Friday, June 3, 2016

54) Sgt. Jack now! Coconuts and Bombs flying thru the air--- Nov. 7, 1944

Tacloban, Cancaboto Bay, Leyte, Philippines
APO 72 Leyte, Philippines 

*The return address on this letter indicates that Jack now has the rank of Sergeant.

Somewhere in the Philippines, Nov. 7 (1944)

This is really quite a place. Yesterday we made a trip and got so full of dust we could hardly see or breath. Today we started out all equipped for dust. Respirators & goggles & every thing. We went about an hour down the road and we hit a storm. A real tropical storm complete with falling palm branches, coconuts and various other stuff flying through the air. We really got muddy & wet & cold. Yes I said cold. It is so cold here when it rains that we have to wear sweaters & jackets. Down in New Guinea when it rained we could walk around in just our shorts and be real warm. It is nearly chow time and I dread getting out from under this blanket to go out in the storm. Guess I will though. Can’t miss a meal when you eat like I do. Gee but it looks wet outside. A big coconut just fell out of the palm tree just about 6 ft. from Don’s bed. He was reading and it really scared him. Suppose I had better go and eat now as it has begun to slack up a little.

Back again and I got just as wet as the first time. They had spaghetti & green beans with fresh onions & hot cocoa. That cocoa sure hit the spot. We have a pretty dry tent so far. (that spot on the paper dripped off my wet hair). We are really sweatin it out though. The rain seems to come from all sides at once.

Honey I haven’t received any letters from you or any one else for some time now. I know that you are probably waiting just as long for my letters. Darling I get a lot from just rereading your sweet letters. Honey I have but one hope and that is that I will be able to come home sometime in the next 6 or 7 months. I really am anxious to see you and talk to you and we’ll decide how we will spend the time of my furlough. Gee! I wish I could be there with you now. Doing what ever you want me to be doing.

I sure do like that picture you sent. Also the ones of the cute little girl. Even then you were a sweet looking thing. Don’t study too hard when you don’t have to. I don’t think you get much out of a subject unless you can really enjoy it.

What subjects are you signed up for? How long do you have to go to classes each day? Wish we could be going to U of L together don’t you? I bet I could find a girl to help me study. OR wouldn’t you be interested??!! Guess I will never go back to school. I have lots of ideas on what I want to do after the war and going back to school isn’t included.

Dearest I will end this now as there is not much more to say except that I love you with all my heart and till the end of all time. I hope you already know that. I will come back to you soon. I feel sure.

Yours till then,

My love to your mother & sister Ann. Tell the little devil to watch her step and you be sure to keep fighting off the wolves.

The following statement was typed & included on a separate piece of paper with Jack's Nov. 7th, 1944 letter. 

3 November 1944 

General MacArthur proudly announced today that the 49th Fighter Group of the Far East Air Forces had shot down more than 500 Japanese planes since the beginning of the march back to the Philippines.

“The 49th in air battle in the Southwest Pacific”, General MacArthur said, “has set a record for the destruction of enemy planes which I believe is unsurpassed by any group of fighters in the war. Before coming to the Philippines as our first land-based air unit, they were crowding the 500 mark. In seven days in the Philippines, they have well passed 500 and are now shooting for the 600th. They are unsurpassed in the air.” 

NOTES (From the 9th's Unit History)- A LOT was going on with the 9th during the first few days of November 1944.  It is amazing that Jack was able to write Betty and reveal little fear for what was going on around him.  Note especially the bombing & strafing raids on the camp.  Jack must have spent some nights in foxholes or slit trenches and gotten very little sleep.  
  1. "The month began with the arrival of the remaining men of the air echelon from Biak Island. Their trip was made without incident and all arrived safe and sound. In the meantime, the roads had grown steadily worse, and it was no mean feat just to go to the airstrip in the morning and return at night. The services of the Duck obtained from a kindly engineering outfit was a lifesaver indeed."
  2. "The night of October 31 was one of constant alerts and several raids. One string of bombs was the closest yet, and converted many of the "unbelievers". During the early morning patrol, 3 enemy planes were destroyed and one probably destroyed by the 9th"
  3. "2 November 1944 was the most hectic day within the memory of the present personnel of the unit. The Japs kept fighters constantly in the air over Ormoc  to protect one of their convoys attempting to reinforce the city.  Our planes met them in combat, and before the day ended the 9th added eleven enemy planes to its total victories. "
  4. Ormoc---located on the western coast of Leyte and was a Japanese base that was not taken by Allied forces until mid December of 1944.
  5. "Upon return of this second mission a tragic landing accident occurred under the shadow of the Operations alert tent. Lt. Huisman was about to land after his 2nd combat of the morning when another P-38 from one of the other squadrons came from the rear. The propellers of this plane chewed the tail off Lt. Huisman's plane, causing it to slide down the runway engulfed in flames. The other '38 barely missed the tent, going just over the top before crashing and exploding a short distance away. Several men in that area were injured; one was rescued by the heroic action of our medical enlisted men. None of the injured belonged to our unit. The pilot of this plane never had a chance, and was trapped in his seat. Meanwhile, Lt. Huisman's plane finally came to a stop, a mass of flames. Into this holocaust two of the 9th Fighter enlisted men plunged, and disregarding their own safety, succeeded in freeing Lt. Huisman who was trapped by his safety belt. They then carried him to the First Aid Station by means of a nearby jeep. Both men were recommended for the Soldiers Medal for their heroism. Lt. Huisman was burned badly and was evacuated. The squadron received news that he subsequently died of his injuries a few days later aboard a hospital ship. He was buried at sea with full military honors. It is regrettable that a pilot returning from a successful combat action should lose his life in an operational accident, and Lt. Huisman will be sorely missed by his comrades. On this same mission the plane flown by Lt. J. Hanisch was seen going down in the Ormoc area, and his fate is unknown at this time."
  6. "All during the day swarms of photographers and correspondents were around snapping pictures of celebrities such as Majors Richard Bong and Tom McGuire, the 2 leading fighter aces, and our squadron C.O. Major Wally Jordan. A combat photographer took many pictures of the unit at work to be used in future histories of the Air Force in the Philippines. The day ended when a second plane nearly ran into the alert tent, and all personnel concerned agreed it was a never-to-be-forgotten day!"
  7. "The night of 2-3 November was one of constant alerts, with enemy planes dropping bombs every ten or fifteen minutes. Many men had their first look at a phosphorus bomb, which exploded a short distance away. The long tentacles made an eerie effect and caused uneasy quivers in many a heart even though there was little danger from that bomb. In the hour preceding dawn, many of the line personnel were caught in a strafing and bombing attack, but fortunately everyone "hit the dirt" in time and no one was injured."
  8. Phosphorus bombs are filled with the element phosphorus. The phosphorus in these types of bombs makes them burst into flames upon impact.
  9. "On November 3, 1944, the 9th ran a bombing and strafing attack on enemy shipping in Ormoc Bay. While returning from the mission the squadron sighted a large enemy convoy on Highway #2 between Ormoc and Valencia. The convoy consisted of trucks, artillery, small tanks and infantry and the 9th pilots immediately attacked. It was estimated that 25-30 trucks were destroyed and many others left smoking. An Ammo truck exploded causing additional damage; 30 to 40 horses were killed, and casualties among the troops were impossible to judge. An unconfirmed report received from Filipino guerillas and relayed to the squadron by the Army Liaison Officer gave the number of Japs killed or wounded as 2,400. An entire division sorely needed to reinforce their crumbling lines had been badly mauled and rendered temporarily impotent. This havoc was not accomplished without cost to our unit. Lt. R. Bates was last observed at 6,000 feet over Ormoc Bay, his plane apparently out of control. He was not seen to crash, and at the time it was thought he might have bailed out. If so, he would most certainly be a prisoner of war."
  10. "First Lt. R. Hamburger was able to parachute successfully when his plane caught fire after the strafing. He was barely able to miss the flaming wreckage of his plane when he landed, and was picked up by friendly Filipinos and taken to the guerillas. Lt. Hamburger returned to the unit later, after evaluating his report it was felt that Lt. Bates was not killed when his plane crashed, but had been injured and in enemy hands. This information was received from guerilla sources."
  11. "The next night (Nov. 3rd) was the worst night to date. There was a continuous red alert from 2300 to 0630, and more than 50 separate raids were made, occurring at 10 to 15 minute intervals. Another phosphorus bomb exploded almost in the identical spot as the previous night. Shortly after dawn about 25 Jap fighters bombed the strip, flying directly over camp en route. The anti-aircraft fire was awesome in intensity, but its accuracy left much to be desired. It did, however, harass the enemy sufficiently to make the raid a failure, in that only one small crater was on the runway and one plane damaged."
  12. "The night of November 4th was almost as bad as the previous one. Constant bombing and lack of sleep was beginning to tell on the men as nerves became frayed and tempers shorter than usual. Many dug big foxholes, placed their cots therein, and slept in comparative safety, but the majority were kept hopping in and out of bed 3 or 4 times every hour. The night of Nov. 5th was comparatively peaceful with only two raids. The best night's sleep for a week did much to refresh both body and spirit."
  13. "On Nov. 6th Lt. Hanisch surprised everyone by landing on the strip in a Cub. He was shot down near Ormoc on Nov. 2nd, and crash-landed his plane in a field south of Ormoc. The enemy planes strafed him when he landed, but missed him while riddling the plane. He suffered a deep laceration of the forehead. Within 15 minutes he was picked up the guerillas and feted like a conquering hero by the Filipinos, as he was the first American they had seen in three years!"
  14. "The next few days were uneventful except for a comparatively minor typhoon November 8th."

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