At several reunions this was brought up, and we wondered if he had. died. At the Minnesota reunion, who should show up but Finley. He had read about the Reunion in the paper and came to see if it could be his old outfit. Up until this time we all thought he was dead.

We set up within the perimeter of the Company we had just come through before being run off the hill. It was just about dark, and after the all-day march and the action we had been through, I can never remember being as tired as I was then. That night I can remember George Kojima saying to Johnnie Grooms, "There are Japs out there!" Johnnie said, "George, you're seeing things, go to sleep." George responded, "You watch when the moon goes behind the clouds, they will move." When the moon went behind the clouds, our machine gun opened up, and I knew they had to be close, because everyone knows it's a No-No to fire an automatic weapon at night unless absolutely necessary. The next morning the dead Japs were within a few feet of our gun position. One of the Japanese must have been one heck of a gambler or a pay master, because he was loaded with money. We must have been tired, because Kojima and I both found we had been peppered with fine shrapnel during the night as we had not dug our foxholes deep enough. George was hit in the rear end and I was hit in the back of my right knee.

 Another thing that stands out in my mind after a few days was the stench from the dead Japs that were so close to our positions the remaining Japs were unable to drag them away. One morning we received a few replacements, and they were no more than inside our perimeter when we received direct hits from the Japs. Several men were killed and even some of the replacements. No wonder the replacements were sent back to the rear after the first few minutes of combat. I think the smell would have been enough, much less the casualties, to make a new man "flip his lid" in the first few minutes of action.

A day or so later, we recaptured the hill we had been run off and advanced several hundred yards, with several losses to E Company, including a couple of the scouts. This I remember because we were so short on wrist watches to keep our time, while on night watch we would check each of our dead to see if they had watches. We were able to get a couple which we needed badly. The first morning in this position we received an attack at daybreak under a heavy blanket of fog, which we repulsed. As the fog lifted, we were hit by heavy mortar fire. Our machine gun squad was lucky. We got some very close rounds and a couple of direct hits but the rounds were duds. Our other machine gun squad got some direct hits in which Hollingsworth was wounded. A medic, Johnnie Grooms, and George Kojima all got homers. After the action was over, I helped carry the wounded back to the aid tent, and I remember George Kojima asking me if I thought he had a homer and my replying, "I think so, George." There was no doubt about it!

This position overlooked a large valley, and it seems to me we were here for a week or more. I believe this is where the tank was brought up on the ridge, and received a direct hit by a Jap anti-tank gun and someone crawled back into the tank, while it was under fire and knocked out the Jap gun. Also, a 40 mm. anti-aircraft gun was brought up overlooking the valley for support. One morning a Jap was spotted across the valley with his pants down, doing his morning constitutional. Can you imagine a 40 mm. pom-pom gun, 2 machine guns, BARs, M-1s, carbines of an entire Company shooting at a lone Jap trying to run up a hill holding up his pants, and with all this fire power, not getting hit! I wonder how we won the war!

 Our machine gun squad was on the left flank of this hill, and after several days either D or E Company went through our position and set up to our left. Our own artillery did not know they had moved into the area and laid in multiple rounds, causing numerous losses. I remember as they came back through our positions they were hit so hard there was not enough left of some, so they had to be carried out in ponchos.

I believe we had been in combat 30 days at this time because in a letter dated April 30, 1945, (the first one I had written since being on the Island), I wrote "I am still in combat, but I think this mission will be over soon." How wrong I was! In the same letter, I said we had not run across much water, and I had taken a helmet bath and felt much better, since it was my first bath in several weeks.

-2-

 

 

The next place that comes to mind is where we lost Goldberg of our platoon, as well as 2 bazooka men, a flame thrower man, an artillery spotter, and a bull-dozer operator, and several E Company men by a sniper. He must have zeroed in on our machine gun position because all these men, except the bulldozer operator were hit while in our position. The irony of Goldberg's death* was - it was the only time I ever saw him wear a helmet. If he had worn his fatigue cap like he always did he probably would not have been killed since the bullet ricocheted inside his helmet.

It was on this hill that a bulldozer cut the side of the hill down to make a road and cut the side out of my foxhole. Due to the sniper, I did not dig another one. That night I awoke with a Jap leaning against the open side of my foxhole since the road was about 4 feet lower than my foxhole. He was so close I could have touched him. To this day, I don't know why he didn't see me, or why whoever was on watch let him get that close. It seemed like he stood there forever, but it probably was only seconds before he walked down the road that the bulldozer had made. It was right after this, I wrote my Dad to send me a pistol to use in my foxhole. My Dad sent the pistol to me; however, it was stolen before I received it.

From this position, many patrols went through our position, and this is where a boy who slept across from me on our ship coming over was killed on a patrol. They could not get him out and the next day about 100 yards from our position we found him. The Japs had stripped him of his boots and everything else. I think this bothered me more than anything else in the war.

We then left the foothills and moved high into the mountains, where the foliage was so heavy, you were lucky to see 10 feet in front of you. If seemed as if it never stopped raining and the ground was so rocky you could not dig a foxhole, but only level off the ground and pile the dirt and rocks in front for protection. It was here the Japs obtained high ground above us and pinned us down. A boy we called Jack Armstrong, the All-American boy (not his real name) lost his fingers reaching for his carbine, that was holding up his poncho over his foxhole. He was a darned good artist. Joe Shanahan still has some of his sketches. I also had my poncho split over my head by a Jap bullet while trying to get a shot off, and I said to Rummy (Tom Keating), "Damn, that was close!" I didn't realize how close until later, when I discovered a hole in my fatigue cap.

It was here in a letter written May 19, 1945, I stated, "We are now so far up in the mountains, I wonder if I am a Paratrooper or belong to the mountain troops." My Mother had written that my brother had been trying to join the Navy. I wrote if he didn't get in, to join the Merchant Marines, because he would, at least, have a bed and hot food every day which means a lot. "I know, because it has been 44 days since I have slept in a bed or had a hot meal, not complaining, but just trying to make a point, why he should not get drafted by the Army." Also, I asked for a pair of Indian moccasins if they did not have to use a shoe stamp to get them. It was so cold at night, there was no way you could keep warm with one blanket. When someone was hit or killed, it was a fight over who got his blanket.

We were in this place for over three weeks, and during this time several E Company men were killed. I got so I could not eat due to yellow jaundice, and would not leave because we were down to such a few men. I became so weak I had to be carried out by the pack train that brought up supplies every 3 or 4 days. At the hospital, when weighed, I had gone from 155 lbs. down to 97 lbs. A few days later E Company was pulled back for rest after 67 days of combat, after reaching the top of the mountain and a Jap hospital that the Japs had left. While in the hospital, I wrote, "It's not the Japs that get you down in the mountains, but the conditions. You never seem to dry out. You smell so bad but so does everyone else, and your clothes could stand by themselves due to the sweat and dirt (if you would ever get the chance to take them off)." We had a beer ration issued to us while in the hospital, but everyone with jaundice was told to save theirs. I still was unable to eat and while watching the movie, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (which I had seen 4 times) I thought 'The hell with it' and drank several beers. The next morning, it flushed me out and I began to eat. I recommend this treatment for jaundice!

-3-

 

* There is no Goldberg in the list of the 503d's WWII Casualties.

 

 

On June 20, 1945, I wrote I was back with my platoon which was now set up in a Spanish mansion so large you could drive a truck through the middle of it. It had a swimming pool (no water), rock gardens, and was surrounded by a 10-foot wall with broken bottles cemented on the top of it to keep people from climbing over. Whoever owned this before the war must have had plenty of money. It was at this time Carl Ballard and John Habecker went AWOL in a beauty shop. Later they were joined by Joe Shanahan, after he got out of the hospital. This was brought to mind with the last 503rd Newsletter, when it said that Carl and John were AWOL on Negros on this last trip. They found the girl who ran the beauty shop 34 years ago.

My mother had informed me that there was a Jim Morris from Terre Haute in the 503rd. I told her I had tried to look him up, but he was wounded early in the mission. I had heard from him, and he was in a hospital on Leyte and would look me up when he got back. In this same letter, I informed them I had not received my Christmas package.

The last letter written from here was July 2, 1945. I had finally received my Christmas box, 7 months late, and it was a mess! It was smashed, the cinnamon balls had all stuck together, but were not bad as far as taste. The homemade taffy was no good because it had gone to sugar. I also told about dances at the University Club built out over the ocean. I can remember the building, but cannot remember the dances. If it had not been my handwriting, I would swear it was written by someone else.

Our next place was the town of Fabrica. We stayed 2 nights over a lumber company office (had forgotten about this stop until I read my letter of July 14, 1945). We left on a patrol that was to last 5 days, but at the time the letter was written, we had been out 13 days. We had gone five more miles along the railroad; and they had brought out squad tents (which I stated were sure better than sleeping under ponchos as we had the last 12 days); however, this would probably mean we would be out much longer. I believe it was in this area where our own B-24's bombed us, while we were on the lumber train. This is where we went on patrol to get 2 men who had drowned while crossing a river. My folks were still trying to figure out what island we were on. She said Jim Morris's mother had called, and she thought he was coming home, because he had been wounded in the first jump of the mission. I informed her we had not made any jumps on this island, but wish we had, and maybe this operation would not have lasted so long.

In a letter dated July 26, 1945, I told of our life in our squad tents along the railroad, about getting 10-in-1 rations, and I was designated to do the cooking for our squad. I had built a fireplace under a shelter made with ponchos to make cooking easier. I told about trading rations (that we would not eat) for bananas, red peppers, bread, fruit, pineapples, and papayas. I explained that papayas were the fruit we had received one time from Florida, which we thought was spoiled, and had said the seeds looked like a rabbit had sat in the middle of a cantaloupe. I also explained by the time the rations got to the front lines, they had gone through Reg., Bn., and many other hands, and all we got were what they did not want. However, a couple of cans of bacon had gotten through, and I had fried all the grease out, had sliced the roots of a camote tree very thin, and made potato chips I should say camote chips. They sure smelled bad, but tasted OK. After so long you can eat anything, regardless of smell.

In a letter dated July 29, 1945, we had moved and were in an old lumber camp next to a deep mountain stream deep enough to swim and bathe in. On August 5, 1945, I told my folks we were not the airborne troops going into Japan, but were still out in the mountain lumber camp of Malapasok on Negros Island. The censors blanked out the name of the island, so they still did not know for sure where I was. I often wondered if I had been killed, if they would ever know what island I was killed on. I also told about the natives catching small tropical catfish with a worm threaded on a piece of grass, and dropping them in a banana leaf, and how we used them in a stew, which we made in our helmets, and stated that if anyone had told me I would have eaten fish heads, guts, and all, I would have said they were Nuts. This was not as bad as it sounds, however, since the fish were not much longer than an inch, and Tony Lopez (our tent boy) knew how to cook them!

 
-4-