late on Sunday afternoon, 18 February 1945, Major Lawson B. Caskey, the 2d
Battalion 503d Parachute Infantry commander sent his S3 Lieutenant Lawrence
Browne, the plans and training officer, to D Company to issue the defense orders
for the night. The 2d Battalion staff officer did not arrive in the company area
until very late that afternoon. Browne
had just come from F Company's position on Way Hill, 600 yards east of Wheeler
point where he had given F Company its orders.
The decision to enlarge the perimeter must have been made late in the day
at the 503d regimental headquarters in Topside Barracks.
save time the company commander, Lieutenant Al Turinsky, had assembled his
platoon leaders at Wheeler Point before the 2d Battalion S3 got to the company
command post in the reinforced concrete bunker at the promontory.
The platoon leaders would be given the defense orders at the same time
the company commander got them. The four platoon leaders, Lieutenants Gifford,
Preston and Lindgren, and Technical Sergeant Schriefels were all close to the
command post and gathered quickly. Schriefels had taken over the 3d platoon from
Lieutenant Paul Cote who was injured on the jump.
They took out their cigarettes as they sat quietly together under the hot
sun that had dropped low in the west. The long rays glistened brightly on the
South Channel as a gentle breeze rippled the surface of the South China Sea
lying 500 feet below the rocky precipice at Wheeler Point.
They sat wearily on the hard rocky ground, their gaunt faces with
jawbones sharply protruding through the skin's surface and their hollow cheeks
expressionless and dull with fatigue. Their
skin, yellow from the required daily dose of atabrine to ward off malaria looked
sickly and unnatural in the glare of the late afternoon sun.
The hot weary platoon leaders waited on the desolate promontory for Al
Turinsky to order the defense for the night.
They hardly spoke as they sat listlessly on the hot dusty earth in their
ill fitting, dusty fatigue uniforms, foul with three days of accumulated sweat
that had dried and stained the green herringbone twill with dirty gray rings.
They said little as they drew on their cigarettes but got small comfort from
them, the smoke only irritating
their parched mouths and throats even more.