Biak- Schouten Islands
"On June 1st the ground echelon left Hollandia bound for Biak Island, one of the Schouten Group in Geelvink Bay, Dutch East Indies. Biak, containing 3 Jap airstrips, was invaded by American forces May 27th. When our ground echelon left Hollandia, fierce fighting was going on at Biak, and the ground forces were making little if any progress. The outcome of the battle for Mokmer strip, to which our unit was destined, was still very much in doubt. Our LST's arrived at Biak on 3 June, landing near Bosnek village where the infantry had originally landed."
"A temporary camp was quickly set up about one-half mile from the beach and approximately two and a half miles from Bosnek on the road leading to Mokmer strip, which was still in Jap hands. Mokmer is due West of Bosnek on the southern part of the island. The next day was spent unloading equipment and erecting tents, and our men spent succeeding days unloading ammunition, supplies and gasoline from the constant stream of LST’s that came into the area. All work was done to the accompaniment of a continuous barrage being sent over their heads by friendly artillery. It was the closest the ground personnel had come to actual combat conditions."
"A detail of men was sent by each squadron in the Group to assist the infantry in holding the perimeter. They were placed in reserve as a secondary line of defense, but inasmuch as no infiltration of the perimeter was made, no actual contact with the enemy occurred. Oddly enough, using the Air Force as infantry had an uplifting effect on morale as it gave the men something to brag about and was better than acting as stevedores!"
"Succeeding days were routine with continuous alerts at night. The number of alerts was far out of proportion to the raids, none of which hit nearby. As a result it was only natural that some of the men grew careless, in spite of warnings about the imminence of air action."
"The early morning hours of 12 June were the blackest in the history of the 49th Group. About 0230 an undetermined number of enemy planes came over and dropped bombs in the midst of the Group camp. Many were caught unaware, out of slit trenches or even in bed, chiefly as a result of the many false alarms. The results of the bombing were out of proportion to the approximately six bombs dropped. Four officers and fourteen enlisted men were killed and thirty men wounded, with great damage to material. The 9th did not fare as badly as the other 2 squadrons. Group was particularly hard hit. In our unit Lt. Hayward, Supply Officer, and two enlisted men, Sgt. R. Stoor and Sgt. O. Johnson, were killed. Ten were wounded, one of whom (Pvt. M. Pinnelas) died later in the hospital."
"The following week was spent in further unloading LST's and aiding the infantry on the perimeter. June 21st the squadron moved to a newer and better campsite about 4 miles of the West end of Mokmer strip, adjacent to the beach. Routine camp duties occupied the next few days. The air echelon arrived safely from Hollandia the 25th, and once again the squadron was united."
"The final days of June were spent making our temporary camp a bit more livable and digging bigger and better slit trenches. The many batteries of friendly artillery that were located very close to our camp area seemed to fire continually - night and day. This, combined with many red alerts, caused sleepless nights for most of us. To a good many it seemed they were seeing more actual warfare than had been the case previously."
(Ken Clark’s Unit History posted on www.flyingknights.net)
- Biak Island- Indonesia ---"Fierce fighting occurred on this island. After the turn of events in the rest of New Guinea, the Japanese began fortifying the island unbeknownst to the American Army units, primarily the 41st Infantry Division on May 27, 1944. The only tank vs. tank battle in New Guinea occurred on Biak, where Japanese Ha-Go light tanks were knocked out by American Sherman tanks. Japanese soldiers were well entrenched in the interior of the island in limestone caves and fortifications. These entrenched troops fought an excellent defense, delaying the reopening of Mokmer Drome with their fire. The casualties at Biak were high for the American Army, 435 KIA and 2,360 WIA. The Japanese lost an estimated 6,125 KIA, with 460 POWs, and 360 Formosan POWs. American forces then developed the island into a large airbase after occupation." (http://www.pacificwrecks.com) See also: Biak Island Info Link
- Mokmer Aerodrome ---"Built by the Japanese less than 100 yards from the beach as the eastern most of the three coastal airfields, to the west of Mokmer village, parallel to the coastline and the Japan Straight. Liberated by the US Army. Entrenched Japanese 222nd Infantry in the high ground and caves above the strip delayed the use of the strip by American planes." (http://www.pacificwrecks.com)
- Jack's Air Raid Story---Jack once told me that during the air raids one of the men always refused to leave his cot to seek the refuge of the slit trench. But, after one raid they found him dead halfway between his tent and the trench. The irony was that his tent had not been hit and if he had stayed in his bed as he usually did he would have survived. But, that one time fear must have struck him and he had headed for the trench after the raid had begun. Perhaps this story was about one of the men that were killed in this air raid on Biak. –M. Davy
- Sgt. Roger Louis Stoor-- (1917-1944) He was from Crystal Falls, Michigan. Link to his grave site
- Pvt. Morton Pinnelas---(abt. 1922- 1944) He was from Brooklyn, NY. Link to his grave site in Manila, Philippines
- Lieut. Arnold L. Hayward---(1919-1944) I would guess that this was Jack's direct supervisor as Lieut. Hayward was in the Supply Department. He was from Nebraska. Link to his grave site
- Sgt. Oscar Payne Johnson---(1917-1944) He was from Georgia. Link to his grave site
- Jack turns 20--- On June 21st, 1944 Jack had his 20th birthday. We find out in his next letter that he didn't even know he'd had his birthday until several days afterward.
Back to some letters in the next post....