AN INTERVIEW WITH COLONEL MASSELLO

 

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Q:    Were you surprised when you were promoted to major? Was this promotion predicated on a need within the battalion/regiment?

I was not entirely surprised, although my promotion was long over due. I had been putting my efforts on doing my job, on Bataan, while some of my contemporaries on Corregidor were busily using all means at their disposal to get promoted. For reasons unknown to me. Col. Chase had me on his black list and Col. Barr, the executive officer had some unfounded idea that I had spread some rumors about his marriages. I had not. Col. Breitung, my immediate C.O. did nothing on my behalf. So much for the negative side.

 On Bataan, I ran across General Wainright, who knew me. We talked a little and the general seemed rather impressed with what my outfit was doing. Just a little later, by direction of the general, Col. Pugh, his aide, called Burton Brown, General Moore’s aide, to find out why I had not been promoted. Brown told him that he didn’t know except that he had heard that I was in disfavor with the higher echelon of the 60th. General Wainright called Cal. Chase who gave him some queasy statements about no vacancies. General Wainright said, “Promote him”. And that was it. I got this information from Johnnie Pugh, who was a good friend of mine.

 Q:  After your promotion, I assume that you became the X.0. of the second battalion. Is this correct? Regardless, what were your duties?

After I was promoted, I became the executive officer of the second battalion but it didn’t mean much, at first. Cal. Breitung had a very strong interest in “G” Battery and was reluctant to allow me to exercise any supervision whatever with that battery. But I had enough to do anyhow since Captain Miller who had replaced me in command of “E” Battery was new both to searchlights and Bataan. He had spent the entire time since the declaration of hostilities in the Corregidor Tunnel.  I tried to help Fred Miller but he was all tensed up and could think of nothing but establishing cover. In a burst of anger, he told me that he wished to hell he was back in the tunnel I tried to work with Fred but he was rather antagonistic and I don’t think that I accomplished much with him. In any case, Bataan fell very soon after I got my major’s leaves. Cal. Breitung never did state what he expected me to do as his exec.

When the front line troops came pouring back, after the Japanese break through at Mt. Samat, I had my hands full. Cal. Breitung took some of the troops to Corregidor, on a boat, and I remained behind to try to get as many men and as much equipment back to Corregidor as I could. It was all very hectic and would take a lot of telling.

Q:        Were there any other officers in HQ 2nd BN/6Oth CA besides  LTC Howard Breitung, yourself, Capt. Robert Callaway and 2nd Lt. William Kilduff?

As I remember it, 2d Lt. King was also in the Hq. Battery.

Q:        Were you the most decorated American officer in the Philippine Campaign? If not, who was?

The direct answer to your question is,” I don’t know. I have no idea as to who might have received the most decorations.

Q:        Did Col. Chase and LTC Barr visit Bataan and batteries of the 2nd Battalion very often?

Colonel Chase NEVER came to Bataan to visit the second battalion or any thing else. I doubt that he had the faintest idea as to just what was going on across the channel from Corregidor.

Col. Barr made one visit to Bataan during the entire period of activity. I took him to visit one of the lights that was pretty far north, and while there, I said that we ought to go up to the front which was Agleloma Point, at that time. As we were walking through the jungle, and the noise of the firing got closer, Cal. Barr got very interested in looking for orchids and I went forward alone. As a matter of fact, I don’t think that Cal. Barr saw very much of Bataan on his visit.

Q:      How often did LTC Breitung visit his batteries? What did he do during these visits? Battery Way.jpg (47144 bytes)

 Col. Breitung visited the batteries very often. He spent most of his time with “G” Battery although he visited the light positions occasionally. He was intensely interested in the guns and director in “G” Battery. Capt. Abston was a very proficient mathematician and he and Breitung were constantly trying to devise methods to make the fire effect greater. They even tried to come up with a way to use the ERF Radar for fire control. Cal. Breitung visited a battery of .the 91st that had come down from Fort Wint at Christmas time and become attached to our battalion. This battery, under Capt. Jack Gulick, did very good work and was a credit to the battalion. It had three-inch guns but I don’t remember whether or not they were of an older vintage. In summary, Cal. Breitung spent a lot of time with the batteries.

Q:       Who were the best officers in the 60th?

Naturally I didn’t know all the officers, nor did I know everything that they did. But from what I observed and learned, I would put the following among the best in the 60th:

    Lt. Cal. Arnold A. Amoroso, Capt. Elliot A. Hayden M.C., Lt. Col. Howard Breitung,    Capt. John Mc M Gulick (Atchd), Capt. Aaron A. Avston, 1st Lt Herbert Pace, Capt. Paul Cornwall, Capt. Richard C. Ivey, 1st Lt. Thomas H. Fortney, Capt. Thomas A. Hacket, 1st. Lt. Lester L. Peterie and 1st. Lt. Carl G. Weeks

Q:        Could you please provide a brief personality sketch and an assessment of the following officers?

Q: Col. Theodore Chase?

 Col Theodore Chase was a rather small and puny looking man with a habitual sour look on his face. He talked with a sort of rasping voice and tended to be rather sarcastic. I never saw him smile. He had a tendency to blink his eyes a lot, a habit that earned him the soubriquet of “Blinkey.” I don’t know what he had done during his service but I had the distinct impression that he had not had much troop duty. He knew very little about antiaircraft and left the supervision of the AA Defense up to Maj. Thomas MeNair, his S3. As far as I know, Cal. Chase spent most, if not all, of his time in Malinta tunnel. The AA Command Past started out in Battery Way. But after the first bombing when a few bombs fell in the vicinity of Way, Col. Chase abandoned Way in a precipitous hurry claiming that it was too vulnerable to serve as an AA C.P. Major Maynard, of the Engineers set up his map depot at Way and found it very comfortable. He was somewhat pompous and self-important and was often abrasive when dealing with his subordinates. On one occasion, when one of the Bataan searchlights was searching the sea surface to locate a possible landing attack, Cal. Chase called me on the field phone and ordered me to get that light out and to confine my efforts to air attack. His language was nasty and violent. He was on Corregidor and seemed not to know or care what went on in Bataan. It so happened that the landing craft that we had been trying to spot actually landed a good sized force on Longaskawayen Point. When, after the second battalion had come back to Corregidor when Bataan fell, Col. Brietung asked Col. Chase to allow "E" Battery to take over Battery Way. Chase refused to even listen to the idea. He had a peevish, carping personality and was far from an inspiring figure. I considered him to be a very poor commander.

Q: LTC Elvin Barr?

 Lt. Col. Barr was an oafish lowbrow. His main focus was on trivia. My actual contacts with him were very few. He inspected my battery once at a full field inspection and he came to Bataan once to check on the second battalion. His check was very cursory and he seemed very glad to get on the boat to return to Corregidor. Other than being a sort of gad fly, he did nothing, as far as I could see. He was held in low esteem by his peers.

 Q: LTC Arnold Amoroso?

 Lt. Cal. Amoroso was a fine, highly competent officer. He had an enviable record as an artilleryman and had won the Knox Trophy once. At that time, the Knox Trophy was awarded to the battery that had the adjudged best target practice of the year. Lt. Cal. Amoroso knew his business from A to Z and was quite exacting of his subordinates. I had served with him as his battery executive officer at Fort MacArthur, California, and I was well aware of his passion for excellence. When the 60th was reorganized, he was given the first battalion to command. From the reports that I received, he did a very fine job with the battalion but, somehow, he ran afoul of Col. Chase. Ami had a low opinion of Col. Chase’s artillery knowledge and ability to run a regiment. His attitude may have shown and the egotistic Col. Chase must have sensed it. Anyhow, according to reports, sparks flew more than once when Col. Chase tried to impose some of his fanciful ideas on Amoroso. It seems that Lt. Col. Amoroso’s concept of fighting the war were too aggressive for Col. Chase’s taste. Lt. Col. Amoroso visited his units frequently and gave them the benefit of his assistance and advice. He was well liked and respected by the officers and men of his battalion. Amoroso’s worth was also recognized by the higher command and he was immediately given a job in higher headquarters when he was relieved of command of the first battalion by Col. Chase. Lt. Col. Amoroso was a fine gentleman and an outstanding officer.

 Q: LTC Howard Breitung?

 LTC Howard Breitung was a competent officer who did an excellent job commanding the second battalion of the 60th. He had spent some time, in his career as a PMS&T at one of the universities in Utah and had absorbed some of the supercilious attitudes of academia. In some respects, he was a hopeless romantic and sometimes courted danger unnecessarily. He had a very pleasant personality, made friends easily, and was well liked by all who knew him. I commanded the searchlight battery and LTC Breitung gave me a free hand in running the outfit. He visited the light positions and the gun batteries with reasonable frequency. He spent a great deal of time with Capt. Abston of the gun battery trying to improve the results of fire. To some extent, he and Abston succeeded as Abston’s battery, “G” had an excellent score of planes hit. LTC Breitung was decidedly skeptical of the number of downed planes claimed by Corregidor. At about Christmas time, Capt. Jack Gulick brought his “C” Btry, 91st down to Bataan from Fort Wint. LTC Breitung immediately attached “C” Btry to our battalion and extended such assistance as we could give to Capt. Gulick. Gulick’s battery acquitted itself admirably and was an asset to the battalion. LTC Breitung went all out to make C 91st feel welcome into the battalion. Breitung’s romantic and somewhat impetuous nature is illustrated in the incident of Pucot Hill. Our number one light called in to tell the battalion Hq. that they had come across some Japanese near Pucot Hill. Breitung gathered all who happened to be around and went as fast as he could to Pucot. He and his gang stormed up the hill which was denied to the Japanese invaders. Fortunately. Breitung met no resistance although a Japanese force estimated as a battalion was actually in the vicinity.

Q: Maj George Crawford?

 I knew George Crawford quite well. He was in my company at West Point and I had some dealings with him afterwards. George commanded a machine gun battery that had an outstanding first sergeant. The battery was undoubtedly an excellent unit. I was on Bataan when George was made battalion commander of the machine gun battalion. I heard very little about him other than that he was well liked.

 Q: Major Leslie Ross?

 I hardly knew Major Ross. I met him a couple of times and we simply exchanged pleasantries. He was an affable individual and I was told that he had an excellent reputation as an officer.

 Q:   After the fall of Bataan, Col. Chase relieved LTC Amoroso as C.O. of the 1st BN and replaced him with Major Ross. Rumor has that  Chase disliked non West Pointers and Amoroso in particular. Do you know why Chase relieved Amoroso?

Chase and Amoroso disliked each other but I don’t believe that the fact that Amoroso was not a West Pointer had anything to do with it. They were about as much unlike as two men could be. Chase was somewhat pompous and self—important. He was highly opinionated and very arbitrary in his pronouncements. On the other hand, Amoroso knew his business and found it hard to accept Chase’s way of doing things. Long after the cessation of hostilities, I had some long talks with Amoroso and I tried to find out just where the problem had been. Ami passed it all off lightly and intimated that the General had gone along with his point of view and had promptly given Ami a job in his headquarters. Amoroso was a graduate of Norwich Military Academy which, at that time, had a top-notch reputation as a military school. Chase must have known this. In any case, I was a West Pointer and Chase had no love for me. It was unfortunate that a man like Chase should be in command of a splendid regiment like the 60th when war broke out; but that’s the way it was.way2.jpg (120512 bytes)

Q:  Is it correct that although Major Ross was the official C.O. of the 1st BN, LTC Breitung was really in command of both the 1st and the 2nd battalions? If so, why?

At the time that LTC Amoroso was relieved from command of the first battalion. I was very involved in getting Battery Way into shape and getting the former searchlight men made into mortar gunners. LTC Breitung came to the battery one day and told me that Ami had been relieved of command of the first battalion and that he, Breitung, had been given the first battalion in addition to the second which he already commanded. Then, a very short time later, he told me that Major Ross had been appointed commander of the first battalion. Now, whether or not Breitung retained any command authority in the first battalion, I don’t know; but I doubt it.

Q:   Rumor had it that when the American forces on Bataan were surrendering, you successor as C.O. of E/6Oth, Capt. Fred Miller, abandoned his battery and proceeded to Corregidor alone. Also, you were the one who extracted E/6Oth from Bataan. Is there any truth to these statements?

 The evacuation of the second battalion to Corregidor on the night that Bataan fell was a hell of a mess. I had gone to see Col. Stubbs at his Hq. in the jungle. He told me that Bataan was being surrendered and that all Corregidor troops were to go back to Corregidor. When I got back to our camp, I sent out orders to all lights to destroy all equipment and get down to the dock at Mariveles. LTC Breitung went to Mariveles ahead of me with some of the men from Hq. Btry and “E” Btry. I followed and waited at the dock to corral as many of the second battalion men as I could to get to Corregidor on a barge. A good part of’ “G” battery men with guns got aboard the barge which finally set out for the island in bright daylight. I have no idea as to where Capt. Miller was during all this. When I got back to Corregidor, I took over Battery Way and got it into shape for firing. Then, I wanted to turn it over to Miller but Col. Bunker would have none of it and I remained with the mortar battery until Corregidor fell. I don’t know how Capt. Miller got back to Corregidor. I assumed that he had made the crossing of the channel in the same boat that Breitung was on. When Fred Miller first came to Bataan to take over “E” Battery, he seemed rather resentful about something. I ascribed it to the fact that he was not familiar with searchlights and therefore felt uneasy. I don’t remember seeing any sign of him, while I was on Corregidor, and I don’t know what he was doing.

Q: When E/6Oth arrived on Corregidor, Capt. Miller spent in  Malinta Tunnel and would seldom leave it. You became aware of this vacuum of leadership and assumed the position in command of the 60th. Is there any truth to these statements? If not, why were you appointed in charge at Battery Way and not Capt. Miller?

 I had arrived on Corregidor on a barge that arrived well after some of the others had gotten there. Things were in a mess. Cal Breitung “C” Battery to set up on the golf course. Jack Gulick, who arrived later than I did, was returned to the 91st. The men from “E” were all over the place. We arranged for Lt. Weeks to take some of the Battery men to maintain the communications which had been lost and  needed repair and maintenance. Capt. Schenk proposed that I take over Battery Way, a twelve inch mortar battery effective against the Japanese on Bataan. Although Col. Chase refused to listen to the idea, Col Bunker who was in charge of Harbor Defense gave us the nod and we put Way back into action, and gathered up all the “E” Battery men and we became a unit again. way46.jpg (71158 bytes)

..ired of them to man the mortars, some were on communication..some were put on two “roving” searchlights that were repositioned every night in order to provide illumination ...After the debacle on Bataan, the men were only too happy to be fighting again. When all was ready at Battery Way, I asked that it be... but Col. Bunker adamantly refused and demanded that ...wasn’t too happy with that decision as I had already...Amoroso to try to put some old three inch AA guns that were in poor condition for possible employment in beach defense. I don't know where Miller was during all this time. I heard that he was ... but I had my hands full already and I just didn’t bother.

 

 

 

 

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