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Bernard Davidson (David) Mann
"In answering the questions that resulted in this memoir, my perspective on Korea has changed and I am convinced that the Korean War was a vital part of our country's history. I had always been proud of my World War II service, but now the two wars share equally in my life experiences. "
- David Mann
My name is Bernard Davidson Mann of Richmond, Virginia. I am called David. I was born November 7, 1924 in Bluefield, West Virginia, the only child of David Meade Bernard Mann of Petersburg, Virginia and Melita Rorrer Miller Mann of Christiansburg, Virginia. Father was a civil engineer for the Norfolk and Western Railway Company. Mother did not work outside of the home until I finished high school.
I attended first through sixth grades at Bluefield and Christiansburg, Virginia; junior high school at Bluefield; and high school at Bluefield and Norfolk, Virginia. I graduated from Maury High School, Norfolk, on June 16, 1942. In the summer of 1942 I worked for the Norfolk and Western Railway Company as an axe man, assisting in the Civil Engineering Department.
I joined the military during World War II when I entered the Enlisted Reserve Corps (ERC) while attending my first year of college at Virginia Military Institute. (VMI prepared students for the Army.) I was called to active duty in February 1943 after completing that first year of college. I had no interest in the Navy, Air Corps or Marines. I had always been interested in the Army. Father was in the Army during World War I. Many of my college classmates were called up at about the same time as I was from the ERC. My parents had expected it. They knew I would be called up sooner or later.
After receiving my notice, I entered the Army on March 1, 1943. I was ordered to Fort Meade, Maryland, for processing, then was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for artillery basic training. The Army gave me a ticket on an overnight steamer from Norfolk to Baltimore. Then I went by bus to Fort Meade. I believe one of my VMI classmates from Norfolk had also been called up from the Army ERC at VMI and accompanied me, but I cannot remember his name. Two weeks later, I went from Fort Meade to Fort Bragg at Fayetteville, North Carolina.
I don't remember anything happening at Fort Meade at first. I had just finished six months as a "rat" at a tough military school and frankly found basic training "a piece of cake." I was never sorry I had joined up. I was glad to be in the Army and doing something to aid the war effort.
There were ten or twelve of us from VMI at Fort Meade. On one of the first days, we formed into a squad and gave a snappy drill. The first thing I learned at Fort Meade was how to make up a bed with "hospital corners." My instructors were excellent officers and non-coms who had been especially assigned to basic training because of their efficiency. I was particularly impressed with our platoon sergeant, who was from New York City.
From Fort Meade I was sent to Fort Bragg. It was in hilly, wooded country that was well-suited for a training camp. Mornings were cold when we first arrived in March, but quite hot when we left in June. We had three months of basic training (12-13 weeks) at Fort Bragg. We learned the duties of all the cannoneers on a 105mm Howitzer, close order drill, speed marching, calisthenics, overnight field exercises (sleeping in a "pup" tent), classes in how to avoid contracting venereal disease, and shots about once per week, followed by exercises. I remember seeing movies in class such as "Why We Fight." It did a good job of explaining why we were in the war and the kind of enemies we were up against. Church was offered and I went on several Sundays. I don't remember ever seeing an instructor at the church.
I believe were awakened in the mornings at six by a tinny version of Reveille over the intercom system. Our barracks was what would be called today "multicultural." There were some college boys, but there were also many from New York City and Baltimore--a tough, uneducated group, coarse, unsophisticated. The best example I can think of, but not very nice, was one kid from Baltimore who on many mornings would stand up in bed as soon as the lights were turned on and shout, "Look at me, everybody. I've got a 'harder on'." There were no blacks in our outfit because there was no integration in World War II expect near the end in Europe.
The meals were good with plenty to eat. I had always had a good appetite. I don't remember the basic training food except that it was good and there was plenty of it. I do remember going to the club whenever I could and ordering a steak with all the trimmings, raspberry pie afterwards, all for 95 cents. One night some of us went out with non-coms. It was the first time I ever was drunk. The best fun time was when a buddy and I took a bus to Greensboro and saw a night baseball game that featured Ted Williams and several other big league players.
The platoon sergeant posted a list each week of the duties of each man to clean the barracks each morning after breakfast. After about the third week, my name was omitted form the list. I had nothing assigned to me, so I fussed around each morning arranging my belongings and trying to look busy. The sergeant never discovered his error, and I never reminded him. When lights went out, I believe at eleven, everyone was so tired they went to sleep immediately. I don't remember ever being awakened in the middle of the night for anything.
Our instructors were strict, but fair. Luckily I was a good boy and never got into much trouble in basic training other than having to do KP duty for being late to formation or perhaps for not doing an assigned job. We had no real troublemakers. I remember a corporal who had it in for a boy named Krey from Pennsylvania. We would be having a break and the corporal would say, "Krey, are you tired of sitting?" No matter what Krey would say, the corporal would say, "Get up and run around." And Krey would have to run around the group. I can't remember any discipline of the entire platoon for the wrongdoing of one man. There was no use of corporal punishment--just a lot of words, profanity, silly tricks, KP duty for punishment, or policing the area for cigarette butts. This man, Corporal Rice, was very profane. He was really the only non-com I didn't admire. As chance would have it, I was working for a subsidiary of the DuPont Company in about 1956 and went to a training session in Wilmington, Delaware. One of the instructors was the former Corporal Rice, who was very good. I talked to him after the class finished, and discovered that he had stayed at Fort Bragg throughout the war, rising to the rank of First Sergeant. His people at DuPont crowded around me and said they had always wanted to meet someone who knew Rice during the war. I didn't let on that I thought he was anything but the best.
During basic we had to make a certain score on the rifle range, which nearly everybody made. We took an IQ test which was later used to qualify or disqualify for certain jobs. My score was 125, which qualified me later to attend OCS. By the time I got out of basic I felt more confident, more mature. I found out that Army life was not as bad as some pictured it, and that I really liked it. After graduation from basic there was no ceremony. I was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP).
My first furlough came in October of 1943 when I was in ASTP. I wore my uniform and remember especially returning to VMI and seeing my roommate, who was still in school, and attending a football game in which we beat Clemson. I traveled by train both ways from Mississippi State College (now University) at Starkville, Mississippi.
After one semester of ASTP, I was assigned to Battery A, 869th Field Artillery Battalion, 65th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in January 1944, which was my advanced training for the artillery. All travel was by train. I have very little recollection of this period, but I remember having further training and making speed marches. (I also remember one three-day pass I had in New Orleans. I went alone and had a blast. It was the second time I was drunk--this time on rum and coke.) I suppose because of my college training and relatively high IQ score, I was assigned to take night classes in artillery instruction to learn how to command the battery to fire. I was promoted to Scout Corporal with the duties of directing the battery to its new place for firing after the decision had been made by the officers to move and the new place determined by them. I was also involved in surveying in the guns to connect them to features on the map so they could hit their targets with indirect fire. We had to survey the guns in every time we moved into a new firing position and many times checked ourselves that night for practice.
Our instructors were officers in the battery who understood artillery firing very well. I do not remember our schedule. We were part of an infantry division training for combat overseas, with much of the training in the artillery off base (Camp Shelby) in maneuvers in an extensive training area. We had increasingly complex problems and field exercises, which were mainly for the benefit of training the officers. This training lasted from January 1944 to June 1944. When I finished, I felt that I was prepared for combat in artillery, but only as a member of a gun crew.
At that time a call came to other branches of the service for volunteers for Infantry OCS at Fort Benning, Georgia. I assume there was a need for infantry officers after D-day at Normandy. I volunteered because I was from a military school and was expected to become a commissioned officer. I had been stung previously by someone saying, "You're from VMI. Why aren't you an officer?" There were so many artillery officers that it was almost impossible to obtain a commission in the artillery, so I thought my only chance was in the infantry. I was apparently a "shining light" in my battery, and was recommended by the artillery officers. I was accepted.
Officer Candidate School
I attended OCS from July to November 22, 1944 (120 days) at Fort Benning. The instructors, both officers and non-coms, were of two kinds. Some were those who had served their time overseas in combat, and others were superior officers who had completed the infantry OCS training and were outstanding non-coms, some of whom may have been regular Army. They were excellent instructors and all knew their subjects well. At the time, Major General Fred L. Walker was Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning. Col. William R. Orton was Director of Training for Officer Candidates. The junior officers were outstanding. I am sure they were picked as the cream of the crop when they attended the infantry school as officers candidates. Their behavior and deportment were impeccable.
Tactics and weapons were the major training areas in the OCS curriculum. We had many tactical maneuvers, many at night. In these, one of the candidates would act as battalion commander, one as company commander, and others as platoon leaders, sergeants, corporals, and privates. The candidates would be given a situation and each man in a command position would be graded by the tactical officers. It was soon apparent that the borderline cases were given the top-ranking jobs and weeded out if they could not respond satisfactorily. Luckily, the tactical officers must have thought I was okay, because I never was given a command position above sergeant. Weapons instruction was conducted by officers and non-coms, first by lecture and demonstration, and then hands-on by the candidates. There was also homework about the weapons and classroom tests on the weapons' characteristics and capabilities.
I didn't see any discipline problems at OCS. Everybody knew that one false step and you were thrown out, so everybody was on their best behavior. VMI life, basic training, and advanced training in the artillery prepared me for most aspects of OCS except for much of the weapons training and small unit training that I had missed by not coming up through the infantry. Weapons training was the hardest aspect of OCS for me as I have never been very mechanically-minded.
I can't remember any specific classes on leadership. There probably were some, but leadership was stressed in everything we did every day, so we got a pretty good idea of what good leadership should be. We were always expected to wear the proper uniform and look and conduct ourselves as an officer. There were no sports, but there was physical training almost every day in the form of physical exercises or running the obstacle course.
We had a very realistic demonstration of coordination of fires (artillery, tanks and air), but no direct involvement. Most of our tactical training was on the squad and platoon level. We also had to crawl under barbed wire with machine gun bullets whistling overhead and explosives going off around us. There were no mock battles as such, but there were battalion problems, squad training, and demonstration mock battles. There was no mock fighting of one unit against another.
Our quarters were a small hut with a standard Army cot and foot locker for each man. The main essay was a critique of each man in our 12-man hut. We were given a set of questions to answer in essay form on each man. We were expected to complete this assignment during the evenings of one week. This was called "Fuck Your Buddy Week."
We had very little leisure time as we were busy both day and night. There was no liberty until we were allowed to go into Columbus, Georgia, to buy our officer's uniforms about one week prior to graduation. We traveled by bus into Columbus. When I completed OCS, I was commissioned November 22, 1944. After that it was off to the Philippines for seven months of combat before the end of the war in August 1945.
On December 15, 1944, I had a week's leave home after OCS. The Army gave me train tickets from Norfolk to San Francisco, a trip that took four days. Nothing of interest happened on the train. I remember reading a biography of General Nathan Bedford Forrest on the trip. From Frisco we went to Fort Ord by bus. I spent my evenings before debarking overseas in Salinas, California. It had the most bars of any town I had ever seen.
I had no special preparations to make before shipping out. I had a girl I could have gotten serious with, but she didn't show any interest. Shortly after arrival in the Philippines, I received a letter from a cousin in Christiansburg, Virginia, telling me the girl had married a carrier pilot who had just returned from the South Pacific. There was also a girl in Norfolk I considered just a friend, but my mother wrote that she liked me a lot. We corresponded some, and I dated her when I returned home. She knew I was in the 24th Division and became quite concerned when she read in the papers about the terrible time the 24th Corps was having in Okinawa. I had no car and left what I didn't take overseas with my parents in Norfolk, Virginia. I did not want to go to war, but it was evident once the war started that eventually I would be in combat. I was resigned to it and so were my parents.
After we knew we were scheduled to depart for overseas the next day, another lieutenant and I wanted to have one last fling. We went into Salinas about 30 miles south of San Francisco to see two girls we had met two or three days before. Nothing happened with the girls I am ashamed to tell, but we had plenty to drink and were late getting back to camp. We were called before a Major the next morning who read us the riot act and said he should court-martial us, etc. I had a hard time not laughing in his face. If he was stupid enough to court-martial us, that would be fine because we didn't want to go overseas in the first place. I knew he was blowing hot air. Who would stop two infantry officers from going overseas where they were needed so badly? I see this lieutenant regularly at Division reunions and discovered that he was actually scared at the time. I didn't give it a second thought.
I left for the Philippines on the General R.L. Howze. It was a general transport carrying almost 3,000 officers and enlisted men, including 21 nurses and about 60 WAC officers. I didn't notice any fraternization--I rarely, if ever, saw the women. I think the Howze transported only Army personnel, no cargo. I had never been on a large ship before. We left from San Francisco and for the first 24 hours bucked the California Current. I was assigned a watch in the bow the first night and did nothing but sit by a barrel and throw up. The ship's Navy crew laughed and laughed. I felt woozy for about five days, but many others were sick and some longer than I. I remember one soldier was still sick about two weeks after departure. After the first 24 hours, the sea was as calm and placid as one would ever want. We zigzagged the whole way to confuse any Japanese submarines.
We had 16 2nd Lieutenants in our stateroom, all from OCS Class Number 363. Playing poker was about the only entertainment on the ship. I don't recall any duty after that first night. We had the usual hazing ceremonies when we crossed the Equator--nothing hurtful, just a joyous celebration. I think it took about 21 days to reach Milne Bay, New Guinea, then a week in Hollandia before we finally reached the Philippines about January 18, 1945. I found out later that we had stopped in New Guinea to let the nurses off at a hospital there. I don't know why that would take a week. I remember leaving the ship only once. I know the officers were given liberty, and I presume the EM did too. The only time I was on shore, I walked a not-great-distance from the ship until I could go no further because of impenetrable jungle.
We docked at Tacloban, Leyte and I believe we got off the ship right away. I was glad to get there finally. I was in the Army to fight and finally had arrived in a war zone. During the first night or two, a Japanese "Washing Machine Charlie" flew over, dropped a couple of bombs, and then flew on. Nobody paid much attention to that, but I was a little apprehensive.
I was not assigned immediately, but after about five or six days I was assigned to Company G, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. At that time the regiment was aboard ships in Tacloban harbor, having been assigned as a Regimental Combat Team to the XI Corps preparing to depart for western Luzon. We stayed in tents the first five or six days, then by lighterage to our transport (if memory serves correctly), the USS Saratoga APA 204. I must have seen natives at this time, but I don't remember. I saw plenty of natives later during my nine months in the Philippines.
In my company I knew 2nd Lt. Paul G. Silber, Jr., of San Antonio, Texas, who graduated with me at OCS. He was assigned to the 2nd platoon, while I was assigned to the 3rd platoon. I had no real duty while we were aboard ship. I remember little about meeting my platoon aboard the ship. Paul was badly wounded on February 4 by a mortar fragment near his heart. He recovered. Another OCS classmate, Philip Nast of New York in the 3rd Battalion, was similarly wounded on Corregidor February 16. He recovered.
Our first campaign was called "Mike Seven" by the Navy and the "Zambales Operation" by the Army. The operation called for landing a corps on the west coast of Luzon, then moving rapidly to Olongapo on Subic Bay, then through Zigzag Pass across the base of the Bataan Peninsula to prevent the Japanese from moving into the Bataan Peninsula as the Americans had done in 1942. There was no Marine infantry in the Philippines. My first experience with Marines came much later during the occupation of Japan after the war concluded.
We landed unopposed on Luzon on January 29, 1945, at a place called San Antonio on the west coast of Luzon. We were met at the beach by Filipino civilians, no enemy. They lined the highway for much of the march to Subic Bay. Many helped unload our transports. It was hot and sunny and we had brief showers two or three days afterward, but no steady rain. From there the regiment moved about 25 miles southeast to Olongapo, where the first skirmish occurred. My battalion was not involved in the skirmish. The next night our battalion occupied this area and my platoon guarded the point of contact. Nothing happened that night.
From there our regiment moved into Olongapo. The only road from Olongapo on Subic Bay to Manila ran through Zigzag Pass along the base of the Bataan Peninsula. Our main objective was to open Manila Bay to shipping. Manila Bay could only be opened by occupying Bataan Peninsula, then capturing Corregidor, the "Gibraltar" of Manila Bay. Bataan could not be occupied until the road through Zigzag Pass was free of Japanese. There were three days of combat at Zigzag Pass on February 3-5 to accomplish this. Zigzag Pass was our only action on Luzon and our company was in action only on the afternoon of February 4, 1945. The information I am now providing in my memoir includes the actions of our corps (38th Division and 34th RCT), and not just in our unit.
We attacked in the daytime. The Japanese attacked at night. Being a relatively small country and realizing that they would always be outnumbered, the Japanese had adopted a policy (probably before the turn of the century) of evening the odds by concentrating their training on night operations. This policy carried over to the Navy. Anyone who has read about Guadalcanal knows of the successes of the Japanese Navy at night.
Our combat uniform usually comprised olive drab shorts, T-shirts, and cotton socks, although many men did not wear T-shirts. It also included olive drab long pants and shirt (fatigue uniform), and regular high-top leather boots. This was appropriate dress for the hot Philippines. The enemy wore khaki shirt and pants with wrap-around leggings, which must have been very hot.
I never saw the enemy on Luzon. I did not get close to them. I don't think many in our battalion saw a live Japanese because of the jungle. Our adversaries on Luzon were excellent fighters, well-trained in Manchuria, and caused us much grief. They fought differently than the Americans in that they infiltrated our lines at night and were strictly on the defensive in the daytime. We received direct support from mortars and artillery. The regiment had a platoon of tanks attached. (My company received no tank support on Luzon, but on February 4 tanks helped E Company wreak havoc on two machine gun positions.) Air support was not near the front lines but was, instead, mainly directed on supply dumps and known locations of heavy weapons.
The terrain in Zigzag Pass greatly favored the defender. There was dense jungle, steep hillsides, and deep gullies. Although the Japanese had only one reinforced battalion in the Pass, they were tough, well-trained, and not afraid of the odds against them. They were well dug in, impossible to see because of the foliage, and occupying the higher ground, were very effective with their mortars and artillery. They could hide in deep bunkers during our artillery barrages, then emerge to combat our attacking infantry. They could be extracted from their bunkers and caves only by infantry assault of each other.
On February 4, 1945, the 1st and 2nd Battalions minus one company were assigned the mission of breaking through the main Japanese line. This proved to be an impossible task. F company assailed the top of a ridge unsuccessfully. F and G Companies (my company) started digging in on the slope of the ridge when the enemy caught us in a mortar barrage, resulting in 12 killed in action and 76 who were wounded seriously enough to be hospitalized. It eventually took two regiments to break through the line. During the battle, some units had Filipino guerillas and Negrito pygmies as guides.
Our area was protected only by our own weapons, including machine guns, after digging in. In Zigzag Pass, we dug in in the ditch beside the road, shielded by high banks. The Japanese shelled us. Fortunately none of their rounds hit the road. Instead they went down into deep gullies on the other side of the road. The Japanese were armed with bolt action, five-clip rifles, .50 caliber "knee" mortars, twelve .30 caliber machine guns, two 90-mm mortars, six 120-mm mortars, two .37mm, two .70 mm, and two .75mm guns, plus two 105mm Howitzers. They used these weapons very effective and after three days, forced our regiment to retire. I will never forget when I came down off that hill on the evening of February 4 in the gathering gloom, seeing the dead neatly arranged in a row, each covered with a poncho with only his feet protruding.
Medics did an excellent job of caring for the wounded after the mortar barrage on February 4. I cover this in much detail in my book. For those really interested in how medics performed in the Pacific in World War II, I refer them to a small book entitled, "Front Line Medic" by Donald B. Cameron, M.D. Cameron was Battalion Surgeon of our battalion. (I edited the book for him and arranged for the printing.)
My company commander, Capt. Rucker Innes, was wounded on February 4 and one of my fellow platoon leaders, Paul G. Silber of Texas, whom I had known in OCS, was badly wounded February 4 by a mortar fragment near his heart. He recovered. Another OCS classmate, Philip Nast of New York, was in the 3rd Battalion. He was similarly wounded on Corregidor February 16. He also recovered. At this stage of the war, no Americans were captured. I have never heard of any American soldier fighting on the ground in the Pacific being captured after the fall of Corregidor.
When Captain Innes was wounded, the company exec, 1st Lt. Cal Calhoun, took over as company commander. Cal was a slow-talking Mississippian, very cautious, careful, and took no unnecessary chances. He was my company commander for the rest of the war. I considered him a fine officer. Zigzag Pass was hotly contested by the Japanese, resulting in the Battle of Zigzag Pass. The corps accomplished this objective after 18 days. (No foreign troops served near us.) Our regiment was pulled out of the battle after nine days and retired back to San Antonio because of excessive casualties. I was never wounded and was never in hand-to-hand combat in this battle, thank the Lord. In our only brush with the enemy on February 4, we were part of a battalion attack. Our battalion was not successful in accomplishing its mission. Because of poor intelligence and poor judgment by our regimental commander, the attack never had any chance of succeeding.
I had an interesting experience about six days after the end of the battle (February 21). Soon after breakfast at our camp in Olongapo, a Filipino farmer came to our company and complained that a Japanese straggler from the battle was hiding out on his property. Having nothing else to do, I gathered a patrol of about ten men, including my platoon sergeant, Verdun Myers, a tough fighter from Oklahoma. Guided by the Filipino, we hiked about five miles to his small farm. He motioned that the Japanese was in kind of a storage shed he had in the back. We walked to the shed and Sergeant Myers yelled in a loud voice, "Come outta' there." When nothing happened, Myers opened the door and burst into the shed. We heard one shot and only Myers emerged from the shed. We hiked about a mile to the main road and hitched a ride back to Olongapo.
The battle for Zigzag was officially declared over on February 15, 1945. The hard fighting lasted 15 days. The battle actually took place in Zambales Province, which is the next province north of Bataan Province. The fighting was done by XI Corps, comprised of the 38th Division, 34th RCT, and certain Corps units, including aviation construction personnel. There were about 38,000 Americans and 2,100 Japanese. Four American regiments with supporting units totaling about 20,000 men did the actual fighting. The 34th RCT suffered 66 KIA and 268 WIA in three days fighting in Zigzag Pass, plus an estimated 25 cases of psychoneurosis (shell-shock). We had only one man in my company killed and I didn't know him. I knew several who were killed later on Mindanao.
In this battle I did everything that I was asked to do. I was asked to establish a skirmish line after the mortar barrage to prepare to resist a possible Japanese attack (which did not come) while casualties were being evacuated. For this I received the Bronze Star. I don't feel that I deserved it because I was doing just what I was told and that was part of my duty. In retrospect, I probably should have done more in helping to evacuate casualties, but I had to remain at my post to guard against a Japanese attack.
The main difficulty in Zigzag Pass was the Corps Commander's insistence on speed without proper artillery support. Because only one road could be used for supply, maneuver was difficult in this mountainous terrain covered by dense jungle. It was difficult to get enough troops forward to overwhelm the Japanese front line. A breakthrough was made by finally saturating the Japanese line with a devastating three-hour artillery bombardment by six battalions of artillery and then infantry and tanks attacking the line. It took four days after the bombardment to breach the line.
One commander of a regiment (not my own) was relieved. He was not a strong leader. Twice he may have mistakenly, by poor judgment, ordered mortar fire on his own troops, and his regiment was not producing results. His exec took over and welded the regiment into the best in Zigzag Pass. A battalion commander in still another regiment was relieved because of his battalion's slowness of movement and getting into position, and his own timidity in seeking out the enemy. I personally saw no instances of ineffectiveness of officers in heat of battle any of my time in the war zone.
There were mishaps. A buddy in B Company told me that one night a Japanese jumped into a replacement's hole. The replacement jumped into an adjacent hole which was occupied by an Italian who had been stranded in this country when war broke out. The Italian thought he was a Jap and cut the replacement severely with a machete before realizing his mistake.
There was a great deal of bravery. In Company A, 151st Infantry, 38th Division, two men volunteered to attack two machine guns holding up the company. They made one sortie over a small rise and got one machine gun. They made a second sortie and only one of the men came back. In Company A in our regiment, while the company was involved in a banzai attack, a radio operator stood up with much firing going on to repair his radio. He knew the whole company would be wiped out if he could not make contact with battalion to call in artillery fire. I heard of several instances where medics and other soldiers risked being shot while bringing a wounded buddy to cover. On February 4, two wiremen ran through enemy fire to fix a telephone line. When they returned, they discovered the line was still not working. They ran the gauntlet a second time and finally repaired the line.
When we were pulled out of the battle for Zigzag Pass, I was glad to get out of there, but I didn't understand why we were relieved. I knew our company had suffered very few casualties and felt that we didn't deserve to leave the battle to the 38th Division alone. Long after World War II ended, I still wanted to know what happened after our regiment was summarily relieved after only three days of combat at Zigzag Pass. Not until I started researching for my manuscript did I discover how badly the 2nd Battalion and the 1st Battalion had been hit.
I was intimately involved in writing about this battle for several years. Many of my buddies also wanted to know exactly what happened at Zigzag Pass. I researched the battle thoroughly--Army records, interviews with other veterans who were not only in my regiment but also those in the 38th Division. I also toured the battlefield with six Japanese veterans over a three-year period They furnished me with several detailed writings about the battle which had to be laboriously translated from Japanese. I have now written a book called, "Avenging Bataan: The Battle of Zigzag Pass." [KWE Note: Available on Amazon.com. According to one Amazon.com book reviewer, Mann "reconstructed the entire Japanese order of battle, from commanding officer to squad leaders, and provides a detailed description of their weapons, employment considerations, and dispositions. He also includes annexes on U.S. casualties by day and unit, and one that even lists the number of artillery rounds fired by day and type."]
After Luzon we went to Mindoro where the entire 24th Division was located around San Jose on the southwestern coast. The 1st and 2nd battalions were called out for a week-long operation (from about March 20-27, 1945) on the northern part of Mindoro to disrupt a Japanese observation post high on the third highest mountain in the Philippines. The observation post consisted of a lean-to shed with open front toward the Verde Island Passage miles away. The mission of the Japanese at the OP was to report on the Allied shipping they could observe and report to their headquarters by radio. Our assigned mission was breaking through the main Japanese line. We destroyed the outpost and captured a large telescope (about 20 inches long with a diameter of about 6 inches at the large end) with which the Japanese had been observing Allied shipping through the Verde Island Passage.
Mindoro is an unusual island, at least I found it that way in 1945. The 24th Division camp was near San Jose on the southeastern coast. This area reminded me of pictures I had seen of Texas (I had not been there yet), hot and dusty with only scrub grass growing. In other words--dry. A range of mountains running northeast-southeast bisected the island. At the start of this week-long operation, we landed from our LCIs about March 23, 1945, on the northern coast. We found the climate entirely different--wet, cloudy, and rainy. The terrain there was typical of the Philippines--jungle and mountains.
The first part of our stay on northern Mindoro was climbing Mt. Halcyon, the third highest mountain in the Philippines, guided by Filipino guerillas. The trails were very slippery from much rain, and made climbing most difficult. We felt at times that we were sliding back two steps for every one we took forward. The heat and humidity made the climb that much harder. Once we came to a stream and replenished our canteens with fresh, mountain water that we disinfected with pills issued to each man. As soon as we reached the other bank, most men, including myself, started to complain about the leeches which had attached themselves to various parts of our bodies. They only stretched when we tried to pull them out. The only way to remove them was to apply a lighted cigarette to their tails and back them out.
Our company comprised the only American troops at the observation post (the other companies of the battalion had other missions), and my platoon was in the lead when we reached it. The trail ran across the slope and to the right perpendicular to the trail was an area the Japanese had apparently cleared to obtain a better view of the shipping in the Verde Island Passage. My platoon formed a skirmish line along the trail and then with marching fire, ascended the slope. The six Japanese observers were caught totally by surprise and were shot as they tried to run for the bushes. They never knew what hit them.
We had no casualties in taking the outpost. Japanese of about platoon size were encamped in a valley considerably below the OP. Apparently they sent five or six men at a time up the mountain to observe the shipping. When they heard the firing at the OP, they came out of their tents to see what happened. They looked like ants running around on the plain. We had a battery of 105mm Howitzers attached with a forward observer with us. He immediately called in artillery fire to destroy the Jap camp. The battery must have been firing at its extreme range, which I think was 9-10 miles. I doubt the artillery did much good except to alert the Japs that they were in trouble. Our company dug in at the OP for the night, then started down the mountain the next morning toward the Jap camp. My platoon now brought up the rear. All morning we could hear explosions that sounded like firecrackers at that distance. The company moved through the Jap camp, spraying with automatic weapons each tent or lean-to supported by poles three to four feet off the ground as a precaution against flooding. We didn't see any enemy so the company started moving through the forest at the edge of the camp.
Suddenly I heard firing up ahead and soon saw Sergeant Myers, my former platoon sergeant who was now in another platoon, running back along the trail with terror in his face. He was holding his arm, which was dangling from the machine gun burst. I was called forward to establish a skirmish line. I wasn't paying much attention as I placed the men in position. I looked up and across a clearing about 50 yards away, a Jap was raising his rifle to fire at me. I immediately lunged to my left and rolled over and over with three shots following me as I rolled. Sergeant Thompson, my best squad leader, instinctively fired in the direction of the Jap and stopped his firing. I wasn't hit, but a sergeant behind me was hit in the shoulder. The Japanese machine gun burst had killed the lead scout, wounded the company commander, the leader of the lead platoon, Sergeant Myers, and three others.
The main difficulty in taking the OP was in the approach march up steep slopes, rain, and slippery slopes. But after the Japanese ambush, we were still not out of the woods. The wounded company commander was evacuated and the company exec, 1st Lt. Edward S. Symanski of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, took over the company. We still had a considerable distance to march to Calapan on the northeast coast where the LCIs would pick us up for the return trip back to San Jose. of course, there was no way of knowing whether the Japs had another ambush set up for us. Symanski told me to stay in the rear of the company as we marched single file, for if anything happened to him I was the next in line to be company commander. He showed great leadership in taking over the company on the spur of the moment and then, with the help of Filipinos, guided us to our destination. We came to a swift moving, un-fordable river, but Symanski persuaded Filipinos at that location to build us "bancas" (boats) to cross the river. We reached Calapan without further incident and returned to San Jose On the LCIs.
Next, the 24th Division as part of the X Corps landed at Parang, Mindanao, and began a 75-day campaign for the liberation of eastern Mindanao. This campaign has been played down as a "mop-up" operation, but the 24th Division suffered more casualties than on Leyte, where it incurred the second highest number of division casualties. There were too many small skirmishes on Mindanao to be discussed in this memoir.
Ironically, Mindanao was scheduled to be MacArthur's first objective in liberating the Philippines, with a landing set for November 1944. However, resistance was so slight during a carrier plane raid over Leyte in September that the first landing was made on Leyte in October 1944. From there the war shifted to Luzon and then other islands in the southern Philippines. Mindanao became the last of the Philippine islands to be liberated. In order to liberate the Philippines, all of the islands had to be liberated.
Mindanao is the second largest island to Luzon in the Philippines. Its southern tip is only five degrees above the Equator. Consult a map. The eastern part was civilized and before the war specialized in producing abaca for manufacture into hemp for ropes and other products. This was the area west of Davao where the Division operated. Moving west, there is a huge mountain range containing Mount Apo, the highest mountain in the Philippines. On the other side of this mountain range was another civilized area which produced pineapples before the war (Dole was the big producer). West of this area, the largest part of Mindanao, the land trailed off into a long tail, most of which was impossible for military operations. At the end of the tail was another civilized area with Zamboanga as its capital.
The Japanese had been preparing their defense of Mindanao for at least two years. They expected the American invasion to be staged in the Gulf of Davao, where the city of Davao was located. The 100th Division of the Japanese army was the main occupying force on Mindanao when we got there, and there was a sizable naval contingent present. After landing at Parang, our division embarked on an overland trek of about 140 miles southeast to Davao, the capital of Mindanao. We went by boat up the Mindanao River, then by truck, and by marching to help drive the 100th Division into the mountain fastness of eastern Mindanao. We received air drops on Mindanao when we advanced so far into the mountains that trucks could not follow. These supplies were mainly food (10-in-1 rations) dropped by parachute. We used the parachutes at night to ward off the chill in the mountains.
The Japanese were thrown into a dither. Their big guns, which had been pointed out to sea, and their beach defenses were useless against an attack by land in their rear and flank. Nevertheless, they had a second line about two miles inland from Davao, and a third line about two miles beyond that had to be breached by the Americans. They had a total of about 43,000 men, not all of whom were fighting infantry. We had one division numbering about 15,000 men, plus one attached regiment to guard the lines of communications. We had overwhelming artillery and tanks, and the Americans controlled the skies.
Characteristic of the Philippines, the terrain always favored the defense. In this campaign it was the abaca that caused the trouble. Prior to the war, many Japanese civilians had settled on Mindanao to raise abaca. It was planted in neat rows and well-tended by the farmers. However, these fields had been neglected when war started and in 1945 was a bewildering mass of abaca plant with growth of about 20 feet high, shutting out the sun and creating a stifling heat at ground level. We had to cut our way through the abaca if we left the roads (covered by a machine gun at each crossroad) or follow trails through the abaca well known to the Japanese and also covered by machine guns at strategic points. This dense foliage was a two-edged sword. The Japs could see us along pre-arranged lanes of fire, but the foliage also provided good coverage for us. We were in foxholes at night.
The X Corps conducted the operation commanding two divisions, both landing at Parang. The 31st Division drove north against the Japanese 30th Division along the Sayre Highway through rough terrain to the pineapple plantations in the north, and the 24th Division drove first to the east coast capturing Davao, then turned west and drove the Japanese into the mountains. At times we had Marine air support as well as Army Air Corps support.
The Japanese 100th Division was not on a par with the average Japanese division that had trained in Manchuria and/or fought in China. It is my understanding that it was recruited in Mindanao from the Japanese living in Mindanao. The enemy made good use of the terrain, but lacked the heavy weapons to put up a strong defense or to mount any kind of offense. They were strung out along a wide front and always on the defensive.
There were four deaths in my platoon. First, a corporal who couldn't swim drowned while the platoon was swimming in the Gulf of Davao early in the campaign during a lull in the fighting. The second was on flank security for the platoon during an attack. He was shot in the head by a sniper. The third was shot during a firefight in which we had tank support. The fourth was on outpost duty during a company halt and was shot by a sniper. We had short rounds from our .81mm mortars which caused casualties, too. We had to get the mortars to fire from the side, not over any of our troops.
I carried a .30 caliber carbine until one time on Mindanao I fired into bushes from whence a Japanese had just thrown a mine. The carbine felt like a popgun, so thereafter I carried a .30 caliber M-1 Garand rifle. At one point our company was attacking along a road for about two weeks. The company was down to two rifle platoons of about 20 men each, commanded by me and the other by a Lieutenant Gehrig who had joined us about ten days before. We rotated the lead platoon in each day's attack, but because of sometimes dense foliage along the road, it didn't make much difference who was in the lead. The constant urge by higher headquarters to move forward each day, and then waiting for the first shot to ring out to learn the location of the enemy, was very nerve-wracking.
The 78-day Leyte campaign has always been ranked as the ultimate achievement in arms for the 24th Division. However, the campaign on Mindanao took essentially the same length of time, and Division casualties on Mindanao were greater than on Leyte (2,425 on Mindanao and 2,342 on Leyte, although more men were killed on Leyte). Of the nine divisions which participated in the Leyte campaign, only the 7th Division suffered more casualties than the 24th.
Occupation of Japan
After the fighting stopped on July 4 on Mindanao, we set up camp on the Gulf of Davao and started training for the invasion of Japan. In mid-October we embarked for the occupation of Japan. I use the term "train for an invasion" loosely. I said this because our next operation would have been the invasion of Japan if the war had not ended in August. Actually, we had to keep busy, so we had physical and tactical exercises. We also had many new men in the regiment who we had to get to know and orient them to our methods. If the war had continued into 1946, I am sure our training would have been much more strenuous and realistic. Fighting on the Japanese homeland would have been quite different from the Philippines as to terrain, climate, and type of opposition. Our division was scheduled to join in the landing at Tokyo Bay in February 1946.
I had resigned myself to the fact that I would probably be killed if we had to take the land war to the Japanese homeland. I had seen too many veterans with extensive overseas service killed or wounded. In other words, I felt the longer I was exposed to combat, the greater my chances of being killed. Naturally I was looking forward with trepidation to the invasion. I was not disappointed that it did not happen. I was very happy when the war was over.
Our Division was encamped at Sirawan on the Gulf of Davao when the war ended. We had heard rumors ever since the first atomic bomb was dropped that the end was near. We really didn't celebrate when the war was declared over on August 15. We knew we would be among the first troops to occupy Japan, and we didn't know what to expect or what the occupation would entail. Nothing eventful happened on the voyage to Japan. We treated this invasion like any other. We wore full battle gear--packs, steel helmets, rifles, etc. Division and Regiment prepared orders just like any other invasion. There was really little danger involved in being the occupation force, but we didn't know that until we had been there for a few days. Japanese policemen met us at the dock and lined the road as we rode in trucks to our barracks.
I was very much involved in the occupation of Japan from October 1945 to June 1946. We were the first Americans to land on the fourth largest island, Shikoku. We were quartered in a former Japanese Army brick barracks. The first thing we had to do was winterize our quarters as it was getting cold when we landed about October 20. I was designated company commander in November of 1945, and shortly thereafter (late November or early December) we moved from Matsuyama to Ujina, which was the port for Hiroshima. We were located right on the outskirts of the bomb damage to Hiroshima. There was no direct damage where we were, but we didn't have to drive far to enter the bomb-damaged area. Of course, we toured as much of Hiroshima as we could, visiting the ground zero sight of the bomb and climbing the highest hill to get the best view of the city. Everything was completely flattened except for an occasional part of a gutted building still standing.
Our mission at both places was to maintain order (no trouble occurred) and patrol into the mountains to be sure nothing seditious was happening. A principal duty was to check textbooks at elementary schools to see that the Japanese were teaching nothing about war. Nisei interpreters assigned to our company performed this duty. We did not have any systematic way of checking the textbooks. I remember only once while on a motorized patrol into the mountains that we stopped at an elementary school unannounced and the Nisei interpreter checked the textbooks. I was impressed by a first grade class which arose in unison and bowed when we entered their room. I am sure the "powers that be" had textbooks used in secondary schools and universities checked, but my only experience was with this elementary school.
Soon after arriving in Ujina, we were ordered to establish a repatriation center for returning Japanese soldiers and civilians from overseas. The center was run by the Japanese with American supervision. This was my primary duty. Later I was sent in advance to Sasebo, Kyushu, to supervise the transition of a Marine repatriation center to Army control. The Marines played poker every night and would have made it uncomfortable for me if I had not joined them. I will always think the Marine major in charge cheated me to win a huge pot to which I had contributed heavily. Some of the Marines, particularly this Major, hated the Army. They talked a great deal about Guadalcanal.
The repatriation center at Ujina was in one building. I have a picture of it. As company commander, I also had other duties. Although I was responsible for direction of the repatriation center under supervision of the Corps G-2, I assigned the day-to-day operations to a new crackerjack 2nd Lieutenant from the West Point Class of 1945. There were several other centers in Japan, but I was familiar only with the ones at Ujina and Sasebo. There was never any trouble at the repatriation center. I saw a whole Japanese battalion which had been disarmed but was not guarded, waiting to be processed and causing no trouble.
As far as I know, all the soldiers and civilians we handled came from China. Their port of debarkation was Tsingtao (now Qingdao). They traveled by commercial shipping. These repatriation centers are not to be confused with the detention centers and compounds used during the Korean War for North Korean and Chinese prisoners. There were no prisoners in the repatriation centers. All the Japanese soldiers overseas at the war's end were returned to the homeland and processed through a repatriation center. Many Japanese civilians had emigrated to China over the years and I presume the civilians we processed were those who wanted to return to Japan or were forced to leave by the Chinese. I also presume that the civilians could stay in China if they wished and could make a living. The soldiers had to return to Japan. There was no punishment for the Japanese soldiers because they surrendered. The war had been terminated by the Emperor and the government.
The civilians were of all ages, occupations, and sex. They were first sprayed (deloused?), then went through a series of processing stations to give name, occupation, transportation arrangements to home city, etc. The returning soldiers were processed in similar manner. All the work was done by Japanese civilians hired (and probably paid) by the U.S. to perform these duties. None of these repatriates was a prisoner. Only Americans and Japanese were involved, although every precaution was taken to prevent aliens from returning. I remember watching a Japanese policeman observe a long line of civilians as they left the ship at the dock. After some time, he reached into the line and jerked out a Korean who was attempting to enter Japan.
I have only good memories of the repatriation center in Ujina. The young West Pointer directly in charge named himself SCURC (Supreme Commander Ujina Repatriation Center), a play on MacArthur's title SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers). He got an early taste of how West Point plays the game. Once a big inspection was planned for visitors from Tokyo and the young lieutenant prepared for days for the inspection. When the visiting party arrived, he was all prepared to lead the visitors on a tour of his facilities. However, the Corps G-2, a West Point graduate of the Class of 1940, immediately stepped in and escorted the visitors, explaining the operations. The young lieutenant was left dumbfounded. I didn't care as I was not making the Army a career.
The emotions I felt while serving in the repatriation center were pity for the poor civilians who were carrying everything they owned. They had been uprooted in China and now were facing an uncertain future in Japan. With regard to the soldiers, I thought it was such a colossal waste for Japan to amass a tremendous army overseas, only to see it waste on the vine because they could not produce enough planes and ships to remove these troops before they were cut off, much less defend the homeland.
For the most part, the Japanese were friendly and cooperative. The only place we saw real animosity was in Hiroshima. There were many people walking around with very visible scars and other marks from the blast. We could see the hate in the eyes of those who looked at us, and we could not blame them. The devastation at Hiroshima and the plight of victims of the atomic bomb were sad to see, as was the poverty of the general populace and local governments. For example, buses ran on charcoal. On Shikoku at Matsuyama, the capital, where we were first located, the streets were deserted the first two days of occupation, although we could see girls at some of the upstairs windows as we passed. After two days most Japanese were friendly, although I could sense some animosity in the men when Americans were seen in public with Japanese girls.
We treated them as equals. I remember one evening when a young Japanese boy about 12-14 years of age came to our quarters in Ujina and complained that an American had stolen his watch. We made a search of the quarters and found the watch under one of the Americans' pillows. We court-martialed the guilty soldier, and I testified at his trial. He received a sentence of six months in the stockade. I believe the fair trial, which was open to the public, made a distinct, favorable impression on the Japanese.
In Uijana, an order came down from headquarters for us to close the houses of prostitution. I took a squad of men carrying steel helmets and rifles and we knocked on the door of a house in Ujina. The madam met us at the door and immediately made us remove our combat boots before entering. I found it humorous to conduct such a mission as a military operation, and then right off the bat to be thrown to the mercy of a tough woman. I don't think the order did much good, as the girls immediately went to the streets. On another occasion, I went to a really nice Japanese resort hotel on R&R. The waitresses in the dining room were young girls about 16-17 years of age from good families. I took a fancy to one and one night walked her to her home on the resort grounds after she got off from work. The paths were well lighted, so I tried to steer her off the lighted path into an area not so well lit. She said, "No, No! Mama-san say no good," and she would not walk with me into the darkness.
I found the Japanese culture to be fascinating. They were and are a "neat" people--very disciplined and organized. I was most amazed at how they took care of their people. They had just gone through four years of war with much of the country devastated. Everybody seemed to be poor. Yet, the department stores, which were not well stocked, employed many people, probably not paying each very much, but giving them enough so they wouldn't starve and keeping them working. What surprised me the most about the Japanese was that they were so docile and cooperative. I had to deal with several civilians in getting the Repatriations Centers going, and without exception they cooperated to the fullest extent despite the language barrier and the introduction of new work methods by the Americans. (I am vague on this subject, only remembering several meetings with Japanese civilians when we were setting up the centers when there was misunderstandings of how the job was to be done. Part of this was probably due to the language barrier.) I had expected them to be sullen and lethargic when it came to working with the Americans, but they had resigned themselves to the fact that they had been defeated and were determined to rebuild their nation.
I did some sightseeing in Kyoto, which was un-bombed, and in the un-bombed parts of Toyko, seeing the Emperor's palace from afar. Most of the cities were leveled from the bombing and the people in the countryside were so poor that it was depressing to see them. Also, one had to have an interpreter with him to do any traveling.
I mentioned the R&R. For about a month our company occupied a baseball stadium between Kobe and Osaka. All the steel girders had been removed for the war effort, but the cement stands were still intact and the field was in good shape. The officers' quarters were in a suite reserved for the Emperor when he attended a game and apparently stayed overnight. As Spring had come, we slept outside in the Emperor's box. We played or practiced baseball every day. We had a softball game with a middle school composed of boys 13-15 years old. They were good and wanted to beat us so badly, but we prevailed by one or two runs. The 11th Airborne Division came down from Hokkaido for spring practice on our field. One of my OCS buddies was one of their pitchers. I enjoyed seeing him again. Before I was sent to Sasebo, our company was guarding a huge motor pool of all the vehicles which had been used in the Pacific, or so it seemed. During this period another lieutenant and I called on some girls several nights, but the nights turned out to be innocent, at least for me.
I was very cavalier in my relationship with the battalion commander, and never even bothered to take a boat and visit him at his headquarters on an island about three miles off-shore. I don't think he ever forgave me for this slight. A short time later, one of the lieutenants in my company was drowned. I was dilatory in my handling of this tragedy. The battalion commander came to our company and conducted the investigation himself. Shortly thereafter, I was relieved as company commander. A new captain came in as CO. I continued doing what I had been doing and he sat at his desk with his feet propped up and supervised. I was transferred to F Company, which was okay too.
When officers were rotated home, it was customary to promote each officer one grade. Several of my lieutenant buddies at this time were promoted to Captain. However, I had a black mark on my record from my former battalion commander, and the authorities would not promote me. My buddies urged me to fudge the record so I would also make Captain. I wouldn't do it because I knew it wasn't right and I didn't want to accept something I knew I didn't qualify for. I never blamed the battalion commander. He did what he thought was right. He was justified in his action. I think it proved to be a blessing in disguise. When I was called up for the Korean War, I would have reported as a Captain. It is very likely I would have been assigned as company commander of a rifle company, an assignment I would not have relished.
Between the Wars
If memory serves correctly, a soldier rotated home when he had amassed 85 points. Each soldier received so many points for time in service, time overseas, time in combat, wounds, awards, combat infantry badge, etc. Since I entered the Army relatively late (March 1943 and overseas in January 1945), it took me until June 1946 to amass enough points. I didn't mind the Army, but knew it was time to go home and continue pursuit of my college degree.
I disembarked at Seattle after a relatively pleasant trip from Sasebo by ship. I read from the ship's library much of the time. The only event of note was winning a wrist watch in Bingo. I gave it to my father, who had never owned one. A tinny recording of "Sentimental Journey" welcomed us to the States. The only part of the processing that I remember was the interview to try to insure that each man had a job to return to or had made other plans. The processor was a PFC. I had already planned to return to VMI, so I didn't think I needed any help.
I went out with two others, one of whom had acquired a car. We cruised around and finally found three nice-looking girls. We took them to a place to eat. By the time we finished eating, it was 3:30 a.m. and daylight, so that was the end of the evening. We took a five-day trip on a troop train to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where we would be discharged. We stopped at a small town in Montana for about 20 minutes. A big crowd had gathered to welcome us. As we were leaving, a good-looking girl said to me, "I want to kiss you," and did. My mother and father might have come down to Fort Bragg from Norfolk, or I may have just taken the bus to Norfolk by myself. I cannot remember. I spent at most one or two days at Bragg before returning home. By the time I arrived home, returned veterans were commonplace and received no special attention. My parents and relatives were naturally glad to see me, but otherwise, returning home was pretty routine.
I was discharged in July of 1946, but immediately joined the reserves. As mentioned, I planned to return to VMI, a military school. Reservists were not required to engage in many of the military aspects of the school. The purpose of ROTC at VMI was to obtain a commission, and I was already an officer. I re-entered VMI in September of 1946. The first job I held was in the summer of 1947, working for the Mosquito Control Department of the City of Norfolk. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree with major in history from Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia, in June of 1949. I was in the inactive reserves--just a name on a list at the War Department. During the summer of 1949, I went on active duty, serving first on ROTC duty at Camp A.P. Hill, Virginia, then with an MP Battalion at Fort Meade, Maryland.
On September 9, 1950, I married Patricia Hall of Roanoke, Virginia, in Roanoke. I had met her in 1947 while attending a dance at Longwood College, Farmville, Virginia. The war had started in June of 1950 and knowing I would be called up, we advanced the wedding two weeks. I didn't like the idea that I was going to be in another war, but knew that if I elected to stay in the reserves, I should expect to serve in time of war. We lived in Washington, where I had worked before marriage, for a month. My wife got a job with another branch of the company she worked for in Roanoke. I was called up about the middle of October.
At the time the Korean War broke out, I was at Georgetown University in Washington, from which I was graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service on September 6. While I was overseas in the Philippines and Japan, I had planned to study for the Foreign Service. However, the one year in Washington soured me on the prospect.
Patricia and I had few possessions (we had lived in a furnished apartment in Washington). What little we had we stored at my wife's home in Roanoke, where she lived during my time in Korea. About the only arrangements I had to make was to sell the car. My parents didn't like the fact that I was called up, but accepted it gracefully as they had done in World War II.
I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, which was then an infantry training division at Camp Breckinridge, Henderson, Kentucky. I had a most interesting job--instructor in a Leadership School. At that time all EM who wanted commissions had to first pass a month-long course at a Leadership School. Therefore, the school's students were the cream of the crop from basic training. We also had an Officers' Refresher Course of one week.
I was called for war service in June 1951 and assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia, for a one-month refresher course. I departed by air from Edwards Air Force Base around September 1 after a week's vacation in San Francisco. We stopped for 48 hours in Honolulu, touched down at Wake Island for refueling, and finally landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. I was first assigned to attend a three-week course at a CBR (Chemical, Biological, Radiological) School in Gifu, a small resort town north of Nagoya. We were quartered at a former Japanese Air Base. This was a delightful place.
War in Korea
From Japan I took a ferry or small steamer across Tsushima Strait from Shimonoseki or Mjoi (now Kitakyushu) to Pusan, Korea. I arrived about September 1, 1951. We got off the ship immediately as I remember and went directly to our quarters. My first impression of Korea was that it was a poor, war-ravaged country, pretty much like the pictures I had seen of the Korean War and what I had read about it. I thought it was certainly worth fighting for--we were fighting so the South Koreans could be free. History has shown we did the right thing. By the time I arrived there, the first cease fire was in effect and the front was stabilized north of Seoul.
After a short time, we (replacement officers) boarded a train for an overnight trip from Pusan to Suwon just south of Seoul. I had not been assigned at this time. There I was assigned to the 3rd Division, I Corps, the headquarters of which I believe was in Suwon, and reported immediately. Headquarters was located several hundred yards back of the front lines and was in no danger from the enemy.
At the headquarters I ran into an officer with whom I had graduated from OCS. He was a captain, Assistant G-2 of the division. I was immediately assigned to the 15th Infantry. When I reached their headquarters, I was assigned to Headquarters Company as Assistant S-3. I knew no one in the 15th Infantry. Later I made the acquaintance of an officer who was at Georgetown University the year I was there, but I did not know him. I am sure all the higher ranking officers in the regiment had served in World War II, but I didn't find out about this until later. The same can be said about the division commander who had served in the 24th during World War II.
I reported to Major Young, the regimental S-3 (Plans and Operations) when I first joined the 15th Infantry. He was a regular Army officer, very sharp, aggressive, and a fine officer who treated me well. He was a graduate of The Citadel. About December 1951, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to one of the battalions as commander. It was easy to tell he was delighted with this job. I believe he eventually became a Brigadier General during the Vietnam War. His replacement was a captain who was not sure of himself. He had none of the verve or people skills of Major Young and did an adequate, but not spectacular, job. While serving under this officer, I pulled a boo-boo one time. Before the S-3 retired for the evening, he told me to be sure and awaken him if anything happened along our front. I received a phone call which I thought was of such a minor nature that I didn't awaken him. When he came into the headquarters tent the next morning, he was furious that I had not followed his instructions to the letter. There was no harm done, but he was perfectly right in reaming me out. I was in his doghouse for a few days.
When I joined the 15th Infantry, the 3rd Battalion was black, with white officers. I didn't notice any prejudice toward them, but I heard some justified comments about their poor performance against the enemy. After they did nothing in the general attack all along the line about October 1, 1951, the battalion was split up and the soldiers assigned to the other companies on about a ten percent basis in each company. Ever after they performed on a par with the white soldiers.
Our regiment was strung out in a long line in an extensive valley near Chorwon. It was part of the front line, prepared to defend if the Chinese attacked. Every evening at dusk an L-4 Cub plane flew over the area to our front to detect the Chinese if they were preparing for a night attack. I accompanied the pilot on about a half dozen of these missions.
I Corps, where I was assigned, was preparing an offensive to gain several ridges beyond our lines. For a week the Corps was raking the ridges to be assaulted with all the heavy weapons available. My job was to keep track of the rounds fired each day by each unit involved in the bombardment. I regret that I did not keep a record of my various moves and the names of the places I was located. From Chorwon we moved to a more mountainous area from which we launched the corps attack near the end of September or first days of October.
When I first joined the 15th in Korea about the first week in September 1951, the weather was quite cool at night. I nearly froze until I could acquire a winter sleeping bag about two weeks later. Snow came by at least Thanksgiving and fell intermittently until I left in February. I was never cold once I was issued cold weather gear, which included long johns, woolen pants, wool sweater, wool socks, a long really warm overcoat, fur cap with fleece padded ear flaps, and mittens. I remember moving into a new area one cold night. We slept in our winter sleeping bags. The only trouble was getting up in the dark and dressing the next morning in temperature four degrees below zero in a tent devoid of heat. The Chinese enemy wore the usual padded winter clothing with fleece-lined cap and ear flaps.
Another of my duties was to prepare unit citations. Two days after they had occurred, I was directed by the Regimental Executive Officer (a Lieutenant Colonel) to write up the entire regiment in recommendation (a bunch of flowery words describing the action but not mentioning any names) for a Presidential Citation for a regimental attack that had taken place on Hill 487 approximately October 1, 1951 and a 2nd Battalion attack on a hill near the Imjin River on Thanksgiving night 1951. I traveled over the battlefield after the fighting was over and interviewed some of the men who had participated in the battle, asking where they were during the attack and their general reactions during the fighting. Actually, I didn't get too much from the men. I was more interested in what the regiment and battalion had done, what the terrain was like, where the attack had been directed. Company officers wrote up noteworthy men for Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, etc. In the Hill 487 action, one company commander received the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross). A West Pointer, he had said before the attack that he would come back with the Medal of Honor, or he wouldn't come back (or so I was told). He was killed in the attack.
At the first battle site, I saw a hilly area much churned up by artillery and mortar fire. (Prior to the attack on Hill 487, everything possible had been thrown on the Chinese--artillery, mortars, tanks, machine gun fire, etc.) I remember seeing a foot encased in a boot protruding out of the ground where the soldier had been hastily buried. The fighting had advanced about 1000 yards, so the battlefield was deserted, a very desolate place. At the second battle site, snow still covered the ground after the Battalion's attack during a snowstorm. I saw the unburied bodies of two soldiers lying in the snow, still fully clothed with packs and rifle. These were two men from K Company, which had been knocked off the hill by the Chinese. The 2nd Battalion had recaptured the hill. I visited the headquarters cave. I strongly felt that both units should receive Presidential Unit Citations. However, only the 2nd Battalion received the citation, so I was told. I have often wondered if the attack on Hill 487 was necessary. The regiment suffered 70-odd killed and over 400 wounded in three days of fighting. But it was part of an attack all across the front following the break-down of the first series of peace talks, so I suppose it was necessary to show the Chinese we were back in business.
Another of my duties was to prepare the 15th Regiment's monthly After Action Reports (AAR). I have kicked myself ever since for not keeping copies of the reports. I even looked for them one time at the National Records Center at Suitland, Maryland, but they had apparently been destroyed. I could find nothing in the 15th Regiment's files that would replace them.
Next, our regiment pulled back into a beautiful area for rest. Instead of gray, barren hills, this was a wooded area much like the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where I had spent my childhood. This lasted for only a few days. We then moved to the area of the Imjin River where I spent the rest of my time in Korea.
We were next to the British Commonwealth Division at one time. The British were good fighters, but I thought they were cautious and not inclined to take many chances. I remember one British officer said he had to go up to the front and see the show when some action by the British was scheduled. The officers actually had their tea every afternoon at 4 p.m.
I had a variety of interesting assignments. Besides preparing the AAR monthly reports and any presidential unit citations desired by the Regimental Exec., I was the night duty officer at times. This was like a CQ (Charge of Quarters). I answered the phone, woke up appropriate personnel if a unit phoned in an emergency, and in general was in charge of the regiment during sleeping hours. Every morning at 9 a.m., the Battalion commanders and their staff met at regimental headquarters for a briefing of what had happened along the entire front in Korea. I do not remember any of their names. I believe that most of them were reserve officers like me. We met in a certain tent which had chairs arranged for the attendees. I conducted these meetings for a certain period, reading the reports of actions all across the front during the previous night. The reports consisted of any Chinese action and the counter actions taken by our units. I pointed out the actions and by which units on a huge wall map of Korea. None of these briefings stand out in my mind because the front was relatively quiet during the period I was performing this duty. I have always cherished the memories of this experience. One assignment that I did not particularly care for at this time, however, was when the regimental commander wanted a huge map of the area so he could follow the troop movements more easily. For several days three or four of us lieutenants spent our days drawing the map in sections and then piecing it all together at the end. I felt it was almost like "make work."
There was no contact with South Korean military during my relatively short stay in Korea. The only Chinese soldier I saw while I was in Korea was a prisoner being interrogated one evening in one of our regimental tents. At Thanksgiving 1951, the Chinese made a surprise attack and drove our K Company off a hill. The regimental commander ordered our 2nd Battalion to attack in a snowstorm Thanksgiving night and retake the hill. The attack was a complete success; the Chinese never expected such quick retaliation and were driven off the hill. The regimental exec assigned me the task of writing up the battalion for a presidential citation. I visited the area about two days later and it was all I could do to reach the top. And this battalion had attacked up the hill in a snowstorm! I stayed for about one half hour in a cave on the back slope of the hill, talking to G Company men. While I was there the Chinese shelled the hill, but we were safe in the cave. On the way down the hill, I saw several K Company men who had been shot retreating off the hill. They were still lying in the snow. In the Philippines during World War II, the dead were always removed to the rear as soon as possible. I was appalled at this sight, and it was not the only time. When we moved into the Imjin River area to replace the 1st Cavalry Division, we found one of their men unburied.
One of my last assignments was one of the most interesting. For about a month in January of 1952, I was the liaison officer from our regiment to the Greek Battalion. (Adjacent units on line exchanged liaison officers, if available.) I never heard of the liaison concept during World War II, at least not in the Pacific. It was my understanding that each regiment on line exchanged liaison officers with each of the regiments on its flanks. Of course, this could only be done if there was an abundance of supernumerary lieutenants, as we had in Korea at that time. It seemed to me like a superfluous job, but I did as I was told. I believe liaison officers were rotated each month. Their duties were to maintain liaison between our regiment and the regiment to which we were assigned, whatever that meant. In times of battle, there was probably a need to maintain good communications and understanding with the regiment on our flanks, but again, the front was entirely quiet during the time I was assigned as liaison officer to the Greek battalion.
The Greek headquarters was dug into a huge hole covered with (what seemed to me) about 25 feet of dirt. The Greeks were delightful people I really enjoyed. They seemed to be "happy-go-lucky" and enjoying themselves. The headquarters group with whom I lived were safe in a deep bunker. I can seldom remember certain meals or special foods. (I have never seen a meal I didn't like.) I just remember that the Greek food was good. Life at that time was good to the Greeks. I can't remember any of their names. There was only one officer who spoke English (I regret that I cannot even recall his name), so you can bet I stayed pretty close to him. The officers' quarters were dugout rooms about the size of an ordinary room. There were shelves of dirt near the ceiling around the room. At night rats ran around on the shelves and kicked dirt against the canvas, causing a terrific racket. One of the Greek officers kept a pistol and a flashlight by his bed. While lying in bed, if he heard a rat, he would turn on the flashlight and plug the rat with his pistol. Near the end of my stay, the battalion commander, a really nice guy, threw a dinner party for the officers, serving fine Greek food as only the Greeks can do it. He presented me with a bottle of cognac, which I saved and brought home with me for my first night with my wife.
I did not visit the front lines of the Greek sector. I know about them only by reputation. They were considered to be excellent fighters, even against the Turkish Regiment. Because of centuries-old warfare between Greece and Turkey, their respective units were never placed near each other in Korea. I believe some bitterness manifested itself early in the war the first time they were placed side by side.
I believe the last assignment I had was during the last part of January 1952, when the regimental executive officer thought that the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry might deserve a Presidential Unit Citation for their action in November-December 1950. The battalion had furnished rear guard support for the troops evacuating North Korea through the port of Hungnam. I was ordered to fly via Cub observation plane to X Corps Headquarters near the eastern coast of Korea to investigate the role of 3/15 in the evacuation of Hungnam. I talked to the Corps historian, a Lieutenant Colonel, who as a major had been my battalion commander the last two weeks of the Mindanao campaign. I looked through the X Corps historical records, but could find little pertaining to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry. The trail was just too cold. There was just no way to reconstruct the evacuation and make any sort of recommendation for a citation.
As an aside, the Lieutenant Colonel had never returned to the States after World War II. As can be imagined, he was anxious to return home. However, he could not leave until he found a replacement. He asked me to become his replacement, said he would see that I was promoted to Captain. The offer was tempting because I had majored in history in college. But I was married and had to get home to my wife. Being away from my wife and home and not being able to start a civilian career was hard on me. I was 27 years old, had been in the Army for five years, had been in college for five years, and I was ready to start a career. I also felt frustrated because we could not do anything to win the war.
My time in Korea was as different from World War II service as the proverbial night and day. From the standpoint of living conditions, food, danger, by any criterion, Korea was an enjoyable breeze for me compared with World War II. Korea was much like stateside duty since I was not involved in actual combat like I was in World War II. I was never in any danger there.
The only time I lived in a bunker was with the Greeks. The bunker was very safe, furnishings were adequate, and it was dry. During World War II, we had to dig a foxhole each night, then move on the following day. We were exposed to the elements--in our case in the Philippines that meant lots of rain. In the Greek bunker, we slept on cots with overhead cover and plenty of room in which to move around. It was just like a tent during garrison duty.
Keeping clean was no problem. I bathed in portable showers at regular intervals. I changed into clean clothes in our tent in which I always slept. I never spent a night on the ground in Korea. Food was about what it was in the States. I ate food in the officers' mess tent, prepared in Headquarters Company kitchen. I never ate any Korean food. The best food was when I was with the Greeks.
There were many light moments. One night the regimental commander came to the S-3 tent dressed in bathrobe and pajamas with his pistol and pistol belt, combat boots, and steel helmet. After that we called him (among ourselves) "Pajama 6", a throwback on the regimental commander's usual designation, "S-6." One of the lieutenants in our sleeping tent acquired a monkey who was really bad. It tore things up at every opportunity, including getting into my box of cigars and destroying most of them. The cigars were from my wife. I smoked cigars and a pipe, but did not drink or gamble. My wife sent me cigars. I don't remember any trouble getting tobacco for the pipe. I took pipes to Korea with me. I had smoked before, but I believe I smoked more in Korea.
My time in Korea was not religious. I never attended church. I don't remember seeing any American women in Korea. The journalist Marguerite Higgins visited our unit once, but I don't remember seeing her. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in Korea, but I also don't remember anything special about them either. Christmas may have been spent with the Greeks. I spent my 27th birthday in Korea on November 7, 1951, but can't recall anything unusual. I never saw any USO shows, but I went on R&R to Tokyo for three or four days.
I remember six men I served with in Korea, but have seen none of them since. The first regimental commander was a Colonel Neal. I liked him because of his bearing and military manner, his gentle demeanor, and "imperturbable" presence. Next was the regimental exec from whom I received many of my orders. He was a learned man who respected my writing ability. Major Young, the regimental S-3, my immediate boss, was strictly a military man who eagerly wanted a fighting job and finally got it with a promotion to Battalion Commander. Next, was the 2nd regimental commander. I later found out that he was a battalion commander in the 24th Division during World War II.
One night at dusk I met a lieutenant I had known at Georgetown. He was getting ready to lead a night patrol and he had blackened his face. I didn't envy him. As I was walking to the front, I ran into a man I had known at VMI. He was a captain and had just completed his tour of duty. I had no relative in the Korean War.
The only contact I had with the natives was when we arrived and young Korean girls served our meals. There were always natives along the roads, too. I remember only those civilians in Seoul. They were poor. The city was in ruins. I imagine many were uprooted and homeless. I remember especially one little girl clad in rags, running around the streets alone, probably looking for food. She looked like a scared rabbit and would not look us in the eyes.
My strongest memory of Korea was the strength of the 8th Army. I believe it to be the best Army we ever had. I am very proud to have served in it. I perceive a "war hero" to be one who performs above and beyond the call of duty. By this definition, I saw many "war heroes" in Korea.
When I was told it was time for me to rotate home, I was surprised. My orders in October 1950 to report for the Korean War specified service for 21 months. I was released in February 1952 after 16 months, but it took about a month to get home. I was glad to be going home, but I had enjoyed my time in Korea. I believe I felt more confident in my abilities. Although I did not have a command function in Korea, I felt I could fill an executive position immediately. My service in Korea qualified me only for the campaign medals. I never received them or wore them, but I am proud I am eligible for them.
I flew to Japan and left, I believe, from Yokohama. I don't remember much except that I could not take any equipment home. I wanted to take my heavy overcoat, which already had a hole in the pocket from my pipe. On the ship going home, I could relax. I read a good book from the ship's library--a history about some of the great soldiers of all time. I brought the book home with me. I didn't have any duties on the voyage. I had no seasickness or bad weather on the trip, although at one point we were only about 400 miles from Alaska during February. The ship went directly from Japan to San Francisco. We were about seven to eight days aboard ship. I don't remember the first thing I did when I got back to the States, but I image I called my wife.
After arrival in the States, my first duty was as commander of a troop train of six coaches in San Francisco bound for Fort Meade, Maryland. A memorable event occurred during this trip. Shortly after we left Denver, a black soldier came to me and said somebody had stolen his watch he had inadvertently left in the bathroom. We (another lieutenant, my second in command and I) decided that the perpetrator was not going to get away with it if we could help it. We sealed off that particular coach and announced to all those on the coach what had happened. We then had each man enter a small room alone at one end of the coach. We told each he could leave the watch in the room when he departed and no questions would be asked. After each man filed in and out of the room and the watch did not appear, we made a search of each man's belongings. When we were about halfway through our search, we found the watch in the possession of a white soldier. I sought help from the civilian conductor on the train. He wired ahead to Kansas City and asked for MPs. The MPs boarded the train at Kansas City and escorted the "prisoner" for the remainder of the trip. Even though it might delay my discharge from the Army, I still asked for a court martial against the thief. Instead of asking me to testify, the authorities permitted me to prepare and sign a deposition. My discharge was not delayed. I didn't stay around to find out the court's sentence.
I had no further duties at Fort Meade. I was processed and discharged almost immediately. I thought about re-enlisting because I had had such a rewarding experience during the Korean War. I liked all of my assignments. However, I knew enough about the Army to know one couldn't pick his jobs. I knew there would be enough distasteful assignments to frustrate me in the Army. I did not re-enlist. I was discharged on 5 March 1952.
After my discharge, I started looking for a job. I had no trouble adjusting to civilian life, but had some trouble obtaining a job I wanted. My army experience proved to be very beneficial in finding a job. I had had five years of college with two bachelor degrees, so more schooling was out of the question. I forget how it happened, but the head of the History Department at VMI offered me a position as instructor in history and economics. I halfway wanted to accept, but my wife didn't think it paid enough. I was also skeptical as I was completely unprepared to teach economics and knew it would be a rough road in the future with a wife and probably children should I try to obtain a doctorate if I decided on a career teaching history. I was offered a job with the telephone company (AT&T), but the work did not appeal to me.
I was living at my wife's home in Roanoke, Virginia. I settled on a job as a foreman at a DuPont nylon manufacturing plant in Martinsville about 50 miles away. Although this job paid more than any I could get and I had one child with another on the way, I did not like it mainly because of the shift work. After four years I transferred to a DuPont subsidiary, Remington Arms in Bridgeport, Connecticut, as a foreign sales correspondent. After four years there, I had a hankering for more money and work in New York. I obtained a job with Deering-Millikin textile greige sales in New York, commuting by train every day from Stratford, Connecticut. I was totally unsuited for this work and was fired after about six months. Unable to find work, I sold my house in Stratford and moved with my wife and girl five and boy three to my wife's parents' home at Royse City, Texas, about 30 miles east of Dallas. I could not find a job in that area. By sheer luck I was offered a job as Secretary of the VMI Foundation at my alma mater in Lexington, Virginia. Thus I began a 30-year career in college development (fund raising and public relations) in Virginia. In this capacity, I spent 3 1/2 years at VMI, 11 1/2 years at a junior college in Ferrum about 30 miles from Roanoke, two years at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, one year at Gill School in Richmond, one year at the University of Richmond, three years at St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville, and eight years at Virginia Union University in Richmond. I retired June 1992.
I have two children, Cathy and John. Cathy is married and lives in Marietta, Georgia, with husband Ken and two girls Caroline and Suzanne. Johnny lives in Plano, Texas with wife Cindy and daughter Jessica. My first wife Patricia died in 1982. I am married now to Helen.
In my retirement, I have devoted much time to my manuscript on the Battle of Zigzag Pass, which will come out on February 2002 in hard cover. I have also been active with my World War II 24th Division Association editing first and second editions of the division's history and chairing our annual reunion this September in Hampton, Virginia. Service in both wars has enhanced respect for me since retirement. My service has also stimulated my interest in the Civil War and World War II to such an extent that I have written about both and have been published.
I believe that it was right for the United States to get involved in Korea. We had to make a stand against communism. We were in the right to stop the spread of communism wherever we could and in Korea it was all black and white, no gray areas. I also think that MacArthur was definitely right to go beyond the 38th parallel. He wanted to unify all of Korea and would have succeeded if the Chinese had not intervened. I don't think the United States made any mistakes in Korea, although better intelligence concerning the Chinese intervention could have saved us much grief and lost lives. The Korean War showed that we were firm against Communism. We stabilized South Korea, and the whole world has seen the difference in our system and the Communist system. I think the US should still have troops there because we are a stabilizing influence in that area and can keep an eye on North Korea. I visited Korea for about an hour at a time in the Seoul airport en route to Manila several times. I would greatly love to revisit Korea in detail, but it is too costly and I cannot leave my wife for extended trips because of her health.
I think the American people took the Korean War for granted. We could fight over there if we wanted to, but the people were not much concerned. I noticed this especially when I returned. The people I knew cared nothing about the war. For the next generation reading this memoir, I hope there will be an understanding that there was a real war going on in Korea--a "cold" war that needed to be fought as much as any hot war. Korea gave us a chance to show the world our firmness against Communism and that we prized freedom for others as much as we wanted freedom for ourselves.
I'm sure the training I received in the States and World War II helped me in Korea, but I am not for sure how. My combat experience in World War II did not help in Korea because I saw no combat in Korea. I suppose my experience in World War II helped me understand the Army better so I could do a better job in Korea, although I cannot give a specific example. The Army had not changed in organization or modus operandi from World War II to Korea, so it was easy to adjust to Army life again. It was a very satisfying personal experience--one that I wouldn't take anything for.
I'll tell anyone anything they want to know about the Korean War. However, I find little interest by my children or grandchildren or anyone about the war. This is in sharp contrast to interest by the younger generations about World War II. I have spoken to two 4th grade classes about World War II and they showed much interest. I think that World War II veterans are treated with more respect than Korean War veterans. In talking with people of all ages, I talk about World War II, but seldom about Korea. If I say, "I was in both wars," I seem to gain even more respect. People just don't seem to be interested in Korea. In answering the questions that resulted in this memoir, my perspective on Korea has changed and I am convinced that the Korean War was a vital part of our country's history. I had always been proud of my World War II service, but now the two wars share equally in my life experiences. With this memoir, I now have a complete record of my war service in one place for posterity.