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What military reinforcement was supposed to be shipped to the Philippine Islands before the the onse

Discussion in 'Land Warfare in the Pacific' started by John Dudek, Apr 26, 2008.

  1. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Okay, from what I've gathered from Morton's book on the Fall of the Philippines, a large number of US Tank, Artillery, Infantry and Air Corps units were supposed to be shipped there before the outbreak of war. Does anyone know a better breakdown composition of the units destined to be shipped there?
     
  2. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    I had posted this in your "What If?" thread,

    "In a letter prepared on 5 December 1941 but never sent, General Marshall outlined for General MacArthur what had been and was being done to strengthen USAFFE. "Reinforcements and equipment already approved," he said, "require over 1,000,000 ship tons." Fifty-five ships had already been obtained and approximately 100,000 ship tons of supplies were en route, with twice this amount ready for immediate shipment to ports of embarkation. Requests for equipment for the Philippine Army, except those for the M1 rifle, had been approved, and uncontrolled items of supply were being shipped as rapidly as they could be assembled and loaded on ships. "Not only will you receive soon all your supporting light artillery (130 75-mm. guns]," Marshall told MacArthur, "but 48 155-mm. howitzers and 24 155-mm. guns for corps and army artillery." Except for certain types of ammunition, the defense reserve for the U.S. Army by July of that year. Three semimobile antiaircraft artillery regiments were scheduled to leave the United States soon, but the 90--mm. antiaircraft gun could not be sent since it had not yet been fully tested. A sum of $269,000,000 had been requested from Congress for the support of the Philippine Army, and early passage of such legislation was expected. "I assure you," Marshall closed, "of my purpose to meet to the fullest extent possible your recommendations for personnel and equipment necessary to defend the Philippines."[65]
    The last vessels carrying supplies to the Philippines were assembled in convoy in Hawaii and on 7 December were still on the high seas. In the convoy were the 52 dive bombers of the 27th Bombardment Group, 18 P-40s, 340 motor vehicles, 48 75-mm. guns, 3,500,00 rounds of .30- and .50-caliber ammunition, 600 tons of bombs, 9,000 drums of aviation fuel, and other heavy equipment and supplies. Also aboard were the two light field artillery battalions and the ground echelon of the 7th Bombardment Group (H)."



    HyperWar: US Army in WWII: Fall of the Philippines [Chapter 3]
     
  3. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    The full chapter

    Chapter III: The Reinforcement of the Philippines


    When General MacArthur assumed command of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, there was no program in the War Department for any immediate large-scale reinforcement of the Islands. As a matter of fact, the War Department specifically told MacArthur that he could have "no additional forces, except approximately 400 reserve officers to assist in training the Philippine Army. . ."[1] Within a few days, there was a complete reversal of policy in the War Department. The first sign of this change came on 31 July when General Marshall approved a proposal by the War Plans Division to reinforce the Islands' defense "in view of the possibility of an attack."[2] The next day MacArthur was informed that he would receive substantial reinforcements and Marshall told his immediate staff, "It was the policy of the United States to defend the Philippines." This statement so impressed the Chief of the War Plans Division that he entered it in his office diary.[3] The reasons for this change of policy are nowhere explicitly stated. Undoubtedly many factors both political and military contributed to the American Government's firm stand in July and August 1941. One of these was recognition of the potentialities of air power and especially of the Army's new heavy bomber, the B-17, called the Flying Fortress. in Stimson's opinion, the success of B-17 operations in Europe was responsible for creating an optimistic view in the War Department that the Philippines could be successfully held.[4] A striking force of such heavy bombers, it was argued, would act as a deterrent to Japanese advances southward and would strengthen the United States position in the Far East. ​

    Another cause for optimism was the recall of General MacArthur to active duty. No one knew as much as he about the Philippines and no one believed more completely that it could be held if the Japanese allowed sufficient time for reinforcement. ​

    The possibility of establishing an effective defense against Japan in the Philippines and thereby preventing Japanese domination of the Western Pacific without altering the major lines of strategy already agreed upon "had the effect," Stimson said, "of making the War Department a strong proponent of maximum delay in bringing the ​

    --31--
    Japanese crisis to a climax. . . In their [Stimson's and Marshall's] eyes the Philippines suddenly acquired a wholly new importance and were given the highest priority on all kinds of military equipment."[5] Ground Forces


    The first official War Department program for a large-scale reinforcement of the Philippines during this period was proposed by War Plans on 14 August. In a memorandum for the Chief of Staff, General Gerow argued that those reasons which had limited the size of the Philippine garrison--lack of funds, personnel, and equipment, plus the inability of the Navy to support a large force--were no longer entirely valid. With its present strength, he pointed out, there was a real doubt in the Philippine garrison could resist a Japanese attack, a contingency which he considered probably in view of Japan's attitude. To strengthen the garrison and increase its chances of holding Luzon and especially Manila Bay, General Gerow recommended that the Philippines be reinforced by antiaircraft artillery, modern combat planes, and tanks. The amount that could be sent, Gerow admitted, would be limited by the number of ships available for transport duty to he Far East. "The best that can be done at the moment," therefore, would be "to adopt a definite plan of reinforcement and carry it forward as availability of shipping permits."[6] Gerow's recommendations were approved and two days later, on 16 August, General MacArthur was notified that the following units would sail from San Francisco between 27 August and 5 September: the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) consisting of 76 officers and 1,681 enlisted men; the 194th Tank Battalion (less Company B), with 54 tanks, 34 officers, and 390 enlisted men; and one company (155 men) of the 17th Ordnance Battalion.[7] ​

    There had been some mention earlier of the possibility of sending a division to the Philippines, and on 5 September the Chief of Staff asked MacArthur if he wanted a National Guard division (probably the 41st). MacArthur replied that he did not need this division since he already had one U.S. Army division (the Philippine Division) and was mobilizing ten Philippine Army divisions. He asked instead for authority to reorganize the theoretically square Philippine Division into a triangular division, adding, "Equipment and supply of existing forces are the prime essential." "I am confident if these steps are taken with sufficient speed," he said, "that no further major reinforcement will be necessary for accomplishment of defense mission."[8] ​

    The reinforcement of the Philippines now enjoyed the highest priority in the War Department. MacArthur's request for permission to reorganize the Philippine Division was approved immediately. He was promised additional aircraft as well as the funds needed for airfield construction and the antiaircraft guns and equipment to protect the fields once they were built. "I have directed," wrote General Marshall, "that United States Army Forces in the ​

    --32--
    Philippines be placed in highest priority for equipment including authorized defense reserves for fifty thousand men."[9] As a result, General MacArthur's requests for men and supplies during the next few months received almost instant approval by the War Department. "I wish to express my personal appreciation for the splendid support that you and the entire War Department have given me along every line since the formation of this command," he told the Chief of Staff in a personal letter. "With such backing the development of a completely adequate defense force will be rapid."[10] ​

    Through no fault of the War Department or a lack of desire on the part of the Chief of Staff, General MacArthur's confidence in the rapid development of an adequate defense for the Philippines was not entirely justified. The task was a heavy one and limited by many factors beyond the control of the military. The industrial capacity of the United States was only just beginning to turn to the production of war material; the needs of a rapidly expanding citizen army had to be met; Great Britain and Russia were in critical need of supplies; and shipping space was extremely limited. ​

    The reinforcements promised MacArthur on 16 August were dispatched with the greatest speed and by 12 September General Marshall was able to report considerable progress. The antiaircraft artillery regiment, the tank battalion of 54 tanks, and reserve supplies had already been shipped from San Francisco. During the month, 50 more tanks, and 50 self-propelled mounts for 75-mm. guns were to be sent.[11] ​

    These reinforcements reached MacArthur before the end of September. The arrival of the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment (AA) gave him 12 additional 30-inch guns, 24 37-mm. guns, and a similar number of machine guns. Armored reinforcement consisted of the 192d and 194th Tank Battalions each with 54 tanks. And he could count on 25 more 75-mm. guns on self-propelled mounts (SPM) already en route and due to arrive in Manila on 15 October.[12] ​

    The arrival of the two tank battalions with their 108 light tanks, M-3, were a welcome addition to the Philippine garrison. On 21 November a Provisional Tank Group consisting of the 192d and 194th Tank Battalions and the 17th Ordnance Company (Armored) was established, with Col. James R.N. Weaver in command. ​

    As Military Advisor, MacArthur had proposed a plan to protect the inland seas by emplacing heavy coastal guns at the entrance to the key straits leading into these waters. The War Department had approved this plan and sent 24 155-mm. guns (without fire control equipment) to the Philippine Commonwealth to carry out this program, scheduled for completion in April 1942. MacArthur now proposed to extend this plan to include northern Luzon and asked the War Department for 4 12-inch and 4 8-inch railway guns, 22 more 155-mm. guns, and 30 searchlights. When ​

    --33--
    emplaced, he argued, these guns would present an enemy advancing on Manila with "fixed position gunfire, the lightest of which will be of sufficient proportions to interfere with troop landings and the operations of lightly armored vessels."[13] The letter was received in Washington at the beginning of December, too late to result in action.[14] General MacArthur's request for authority to reorganize the Philippine Division as a triangular division had been readily granted. To accomplish this reorganization, MacArthur said he needed an infantry regiment, a field artillery headquarters and headquarters battery, two field artillery battalions, a reconnaissance troop, and a military police platoon for the division.[15] The War Department agreed to provide these units and the staff began the detailed work necessary to select and ship them. ​

    MacArthur's plans for the Philippine Division were explained in a letter he wrote to the Chief of Staff on 28 October. He wished, he said, to have the division at war strength and trained intensively for combat. "It would be impolitic," he thought, "to increase the number of Philippine Scouts above the authorized 12,000, for all recruits would be taken from Philippine Army reservists to serve at higher rates of pay than the Philippine Army can pay." The only way, then, to increase the strength of the division was to secure an additional infantry regiment and two battalions of artillery from the United States. With these units and the American 31st Infantry, he could form two American combat teams in the Philippine Division. The Scouts thus released could be used to bring the 91st and 92d Coast Artillery Regiments of the Harbor Defenses up to strength, retain several small units already in existence, and provide station complements for Forts McKinley and Stotsenburg. The Philippine Division would then be free to train for combat and would be available "for instant use." "The entire plan,": he told General Marshall, "will be placed in effect upon the arrival of the new regiment."[16] ​

    MacArthur's plans included also the establishment of four major tactical commands, directly subordinate to USAFFE. On 2 October he requested authority, which was readily granted, to activate a headquarters and headquarters company for each "with average strength approximately those of Army Corps."[17] He also asked for army and corps troops to establish a balanced force, and for a field artillery brigade, a chemical company, three signal battalions, a medical supply depot, and a military police company, all at full strength and with complete organization and individual equipment. By the end of October he had requested almost 12,000 men: for the Philippine Division, 209 officers and 4,991 enlisted men; for army and corps troops, 340 officers and 6,392 enlisted men. ​

    During the next month MacArthur continued to ask for additional units and individual specialists, and by the middle of November the War Department had approved for transfer to Manila 1,312 officers, 25 nurses, and 18,047 enlisted men belonging to units. Individual specialists totaled 200 officers and 2,968 enlisted men. The units ​

    --34--
    selected for this overseas movement, including the 34th Infantry for the Philippine Division, were scheduled for shipment, forst for January 1942, but later, ironically, on 8 December 1941.[18] These reinforcements and supplies were all intended for the regular U.S. Army establishment; requisitions for the Philippine Army were made and considered separately. His plan of induction had hardly been completed when MacArthur began to request from the War Department large amounts of supplies for his Philippine troops. During August alone he called for 84,500 Garand rifles (M1), 330 .30-caliber machine guns, 326 .50-caliber antiaircraft machine guns, 450 37-mm. guns, 217 81-mm. mortars, 288 75-mm. guns with high-speed adapters, and over 8,000 vehicles of all types for the ten Philippine Army divisions he planned to mobilize.[19] On 18 September he was told that because of lend-lease commitments and production schedules it would not be possible to send most of these items. Especially unwelcome was the news that Garand rifles were not available and that the Philippine Army divisions would have to continue to use the Enfield and '03s with which they were equipped.[20] ​

    MacArthur nevertheless continued to request equipment for the Philippine Army, asking, on 10 September, for 125,000 steel helmets, as well as chemical, engineer, and signal equipment. A month later, the request for the helmets was approved. They would be shipped immediately and the other equipment would be shipped at a later date.[21] ​

    Since the Philippine Army was not limited in size by law as was the U.S. Army, MacArthur was in the unique position of being able to raise as many troops as the War Department could equip. On 20 September he asked for "complete organizational equipment" for a number of army and corps units to be formed principally of Philippine Army personnel. Included were 2 155-mm. and 3 105-mm. howitzer regiments, a motorized battalion of 155-mm. guns, 3 antitank gun battalions, and service, signal, and medical units.[22] These requests were approved and a shipping schedule established. ​

    Most disturbing was the shortage of light artillery and machine guns in the Philippine Army divisions. By the end of September the Philippine Army had only 48 75-m. guns. At least 240 were required to equip the artillery regiments of the ten reserve divisions and another 36 for filed artillery training centers. Also needed were 37-mm. guns for the antitank battalions and .40-caliber machine guns. Realizing that the supply of these guns was limited, MacArthur expressed a willingness to accept as substitutes obsolete models or smaller weapons. "Strongly recommend," he appealed to the Chief of Staff, "improvisation to the extent of providing substitute ​

    --35--
    arrangement in spite of lowered efficiency for any types available in the United States."[23] By mid-November, the War Department had taken action to ship 40 105-mm. howitzers to the Philippines. These weapons were to be given to U.S. Army units and would release to Philippine Army units a like number of 75s. In addition, 10 75-mm. pack howitzers were to be taken from the vital Canal Zone and 48 British 75-mm. guns and 123 .30-caliber machine guns from the equally important Hawaiian garrison for the Philippine Islands, an indication of the importance which the defense of the archipelago had acquired in the eyes of the War Department. From the United States itself would come 130 75-mm. guns, 35 37-mm. guns (M1916) and 14 .30-caliber machine guns.[24] No action was taken until October to supply the thousands of vehicles MacArthur had requested. During that month a large number of jeeps, ambulances, trucks, and sedans became available and on the 15th the War Department released these vehicles for the Philippine Army, "subject to the availability of shipping."[25] A request for clothing for the Philippine Army was also approved, as was the equipment for ten 250-bed station hospitals and 180 sets of regimental infirmary equipment.[26] An early requisition for 500,000 C rations and enough 55-gallon drums to hold 1,000,000 gallons of gasoline was filled during the summer. Strangely enough, the drums arrived filled although the gasoline had not been requested. This unexpected windfall proved extremely fortunate. A large portion of the gasoline was stored on Bataan and was most welcome during the campaign.[27] ​

    The approval of requisitions and orders for shipment did not result in any immediate increase in the supplies of the Philippine Army. Time was required to order the stocks from depots and factories, pack and ship them to the port of embarkation, find the vessels to transport them, and finally get them to the Islands. In September, the Navy began sending cruiser escorts with Army transports and merchant ships on their voyages between Hawaii and Manila. This procedure frequently meant that the transports had to stop at Honolulu, sometimes reload, and then sail west at a speed equal to that of the slowest vessel in the convoy. ​

    The shipment of supplies was dependent upon the number of cargo vessels available to the Army. This number was never large and the Navy, for a time, threatened even this limited supply. In September the Navy announced its intention to convert three transports to escort carriers. General Marshall protested this decision vigorously, ​

    --36--
    pointing out to the Chief of Naval Operations that it would delay the delivery of much-needed reinforcements to MacArthur by over two months.[28] Despite the favorable outcome of this protest, a large backlog of troops and approximately 1,100,000 tons of equipment destined for the Philippines had piled up in U.S. ports or depots by November. A group of shipping experts, including representatives from the War Department General Staff, Office of the Quartermaster General, the Navy, and Maritime Commission, met on 10 November to discuss ways of breaking the shipping block. As a result of this meeting a shipping schedule was established which recognized the priority of the Philippines over Hawaiian defenses and advanced the troop movements scheduled for mid-January to 17 and 20 December. Altogether, nine vessels were assigned to the Manila route, to sail in November and December. They would bring to MacArthur one light and one heavy bombardment group, a pursuit group, one reconnaissance squadron, a regiment of infantry, a brigade of field artillery, two battalions of light artillery, together with ground and air service units.[29] Had these vessels, the last of which was to leave the United States on 20 December, reached the Philippines the Japanese would have faced a far stronger force when they landed on Luzon. Air Forces


    In July 1941 the air force in the Philippines was still a token force, unable to withstand "even a mildly determined and ill-equipped foe."[30] Air Corps headquarters in Washington had been urging for some time that additional planes be sent to the Philippines and the Joint Board, early in 1940, had proposed an increase in air strength for the island garrison.[31] The following July 1941 Maj. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, chief of the newly created Army Air Forces, came forward with the strongest proposal yet made for the reinforcement of the Philippines. This proposal called for the transfer to the Philippines of four heavy bombardment groups, consisting of 272 aircraft with 68 in reserve, and two pursuit groups of 130 planes each.[32] These planes, wrote Brig. Gen. Carl Spaatz, chief of the Air Staff, would not be used for an offensive mission, but to maintain "a strategical defensive in Asia."[33] General Arnold's recommendations, approved in August, were not easily carried out.[34] To have raised that number of planes in the summer of 1941 would have meant stripping the fields in the United States as well as all other overseas bases. Moreover, many of the heavy bombers were still on the production lines. What could be scraped together was shipped immediately and by mid-August General Gerow ​

    --37--
    reported to he Chief of Staff that thirty-one modern fighters of the P-40 type were on their way. Meanwhile General Arnold made arrangements to send fifty more directly from the factory. These, too, were soon on their way and by 2 October had arrived in the Philippines.[35] Some weeks earlier a historic flight of nine Flying Fortresses had reached Manila by air. These planes were part of the 19th Bombardment Group (H), which had been selected for transfer to he Far East. After a flight from Hamilton Field near San Francisco, the Group's 14th Squadron, under Maj. Emmett O'Donnell, Jr., left Hickam Field in Hawaii on 5 September for Clark Field via Midway, Wake, Port Moresby, and Darwin. This pioneering 10,000-mile flight, almost all of it over water, was successfully concluded a week later, establishing the fact that the Philippines could be reinforced by air.[36] But the Midway-Wake route could not be considered safe in the event of war with Japan since it passed over the mandated islands and work was begun after October to develop a South Pacific ferry route.[37] Once the pioneering flight had been successfully concluded, all heavy bombers sent to the Philippines went by air via the Central Pacific route. On 9 September, General Marshall told MacArthur that two additional squadrons of the 19th Group--the 30th and 93d--would leave the next month. At that time the ground echelon of the two squadrons and the headquarters sailed from San Francisco. The air echelon of twenty-six B-17s followed soon after. By 22 October these planes had arrived at Hickam Field in Hawaii. After a short stopover they flew on to Clark Field where all but two reported on 4 November; the other two followed soon after. ​

    The flight of the 30th and 93d Squadrons was one in a scheduled series which called for the shipment of 33 heavy bombers in December, 51 in January 1942, and 46 more in February. By March 1942 the War Department planned to have 165 heavy bombers in the Philippines.[38] ​

    Scheduled for shipment after the 19th Bombardment Group was the 7th. The ground echelon reached Hawaii late in November and was held there until naval escort could be secured. The air echelon, scheduled to fly to the Philippines via the Midway route during late November and early December, had completed only the first leg of the journey before war came.[39] ​

    In addition to heavy bombers, MacArthur was also promised a light bombardment group of three combat squadrons. Selected for shipment was the 27th ​

    --38--
    Bombardment Group (l). The Air Corps experienced some difficulty in securing the 52 A-24s for this group but by early November the planes had been collected. The pilots and ground personnel reached the Philippines during November but the A-24s, loaded on a separate transport, were held at Hawaii with the ground echelon of the 7th Bombardment Group and failed to reach their destination.[40] At the end of November General Marshall summarized for the Secretary of War the air reinforcements already shipped or scheduled for shipment to the Philippines. At that time, he noted, there were 35 B-17s already in the Islands and 52 A-24s were due there--they never arrived--on the 30th. Fifty P-40s had reached MacArthur in September, Marshall explained to Stimson, thus giving him a total of 81 modern fighters. In addition, 24 P-40s had left San Francisco on 19 October, and 40 more on 9 November. By 31 December, General Marshall estimated, the Philippines should have a total of 240 fighters of the latest type.[41] ​

    By now the War Department was fully committed to an all-out effort to strengthen the air defense of the Philippines. General Arnold, in a letter to the commander of the Hawaiian Air Force on 1 December, expressed this view when he wrote: "We must get every B-17 available to he Philippines as soon as possible."[42] His statement was not an exaggeration. On the outbreak of war there were 913 U.S. Army aircraft scattered among the numerous overseas bases. This number of aircraft included 61 heavy, 157 medium, and 59 light bombers and 636 fighters. more than half of the total of heavy bombers and one sixth of the fighters were already in the Philippines.[43] (See Table 3) Within a few months this number would have been raised considerably. ​

    The arrival of the bombers and additional pursuit planes, with the promise of more to come, led to a reorganization of the air forces in the Philippines. Early in the fall of 1941 General MacArthur had asked for Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, a senior air officer, as his air commander. This request was approved and early in October Brereton was relieved of command of the Third Air Force and called to Washington. There, in a series of conferences at Army Air Force headquarters, the form of the new air organization, to be called the Far East Air Force, was drawn up.[44] ​

    General Brereton arrived in the Philippines on 3 November. He saw MacArthur that same day, and gave him the latest views about reinforcements and developments within the War Department. By the middle of the month the reorganization of the air forces had been accomplished and a short time later MacArthur told Marshal​


     
  4. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    I take off my my hat in respect to you, Sir! Thank-you for your service to our country!
     
  5. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Curious about some of the details. Were you a member of the 147th, if so what was your billet?
     
  6. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Jack...thanks for the response. If you are able to answer a few more question I'd appreciate it. I was artillery myself for many years, and am collecting bits of information about the methods of that era. If you are able to describe the positions you were trained for in the battalion or battery it would be helpfull.

    thanks
     
  7. dauis2

    dauis2 Member

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    My father was part of the 147th Field Artillery National Guard unit out of Yankton, South Dakota. He was a member of Battery E.

    I am trying to find out more about his time in WWII. He never talked about it when he was alive.

    I would like to know how the Battery was manned. He was a Fire Control Instrument Operator - job code 645.

    Gary Schulte
     
  8. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The terminology had changed when I was in service in the 1980s. I think he assisted the battery officers in computing the range, direction, and other details for aiming the guns. But, I dont have a refrence for the "job codes". Do you have any speciifc questions?
     
  9. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Jack,

    Does it ever come to mind as to the extreme good fortune that the 'Pensacola Convoy' was re-routed to Brisbane immediately after Pearl Harbour?

    Otherwise it would have been the Bataan Death March for you and your mates.


    John.
     
  10. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I'll have to which, but some of the battalions rerouted to Australia were then sent on to Java. There they were captured when the Dutch surrendered.
     
  11. KMDjr

    KMDjr Member

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    Hello,

    The 2nd Battalion/131st Field Artillery, Texas Nat'l. Guard was sent to Brisbane on the PENSACOLA Convoy, aboard USS REPUBLIC, after first diverting to the Fiji I. from Hawaii, and then later routed to Darwin on the BLOEMFONTEIN. Subsequently this BN was sent--as the only US ground forces to fight there, I think--to Surabaja, Java, and eventually captured when the island fell in early March, 1942. Many of these men ended up on the Burma-Siam Death Railway and at various POW camps in Japan proper.

    They are remarkably modest guys, and ALL have great stories to tell of their experiences.
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I gather you have contact with them? Would any consider talking with us here?
     
  13. KMDjr

    KMDjr Member

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    Hello,

    If this last post was addressed to me, yes, I do have--and have had--considerable contacts with the so-called "Lost Battalion." They are of course passing away pretty rapidly now, but a few remain with reasonably good memories. I do not know how PC/Internet-active they are, however. Over the years I attended a number of their annual reunions held in conjunction with the USS Houston (CA-30) Survivors Association, of which I am a member.

    Most are now deceased.

    Fine men, all, and they all deserved more recognition in their lifetimes than they ever received...
     
  14. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    KMDjr,


    I had an uncle serving on the RAN corvette, HMAS 'Maryborough' in WW2.

    I was talking to him about the 'Battle of Sunda Strait', sometimes referred to as the 'Battle of the Java Sea'.

    He related that as the USS 'Houston and HMAS 'Perth' were leaving Batavia harbour (Tanjong Priok?) the 'Maryborough' gave them the traditional salute of the Horn.

    The cruisers went north to destruction, and the 'Maryborough' sailed south to Australia. She was the last allied ship to depart port before the japs arrived.


    John.
     
  15. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Thats what I thought, Was not sure they were the only battalion sent to Java. They were grouped together with the surviving sailors of the Perth and Houston, several hundred men from both ships made it to shore. Their story is told in the book 'Ship of Ghosts; by J D Hornfischer. The experince of the 131st regiment is included in this book as their experince was intermingled with that of the Houston surviors.

    The Perth and Houston went west from Batavia. They had not recieved word from the Dutch that a Japanese landing had started earlier that day on the west coast of Java near Labuhan on the Sunda Strait. Your uncles corvette may have recived notice as they left Batavia a bit later. That would have casued the Maryborough's captain to choose the eastern route past Bali for passage to the Indian Ocean. The pair of crusiers entered the Sunda Strait after dark and caught the notice of the Japanese destroyer picket which begain shadowing them, and eventually sent a warning message to the invasion fleet commander. Running at high speed the Perth & Houston raced directly into the invasion fleet's night station. In the wild melee that followed both crusiers were sunk and many of the Japanese destroyers, crusiers and minor escourt vessels were damaged. Also five transports were sunk by torpedos at their anchorage close inshore. On interogating the survivors of the crusiers the Japanese were suprised to learn neither carried torpedos or torpedo launchers. Subsequent investigation by the IJN revealed that of eightyseven torpedos launched that night by Japanese ships three or four hit the enemy ships, and at least five hit and sank the cargo ships. A undetermined ammount of damage was also attributed to Japanese gunfire hitting Japanese ships.
     
  16. KMDjr

    KMDjr Member

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    Hello,

    Thanks very much for this information, and the anecdote from the HMAS Maryborough sailor. I always enjoy hearing these firsthand reminiscences. Unfortunately, as the years pass, memories can play tricks--even when we are not octogenarians!--and in this instance I am afraid memory has (no doubt unintentionally) altered the facts a bit.

    HMAS Maryborough and her sisters of the 21st Minesweeping Flotilla were not in Tandjong Priok on February 28th when USS Houston (CA-30) & HMAS Perth arrived after the Battle of the Java Sea, but in fact had been operating out of Merak, to the south in Sunda Strait itself. But Japanese air attacks made this base untenable and they moved to the south, closer to Third Point, nearer the Indian Ocean. Due to enemy air raids and fuel shortages they eventually steamed (on the night of Feb 28/March 1) down to Tjilatjap on the southern coast of Java after copying signals from the Dutch destroyer Evertsen that she had been attacked by Japanese warships and beached in damaged condition on Sebuku Island, close the Sumatran shore in the southern entrance to Sunda Strait. Maryborough left Tjilatjap at 8PM on March 2 escorting the Dutch merchant vessel Generaal Verspijck. She parted with the Dutchman on 3 March & headed directly south. She was incredibly fortunate to escape the Imperial Navy's forces operating south of Java in the Indian Ocean in this period. Many Allied merchant men and warships were caught and sunk by the Japanese under VADM Kondo & VADM Nagumo [4 BBs, 5 CAs, 1 CL, and over a dozen DDs, plus 4 of the famed carriers of "Kido Butai".]

    Perhaps he was recalling another time when they may have seen Houston and/or Perth. CA-30 spent a fair amount of time in the Darwin area earlier in the campaign, too. I have parts of a diary kept by a sailor aboard HMAS Bendigo, one of Maryborough's sister corvettes, and it details the final days of the Java campaign quite well indeed.

    Best regards
     
  17. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    "Perhaps he was recalling another time when they may have seen Houston and/or Perth. CA-30 spent a fair amount of time in the Darwin area earlier in the campaign, too."

    Quite possible. During December and January the Houston made several round trips between Java and Australia escourting cargo ships. That included stops at Darwin. Perhaps the 'Perth and Houston turning north' came from the moment those two were ordered to quit convoy duty and join the Dutch fleet in the Java sea. That would have been a week or two before the battles of the Java Sea and the later Sunda Strait.
     
  18. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Yes it was directed at you. Any information you have to offer from those gentlemen will be appreciated. Thank you for your comments thus far.
     
  19. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    KMD and CWS,




    What a fascinating report of what seems to have really happened in those days. My uncle was close to 80 when he related to me those events, and has now passed away only recently at the age of 84.

    My having been born in 1939, all the previous generation served, mainly for some reason in the RAN, only a couple in the Australian Army (AIF). They were childhood heroes to me who I felt had won WW2 on their own!!!! I had many memorable conversations with them over the years as I ended up a military history nut.

    The "last ship out of Batavia" is one family folk lore classic that persists to this day.


    John
     
  20. KMDjr

    KMDjr Member

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    Hello,

    ozjohn39 & slipdigit (Roll Tide! I can say that as an old Joe Willie fan...)


    I am glad to provide what info I can & when I can.

    The number of interesting and often entirely innocent "false memories" concerning the final days of Java is not small, but the stories are fascinating all the same. I enjoy hearing them regardless, because one may still be able to find some interesting & useful nuggets of truth contained within them...It's just a matter of straining out the dross, you could say.

    The guys from the 2nd/131st are diminishing fast, as I said, but recently one sent me his book: The Bamboo Express by Benjamin Dunn. Ben is in a retirement center in the midwest, aged 91, but his generosity says much for the kindness and decency of these men. If I am able to contact him I will mention the interest shown on this forum, which I know he will enjoy hearing about...

    The Lost Battalion is still awaiting the definitive history of their saga in the Far East during WWII. It's not an "epic" story--like the Marines on Wake Island or the defense of Bataan & Corregidor--but it is not yet well-understood or documented, and has a fair amount to reveal about the early period of the Pacific War.
     

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