In The Army With George J. Plautz

Continued

By Sgt. George J. Plautz

On August 25th 1943 we left Magnetic Island and set up our tents at another racetrack, Cluddin Racetrack.  We were issued a lot of jungle suits and boots.  Our undershirts and pants were green or O. D. colored now and also our towels or anything that was white.  We were issued a jungle hammock.  Had a sturdy bottom and mosquito netting all around, and a zippered opening that you could close up after you crawled in.  You had to make a T-bar for each side of your cot to hold it up.  It sure worked well for us.  The infantry werenít that fortunate.  Also some of our men got a different gun.  It had 15 shot clips that you can set on automatic and it kept right on shooting.  I still had my Garand rifle.  We got a long knife called a machete, which we used cut through jungle underbrush.  We kept our work suit, which consisted of a pair of blue jeans and a jacket.  No work shirts.

This is where we got our new battery number.  We were now Battery B237th Anti-Aircraft Artillery; Search Light Battalion.  We also had an ďAĒ Battery in our battalion.  Before this we were all either Battery E, 94th Coast Artillery or 197th National Guard.  I donít remember when we got Lt. Patrick, but he was our Battery Commander, and our Battalion Commander promoted him to Captain.  As we were waiting for our next assignment, we had to go on hikes and had to climb a rope net, which I was glad we did because it came in handy in the Philippines.  We knew now we were going in for more dangerous action.  Looked like we were going to New Guinea, as they were really fighting there.

On 22nd September 1943 we boarded the liberty ship S.S. Hall Young.  We had to board it by climbing these cargo nets we were practicing on.  It was a little different with a full pack on your back.  We spent 18 months in Australia, and now we are really going to see some action.  We got a lot of scares while we were there, but the Aussies treated us with respect and hated to see us go.  Except for the young soldiers in their army, who didnít like the way their young girls were so liberal with our soldiers.  There were threats made after we left.  But I donít think anything happened.

We landed at Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 28th September 1943.  This part of the island was governed by Australia, and the money was the same except the shilling had a hole in the center.  The area had a long bay with two sunken Jap boats in the middle of it.  Two pieces of land extended toward the sea like two legs, one on each side of the bay.  We set up headquarters on one side and on the other side a platoon of lights.  My section was on that side.  We had to have a boat bring over our supplies every day.  I slept in the searchlight trailer next to the control station.  The rest of the crew slept in a large native hut.  There wasnít any action here, and I wondered why we stopped here.  Seems like they werenít ready for us at Lae, farther northwest.

Our side of the bay didnít get as much attention as the headquarters side.  We didnít have much to do.  We were issued a set of horseshoes so we set out a couple of stakes 40 feet apart and started to pitch shoes.  It was sandy, and the shoes stayed where they landed.  I had a partner, and two men went on the other side.  Well, I got hot and was throwing ringer after ringer.  We attracted a bunch of the crew, and they started betting on me.  I didnít like that, as that put a lot of pressure on me.  I wanted to quit, but they wanted me to keep going.  I finally quit, and I didnít pitch any more.  We also had a ping pong table under a tent, and we played a lot of ping pong.  Frost was our platoon sergeant, and he was good at the game.  We played doubles a lot, and as we were on sand, we stirred up a lot of dust.

Kramer got some garden seeds from Wausau, and he wanted to plant them.  We were on the beach, and the jungle was all around us.  The CBs were putting up a telephone line on the outside of our camp and were clearing an area for the line.  They had a TD14 International bulldozer that they were knocking the coconut trees down with.  They didnít work that Saturday, so they left the dozer right by my trailer.  I said to the crew Iíll see if I can start it and Iíll bulldoze a spot for your garden.  I got it running, and I cleared about half an acre for them.  They got to planting immediately and planted all kinds of vegetables.  I set the dozer back in the same tracks, and they never knew I used it.  The sad part was just as it was ready to eat, we had to move.

One day somebody called for me and said we had a break in our phone line between our sections.  The line was laid on the ground, so I took my rifle and tools to fix it.  I said earlier that I worked with the signal corp in North Carolina, so somebody remembered.  I walked down the trail following the line and kept testing it.  I had a portable phone with me.  I found the break and repaired it, and just as I got done a native woman was coming down the trail.  I held back from laughing until she got by me, as she just had a grass skirt on.  She had a huge basket of fruit and veggies on her back with the tongs to hold it there going around one breast.  Had a good story to tell when I got back to the section!

On the other side of the bay they built a place to show movies.  Laid palm tree logs on the ground for seats.  We didnít have that on our side, and I wasnít going across on that boat they used to bring our supplies over on.  Iíve been following the book that Roccati wrote; I see where Jack Benny, Carol Landers and others visited us.  I must have been on the other side of the bay and didnít get to see them.  While we were there the two lieutenants lived together; one was cleaning his pistol, and it discharged accidentally and shot Lieutenant Werner.  He died there.  Lieutenant Upchurch was transferred out of our battery, and after the war he committed suicide.  By now we were getting more reinforcements and were pushing the Japs out of New Guinea and even bypassing some units.  They either crossed the Owen Stanley Range or died there.  We even got a detachment of WACs.  Only officers could go out with them.  The enlisted men didnít like that a bit.  Things quieted down as for chance of action.

Weíve been in Milne Bay since 28th of September 1943.  I believe a searchlight battalion came in from the states and relieved us, so we were united with headquarters again.  They way it looked we were being prepared for another move.  Sure enough, on the 24th of December 1943 we boarded the SS Frank Joseph Irwin.  The army and other units were in the act of taking a large area around Lae, and we were to be in the invasion.  On 28th of December we landed at Lae.  It also was called Nadzab and Markham Valley.  We set up in Markham Valley after the area got cleared of Japs.  We got plenty of action here, lighting up Jap planes during the air raids.  Our section was set up in a small open spot in the jungle.  We didnít get any action.  Most of it was over the airstrip.  It was sad that Amelia Earhart took off at this airport and was never seen again.  There were two sunken Jap boats in the water.  We were in Lae a couple of days while our equipment was being unloaded, and I got a picture of them.  I didnít have a camera because they didnít allow us to take any electrical devices on the Queen Mary.  I wrote home to ask if they could send me one, and my sister Sophie sent me hers.  Thanks, sister.  I had it until I got sunk by a Kamikaze plane in the Philippine invasion.  I sent home some pictures that didnít have any equipment in them.  The rest I was to bring home if I made it, but they and the camera were lost in that sinking.  On the 30th of September 1943 we drove our trucks and equipment to Markham Valley.  I wrote about setting up earlier in this writing.

Sgt. Frechete was in charge of the section.   I was still a Corporal and took care of the control station, and Frechete had the radar.  Kramer, my searchlight operator, must have gotten lucky when they drew numbers for who was to go home.  I didnít see him again.  I got a new operator by the name of Thurman Hill from Marion, Illinois.  He was my bunkmate in Lae.  I donít know where he got that phonograph, but he had only one record.  He played it time after time until I almost learned the words of the song.  ďI bought myself a brand new Hotsey and Iím Hotsey Totsey now.Ē  Thatís all I remember.

We dug a pit for our light and one for the 50-caliber machine gun.  Frechete and his crew dug pits and sandbagged the radar.  We were ready for action now, but we set up several miles from the airstrips, and no planes came our way.  I was disappointed because I hadnít lit up a Jap plane yet, only our own in Australia.  Most of the air raids were by low-flying planes, and they didnít stick around very long.  We drove to headquarters for meals for a while.  Two stayed as guards, and we brought back their meals. Later we got our own kitchen and a cook.  We ate two meals a day, as seemed to be the custom there.  The cook got busted from mess sergeant, so he wasnít real happy.  He made coffee in the morning and it wasnít bad hot, but when he gave us the same coffee for 4 oíclock supper, I made a complaint.  Sgt. Frost was our platoon sergeant, as Sgt. McDonald made 1st Sergeant.  I made the mistake of going over Sgt. Frechetteís head.  I mean I should have gone to him first.  I got chewed out from Sgt. Frost, but it did help.  No punishment.

As I said, we didnít have much action so we just sat around, and Thurman and I listened to his darn phonograph.  We were set up by a creek, so we cut down some coconut trees and built a dam over it.  The water was over waist high by the dam, and I tried to swim.  I didnít know how to swim then, so I kept trying.  I got so I could stay afloat.  Somebody cut a fuel barrel in half long ways, and we used it for washing clothes.  We took our baths in the pool.

There was a banana plantation nearby, and some of the men picked some.  They complained they werenít getting ripe and were smaller and flat.  I didnít get any yet, so I took a look at theirs and I said you got the cooking kind.  Somehow I knew the difference.  They threw them away and got the right kind.  We didnít think there were any Japs around, but we carried our rifles wherever we went and our gas masks.  I decided to get some bananas.  I took my machete along to cut the stalks.  I got greedy, I guess.  I cut off three bunches and tried to carry them with my heavy rifle, and it was just too clumsy.  I had to be satisfied with one bunch.  I also got turned around and figured I was lost.  I struck out toward the way I thought was right, and I felt relieved when I came out at the creek where we washed.

Other incidents took place while we were out in our sections.  Some nights we would get a call from headquarters to put our light into the position it shone straight up.  They did this when a plane didnít come back from his raid or it got lost.  One night we had it lit up all night.  Didnít find out if it came in or if they forgot to tell us to shut it off.  Anyway, the next day we had to shovel the bugs out of the lights pit.  You could see the darn bugs high in the sky coming down the beam and banging into the light.  We did this several times.

One day a B-24 came back with the bombs inside.  They were shot up some and couldnít release the bombs.  The crew thought they could make it in, but they hit the ground before the landing strip and blew up.  We heard the blast and went to the site in our truck.  Nothing there but a big hole and pieces of the men.

Another incident happened the same way, only no bombs.  His landing gear wouldnít come down from being shot up, too.  But this time they decided to let the crew jump out two at a time with parachutes, and the pilot put the plane on automatic pilot and jumped out.  Some P-47 and P-38s took off and followed it out to sea and shot it down.

We finally had a plane come close to us.  As it was daylight we just watched it fly out of sight.  This plane was different.  It had an inline engine in it.  All the other Jap fighter planes had radial engines; pistons in a circle.  I recognized it as one of their new planes called ďTony.Ē  Our P-51s had the same type of engine.

While we were bivouacked in New Guinea waiting for our next move, I was called to see somebody in a tent not far from us.  I couldnít figure out why a higher officer would want to see me.  When I got in his tent, he introduced himself as Colonel Volk from Greenwood.  He was one of the Volk Brothers that made dress suits in the now Bill Adams store.  Steve Plautz knew him, and we had the same APO numbers and asked him to look me up.  We discussed the situation we were in, the morale of the troops, and how I was doing.  I forgot what branch of the military he was in.

Before we moved into New Guinea, we were given several shots.  After we got on the ship, the doctors lined us up, and we had to roll both sleeves up, and they gave us a shot from both sides.  On January 5th, 1944, we got a tetanus shot and one other.  In May 1945 in the Philippines we got a small pox, typhoid and cholera shot.  Also, when we hit New Guinea we were given a pill called ďAtabrin.Ē  It made your skin yellow, and some of the men really got yellow.  It didnít seem to bother me.  This was a replacement for Quinine.  There was a shortage of Quinine so they had to come up with a substitute.  We didnít have to take it in Australia, as we never were in their jungle.  I took this pill until I left for home in July 1945.  Some of the men refused to take it, so when you were handed the pill in the meal line at noon, he had to see you take the pill.  This went on for some time.  Even after taking this pill, some came down with Dengue fever.  This is worse than malaria.

Around June 1944 I was called in to see Captain Patrick, our battery commander.  He said you have been here a long time and was trying to get me a higher rating, as I was the light commander.  My next rank would be Sgt., which paid more, all of $66.00 a month.  I was getting $54.00 as a Corporal.  He didnít have a sergeant rating open then, but he had a T14 rating, which paid the same amount, but I would have to go to a radar part of the section if I took it.  I would have to learn how to run the radar.  I tried it earlier in practice, and I really didnít care for it.  You had to turn the radar in a circle, searching for a blip in the scope.  You had to look into it and turn the radar by hand. The men on the radar said their hands and arms got very tired turning it.  But I wanted to get a few more bucks, so I took it.  A few months later he called me in again and said he had a buck Sergeant opening and wanted to know if I wanted it.  I took it, because as an operator you were just a soldier.  As a sergeant you had more power, and you didnít have to pull KP or other duties.  I never tried for a promotion like some others.  Captain Patrick was very good to me.

Now to get back to being Technician Fourth Grade.  I was sent out to get trained as a radar operator.  I went to Sgt. Dimmerlingís section.  When I got there, I came down with Dengue Fever.  For three days I laid in a bunk sweating so much I was in a layer of water.  The battery medic came out to see me and gave me some aspirin.  I took two aspirin every four hours day and night.  One night we had an air raid, and I rolled out of my bunk into a small trench somebody dug.  They were tracking the Jap plane, but it didnít bomb us.  It went over the airport.  Somebody brought me some food.  I was alone in the tent, and I didnít see anybody from the section.  I figured the crew didnít like the idea of training me, as there was only one T14 per radar section, and I was going to take that position away from them.  That was my way of thinking.  I never questioned anyone.  I never got trained.  Right after that the sections were called in, and another unit took over.  We were being assembled for another move.  This was around June or July 1944.  The 350th searchlight battalion took over, and they came in directly from the states.  I donít remember this as I might have been gone on a furlough to Sidney, Australia.

After we were assembled at headquarters, we didnít have much to do.  Kramer left his garden seeds with someone, and some others got seed, too, and the men in the tents dug up the ground around their tents and planted a garden, even tomatoes.  And the same thing happened when I bulldozed them a space at Milne Bay.  Just as the tomato plants had big, green tomatoes on them, we had to move.  I can still see them after the tents were taken down.  This was the last gardening adventure, as we never stayed this long on all our other invasions.

The higher brass thought we should get more exercise, so they ordered marching for us.  Captain Patrick argued for us and told them we were seasoned combat troops.   On our first march, which was mostly in route step, not in cadence, after we got out of sight of camp we stopped, and our officers let us sit down under some shade trees for a couple hours, and then we walked back to camp.  After that Captain Patrick got us to play softball.  There was a lot of cleared area around us, so we laid out several ball diamonds.  Teams were chosen, and the first team got all the best players.  We had a darn good first team, and they played other teams from the gun sections, as they were doing the same thing.

Captain Patrick played with one of the teams.  I got up a team that was left, and we played or tried to anyway with our own teams.  I played catcher, and one of our cooks, Bublitz, could pitch some.  We played for a while, and then we played volleyball until dark almost every day.  Captain Patrick formed a volleyball league with other gun sections and so forth.  I was again made a captain of one team, and we went from one battery to another.  I had one player about 6í6,Ē but the rest of the team was about my height.  We got beat a lot after we played out the league schedule.

Captain Patrick came up with another scheme.  He was a teacher in College Station, Texas, in a military school, so he was versed in higher grades.  He taught math and other subjects.  I took up algebra, as I hadnít gone to high school.  Elmer Livernois went to high school, so he helped me a lot.  We got into our lessons up to graphs.  He was waiting for them to go ahead when an order came through that some of us could take a furlough to go to Australia for some R&R.  Somebody knew we were going on a dangerous mission and were giving out furloughs.  Evidently it wasnít going to happen for a while.  Afterwards we found out we were going to be in the invasion of the Philippines.  They were giving furloughs earlier, but I didnít care to go then.  I was sending most of my money home, so I had to hold back some money.  You had to pay your room and board if you didnít stay in the army arrangements they had made.

I finally decided to go to Sydney.  The reports that came back from GIís who went there were how wonderful the Australians treated them.  I figured if I wanted to see some more of Australia Iíd better do it now.  We were in bivouac for two months already, and it was made pretty clear we were going somewhere else other than New Guinea.  They had New Guinea pretty well under control now and didnít need us here any more, as the 350th Searchlights took our place.  So I applied for a furlough and got one for two weeks to Sydney.  This was plus travel time, as it took us one week to get there and one week back by boat.  I was away for a month.  I took a plane from Lae to Finchhaven when it was made a departure and return for us on furlough by boat.  This must have been the latter part of August and first of September 1944.  The boat took us to Brisbane, and from there we were to go to Sydney by train.

When I checked in at Brisbane we were told you canít go to Sydney, as it was off limits to US military personnel.  Wouldnít you know it, there were so many US military personnel in Sydney that were AWOL that they wouldnít let any more go there until they rounded up the ones who were AWOL and sent them back to where they belonged.  The soldiers found girlfriends who would furnish them with civilian clothes, and they just stayed there.  Spoiled it for the ones that wanted to see the city.

They were preparing another city about 200 miles north of Sydney.  The place where we checked in was called a troop movement office.  Every place that was picked for R&R had one, and that was where you got your transportation from and billiting.  As we couldnít go to Sydney, I was offered to go to this new place.  I forgot the name, but it sounded like Bloomingdale.  I went, as I didnít care to stay in Brisbane.  We were the second trainload that stopped there.  The first one left just before we came.  We were treated by a large number of Aussies from the city.  They had a large hall, and we were ushered into it.  The hall was circled by benches to sit on.  They were filled up with young girls and their parents.  Maybe some didnít have their parents.  Not too many young men.  Most were in the military.  There was a band playing, and girls and men were dancing.  I asked a girl, and I said Iíd try.  I didnít know how to dance, so it didnít turn out so good. They had a net stretched about ten feet or so and about neck high, and you were supposed to keep this ball from falling to the floor.  There were more men and even some women playing.  I played a while.

Around 12 oíclock you had to sign in as to where you were going to stay.  You had a choice: some people could take you into their home or you could stay in the hall where they had cots set up.  You had to supply your own food, but the cot was no charge.  A couple came up to me and wanted to know if I would like to stay with them.  Iíd say they were about 50 years old.  They said I could stay in their home and eat with them if I wanted to.  I accepted, so I got my barracks bag with my extra clothes and toilet articles and went with them.  They had a cot in a room and said I could stay there.  I went to bed and was sleeping pretty good, as I was tired.  In the morning I felt like somebody was looking at me.  I had my face against the wall so I couldnít see until I turned around.  Here was a beautiful young lady looking at me.  As soon as I turned she ran away.  Was I surprised!  She wasnít with them at the dance, and they didnít tell me they had a daughter, so I wasnít expecting this.

I got dressed and went into the kitchen, and they gave me breakfast.  The girl was not around.  The city was giving tours.  They had a two-level bus, and you could see the best from the top.  They had a large steel mill, and that was one of the things they showed us.  I canít remember what else they showed us.  Every morning you could go down to this hall and find something to do.  I suppose you are wondering by now what happened to this young lady.  Well!  That will come.  The first week I met some soldiers from Hollandia.  This is just north of Finchhaven.  They were in an engineering company.  We went to some pubs and had a few drinks and talked a lot.  I hadnít had a beer since we left Magnetic Island, so it didnít take much to get drunk.  I didnít care to do that any more.

So, here we go.  I met the daughter finally.  She was 23 years old, and to me she was very good looking.  Remember I hadnít seen a white person since Australia.  Iíd say she was 5í3Ē or 4Ē and had a good figure.  As Lorraine had already broken up with me, I wasnít bound to anyone.  I told her where we were, but couldnít say where we were going.  I didnít even know where we were going.  She asked a lot of questions about where I was from in the United States, and I told her all about Wisconsin and that I had been farming and working for my brothers.  She was very interested and so were her parents.  I believe I had a few meals with them.  After supper we would visit and talk some more.  I wanted to know more about Australia.  The man worked in the steel mill, and Mrs. Barrow was home all day.  Betty, the daughter, didnít seem to be working, and I wondered what a single girl was doing at home all the time.  I never asked what she was doing.  We went to a movie one night.  The little time I was there went by pretty fast, and then it was time to go back.  I gave her my address, and I had hers, and we were to write each other.  When I got back to our battery in Lae, New Guinea, they were getting ready to move, and I never got a chance to write.  I never received anything from her, either.  So thatís how it stands.  I had an enjoyable week with these people.  At least I had one good week of R&R.

We left Lae, New Guinea, on October 3rd, 1944.  Had no idea where we were going.  We were on a liberty ship named S.S. Bernard OíHiggins.  We moved up the coast and stopped at a town by the name of Hollandia on the 5th of October 1944.  We didnít get off the ship.  I wrote earlier that I partied with these three men from Hollandia.  They were working on an airstrip there, but due to soggy conditions they couldnít land bombers there.  They said one bulldozer kept sinking so deep they lost it.  Also lost a truck.  The strip was good for only light planes. 

At this time our troops were landing on Biak, an island 225 miles west of Hollandia.  The air force had to have an airstrip closer to bomb Leyte in the Philippines, and Biak had lots of rocks and harder soil.  I got the Greenwood Gleaner from my brother, Steve, and it had an article about a Greenwood paratrooper landing on Biak.  His name was Kermit Braun.  They jumped again Ė I donít know where Ė but Kermit got killed.  On Memorial Day services his name is announced when we drop a poppy.

We got to Maffin Bay on the 6th of October 1944 and stayed on the ship.  We left there on October 9, 1944.  We stopped again off the coast of Wakde Island, about 150 miles up the coast from Hollandia on the 13th of October 1944.  We sailed a little farther and anchored at an area called TOEM, Dutch New Guinea the Netherlands East Indies, which was the western half of New Guinea.  There was no dock in this area, so we stayed on the ship until they fixed up a temporary dock so we could get off with our equipment.  We still werenít told where we were going, as this was just a temporary stay.  While we were on the ship, our troops were clearing the area of Japs that were still there.  They shot down one of our planes within our vision.  I watched it crash, but the pilot bailed out, and a rescue boat got to the pilot and picked him up.  After we finally got unloaded and put up tents in a small clearing, we were warned to keep a sharp lookout, as there were still Japs in the area.  The guards shot up a lot of jungle, as they thought there was somebody out there.  After checking in the morning, all they found was a lot of shot up jungle.  I was a sergeant then, and I got out of guard duty.  We had more alerts and shootings, and the Japs set fire to an ammunition dump the infantry had nearby.  Some of our battery members helped put it out and got burned.  Some got purple hearts and citations. I still have a notice of the names from a bulletin that came out in Leyte on October 29th, 1944.

We had a part of a typhoon hit us.  We all stayed up until it was over.  Afraid our tents would blow down.  We made it without any tents collapsing.  We stayed there from the 13th of October to November 9th.  We now boarded an LST #700 at TOEM.   We were now going to Leyte to take part in the invasion of the Philippines.  We had quite a few scares on the way, but our A Battery wasnít as lucky.  Their liberty ship got hit by a torpedo and sank.  The men were all saved, but lost all their equipment.  The men there then spread over the other batteries, and I donít know if they got equipment again.  We landed at Taclobin, Leyte, on November 12th, 1944.

Just three weeks after the initial wave landed.  My ship didnít get in close enough to shore to drive our equipment off without getting wet.  The engineers were there already, and their bulldozers pushed sand to our ship, so we walked off without wading in the water.  Our men had to go in the water up to their bottoms and lay sandbags on the sides so the sand didnít get washed away.  Again, being a sergeant helped.  We didnít have to go in the water, so I watched from the deck until it got ready to depart.  A typhoon had hit before we got there, and the roads were full of water.  We were picked up by our tricks and taken inland.  For a ways we could have gone by a small boat, the water was so deep.  We set up our tents near the dulag strip.  We did not set up our equipment here.

The army had some tents set up close to where we got off the ship.  I dug a slit trench, but could only go down about three feet until I hit water.  No one else wanted to do anything.  We had an air raid that night, and you just canít imagine how fast that slit trench filled up!  They almost smothered the bottom ones.  I didnít get into my own trench.  I laid down because they were dropping phosphorus bombs, and you had to get to water if you wanted to stop it, so they would drop anti-personal bombs to get you if you would stand up.  That morning we had another raid, but only one plane.  The whole harbor was filled with ships, and they put up a hail of fire, mostly 40mm tracers, and the fighter plane ran into that fire and got shot down.  I was watching this from the tent area, as I was concerned about where he was going to hit.  We were lucky.  He hit an open spot of water and sank.  It could have hit one of the ships, and then we would have been in lots of trouble.  We then moved farther into the hills.

Roccati and I had a difference on dates when we arrived at Leyte.  It really doesnít matter, but a week makes a lot of difference when you are landing with the infantry, mortars and field artillery.  The military changed their style of fighting, and now the anti-aircraft artillery has to come in as soon as a beachhead was established to protect the infantry from getting strafed.  There was a different searchlight battalion that took care of this one.  We were designated for the next one, which was Mindoro.  Meanwhile, we loaded and unloaded supplies coming in and our ships for the Mindoro invasion.  We got some transfers from Battery A that had been sunk going to Leyte from New Guinea.  As some men left on rotation, I was hoping my number would come up soon.  It didnít happen, though.

I have been referring to dates and incidents that took place from the book Roccati wrote.  I remembered a lot more, so Iím going to add on a few of them.

Before my battery moved farther inland, we still stayed by the beach.  There was a large river emptying into the bay.  I forgot its name.  Its depth was about up to my neck.  I still had a bathing suit, which I would put on to go take a bath or go across to the other side.  There was a small village or a bunch of buildings on stilts, as they were in a flood zone.  I met a family there, and they could speak good English, especially the young lady.  She was a school teacher, but wasnít teaching yet, as we just liberated them.  I took some pictures of the family.  I walked across the river with the camera held high above my head.  I got their address and was going to write to them.  Of course, I lost everything when we got sunk, so that was the end of that.

Well!  This river was a source for the people and us to wash our clothes, bathe, and everything else a person does.  Naturally, it was quite polluted.  We soon got a notice that we had to take some stool tests.  We took samples for a week.  The doctors found an organism called Schistosomiasis in the river.  I imagine we were drinking some of this water.  I didnít get it, but some did and had to go to the doctor to get treated with something Ė never found out with what.  One of our men died from it later on.

In the article I wrote about the paratroopers that were to land on the new strip they were making.  As it was raining so much, the army abandoned trying to make a strip at Dulag.  They started to doze over a large area of coconut trees where it was more sandy closer to Taclobin.  They had one of our lights in position to give them light to operate at night at the far end.  This plantation was owned by Palmolive Peet.  I wonder how much the US had to pay for that!  Then we got the word the Jap paratroopers were to land on the strip we were making.  The Japs evidently didnít know we werenít making that strip in Dulag any more, as thatís where they landed.  This took place on December 6th, 1944.  It says they dropped 250 men, but our troops killed all of them.  We had some casualties.  Now I was sent with 12 men to the strip we were making closer to Taclobin in this Palmolive Peet plantation.  I had my searchlight with me and a lot of ammo.  We waited, but as I wrote previously, they landed at Dulag.  It was a relief, as I didnít know if they had infantry there to help us.  I hoped they would, as 12 of us against 250 wasnít good odds.

While we were waiting, there was a naval sea battle going on within hearing, but not seeing, and the fighter planes came in to land on our unfinished strip.  I have it written up in ďThe Sinking of LST 460

The 77th Division also landed at Leyte.  It pulled out of Dulag because of muddy conditions.  They couldnít move their machinery around without a bulldozer.  They then landed on the other side of the island where the ground was firmer.  It was a gamble though, as the Japs were still firmly entrenched there.  But they made it and finally took the big city of Ormoc away from the Japs (12/8/44).  The reason I write about the 77th Division is a member of their outfit was from Loyal by the name of Robert Bugar.  After the war he married Ellenís sister.  Bob and I started talking about where we had been and found out we werenít 20 miles apart.  I found out Mike Krultz was at Leyte also.

Now for the invasion of Mindoro.  The 2nd Platoon loaded their equipment on LSTs.  Roccati was on LST 986.  The military was having a problem with all this rain and the terrific resistance by the Japs.  They held back on the invasion of Mindoro.  This was November 28, 1944.  We were losing a lot of fighting ships, as the Japs were resorting to their Kamikaze antics.  The 2nd Platoon and other troops that were loaded stayed on their ships until December 12th, 1944.  They took off that night for Mindoro.  It was a 550-mile trip.  The commander of this operation was Brigadier General William Caldwell Dunckel.  He quoted, ďI assume every man in this force is a ground soldier.  Heíll have to fight like one.Ē  Roccati didnít like that idea.  An artillery man does not fight like a ground soldier.  As I was away from Camp Davis, North Carolina, when they had their infantry training, I didnít get any.

This convoy got hit by Kamikazes on December 13th, 1944 around 3 oíclock.  Our fighters shot down most of them, but some made it through and crashed into the flagship ďNashville.Ē  Killed 175 men and wounded 190.  General Dunckel suffered a few wounds, but not serious enough to lose command.  They had more attacks, but no more loss of ships or men.  They landed on Mindoro on December 15th, 1944, amid another wave of Kamikaze attacks.  LSTs 472 and 738 were damaged fatally and an aircraft carrier and two destroyers were damaged, plus one PT Boat, #223.  I have been writing this to show you that we finally took part in an invasion with the first wave.  As I wasnít there I had to use some of Roccatiís writings.  There was hardly any ground fighting.  They penetrated about 11 miles inland and took over the town of San Jose and the airfield.  There were still plenty of air raids, but they were not as violent as before.  The Japs lost many planes trying to get Mindoro back, as Mindoro was an island next to Luzon and Manila.  They knew from reports that they lost the war, but were too bullheaded or proud to surrender.

The 1st Platoon, which I was in, left Leyte on December 19th, seven days after the 2nd Platoon and headquarters left.  We were on two LSTs, the one I was on, 460, and another one.  We didnít have an escort of aircraft carrier and other fighting ships like when the first wave went in.  We had two ships smaller than destroyers escorting us.  On the 21st of December 1944 we got hit by those 40 Kamikazes I wrote about in ďThe Sinking of LST 460.Ē  It says in Roccatiís book that there was an attempt to put the fire out, but I was right there, and there were no officers around to give orders to do so.  There was no attempt to put the fire out, as it was a raging inferno in no time.

Another man and I waited by the life raft for the signal to abandon ship.  Finally an ensign, an officer like the armyís lowest official, gave the signal to abandon ship.  So, the other man (I didnít know who he was) and I chopped the ropes holding the raft in place and it slid to the water.  We jumped in after it and didnít know what happened to the rest of the crew on the LST.  We had five men killed by this event.  One was from my section.  Poor Wally Abel didnít take cover quick enough.  He was a replacement we picked up in New Guinea, only 18 years old.  Every ship had a small boat tied to the ship with a long rope, and when we got hit they unhooked the rope and started to pick up the survivors.  I caught up to the raft, but when I got to it, it was loaded down with the men that jumped before.  They all crawled onto it and sunk it a couple feet under water.  There were two wounded men lying down in it, and I made the guys get off and just hold onto the raft so we stayed together and brought the raft out of the water.  The blood was squirting out of this manís arm, so I had one of them take off his belt and put it on as a tourniquet.  It stopped the bleeding.  The small boat came over then and started picking us up.  They jumped two at a time, as the sea was rather rough.  I was the last to go, and they took me to another LST, and I had to crawl up that rope ladder we were practicing on in Townsville, Australia.  Came in handy.  I was on an air force ship, so they gave me a bunk and a shot of something, and I went to sleep.

We talked about our escapades during our reunions when we got to one.  Ed Jorstad from Chicago told one.  He was set up on the beach in Mindoro when a Jap came over and dropped a cluster bomb on his radar.  This bomb has a large amount of smaller bombs.  They also are called personal bombs.  They drop it on troops and equipment.  He just barely got out of the way when it hit the radar, and not one of the bombs went off.  All duds. Call that luck!  But the ammo ship he was watching that day wasnít that lucky.  A lone plane came over and dived into it, and after the blast all you could see was a little disturbance in the water. 

I said earlier that we got hit by those 40 Kamikaze planes the first day we were at sea, but I see it was the second day at ten minutes to 5:00 on December 21st, 1944.  We traveled all night and landed on Mindoro on December 22nd, 1944.  (Refer to ďThe Sinking of LST 460.Ē)  About the naval bombardment by the Japs at Christmas time 1944: I was sent to take care of Otto Longís light section, as Sgt. Long had gone to the hospital for some reason.  While there, this bombardment started about 7 oíclock.  I can still remember sitting on the edge of the slit trench I dug, and the Japs were firing flares over us.  The light was so bright if I had a newspaper I could have read it.  I said, What a way to spend Christmas Eve!  The book Roccati wrote says it was the 26th, but I still say it was Christmas Eve.  Itís a long time ago, and I could be wrong.  Roccati says we had a fancy Christmas dinner, turkey and all, but I canít remember that.  We were informed that night to not light up any planes going over us, as our command didnít want to reveal our positions. It said, do not even light up a cigarette.  After this we had some air raids, but no more scares of an invasion.  On December 30th, 1944, and the 5th of January 1945, we had two supply convoys come to Mindoro with additional reinforcements and supplies.  We lost several ships due to the Kamikaze attacks.  They were becoming a real menace to our shipping.

Major Richard Bong was with us at Mindoro.  He had 40 Jap planes shot down to his credit.  The command wanted to send Bong back to the states before he got shot down himself.  They wanted to test the new jet P-80 that they were working on and wanted Bong to be a part of it.  Also, Bong was getting pretty nervous about these dog fights with the Japs.  On December 29th, 1944, Bong left us and took part in testing the P-80 jet.  Shortly after, his P-80 jet flamed out, and it crashed, killing him.

It was now the middle of January 1945.  We had all of the Philippines pretty well under control.  Our battery had a couple more invasions to make.  We didnít get to go to Luzon or Manila.  The Japs were busy defending themselves elsewhere, so we didnít have many air raids.  Now we were preparing ourselves for the next move.  I got new equipment for what we lost when our ship, LST 460, was sunk, and we had a section again.  On the evening of February 26th, 1945, my platoon of six lights and batteries of artillery and the 186th Regiment of the 41st Division left for Palawan.  We landed at the town of Puerto Princesa and the airstrip the Japs were making on February 28th, 1945.  There was very little resistance.  But I saw four graves dug close to where I set up our equipment.  Also, the trench where the Japs killed all the POWs they had there working on the airstrip.  I saw one day after we set up some of our aircraft were bombing the Japs not far from us, but I heard later they didnít want to engage in combat.  Somehow they must have gotten off the island.  When we got ready to set up someone found a bulldozer and brought it to where we were to set up and told me to dig the holes we needed to put our radar and powerplants into.  Maybe Sgt. Wade told the officers, as he has been with me all the time.  After I did that, he had me climb a 40-foot pole to hang up a small unit called a tweeter.  He needed that to synchronize the radar.  The cat dozer was a D7 with a cable dozer.  Little harder to operate.  I didnít get to fill in this trench after the people who pick up bodies, etc., cleaned it up.  It had a lot of dog tags in it and also parts of the bodies.

I said before there were about a hundred killed, but after I got more information it was like 150 POWs.  All the while we were in Palawan Island we didnít have one air raid.  So we had to do other things to keep busy.  Our commanding officer, a new lieutenant I didnít know, gave me a command to make up a crew of men and go to where our supply ship was docked and help unload cargo.  They came back from the job, and some had mattress covers for single beds.  Nice, soft, white covers.  Wow!  They cut one side of it lengthwise and laid it on the bunk and slipped into it and had like a sheet on bottom and top.  Nicer than an army blanket doubled and slid into.  So, one day I said Iím going along.  I didnít have to work, but I wanted one of those covers.  We found another case, and I got one.  They werenít checking you when you left, but I hid it under my jacket.  Found a case of tomato juice and they drank that up.  They said they found a case of wrist watches, but didnít say what they did with them.  I wondered why there were wrist watches in our supplies.  We never got any that I know of.  Could have replaced mine, as it didnít run any more, and the army refused to pay for it.

Well!  We got done unloading that ship, so the lieutenant gave me an order to put floors in our tents.  I said where do I get the lumber.  He said go and find some, tear down a building.  I was looking around at what was left of the town and saw some buildings with nice lumber, and other outfits were tearing them down.  So I said to the lieutenant I didnít believe in wrecking the homes of these people.  He didnít take too kindly to that, but the next thing I knew here came a truck loaded with lumber and we put in floors in our tents.  I slept alone in one tent, and we floored it.  Now we had to keep the danged floor clean.  We didnít have a kitchen or cook.  There was a gun battery close to us, and they had a kitchen and I believe we ate with them for a while.  Meanwhile, the navy moved in and built one of their buildings close to us.  Was it called a Quonset? So us and the gun battery ate with them.  Gee!  Was that nice.  No KP.  Ice cream twice a week.  This was the best food we ate since I had been there.  They had a ship in the harbor, and the food and ice cream machine were in there on their freezers.

In April or June 1945 we were getting some of our Christmas presents that finally caught up with us.  Pretty well banged up.  I didnít get all the stuff I was told you were sending, so when I left in July I told my truck driver, Larry Wilcoxson, he could have them.  I never heard from him or saw him again.  He didnít come to any reunions, but he is listed as a member.  So I donít know what happened.

By now it seemed we would have to attack the Jap mainland.  I had quite a few replacements in my section.  So the lieutenant gave me another order, start teaching the new members of our battery how to run our equipment, as the word was to get them ready for the invasion.  So, every morning for a while we had classes.  I taught the operation and parts of the searchlight and power plant, and Sgt. Wade had to teach how to operate, tear down and set up the radar.  We also had to do some calisthenics.  Too much sitting around didnít set too well with higher up officers.  Did a lot of letter writing, which reminds me of the time I got in trouble with my lieutenant.

I was really grumbling in my letters about going home, so he called me into his office and told me to quit writing this about going home, as he had to cut up my letters so you couldnít read them.  It was something about morale of the troops.  He always told me my replacement hadnít come in yet.  They were waiting for a sergeant instead of promoting one of my crew.  I heard rumors that this lieutenant wanted to make captain, and he wanted to keep all the veterans he could together and convince his superiors what a good battery he had.  He finally let us go on July 20th, 1945, Ed Jorstad, Melvin Wade and I.  The rest were mostly replacements.  I wonder if he made captain.

After Captain Patrick told me I was to go on LST 460, I didnít see him again until a reunion after the war.  He said he got sick and got sent home.  Captain Patrick treated me very well.  He gave me a higher rating so I could get higher pay.  Evidently he knew I wasnít going home for a while, as he was the one that drew names as to when your turn came.

Katie Plautz wrote me that there was a member of the army somewhere in Palawan that Frances was writing to.  I somehow found out where his outfit was and went to visit him.  He was a mess sergeant with a gun battery.  His name was Gunderson from Gilmanton, south of Eau Claire.  He also came home with us on the same ship, the ďSacajawea.Ē  The ship was making its own water, and it was hot when we filled our canteens.  He said if we tie our canteens on a rope and let the canteens in the ocean water it would cool the water.  So we tied our canteens on a rope and let them down into the water.  When we pulled up the rope and canteens I found that I had no canteen.  Dragging the canteen in the ocean broke the chain on my canteen.  Lucky Gundersonís didnít break loose or we wouldnít have had any water to drink except when the water was turned on.  I had to depend on getting a drink from his canteen if I wanted a drink.  I was on KP for a week washing pots and pans, so I got some water that way.  We didnít have to wash dishes, as they had dish washing machines.

In Palawan, whoever led the entertainment committee made a place to show movies every night.  Placed downed coconut trees in a circle for seats and built a place for the transmitter and a stage.  Went to a movie nearly every night, as we never had one air raid all the while I was there.  We had a troop of entertainers come in from the states one night.  Forgot who they were.  Wasnít Bob Hope.  Rained hard that night, but we had our ponchos with us, and they performed through the rain.  The stage had a roof over it, probably from some of the lumber I didnít want to tear down a building for (sarcasm).

Our 2nd Platoon left on March 6th, 1945, from Mindoro for the invasion of Mindanao.  They arrived at Zamboanga on March 10th and went on shore with the infantry like Mindoro.  They were in a lot more action than we were.  They had a lot more problems with the Japs, as the Jap forces didnít expect an invasion.  We bypassed a lot of islands, and they either had to get off them somehow or die of starvation.  They put up a serious attempt to hold this island, but we cut them off from their supplies and eventually overwhelmed them.  This platoon fought the Japs to the end of the war.  On August 17th, Roccati and more of the old 94th Coast Artillery got orders to go back to the states. 

About July 14th, 1945, Jorstad, Wade, Gunderson and I finally got our orders to go home.  We boarded a C-46 at Palawan, and it flew us to Taclobin, where the departure troop ships would be loaded homebound.  It was July 18th, 1945, when I finally got on the troop ship ďSacawajeaĒ for our voyage home.  All four of us got on this ship.  We stopped at an island named Kwajelian for water and fuel.  The next stop was in Hawaii.  We were there overnight and left the next evening.  The war wasnít over yet, but during the night news came that the Japs surrendered.  The lights came on, and the fellows gambling in the unloading hold had more light.  They gambled all the way home until a few lucky guys had all the money.  We arrived at Seattle around August 10th, 1945.  We had our first meal on US soil that evening.  German POWs were feeding us all the steaks you could eat.  I saw some put an extra steak in their pocket.  I took only one, as there was other food, too.  I couldnít even eat that, as my stomach must have shrunk from the GI food we were served.

We were there only four days, and then they put us on a troop train for Camp McCoy.  Meanwhile, they wouldnít let us go anywhere, but we jumped a fence beyond the gates and caught a taxi that took us to a tavern.  Had a few drinks and got sick.  I didnít have a drink of beer since I left Australia.  That was enough of drinking for me.  They, the guards, didnít stop the taxi driver from going into Fort Lewis, but he couldnít take anybody out.  They knew from before we came that others had done that, so they waited there.  Finally got our papers straightened out.  We cleaned up real good.  We only had seawater to wash in all the way, and we were pretty dirty.  You couldnít wash clothes, so you just kept wearing the same two uniforms all the way to Seattle.  I think we got some washed for the rest of the journey.  Took the troop train four days to get to Camp McCoy.  It had four engines on it, and at times I thought we would have to go out and push it, it went so slow.  After we got over the mountains they took two engines off, and we made better time.  Finally got to Camp McCoy, and they started giving us physicals and asking questions, such as whether we wanted to keep our insurance.  I had a $5,000 government insurance policy.  They wanted to know if you wanted to join the reserves, and I think they asked about re-enlisting, too.  I rejected everything.  I had enough army to last me forever.

I called home as soon as I could.  I donít think I could tell anybody I was leaving for home.  I donít think I got a very good reception.  Nobody came down to see me or get me.  I went to Milwaukee first to see Angie and Rosie, who were faithfully writing to me all this while.

I got discharged on August 20th, 1945, at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, after three and a half years overseas and a total of four years, three months and three weeks in the army.  I never went home during the entire time I served.

I see in Roccatiís book, Lieutentant Willis became our battery commander, so my lieutenant didnít make captain.

The Palawan invasion was the first time I had command of a section.  A searchlight and components called a section.  Could include a radar, too.  I just feel like I didnít accomplish much.  Usually in a platoon you had a platoon sergeant, and in headquarters you had a first sergeant.  I had neither here, so I donít know if I did a good job or not.  All my orders came from an officer.  After three and a half years overseas and only lighting up one Jap plane, I feel like I didnít accomplish much.  Well!  Anyway, I was there, and thatís about all I can say. 

Sgt. George J. Plautz


The Sinking of LST 460

 

We arrived at Leyte in the Philippines on the Taclobin city side. MacArthur landed there October 20th, 1944, and we got there November 3rd. Battery B, 237th AAA S/L Battery didn't set up in the defense of Leyte. The forces there had things pretty well in control, so we were relegated to dock work, loading and unloading ships at the docks.

While there, the word came in we were to be invaded with a paratrooper drop. The engineers were making an airstrip on the beach, as they had to give up working on a strip at a town by the name of Dulag. Why I was chosen to take a searchlight to the new strip to light up the paratroopers and engage them in combat I don't know. At the time, I was a Sergeant in charge of a light and a unit of radar. I had 12 men with me, and we set up on an end of the strip and waited. Were really loaded with ammo. The paratroopers came, but they landed at the unfinished airstrip at Dulag. Boy, did I heave a sigh of relief! A company of infantry and the engineers working on that airstrip at Dulag took care of the Jap paratroopers. One thing about the Japanese soldiers, they died fighting. They just wouldn't give up.

While waiting for the invasion, there was a big sea battle going on just out of sight. It sounded like continuous thunder roaring. Our strip wasn't finished yet, and our fighters couldn't make it back to where they came from for lack of fuel, so they started to land on what was there. We watched four P47s come in on various landings. One had only one wheel down, and he landed on that wheel and then made a sudden turn and collapsed that wheel and landed sideways, skidding to a halt. One belly-landed in the sand and didn't get upset. Another came in and hit the steel landing strip and veered off and tipped over. The pilot got drenched with gas, but they got him out safely. There was one more that belly-landed and was alright. We stayed there, still waiting, until they finished the strip and fighters started to take off on missions. At that time word came to us a typhoon was on its way toward our area. They didn't know exactly where it was going to hit, so they said prepare to take cover. I and the crew were very worried, as there was no place to take cover, as we were set up not far from the beach. The typhoon missed us, but it sure did a lot of damage to our navy. It's written up in the December 1994 issue of the VFW Magazine, "Disaster At Sea." We lost three destroyers and 790 men. I wondered a lot what would have happened to us. In the January and February 1995 issues of the VFW Magazine, there is a write-up of the Mindoro Invasion, which we in the 94th AAA Group took part in, and the sinking of LST 460.

Right after this, the paratroopers landed at Dulag, and we were pulled in to headquarters to prepare for the invasion of Mindoro. The was early in December, 1944. We were now loading the ships we were to take for the invasion of Mindoro. The first platoon of Battery B 237th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Search Light Battalion didn't get in on D-Day, which was December 15th, 1944. Our convoy left a few days later. While loading up for our convoy, it was found there wasn't enough room for all our equipment, and one light section would have to wait for the next convoy. Guess who was picked to stay behind?! Captain Patrick came to me and said, "Sergeant Plautz, we don't seem to have room for all our equipment, and we have to leave one section behind." I was a little disappointed, but I said "O.K." He also said they were going to try and find room on some other ship and spread the light and radar around. He said, "I'll be back and tell you for sure." When he came back, he said they'd found room, and would I go on LST 460. My crew was spread around, too. Needless to say, I would have been better off staying than having to go through what I did, but there were ships in other convoys that were sunk, too.

On the day after the first night at 4:50 p.m., we were having supper when the ship's loudspeaker announced there were 40 kamikaze planes coming in at us with our air force on their tails. As they approached our planes veered off, as every gun on every ship was blazing away at the Japs. I had just finished eating supper and washed my mess kit and was going to where I slept under a gun tub on a stretcher, I got off a Jeep loaded with medical supplies. I stopped part way under the gun tub and was watching these planes come at us. One LST got hit on the front of the ship with just the wing. I saw where they shoved the wing overboard, so they were okay. Another one missed and fell in the water.

And then we got hit. I didn't see this plane coming, as the gun tub and the ship's bridge was between me and the plane, but the next second I was surrounded in flames. I was under the tub enough so that the blast of fire and shrapnel from the explosion of plane and bomb went over and around me. Here I was, standing in the middle of the fire and sort of dazed and my mess kit still in my hands, when I said to myself, "I got to get the hell outa here!" I figured I would burst through the flames and jump overboard. I guessed if I caught on fire the water would put it out. When I burst through the flames, I found no fire next to the railing, only a line of mess kits going from the front of the ship to the cans we washed the kits in. I gently placed mine in line, I looked over the railing, and the water was full of men that jumped overboard when the plane hit us.

The back of the ship wasn't burning so I walked to an area where there was a life raft on a skid. Another man came from somewhere, and we decided to wait for 'abandon ship.' Seems like the ship's crew had a time finding an official. The plane had hit the bridge and gone down through the mess hall and quarters, all the officers were having supper and were killed or wounded. Our Lt.. Temple was down there and got killed. Finally, an ensign gave the order to abandon ship, so this other guy and I chopped the rope that held the life raft in place, and it slid down. I watched until it floated away from the ship, because if you jump too quickly you might hit the raft and get killed that way. I grabbed my life preserver at the neck and jumped feet first overboard. The life preserver can break your neck when you hit the water, especially at 40 feet, if you don't hold it tight. I don't know how far down I went, but I started paddling my arms, and I popped up, to my amazement.

The raft was moving away at a good clip, and I started swimming toward it, but couldn't catch up. I stopped and took off my shoes, and then I caught it. When I got there, it was loaded down with men that jumped over when the plane hit. They had loaded the raft with so many men that it was a couple feet under the water. I couldn't see anyone there with a rating higher than mine, so I ordered them to get off and hang on the outside like I was doing. They obeyed real well, as they were afraid of sharks, so we got the raft above water. We had two wounded on board, blood was spurting out of one man's arm. I had a guy take off his belt, and they put a tourniquet on his arm and stopped the flow of blood. The other guy wasn't bleeding.

While in the water, planes were still dive-bombing us, and they had a two-motored fighter escort them to their target. It had its bombs left, and it made a pass at a liberty ship. It dropped two bombs, and we all cheered as it missed. One liberty ship got hit, but the plane landed in one hold, and it was loaded with timber and lumber, and it didn't go through the bottom. We watched from in the water as the crew put the fire out. The Jap plane that dropped the two bombs was flying low, and for a minute I thought it was going to get away. One of our Destroyer escorts finally hit it, and it hit the ocean and sank. I can still see it doing cartwheels in the water. We cheered then also.

We were in the water until 7:00 o'clock when an LSM small boat came over and started to pick us up. The seas were rough, and we jumped two by two when the raft and boat met. We finally got everybody picked up out of that area in two hours. It was just getting dark. I could see LST 460 burning fiercely as I was picked up. They took us to another LST, and after climbing up a rope ladder, I was given a bunk and shot of some kind and something for my burns. Head gunfire later, and they said they had to sink it so it wouldn't be a beacon for more attacks. Right after that we started out again for Mindoro. I heard there were over 100 men killed on LST 460. Battery B lost five men.

We sailed all night. The Japs were tailing us, but didn't attack. We got to a beach in Mindoro at daybreak, and an air raid was in progress. There were four LST's beached, ready to unload, when a bomber came our way. The ship's crew told us to get off the ship as quick as we could and take cover wherever we could. I ran off in my bare feet and got inland a ways and hid behind a sand drift. The LSTs were about a hundred feet apart, and the plane came over and dropped four bombs; each one landed between the ships. If they would have been hit, I wouldn't be here again. It turned around and started strafing us. Bullets were hitting the coconut. It finally left. I couldn't figure out where our anti-aircraft guns were, as not a shot was fired that I could hear. I guess they weren't set up yet.

I finally got to Battery B 237th Headquarters. Sgt. Johnson had shoes my size, so I got a pair of shoes and socks from him as well as a towel and soap. Some soldiers were grumbling about the Red Cross, as to serving certain people, but I had no gripes. They had a detachment right with us, and I got all my toilet articles from them. I lost everything I owned except my wristwatch, which didn't run or work any more. The army called in everybody who had a claim for personal effects, and I put in for the watch. They wouldn't compensate for the watch because I still had it. I said, "It doesn't run any more," but they wouldn't consider it. I had a camera and some Australian money I was keeping for souvenirs. I got compensated for that when I got discharged.

Part of the equipment that I commanded got sunk with the LST 460, so I didn't have a command for a while. Sgt. Otto Long was taken to the hospital at the time, so I took over his searchlight. I stayed at Headquarters for a while, helping out. T/5 Coffey put salve on my burns and bandaged me up. I was burned the most on the back of my hands and neck.

I see in the VFW where they say the Japs came in with two cruisers and six destroyers and shelled us on December 26th, 1944. I sat on the edge of the slit trench I dug on Christmas Eve with the sky lit up like daylight with flares. We were guarding a fighter strip at the time, and every plane that could fly took off. I couldn't see the Jap ships, but I could see the tracer bullets going up and the ones from our planes going down. Also saw four bright bursts in the air where our planes got hit. We lost some planes and pilots that night, as they ran out of fuel trying to get somewhere to land. Next morning, December 25th, the airstrip was devoid of planes. We couldn't even light up a cigarette that night or light up any planes. We could hear some go over, but the order was "no lights." The message we got was that it was a task force, and they had troops for a landing. The VFW does not say that, so we were preparing for a landing, but didn't know where, as it was our navy and air force that inflicted so much damage to them that they retreated.

Soon after that I got to light up my first Jap plane. We had a red alert and were all in position when the plane came over us. I don't know why I was on the control station that night as that was the corporal's position, so we lit it up beautifully, but the gunfire was behind it. I was hollering, "Come on! Catch up with it! ," but it got away from us. It circled to the B25 strip, and they it there. That was the only chance I got to light up an enemy plane. We had air raids in the daylight after that, but we were night fighters and could only watch the ack ack.

Things quieted down after this except for a few incidents. One afternoon, while on observation, a Jap plane came in low and dived into a fuel tank. It blew up with the plane. The pilot was killed. Usually the Japs were small, but they said this pilot was a bigger man. One evening a group of our planes came in from a sortie, and one of the planes made six an a half loops, each loop for an enemy plane downed. Found out quick that it was Major Richard Bong. he was at our air strip for a while. On the invasion of Corregidor, we watched a group of DC3s take off with the paratroopers that jumped there.

Soon after, in mid-February 1945, a message was given that six men escaped from the Island of Palawan. There were a hundred POWS working on an air strip there, so they loaded the platoon I was in on a ship with other elements of a task force to invade the island. The infantry was there a few days ahead of us, but they didn't get there quick enough. They knew we were coming, so they put all the POWS in a slit trench and poured gas on them and burned them and shot the ones trying to get out. I set my light and radar close by, but all there was left of the men were shoes and dog tags. The infantry cleaned up the rest of the enemy.

There wasn't any action after that. I left for home on July 18th, 1945, after three and a half years overseas. We arrived in Hawaii the day the Japs surrendered, so I took in the whole war. Got discharged on August 20th, 1945 at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

 

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