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 - 5 -

Bill Calhoun

"On the afternoon of the 16th, before we'd undertaken any action, some troopers had found a supply of alcohol stored in one of the houses along Senior Officers Row. Lampman recalled it was Bacardi Rum. When Bailey got wind of the find, he broke every bottle which some of the more thoughtful had not hidden. Now at Smith, the 1st squad was making sure that this was kept secret. Actually, the 1st squad were not drinkers, but it was well known that there wasn't anything better to trade, and they liked bread. In this instance, they ended up with bread, and Major General Marquat ended up 'without bread.'  

We occupied Battery Smith at about 1500 hours.  As I was deploying the platoon into a defensive position, a 50 caliber machine gun opened up on us from a wood covered knoll about 100 yards west on Sunset Ridge.  Each time the gun fired, an area of vegetation would shake.  It was very obvious where the fire was coming from.  Pfc. Benedict Schilli, 3rd squad BAR gunner, went down into a prone position right out there on the bare concrete pad with neither cover nor concealment and fired back. I was in the act of yelling for him to get back with us when the 50 caliber fire ceased, it became quiet, and the vegetation ceased moving.

Two days later on patrol we reached this position and found an abandoned 50-caliber machine gun which had been disabled by a bullet striking the receiver. A camouflage net laced with vegetation had been strung up vertically in front of the gun.  The gun actually fired through the net, which was tied to stakes in the ground at the bottom and tree branches at the top.  Whoever prepared this position had little or no knowledge of camouflage techniques.  There was also dried blood on the leaves on the ground.

The dominant feature was the hill built over Battery Smith's magazine.  It could easily be defended because of its steep sides.  I was preparing to move the platoon up on the hill and assign the squads their defensive sectors.  After setting up our defensive positions I intended to search the tunnel and the rooms under the magazine.  This could have been disaster if part of the Japanese force was occupying these large spaces, waiting in position to make the assault that night.

Later developments would reveal that a force of some size had been in the tunnel and the magazine rooms at some time.  If the large Japanese force was there in position to make the attack that night they would hardly have tipped their hand to attack a small force such as ours.  Of course, had we entered their hideout and discovered their presence,  they would very likely have wiped us out with their superior force.  As we rested in our defensive position atop this great unknown, we were all uneasy, feeling so alone and far from home,  way out near the sea, and out of sight and radio contact with our forces. 

Our apprehensions ended when a messenger arrived from Lieutenant Bailey instructing me to withdraw to the battery to our east.  We would receive reinforcements.  I was to set up my force on the bald hill, Battery Hearn magazine, and defend it and the immediate area.  This was about 1700 hours.  I immediately moved the platoon out for the bald hill, glad to be moving back among friends.

I have often wondered if Battery Hearn was our objective,  rather than its brother, Battery Smith.  I did not know at the time that the Company was slated to defend Way Hill, too. Regardless, we got the grand tour,  killed a few Japs and destroyed a 50-caliber enemy machine gun.

Our route back to the bald hill above the magazine of Battery Hearn was along the crest of the ridge.  We walked across the concrete pad and climbed the concrete stairs to the top of the hill. The reinforcements were just arriving, and were substantial: two rifle squads from the 2nd platoon, the two conventional gun squads from the mortar platoon, a light machine gun section from the 3rd platoon of our battalion headquarters company, and a bazooka team.  We already had a flame thrower team who had accompanied us that afternoon attached to my platoon.  1st Lieutenant Dan Lee had been assigned to our company that day and led the reinforcements over from the other half of the company set up on Way Hill, about 250 yards to the northeast. Battalion sent 2nd Lieutenant John Mara, on loan for the night, to help out.  I never understood why he was not transferred to F Company.  Even with the addition of Lee,  F Company still only had three officers.  Both D and E Companies still had six officers at this time. The two F Company forces numbered about seventy men in each for including all reinforcements.  The RCT S-3 overlay shows F Company defending an area extending about a mile from the bottom of Cheney Ravine to the south-west, on northeast to the western slopes of James Ravine: and northwest of Battery Way.  A force of one hundred and forty men could not physically occupy such a distance in a perimeter defense, nor did this appear to be the intention of Lieutenant Brown, because he told Lieutenant Bailey that he wanted him to defend Way Hill and Battery Hearn magazine hill.  The two forces were barely adequate for this task, if indeed they were adequate.


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