ANKER, Wilbur R.
Cpl.
32130064
 
 24 July 1944*
Noemfoor
 
 

* The given date of death is probably incorrect.
Anker was most likely killed on 18 July.

The rest of the battalion, which was now at Inasi, was busy patrolling. After 1st Battalion's contact with the large Japanese force, attention was focused on Hill 670. Captain Samuel Smith’s "E" Company was sent from Inasi toward Hill 670 with 1st Lt Donald E. Abbott’s platoon leading. There were approximately 120 men in the patrol. When Abbott's scouts Kittleson and Nelson got within a mile of the hill, they contacted a strong enemy force, including a machine gun. In response to the aussault by the two scouts, the machine gun had fired a short burst. Lt. Don Abbott was hit in the chin and neck by fragments of a bullet which had hit a banyan tree root behind which he had taken shelter. A second bullet, slowed by its passage through the banyan root, also hit him squarely in the middle of his chest, but did not penetrate completely.  He flicked it out, still hot and slippery, with his fingernail. One of the men from the attached lmg platoon, Cpl. Wilbur R. Anker, was hit in the spleen, a would which would prove fatal. Pvt. Frank Munoz’s shoulder was shattered by a machine gun burst. Pfc Frank Molina was hit in the left knee by grenade fragments. It was growing dark. The company dug-in for the night. There was nothing Doctor Bradford could do for Anker but inject him with morphine to reduce his agony. The next morning the enemy was gone. The casualties needed immediate medical treatment and would have to be carried up and down the hills for seven miles. Anker’s body was covered by leaves and brush and the wounded were assisted back to Inasi. Even with the help of two Formosans (members of Japanese labor battalions) who had been fortunate enough to survive their surrender, they did not reach the village until almost dark.

Great efforts were made to recover every American body for burial in a cemetery, and Anker's was no exception. Orders issued that "F" Company send a platoon to guard a party of cooks to recover Anker’s body. 1st Lt. Ben Luscomb, "E" Company, would be their guide to locate the body. The next morning Calhoun led his 1st platoon to Hill 390 and took the main trail north which would, according to the briefing, would lead to Hill 670. Luscomb would have to guide them when they reached the area.

Calhoun and his men arrived at the company command post (CP) soon after first light in a heavy rain. Mail had come in late the previous afternoon, the first mail to arrive since Hollandia. McRoberts did not allow them time to read their mail because they had a long way to go and to return in one day. After slipping and sliding for about two miles Calhoun stopped the platoon for a break. Despite heavy rain they got ten minutes to hurriedly scan their mail while trying to protect it under their ponchos.

 Moving out, McCarter soon signaled “enemy in sight”. Calhoun was in his usual position, following Powell, the 2nd scout. He placed Ball behind the lead squad in case he was pinned down, and Wurtez’s position was behind the 2nd squad in order to hasten deployment. Moving up a nearer to Powell, Calhoun could see a man wearing only a loin cloth on the trail moving up a slight incline to a knoll covered by dense underbrush. A Japanese voice sang out from the knoll, evidently challenging them. McCarter yelled back “Ho!” The area was covered by an umbrella of tall trees, but there was little underbrush, such that visibility was good. McCarter and Powell had broken into a trot, so Calhoun and Luscomb had to go on the double with the platoon following suit. After a couple of more vocal exchanges with McCarter, the Japanese opened fire, but McCarter was already on them with his TSMG. Powell was right behind. They killed three riflemen. They got a fleeting glance of a fourth in the brush and fired in his direction, but a search turned up no one. The half-naked one was never seen. There were more than enough Japanese canteens and their issue “billies” (individual cooking cans) to go around. A force of some 40- 50 men had been occupying this position. Calhoun reasoned that the main body was out foraging for food, and that the men they had just encountered had been left to guard their gear and a large amount of ammunition, including land mines and hand grenades. The Woodpecker HMG was also still in place. Undoubtedly, the Japanese were not on guard, or the Juki would have been manned. The scouts had caught them away from the gun, and they were dead before they could get to it.

As Calhoun’s men set about destroying the Japanese armaments, Luscomb sought the trail. The single trail branched into several minor trails. The map did not even show a north-south trail. It was afternoon by the time the Japanese munitions were destroyed and the Juki disabled. Calhoun’s orders were to be back before dark, so he returned to the base. Anker's body would have to stay another night undisturbed, and unrecovered.

The next day, 20 July, Ed Flash’s 2nd platoon guarded Luscomb and the carrying detail. Instead of following Calhoun's route, they moved to the east along the Namber-Inasi Trail until they neared the Inasi garden where the forest was less dense. Following a compass azimuth of 360 degrees (due north) they intersected the Trail "E" Company had followed (which also was not on the map). Luscomb found the body and they retrieved it.

 

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