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

article number 717
article date 05-10-2018
copyright 2018 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (Book) - Part 8: "EXPENDED" . . . Our Sailors Mixed in the Mayhem of Retreat
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.

* * *

said Kelly

. . . maybe I’d better give my report direct to the general. I wanted to, and also I wanted to find out what had happened to our big American offensive we had been asked to be part of, and that air umbrella which should have protected us this morning.

“The general had been having a conference at the bar of the American Club, sitting with some other officers and some civilians who were now all having a drink.

"Now a general is pretty important, and you don’t just go barging into his conferences—not if you’re a mere naval lieutenant in command of a little seventy-foot boat. So, following the lead of this conducting colonel, we stood off a bit and waited until the general gave us the signal to come on in and tie up at his table. He saw us all right, but he didn’t give us the signal—just went on talk in to the other officers and civilians.

“Now, thinking back, I realize it was a most important conference. But at the time I was excited, because I had just come from my boat in which I’d fought all through the war and with which we’d just helped to sink a Jap cruiser—my boat which was now lying beached across the bay, with one man dead, another dying, and all the rest but three wounded.

"I suppose I was unstrung. I wanted to have him make my report by radio about the cruiser. And then, although maybe it wasn’t my business, I’d have liked to find out about that American offensive he’d invited us to join the night before.

“We kept standing there, the two of us, while I got madder and madder. I see now it was unreasonable, but I couldn’t help it then. Finally it embarrassed even the colonel and he invited me to step over by the bar and have a drink with him. I said no, thanks, I had work to do, but I’d have a Coca-Cola.

"I stuck around ten more minutes drinking it and then, since the general gave us no signal, I shoved off.

“I arranged to have the boat guarded. Because I wouldn’t yet admit that maybe both it and we were expended now. High tide was at four o’clock. Couldn’t we maybe patch her up, float her over to ‘Dad’ Cleland’s, get torpedoes and a crew from somewhere, and maybe fight her just once again?

“I went over there to where Brantingham and the 35 boat were, taking the stuff I’d salvaged from the boat, and they gave me some lunch as I talked about the fight and what had happened to us, and during it Ensign Richardson telephoned. He said Reynolds had died, and they were burying him and Harris in the American cemetery with a military escort and a priest, at four o’clock. I said of course I would go, and would meet Richardson at the bar of the American Club, from which we’d go over together.

“I got there but Richardson didn’t show up. I stood around. I was tired and mad and lonesome as hell. Finally a civilian came up—I guess he saw something was wrong—and I got to talking to him. He was a very nice guy—vice-president of the club. I told him our story and he said how sorry he was, and asked if he might go to the funeral. He was the first sympathetic person I’d met.

“Presently a truck arrived, driven by a Filipino soldier with a message for me that the funeral had been postponed until ten o’clock tomorrow.

"This American found out I knew nobody in Cebu, hadn’t slept, and had no place to go, so he invited me out to his house for dinner and the night.

"Before I went, I located our three men who were unwounded. I gave them fifty pesos and told them to go ashore and get drunk and forget the whole mess—if they could.

“Then I went out to this sympathetic American stranger’s home, which was on the outskirts on a hill overlooking Cebu City and harbor. I went right to bed after supper, but first I turned on the radio by my bed.

"It said that Bataan had just fallen. Maybe if they could have been told that those seven fat interisland steamers were on their way loaded with food and quinine, maybe those poor, brave, starved, fever-ridden guys could have held the line a little longer.

"Well, we in the torpedo boats had done what we could. And I wished that Peggy could know that, and that I could thank her for those two codeine tablets, and tell her how they let Reynolds sit out on the deck and really enjoy his last cigarette.

“Right now Peggy was probably standing in the tunnel entrance on Corregidor, where she and I had sat so many evenings, looking across the narrow waters to the tip of Bataan where the Japs now were, and back up from the water in the hills would be bright pin-points of rifle fire, where the Japs were hunting down like rats those few brave, silly expendables who still wouldn’t admit they were expended, who still had a little fight left and so kept on fighting even after the generals had said it was done.

"Looking at this, probably she was, and knowing that their turn on the Rock would come soon. Well, we in the MTB’s were expended now, but we had done what we could for Bataan. And I wished that the swell brave gang on the Rock could know this.

"Oh, Christ! Oh, Christ! Finally I got to sleep.”

   
At Elco’s Bayonne, N.J., plant, PT construction was started with the boat upside down; when bottom and side planking was completed, the hull was turned over in a special sling. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

* * *

“It was a hell of an explosion which woke me up in the dark, and for a minute I didn’t know where I was. Through my window which overlooked the town and the harbor beyond, I could see a fire rising on the outskirts. I looked at my wrist watch. It was 4:25. They were all awake in the house now.

"Then came an even bigger explosion and a flame ten times as high. My American host came back from the telephone and said that one was the Philippine Refinery; the Japanese were coming and the Americans were blowing up the town.

"I hustled into my clothes and tried to get back into the city. I wanted to rejoin my three men, but I was stopped on the road by the army—no traffic, everybody must get out. It was 5:30, and by now one-third of the city was in flames.

“People were streaming out—some Americans, and a few of our navy. From them during the morning I heard that the Japs had come back and bombed what was left of our 34 boat on the beach. Well, that was over.

“Then I heard that Bulkeley wasn’t dead—his boat escaped and was in Mindanao.

"That Brantingham had burned his boat sitting there on ‘Dad’ Cleland’s marine railway—at least the Japs wouldn’t get it.

"That Ensign Richardson had assembled what was left of our men, and joined up with our naval forces on Mactan Island, where they would all try to escape to the island of Leyte. It was the last I ever heard of them.

“The Japs had already landed twenty miles down the coast of Cebu—also at two other points.

“‘Well, what can I do?’ I asked the army.

“‘Nothing,’ they said. ‘Maybe you’d like to join the other évacués who are assembling at Camp X’—an army stronghold inland which was going to hold out all through the war until help came from the States.

“I couldn’t make up my mind, so I waited at this American’s house for something better to turn up, and meanwhile watched the Jap invasion from the second-story windows.

“It was on a penny-ante scale—we could have stopped them if we’d had anything at all. They had a destroyer, two transports, and a couple of inter-island steamers not a hundred feet long.

"This gang lay off the channel entrance for a while, and presently they loaded about a thousand infantry into the two steamers (five hundred in each), which set out in column through the channel. The leading boat had a little 3-inch gun on its bow, and every now and then it would bang away toward the city.

“I watched them tie up at about ten o’clock in the morning at the only remaining dock and disembark. Meanwhile the three seaplanes (yes, the same ones) were flying over the city, dropping leaflets in English telling the Philippines to surrender, ‘We are your friend,’ and offering a substantial reward for any American, dead or alive, and a handsome reward for any American officer or his body. Nice guys.

”Meanwhile two Zero fighters were strafing the automobiles trying to get out on the road.

“Then we got reports on the progress of the street lighting, which we could also hear from the house.

"The general had apparently pulled out—maybe to fortify Camp X—but the colonel was staying behind with his soldiers to hold out as long as he could. He had less than a thousand Filipino troops, and less than a hundred rounds of ammunition per man. But they would fight until this was expended.

"At two o’clock they seemed to be holding their own, and when I shoved off about 2:30 o’clock, half the town was in flames—it was the second city in the islands—and all the warehouses were blown up. The Japs later hollered around about typical American vandalism, but it was one of the best jobs I saw the army do.

“Meanwhile I had been asking the army what was so good about Camp X. Well, it was way up in the hills, they said. It would take days of walking over footpaths, because all the roads into it were blown up.

“‘But won’t the Japs come after you?’

“‘Oh, they’d never do that—it’s too hard to get to.’

“What about equipment and guns? Well, they had a radio station, food for several months, a few hundred troops and a few rifles. The more I heard about Camp X, the more distrustful I got, and meanwhile a report came in that the Japs had landed at Toledo.

"I looked at my map—it was the standard map the army used for operations, put out by the Standard Oil Company with all their filling stations marked—and saw that a good road led directly from Toledo to Camp X. So I asked the army why the Japs wouldn’t use it.

“‘Oh, we’re going to blow that up, just like the others.’

“But the whole Camp X plan looked lousy to me. I was for last-ditch resistance, but here I was, a lone sailor with no trigger finger (the wound had healed but the joint wouldn’t bend any more, so it would be no use in this kind of fighting).

   
PT 601, one of the latest Elco 80-foot boats, built in 1945. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

“So I started off by myself for the other coast, hoping I could get out to some other island where the Japs hadn’t come yet. I joined up with some civilians who were going the same way—they were plantation owners and could speak the dialect.

"It was a forty-two-mile hike over steep trails which crossed five mountain ranges. We carried a few cans of corned beef, and at night would sleep in native huts with pigs and chickens under us and flies over us, and we would get the natives to cook us rice and corn, and buy chickens which they would roast for us. We used banana leaves for plates, and pieces of bark for forks.

“The second day we heard planes at dawn and all scrambled back out of sight in the hut—peering up through the palms. It was three bombers in formation at about fifteen hundred feet.

“Somebody said, pointing, ‘Why, look—they’re ours!’ But I could hardly believe it—even when I saw the stars on their wings, even when I heard the faraway rumble of their bombs dropping on the Japs in Cebu. They were the first American bombers we had seen since before the start of the war.

"Then we heard some more planes—looked up, and again they were American, a new type with a split tail I’d never seen before but which I learned later were B-25’s, and now I realized that here was our big American offensive—the one which we thought had pooped out on us the morning after we sunk the cruiser.

"Here it was at last—three days too late! Because in the meantime Bataan had fallen, and Cebu, and all they could do now was pester the Japs and sink a few empty transports. I was sore as hell.

“Because we little guys—the ones who are expended—never get to see the broad picture of the war, never find out the reasons back of the moves or failures to move.

"We only see our part—look up through the palm trees at the seamy side of it. So when something poops out, and help doesn’t come, and everything goes to hell, we can only hope help didn’t come in time for some sensible reason like bad weather conditions in Australia. We hope, but at the time we can’t be sure, and we get mad.

“That afternoon we bumped into a bunch of troops; they had come from Camp X. It seemed that at three o’clock in the morning a sentry heard a noise, called out ‘Halt!’ and was answered by Jap tank fire. Somebody hadn’t gotten around to blowing up that road from Toledo. So now impregnable Camp X was no more, all American force on the island were routed, and everything was going to pot.

“Finally we hit a little native village on the coast and started looking for boats, but the mayor said there were none—the native troops had used them to evacuate that day.

"But they were swell to us—always out in the country they were swell to us—ignorant guys, maybe, but nice and kind as they could be. I remember on the trail we overtook a ramshackle cart and a few natives, and an old native woman gave the cart driver hell for not putting the baggage in his cart—said we Americans were fighting for their people and they should help us.

“The driver tried to pile it on, but it broke his cart down. He wouldn’t take any money—just said he was sorry he couldn’t help us more. In those days in the jungle I learned more about how nice the simple Filipino people are than I’d learned in months in Manila; I also learned the more Americanized they are, the lousier they are.

“Leaving this village, we kept on down the road to an even tinier one on the coast—still looking for boats. We found a military headquarters and a Filipino third lieutenant—just a kid—in command of twenty native troops, no machine guns and almost no ammunition. Ten miles of hard-surfaced road connected it with a town where the Japs had landed.

"He said a Jap tank had come up the road the first day but had turned around and gone back. Why hadn’t he blown up the bridges? No dynamite. What was he going to do if the Jap tanks came again? What could he do, he asked, but evacuate?

"I noticed they had all their gear packed into a bus, and that under their uniforms they wore their civilian clothing. And I couldn’t blame them. But they helped us comb the place for boats, and we finally located enough bancas to carry us, and shoved off at dusk.

“We arrived at the next island soaking wet but thankful, and glad we were halted on the beach by native volunteer guards with home-made rifles, instead of by the Japs.

“Here I said good-by to the American civilians. They owned sugar and coconut plantations and wanted to get to their families. Then they would try to get them to safety, but where was safety? Or maybe, instead of wandering from island to island, it would be better to wait for the Japs in their homes. They couldn’t decide.

"The whole easy, comfortable American world was cracking up fast in those islands. It wasn’t nice to watch.

   
PT’s of Squadron 37 being eased into their cradles in Oak Hill (LSD 7) at Espiritu Santo on July 24, 1945, for shipment to Okinawa. The LSD submerges to let the PT’s enter her well deck. When six PT’s are safely aboard in their cradles, the LSD refloats herself and is ready to get underway. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part VIII - Southwest Pacific - Return to the Philippines.

“Meanwhile I caught a ride in a car to the island’s military headquarters where there was a general in command, and told the army lieutenant at the desk there that I wanted to get over to the island beyond, provided the Japanese hadn’t already taken it—what did he know?

“Well, he said, he didn’t know for sure, but he didn’t think the Japs had taken it.

“I asked him when he had last communicated with military headquarters over there.

“About a month ago, he said.

“Nell, I said, this was urgent—I had to find out quick—wasn’t there any way of getting in communication with them?

“Well, he said, he guessed he could pick up the telephone on his desk and call them. But, he explained, I was new around here and didn’t understand the local situation. It seemed that his general and the general over on the other island didn’t get on at all—hadn’t liked each other since West Point.

"‘You fellows may think you’re fighting the Japanese,’ he said, ‘but here we know better. The front-line trenches of the real war are between these two generals.’

"However, he said, my case made it different, and since I was a naval officer and therefore, so to speak, a neutral, he thought he could take it on his own responsibility to call up headquarters on the other island and ask in my behalf if the Japanese had landed yet.

“He rang them up, and then reported that at the other end of the wire they were talking something which wasn’t English or Spanish. Maybe it was Tagalog, which he didn’t speak himself, but just in case it was Japanese I had probably better find some other way of going to Mindanao.

“How the war between the generals came out I never learned; maybe they’re finishing it in a Japanese prison camp.

“It took me days to get to Mindanao around through the islands begging rides in cars, hiring small boats to cross little island channels.

"My objective was to join Bulkeley, who, they had said in Cebu, had escaped the destroyer and was in Mindanao. I wanted to make my report of my part of the battle to him as commander of our squadron. General Sharp, who commanded the island, surely could tell me where he was.

“A Chinese mestizo who was doing a smuggling business of luxury articles among the islands finally landed me, for an enormous price in pesos, at a tiny village on Mindanao which had been abandoned by everybody but one old man, who said yes, a torpedo boat had been in there the week before, and with gestures drew a pretty good picture of Bulkeley’s black beard. But he said they’d been there only a few hours, and left for he knew not where.

"Then he asked when the Japs were coming. Because all the villagers had left, because they were afraid they’d be killed, but I didn’t think the Japs would kill an old man, did I?

“I hopped a ride on a truck on down to Iligan, and there was Bulkeley’s 41 boat, tied to the dock!

“The first person I saw was Ensign Cox here, and his mouth dropped open. After a few seconds he said, ‘Good God! I heard you were dead!’

"One by one the crew would come up, stare, then step up to shake my hand and say, ‘Gee, Mr. Kelly, we’re glad to see you!’”

“After Cebu fell,” explained Cox, “an army aviator arrived—he’d left Cebu that morning. He said he’d talked to a Catholic priest who had said burial mass over you and another sailor, killed in an engagement.”

“And I was very glad to hear it,” said Kelly.“Because then I knew that Harris and Reynolds had gotten decent burial at the American cemetery in Cebu before the Japs arrived.

"But then I asked, ‘Where’s Bulkeley?’ You see, the last I saw of him he was tearing around the other side of that Japanese cruiser, trying to draw its fire away from me, so I could get in to polish it off. I thought they’d probably got him. I heard he’d turned up later in Mindanao, but it was just a rumor.”

   
A 5-inch rocket blazes ahead of PT in test firing in the Philippines. Tubes of the port rocket launcher may be seen at extreme left. Just to their right is a 20mm. gun In center is a mortar, used for firing illuminating flares and lobbing explosive shell. On bow is a 37mm. gun and aft of it another 20mm. The boat also carries a rocket launcher and 20mm. gun on the starboard side, two pairs of .50-caliber machine guns, a 40mm. gun, and two depth charges. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part VIII - Southwest Pacific - Return to the Philippines.

said Bulkeley

“What actually happened was this,” said Bulkeley. “They didn’t get me, but three destroyers chased me until dawn, when I pulled away into shallow water, and we tied up under a pier to get some sleep—as I think I said.

“When night came I went on up to Iligan, where I intended to get gas and go on up to Cebu to see what had happened to Kelly, although I was pretty sure he hadn’t got out alive. But at Iligan I was met by a radioed order from Wainwright; there were no more torpedoes for the MTB’s, so he couldn’t let us have any gas. They were needing it all for the planes out to Australia.

“So there we were—stuck at Iligan. I went on over to headquarters at Del Monte to report the battle with the cruiser to General Sharp—certain that the end was before us on the island. We’d be fighting here on Mindanao with rifles to the end. But that morning—it was April 13—General Sharp called me in to say he’d just got orders from Melbourne that I was ordered to report to MacArthur immediately on the plane leaving Del Monte that night.

"For a while I felt rotten. It would look like I was walking out on the squadron. It was an order, of course, but you could tell them to go to hell, and there would be nothing they could do about it, because pretty soon we were going to be killed or captured by the Japanese.

“Then I figured it another way. If I could get to Australia, I might be able to persuade MacArthur to bring out the rest of the squadron. It looked like it was their only chance. ‘I’m going to try to get out all your officers and key men,’ he had said. ‘I’m not going to let you die in a fox hole with a rifle.’ I knew he had believed the MTB’s had a great future in the war.

“So I sent word to the rest I would get them flown out if possible, and got aboard the bomber that night. As we left the field, the Japs dive-bombed it and put one motor out, but we got through.”

said Akers

“He left me in charge,” said Akers, “and presently General Sharp sent me up to Lake Lanao in the middle of Mindanao Island on a peculiar mission. They were afraid the Japs might land sea-planes on it and I was to set up defenses there. I was to teach the army how to run the machine guns. The lake is about twenty miles long and fifteen wide in the middle of the Moro country.

"They were planning to take the 41 boat up there when I left. All her torpedoes were gone, but her machine guns were intact, and they wanted to use her as a lake gunboat to keep the place clear of Jap seaplanes so that our flying boats in from Australia would have a place to set down as long as they dared come in.

"They defended Lake Lanao to the last, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the old 41 boat, the flagship of the squadron, fired the last shot of the war out on that lake, protecting the life line to home.”

said Kelly

“Cox told me Bulkeley had gone home,” said Kelly, “and, thinking I was dead, had made him squadron commander. And I didn’t know what to do. There I was—no crew, no boat, no job, while they were busy dismantling the 41 boat, to take it up to Lake Lanao and end the war fighting with the Moros.

"So I decided I’d better get up to Del Monte and report to Sharp so he could tell Bulkeley I was alive, and send in my report by radio to the States on the scrap with the cruiser and what happened to my boat.

“The General was amazed to see me. ‘Bulkeley said you’d been killed in action,’ he said. He listened to my report on the battle. ‘I’ll send you to Kalasungay,’ he said, ‘near the airfield where the planes come in. But I warn you, there’s not too much hope of getting out. There’s almost no more gas to refuel the planes at this end, so I doubt that they’ll send any more.’

"I said I was sure we were getting out—MacArthur had told Bulkeley he would do it if it was humanly possible.

“The town was forty-five miles away, and I reported to the army colonel there at noon. He asked me why I was here. ‘Waiting transportation to Australia,’ I said.

“‘No use getting your hopes up,’ he said. ‘And since I’ve had no instructions, I assume you’re here on a duty status and am going to put you to work.’

“‘That’s okay,’ I said, ‘if I don’t have to leave the vicinity.’

“‘I can’t even guarantee that,’ he said. ‘I’m organizing a carabao pack train to Lake Lanao. They’re cutting the trail now. I have another man rounding up fifty carabao and drivers. When he gets them, you’ll be in charge of leading the pack train.’

“I didn’t say much. I figured he and I were in for a showdown. I didn’t intend to miss a plane being off herding a bunch of milk cows through a jungle, but I thought there was no use being unreasonable now. After all, fifty carabao was a lot to round up. It would take several days.

   
PT assembly line at Higgins Industries’ City Park Plant, New Orleans, La. Photo by Wide World Photos. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part II - Development - A New Type Emerges.

“Back at the quarters I found an old navy captain who’d arrived the day before—used to be in charge of the industrial department at Cavite. He listened to my story, and MacArthur’s promise, and then said, ‘The way it looks, I don’t think I’m getting out.’

"Then he talked about the thirty years he’d spent in the navy, all of them training so he would be useful in case of war, and you could see it was discouraging for him to end like this—apparently forgotten by the country he had wanted to serve. What had his life been for?

“He warned me not to count on it—’There aren’t enough planes and gas to take us all.’ He was discouraged himself, and for the next six days the old man talked it all the time—we are not getting out, can’t get out, won’t get out. I suppose he was afraid to get his own feeble hopes up.

“On the night of April 22 my hopes were down. I was fiddling with the radio and cut in on a news broadcast from the States—a short-wave station in San Francisco. It was the navy news release on our fight with the cruiser! I listened to the story of how my boat had been forced ashore by the strafing, and then started wondering what my family would think.

"That night the news commentators in the States had us all winning the war, their buoyant cheerful voices talking of victory. It made me very sore. We were out here where we could see these victories. There were plenty of them. They were all Japanese.

"I didn’t know it would be worse when I got back in the States. Here the enemy have been marching steadily on in every hemisphere, taking more territory and more islands, and yet if even at one point we are able to check or repulse an attack, the silly headlines chatter of a victory.

“I went to bed sick as the silky-voiced commentator again repeated his account of our victory, when all out here knew we had only expended ourselves in the hope that it might slow down a Japanese victory, and we had failed even in this.

“Next morning the army colonel sent for me. He’d had a planeless aviator hard at work who had collected thirty-nine of the fifty carabao. Soon the others would be here, so I was to start work today—a trail-blazing expedition to inspect the jungle path up to Lake Lanao.

"But suppose a plane came while I was away? I didn’t even bring it up; it seemed so hopeless now. I went back to my quarters and had just packed to go when the phone rang. I was to report to General Sharp at the landing field at once, and bring everything I had with me.

“The old navy captain who shared my quarters knew what that meant. ‘Good luck, Kelly! You were right,’ he said.

"There were tears in his eyes, and I could see why. He’d devoted his life to his country, and yet here at the end, in spite of his rank and those years, it wasn’t enough.

“What they needed outside now was technicians in the new weapons, and that meant young fellows like me. So now, in spite of the many things he was able and trained to do, and wanted to do, they weren’t quite enough, so he was to stay and die in a fox hole or be captured. I said what I could, but it wasn’t much, because the old man already knew.

“It was grim waiting at the airport. The priority list was made up in Melbourne and each man had a number. A plane would not hold more than thirty, they knew, but more than a hundred were waiting there.

"Because perhaps two, maybe even three, planes might come.

"Or perhaps someone whose name was called would not show up, and your number might be high enough on the list to claim his seat.

"So they waited—all young technicians, most of them aviators, for this last chance to get out, so they could fight again. General Sharp had told me he had telephoned Cox and Akers that they were on tonight’s list; why weren’t they here?

“Suddenly I saw a familiar face—it was Ohio, the fighter pilot who had been next to my cot in Corregidor. When he left the hospital, of course there was no plane for him, so he’d been an infantry soldier on Bataan. He’d missed this plane here once—his name had been called and he wasn’t there. He was hoping it would be called again tonight.

"After Bataan fell he’d flown twice to Corregidor in that ramshackle old Beechcraft which was about all the air force we had left in the islands now—with medical supplies for our hospital down under the Rock. I asked him about Peggy, and of course he remembered her—the pretty one with green eyes?—sure. But he hadn’t seen any of the nurses.

"He’d had to come in at night while they marked the four corners of the landing field for him with flashlights, and get away as fast as he could. On the last trip he’d bent his propeller landing, and sweated blood while they straightened it for him in the machine shop down under the Rock.

   
PT’s returning to base after supporting landings of Army troops at Palomplon, Leyte, Christmas Day. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part VIII - Southwest Pacific - Return to the Philippines.

“He stopped here, and a silence of death fell over everybody, for we could now hear motors far above. How many planes? We peered up through the moonlight—now we could see her, and there was only one, circling the field. Lower she came—My God, would she crack up on landing?

"None of us breathed as her searchlight stabbed for the ground. She was down now, but suppose there was some mistake, and our names weren’t on her list? Or suppose while she sat there, gassing, the Japs came over and blew her wings off?

"And where, I wondered, were Cox and Akers? It was a forty-mile trip for them; had they caught a ride?

“At 10:30 the list was called—thirty names, mine and theirs among them, but only I answered present. So they put an army tank major and an aircorps captain in as substitutes, if they failed to arrive.

"But at 10:35 here they came on the run, so the captain and the major were turned aside. They were to go on the next plane—if there was a next.

“Just before we got aboard, General Sharp came over to tell me good-by. He is a grand old man, all six feet of him, a commanding person and every inch a soldier, as his father and grandfather were before him. He’d served two years in the ranks, was a colonel in the last war, and was now a major general.

“He said this was probably the last plane out, and he wanted me to take a message to MacArthur. ‘Tell him that the end here is drawing near, and if help can’t be sent, in a few days Mindanao will fall. Of course, probably he understands this, and maybe nothing can be done. But,’ he said, ‘if he asks what we need to hold out, tell him if we had a navy tank force—bringing up a tanker loaded with gasoline and a hundred thousand men, tell him to give me only that and we can hold here, and start taking back the islands.’

“‘I know probably he hasn’t got them, but tell him that if he asks.’ He was a grand old gent. He knew what he was saying was useless, but he couldn’t quite down the hope that maybe they would get a chance to fight on.

“Then he talked about us. ‘Everybody left here in the islands should realize,’ he said, ‘that those who are called to Australia are the ones who will be most useful for the work ahead. Those who leave are the men for the job, regardless of rank and years of service. The rest of us,’ he said, ‘consider ourselves as being expendable, which is something that may come to any soldier. We are ready for it, and I think they will see that we will meet it squarely when it comes.’

“Then they called my name, we shook hands, and I climbed aboard. Each of us who were leaving unstrapped our 45’s and handed them out through the plane’s windows to the fellows who were staying behind. They’d be needing them badly and we wouldn’t.”

“And Peggy?” someone asked.

“There were three seaplanes sent out from Australia to Corregidor at the very last,” said Kelly, “which, among other people, were to bring out the nurses. One of them was shot down off Corregidor, but the other two loaded and got back to Lake Lanao, where they gassed up for the big homeward hop while Sharp held the Japs back from the lake. One of these two got safely away; the plane Peggy was in cracked up on the take-off.

"So now we won’t ever know. Maybe she’s a prisoner; maybe she’s back up in the hills with a few who are still fighting on.

“But as our big ferry-command bomber swung wide out over the field after the take-off, you could see the island and then the path of moonlight glistening over the water, just as we used to watch it glisten from the tunnel entrance at Corregidor.

"And suddenly I remembered the last thing she said to me—her voice was just as clear as if it had been two seconds ago, instead of many weeks, over that signal-corps telephone in the army hut on Bataan, after I had told her this was good-by. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘it’s been awfully nice, hasn’t it?’

"And her voice had sounded clear and brave, but seemed to come from far away.”

   
General Douglas MacArthur returns to the Philippines at Tacloban, Leyte, aboard PT 525 on October 24, 1944. Left to right, Lt. Alexander W. Wells, USNR, boat captain of PT 525; General MacArthur; Comdr. Selman. S. Bowling, Commander MTB Squadrons Seventh Fleet; Lt. Gen Walter Krueger, Commanding General Sixth Army. From ’At Close Quarters’ book, Part VIII - Southwest Pacific - Return to the Philippines.
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