We peons in the rifle companies got a letter of commendation saying we were the best. 

  We already knew that

THE FLOOR SHOW After completion of the unloading, we watched the floor show - air raids on the ships of our convoy. The second from the left, with smoke above it, is the U.S.S. West Point. Formerly the peacetime "S.S. America", it was our biggest liner. The smoke above it is from a kamikaze which almost hit it. I was familiar with the ship because it had been my transport from the U.S. I recalled the ship's crew cockily assuring us the ship was 'too valuable' to ever be in a combat zone.  

  A lot of us shared the feeling, but here we were.

"DOC" BRADFORD The indomitable Dr. Charles Bradford, one of the few true greats. "Doc" did not mind getting in and laboring with the troops. Notice that he's holding his glasses in his hands - with his poor eyesight, he usually wore them. 

ED FLASH - My cobber.  He commanded 2d Platoon. Ed, Sleepy Miller, Walter Massey and I put up our pyramidal tent in a driving rain. It leaked like a sieve. We took it down, took it to supply and exchanged it and raised the new tent.  Our timing was perfect. When we finished the job, the rain stopped. This tent did not leak.



Don Abbott

When the group of replacement officers I was in arrived at Milne Bay, we were introduced to atabrine and told that we would have to take one tablet a day as long as we were in the Southwest Pacific. One of our number, one Samuel 'Punchy' Pons, told us that was a bunch of crap and he was not going to take that stuff and turn yellow. I suppose he was true to his word, because he spent much of the war in various hospitals with malaria.

We were advised to dig slit trenches beside our tents under the coconut trees since it was possible we could be bombed or strafed by the Japanese Air Force which was still very much active. I dug a respectable slit trench and had tried it on for size. I would just fit lengthwise and had my rear end below ground level. This is all anyone really needs. 'Punchy' had a cot in the tent I was in. He was always a maverick and this time he said “I’ll be damned if I’m going to dig a slit trench—we never have been bombed before and won’t be this time.

While it was, officially, frowned upon we all spent many hours on the beach watching the air activity over Leyte Gulf. This may not have been the busiest time of aerial warfare during World War II but it could not have been far down the list. We’d, more or less, act as a cheering section for our planes as they would be chasing a Japanese plane trying to get at one of the ships. This is where we saw the use of the two fighter plane attack system developed by the Air Corp to counter the more than maneuverable Japanese Zero. Two P-38’s, for example, would approach the zero with one P-38 a fair distance behind the first. The first would chase the zero into a turn. The Zero could turn much tighter than the P-38 and, eventually, could get on the P-38 tail if they were fighting one on one. The second P-38, however, would begin turning sooner on a different angle and would catch the Zero. If the Zero straightened out the first P-38 would get him.

One evening, just about dusk, the whole battalion was out on the beach watching the air show when, all of a sudden, it occurred to us one of the Japanese twin engine bombers was heading straight at us about 200 feet. Normally they turned and went after one of the ships. This one, however, kept coming. Shortly before he reached the beach he let go with a burst of machine gun fire in our direction. There was a mass exit from the beach as everyone dove for his slit trench. As I was in the air aiming for mine, I caught a glimpse of 'Punchy' huddled in the corner of my trench. Luckily, the Japanese plane had gone and didn’t come back. I kicked 'Punchy' out of my hole, waited a few minutes to make sure the Japanese plane didn’t come back, then headed out to the beach again to continue watching the show. This went on for another hour, or so. When I went back to the tent here was 'Punchy' finishing up the hole he had dug for himself. He was down over five feet and had to chin himself to get out. The next time he was not going to be caught short. I wonder if that hole is still there.


We are alerted for a mission to make an amphibious landing on the Island of Mindoro. They cannot get the C-47’s in the limited air facilities here to transport us for a jump, so we’ll go in and assault the beaches from landing craft. We did not worry about a lack of amphibious training. If Infantry could do it then so could we. We are to establish a beach head there so that airfields can be built in close striking distance of Manila. Captain Sam Smith, who was "E" Company Commander at that time, told me back on Noemfoor that we would soon be going to the Philippines to Leyte Island. From there we would stage for an amphibious landing on an island near Luzon. From this island we would make an airborne attack on a famous place. I felt like this was coming from the third hole.  For a long time I then wondered how Sam got his advance information. Knowing what I know today, I have to go back to the third hole theory.

Not much information has been received about the coming mission. The word is that one battalion will take the town of San Jose. They say this is a small town whose industry is a large sugar refinery. It is located several miles inland. The country is open, because much of the surrounding area was sugar cane fields.

 Our company executive officer, 1st Lieutenant Tom Clyde, was transferred to 6th Army Headquarters. He told Colonel Jones that he had grown too old for life as a paratrooper and would like a transfer. Colonel Jones refused to approve the transfer until he found out that Tom was two years older than himself. Then he approved the transfer. That made the position as follows:


William T. Bailey, 1st Lt.   Commanding
Walter P. Massey, 1st Lt.   Executive Officer
William T. Calhoun, 1st Lt.   1st platoon leader
Edward T. Flash, 1st Lt.   2nd platoon leader
Joe Wyrick, 2nd Lt.   3rd platoon leader
Clinton D. Miller, 1st Lt.   4th platoon leader


 I do not know where the "F" Company History recorder got the figure of nine officers given above. Back earlier, the TO&E provided for assistant platoon leaders. We entered the Noemfoor mission with nine officers, but soon after this the TO&E changed, and the assistants were dropped. At times we had an extra officer or two in the battalion, and he was assigned as an assistant platoon leader. 2nd Lieutenant John Mara joined us on Leyte and was assigned as the assistant platoon leader of "F" Company’s first platoon. Joe Wyric was also an extra, so Jack Mara was transferred to "D" Company. Then Tom Clyde left, Wyric took the third platoon, and "F" Company had no assistants. "E" Company had at least one officer in the hospital, “Punchy”, so they missed the extras.


0800 hr

A practical and sanitary camp will be set up. 20 tents per line Co. and 30 tents for Hq Co will provide shelter. Our stay will be for 2 or 3 weeks, and preparation for combat, briefing, and planning must be accomplished in that time. The rain is very heavy, and falls about 8 hours a day.”










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