The seizure and liberation of the southern Philippines was assigned to Tenth Corps Headquarters, the Americal Division, the 24th Division, 31st Division and the 503rd PRCT.  Only under General MacArthur’s direct order did General Krueger reluctantly release the 503d to General Eichelberger, and when the decision became known at our level, there was hardly a 503d PRCT officer who didn't share Krueger's reservations.

 At a time when the invasion of Japan was in its final stages of planning, and special troops such as paratroopers would be vital,  Eichelberger would send in a lightly armed hardly more than half strength parachute RCT (which at full strength numbered 3,000 men) to engage in five months of heavy infantry duty – whilst leaving two Infantry RCT's (the 185th and the 160th)  reinforced by corps arms (that's 10,000 men) on the reserve benches. Eichelberger, an adequate Army commander when held on a tight leash, was not a first-rank soldier of Krueger's caliber. "Regiments here," he  had once advised MacArthur from New Guinea, "soon have the strength of battalions and a little later are not much more than companies." In the foxholes of Buna and Gona then, it was little wonder that he had been called "Eichelbutcher."   

Whilst placing units on a sand table is one of the prerogatives of high command, what would become of us under Eichelberger would be the most ill-advised use, actually misuse, of any parachutist tactical mission during the entire war—Africa, Pacific, Europe or anywhere besides.

 It was like getting drunk and using your best axe to break rocks.

Bill Calhoun




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