Following is an account of several events that occurred in the Philippines during World War II. Since I was personally involved with these adventures 1944-45, and since it is now the year 2007, actual dates and places in which the described actions took place are subject to natural memory distortions. Hopefully, most dates and names of places will be given with a modicum of accuracy. However, the chronological descriptions given in this narrative will be sequentially accurate.

We left the island of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands on a U.S. Destroyer late in 1944. We were headed for, it was rumored, Leyte Island in the Philippines where we would take over the mopping up operations of that battlefield. (When I say “we” I am referring to the military personnel assigned to the American Division which had been formed on the island of New Caledonia (Hence the name, Americal) and consisted of three 132nd, 164th and 182nd regiments that were in the South Pacific because they had originally been assigned to reinforce the U.S. Army on Luzon Island in the Philippines.

The surrender of the American Army on Corregidor caused a change of assignments of these regiments to one of assuming a mission that would help Australia protect itself from what was then regarded as an imminent Japanese attack on that huge, but militarily weakened country by sending its main Army and Navy to help fight the Nazis in Europe. We were happy to leave the jungle ire and the heat of the Solomon Islands. Although we were combat experienced against the Japanese, we were still uneasy about what awaited us in the Philippines.

On my arrival in the Solomon Islands, I was assigned to the Medical Corps and relegated to the 1st Battalion of the 182nd Regiment. And thus I became known, not surprisingly, as “Doc”, even though I had had only infantry training since my induction. (Most of my medical predecessors had been killed or severely wounded in battle.) I was a replacement for one of them. My medical training consisted of a three day education at a field hospital. During this time I tended a pneumonia patient who passed away while I watched. On the second day I practiced how to administer plasma by practicing the art of finding a vein for needle insertions (Other infantry soldiers, getting the same training as I, used my and each other’s arms for this purpose). And on the third day we were introduced to the correct procedures used to conduct that autopsy, the patient who succumbed to pneumonia was the object of that procedural lesson.Following our introduction to a medical atmosphere, we were returned to our Battalion assignments where we were instructed by combat experienced medics in proper procedures used to take care of variously wounded comrades.

The members of the Japanese infantry had been trained to concentrate on U.S. Medical personnel for butchery. They believed such activities would reduce the effectiveness of U.S. Combat efforts. (This was the reason Line Aid men, the official name given to a medic assigned to a specific company for combat purposes, facing the Japanese Arny did not wear armband to ID their non-combat status.) It was also the reason Battalion level medics were issued carbines to use for self-protection. Because of my training in how to use weaponry during hostilities while in basic training, I felt self-confident in my ability to handle an M-1 rifle, a bayonet, engage in hand to hand fighting, or how to use a hand grenade effectively if it became necessary for me to do so. I hoped that my first aid activities would be held to a minimum, and that I would never need to use my combat skills. Unhappily this eventuality was not to be – the carnage of war would prove to be too freakish for such comfort. Even though I was one of the chief targets for Japanese combatants, I was lucky enough to find it necessary to engage in close fighting only once. The rest of the time I spent in combat was devoted to alleviating the effects of a wound or, hopefully, to saving a life – sometimes even a Japanese life.

The trip from Bougainville to Leyte was uneventful proving the success the U.S. Navy had in its victories over the Japanese Navy and Airforce. Even the sky was beautiful and calm. For a while we were accompanied by another Destroyer filled with Marines on their way to another campaign. They were too far away from us to communicate with them, but we wished them the best of luck. Finally, after four days of smooth ocean sailing, we were put ashore where the U.S. Forces had landed and secured a port for bringing in supplies and reinforcements to complete the cleansing of Leyte from Japanese occupation. We marveled at the accuracy of the rumors we heard at the beginning of our trip.

We worked our way into the island’s interior for a couple of days not knowing when, or under what circumstances, we would run into a Japanese defensive position. When we finally ran into their defensive dugouts and foxholes we found them to be deserted. They had retreated farther into the interior. Division Commander then decided to chase the enemy into a trap. The trap would consist of a defensive position dug in a bulwarked with machine gun protected strands of barbed wire. This static part of the trap was to be located in front of the positions where G.I’s would be required to dig in at the extreme Northwestern tip of the island. The active part of the trap would come from the bulk of the Americal division attacking the Japanese Army along a wide front. Within six weeks Leyte was free of any danger from Japanese rule.

I was reassigned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon and that Platoon was instructed to man the entrenchment they would create as the bulwark against which the fleeing Japanese would dash themselves. We were force marched back to where we had first landed on Leyte, loaded our equipment on, and boarded P.T. Boats. The P.T. Boats delivered us to our new area where we dug it, put up the barbed wire barriers, and began our wait for the Japanese army.

While we continued our vigilance, Filipino natives from a self-governed, centuries old fishing village, whose name I never knew, sent a young lady to me who had a badly infected crustacean bite (complete with maggots) on the upper part of her right foot. I knew I was not a doctor, but I also knew that I would do my best to improve that condition. Removing the maggots and cleaning the corruption from the ulcer, I had her soak her foot in heated water to prepare it for an application of sulfanilamide. Then I gave her a sulfadiazine pill being careful to admonish her that it was very important that it be taken with a lot of water. After treating her in that manner, I painted the ugly tissue with merthiolate and bandaged the foot securely. I then gave the interpreter, who could make himself understood in English only with much difficulty, instruction that this procedure was to be repeated the next day. Before they left I gave one of her attendees enough medical items to last until the next day’s treatment. During the following week the bite entered its last stages of healing, and they brought me an elderly lade with a similar condition on her hip. Following the same procedures I had used on the young girl, a similar outcome was achieved. The interpreter then got the message across to me that the Chief’s wife had a similar infection on her lower abdomen,and that I could not be permitted to see it. Puzzled, but wanting to help, I had him repeat the procedures he had seen me use, and gave him sufficient medication and supplies to apply to her ailment. He seemed grateful as proudly carried them away.

About a week later the interpreter returned and assured me that the sore he was concerned with on the Chief’s wife was healing rapidly and, as a result of my medical proficiency and willingness to share it with his people, a new addition honoring me would be made to their totem pole. I was, of course, very flattered, but could not leave my post to go see what they thought I looked like – the Lieutenant refused me permission to leave because he expected the Japanese to appear shortly. I never got the opportunity to see, although I could imagine, what I looked like with my head shaped from a coconut.

The Japanese Army changed the direction of its retreat from Northwest to due West and never got to our position. Instead its leaders decided to surrender when their backs were against the West coast of Leyte.All we participants in the mantrap snared and killed was a Yak that had unluckily wandered into our strands of barbed wire at night, and sounded our noise-makers alerting us to an unidentified presence. The Yak died almost instantly from a 30 calibre, air-cooled Machine gun crossfire. The Americal Division then went into a bivouac to await its next mission – which was not long in coming. We were returned to the 182nd Regiment by P.T. Boats where we practiced patrolling. It was rumored that our next move would be a landing on the southern island of Japan.

Instead, we were loaded on troop ships and transported to the Philippine island of Cebu, (pronounced Seeboo or Sayboo) where we made a landing just south of Cebu City. Although we ran into anti-personnel mines on the beach with just a few resultant casualties, there was no Japanese resistance as we secured our assigned positions. Late on the 2nd day “K” Company ran into dug-in Japanese combat troops and suffered many casualties before forcing the enemy to retreat which they did rapidly. “A” and “B” Companies, with “C” Company held in reserve, had taken their objectives with no Japanese counteraction. They dug in for the night. “C” Company dug in on a hill from which they would support either or both “A” and “B” Companies in case of a counter-attack. Unfortunately the hill that “C” Company had selected was mined with many explosives which were detonated during the night and killed all “C” Company combatants, including all “C” Company medics. This disaster impacted Americal Division Headquarters enough for them to halt all troop advancements for two days.

Finally, after consolidating the gains made since the invasion of Cebu the Americal Division resumed operations by pushing the Japanese into a small area of Northern Cebu where they idled until they were instructed to surrender when the Japanese capitulated and agreeed to cease all resistance. We were surprised to learn that the number of troops in the Japanese army was the largest occupation force left on any contested island in the Pacific. That revelation made us feel grateful that our commanders had judged it unnecessary that we defeat that army in its defense of their bivouacs. They thought that our casualties would have been too high to justify any gains we might have made. We were surprised that we did not face another Banzai attack.

When the war was officially declared ended, we started counting the number of points we had earned. A certain number of points were needed for one to return to the U.S. And receive one’s discharge points were given for length of time in the service, time in combat, and medals earned. I needed three more points which meant I would become a member of the Japanese occupation force. Happily I once again was in a position to assist civilians with American medical supplies and services. Such ministry seemed to help overcome Japanese distrust and fear of American intentions during the occupation. After three months of working in a hospital, I finally earned enough points to gain a trip home.