Fishman, 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, "D" Co. cradles his BAR while on patrol - Negros, May 1945)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maurice St. Germain of Vermont - the entire 2d Bn was loaded on a train from Fabrica to Malapasoc - and was bombed by a wayward B-24.  

 

 

 

 

"Liberation Ceremony" by Paul Sample (Army Art Collection)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION   CHRONOLOGY

 
PHASE I
PHASE II PHASE III PHASE IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHASE  I

8 APRIL to 12 MAY 1945

 

Phase I of the 503rd's Negros operation began with its leading elements of crossing the initial point at 0800 on 9 April 1945.  We entered with a force numbering 116 officers and 1670 enlisted men.

"9 April 1945 – “F Company was given the mission of going to and patrolling the area of SAN ISIDRO, which was about 4-5 miles away as the crow flies . . . and then moving south towards SINAYPANAN..”

Bill Calhoun, F Co.

9 April 1945:  The third platoon under Lt, Watkins patrolled area for 1500 yards south of Co. perimeter from 0900-1145.  No enemy contact. At 1735 seven rounds of enemy 40 mm AA were received.  Pvt. Macke was slightly wounded by shrapnel..”

(Extract - D Company history)

I remember this very well as it was the first time I had ever been under artillery fire.  The fire may have been heavier then 40 mm.

RCT Periodic Report No. 4, 101600 April-111600 April

Infantry – After a night of nil activity, our assault Bn resumed the attack behind artillery and mortar barrage.  As the advance progressed it was met with MG fire.  Fire fight ensued.  The position was silenced, and two MG’s and one 20mm were found demolished. Two enemy dead found.  E Company was brought up on the right flank and advance continued with 3 companys abreast.  The advance has been a continued fire fight against pill boxes and entrenched riflemen on both sides of the route of advance.  As period closed the fire fight was continuing.  Our troops are em�ploying tanks and artillery wherever practical.

Results of operations - Advance slowly against a well entrenched enemy heavily armed with automatic weapons.  By using all weapons at our disposal the enemy is slowly retreating further into the hills.  As yet we have had no artillery fire returned.  A few rounds of 40 mm at various intervals has been employed by the enemy." 

I never saw a tank the entire time I was on Negros, which was from 7 April until we left for Japan in November.

“The staff member at RCT headquarters who was recording the periodic reports was not keeping up to date.  Not only had F Company received artillery fire but so had others as noted in D Company's history..”

Bill Calhoun, F Co.

 

                                                                                               

 

Upon reflection, it is not possible for me to continue with all daily accounts and still be brief.  The 2nd Bn. advanced eastward with the engineers extending the building of Tokaido Road as we advanced. The country was growing more rugged, as described by Bill Calhoun.  The flat fields were long past.  It was now parallel ridges separated by deep draws.  The closer we came to the foothills the higher the ridges, which were mostly clean of trees and covered by grass about three feet tall.  Some of the deeper draws were heavily wooded, but most of them were clear with clumps of vegetation such as banana plants.  The enemy defenses were growing more elab�orate.  Bunkers containing machine guns were placed so that they were mutually supporting.  The bunkers were deeply buried.  Trenches were dug in the reverse slopes connecting the bunkers.  A lot of planning and work had been put into the construction of these defensive works.  The flanks were well covered or impos�sible making flanking movements more perilous than frontal attacks.

  19 April 1945 – “At this time the 2nd Bn was replacing the 3rd Bn. as the assault battalion.  F Company had been following the assault battalion and patrolling the flanks.  We, along with the rest of the battalion, moved to the front.  I believe the battalion was just to the south of TOKAIDO ROAD..”

Bill Calhoun, F Co.

(This note by Calhoun is the basis upon which I made the earlier assumption that the 3rd Bn. was the initial assault Bn. for Phase I.) As stated earlier, this account is 2nd battalion oriented only because the author has no 3rd battalion accounts at this time.  From Calhoun's comments it is clear that the 3rd battalion as the assault battalion up to this time was encountering the same type of enemy resistance, and, perhaps, even heavier than was the 2nd Bn. Some of the 3rd Bn. activities are related in the following Regimental Period�ic Report.

Periodic Report No. 13, 201600-211600 April 1945. 

Infantry: The fire fights in progress at 201500 continued unabated with no gain in ground.  Our troops main�tained the positions reached and dug in.  During the night MG and mortar fire again harassed our forward elements . . .  In our assault to secure high ground to the front "D", "E", "F", and "G" all met with mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire from well dug in enemy positions.  "G" company . . . was attempting to se�cure high ground to its immediate front as the period closed.  If secured "G" Co can aid the 2nd Bn with flanking fire and fire on enemy caves in reverse slopes.. 

The report at this point actually stated 1st Bn., but that has to be incorrect because the 1st Bn. was still on Mindoro. The Report continues…  

Companies "D", "E", and "F" were engaged in fire fights to their front as the period closed.  "I" Co patrols to the right and left of route of advance reported nil contact during the period. 

This statement suggests that "I" Co was split if they were both right and left flankers.  Continuing,

"H" Co patrolling our left flank encountered a group of enemy . . . who withdrew upon being fired upon.  Another "H" Co patrol found and killed one enemy at an apparent CP.*. 

  This statement indicates the "H" Co was the northernmost unit at this time on the sweep across the beginning of the foothills east towards the mountains.  They were, thus, located on the left flank.  Their proximity to the 2nd En. is not known.  Discussion of securing high ground to the front really had little meaning.  Each succeeding ridge was held by the Japanese and each ‘next ridge’ became the high ground, always under their control until we forced them off it.

 

Periodic Report No. 14, 211500 April-221500 April

Infantry - "G" Co., advancing with its objective the high ground was forced to withdraw under heavy ma�chine gun and mortar fire.  The enemy lost a known 10 KIA during the action. "H" Co reported 1 enemy KIA attempting observation of the position. 2nd En. constituted our forward elements continued its fire fight until dark and consolidated on the 100 yards gained.  Mortar fire fell on "E" and "F" Co's during the night killing 4 and wounding 3. "H" Co. repulsed an estimated 60-70 enemy attacking in three columns.  The enemy left a known 10 KIA before withdrawing

RESULTS OF OPERATION - Our advance, though small in yardage, gained valuable high ground to our front and flanks.  It is believed "H" Co engaged and inflicted severe casualties on approximately 25% of the enemy's right sector troops.  This estimate is based on G-2 reports of approximately 200 enemy in that vicinity.

Any ‘summary in a nutshell’ often belongs there, but Bill Calhoun’s following comments are as concise a coverage of Phase I of the Negros mission as it’s possible to find. 

22 April 1945 – “During the day we (“F” Co.) drew considerable machine gun and rifle fire from this hill and we thought the Japs were preparing to counter-attack.  As we were learning, though, this was a different breed of Japs from the gung-ho banzai types we knew, especially the Jap Marines on Corregidor.  These Japs made everything hard.  They dug in deep in well prepared positions and waited for us to dig them out.  Then at the last moment they would retreat to the next prepared position, and we'd start over again.  As things were going here we were suffering as many or more casualties than the Japs.  We liked the banzai type who wanted to die for the Emperor.

We were still in open country although the fields were now broken into ridges and draws.  We could look back for miles and miles across the land receding toward the sea.  It was easy to see why the Japs could follow our movements.  Looking ahead we could see the forested foothills still some distance away.  There looming behind them were some tall mountains whose tops were hidden by clouds' most of the day.

Bill Calhoun, F Co.

On 25 April 1945, the 1st Battalion  finally joined with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions in the Negros mission, and the Reports begin to list each battalion's actions under separately numbered paragraphs. The 1st Bn. is now responsible for the RCT's left flank (north) relieving "H" Co. The 3rd Bn. is responsible for the right flank.  "G" and "I" companies are still engaged with the well-entrenched enemy who have been holding up "G" Co. for several days.

 

Periodic Report No. 17, 251500 April-261500 April

INFANTRY: …2nd Bn. "D" Co received four rounds knee mortar fire. . . . "D" Co began an assault on the high ground after a concentrated barrage from artillery, tanks, and mortar fire practically neutralized the ridge.  An enemy machine gun and knee mortar were captured.  "E” Co. sustained a dawn attack by an estimated 30 enemy.  Twenty were killed at point-blank range including one officer.  "F" Co. moved a platoon to the high ground vacated by "D" Co. 

RESULTS OF OPERATION:  With the addition of our third (1st) Bn Combat Team, the RCT has begun to exploit the extreme left flank to a much greater width.  This area has been viewed with suspicion since the operation began and is now proven to contain enemy strong points.  The early morning attack seems to indicate that the continued pressure and assaults are contracting the enemy's forces with the results that he is attempting to hold his position by counter-attack. 

This supposition, in my view, was just wishful thinking on the part of someone at regiment who didn't have the foggiest notion either of what was going on or what we were really up against.  It may have made good reading at the higher echelons.  As events unfolded over the next 3 months it was evident that any contraction of Japanese forces was their choice and not because of our actions.  In hindsight it might be interesting to conjecture as to what would have happened had they put up a main line of resistance.  With our air and artillery superiority that may have been the worst thing they could have done. General Kono was waging a really effective in-depth defense.  At no time during the Negros campaign did we have the Japanese "just where we wanted them."

  The next two weeks were to be a continuation of the scenario that has been related up to this point.  About this time, according to Bill Calhoun, the company commanders were being flown over the Jap lines in liaison planes for artillery observation.  This gave a good view of the terrain we were to take. Calhoun recalls that the company commanders were ‘not overjoyed’ with the flights.  “The pilots flew low to permit good observation.  The Japs liked to fire at the low flying planes and some of the bullets came uncomfortably close,” Bill commented. 

I don't recall being ever critiqued on the Negros mission prior to or during the mission.  But like most of the uninformed, we all could see the mountains to the East, and we knew that the Japanese had been slowly fall�ing back towards them (about 6 miles in 21 days).  We weren't overjoyed either as the ground to our front got higher and higher and we were assaulting ridge after ridge.  There was a movie concerning the Korean War entitled "Take the High Ground."  A movie concerning Negros could very well have been called "The Japs Always Have the High Ground."

The "History, 503rd RCT, Phase X" states in the 28 April entry made at 2400 hours: 

"We have more casualties than the enemy - and there are 18,000 of them. Progress is extremely slow." 

The 18,000 estimate is a complete surprise to me.  Perhaps someone was being a bit more realistic, but that figure seems a little high.  It would be interesting to read the history of the 185th RCT of the 40th Infantry Division as to their activities at this time.  Negros, of course, is a fair sized island but most of the active pushing against the Japanese was being undertaken by the troopers of the 503rd PRCT.

29 April 1945 - "During the night the 1st platoon perimeter came under enemy mortar fire which resulted in the death of Pfc. Ralph Iverson and Pvt. Dallas Workman.”

(From D Company history)

29 April 1945 - This was our last defensive perimeter on Tokaido Road ~ the left flank of the 185th Infantry RCT. The company would remain here until 12 May. . . . We would establish an outpost a mile up in the rain forested foothills.  The trail led to this high hill in the heavy forest.  We would patrol heavily every day, but the company perimeter would remain here until 12 May.

 Bill Calhoun, F Co.

Periodic Report No. 23, 011500 May - 021500 May

RESULTS OF OPERATIONS.  The direction of the RTC advance changed from SE to NE and extensive reconnaissance of the route to be taken later in force was made.  Nil contact -has been esta�blished at close of period.  Reconnaissance further SE established the fact that at least part of the enemy's forces are still in that direction.  Our immediate strategy is to split the enemy in the area from the SE.  A holding force of one En. will be maintained at the RCT limiting point.  (Author's comment -  I don't know for sure which En. received this assignment. It was probably the 3rd En.)

Periodic Report No. 28, 061500 May - 071500 May 

RESULTS OF ENEMY OPERATIONS: Further exploration of the area to the S and W (PATOG Area) continues to confirm the belief the enemy has withdrawn all his forces into the mountains.  A few stragglers have been found but no organization has been met.  There are in�dications the enemy may have a few troops E of the TAYAP area."

The next week was spent patrolling by all companies but with little enemy contact.

12 May 45 :  "Co. entrucked at 0800 and moved to Regt CP area at 1200.  En. convoy formed and En. moved through SILAY and BACOLOD to area app 500 yards SW of Hill 4055 and 5 Kilo NE of MURCIA and set up perimeter appr. 1000 yds S of 160th RCT's right flank.

 (Extract - D Company history)

12 May 45:  Company moved by truck by way of SILAY and BACC)LOD to the right flank of 160th Inf Regt 20 miles east of BACOLOD.

 (Extract - E Company history)

12 May 45: No entry.

(Extract - F Company history) 

12 May 1945 -  This morning "F" Company marched back to the Bn. Command Post and entrucked.  The entire battalion moved out in a convoy and went to BACOLOD. . . . We. .  . moved south along Highway Number One.  After traveling a distance we turned off on a dirt road and headed east toward the mountains which loomed high in the distance.  We could not see the cloud covered tops. We detrucked in the area of MURCIA.  The tall grass was soggy wet.  It had been, and still was raining steadily.  We set up a bivouac for the night.  Our wet clothes and equipment would remain in the same condition for the coming three weeks.  Tomorrow we would be back in the steaming, wet rain forest  -  New Guinea all over again.

The RCT S-1’s history journal states:-

"11 May 1945, 2130:  RCT minus one Bn. will deploy to new area.  Details not available as yet."  131545 May 45: “G-3 advises Col Lawne that 131200 3rd En. comes under the tactical control of CO 185th Infantry."  (The date should read 12 May)    132400 May 1945: "Tactical plan: 503rd takes up position in saddle of mountains while 160th and 185th attack N and drive the enemy into our position for the slaughter." 

“This has to be one of the worst jokes of the campaign,” comments Bill Calhoun.   “The 40th Division RCT's were not coming out of their fortresses to drive anyone anywhere.  There was nothing funny about the joke though because it was on us."  I fail to understand the direction (N) of the proposed 160th and 185th attack.  In so-called Phase I, if the 503rd was initially protecting and operating on the left flank of the 185th and then moved on 12 May to a position 1000 yards S of the 160th RCT's right flank, that means at the end of Phase I our battle line from North to South should have been 1st Bn. 503rd, 2nd Bn. 503rd, 3rd Bn. 503rd, 185th RCT, and 160th RCT (with the latter two located between Dos Hermanos in the north and Murcia in the south.)  Any sweep by the 40th Division RCT's would have to have been towards the South.   Bill Calhoun was probably right, as a sweep towards the North was going to be carried out by the 1st and 2nd Bn. of the 503rd.  The positions of the 185th and 160th may also suggest why the 40th kept control of the 3rd Bn. of the 503rd.  The 40th wanted to keep them on their left flank.

When 15 May 1945 brought PHASE 1 to a close, the 503rd’s casualties were 104 KIA, and 294 WIA.  Enemy 484 KIA, 5 POW.

“Phase I had ended.  Nothing like it had we seen before or would see during the remainder of the war.  It was a slugging infantry war.  We were a lightly armed airborne unit and had to learn to fight with heavy support, i.e., tanks, self-propelled guns, heavy mortars and heavier artillery.  We had to learn at the expense of good men's lives.”

Bill Calhoun, F Co.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION   CHRONOLOGY

 
PHASE I
PHASE II PHASE III PHASE IV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

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