WWII
Earl Anderson - American POW
April 1942

    April, 1942. Things are pretty much the same around here, but something big is happening. You know that before there’s a big storm, there’s always a lull. I settled into a daily routine and then the PT boats {four of them} left our area and later we found out MacArthur had escaped to Australia. We had the sailboat ready to go, but the officers took it five days before Bataan fell and escaped that night. It seemed they had been given permission to do this. I guess they were more important than us sailors!

    The submarine, U.S.S Permit, was originally supposed to take MacArthur out of Corregidor. Apparently, he changed his mind and decided to escape on the PT boats instead. Fourteen PT boats took MacArthur, the President of the Philippines, and all the high brass to safety. They were following one another, carrying extra fuel in barrels on board for the long trip. The next morning, down around Mendora, the Ensign who was the Skipper of the 37 boat, thought he saw a Japanese destroyer following them. They threw all the extra gasoline over the side, so they could lighten the load and get away. It turned out it was just another PT boat.

    The PT boat was dead in the water. The submarine, Permit, came by later and picked up the stranded sailors. I spoke with guys who were on the crew of the abandoned boat, after the Permit picked them up and brought them to Corregidor. When they got to the island, a junior officer on the Permit, Lt. Flashenhauer, let it slip to the people on Corregidor that they had the survivors of the PT boat on the Permit with them. The Skipper of the Permit was going to let them stay on the submarine and take them back out with them. When the Lt. let it slip, the Skipper was ordered to kick them off the submarine. They were later captured and taken prisoner with the rest of us.

    The Chief Petty Officer of the rescued crew of the PT boat said to me, “If I ever get back to the United States, I’m going to kill that son-of-a-bitch, Flashenhauer.” I met Flashenhauer years later after the war was over. Basically, we had two classifications of officers. They were either “a prince” or “a prick”. He was a prick.

    An officer was a prick if he always went by the book. There was no flexibility with them. Good officers, “the princes”, would sometimes look the other way to help their men. Not so, the pricks. We were up at quarters one time and the Chief held us for an inspection. An inspection party came by led by a Lieutenant. Peterson. He looked like his head had gone through a meat grinder. One eye was shut and he was really banged up bad. It turned out that Lt. Peterson was looking for someone who beat him up. Apparently somebody went up to his room, grabbed the curtain on the side of the door, and wrapped it around Peterson’s head. Then, the guy beat the shit out of him while the curtain was around his head, so he couldn’t see who was doing it. Peterson wanted to inspect all the sailors to see if any of us had bruised hands. 

    Whenever Peterson had the deck, and everyone had lined up to go ashore, if he found any little thing out of the way, he would take your liberty card away and put it in the box so you couldn’t go ashore. Years later, I was at a reunion in a bar in New York where I met this guy who we suspected had done the deed to Peterson. He was an old buddy of mine named Walter Kakkan, who we had nicknamed “Snake”. I said to him at the bar, “Snake, you must have been the one who beat Lt. Peterson up.” He said, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that the guy who did beat him up was wearing gloves.” Now I knew why Peterson couldn’t find anyone with bruised knuckles at the inspection. Four days later, they transferred Lt. Peterson off the ship.

     A week or two after that incident, three or four guys came aboard who were called “replacements”. They were dressed like sailors, but we could tell they were really Naval Intelligence. We could tell they were officers because their hands were lily white as if they hadn’t done a day’s work in their lives. They stayed aboard for two weeks, trying to get some information about who beat up Peterson. If anyone knew who it was, they never said anything.

    Snake stayed in the service and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer. Every time he had gone up on deck as a sailor, Peterson would find something wrong with his uniform. The men of the Asiatic fleet didn’t take any crap from anybody.   

    One by one, our officers disappeared, so that when Bataan fell April 8th, 1942, we only had our Skipper, two Lt. Commanders, a Lt. JG, and two Chief Warrant Officers left. Still, the parties went on every night, while we worked our asses off. Can I say more? They were still drinking what we salvaged earlier.

    Our group, the “Oil Kings, were lucky because we used alcohol for test purposes. But the tests ceased, so we couldn’t let it go to waste. We still had the ice cream man freeze the booze into the ice cream. It was the best tasting ice cream I ever had.

    One night, we were issued 45 pistols and our Chief was showing us how to field strip them. While showing me the safety’s, I pulled the trigger and it went off with a bang. It just missed the six of us in a small compartment. I dug a piece of the casing from my arm, but nothing was ever said about it.

    April 7th. We got the word that Bataan was about to surrender. It was about midnight. We received orders to scuttle the ship and take off for Corregidor. It sounded like the world was coming to an end with all the explosions on Bataan. Everything of value in Bataan was being blown up and nearly all at once. We destroyed as much equipment as possible in a short five hours. Everyone got into our motor launches, except the scuttling crew of ten men. They backed the ship out into the channel and sunk it, just like that. We, in the small boats, were leaving Mariveles Bay when the Army blew up three tunnels on the side of the bay. One tunnel was full of gasoline. The whole mountain rained down on us. One boat was hit and we lost our Warrant Officer, a great guy. Some of the falling stones were as big as a house. Luck stayed with me and we got out just as the Jap tanks were pulling into the docking area. Next stop Corregidor, the Gibralter of the Far East, so they say.

    We left Bataan behind and landed on the north side of the island of Corregidor, which faces Bataan from a distance of two miles. We thought we would have some kind of accommodations, but they landed us on an upwardly sloping area and we were told to dig in. We didn’t go to the dock because the new powers in control figured that was where the Japs would shell. All day we watched the Japs bombing Bataan from the shores of Corregidor, which was known as “the Rock”. They only bombed the Rock several times that day.

    The digging was hard, for the soil was like concrete, so we took our time. About one hour after landing, the shells started to land among us. The digging was sped up and Harold Lundberg and I dug a hole big enough to get our heads in, leaving our asses exposed.

    Every time a shell landed close, I would say “And may God have mercy on our souls.” When there was a lull in the shelling, we stood up and Harold swung on me and said, “Don’t ever say that again.” Two guys next to us had a great foxhole dug. A shell landed between them and blew them out and they never had a scratch.

    We stayed there that night and the next morning we moved to the south side of the island. We were two days without food and water. I was not used to this arrangement. This was a Gerry trail, where we stayed until the Japs invaded the island on May 5th, 1942.

    Gerry Trail. It was a well-protected area located just below Battery Crockett, four 12”disappearing guns, and battery Gerry, four 12” mortar cannons. Battery Gerry could fire 360 degrees, while Crocket could only fire toward the sea at 180 degrees. We were located about a mile from Malinta Hill. Corregidor was shaped like a giant pollywog, and Malinta Hill was located halfway down the tail. It rose up about three or four hundred feet. The headquarters for all the forces on Corregidor was located in a tunnel dug straight through Malinta Hill.

    The Jap Navy would send in a small craft, either a destroyer or minesweeper, just to test our guns. They watched several displays of accurate gunfire, but they stayed just out of range.

    We were now a part of the 4th Marine Regiment, a reserve battalion. At the time, I never realized exactly what a reserve battalion was. A reserve battalion was thrown into the battle wherever the fighting was the fiercest to help the troops being hit the hardest. Bayonet drills and practical infantry warfare was being pounded into us. We were willing pupils because we all knew our lives were at stake. It was a strong feeling, this “I don’t give a damn feeling”, when just a short while back all I could think about was going home. Sometimes, when I get a chance to think, I realize we’re doomed. Help is never going to arrive soon enough to do us any good. If only we had something to fight back with. Every time I think of it, it makes my blood boil. We figure this will be a fight to the finish, like the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.

    The Japs started shelling us and they never let up, even to cool their guns. Corregidor fired many outgoing rounds right over us. The rotating band would come off and they were worse than the shelling. We caught all the short rounds.

    On April 25th, 1942, the shelling was concentrated on the two batteries above us. Then, for two days and nights we were shelled with 240mm shells. The digging was in earnest now. Ten of us had a tunnel dug ten feet into the hillside ten feet apart and then connected. It was the only way to keep from getting killed. We still lost about twenty men at that time. Then, a mighty explosion blocked out all the light {from the sun}. We figured we had it.

    I was in the back of the tunnel and I had the digging tools. I passed them toward the entrance and lo and behold, we weren’t buried. Just a lot of dust. We ran to the head of the trail, where it made a turn, where the wind blew the dust away. Wow! That was the biggest explosion on the island.

    The Japs blew the top of the mountain off, exposing the ammunition storage rooms. Finally, they knocked out both batteries. We sent a rescue party up the hill to dig out the soldiers who were buried. As soon as we got there, the Japs peppered the area with 105mm anti-personnel shells. Surprisingly, only five soldiers were killed during the rescue. That was a day I’ll never forget if I live to be 100, which I intend to do. I later found out that some of the mortars weighing five tons were found two miles away on the other side of the island. Wow! Just like the fourth of Julys we used to have back in the USA.

    The Japs had us surrounded and they had a long-range cannon on the Caviti side of Manila Bay, about 12 miles from us. We called it the Caviti Express. They would hit the island randomly. They had no set target. As I mentioned before, I had the only M-1 rifle and I fell in love with it. But, I didn’t know how to field strip it. So, I asked a Chief Gunner’s Mate to show me. We were kneeling just off the ditch in the road when suddenly he pushed me off the road. A shell then came careening out of the sky and exploded in the road. It blew apart our makeshift shower, which we had rigged up by tapping a spring on the side of the road. I asked him how he knew a shell was heading our way. He had no explanation for it. He just said he had a feeling about it. Another close call. That was the last I saw of my M-1. I was issued a World War 1 rifle still packed in grease, a Marlin. Good gun, but slow firing compared to the M-1.

    April 27th, 1942. We received word that B-24’s had bombed Tokyo, Japan. Score one for the good guys. Ammunition was the same; .306. We were issued six hand grenades and taught how to use them. At that time, I realized I was not made for making war. I was made for making love. What a strange world. Our outfit was in the Fourth Battalion, Fourth Regiment, Marines held in reserve. All our squad leaders were Marines. A squad back then was eight men.

    At this time, I started smoking. It seemed to calm my nerves at the time. What a mistake. I took them because they were free. The shelling continued day and night. Then, we got our orders to move. Off we go marching with all the ammunition we were able to carry, including a few pineapples {hand grenades} apiece.

    It took us overnight to get to Malinta Tunnel, which was where all high-ranking officers were located. When we arrived in the tunnel, we were told to stand by for further orders. I was so tired, I just laid down and went to sleep. Later, I sat next to the headquarters tunnel, watching the officers eating and drinking coffee etc. Here we were hungry, thirsty, and tired, but no one offered us anything. 

    The tunnel ran straight through the hill. It was about 1000 yards long and had lateral tunnels branching off, which contained hospitals and such. In order to get to the tunnel, we had to run toward it immediately after a shell blew up at the entranceway. In other words, between shots. It was scary to say the least.

    My squad left about dawn the next day. We left the same way we entered. Off we went running for about fifty yards. Then, lying flat waiting for the next shell burst. We went to a fork in the road and found a Marine sitting behind some sandbags, bandaged around the head, staring straight ahead with a rifle still in his hands; dead. He had been shot between the eyes. That meant snipers were already in back of us. Now I knew it wasn’t just a nightmare. Two miles down the road, we got pinned down by machine gun fire. Two snipers were firing machine guns from a catwalk circling the upper level of a water tower. Someone crawled up and shot them, so we could move forward.

    Here I am and there is a war going on, and I have a rifle and some Japs have some rifles, but all the time I’m thinking I can’t believe it is all just about knowing how to shoot a rifle. I now revert back to when I was a kid and play “follow the leader”. But this is not good either, because them Japs have never heard of the game “follow the leader”. All they know is how to “get the leader”. At this rate, if it keeps up, I’ll be the leader, so I figure maybe I should change my tactics.

    The next thing I knew, were pinned down again. Luckily, we were in a depression in the road. The bullets were clipping the bushes in back of us, a few inches above our heads. Our squad leader said, “Okay, men, let’s get the bastard.” In unison, we all said, “After you Sarge.” We finally crawled around, spread out, and fired at anything that moved in front of us. Apparently, the Sarge thought better of being a hero.

    We finally succeed in wiping out three machine gun positions and gaining a hill. There were more over the hill, so over we go again. We take chances a man would never normally take because we’ve read about these kind of fellows, the Japs, and know them like a book. I guess a fellow goes nuts. I’ve seen men fall all around me, but what can you do? I figure we’re all going to get it eventually, so what’s the difference?

NEXT: May 1942 >

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