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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: They Served

article number 700
article date 01-18-2018
copyright 2018 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (Book) - Part 4: The End is Inevitable . . . General MacArthur Wants to Take a Ride
by W. L. White
   

EDITOR’S NOTE: As 4 or more [sailors] tell their story, the author switches between them, sometimes abruptly as needed. This editor repeats text regarding who is about to talk, before the switch, in the hope that it makes for an easier read.

* * *

. . . The soldier asked for a cigarette, but when I offered the Jap captain one, he shook his head. Pretended he didn’t speak English, but when they got him back to base, Intelligence found he spoke plenty, but wouldn’t tell them anything.”

said Kelly

“A queer thing had happened to us,” said Kelly. “We couldn’t be mad any more. Ten minutes before we’d all been pumping steel, hating every Jap in the world. Now we were sorry for these two, they were so abject, sitting there on the deck—little half-pint guys—the youngest boy in our crew looked like a full-grown man beside them.

"Our crew all came up to take a look. People had been scared of these guys? It seemed impossible! Any man could handle two of them in a fight. There they were, avoiding our eyes, and yet we had to hand it to them—they’d put up a damned good fight. And our crew were very much impressed by how much a few men can do if they’re willing to die. The little private who sat there puffing the cigarette had five holes in him.

“Quite a few officers were waiting for us on the dock; they’d watched our fight from an observation post on Bataan but couldn’t make out from the tracers what was going on or how it came out.

“We had quite a time loading Chandler and the Japs into the ambulance, because the forecastle was slippery with blood. It soaked into the sneakers we were wearing until we could hardly stand up, and by the time the Japs were loaded, it was all over our hands and pants.

“The ambulance doctor, glancing at them, said he thought the Jap officer would pull through, but that there wasn’t much chance for the little private puffing the cigarette. Matter of fact, he died on the way to the field hospital at Little Baguio.”

said Bulkeley

“You never know when you’re going to run into something,” said Bulkeley. “A couple of nights later, I was riding the 41 boat on routine patrol off the west coast of Bataan. When we began to get near to Biniptican Point, the entrance to Subic, we cut it down to one engine, to make the least possible noise.

"Just before ten o’clock, I spotted a Jap ship which seemed to be lying to, near shore. We called general quarters and began sneaking up on her—still using only one engine until we got within about twenty-five hundred yards. Then we gave everything the gun and roared in—but almost into a trap.

"Because the Japs had prepared a little welcome for us, and this ship was seemingly the bait to a trap—they had floating entanglements and wires in the water which might foul our propellers and leave us a dead target for their batteries. We saw them just in time, and now we saw they were trying to unbait the trap—because that big ship was showing a wake, trying to get under way.

“At a thousand yards we fired our first torpedo, and it had hardly hit the water before the Jap ship opened up on us with a pom-pom. They’d been playing possum, waiting for us.

"But what the hell—we wanted to be sure we’d stolen the bait from that trap, so we went right on in, ahead of our own torpedo, and let her have another at four hundred yards. Then I gave hard rudder and as we turned abeam of her, we sprayed her decks with the 50’s, and every man on board picked up a rifle and began pumping at her—just for the hell of it.

"The Japs were dishing it right back, but not for many seconds Because all of a sudden—Bam! It was our first torpedo striking home, and pieces of wreckage fell in the water all around us. The explosion gave us our first clear look at her. She was—or had been until then—a modern, streamlined 6,000-ton auxiliary aircraft carrier. Pretty expensive bait for any trap.

“But the Japs weren’t through with us A battery of about half a dozen 3-inch guns opened up on us from the shore—by the flashes we could see they were pumping it to us as fast as they could load, and they certainly took our minds off our other troubles.

"So with big splashes all around us, we executed that naval maneuver technically known as getting the hell out of there, swerving, weaving, avoiding those damned wire nets, and trying to figure out where the Japs would place their next artillery shots, to make sure we wouldn’t be under them—giving her every ounce of gas we could stuff into those six thousand horses, until we were out of range. I think the Japs were getting tired of us MTB’s, and risked exposing that ship to rid themselves of a nuisance.”

   
Members of a PT crew inspect a Japanese 5-inch gun after the fall of Lae. Guns of this type frequently fired on PT’s patrolling in Huon Gulf. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part IV - Southwest Pacific - Conquest of New Guinea.

said Kelly

“I was staying that night with Chandler at Corregidor hospital,” said Kelly, “and we knew you’d had good hunting when we saw you come chugging up to the dock next morning with that broom tied to your masthead and your forward torpedo tubes empty.

"After that there was a little lull. I was supposed to report to the doctor every other day to have my finger dressed, and I’d go late in the afternoon and have a date with Peggy. Sometimes we’d walk down to the navy communications center at Monkey Point to pick up the radio news and gossip—often we’d just sit on the sea wall and watch the moon on the water. Sometimes wondering what would become of us.

"Often it would be a foursome, or we would sit out there with Stevens, the nurse, whose boy friend was an artillery captain over on Bataan. She’d always watch the gun flashes, which were getting closer now as the Japs were pushing our boys farther and farther down the peninsula. Stevens would always worry—for fear every flash was a Jap field piece firing at her captain. But we’d tell her we knew by the color that it was her captain firing at the Japs.

“Early in February they started sending submarines up from Australia, and our boats would always meet them outside the mine fields and bring them in—Bulkeley getting aboard to ride as pilot.

"The subs had news. They said America was building a big Australian base—that supplies were rolling down there. The submarine ’Trout’ would bring in ammunition for the army’s 3-inch guns on Bataan and take out gold which had been brought over to Corregidor from Manila before it fell.

"The unloading, of course, would all be at night, and then Bulkeley would take them out and show them deep water, where they could submerge and hide from Jap bombers during the day.

"Quezon went out on one submarine to Cebu, and a week later high Commissioner Sayre left on a submarine.

"It seemed like a good many prominent people were leaving Corregidor. And the army had been pushed back to what we knew were its last and strongest defense positions on Bataan. None of it looked too good.

“Of our original six boats, two had already been lost, DeLong’s over in Subic Bay, and the 33 boat while I was in the hospital—she’d been going full speed ahead, investigating what looked at night like the feather of a Japanese submarine’s periscope, only it turned out to be a wave breaking over a little submerged and uncharted coral reef.”

said Bulkeley

“We came close to losing the 32 boat about that time,” said Bulkeley. “DeLong and I were riding her the night of February 8, patrolling up the west coast of Bataan as usual. A little before nine o’clock we saw gun blasts on up ahead of us in the neighborhood of Bagac Bay, so we put on what speed we could to find out who was shooting at what.

Incidentally, the speed wasn’t much. Because the 32 boat had had an explosion while they were cleaning that saboteur’s wax out of her strainers and tanks, so that now she was held together with braces and wires, and running on only two engines.

"But pretty soon we sighted a ship dead-ahead about three miles away. I was maneuvering to put her in the path of the moonlight on the water so I could make out what she was. But now she seemed to put on speed, heading up in the direction of Subic Bay—maybe, if she had seen us, to get under the protection of the Jap shore batteries there.

“Why had she been firing near Bagac Bay? We learned that later. She was a 7,000-ton Jap cruiser covering a Jap landing party with her guns. We didn’t know we’d broken up this party at the time. Following her, we seemed to be gaining because she had apparently slowed down, maybe thinking she had lost us.

"We were closing on her fast now, when suddenly a huge big searchlight came on, holding us directly in its beam, and a few seconds later two 6-inch shells came screaming over, landing just ahead of us with a terrific explosion and waterspout. Her searchlight was blinding us and we could only head directly into it, firing the starboard torpedo at that light at about four thousand yards’ range.

"There was another flash of 6-inch guns from the cruiser, and this salvo dropped much closer to us—hardly two hundred yards ahead. A third two-gun salvo landed just astern of us, and then we let her have the port torpedo, figuring the range at a little over three thousand yards.

“Now we were empty, and the problem was to dodge that blinding searchlight. Before we veered off to the east, we tried to douse it with a spray of 50-caliber bullets, but they did no good. We could hardly see where our tracers went for the glare.

"We could see now she was chasing us, firing salvoes in pairs from her four 6-inch guns, when suddenly there was a dull boom, and we could see debris and wreckage sailing up through that searchlight’s beam.

"There was a pause in her firing—no doubt about it, one of our torpedoes had struck home, probably the second one. We knew she was crippled because she had slowed down—that light which was trying to hold us in its glare was getting farther and farther away, and about 10:30 we lost it by making a hard turn to the right. Presently it went out. It came on again once or twice on the horizon, feeling for us over the waves, but never found us.

“The next day the army told us we’d broken up a 7,000-ton cruiser’s landing party on Bataan near the village of Moron, which was then in no-man’s land, and said their planes reported the Japs had had to beach her seventy-five miles up the coast. Still later the planes reported the Japs were breaking her up for scrap.

"But we brought the 32 boat back safe to the base at Sisiman Cove. Our headquarters there was a reformed goat slaughterhouse, about one hundred feet long and thirty feet wide, with a concrete floor. We’d scrubbed it out with creosote. It still smelled some, but was habitable. We’d also acquired a tender—an old harbor tug called the ’Trabajador’—and put her in charge of DeLong, who’d lost his ship.”

said Kelly

“Then we all sat around envying him,” said Kelly, “because here he was, living like an admiral—a cabin, a wardroom, a real galley (not just a hot plate, which was all we had on the MTB’s), and even a mess boy who could bake pies. It was big-ship life, and Bulkeley and I used to find some excuse to go every night and eat his dessert and drink coffee.

"DeLong liked it so much he later decided to stay on Bataan rather than leave with the rest of us.

“Our plan for making a run for China when our gas was almost gone still stood, and Bulkeley had got hold of some landing-force gear which we knew might be useful on the Chinese coast if we missed connections with our Chungking friends and had to fight our way through the Japs. So we began drilling our men in landing-force procedure.

“This got them very curious. They knew our gas was running out, and we had almost no more torpedoes except the ones which were in the boats. So we told them we were thinking of going south to join the Moros if Bataan fell, and it satisfied them for a while. We let only two other persons in on the secret—Clark Lee and Nat Floyd, newspaper correspondents who had been authorized by the Admiral to make the trip with us.

“The food situation was getting tough. Our breakfast was always hot cakes made without eggs—just flour, water, and baking powder—and the syrup was sugar and water. We hadn’t seen butter since the war started.

"Then for dinner, it was always canned salmon and rice, and you don’t know how tired you can get of canned salmon until you eat it regularly for a few months. We welcomed any change.”

   
"A PT’s galley feed as hungry crew. From ’At Close Quarters.’ Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

said Bulkeley

“On our boat we got so tired of salmon we ate a tomcat,” said Bulkeley. “It had been bothering us at night, and one of the men plugged it with a 45. We boiled it to get all the good out of it, and it wasn’t bad. All dark meat—reminded you a little of duck. Of course we didn’t have to eat it—if you didn’t like tomcat, there was always plenty of canned salmon.”

said Kelly

“The one high spot in our diet was the ’Canopus,’” said Kelly. “She was an old sub tender, so slow she’d been abandoned, but she had a fine machine shop. She was tied up at the dock and already had been hit twice by bombs, so they worked her at night and abandoned her by day.

"But among her stores were barrels and barrels of ice-cream mix and a freezer. And her skipper would let anyone in the navy who came aboard eat all the ice cream he wanted as long as those barrels lasted—they held out until the week we left. So the skipper here, who is very fond of ice cream, used to go over every night and fill up.

“But what we wanted most of all was fresh meat and vegetables, and along about the second week in February the first blockade-runner arrived. We piloted her in at night—rendezvous twenty-five miles out—and as daylight came, our mouths watered as we saw her cargo, strings of bananas piled high on her decks, and below, fresh meat and fruit for Corregidor.

"That afternoon I went over to see Peggy, and they were all busy slicing steaks and candling eggs. By yelling, screaming, and haggling, I got enough fresh meat to serve our crews two meals that week. She was a welcome little ship, that blockade-runner—made two more trips before the Japs sank her.

“But because of Peggy, my diet was a little better than the others. Since she was on Corregidor, she was entitled, under their rationing system, to buy one item per day from the canteen—a package of gum, a candy bar maybe, from the little supply they had left.

“But Peggy pretended she never cared for them, and every time I came to see her, she’d slip me a pocketful. She bought and saved them every day—just something to nibble while I was out on patrol, she explained.

“I began to feel funny about that break-through to China we were planning. Of course the Admiral had ordered it, and of course it was the way we could be most useful. But here were all these brave people on Bataan and the Rock, Peggy among them, realizing more clearly every day that they would never get out.

"Doomed, but bracing themselves to look fate in the face as it drew nearer, knowing that they were expendable like ammunition, and that it was part of the war plan that they should sell themselves as dearly as possible before they were killed or captured by the Japs.

"But a handful of us secretly knew that we, and only we among these many brave thousands, would see home again, and soon.

“And the more I liked Peggy—she was a swell kid—the guiltier I felt. Furthermore, I knew if we ever left, it would have to be soon. Gas was getting dangerously low—barely enough to make the run for China.

"And so was our torpedo supply. We would have to leave with every tube full if we were to throw effective weight against Jap shipping on the China coast, and in addition to what we would need for this, we had only a few torpedoes left, enough for one good fight—and that was to come sooner than we knew.”

said Cox

“I’ll never forget that night,” said Cox, “because I had a curious assignment in the afternoon. It seems our artillery on Bataan was being bothered by long-range Jap guns which were being installed on the other shore—the Batangas side. The artillery major had appealed to Bulkeley for help.

"So my assignment was to take the major aboard about five in the afternoon, and ride along the Batangas shore with him, tempting the Japs. When they opened fire at us, the major would make careful note of their position.

“I hope the major got what he wanted. I know before it was over I had all I wanted of being a voluntary target for the Japanese, and my men were looking around for some targets of their own.

"Just then we were passing a beach, and there was a whole company of Jap infantry, no hats, stripped down to their waists, wearing white underdrawers. We thought at first they were natives, and then noticed every man had on glasses, which always gives them away.

"Instead of running, curiosity got the better of them—they crowded down to the water, pointing at us, and then they began to laugh and jeer, showing their crooked monkey teeth.

"Our boys had had about enough of it, so they broke it up by spraying them with a battery of 50-calibers, and considering what we’d been through, it felt good seeing them spinning around, or kneeling and then slumping as the bullets hit. We learned later from spies that we’d killed eight and wounded fourteen.

“We always knew just what was going on, on the mainland. There was, for instance, a bamboo American—some man who’d married a Filipino wife and gone native—who managed a big pineapple plantation; he organized it into quite a system.

"He had a pass from the Japanese to bring vegetables into Manila. I think it was because he had a Swedish passport, although he’d lived in the States or the islands almost all his life and spoke without an accent.

"For three dollars he’d deliver a message from Corregidor to anyone in Manila. And for one hundred dollars he would bring anyone out of Manila and deliver him to Corregidor—if he didn’t mind being buried under pineapples in his wagon for a while. We got our report on the casualties from him.”

said Bulkeley

“When we went out that night,” said Bulkeley, “we didn’t dream we were to take our final crack at the Japs off Bataan. I took two boats—Kelly in the 34, riding myself with Akers in the 35—to see if we couldn’t bag one of the Jap destroyers which the army could see in Subic Bay. They’d been driven pretty far back, but from the highest ridge of the Bataan mountains they could still look down into Subic with their 20-power binoculars.

“But the Admiral had said we weren’t to go into the bay. We must coax them outside. The Japs had the bay’s rim lined with guns, and it would be suicide. We got outside of Subic about eleven o’clock.

"All according to plan, Kelly hid his boat in a cove just outside the bay, while I went into the entrance and raised a little hell—fired my machine guns so they could see the tracers, hoping a Jap destroyer would follow me out, whereupon Kelly was to come out of the cove and lam a couple of torpedoes into their engine room.

"It didn’t work. The Japs had had all they wanted of us. But just as I was about to leave, I saw from the entrance the outline of a big ship—tied to Olongapo dock.”

said Akers

“She was a big one,” said Akers, “maybe 10,000 tons. A tanker, we learned the next day. So we turned back, sneaked toward her—there was no fire on us yet—and cut loose two torpedoes.

"By the time they exploded, we had cleared the mouth of the bay. But from the mountains of Bataan the army watched her burn all night, and in the morning there she was, sunk at her dock.”

   
Loading a Mark VIII torpedo in its tube. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

said Bulkeley

“They were our last torpedoes fired in defense of Bataan,” said Bulkeley. “Since December 7 we had probably sunk a hundred times our own combined tonnage in enemy warships. While we’d lost two of our six boats, neither had been hit by the enemy—both had gone aground in the dark.

"For every man in our combined crews, we’d already probably killed or drowned ten Japanese, and our casualties to date were only one man wounded. We were to lose more men later, and all our boats, but the Japs were to pay at almost the same ratio.

“On the way back I realized that we had fired our last torpedoes, except those we would need to fill our tubes for the run to China. And we had just about enough gas to get us there, with hardly a barrel to spare.

"If we were ever to make the run, we must make it soon. And it was getting plain that we couldn’t do much more for Bataan, which was on its last legs.”

said Cox

“I can tell you about the army,” said Cox. “I used to get bored at Sisiman Cove and take trips to the front—sometimes up into the outposts.

"There were a lot of men in uniform on Bataan, but the front-line fighting soldiers consisted, first, of about two thousand Americans, well seasoned and good fighters. Then, about twelve hundred Filipino Scouts—equally well trained and equally good.

"Lastly, they had in the fighting line about twenty-seven thousand Filipino trainees—young kids who had never worn a uniform until a few weeks before the war started. As soldiers, they would compare with American selectees who had had the same amount of training—which is to say they weren’t worth a damn. They couldn’t hit anything they shot at; if their guns jammed, they didn’t know how to fix them; and the Japanese could scare them with firecrackers—and sometimes did.

“Their officers were equally untrained.

"Toward the end, it was grotesque. Tough, experienced American Regular Army privates would be giving orders to Filipino generals.

“Those two thousand Americans and the twelve hundred Scouts were the only real fighting men on Bataan, and they were run ragged—every time the Japs punched a hole in the line, these experienced troops would have to be thrown in to plug it—everywhere at once.

“Then there was the item of equipment—no spare parts. They had a few tanks left, with their treads falling off. A missing fan belt would put an entire tractor out of the war—for want of a tread, a tank would be junk by the roadside.

“I drove an ambulance in France in 1940, and in some ways it was the same story on Luzon. The same lack of equipment, planes, communications. The same disorganization—everybody falling back, or maybe fighting without hope just because it was a habit.

"Both in France and on Luzon you threw the book away.—and did what you could with what you had.

“But there were differences. In France it was ‘Scram, the Germans are coming, we can’t hold ‘em!’—and they’d drop their arms and run.

“But on Bataan, even when they knew in their hearts it was hopeless, they’d say, ‘Damn it, we’re not backing up to Corregidor—we’re going to hold them here!’ They kept on fighting (even down to the last ditch, when they were so tired they staggered—and I have watched them stagger—and when they surrendered, it was with their arms in their hands.”

said Kelly

“That’s more or less how it looked to us on March 1 ,“ said Kelly, “which is a day I’ll never forget. It started off in a curious way.

"It seemed that General MacArthur wanted to take a ride on one of our boats with Bulkeley. . .

   
Pt crewmen lower hot food and coffee over side of a tender. Whenever possible, boat crews ate in the general mess at bases or aboard tenders to save wear on the auxiliary generators of the PT’s. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part IV - Southwest Pacific - Conquest of New Guinea.
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