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Our assembly point ("B" Co) was to be designated by white smoke and with the use of my trusty "Water Proof Match Container Compass" [remember them: you almost had to strike a match to see the face of the thing in daylight]  Anyway I set an azimuth and struck out in what I considered to be the general direction of our assembly point.  Shortly thereafter I heard a rustling in the tall grass headed in my direction from the left flank.  I immediately prepared for hand to hand combat, if necessary, preferably a quick shot at whoever my opponent might be, if in fact he or it was a hostile.  The grass parted as I lay in wait and face to face we peered at each other and burst out laughing and then a little cussing, because it was hot.  My opponent turned out to be a member of a Machine Gun Crew from "A" or "C" Co, [45 years is a long time.]  He had his portion of the gun and he wondered out loud what he was supposed to do if he encountered the enemy with only a .45 side arm and part of a light machine gun.  I suggested he piss on it and throw it at the Japs if we encountered them.  I actually think he thought it was a good idea. 

We got our heads together and decided to join whatever unit we found first.  Being keen of eye, very young, and always alert, I continued onward toward the tree line and suddenly realized I could see something white waving back and forth from one of the trees in the general direction of what I believed to be "B" Co Assembly Point.  I asked my friend to verify my findings and we both agreed that someone or something was waving a white piece of cloth on a big stick and whatever or whoever it was was seated or situated in a very large tree.  I will admit that I thought for a second that it was a large white cockatoo, but quickly dismissed that thought.  The thought also occurred to me that maybe the Japs were trying desperately to surrender before we could assemble and totally destroy them (perhaps this is a bit too exaggerated too) however a thought that someone or something was trying to surrender did occur to me. 

We continued on toward the direction of the white flag-waver and, lo and behold, it was the "B" Co assembly point. Some poor soul, I think it was a Lt., had been assigned the task of climbing the tree and waving the white because all of the white smoke grenades had been used up.  Don�t reckon there were more in that door bundle I couldn't find?  I didn�t ask.  Lt. Bossert was there and only about six of (his) hand-picked men had arrived at the assembly point by time I got there.  I reported and told him I didn�t know where the hell the bundle was.  He had jumped ahead of me and stated he didn't have any idea where it was either and anyway he had a new assignment for me.  I had become, by virtue of the fact that I found the assembly point, a member of the group who were to eventually witness and survive the Big Fire Fight of 5-6 Sept at a place called Gabsohnkie. 

The Lt. kept looking at his watch and eventually realized that his troops were not going to find the assembly point in time for him to move out at the assigned time.  Actually I can remember he delayed departure for approximately one hour hoping that most of them would show up.  Finally he counted heads and had about eight of those originally assigned and approximately four of us who had been assigned to other tasks, bundle humping etc.  We departed, twelve good men and a determined young officer.  I was younger, much younger, than him but thoroughly dedicated, moved out toward the great adventure, sweating profusely, our Jump Suits which were especially designed to cause weight loss in the tropics, gear hanging and banging all over our bodies, as we approached the general direction of the 2nd Bn CP we encountered a number of coconut trees that evidently put up quite a resistance. One actually had been blown down and a number of others had the marks of what appeared to be Primer Cord.  We considered shooting the wounded trees in the lower trunk area to put them out of their misery but realized we might antagonize some of the healthy trees that appeared to be guarding their wounded comrades.  We could see the evidence of them having lost a good many coconut fruit in their encounter with someone or something that had access to Primer Cord and small blocks of explosives.  We paid our respects and moved on toward the CP.  

When we arrived it was rather late in the day (5 Sept 1943) and everybody was dug in and had made preparations for whatever might occur on this our first night in a Combat Zone.  We assumed that inasmuch as we were only going to be in the CP area overnight and then move on early the next morning,  that we would be allowed to bed down inside the perimeter � not so stated the powers that be, thank goodness.  We were instructed to move outside the perimeter, dig in staggered along both sides of a small road that approached the 2nd Bn CP from the general direction from which we had come, good thinking because this would give some rear coverage for the CP just in case they received a frontal attack at the same time the Japanese decided to flank and hit the rear defenses they would encounter US and we was ready! 

Well we dug in staggered individual sitting type foxholes about five to ten feet between positions and prepared to defend to the last man.  We knew we couldn't retreat for to do so would throw us in conflict with the CP perimeter and possibly shot as suspected hostiles.  I got that word from watching John Wayne movies of the Old West, so Alamo here we stand, no quarter given or expected.  "Hooray for George, Mac and Frank" was our battle cry.  This was a saying immortalized by "B" Co�s own 'Snuffy' Garrett who was ejected, kindly but nevertheless ejected, from the cinema in Gordonvale, Australia when he got patriotically carried away as per usual: before each showing of a Film of Flicker,  the Pictures of King George, General MacArthur and President Franklin D. Roosevelt were flashed  across the screen.  Snuffy was slightly inebriated and being very patriotic he arose and saluted and shouted so all could hear "Hurray for George, Mac, and Frank!"  He never got to see the main feature.  However on special occasions we used this immortal phrase as our Battle Cry and of course we considered this, our first night in a Combat Zone situation, as a special occasion - little did we know how special it was to be. 

This was the first and last time I ever dug in as an individual, without someone else to keep me company during the long nights of expected combat conditions.  I dug in a bunch of times after that from New Guinea to Negros, three years and four days from date of departure to return in October 1945, all in Co. "B" 503 PIR (RCT).  I was so young I think folks thought I was born overseas and therefore desired to remain in my place of birth.  Nightfall and all is quiet and then sometime, to the best of my knowledge, between ten and twelve midnight all hell broke loose in the 2nd Bn C.P.

I figured we are in one hell of a fix and no place to go!  I sat there in my foxhole and dug a little deeper trying to figure out what was going on.  You know them birds that make funny noises at night, some sound like they are knocking pipes together and other sound like they are knocking blocks of wood together?  I figured they were Japs sending code signals to each other, telling each other where twelve men and their officer were located outside of the CP perimeter .  I began to study my immediate front and about twenty yards to my front in a small opening with just enough moonlight or light showing through I detected a movement and then another and another and I guess I counted about 20 Japs moving past the small clearing; however like a good soldier I held my fire and decided against trying to alert the position to my left.  Oh yeah, I was the furthest out on that twelve man line defense with the next position approximately 6 feet to my left and to attempt alerting him might alert the Japanese and jeopardize mine and his position.  I was playing it cool and scared shitless and things were getting crowded as the Fire Fight picked behind me in the 2nd Bn. 

Man, I figured this was it.  Japs were everywhere and the continuous firing and explosion of hand grenades convinced me I  was absolutely right.  Before daylight came I had about 20 clips of M-1 ammo stacked on the lip of my foxhole, a machete, a knuckle type trench knife for hand to hand combat, a bayonet and several hand grenades all in position in front of me and I was ready and scared as hell! 

There was another incident that further convinced me that the Japs were all around us trying to infiltrate and this one was about 15 to 20 feet to my immediate left oblique.  I guess it was about 2:00 or 3:00 AM 6 Sept 1943 when I heard a loud thud as if something or someone had (thrown) a heavy object to the ground and this was followed by some loud grunts and cussing.  Man this is it!  Japs done got into one of my buddies� fox holes. I waited and continued to count Japs as they crossed in front of me and sporadic fire continued from the direction of the 2nd Bn C.P.

It would have been nice if we had been assigned a newsman or cameraman to record this fireworks spectacle so we could at some later date show our children and grandchildren what it was like on our first night of combat at a place called "Gabsohnkie", British New Guinea 5-6 Sept 1943.  Don't reckon this is where the word "Honkie" was eventually derived and later used in our ever increasing vocabulary.

Daylight comes, the loud thud turned out to be a coconut falling, voluntarily or perhaps shot and wounded during the night, or just gave up and fell.  I don�t think they all fired in the same direction at the same time but more at random or will, or at somebody other than Japanese.  I could hear ball ammo whistling over my head during the night.  Anyway this coconut fell in the foxhole of Briggs Dayton, an outstanding and subsequently good combat soldier.  Briggs said he figured he stabbed that thing seven or eight times before it gave up and realized he had won. 

It was funny after daylight but damn serious that. 

Early in the morning of 6 Sept 1943 we cautiously gave up our positions and moved cautiously into the inner sanctum of the 2nd Bn C.P. to receive orders for our assigned missions and of course we wanted to observe the damage inflicted by the Japanese and see who suffered the most casualties, us or them. Again it was quite funny but damn serious.  We were told about the water bag and how somebody or something shot holes in it and whoever it drained on figured someone had either been shot or was bleeding on him or someone had the piss scared out of him and couldn't hold it and the poor fellow in the hole caught the stream.  We didn't believe such a report but it was funny and everyone laughed.  We also received a report that some young Lt. was throwing hand grenades so fast and furiously that he mistakenly, not realizing he had run out of grenades, began pulling the keys on  C ration cans and throwing the cans.  Of course we didn�t believe that but it was funny but serious business. 

Well we received our marching orders from the powers that be in the CP and it seems we were to move out front of the CP some distance and establish an outpost near a road leading from Nadzab to Lae.  We were to monitor movement on the road - whether it be friendly or hostile. However before leaving on our assigned task we were reinforced by approximately 10 folks from the 2nd Bn, people who were well versed in the use of explosives etc.  One of these was a fella named Pete from Panama, perhaps you remember him, quite a character, but that�s another story.

Lt. Bossert assembled his brave group of paratroopers and informed us that he had been informed by his superiors that his group of people would be and were expected to detain and disrupt the movement of 500 to 1,000 Japanese if they attempted to utilize any of the trails leading to the CP or like areas.  It seemed we were to use explosives to discourage such movement in our area.  I was somewhat sceptical of this assumption, as were others, and I thought to myself and may have even mentioned it to my comrades, that if we encountered that many Japanese Soldiers, sick or otherwise, daylight or night, about the only chance we had to escape or delay for a short while was to create such a commotion that they, Japs, would stop and hesitate a bit to cut bigger sticks with which to beat us to death, if they could catch us, before we got back to "Gabsohnkie" and the 2nd Bn. 

So much for participations, observations, and survival or the Great Fire Fight of 5-6 Sept 1943 at some place called "Gabsonkeck" British New Guinea.  At the beginning I stated that I would stick to the truth in describing various events that occurred prior to and during the Fire, and somehow I believe I may have exaggerated and strayed from the truth and perhaps even told a few lies, but what the hell, we helped save the world from warfare and pestilence - for a few days anyway. 

Remember the Mosquito Bombs?  Sure raised hell with mosquitoes for a while - except for the two mosquitoes who gave me malaria and dengue fever.  So,  looking back, we had fun where fun wasn't the every day event and easily come by.  We laughed at and with each other in good and bad times, so be it. 

God Bless the Good Ole 503 PIR (RCT), and may he let those who didn't make it Rest in Peace.

By the way, you mentioned something about Scientific Methods not being taught at the Military Academy - that wasn't you who threw all his grenades and pulled the key on several C ration cans, was it?


                                Respectfully yours,


Louis G. Aiken, Sr.

Co "B" 503 PIR

June 42-Oct 45


P.S.   Our group of 12 brave men and officer never fired a shot on the night of 5-6 Sept 1943. Couldn't  - we were too busy ducking stray rounds and preparing for our part of the Great Fire Fight.  Daylight saved us from putting powder burns in our rifle barrels. 







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