Umurbrogol

The next step in the campaign was for our guys to start probing the Umurbrogol.  It’s hard to draw a picture of that place; but it was a series of valleys and fairly high ridges.  They first discovered how extensive those caves and covering fire areas for the Japanese was when a company of Marines had started into the valley and had been completely ambushed and almost wiped out. When they attacked one side of the ridge they were being fired at from the other side of the ridge and it went on like that.
 
The company from what I read and heard, came out with about three survivors.  From then on it became that kind of a battle.  Col. Hunts First regiments had been on the left flank of the landing that first day.  He wrote a book about the events of Company A, which were on the extreme left flank.  When it started to get dark the company went down into a shallow gulley, which stretched out for a way and they all took shelter there.  Unfortunately the Japanese had infiltrated the area above and around them and fired down into the gulley, as I understand it, most of the men were either dead or wounded.  At one of the last reunions I happened to sit next to a gentleman who was one of the survivors.  He stated that he was one of three survivors.
 
Now that the fighting was confined to the Umurbrogol our guns were virtually useless.  The only other thing we did was to haul our guns up onto the airfield and from there we could look out at the one side of the Umurbrogol.  Various caves were visible and we fired into some of them and blocked out some of the entrances; but I don’t think we did much good.
 
By now the airfield had been patched up and the First Marine Air Wing with Corsairs had landed and were based on that landing strip.  They were making short runs dive bombing the caves wherever they could and dropping Napalm bombs.  It was supposedly the shortest bombing strike in history.

All the units now, the First, Fifth and Seventh, were assaulting those caves with satchel charges and flame throwers and grenades and everything else; but the underground caves were so extensive that it was taking its toll on all of our guys and we were suffering heavy casualties.
 
It was about that time that the artillery being useless and starting to find a shortage of men up in the front lines that the first few people from our gun sections went up on the ridges, at least in the secondary line, loosely termed secondary line.  It was located almost at the top of the ridge on the western side of the Umurbrogol.  There was a road that was at the bottom of the ridge that ran parallel to the beach and parallel to the west side of the Umurbrogol, named the West Road.  There were trucks going up and down that road because that part of the ridge seemed semi secure.  However, the Japs had access to it from the other side of the ridge and they would come over the top of the ridge at night making for a few fire -fights.  One of the things about the West Rd. was that it was considered very dangerous because there were snipers from that side shooting from caves.  Apparently, contrary to the myth about poor marksmanship of the Japanese, they were shooting at the trucks and getting quite a few of our guys.  That was finally secured.
 
Part of the contingent from our section that went up was Navar, my good friend, I was sorry to see him go.  He went on up and they occupied the area on the ridge that we were to occupy later.  A few days later we heard that Navar had been wounded and was in the so-called ‘hospital’.  Karl Jahn and I went down to visit him in this strange set up.  It was a tent hospital with a bunch of cots in it.  We found Navar lying there with both arms in casts.  He talked to us and showed us the sketches on the cast where the bullet had gone through.
 
The story he told us was that he was up on the ridge were there was a fire -fight and someone was wounded.  The corpsman went out to tend the wounded guy and Navar went out to help him.  A Jap bullet got him through the left arm below the elbow and it passed through the arm, broke the bones and hit his left pocket which contained a pocket watch and ricocheted off the pocket watch and went through his right arm spinning as it ricochet   so that both his arms were broken.  It looked from the drawing that they were fragmented in the two spots.  He looked tired and drawn but happy to be alive.  He was scheduled to ship out and that was the last time I saw Navar.  I lit him a cigarette because he couldn’t light one himself I put it between his lips and he looked pleased to inhale and enjoy.   A footnote to this was that I had written a letter home and told my dad that Navar was at The Great Lakes Naval Hospital so he went out there from Chicago with a carton of Lucky Strikes to cheer him up.  Kind of an ironic gesture to bring cigarettes to a guy with two handicapped arms; but I was glad he made the effort.
    
Back to the hospital: I looked out to the right side of the tent where the less serious cases were. In some cases the more serious ones were still laying on stretchers next to the hospital tent.  There were dozens of them.  I looked off in the distance up toward the ridge and there were stretcher -bearers coming down every two or three minutes carrying some one wounded and laying them on the ground next to where the hospital tent was.
 
Off to the left there was one Navy doctor and two corpsmen working on a guy on a table and that was the operating room, just a big tent you could see thru.  There was a hanger arrangement above that that had plasma going down into the patient’s arms and feeding him.  The doctor was obviously an older man, gray haired and he was hunched over, working his tail off and it was really hot.  It was quite a picture!