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17 to 23 OCTOBER 1943



17 OCTOBER 1943


The Inspector General reigns in the Bn S-3 tent.  (Where Riseley could see who came in and out.)  On the list, all Co Cmdrs., all 1st Sgts, several junior officers and the Bn Ex officers.  In the afternoon he took complaints down at the chaplain’s tent.  Not only did he listen to the woes of the self appointed ill treated soldiers, putting the ones who were in the wrong on the right track with a few well directed  remarks and making notes on those who were in the right, but he asked a few questions of his own.  Carefully warning the officer or the enlisted man of his rights under the 24th Article of War and indicating he was making a formal investigation, he started his questions:

Do you have faith and confidence in the leadership and ability of your platoon leader?

If the answer is “yes” he’d ask about the company commander.  Then the battalion and regimental commander.  If the answer is “no”, then "why not?"  Concerning the regimental commander,  Kenneth Kinsler, he got a “No” answer.  Then “why not?”

A.  On 5 Sept. I met Col. Kinsler  on the trail leading to the battalion objective.  He did not have any equipment on or near him.

Q.  Not even a rifle?

A.  Not even a rifle.  He didn’t even have a helmet.  He asked me if any of my men had his belt.  I told him they did not.  He stood along side the trail as they passed, there after the Nadzab jump, and asked each one if he’d seen his belt.

Q.  What else?

A.   Arriving at the CP he took a rifle squad out of one of the companies to serve as his personal body guard.

Q.  What else?

A.  He spent his time at Nadzab in a cub airplane looking for parachutes for the two days and on the third day assigned the task to a Lt.

Q.  What do you think he should have been doing?

A.  I think he should have been forward with his battalions and companies seeing how they were getting along.  I know my battalion commander, Col. George M. Jones, spent most of his time with his forward platoons.  Colonel Kinsler’s CP was almost a mile behind the Seventh Australian Division CP.

Q.  Have you spoken of the reasons for this lack of confidence with any other officers?

A.  Is that an incriminating question?

Q.  I think not.

A.  Yes, I have.

Q.  Have they agreed with you?

A.  I cannot recall any who disagreed.

Q.  How many officers have you spoken to about this?

A.  At one time or another every officer in the battalion with the exception of, of course, of the Bn Cmdr.  Say every officer from the company commanders down.

Q.  What are your duties in the battalion?

A.  I am the Battalion Adjutant.

The proceedings go on.  Most are sitting and waiting. 


An interesting account is placed here: 












Lt. 'Bitsy' Grant


Parachute Officer Class 8 March 27, 1942


“The fall of Officer Candidate John Q. Zilch* (not his true name) who was detailed for OCS around 1 Oct 43:  1st Sgt. Zilch, a Slav and ex-boxer, looked the part.  He was a leader.  He welded into Company P the spirit that made it the finest company in the regiment (there will be 10 claims to that).  With due respect to the company’s splendid succession of Company Commanders, Zilch was the moving force.  He had a high respect for his boys.  They had a high respect for him too.  Candidate Zilch washed out of OCS.”

"(Zilch) could lick any man in the company — and frequently  did if he considered the man needed it.  Captain Mulucki (not a true name) regarded him as the finest man he had ever known and often said  he’d make a poor lieutenant, but a superior company commander.  But Sgt. Zilch had been in the tropics for more than two years now.  He said, “The tropics ain’t good for a man.”  One day last month, Zilch, who never confided in anyone, confided to one of his officers, “Lieutenant I’ve aged ten years in the last six months.”  Something was wrong.  When Zilch left for OCS I could feel P Company breath a sigh.  I breathed one myself.  Which is not strange.  A lot of people do unexplainable things around here. 

Like Lt. Grant with his well poised air appearing to contemplate a problem at an officer’s meeting.  (Screen credit here to the University of Kansas.  Their graduates come away with a view that they never believe anything, especially what they see.)  Grant will go for days with a scowl on his face,  scarcely speaking to anyone, his pants legs unbuttoned and not giving a damn for nothing.  But he always turns up again, the same cussedly brilliant Bitsy. After Zilch left, the wind began to blow.  Tales about how, running out of money in a poker game, Zilch calmly reached over and took half of the pile of money belonging to a private and went on playing without saying a word.  His company commander, “I saw him over in teh orderly room eating cookies out of a package, the soldier the package was sent to never had seen it.  Doc Lamar:  “Zilch is all right.  He just took too much atabrine.” 


  *Mike Hostinsky, 1st Sgt. F company did not complete  OCS in Brisbane and  was rotated home.



 “The score:  Col. Kinsler is going to be relieved.  (Our guess: Not one man did I hear say (the wind was blowing my way) that he had confidence in the regimental commander.  Of the answering the other commanders, I could hear an occasional yes or no, but the answers concerning the regimental commander were loud and clear “No’s.”

The battalion.  The roster system has called in few officers thus far.  Those who have been called in have stayed as long as two or three hours.  What are they saying?  Do you have confidence in the ability and leadership of your battalion commander?  What is the answer?  Although an officer may disagree with some of his policies—the killer hikes at Port Morseby for instance, and although an officer may have felt that Lt. Col. Jones has been unduly strict on occasion, has shown partiality, has placed over confidence in an unworthy subordinate, has endeavored at times to better his own ends without consideration of the battalion; although an officer may personally hate him for promises unkept, although he in his own mind may have charged Jones with a hundred misdeeds, there is only one answer to the question if he is true to himself.  And that answer is, “Yes, sir, I do have every confidence in Colonel Jones.

Without going into proof, for the man is proof in himself, the fact remains:  The men of this battalion regard Lt. Col. Jones as their leader and they do have every confidence in his leadership and ability.  They may cuss him and in their hearts damn the very day he was born, at times, but he has caught that intangible thread in much of them, that pacifier of a scared soldier in danger, “he knows what he is doing and everything is going to be all right.”

 Waiting.  The officers are resting back and whispering a bit.  Waiting to see what is going to happen.  Waiting for something they’ve long known was going to happen.  Colonel Kinsler could only fool the government so long.



18 OCTOBER 1943


One  more name scratched off the roster today, Lt. Blum left for temporary duty with base section here in Morseby.  Everyone is sweating out who the new mess officer will be-bastard job that it is.  (Ex-mess officers:  Capt. Falcon, Lt. Parks, Lt. Jacomini, Lt. Riseley, Lt. Schuder, Lt. Grant.)  Capt. Falcon pulled one from behind his ear, laying a letter on the Bn Cmdr’s desk addressed to CO 503d requesting relief from duty as a company commander on the basis of ill health due to extended tropical duty.  He came to Panama with Company “C” 501st Prcht Bn, July 1941.

The IG is still scratching around.  All of the officers of the battalion are to standby for call, all Sgts also.

 Lt. Cataline virtually threatened Mr. Joe Bitala (Warrant Officer) with everything, from courts-martial to beating hell out of him.  All because Mr. Joe told Johnnie Big Ears, politely, as benefits a WOJG speaking to a rank conscious 1st Lt., that the lamp Johnnie Big Ears was carrying out of Lt. Howard’s tent (CO Hq Co 2d Bn), was a lamp which did  belong to Hq Co.  Cataline told him it was none of his goddamn business, to which Joe was apologetic but insistent in his reply that the lamp did belong to Hq Co.  Then Cataline really began to cuss him.  There was nothing that Joe could do, a WPJG can’t cuss back at a rank conscious 1st Lt.  But the witnesses won’t forget.  Because Mr. Joe has his own prestige.  He is one of the most liked officers in the battalion.  Nobody ever had any trouble with Mr. Joe.  As adjutant, I’ve tried his soul, swore at the man that invented radios and telephones and put them in the army and called them communications.  I have condemned the whole bloody business and everybody connected with it.  But Bitala and his gang always get my messages through.  And old Joe stands around with a grin on his face through the whole process.  Warrant Officer Junior Grade Bitala was getting along with people in the Army when 1st Lt. Cataline was a small fry in the poolroom.

 Vandivort made mess officer.  This is a great sorrow into a man’s life.  But he’ll have greater sorrow.   



Vandivort would have greater sorrows than anybody ever knew. As it came to pass, in another battle, in the same war, on July 23, 1944, he would lose his life in the same incident for which Sgt. Ray Eubanks was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor.  This citation for action at Noemfoor Island, Dutch New Guinea, is set forth in full elsewhere in the Heritage Bn Website.  Lt. Vandivort was awarded a posthumous Silver Star for his heroic action which resulted in his death.

Back to Vandivort in happier days.


He’s just been made mess officer.  New Guinea rations consist of coffee, cream of wheat and some other concoction for breakfast dinner brings dried potatoes and the juices of vegetables crowding out a bit of greenish meat, no coffee.  Supper is much on the line of dinner except there is tea.  This bothered Capt. Padgett, the Bn S-3 and a slide rule genius from Georgia Tech.  He is deserving of a Legion of Merit for his tireless effort and final success in designing a fit trap and finding a perfect bait for it.  Let it be known that in the Army there are fly traps and fly traps.  A fly trap, old trap, old style, has always been a standby of medical officers.  If a medical officer can find no serious recommendations to make, he will turn a solemn face to the CO and say “Build fly traps!” and then walk away.  All other activities cease.  The entire command builds fly traps, square ones, cone shaped ones, triangular ones, in all sizes and forms.  But they all have one thing in common:  the flies carefully avoid them.  The next day the medical officer returns.  “You are not using proper bait!”  Then he walks away.  Field manuals are poured over.  Mess Officers and ex-mess officers go into conference:  mess sergeants and ex-mess sergeants go into conference. Suggestions are gleamed from experiences at Fort Kobbe, Canal Zone, Pina, Republic of Panama, Manila, P.I., and Honolulu.  “Sugar and Vinegar”, “Cold Bacon Rind”, and “Salt and Molasses.”  All are tried.  But the flies ignore everything and continue to swarm on the lips of our canteen cups.  It was this problem that the brilliant Capt. Padgett faced.  The heroic manner and tactical decisiveness with which he solved the problem should go down as a tribute to the type of officer who has built this battalion.  He simply picked a fly trap at random and calmly inserted a plate of Lt. Blum’s choice food beneath.  By noon the innards of the trap were filled with flies.

Lt. Col. Jones called an officers meeting in the officers’ quarters.  The subject:  Officers’ tents.  The argument: A tour through same.  The solution: Make reveille until you learn to keep your tents tidy.  Effects:  A general feeling of sheepishness.  Effects tomorrow: a general feeling of sleepiness.  Too bad.

Capt. Falcon  went to the hospital today.  Capt. Padgett left out on a mission for Col. Kinsler.  North?  Or South to engage a defense counsel?



19 OCTOBER 1943




 This page is deliberately blank



20 OCTOBER 1943


Holiday today.  One year ago today, two battalions and RHQ and Service Company left the USA, 1 Nov. should be a day of mourning for the 501st Prcht Bn.  On that day it embarked at Balboa, Canal Zone (1942) and joined the regiment aboard ship bound for Australia, "Bless ‘em all.”

Today a letter went forward to relieve Officer candidate Zilch and return him without prejudice to this organization.

The Inspector General is still holding court.



21 OCTOBER 1943


Jack Horner and Bibb and Luscomb return from Gordonvale.  The new officer replacements are fresh out of OCS.  Schuder has received permission talking himself into a job as Rear Base (Gordonvale) Mess Officer and is ready to marry and settle down for the duration.  Luscomb spent his time in Australia well, no doubt, but this time, too well.  He, the great bachelor Luscomb, consort of Margarita of Kelly’s Ritz in Panama, says he is going to get married.

 Reports started floating in this afternoon.  The Inspector General had worked his way clear to the top and has Col. Kinsler sitting on a bench across the table from his in the IG’s office down by the Chaplain’s tent most of the day.  How unfortunate it is when holders of power take themselves and their power too seriously.  There must have been a better way to do it.  Whatever was done, it was not done right.  If anything should have been inspected that day, it ought to have been the Inspector General.  Blast forever the pompous wielders of power!  What did the Inspector General say to Col. Kinsler?  What kind of preparation went into the making of that Inspector General?  What an idiot!  Who is to inspect the Inspector General?


Did the Inspector General say to Col. Kinsler, “You are no leader?”  Or did he just make a few recommendations, and take his leave of the regiment, and go back to General Krueger so that General Krueger could come down himself and take a look at the situation?  Maybe if the Inspector General had said to Col. Kinsler, “Kinsler, this regiment looks like a pig sty,” then Col. Kinsler could have simply said “Yes, Sir.”  Said the two words that win wars, and that would have been the end of it.  Kinsler could have slipped away, been given a nice billet down in Brisbane in charge of the WAC’s, the WAVES and the motor pool, and been happy polishing his parachute badge.  For goodness sakes, he had done enough.  He had brought the regiment this far forward, and he did not have to pull the thing along forever.

General Krueger recognizes all of the problems that come up in an Army in a war.  He has always respected our 503d soldiers as the finest physical specimens to be found in the Army.  And Col. Kinsler was as much of a soldier as any of us.  What the hell, who can be forever the perfect soldier, and who wants to be?  Will the Inspector General call Krueger in to deal with whatever has to be dealt with?  WE are still waiting.  Perhaps Kinsler has enough pull to get out of this without being reclassified and with nothing more than a quiet transfer to an airborne command in the States.  He can be made Base Commander.  And perhaps he doesn’t.”

The battalion at present is engaged in combat firing.


In the light of what is to come, the Adjutant is writing these entries after several eventful days. No matter how tough the soldier, empathy and compassion lay underneath as a bedrock of personality.



22 OCTOBER 1943


In the late afternoon of 21 October 1943, Colonel Kinsler  summoned his lieutenant colonels to his tent.  He shared a bottle of whiskey with them in a cordial and apparently normal social interaction.  That night, Colonel Kinsler and an Australian nurse travelled to a nearby gravel pit.  Later, the nurse reported that Colonel Kinsler had committed suicide. 

Some believed the nurse's story. Some didn't. The gunshot wound was reportedly in Kinsler's chest.  The weapon was Kinsler's own .45 Colt.

Riseley knew from first hand observation that Colonel Kinsler was a failure as a commander, but he did not forget that Kinsler was a human being.  In today’s society it seems that more and more we preach love and kindness, while in practice we cover our own asses.


          This morning Lt. Col. Lawrie, the regimental executive officer, called and said it was urgent that Lt. Col. Jones be located at once.  Lt. Col. Jones ranked Lt. Col. Lawrie, but down in Gordonvale, long ago, when Major Britten had command of the 2d Bn  for a short time, a very short time, a military decision was made.  It was decided that since Lt. Col. Jones got along  famously with the 2d Bn, and the war  probably wouldn’t last long enough for the 2d Bn to learn to get on with somebody like Major Britten,* or Lt. Col. Lawrie, that it would be best for everyone to leave the 2d Bn to Lt. Col. Jones, and let Lt. Col. Lawrie and Col. Kinsler tough out the compatibility problems of being regimental Ex and Regimental CO.  They did this famously.
*Lieutenant Colonel John W. Britten served as commanding officer of the Second Battalion succeeding Colonel Jones until December 1945 when he was moved up to 503d RCT Executive Officer.  Thus he was in command of this battalion for fourteen months.

Lt. Col. Jones was out on the rifle range and no one knew where that was.  Since Jones returned to the battalion in May, there had never been any doubt about where Little Joe Lawrie stood.  When Col. Kinsler was gone, Little Joe was still regimental executive officer.  Not regimental commander, but regimental executive officer.   On those days, Lt. Col. Jones was the regimental commander, and he was also CO 2d Bn.  But the regimental orders for the day, the day in which Col. Kinsler was gone, were signed, “By order of Lt. Col. Jones.” 

On such days it was not a good idea for anyone at regiment to hand the CO 2d Bn any monkey business. 

On one of these days, we had a motor officer named Lt. M-P-O.  Lt. Col. Jones sent word down to M-P-O to send a jeep.  But M-P-O said that could only be done on the authority of Lt. Col. Lawrie.  Every man in the regiment knew what the rank was between these Lt. Colonels.  Everybody but M-P-O.  This day he wasn’t too sharp.  He must have sharpened up because he grew into a lawyer.  Either that or it takes a certain type of dumbness to succeed at the law.  At any rate, it was only after Lt. Col. Jones asked M-P-O did M-P-O want to send up that Jeep or did he want Jones to order Lawrie to drive the Jeep up himself, that M-P-O got the idea.  Come to think of it, that is about the only time I ever saw Jones on the edge of being a bit irritated.  And he only did it to reason with someone who wasn’t quite up to the job that morning.

About 1400 WO Crawford called “Hey, Jerry B., you got a Field Manual 22 dash 5, that’s the one on Military Courtesy?”

“No, but what do you want to know?”

“How many men in a firing squad?”

“I don’t know.  You can find it in USASOS regulations; we had eight for Capt. Greco, did somebody die?”

“Okay, I’ll look it up” (pause, then) Hey, Jerry B., Colonel Lawrie wants to talk to you.”

“This is Colonel Lawrie, Riseley.  There will be a regimental formation tomorrow for Colonel Kinsler’s funeral.  The uniform will be jump suits, boots, and helmets.  Colonel Jones says to have the men spend the rest of the day cleaning up their uniforms.

I went over to see City Parks at Company F.  He was conducting NCO school.  I might was well have told John Cole to start packing, we’re going back to the States.

Parks wasn’t hearing a thing I said to him.  He was just intent on doing what he was doing and he didn’t want to be interrupted.

All he did was say “Okay, “ and go on with the lesson.  After I swore at him for about two minutes and ended up giving the order “in the name of Colonel Jones” did it dawn on him that I might be setting him up for something unpleasant indeed.  When I went ahead and gave the order in the name of the President of the United States, Parks finally began to comprehend.

Snaz Howard, commander of Headquarters Company, was over in his bunk.

“How did Kinsler do it? he asked.

Captain Davis P. Falcon, over at E Company, was the only one who appeared even momentarily grieved.  Capt. Falcon is a sort of deep guy even if he did have trouble the other day figuring out that the “C” on is dog tags wasn’t his blood type.  Old Ivey said, “I guess that makes you battalion commander, chief.”

The general opinion amongst the officers was that they didn’t think Kinsler had been in that deep.  General discussion: How he could have done it better.  Suggested methods: He could have jumped without hooking up.  All he had to do, with us there at Jackson Strip, was to call for a C-47E.  Others thought he could have driven his jeep over a cliff.  Just how Colonel Kinsler  died is not yet known.  But even the recruits down in D Company know why.  It is sad, but it is a game which can not be played again.



23 OCTOBER 1943


Jump suits, jump boots, helmets, stripped belts, and individual arms.  Thus clad did the 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment form on the ball diamond, down by the Chaplain’s tent to salute their former regimental commander for the last time.  It was a salute to the uniform of a full Colonel, Regular Army, Parachutist.  And that was all.

At the cemetery, I was relieved.  Somehow I feared that Colonel Kinsler might be buried next to Captain Greco.  As it was he was buried in the same row.  I suspect that Captain Greco is still there.  His widow wrote me that after five months she had remarried.  In other words, she didn’t want to hear anything more about Captain Greco.  Colonel Kinsler is also probably still there.  As Edgar Lee Masters points out in “Spoon River Anthology”, it takes all kinds to make a grave yard.”

Lt. Col. Joe Lawrie, the regimental executive officer summoned Lt. Col. George Jones, the commanding officer of the Second Battalion, to the regimental command post from a training exercise he was conducting in the field.  As senior officer of the 503d PIR, Jones was immediately ordered to assume command.”  Name of source unknown.)

“Colonel Kinsler was found in a jeep in a gravel pit down by the hospital.  Captain Lamar said it was a caliber 45 bullet through the heart.  Captain Lamar said he didn’t think it was in line of duty.  But he was wrong there.  The Army held that it was in line of duty.  About the only thing that is certain about the whole business is that Colonel Kinsler ended up dead.  For me, I do not know who fired that bullet.


No note was ever found to shed light on whether Colonel Kinsler took his own life.  There was no investigation. His body was later moved from the American sector of the Port Moresby Cemetery and reinterred in the U.S. Military Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii; space A-78. 



       A P P E N D I X     


There came a time, of course, with Colonel Jones now Regimental Commander, that I performed all the functions of the Regimental Adjutant.  Our regular Regimental Adjutant, Francis X. Donovan, was off down in Brisbane somewhere, so I just tagged along with Colonel Jones.  But shortly the officers who were in charge of the our Parachute Rear Base in Gordonvale didn’t get their bookkeeping done, and so I was sent along down to the Rear Base, as Adjutant.  Everything I did down there, I did, “By order of Colonel Jones”, and that saved a lot of confusion with having field officer medical officers come by, or even other folks.  I stayed there at that Rear Base until the Regiment was at Dobodura, in New Guinea, and then I was ordered back to Dobodura, while I would be awaiting rotation.  I had hardly gotten to Dobodura when the remainder of the regiment flew out of there to go to Hollandia.  So there I was in business with all the regimental files.


       F  L  A  S  H  B  A  C  K    



Jackson Strip Camp at night.  Sometime after Colonel Kinsler’s death.  Walking back from the movies in the dark.  Having been a mess officer, by accident I was walking past the 2d Battalion kitchen.  I recognized a voice of a cook named Crowley.  He was talking.  “Why,” he says, “the night before they found Colonel Kinsler dead, him and Colonel XYZ came by here in a jeep about ten o’clock.”

I didn’t think anything about it at the time.  But I was pleased to recognize my friend Crowley’s voice.  And I did not know how things were supposed to be.

But flashing forward to Dobodura, when I found myself with a rear base detachment of not over 30 men, at first, and hardly any officers, except for CWO Smith.  He was at one end of the regimental area, and I was at the other.

And, of course, in the privacy of my being Regimental Adjutant at the Rear Base, I went right to the report of the investigation of the Death of Colonel Kenneth Kinsler.  And the most important thing I noted in it was that Colonel XYZ, who, of course was not Colonel Jones, gave a statement.

Colonel XYZ went to bed early that night he said in his statement.  “He didn’t see Colonel Kinsler at all that night.”


Jerry B Riseley















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