DECEMBER 1944

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10 - 16 DECEMBER 1944

 

10 December 1944

 

 

1200 hr

Striking camp is going according to schedule. Tomorrow morning there will be nothing to be carried to RSO but 2 tents per platoon. Breakfast is at 0530 hour tomorrow, and Co’s move to position at which their LCI’s will beach at 0700 hr. rations for the boat trip will be placed on beach today, and Companies will bulk load the rations for boat trip of 2 days and 3 nights. Each man is carrying on his person 2 days K ration for U-day and U+1.

1600 hr

Company commanders and their officers took a last look at aerial photos of the objective area, with stereoscopic implements and magnifying glasses.

1700 hr

Breakfast is advanced to 0430 hour tomorrow, allowing 2 1/2 hours for chow, completion of striking camp, and moving out.

 

 

 

11 December 1944

 

 

0430 hr

Reveille and breakfast. Jap planes have not been over since early last night when they made 2 suicide dives on ships in the harbor. A liberty ship is still burning furiously, and down by the stern.

0500 hr A light rain is falling, but our LCI’s are visible off-shore, awaiting 0700 hour, when companies will move to their designated points along the beach.
0630 hr Almost all the tents have been transported to RSO by C&R, and a final police is being made preparatory to moving out. Colonel Jones will give a clearance to the BN C.O. before we vacate the area.
0700 hr

The 2nd has about 300 yds to move to its point of embarkation and is moving out of bivouac area. An LCL will accommodate approximately 195 troops, and one is assigned to Hq Company, supplemented with units from Regt, artillery and naval liaison officers, platoon of engineers, and Lt. Cole with a section of Regt’l demolition.

War correspondent Frank Smith of the Chicago Times is accompanying the 2nd Bn on trip to Mindoro. Old 503d members will remember Frank was with us from October to December of last year in Port Morsby, when we were scheduled to jump at Cape Glouster, New Britain. Frank, over 40 yrs old, took jump training and made 5 parachute descents, so he could come in with the 503d, sweated it out with us through numerous postponements. The mission for the 503d was finally cancelled, with the 1st marine Div assuming the entire operation, and Frank moved on to greater fields. Our present mission to Mindoro was intended to be by parachute, and correspondent Smith, the only paratrooper newsman in the Pacific was to accompany us, but lack of airfields relegates our efforts to an amphibious operation.

0900 hr

The 2nd Bn LCI’s have just beached. Rations will be deck-loaded, and then troops will board. The water is waist deep at the ramp.

0930 hr

All troops are aboard and quarters designated. Colonel BRITTEN and Bn staff, less Major CASKEY and Lt Berry, are aboard LCI 970.

Also aboard are Colonel ATHBONE from GHQ, Col. JONES, 503d RCT commander, Capt. Gibson, parachute artillery liaison officer, Lt. Brayton, naval artillery liaison officer, Capt Donovan, Regt’l S-2. This LCI would be quite a remunerative target for Jap planes.

0945 hr

One unloading dry-run will be made before our LCI pulls out into the harbor. Troops will debark in tactical sequence, unloading time clocked.

1000 hr

The entire personnel unloaded in 3 1/2 minutes, and are all back aboard ship. All the LCI’s are leaving the beach, and going to tacloban, where the convoy is forming.

1600 hr

There are well over 25 ships in Tacloban harbor at present. We will spend the night under the protection of innumerable guns in the harbor. No Jap planes have been sighted since the suicide dives of last evening. The weather is intermittently clear and cloudy with light rains.

1800 hr

Still no air raids and a light rain setting in should protect the harbor during the night.

Company boarded LCI 758. Company broke camp and boarded LCI at 0900. Sailed from Taragon 1030 and dropped anchor at Tacloban harbor at 1200.”

“The regiment broke camp, and loaded on LCI (L) 746. We then moved to assembly area off TACLOBAN, LEYTE.”

Company consisting of 5 officers and 132 enlisted men broke camp at 0700 and moved down to the beach 1/2 mile at Reading Point. Boarded LCI 759 at 1030. Joined convoy and anchored Leyte harbor overnight. Although most of men were sick, the morale was high since Peterson, R.L. discovered a strange hatch filled with ice cream powder, peaches and hydraulic milk.” I never saw any hydraulic milk although the dehydrated milk tasted pretty bad, maybe something like hydraulic fluid. This was our young man of F Company, “Tropical” Peterson. He was not old enough to be in the Army.

Calhoun’s account: We were taken out on landing craft and loaded on LCI’s which were at anchor in the bay. This was in the early afternoon, and we lay at anchor all afternoon. (As the battalion and company accounts all agree the battalion was loaded on beached LCI’s at Tarragona. I must have been detailed to do something else because my detail of several men and myself were taken out on a landing craft to the LCI’s which were now anchored off Tacloban. I remember the incident well, because as soon as I left the wildly bobbing craft to board the LCI which was pitching but more subduedly, I became sea sick for the only time I ever experienced this malady. After a short nap the nausea disappeared.) F Company was on LCI (L) 759. We moved out that night to form a convoy with an aviation engineer construction brigade and others. The construction engineer was to build the airfields. A large number of LST’s and LSM’s transported them. They were heavily loaded with bulldozers, graders, dirt movers, and other heavy construction equipment. This unit was the 1974th Aviation Engineers consisting of 6,000 men. Also, in our convoy was the 19th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. They were to land south of us on White Beach. Our RCT was to land north and south of the Bugsanga River on Green and Blue Beaches. One small Australian construction engineer unit as well as necessary service unit also accompanied us.

 

One strange aspect of this landing is that the 503rd RCT was not awarded a bronze arrowhead for its participation in the Mindoro landing, nor was the 19th RCT. The reason given is that "there was no opposition encountered."

 

"There was no opposition encountered."

Mindoro Invasion, December 1944. USS LST-738 burning after she was hit by a Kamikaze off the Mindoro landing beaches, 15 December 1944. USS Moale (DD 693) is nearby. Note hole in LST-738's starboard side, just forward of the large "738" painted there. Smoke in the left distance may be from LST-472, which was also hit by the Kamikaze attack. : U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph - USN Photo NH 95259


(This same reason is given by the Army hierarchy for not awarding bronze arrowheads to the 503d RCT for the Nadzab jump and Noemfoor jumps.)

 One bronze star could be awarded for participation in an amphibious or airborne assault landing. Quoting from the Chief, Historical Services Division, Department of the Army in a letter to Colonel John A. Herzig, the Chief, Lt Col Clayton R Newell, states: “Research indicates the 503d Infantry is only entitled to one arrowhead for an assault landing, which is for the action on Corregidor during the Luzon campaign.”

Lt Col Clayton R Newell's research, had it uncovered the whole truth,  should have noted the fact that numerous other units which landed on Mindoro, some of them after the 503d PRCT, were awarded an arrowhead.  One need look only to the section of General Orders No. Department, Washington, D.C., 26 September 1940 entitled “Units Credited With Assault Landings:-

 Mindoro Island - 15 December 1944, 0730 to 1051 hours.

Philippine Civil Affairs Unit No. 9

7th Support Aircraft Party, 9th Tactical Air Communications Squadron

Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 94th Anti-aircraft Artillery Group Detachment

Company A, 98th Signal Battalion.

Company A, 583d Signal Air Warning Battalion

Company D, 583d Signal Air Warning Battalion

617th Port Company

3683d Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3684th Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Battalion.

3685th Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3686th Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3689th Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3699th Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3700th Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3701st Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

3842d Signal Service Detachment, 3367th Signal Service Battalion.

148th Field Artillery Battalion.

Battery B, 166th Anti-aircraft Gun Battalion.

179th Coast Artillery Battalion.

235th Port Company.

Battery B, 237th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion.

Detachment, 267th Ordnance Maintenance Company.

Headquarters and 2d platoon, 301st Quartermaster Railhead Company.

389th Quartermaster Truck Company.

412th Medical Collecting Company.

2d Platoon, 453d Engineer Depot Company.

 

Each of these units was in the same convoy and came ashore at Mindoro under the same, or better conditions as did the 503d.

Inconsistencies of this nature support the 503d's view of itself as a "Bastard Regiment."  In the corridors of Army power and bureaucracy, the 503d was like a child without a father - having no one beyond the rank of Colonel to argue for the necessary and staple things required to operate a unit -  supplies,  vehicle allocations,  artillery support and, when an operation was complete, unit recognition.   Often in the face of severe shortages,  the 503d had to obtain service of supply by less conventional means, and thus the unit  established repute as "COLONEL JONES AND HIS 3000 THIEVES", a title of which the members of the 503d became intensely proud.

 

In the convoy were 31 LCI’s (each built to carry an Infantry Company), 30 LSM’s and LST’s, 12 destroyers, 3 cruisers, 8 converted destroyers, and 24 PT boats accompanied by their mother ship which was an LST outfitted as a machine and repair shop. They were to set up a base of operations at Mindoro. The PT fleet was well behind us, and the small PT boats could just be seen bobbing up and down following the large mother ship reminded one of a brood of small chicks following the mother hen. The LCI’s, LSM’s, and LST’s were in three lines with the destroyers and cruisers forming pickettline outside our columns. The 7th Fleet formed an outer screen much of which we could hardly see. The fleet included six escort carriers (baby flat tops), three battleships, and many cruisers and destroyers. We could easily recognize the carriers. They were on the horizon to our rear, and the flat decks gave them away. We proceeded to past the south-eastern corner of Leyte and then turned west into Surigao Straits. Numerous air raids began now. The area in the straits was confined, and we could not maneuver, i.e. the Japs had us where they wanted us. When the Jap planes came the air would rapidly be full of smoke balls from bursting AA shells. It was amazing to see the huge AA fire power from the fleet. Our LCI was in the right column, and a cruiser was to our starboard side several hundred yards. During one of the raids our eyes were glued to the skies when we heard a muffled explosion and looking in that direction we saw a column of smoke rising from the deck of this cruiser, the ‘USS Nashville.: This was the task force flag ship. They soon had the fire extinguished, and we thought it was only something minor. We later learned that eighty men were killed including our task force chief of staff. Brigadier General William C. Dunckel, our task force commander, was severely burned but stayed with his command. Task force headquarters was transferred that night, and the Nashville turned back with an escort of two destroyers. Later a Jap submarine put two torpedoes into her, and the ship had to be returned to the States for major repairs. The plane which hit the Nashville was a Kamikaze. While attention was diverted to the skies overhead where the Jap bombers were attempting to make their runs this plane swooped over the mountains on leyte to the north and came in on a low and undetected run.

 

 

 

12 December 1944

 

 

0800 hr

Tacloban harbor is teaming with LCI’s, LST’s, LCM’s, APD’s, destroyers, cruisers and numerous other craft that will compromise the convoy for our L-3 operation.

The convoy will begin to move out this afternoon, and jockey its integral parts for position. Intelligence reports a fair sized US Naval Task Force, including 3 or 4 carriers, in the Sulu Sea, which will afford protection beginning tomorrow morning.

1300 hr

Our LCI is getting under way and taking its place in a long line of LCI’s; Cruisers, Destroyers and mine sweepers are in front and to the flanks, with LST’s and LCM’s jockeying for positions in the rear. The route of the convoy will be east out of the Leyte Gulf, then south to the Surigao straits. Faints will be made in various directions during the trip. We will make a feint this evening, and then turn south.

THE CELEBRITY

I will break into the Battalion S-1 Journal report here to speak of a celebrity who was present in our convoy. In this instance the celebrity was a ship. Ships, like people, had personalities. Some were lucky, some were unlucky. Some always seemed to turn up in the right place at the right time. As the Journal entry below states the Nashville ran into trouble every place it went. Another example is the Yorktown. By all odds she should have been sunk 8 May 1942 in the Battle of the Coral Sea, but she refused to die and made it back to Pearl Harbor in need of lengthy repairs and a new complement of pilots and aircraft. It was impossible to repair her in time to leave with the Hornet and the Enterprise. The commander of the Lexington carrier group at the Battle of the Coral Sea, Rear Admiral Aubry W. “Jake”Fitch said it would require three months to repair her. Admiral Nimitz, desperate for carriers to send to Midway, said that she would be repaired and refitted and moved out to join the other two carriers. In slightly more than forty eight hours of almost super human efforts the Yorktown was under way. sadly the great lady was the only carrier casualty of the battle. After the Japanese fleet carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu were sunk and only the Hiryu was left before she died her planes dealt the great Yorktown a death blow.

But our celebrity was not a glamorous carrier, or a great battleship, not even a powerful cruiser. It was a lowly destroyer. When we looked at all the warships the destroyers with their small size were not impressive; however, once a hero was pointed out, even a lowly destroyer, they appeared in a new light. That gray hull seemed to take on a luster. All the Navy seamen even down on the little LCI’s knew these ships and were quick to point them out to us landlubbers.

Bill Bailey gave the following account of our celebrity:

“En convoy, Leyte to Mindoro via the straight between Leyte and Mindanao. The navy blue jacket beside me on the bridge of the LCI we were on identified the vessel as the S.S. O’BANNON. “The fightingest ship in the whole goddam navy”and he grew about ten feet tall with pride as he said it. Seems the O’BANNON covered herself with glory in the Coral Sea Battle... came out of a smoke screen making forty knotts per hour and passed so close to a cruiser of the enemy going full bore in opposite direction that the two crews had no time to limber any guns to fire on each other and had to be content with firing pistols at each other as they raced by.”

We had great respect for the Navy, and we had great respect for the Army Air Force. These guys did their jobs regardless of the costs.

Now I’ll return to the 12 December entries of teh 2nd battalion S-1 Journal.

1500 hr

The Convoy now has a strength of about 150 vessels, including 16 P.T. boats which will be based at Mindoro and give local Naval protection.

1830 hr

No aircraft have been sighted, and we are reasonably secure until tomorrow morning. During the night the convoy will enter the Surigao Straits between Leyte and Mindanao, and sail west for the Sulu Sea.

LCI’s weighed anchor at 1530 and sailed as part of the invasion force for Mindoro Island, Philippine Island. Morale is excellent. This is to be the first beach assault Company “F” has ever attempted. The following day the convoy received several raids which were met with our own intense anti-aircraft fire. No casualties aboard our ship. One ship in the convoy was hit by an enemy suicide (Kamikazi) plane.”

 

 

 

13 December 1944

 

 

0730 hr

With sun up, the convoy is in quite a narrow passage, with Mindanao on the south, and numerous islands to the north.

1000 hr

We are now passing Bohol, to the north. A destroyer up front fired a few salvos to the south, but no further information is available. The convoy is halted and waiting for something.

1015 hr

 After 15 minute wait, the reason for our halt materialized from the south- a US Task Force of 5 carriers, a battleship, and about 14 cruisers and destroyers. It is reassuring to see that group bear down on us.

1330 hr

The convoy is now headed west again. We are now passing Cebu, and unidentified aircraft has been reported to the north.

1500 hr

 Without any warning, our ack-ack gun is being fired, a twin engine dive bomber plummeted out of the clouds and made a suicide dive just astern of the forward control tower of the Cruiser, Nashville, exploding in a sheet of flame. Another Jap dive bomber was driven off by intense ack-ack, and two corsairs pursued it over the horizon. There is a cloud layer at 5000 feet affording ample protection for attacking Jap planes. The hills of Negros, which is now 18 miles to out north off the right flank, hamper t5he radar

1510 hr

 The Nashville now has the fire completely out, and binoculars disclose no trace of damage. Every place it goes, the Nashville runs into trouble. It was twice towed to Frisco after sea actions, and damaged in other engagements.

1745 hr

 Intense ack-ack at 8,000 feet heralded the arrival of more Jap planes. Many bombs are being dropped at the left flank, but no damage realized.

1800 hr

 4 Jap bombers are directly over head, pursued by 6 P-38’s. One Jap peeled off from 5000 feet at a cruiser, but a burst from a 38 set him afire, and he crashed in the sea, far astern of the convoy. The sky is now filled with ack-ack, and the P-38’s are up above it, to ward off any Nips coming in high.

1830 hr

 The attack is over for the present, and no damage inflicted on the convoy. Half an hour remains until dark.

There is no moonlight these nights, and we hope the convoy is not visible during the hours of darkness. In the morning the Japs will most likely expect us to invade Negros. It should be quite a while after dawn when they pick us up far out in the Sulu Sea.

 

 

 

14 December 1944

 

 

0800 hr

 We had no air or sea attack during the night.

1000 hr

After patrolling over the horizon since yesterday morning, our large Task Force is again visible, and now has 6 carriers, 3 battleships, and numerous cruisers and destroyers. Today Admiral Halsey is due to inaugurate 4 days of intensive air attacks on Luzon and lesser islands. This may well account for out lack of air opposition today, augmented by our carrier based hell-cat cover, and P-38’s from Leyte which arrived soon after dawn.

1100 hr

 We are now in the Sulu Sea, west of Panay, and in the eyes of the Japanese High Command, capable of striking any of the numerous enemy held island surrounding us.

1400 hr

 A light attack by Jap planes on the rear of our convoy was driven off by heavy ack-ack.

1945 hr

Darkness has settled, and no further air attacks have materialized. Breakfast will be at 04:30 hr tomorrow- 2 doughnuts and coffee. H-Hour is 0720 hour.

 

 

 

15 December 1944

 

 

0430 hr

 Reveille and breakfast. A Jap ship of unknown size was set ablaze 2 miles off left flank of convoy, by 2 destroyers. The 4th shot hit her, and shells were pumped into it for 1 minute. It was now an inferno, about the size of the Liberty ship set afire in Lyte harbor by suicide dive the evening before we embarked.

0530 hr

 All personnel and equipment are set and waiting the “Go”whistle. Dawn is creeping up in the east.

0630 hr

Mindoro is sighted dead ahead. The Navy did a fine job of navigating and timing. After a 3 day and night voyage, we will hit the objective exactly at prescribed time.

0700 hr

 Naval guns are ranging in for assault preparation. 7 destroyers are 800 yds off shore, and 1st Battalion is being loaded into LCVP’s from their APD’s immediately to rear of destroyers. The 1st Bn will hit at H-hour, and the 2nd Bn LCI’s will beach at H+5 on blue beach. The 19th Combat team is landing about 2 miles to our right flank.

0715 hr

 A heavy bombardment of the shore has been occupying the past 20 minutes. Rockets are now being fired by destroyers with great “whooshing”sound. Their concussion on impact is terrific.

0733 hr

.50 calibers and 20 MM are now tatooing the beach as 1st Bn wave goes in under cover of smoke screen.

0735 hr

2nd Bn LCI’s now 1 1/2 miles off shore, are heading in at full speed. The smoke screen is enveloping us, and visibility is difficult.

0740 hr

Without warning, 4 LCVP’s materialize off our bow, and a collision was narrowly averted. They were returning to their APD’s after beaching 1st Battalion, and gave the approved thumb and fore finger salute

0742 hr

 With 2 seconds warning our LCI tried to clear another LCI that appeared thru the smoke, but we hit quite solidly. 2 of our 81 MM mortars were knocked over board, and the starboard ramp is badly damaged. All personnel will unload from port ramp.

0743 hr

We are 200 yds off shore, again proceeding at full speed. The smoke has all blown out to sea.

0744 hr

 LCI 970 hit shore, and the 2nd Bn has made its first beach head. I believe it has been more exciting than jumping, largely because of naval preparation before landing.

0755 hr

 A cover of Hellcats and P-38’s are up above, and a lone zero was chased off.

Water depth at end of our port ramp is 5 1/2 feet, and the short man must swim about 8 feet. The shore is very steep.

0757 hr

 D and E Companies have landed, and are moving inland to locate the railroad that will be our route from San Augustine to San Jose. The Navy beached us a good bit left of intended position.

0830 hr

 Some bad swamps had to be traversed locating the railroad, but we are now headed for San Jose.

0900 hr

Jap planes are now over head in good strength. 6 suicide dives were made on our shipping, with a resultant 500 average; a destroyer, LCI and LST were hit, and 3 planes missed their targets.

Intense ack-ack is going up from destroyers, cruisers, and all our other craft, while the hell cats wait outside the ack-ack curtain.

1000 hr

 We are about half way to San Jose with no opposition encountered. The heat is terrific, and all personnel are having a rough time, loaded down with packs, rifle, ammo, and specialist equipment. The terrain reminds the old 503d men of Gordonvale, Australia, our first base in the SWPA in 1942- cane field, lantana, sugar cane factory, and mountains in the background.

1100 hr

D Company is now entering left of San Jose, and E Company the right. F Company is reserve Company.

#1 1100 hr

Four .50 caliber machine guns of 462d to fill 2nd Bn defense line.

1230 hr

 A platoon of E Company passed completely thru town without opposition. Natives say Japs took to mountains during initial bombardment. An emplaced 37 mm, 4 .50’s and small arms were abandoned.

Natives gave our men broiled chicken, wine, beer, and goodwill.

#2 1400 hr

 Battalion C.P. will be established at (85.2-05.8) on progress map 1/50,000, appended. D,E, F Companies will move to river line, and establish perimeter from town, south to tie in with 1st Bn near the beach. The 566th Airfield Engineer will assume part of the perimeter, with 12 .50 calibers and 2 half-tracks.

1600 hr

 Western Visayan Task Force Hq’s of Brig. General Dunklin (sic) is now established in San Jose, and bull-dozers have a road scraped out of the cane field from beach to town. Airfield “dozers”are already lining out the strips, and going to work. On U+5 P-47’s and P-51’s will arrive, if strip is completed.”This should be P-38’s instead of P-51’s. It was mid January before two of the much heralded new P-51’s arrived. “Am all-weather weather bomber strip is also being constructed, with 15 days allowed for its completion.

1800 hr

Our local ack-ack positions are now emplaced, and we are expecting heavy raids as our land and carrier based fighters are now grounded by darkness. Company Commanding Officers report to Battalion at 0800 hr 16 December.

#4 2000

All personnel are dug in, and the nips are beginning the milk-runs. Heavy ack-ack is being thrown up, but flights of 5 to 10 are pounding the beach. Some of our destroyers are still in the harbor, and when they leave we will have 20 PT’s as local protection. Regt’l C.P. is at (86.4-06.9).

 “15 Dec 44 After a heavy bombardment by Navy Ships Company landed on White Beach. Co moved toward San Jose and as they were advancing the Jap Air Force struck the Naval Convoy and set one LST on fire. Company through San Jose and set up a perimeter at 1530 north of the city. No enemy contacted.”

Our RCT made the initial landing on Mindoro, Philippine Islands. “E”Company led the attack and were the first troops in the principality municipality of SAN JOSE.

 “15th Dec, 1944: Company “F”, stormed ashore after a 15 minute Naval bombardment of rocket shells, then continued by foot to San Jose, Mindoro Is., Philippines. The terrain was rough for hiking with our heavy packs with chow mostly. Company minus the third platoon left to guard general headquarters at San Jose. No enemy ground resistance. Company did routine patrolling and setting up of positions. Enemy air activity was very intense. Each man had to dig deep, standing foxholes because of the punctual night bombings.”

Calhoun’s account: “15 December. D Day! We were up at 0530. I actually got up about 0500 and went up on deck and joined some of the crew members who were looking at a burning ship far ahead. The watch said the cruiser on our right rear had suddenly fired a salvo followed shortly thereafter by another. After the second salvo the fire lit up on the horizon. They said we had overtaken a Jap tanker. After coffee we were ready to hit the beach --- hurry up and wait. We drew nearer the burning tanker. Near the tanker our battalion LCI formation made a 90 degree and headed for the beaches. The Navy had laid down a heavy bombardment and a smoke screen. The LCI ground to a halt on the bottom or at the length of their cable. The LCI would drop an anchor at a certain distance out and play out cable on a winch. After debarking their troops this helped them get off the beach. Our LCI was about 30 feet from the dry beach. As we stepped off landing ramps (there were two ramps, one starboard and one port) the water was shallow. Moving a few feet we went down a steep incline into water about chin deep. We had to lift the short men through this. Then a steep incline upward and we were ashore. The flat, sandy beaches had large grassy areas in the deep sand. The land was flat for miles. The Bugsanga River was on our left as we landed. The entire area had been planted in sugar cane before the war. The flat plains extended on to San Jose which was 6 miles away. A better area could not have been selected for airfield construction. There was no need for grading. The most prominent feature of the area was the large, four story sugar refinery in San Jose. This building covered with corrugated steel could be seen several miles away.

In addition to the flat fields there was another great advantage to constructing airfields here. The broad and shallow river nearby was a good source of gravel. The San Jose Strip, later named Elmore Strip, was bordered by the river. I believe the other strip south of San Jose was near a river, too. It had to be near gravel, because it was finished sooner than San Jose Strip.

After landing we assembled and moved off the beach. We had to wait until the rest of the 2nd Battalion formed up and moved out before we headed for San Jose. We were the battalion reserve and brought up the rear. On Noemfoor when the battalion moved out from Namber we were the lead company, so now it was our time to bring up the rear. As we were leaving the beach a B-17 flew overhead traveling south along the beach. This was General Douglas MacArthur observing the landing. As we moved out the construction engineers sent over a half-track which moved into our column in front of our company. This was a survey party which was to accompany our battalion, the lead battalion, until they reached the site of the proposed San Jose Strip. The need for speed was such that they were to start laying out the airfields immediately, because the dirt movers which were to pick up gravel, the graders, and the bulldozers were getting ready to follow us. In fact a bulldozer was scraping a road not far behind us. After a few miles the half-track turned off and the survey party immediately went to work. Planes would be using this field in five days and Hill strip in three days.

We were carrying full field gear and combat gear. The field equipment was carried in jungle packs. These were larger than musette bags and consequently heavier. The sun was bearing down. It was dusty even with the tall grass cover. The excitement of what had transpired and the excitement of what might lie ahead dulled our discomfort.

We moved on to San Jose. As our company reached the outskirts of town about 1400 hour we were ordered to retrace our steps two or three miles to the construction site of the future air field and dig in a defensive position along the Bugsanga River. By now the engineer brigade was moving in force with all their heavy equipment and vehicles and the dirt road was a layer of several inches of dust. With the wind blowing it was dusty. We dug in that night on the river. Jap planes came in all night long dropping bombs. Some of the bombs were outfitted with whistles, and it was not the most pleasant thing to lie there and listen to the bombs whistling down and wondering where they would impact; however, before too long our fatigue from the days’ work took over, and we were fast asleep despite the bombs and their whistles.

 

 

 

 

16 December 1944

 

 

#6 0400 hr

An alert to be on watch for airborne attack, paratrooper or transport, has been issued. Both types were used by the Nips during our short stay on Leyte.

0645 hr

Dawn, and no paratroop attacks have materialized. The Nips came over in strength all night long and pounded the beach very hard.

0700 hr

The 2nd Bn will move to a new defensive position today, across the Bugsanga River. RCT water point now at point 72.

0900 hr

Co. Co’s were briefed on new positions to be assumed and will move out shortly. Bn C.P. will remain at present position until reconnaisce locates new site.

Seven Nip Planes came over beach, and 5 were knocked down by ack-ack, while 2 made suicide dives, obviously failures for no smoke is visible.

1100 hr

 A water point has been established in San Jose for the 503d RCT. A jeep is at disposal of Bn for hauling water and supplies.

D,E,F, Companies have moved across the Bugsanga to reconnoiter for new positions, and Colonel BRITTEN left with D Company. Major Caskey, BN Executive Officer is at Bn C.P., and will move it forward to new postion on orders from Bn CO.

#8

 We now have attached to 2nd Bn an engineer platoon from Prcht Engr Co, Captain Gibson and 15 artillery liaison men, and 15 Regt’l demolition men.

1140 hr

A cover of hell cats and P-38’s have kept the Nips away since soon after dawn. Bull dozers and engineer are rushing the strips. We are still awaiting word from Colonel Britten to move the C.P. to new location.

#9

1115 hr D Company in on hill across Bugsanga southeast of Company E. Message transmitted through Bn

#10 1200 hr

 Daily strength report must be at Regt’; S-1 daily by 0800 hr.

#11 1200 hr

 Position of Company E requested by Bn CO.

#12 1220 hr

E Company is at (883.9-1508.0). Progresso map will be only map referred to.”Possibly the correct coordinates were (88.3-05.8)?

#13 1259 hr

 CO Regt request information of patrols.

#14 1312 hr

 Bn asked permission to store SCR-284 with Regimental Communication Officer.

#15 1322 hr

 Request of Bn Comm Officer granted.

#16 1328 hr

To CO Regiment- No report from patrols. Bn S-3 on way to Regimental C.P.

Bn C.P. is still awaiting word from Colonel Britten of new C.P. location.

#17 1405 hr

 16 Dec 44  F Company is at Bugsanga Village and has contacted C Company and its left flank.

#18 1450 hr

 F Company notified of Bn C.P. location, per F Company request.

     #19

 
#20 1515 hr

 Captain Gibson, our artillery liaison officer, request from Regiment a jeep to reconnoiter for new gun positions. The request was denied and 2nd Bn will have to loan its jeep when possible.

#21 1520 hr

 A periodic S-2 report will be rendered- from 101-5- even if negative, by 0700 hr daily.

#22 1628 hr

Bn C.O. and S-3 will report to regimental C.P. at 2100 hour tonight. Colonel Britten still has not contacted Bn C.P. from across Bugsanga and Major Caskey will attend meeting.

#23 1710 hr

 Regiment requests report of days operation by 2100 hr today. Coupled with by Bn S-3 and executive officer.

1800 hr

Colonel Britten has not contacted Bn C.P. , and we will set up perimeter tonight at present C.P. location

#24 1730 hr

19 unidentified sea craft reported approaching White Beach, which is about 3 miles west of 503 R.C.T. beach positions. We can only sit and sweat it out.

#25 1750 hr

 Regiment notified F Company is in position from (27.5-08.2) to (79.6-09.9) to (79.6-09.9).

#26 1852 hr

 19 unidentified craft reported friendly.

2100 hr

At meeting with regimental C.O., Major Caskey was told to withdraw all 2nd Bn units to this side, south of the Bugsanga River. An impregnable defense line will be established along river bank from 1st Bn positions to the shore Northeast to point north of San Jose, where it will tie in with the 2nd Bn. Particulars will be found on Bn S-3 situation map.

#27 1851 hr

 Lt. Collins contacted Philippine guerillas, and is bringing them to Bn C.P. Lt. Turinsky, Company D, is holding one to identify other Guerillas expected.”

Co moved further north and set up a new perimeter in the foothills. No enemy contacted.

Calhoun’s account: 16 December. The company is to move to San Agustine back on the coast where we landed. The rest of the company moved out during the day, and told us to wait for the truck which had been moving the rest of the company returned and picked for us. It never returned. This was late afternoon, and we set up two 81mm mortars and some 50 calibre machine guns for the engineers. So we were all manning heavy weapons for the engineers. The task force was on alert for a Jap parachute attack, and the engineers were real happy to have us crewing their weapons. They even furnished us cots for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated: 12-01-13