Private First Class, 169th Infantry of the 43rd Division
was 26 years old when I was inducted into the Army Fort Oglethrope,
Georgia on February 2, 1942. I was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi
for my basic training. The Army placed me in the 169th Infantry of the
43rd Division. This outfit was made up of men in the National Guar from
the New England states of Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and reinforced
with men from the southern states.
On October 1, 1942, we arrived by train at
the San Francisco 'Port of Embarkation'. We boarded the U.S. Army Troop
Transport "Bloemfontein" for the Pacific theatre of war. I
think they had been using this ship to transport livestock.
Our convoy zigzagged its way across the 10,000 mile
route from the United States to Australia. However, we crossed the International
Date Line on October 12, 1942 at longitude 157 west, and latitude 000.
We were on our way to the southern island of New Zealand. We arrived
there on October 22, 1942. We were treated very well by people. The
farmers gave us straw lo make our beds more comfortable. Four of us
could sleep in one of the small houses prepared. We were there approximately
three weeks before we were shipped out to Auckland, New Zealand on the
north island. We crossed the Bay between the northern and southern islands
of New Zealand by a very large ferry boat made to transport many vehicles
at one time.
At Auckland, we boarded the ship that would
be a part of the convoy taking us to New Caledonia Island. New Caledonia
is the fourth largest island in the Pacific, and was French territory.
It lies 800 miles east of Australia, and is strategically situated on
a direct route from San Francisco to Australia. The convoys used this
route to supply General Macarthur’s base. (B-17 Flying) Fortresses
based on New Caledonia played an important part in future decisive actions
in the Solomon-Bismarck area.
On this island, we slept in pup-tents. Our job was
to unload supplies coming in on the island. Most of the G.I. food came
in on refrigerated ships. We found some bags marked "sugar."
I round some lemons, and a G.I. empty can. I mixed some lemonade. and
set it back in a cool place. When we finished unloading, we hurried
back for the lemonade. That was the saltiest lemonade I ever tasted.
All the bags marked "sugar” contained salt. The joke was
on me. However, I did find some sugar, which I tested, so we got our
lemonade after all.
We unloaded a shipment of clothing. I found myself
a new pair of shoes which I exchanged for my old worn out ones. We also
found t-shirts and underwear which I put on in layers under my other
The South Seas Islanders living on the island were
black and wore little or no clothing. One day I was washing my clothing
in a little over-flow of spring, water that flows into the ocean. I
had walked about two miles to wash my clothes in this fresh water. I
was bent over when I felt someone touch me in the back. I looked behind
me, and saw a big black man. He bad on a small grass skirt and a spear
in his nose. However, he looked friendly. He motioned to my wash, and
I understood that he wanted to do my wash for me. I gave him my consent.
He pulled up a big flat rock and started beating my clothes against
it. I had some yellow G.I. soap and I motioned for him to rub the soap
over my clothes. He seemed fascinated as he saw the soapy lather. He
looked back at me and smiled. He washed all my clothes clean. I had
been pondering how I should pay him for his service. I knew he would
like something shiny. I had a silver dime so I gave him that. He rubbed
it across his rough, wrought iron legs. Then he looked at me and smiled.
He thought he was well paid. This was a big relief to me. Probably if
I had given him a one hundred dollar bill, he would have drowned me
in the stream of water.
The islands in the Southwest Pacific were
like a huge chessboard board which the contestants were making their
strategic moves. The Solomons cover an area of some 17,000 square miles.
We were moved from New Caledonia to Guadalcanal. Our division was assembled
for the purpose of another stepping-stone towards the Japanese on Russell
Island. This island is directly west of the northern tip of Guadalcanal.
Above that is New Georgia with its satellite islands including Vangunu
and Rendova on the south and west.
Landing on Russell Island
As we moved toward Russell Island, the Japs
had carefully laid mines and submarine as they had a well planed deal
to sink our fleet. About dark I was on deck as most of us were, to get
some fresh air. I noticed a flare floating down on the left of our fleet,
then one came down on our right. Then one on the left rear, then one
on our right rear. The flares were dropped by a high-flying plane which
completely encircled our fleet. Then it dropped one about center. It
came down and burst into what looked like hundreds of small blue flares.
This was evidently the attacking signal for the fighters and bombers
which came from some distance away. The radar on our fleet had not picked
up anything as of that time. Then it all began to happen. Bombers from
all directions hit and the sea was lit up like a city park. It seemed
they concentrated mainly on what they thought were transports with troops.
It seemed that planes were coming from all directions. It seemed like
hundreds of them.
Later, we found out that General MacArthur had gotten
knowledge of this attack, and had sent his fighters from the point of
New Guinea to intercept. He turned back a good many of the Japanese
aircraft, but there were still too many on that small fleet. The Navy
had its hands full for approximately two hours with the underwater subs,
and bombers in the air. They had a fight on, with a well skilled Navy
that was sending up more firepower than the Japs could possibly stand.
The Navy reported that they destroyed several submarines with sub-chasers,
and they shot down, and crippled practically everything in reach. One
plane coming over caught fire from three different ships which completely
disintegrated in the air. Another plane came in from the rear, and was
hit nose-on with one of the heavy guns. It exploded almost on the rear
of our ship. The ship I was on practical stood on its nose. After this
sea battle the Japs went on, and we landed safely on Russell Island.
We stayed there for several weeks awaiting orders.
Island Observation Post
Eight men in my outfit were ordered to a little outpost just off New
Georgia Island. I was one of them. The General was there to shake hands
with us when we left. They didn't think we would get back. I
spent my 27th birthday, April 26, 1943 in the top of a banyan tree,
about 40 feet up. We had one tree outpost, and two beach outposts. I
was in the tree outpost. We wrapped communication were from limb to
limb to make our headquarters. Our one-week supply of rood was drawn
up by a cable. We wore tree climbers on our shoes. Our toilet facilities
were going out on a limb. Our mission was to spot the Japs. With our
binoculars we could see the Japs running around on the beach. We could
see the submarine come up in the water. We did have a good communication
system as every time we spotted the Japs, we would radar their location
and other information. Each time, I could see the U.S. Air Force responding
to our call as the aircraft came in low-flying planes and dropped depth
After my assignment in the tree outpost, I
was then assigned to a beach outpost, which was a little sharp peninsula
being gradually washed away by high tides. You could see the big ole'
Pacific in about two directions really well. Garfield Anderson, from
North Carolina. was assigned with me. We would talk two hour shifts
sleeping, and then awake the other. We were approximately twelve feet
from the water above sea level at the time we were put on duty. Il must
have been around 10:00 p.m. I had awakened Garfield and told him that
the sea looked like mountains, and the waves seemed to be getting taller.
I said, "Watch that!" The next I knew, he grabbed me and pulled
at me, and said, "We are going to get drowned. Let's get out of
here!" I grabbed my rifle and telephone. A breaker of water appeared
to be twenty feet high. We caught on to the bushes and as the breaker
went back leaving us in water up under our arms. We knew the next one
would be deeper and deeper. We had some distance to go to get to higher
ground. We could only combat this by holding to treetops.
Each breaker did get higher, and the water deeper.
As we crossed one point, the water breaker was spilling off. Had it
not been for strong tree roots we would have been carried back into
the sea. Between these sea breaker, and our speed for higher ground,
we finally made it. We were possibly a mile from our CP Headquarters.
Thinking we could find our communication line we began hunting with
some difficulty. We finally found the lines. With our knives, we cut
the insulation from the wire, and wired up our telephone. I had salvaged
this from the seawater, but with no results. The phone was shorted and
grounded out by being water soaked. Our only means of reaching the outpost
would be to crawl the line by hand. Feeling the way holding, the lines,
we slowly felt our way by following the line until we reached the Central
Post Communication Center. I lost most of my equipment, but back at
Russell Island, I had no trouble in getting at replaced at the Quartermaster.
Our orders were to stay one week, but due to the typhoon,
we were there ten days since the small craft could not travel in the
typhoon waters. All eight of us were still alive. We would be picked
up by a PT boat about a mile from shore. The boat could not come in
because in because of the shallow water and reef, and because it was
so infested with Japs. All we had was an old rubber boat which had a
hole in it, caused by accident. Due to the storm and the reef and the
shallow water, we kept one ma1l on the pump. It was a struggle to keep
the boat floating with all men on board. The ocean waves were so high,
and we all kept trying to keep our eye on the PT boat. When we finally
reached the boat, we found one scared skipper. He told us that he almost
left us. We were pulled up by a rope, and before the last man could
get on board the skipper had the boat going what seemed like thirty
miles per hour. The last man almost didn’t make it. We were told
that this Skipper was the same one that carried General MacArthur from
the Philippines to Australia. He was really afraid of these Japanese
All eight of us did get back to Russell Island. We
stayed there about two weeks awaiting orders. We were sent to Rendova
Island in LCT flat bottom boats. This was just across the Bay from New
Georgia Island. General MacArthur had previously ordered all parties
making beach landings to pulverize the beaches before landing their
troops. We caught the Japs by surprise on Rendova just before daybreak.
They didn't have anything to do but run. They headed for the mountains.
Swamps on Russell Island
I remember once while we were on Russell Island,
our outfit was placed in different locations on the beach. We had guards
posted for any enemy ships that might intend to land on the island.
Our company was separated from the main headquarters by a swamp. In
case the Japs had attacked us, we had no escape to the main body Or
our men. They asked us to see if we could chop a single trail through
We began in single file wading and chopping. We went
from water knee deep to deeper. One would chop and pass the machete
in rotation. The Lieutenant was taking, turns with us. As he passed
the machete to me, and stepped back, I hit only a few lick until I cut
into the jungle grass that grows up in clusters. I must have hit this
young alligator, about five or six feet long, that was nesting at that
point. He flipped straight up out of the water, just opposite of me.
At this point, we decided to give the alligator the entire swamp. We
backtracked faster then we went in. The Lieutenant reported this to
Headquarters and we had no further orders to go through the swamp.
As we pushed them into the mountains, we established
our lines. The Japs, knowing we were there, came over the back; side
of the mountain. Their Air Force was on us before our radar could detect
them. They came with bombs. This was the first opposition we had from
the air while on Rendova. We went on about our unloading. The Japs came
back that night. The ground force Japs sneaked through our lines and
harassed us all night. I didn't sleep in my tent. I felt much safer
on the ground.
The next day, we were prepared to set up our field
artillery on Rendova to give overhead fire for our beach landing on
New Georgia Island. As we approached the beach, the artillery would
raise their fire to allow us to land. Our beach landing was very successful
as far as meeting any strong enemy fire on New Georgia Island.
After one day of shelling, we crossed the bay. Our
convoys looked like ducks on the river, but we had Navy and aircraft
support. After all the beaches were pulverized, we found some Japs who
were reluctant to give up. One Jap ran into the water before we could
capture him. They stripped him of his clothing, and he was interrogated,
but I do not know what they learned. We drove the Japs in about a quarter
of a mile to a creek that was narrow but very deep. We drove the main
body of Japs back that afternoon but as it got dark we had to "dig
in" for the night. The Jap custom was in night fighting, and one
had lo prepare for that as much as possible. Through the night we had
scattered fire all around, so the next day we began our slow advance.
Mission To Get Water
Our Battalion came to a creek which served nicely for our water point
to purify our water. We crossed the creek and advanced slowly without
much opposition. There were Japs everywhere in the trees and on the
ground. They fought us all night. The next day we advanced slowly while
being shot at by snipers from the trees, etc. We had dug in for the
night, but we had to have water. By map we discovered another creek
ahead which was in the Jap hands. We matched to see who would supply
the water in Japanese territory. I was the unlucky guy. I cut a stick
and strung about 10 or 12 canteens on it. I headed toward the stream
of water and found a tree well rooted. I began to sink one canteen after
another. I was just about halfway through when a Jap up above the creek
spotted me. He had a machine gun, and was hitting the water right about
my hand. I pulled back since the tree roots were above the water. I
filled all of my canteens and strung them on the same stick carefully.
I turned around behind the tree with my back to the creek. I made one
strong spring. The Jap turned on his fire, but I got out of his way.
He meant to kill me, but I got back lo the group with the water.
One night my outfit was "dug in" for the
night. I was close to our Browning Automatic man, Gus Gooler from Alabama.
He was on my left. We could hear the Japs coming in the pitch-dark night
trying to find our position. It seemed as if they were about ready to
step on us in the dark. I whispered to Gus to give them a spray from
right to left. He let them have it, and it did light up. It seemed he
should have killed everything in his firing range. It did get quite
for a few seconds, but they evidently had spotted our position from
the light. They let us have it with their large gun. It was so close
that my helmet rang like bell. It looked like it had been grazed. It
cut up trees and shrubs behind us. Then on our part, it got quiet, but
we could hear it on other fronts. This was a very close call.
One night after I had “dug in", I found
a dead Jap lying to my right. My fear was that they would retrieve their
dead, and stumble in on me. I got some bamboo and put up a break in
front of me to bounce off any of their grenades. I found a roll of barbed
wire that someone had dropped to lighten his load. I stretched it in
front of me for seven or eight yards, and made a booby trap. After this,
the Japs didn't bother me anymore that night.
The Japs had us spotted. The next day we made our
drive. The Japs were in the banyan trees with short-wave radio sets
telling all where we were, our position, and everything. When we dug
in for the night, I dug through volcanic rock that looked like cobblestone.
We though everything was well, but that night all hell broke loose.
Every Jap that we thought was in Japan was there. They threw everything:
bombs, rifle fire, mortar fire, hand grenades, and they rained them
on us a11 night. The few Americans that were left helped carry the wounded
and bury the dead. I had sat in water all night. My skin was so wrinkled.
The Chaplain of our outfit was Father Doyle, a Catholic priest. He said
"I’ll handle these boys." He led us to a dense woods
and told us to bed down. We got~ some rest that night but hardly any
Attack on Bibolo Hill
The next day, July 13 1943 we hit Bibolo Hill
approaching Munda Airbase. With all the bombardment and everything that
America had been able to render, the Japs were still there in strong
force. Those in my outfit, who were still able continued over the hill.
I was grazed in the back with a machine gun. The bullets burned both
sides of my back. If they had hit one-fourth inch deeper they would
have severed my spine. The Japs started their overhead fire from hand
grenades to mortar to artillery. They gave us everything they had. I
was hit with some kind of fragmentation that I thought was a mortar
shell. The shell blew me some feet. I must have been knocked unconscious
because when I came to, I heard the order to pull back because the Japs
were ready to make the "Banzai" drive. (They would yell Banzai,
Banzai, Banzai when attacking.) The fragments from the shell tore up
my leg and paralyzed my left wrist and legs. I was pinned down and tracer
bullets burned my sideburns, and my eyelashes were burned completely
I began to crawl backwards to my line as much as I
could. Big trees were blown up. I crawled through a treetop. One hand
and both my legs were dead. I was pulling myself with one hand like
a worm. I crawled in the direction of the medics about a hundred yards.
Frank Duncan from Indian Mound and Thomas Halliburton from Memphis were
in the mortar squad. They were setting up mortar not far from the Medics.
Frank almost shot me thinking I was a Jap. I recognized him and called
his name. He came over and picked me up, but dropped me a couple of
times. An Italian from Connecticut picked me up with strong, arms and
moved me like a baby. He carried me to the Medics. They slit my boot
which was laced from top to bottom. I was given first line Medic care.
I was carried out of the jungle on stretches under
strong enemy fire. The day before, I had carried some in on stretches,
and the Japs killed them while still on stretchers. The Japs would kill
them anyway they could. They laid me on the beach
for about an hour awaiting my time lo be loaded on one of the small
flat bottom boats. I was among hundreds of wounded. When I was finally
laid on the boat on my stretcher, father Doyle lay next to me. I said,
“Did you get it too, Father Doyle?" He could only wave his
hand. I heard he died soon after that.
As I was brought through the jungle on stretchers,
I was just ahead of some Japs coming in behind me. This group of Japs
came through and cut off our lines, and attacked our water purification
point. They knocked out everything there including the American casualties
who were forced to sit down at night. The Americans intended to bring
them out at daylight to be on there way for medical treatment. The Japanese
attacked and slaughtered everyone of them. I was one of the lucky ones
who got through before they were forced to sit down.
1 learned that one of my friends was helping guard
our water point purification with a Browning Automatic. They said the
Japs charged down the trail straight ahead, and he killed approximately
125 of the Japs before he was overrun and killed. They said his gun
was so ho that you could bend the barrel.