Looking to see if there were any Japanese around I was surprised to see a group of our men near the head of the runway playing baseball.
"What the hell kind of a war is
this?" my immediate thought was.
That thought applies as much today as it did that instant.
A combat jump into a baseball game!
I crawled sheepishly out from under the bomber and started walking toward
the guys playing ball. As I walked I heard the sound of motors.
Looking to determine where the sound
was coming from, I was elated to see amphibious tanks displaying American
markings. They were climbing out of the water and up onto the runway.
I did not learn until many years later that this amphibious outfit had made the
initial assault on the island and cleared the landing strip for our jump.
Our job was to purge the island of
the remaining Japanese. We assembled at the Southern end of the runway and, in
patrol formation, moved inland. I was scouting about 100 feet out in front of the company,
when I came upon a Native village. I cautiously moved to a vantage
Looking into the village, I could see three of what appeared to me to be
Japanese soldiers, standing in a line with their hands behind them, apparently
tied to a post. I moved quickly into the open, where I was exposed and
then back to cover to see if I could draw fire. After a few exposures with
no one shooting at me, I went into the village and approached the group tied to
As I walked up to them I could see they had their hands tied behind them around
the post and that their anklebones had been hewed off on the outer part of each
leg, probably by a sword. They were the enemy and I felt no sorrow. The medics
came in and undertook the job of removing these maimed men.
I learned later that these men were from Formosa (Taiwan).
The Japanese had used them as labor troops. They had been disabled to
prevent them from working for us.
We proceeded some distance across the
Island to a second airstrip which the Japanese had abandoned completely. Here we
dug in for the night. My foxhole was located at the south-end of the
runway, directly next to the road which connected the two airstrips. The night
In the morning, my platoon went out
on patrol. We covered an area of about 5 miles before we turned and started back
toward our positions.
I was about 50 yards in front of the second scout, following a trail
going up hill. As I reached a point that allowed me to see across the
crest of the hill, I spotted a patrol of Japanese soldiers, coming my way. They
were about one hundred and fifty yards in front of me and slightly to my right.
I dropped down, gave the signal "Enemy In Sight" to the second scout, then
arose, fully prepared to start shooting.
To my surprise, I realized that they
had seen me too and had taken flight down a trail to our right. Spinning, I
motioned for the platoon to move to the right, while I took chase through the
dense undergrowth. As I broke onto the trail taken by the Japanese, I moved
through the platoon to take the lead position. One of our men pointed to
blood on the ground
and I moved out quickly following the blood trail. It turned left
and went up a small embankment. There, I saw the Japanese soldier. He was
sitting up, drinking from his canteen. Seeing me, he whipped his left arm behind
his back and threw himself flat on the ground. I dropped to the ground,
expecting a grenade to go off. After about 10 seconds, I took another peek, his
left arm was still under his back and his canteen was lying on his chest
spilling water. I was sure he had a grenade. Not wanting to use my Thompson
machine gun, I borrowed a rifle from the trooper closest to me and shot the
soldier through the head. The shot did not kill him outright; he was opening and
closing his mouth, but my second shot came out the top of his helmet.
Hearing the shooting, another patrol arrived and a lieutenant rolled the soldier
over and commented to those of us who could see, “Look at this.”
The Japanese soldier still had a concussion grenade in his hand with the
detonator pointed toward the ground.
During our patrol actions, we took a few Japanese as prisoners but we rounded up
quite a lot of Formosans. They were caged in a makeshift enclosure of barbed
wire. Our cooks, who had little to do while we were out on patrols, spent their
time teaching all the prisoners English. After several weeks teaching, we
were surprised when, coming in from a patrol, we passed the compound housing the
Japanese. Someone shouted "Tojo."
Quickly, all the prisoners responded in unison bowing and shouting "Son
of a Bitch."
What sort of a war indeed!
A kitchen was set up and we started
getting hot meals. With little happening around our perimeter, several of us
decided to go to the beach and try some hand-grenade fishing. Wearing
nothing but undershorts and boots, we proceeded to the coast — a distance of
only a few hundred yards. Moving down the beach, we came upon some chickens.
Well, this was much better than fish,
so we proceeded to shoot as many as possible.
I had only one clip of ammo for the Tommy gun and I had no idea of
how many rounds I had fired getting chickens. While the other men picked up the
chickens, I moved further down the beach to a point where a large boulder
projected out over the waters edge. To get by it, I had to stoop. As I
passed under the boulder and moved further down the beach, I came upon two
Moving to the rear of these huts, I surprised two Japanese soldiers who
were sitting on the ground and eating the hearts of "palm trees." I stopped,
raised my Tommy gun and shouted, "Hold it, you sons of bitches!"
The soldier farthest from me dove around the corner of the hut, with his gun in his hand. As I turned to see that he was not coming around to get to me, the other soldier jumped and ran down the beach. I dashed out after them, brought the Tommy gun up to my shoulder, and shouted, "I'll cut you bastards in half!" I squeezed the trigger. One round fired, and that was a miss. I had spent all my ammo on chickens!
The other men heard the shot and came running, but they only glimpsed the two
Japanese soldiers as they disappeared into cover. (Many years later, at the 503d
reunion, they would kid me about standing there on the beach, with my Thompson
up to my shoulder, shouting, "Bang, bang, bang!" at the Japanese running away
from me. Some things are harder to live down than others.)
Finding the area around the airstrip
clear of Japanese and chickens, we started pushing across the island, following
paths made by either the Japanese or the Natives. On one occasion I was
following a path that I was sure was made by the Japanese.
I drew this conclusion because the path had vines fastened to trees and
draped along one side. Natives did not need this to move in the dark.
As I rounded a turn, a sniper fired at me — putting a hole in my right
sleeve, just below the shoulder. I hit the ground instantly, quickly
rolling to my right. He fired a
second shot which missed me completely.
However, that shot gave me his position:
he was in a tree about 300 feet in front of me, totally exposed. I sighted across the sights on the Tommy gun and hit him with
a burst of three rounds.
Thinking about this later, as I
I will never know how he missed his opportunity to get me.
My best guess is that I surprised him before he’d reached his firing
position in the tree.
Because of the strain involved,
scouts were rotated at short intervals.
I do not remember the name of the scout who led the second platoon, but
it was he who relieved me. Within three minutes after taking the lead, he was
hit by a burst from a machine gun. The Japanese had dug in on a coral hill and
were waiting for us. We took whatever cover we could find, moved into firing
positions, and battled throughout the day and into the night. Daylight came and
we put feelers out to see if the Japanese were still there. They had moved out
and the scouts body was gone.
We moved up the hill into the
evacuated Japanese positions. There, we found
him. His body had been
carved as though he were a mere piece of beef. All the flesh was gone from
his legs, arms, buttocks and chest and his heart and kidneys were missing.
We had no doubt that they were eating our dead.
No prisoners, we vowed to ourselves.
Continuing on, we hit the Japanese
again. This time we saw them before they saw us. A fire-fight started and we set
up 60 mm mortars to blast them out of their positions. Suddenly, a man near the
mortar positions was hit by a sniper hidden in a tree.
The sniper was smart, only firing when there was a lot of shooting going on
along the front line.
Although we pinpointed the tree he was hiding in, we could not see him,
even when we were directly under the tree. Suddenly, whether by accident or
design, I don’t know to this day,
one of the mortar rounds fell short and exploded in the top of the tree.
Down came the sniper, tumbling to the ground amid the hoops of our joy.
After having served upfront for some time,
my squad earned the good fortune to
be sent to the rear in order to rest.
We were milling around, listening to the sounds of 25’s and 30’s going off.
Suddenly, a bullet missed my right ear by a fraction of an inch! Damn! I
hit the ground face down beside a trooper who had already taken cover, my ear
ringing loudly. Just when I was happy I was hidden from the sniper,
another bullet hit the ground between us.
The trooper next to me jumped up and ran around in three small circles, and then
dropped back into his original position.
I still chuckle at his confusion.
That second shot was the snipers
undoing. From my prone position,
I was looking straight at him. He was in a large tree, which I judged to
be about 300 yards out. He had built a platform in the tree and he too was
laying prone. So my target was his
helmet, which I could see shifting back and forth as he looked for another
target. It was the sight of his
helmet, 300 yards out, that brought
back the memory of another shot that had brought me confidence in what I needed
As I looked at my target, I recalled
a time not so long ago when my Australian friend, Berto Poppi and I were in the
On that occasion I had fired a shot from a .45 pistol into a large tree.
Berto asked me, challenge like with his .22 in hand,
if I thought I could hit the hole that the .45 slug had made.
Taking his .22, I drew a tight sight on the hole and hit it dead center.
It appeared to me the helmet was
about the same size as the hole made by the .45.
My Thompson submachine gun would be ineffective at this range, so
I borrowed a rifle from the trooper next to me, Beuford Adams.
I zeroed in and commented, "This one's for Berto." I took a tight bead on
the target and squeezed off a shot. I saw a flash as the bullet hit. The
sniper's rifle fell to the ground and his head shifted to my right. I squeezed
off another shot. Again, I saw a flash on the Japanese helmet.
Buford turned to me and asked, "Who
the hell is Berto?" I don't remember ever answering him, but asked him "What
kind of ammo do you have in your gun?" He replied, "Blue Goose."
So that explained the flashes I saw when my bullets hit their
target. (Blue Goose is the name given to the .30 caliber explosive ammunition
used in aircraft machine guns.)
A few of the men had started using
Blue Goose after we confirmed that the Japanese were turning their .25 caliber
slugs around for ambush fighting to make them tumble in flight. When one of
their bullets hit a man, it tore an awful hole.
The fighting continued throughout the
day. The people back at the airstrip tried to deliver K-rations to us,
using an artillery spotter plane. The pilot would fly over our lines and drop
crates of food. Unfortunately, most of the crates hit the Japanese positions.
The most any of us received was one tenth of a box of K-ration. This amounted to
one can of meat, or bacon and eggs, per squad.
We spent the night without incident.
When morning came the word came to move forward. As the lead scout, I
moved the platoon to a position atop a hill. We were roughly 500 yards from the
who were dug in on a coral, jungle-covered hill. The terrain we were
approaching through was 6-foot high Kunai grass, sloping downhill toward the
base of the hill occupied by the Japanese. To keep from exposing ourselves, we
crept down the hill on our bellies.
When we were about halfway to the Japanese positions, the Seabees started firing
their 75mm howitzers. The first shell came through the Kunai grass, so close to
me that I could feel its heat and the noise was unlike anything I had ever heard
before. It scared me so badly that I became shaky. The shell exploded at
the base of the hill, about 300 feet in front of me.
I do not remember how many shells were fired before word was radioed back
to cease fire, but none of the others were as close to me as that first one. I
learned later that the howitzers were firing at maximum range (11 miles) and
could not quite reach the Japanese positions. Their falling trajectory took them
through the Kunai grass and into the base of the hill we were attacking.
Moving down to the base of the hill directly in front of the Japanese,
we took advantage of the jungle to regroup for the final assault. Our topkick
came over to ask me to lead the assault. Seeing my state of terror, he turned to
the second scout and told him to take over. (I did not argue the point). Unaware
of my experience with the shell, he probably thought I was developing battle
fatigue. Whatever the case, he told me to hold my position until the last man in
the squad had entered the jungle.
The squad passed by me, until the last man was about to get up and go. There
were sounds of Japanese 25’s going off and the bolts on their rifles slamming
shut as they reloaded. Suddenly, our men panicked. They came running out of the
jungle as though they were being chased by the devil himself.
As the next to the last man emerged, he turned and fired his M-1 point
blank at what he thought was a Japanese soldier chasing him.
As it turned out, the man
immediately behind him was a member of our squad. I have no idea how that shot
missed. I can only think it was an
act of God.
failed to take the hill, we pulled back to the positions we had held when we
initially engaged these troops. Taking firing positions, we waited for the hot
food we had been told was being delivered to us. It was to be brought by our
company cooks, armed and leading a group of Native carriers. We waited, but they
never arrived. We later learned that they had been fired upon by a sniper. That
was enough for our brave ‘cook in command’. Though no one had been hit, they
proceeded to bury our food where they stood and returned to base camp.
Much later in the war, the leader of
this failed food train was awarded the Silver Star for his actions. His award
was accompanied by the hisses and boos from the regiment.
A jungle CP could be any shady area where there was a field telephone, a bench and a table or two. Lt. Smith sits.
The following morning I received one of the most dreaded orders I was ever
given. I was told to take two men and to cut a trail to our left, making as much
noise as possible. We were the bait
to draw fire from the Japanese, to test whether they had moved in that direction
during the night.
I could only think that this was the
punishment for my failure the day before.
We journeyed out about 200 yards, hacking and banging on rocks and trees. Each
minute was my last minute on Earth, but nothing happened. We were ordered back.
Rejoining the squad, we moved
cautiously forward into and through the Japanese positions of the day before.
Initially moving with caution, we met the unmistakably awful odor of rotting
flesh. We hurried to get away from
the stench. Our route took us out of the rain forest and into an open area where
the trail followed a ridge. Walking single file, we pressed forward.
A grenade exploded approximately 300 feet ahead of us. Moving forward to the
point of the explosion, we found a Japanese soldier with his guts blown out,
lying between the fin roots of a large tree. We shrugged it off, assuming he was
chicken and took the easy way out.
What sort of fear makes using your own grenade the easy way to die?
It troubled me.
Within a mile further down the trail,
the same thing happened again: another grenade explosion for no apparent reason,
another dismembered Japanese body.
Someone in our group changed our minds.
Our assumptions of these men
taking the easy way out was all wrong. They were actually death outposts. Each
explosion of a Japanese hand grenade was a message to the main force, letting
them know exactly where we were. The soldiers who were sacrificed apparently
were too sick to keep up with the main body of troops.
Faced with this conclusion, our
tactics became cut-throat - literally.
We would watch the trail ahead for anything large enough to hide a
Japanese soldier. Then we would send a man around to the flank. If he spotted
one, he would slip up on him, taking him from the rear with a knife, before he
had time to detonate the grenade.
When I had completed my time out
front, I was relieved and placed next to Andy Pacella, the last man in the
squad. Andy was the second scout. We were moving through fairly open country,
along the base of a hill, when Andy fired. Turning to see what he was shooting
at, I saw a Japanese soldier starting to bend forward. He fired a second
shot and the Japanese fell to the ground, face forward with his knees
pulled up against his chest . He was gasping for breath. I walked over to him,
pulled my .38 revolver from its holster and put one shot through the top of his
head. This stopped his suffering. Then, grabbing his feet, I straightened him
out on his stomach, crossed his legs and rolled him over for inspection. The
lieutenant in charge of the patrol came over and commented, "Just like shooting
hogs." I thought to myself, "Oh no, hogs don't kill and eat humans."
The Japanese still caused us some
very unpleasant surprises. Continuing on, we came into a large grassy area that was
sparsely covered by trees. To the right, in the distance, we could see the
ocean. Our patrol moved south, parallel to the shoreline. Suddenly,
there was a yell, and three quick shots.
One of our men had stepped into a foxhole with a Japanese soldier still
occupying it! He recovered his footing as though he had been shot out of
the hole by a slingshot, firing the shots point blank into the Japanese soldier. He sat down, wiping his forehead. The position he had stepped
directly into was a trap-door sniper's hole.
sniper's holes were just deep enough to kneel in and covered with a
camouflage lid which was made from small tree limbs and grass. This would
allow them to rise up, pick a target, shoot and disappear from sight. We gave
them the name "Trap-door Snipers." With the threat of snipers hiding in the
grass around us, the order was given to spread out shoulder to shoulder and to
advance across the area. I do not recall that we uncovered any more
Reaching the jungle again, I was
placed out front to lead the way. My route took me through a swamp area with
large mango trees whose roots protruded into the water. Suddenly, there
were loud clanking noises. My first thought, illogical as it could possibly be
I hit the ground and waited.
The noise stopped as fast as it had
Rising from the ground where I had
dropped when I heard the first clank, I moved slowly forward. Roughly
twenty feet to my right, in about four feet of water, were giant clams. They had
been washed into the Mangrove swamp and were responsible for the noise.
Apparently, they would slam their shells shut whenever they detected motion.
As I moved on, this was confirmed: as I passed more open clams, I saw them
Having moved through the swamp area, the company followed the trail as it
turned inland. At this point, I was relieved and my squad was moved to the
Following the trail we came to a fresh water spring. The water flowed from the
ground into a pool, roughly 30 feet by 50 feet in size. Lying in the pool
was a badly decomposed Japanese body. There were strings of decay extending
toward the surface of the pool from his body.
We had been told that this was the only fresh water on the Island and our
‘floater’ was it’s last Japanese guardian.
We filled our canteens
gingerly, careful not to stir up the crud and thereby further contaminate the
In this location, we dug foxholes and cut fire lanes toward the pool. One
trooper flushed out one of the enemy while cutting his fire lane. The Jap
soldier came running toward us with the trooper chasing him and swinging his
machete. The trooper caught up to the fleeing Japanese soldier, swung his
machete, and decapitated him. The corpse's head fell onto his left shoulder, as
the body fell to the ground.
With our foxholes dug and our fire lanes cut, we started booby-trapping the area
around the water hole. We set hand grenades in strategic places around the pool.
I modified one grenade by pouring it almost full of powder and arming it with a
"myrtle switch" - an instantaneous detonator.
Next I tied a wire to the ring and ran the wire to my foxhole, where a
pull on the wire would set off the grenade. In the middle of my fire lane,
about 100 feet from the pool, there was a tree with a diameter of about three feet.
I placed the grenade in the fork of the tree, about four-foot off the
ground. With everything in place, we settled in for the night. Three men
occupied each foxhole.
the night, while the man on my right was on watch, a large snake made its way
across our foxhole. It passed across my chest and across the legs of the
man on watch. The snake appeared to be about 20 ft long. It passed over us and
went on about its business, but it took about 30 seconds for the man on watch to
get over his fright. He kept hitting me on the chest and repeating over and
over, "Did you see that?" "Did you see that!"
To keep him from exposing our position to any Japanese that might be nearby, I
sat up and placed my hand across his mouth. Later that night, hand
grenades did start popping.
Detonators were going off, but the hand grenades were duds. Suddenly, I saw a
form pass from my right and toward the tree in which I had placed the grenade.
I pulled the wire, exploding the grenade. For the rest of the night, there was
no more activity.
The following morning, we went out to
pick up the unexploded booby traps. While doing this our BAR gunner came upon a
Japanese soldier. He was sitting in the bush with his left hand blown off. A
short burst from the BAR finished him off.
We did bury the enemy dead whenever
we could, but as a tactic to make the Japanese fear us, it was common
practice to bury the dead enemy with one arm remaining above ground. This
allowed the wild dogs on the island to consume the body. Sometimes we did take a
few prisoners, but we had no way to take them with us. So someone devised a
holding technique, which we called the Indian Death Lock, to hold the enemy
prisoners until we returned — if we returned. We would find a tree approximately
6 to 8 inches in diameter, slide the prisoner up the tree, with his arms tied
around the tree. Then, crossing his legs around the tree, we would force his
left foot inside and over his right knee. Using his Japanese belt of a
thousand stitches as a hangman's noose we would fasten it around his neck with a
slip knot and tie the other end higher up to the tree trunk. As long as the
prisoner had strength in his legs and arms, he could hang on. If his strength
gave out, he was choked to death. I only knew of this happening once.
Although we had little to eat, things became more relaxed. We felt relieved that
there had been no enemy soldiers found by the patrols that had been sent out to
check the area around the perimeter. We members of G Company got together to
consolidate whatever food we had,
but found it was very little. However, one man had been saving some coffee. This
was the treat of all treats. Immediately, we set out to gather
firewood. One of our men wandered out into the bush to gather wood.
A young Indian, whom we had nicknamed Chief, had just joined the outfit as a
replacement. He swore he could smell a Japanese soldier. Hearing the noise the
gatherer was making and thinking it was a Japanese, Chief fired a burst from his
Tommy gun in that direction. Our man, 'Punchy' Crosier, was hit in the
hand, the leg, and had a chunk cut out of his penis.
He came charging out of the bush, cussing a blue streak. One of the only
printable curses, and only barely so, involved him taking an oath “to kill
that effing Indian if lose one inch of my
Meanwhile, the Lieutenant had gone to
the water hole to shave and clean up. Filling his helmet with water, he stepped
up on the bank and applied soap to his face. Then, with a small mirror, he
prepared to shave. Suddenly, in the mirror he saw a Japanese sniper, in
the top of a palm tree on the far side of the pool. He threw the mirror to the
ground and came running toward us, shouting, "Jap! Jap!" The first man to reach
him had a carbine and handed it to the lieutenant, who grabbed it and cautiously
moved back toward the waterhole. Raising the carbine to his shoulder, he
fired at the top of a large coconut palm directly across the water hole. On the
lieutenant's second shot, the Japanese soldier dropped his rifle, sat erect and
raised his hands. The lieutenant fired a third shot, but it, too, missed the
mark. Beuford Adams was standing beside the lieutenant. He was
annoyed by the officer's marksmanship. He raised his M-1 and hit the Japanese at
about the third button on his uniform, killing him instantly. His body
came out of the tree, spread eagle and fell into the water hole , completely
contaminating it by stirring up the decay from the rotting body that still lay
in the pool.
Things quieted down and a fire was
lit and we started making our coffee. One of the men who had been gathering the
wood came in with a sock nearly full of rice. He poured it into a helmet, poured
water over it, stirred it a few times, poured the water off, and added new
water. Then he placed the helmet with the rice and water over the fire. We all
ate the rice. After finishing we asked him where he found the rice. He pointed
to the beheaded Japanese corpse and said, "From him. That's why I had to wash
it; there was blood in it."
To this day, I cannot eat rice —
especially if it has tomato sauce on it.
After we had eaten what little we
had, we milled around, looking at the vegetation and the wild birds. I had
nothing in particular to do, so I wandered to the rear of my position. Against
the rising slope of a hill, I found a small cave that appeared to have been man
made. Thinking that it might have Japanese stores in it, I proceeded to
enter. The cave was only about ten feet deep and terminated against a ledge.
Sliding my hand along the shelf portion of the ledge, I could feel loose, soft
earth. I immediately started
digging. To my surprise, I uncovered a dish that resembled a serving dish we
would use at home. With the dish in my hand to show off, I came out of the
cave. The minute I emerged, a native man of the island came toward me,
indicating by hand signs that it belonged to him. I had no desire to upset
the natives, so I gave it to him and, by handsigns, promised to leave the cave
and its contents alone. I am still amazed that the native could hide that
close to our position without being discovered and wonder how many of our
episodes were witnessed by these unseen eyes.
I learned later that the dinnerware I
had uncovered belonged to a Dutch Mission and that it had been hidden there to
keep it safe from the Japanese.
When we had cleared all the Japanese
from the area of the waterhole, we started our push to the end of the island. We
moved to the edge of the jungle, where we could look out over a beach with many
native buildings. These buildings were erected on poles, just off the beach in
shallow water. To the left of the village was a group of Japanese soldiers
with their backs to the ocean. We emerged from the Jungle ready for a fight, but
the Japanese, rather than firing at us, came charging with fixed bayonets and
swords. It was a turkey shoot. None of the Japanese survived.
After we had stopped shooting and
were milling around on the beach, I noticed the population of the village, men,
women and little children, emerging from the water. They had waded out until
only their noses were above the water and had waited there until the conflict
With the Japanese resistance totally
broken, we dug in around the village. I took this opportunity to take off
my boots and wash my socks. This was the first time my boots had been
removed since we started our push across the island, over a month earlier.
That night, I slept with my boots off and my socks spread out on the sand to
dry. When morning came, my boots and socks were gone. They were nowhere in
sight. Not only were my boots and socks gone, but anything left laying around
had disappeared. Looking around, we saw boots randomly scattered around the
sand. Once we picked them up, we had our answer.
We could see that each had been pulled to a hole in the sand, but that
the boots were too big to go down the hole. Large land crabs, roaming during the
night, had tried to steal them. We dug down in the sand and soon had recovered
our missing articles.
After eating a banana and coconut breakfast, I decided to go fishing.
Another trooper, Getchel, decided to go along. Two very cooperative natives
supplied an outrigger. We set out with the two natives paddling. About a
half mile off-shore, the native in the front of the boat started shouting and
pointing to the water under the boat. Both natives back paddled to stop
our forward motion. The native in the rear grabbed a small stone hatchet and
went over the side.
I watched as he moved to a hole in the coral. There, he began chopping away at
the coral. Then, rising to the boat, he took a stiff wire with a ring bent on
one end, slipped it on his finger and dove back to the hole he had been chopping
on. A cloud of black fluid arose from the hole and obscured my view of the
diver. Seconds later, he popped to the surface holding a large octopus, which he
handed up to me. I grabbed the tentacles and pulled to get it into the
boat, but other tentacles were attached to the hull. I used all my
strength, but I could not break it loose.
Our diver got into the boat, reached over the side and pulled the tentacles
loose from their other end. With the octopus on board, our diver took his
hatchet and cut off a section of tentacle. He handed it to me saying, "Bagoose,
bagoose." I pushed it away. So he offered it to Getchel, who also
refused it. Then he passed it to the native in front, who gladly took it
and started chewing on it. Looking back at me with a broad grin which
exposed his blackened teeth, he repeated, "Bagoose, bagoose," and quickly
consumed the whole chunk. Having enjoyed their treat, the natives started
paddling out to sea.
As they paddled further out, I began to worry. We were no longer within
swimming distance of the island. In fact, when I looked back toward the
island, I could only make out a dull haze where the island should be.
Well, they finally stopped paddling and both men slid into the water. Swimming
with their heads under water, they could determine the greatest population of
fish. They would then point out that area and swim clear of the area. We would
toss grenades at the spot they had indicated. After the grenades exploded,
they would take the stiff wire they carried, dive down, and string fish on the
wire. When their wire was loaded, they would come to the outrigger, where we
As they unloaded the fish we would keep them spread evenly inside the
hull. When the boat was fully loaded, its hull rose only about two inches above
One of the natives brought a Japanese rifle up from the bottom. At the
same time, Getch thought he could see a pistol on the bottom, and he
stripped down to his shorts and went overboard. Seconds later, he came to the
surface with a nose bleed. The water was too deep. He climbed back
into the boat, commenting that the natives had no trouble at all reaching the
bottom. In all, the natives brought up two rifles and the pistol, which my
companion took as a souvenir.
On the next dive, one of the natives
brought up a shelter half tied around about a bushel of yams. When he added that
to our load, our buoyancy changed drastically. Now there was less than one inch
of hull above water. Seconds later, the other Native emerged with another
shelter half of yams. When he placed them in the boat, we went under. Fish
were floating all around the outrigger. I could only think that the sharks
would have to come for this feast.
Hanging onto the submerged hull, I
looked for some reaction from the natives. After all, they knew more about the
waters we were in than I did. The more active of the pair started swimming
out to sea. I watched in amazement as he swam further and further away.
After swimming about three hundred yards, he stood up. The water was only about
four-foot deep. Heaving a sigh of relief, we swam the outrigger out to
where he stood. Together we picked it up, dumped the water, and got back
aboard. The natives stored the yams on the coral reef to pick up
after they delivered my companion and me ashore. We paddled back to where the
fish were floating and picked up all we could find. Then we headed for shore.
That evening, we had a great fish bake over open fires on the beach.
At the time I was not aware that the two natives paddled back to the spot where
we had picked up the Japanese supplies and dove for the remaining items which
they had found lying on the bottom. One of the items they found was a chrome
fingernail clipper. Finally, the native brought it to me, indicating that he did
not know what it was. I held out my hand to take it so I could show him how to
use it, but he was reluctant to let me have it. After I promised him that
I would give it back, he let me have it. I slowly moved the press lever
into the clipping position and demonstrated its action by clipping my nails.
The Native was all smiles and anxious to try it on his nails. I returned
the clipper to him and watched as he clipped one of his nails. Then, satisfied
he could use it, I left.
Later that day, I observed him in a group laughing and appearing to be mystified
about the actions of the native sitting in the middle of the group. When I
wandered over to them, I saw the native with the clipper clipping his nails and
causing the blood to flow over the ends of his fingers. Seeing this I held out
my hand for the nail clipper. Knowing I would not keep it, he placed it in
my hand. Then I took his hand in mine. I indicated a no-no toward his
fingers, letting him know he had cut too much. He seemed to grasp my
meaning. The following day, the Native with the clipper came to me all
smiles and glowing with pride. He wanted to show me how he could clip hairs from
his face. Apparently, the clipper was a better tool than the clam shells they
were using to pull the hair from their faces.
With our mission completed, we packed up and returned to an area overlooking the
airstrip where we had made our initial landing. As a quick way to get us
settled, we were given hammocks to hang between trees. I slept soundly.
In the morning, we were told to take down the hammocks and erect tents. One of
the hammocks we took down hung on our outer perimeter. It belonged to a man who
had been evacuated to the hospital. He had left all his gear in the
hammock. That hammock had been knifed and slashed. Apparently, a die-hard
Japanese thought the man's barracks bag was a person.
Since we had no assigned duties, we spent our days getting our equipment
in order, playing cards or just sitting around having bull sessions.
My time was usually spent sitting on the high ground along the airstrip and
watching the P-40's come in and take off. They appeared to be dancing as they
bounced down the strip. On one occasion, a Beechcraft 12 seater came in
and as its wheels hit the runway, it veered left and hit the embankment.
It immediately burst into flames.
No one got out. Since it was not a military aircraft,
I have often wondered who was on that plane.
On about the third or fourth night
back at the airstrip, we were surprised by an air attack. We had an open view
across the runway and the open sea. So, we were in an ideal spot to watch the
action. A single plane came in and anti-aircraft fire opened up from the
ships lying off-shore and from the guns on-shore. The tracers made a fiery
umbrella as they crossed each others path at the peak of their arcs. The
plane could be seen quite clearly, being lit up by the exploding shells.
To my amazement, that plane continued on course and dropped its bomb squarely
atop the Japanese fuel dump. They had to abandon that fuel dump when we took the
island with our own air attack.