Today, Shankle lives in retirement at Cave Junction, Oregon. Since your grandfather was in the Pacific war, you must be a couple of genrations behind me in age. As you probably know, it is very unusual for someone your age to take hands on interest in WW2 events. No one has ever asked me about the details of the war. It is nice to be able to relate some of the stories. Thanks Justin.
The only training mission was when the 158 landed at Japen Island (Part of the Schoutens) laying between Noemfoor and New Britian. I think the real purpose was worry the enemy at Rabaul.
The 158 relieved the 36th division at Sarmi. When we landed, I was put on the grave detail receiving, identifying, clipping the dog tags off of the 36th Division dead that were arriving by truck. Some of them had been dead a few days. I will spare you the details, but you can see, I was face to face with the reality of war, my first. Wakde Island is 4 miles out from Sarmi where the USAAF operated A-20 attack bombers. The Island was almost treeless when I saw it. Treeless from buldozers and war I suppose.
I witnessed some of the heckling strikes at Sarmi when the Jap planes would bomb Wadke Island about 4 miles off the coast. We could lay on our backs in fox holes and watch the bomb bays opening. We shot at them with small arms, but no effect.
Noemfoor Island Landing
I think Bani Point was just to our left as we land in LCI's at the reef. We had about a quarter mile to wade to the relative security of the narrow beach, so I was not paying close attention to the point. I just remember it was there to our left. My unit, the third battalion, moved toward Konrasoren on day 2. The point was at the entrance to Broa bay at the north end of the reef that streched across the ocean side of the Lagoon.
There were several native villages around Broa Bay which had many entrances to swampy areas. The Japs had hidden channels for small crafts into the swamps. On one of our patrols, we surprised about 35 enemy early one morning at a swamp boat landing. The point man waved to the commanding officer who deployed us along high ground above the site. They hardly knew what hit them. It was all over in about 20 minutes.
Noemfoor Island is a beautiful little island. Broa Bay is great to go fishing in the very clear waters. The white coral sand reflects sunlight, so that snorkeling would be a fun activity. I did some of that with native kids who provided a perahoo (native outrigger canoe).
I provided Japanese hand grenades to drop into a school of fish after which, the young boys would jump in and fetch the stunned fish. On the beach they showed me how to cook them native style. A fire was started on the beach in a small pit. After coals were accmulated, and good and hot, the fish were wrapped in a green bananna leaf and immersed in the hot coals. The change in food sure did beat C rations.
Landing at Lingayen Gulf
The 158th RCT landed at Lingayen Gulf aboard APD's (Army Personnel Destroyers). We offloaded by nets over the side onto landing craft which circled and hit the beach collectively. To our relief, there only light artillery fire, but we were greeted by civilians to the point that they were a hazard both to us and to themselves. We quickley moved inland to the north/south railroad and proceeded north. The rail bridges were blown so we waded rivers toward Damortis. I don't remember the beach name where we landed.
What I do remember vividly was being shelled at Damortis by large US naval guns that the Japanese had captured in their invasion. The big guns were concealed in caves in the mountains, mounted on railroad tracks. They only fired the guns at night so that they were hard to pinpoint. The 147 artillery set up surveyers instruments to spot the flashes after dark. They then could zero in on the big gun positions to keep them inside the caves until the 158 could organizes assaults.
The third battalion (my unit) was dug in right in town. That first night, as we were being shelled, those big guns prevented any thought of sleep or rest. One big shell was a dud, and the next morning there was a ditch plowed by the dud with the unexploded shell at the lower end of the ditch. I went over to have a look, and stamped on the side were the words "Made in Pittsburg, USA".
Wounded on the Road to Bagiuo
My regiment was subsequently on the initial landing on Luzon PI. I was wounded on the road to Bagiuo that goes east out of Damortis. We were approaching the summit of the pass while being shelled by a enemy mountain gun. I think it was about a 37mm small gun. Sundown was approaching, so our CO said to set up a perimeter and dig in for the night. My platoon was assigned to a ravine that had a small stream running in it. I was glad for the opportunity to wash up a bit. Near the stream next to the stream bank, there was a pile of straw and movement in the straw. I quickly jumped up on the bank above the straw and dropped phospherous grenade into the straw. That brought out about 25 or 30 Japs out of a cave covered by the straw. I was fireing into their backs as they came out, but they dispersed around the area and my platoon found ourselves in hand to hand combat. I took a bullet hit in my right leg and fell right in center of things. Lucky for me my buddies brought pleanty of automatic fire from Browning subs, giving the medics space to come into the ravine to drag me out. I was carried out of the ravine back up to the hiway. While the medics attended to me, another cave was uncovered with about the same number of enemy. I was told that there was 75 enemy killed that evening before full darkness set in.
Recovery at Hollandia
I was evacuated back to Holandia for three months. While I was gone the 158 landed at Lesgaspi at the southern tip of Luzon.
The only time I was at Hollandia was when I was evacuated back there after I was wounded. Hot, Humid and one of the wettest spots on earth. The hospital was up in the highlands where lightening strikes were frequent and frightening.
When I returned, the war ended in August, 1945. We then went to Yokohama in September and assigned to Utsonomia about 100 miles north. I came home on points in January of 1946.