Romblon Island, Philippines, March 1944
by Chuck Blunt, Company C, 19th Infantry Regiment
I am setting the record straight about a specific combat operation that was reported in the 24th Infantry Division History book, page 42, middle column (24th Infantry Division, Second Edition, Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, KY, 1999).
I was Squad leader of the 1st Squad, C Company, 1st Platoon, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, as we landed under the cover of darkness on rubber rafts on the Island of Romblon in the Philippines.
We had to make our way up a steep mountain in difficult terrain and all the time it was raining heavily. All the riflemen carried extra mortar shells strapped to their back in addition to their own equipment so that the mortar squad would not run out of ammo when we attacked the Japanese Garrison stationed there.
We arrived at our destination after some difficulty and our troops proceeded to move into position. While we were in the process of doing this our movements had been spotted by a Japanese Soldier, who had a hand-held siren that he started to crank to warn his fellow troops.
When they came running out of the barracks, we proceeded to open fire on them and killed quite a few. Part of our infantry company was trying to get into position to contain the enemy but were not fast enough and many of the enemy escaped.
The following days we proceeded to try to flush them out by sending patrols up a ridge and down a valley while moving systematically around the island. We eventually arrived at their stronghold and proceeded to assemble our troops at the top of the ridge.
Lt. Naegele called the platoon Sgt. and the two Squad leaders together to discuss our strategy. I was one of those Squad leaders, Sgt. Charles E. Blunt; I had joined C Company in May 1943 in Schoefield Barracks Honolulu. I do not remember the names of the others at that meeting.
(A few years ago, I talked to Lt. Naegele about this operation. In the article in question in the 24th Infantry Division History Book, Gene Welsh was not the Sgt. in charge of the squad at that time, but a PFC and one of my riflemen.)
While Lt. Naegele gathered us three non-coms, he was in touch with our Company Commander, Capt. Dallas Dick, who was on another ridge. I heard Lt. Naegle request air or heavy weapons support. Then I heard Capt. Dick tell the Lt. that no support was available, and to move his troops forward.
Lt. Naegle started to have a discussion with the Captain but he was threatened with court marshal if he did not move his troops forward into the Japanese stronghold.
So, Lt. Naegle had us move our squads into position to engage in a firefight. My squad was on the right and the other squad on the left, and the machine gun squad with Roy Welch as gunner in the middle.
I placed one rifleman on my right flank and told him to kill any Japanese soldier who tried to attack us from that side. I had a Filipino Scout attached to my squad, so we took a position where we could observe the enemy position and I could shout orders to my squad. I do not recall his name but he was a very intelligent guy and a graduate of the University of the Philippines and a Filipino patriot. (After all this time I can still remember some of my guys names, Dan Reeves, Paul Wright, Prater, Gene Welsh and my Assistant Squad Leader Mendoza.)
I observed Roy Welch spraying the area and doing one hell of a job keeping the Japanese busy.
It was difficult to see much movement because of the tall grass, and my squad was not doing much firing because of it and no specific targets were visible. So, I shouted orders for them to pick out a pattern in front of them and lay down some fire power. At least that would get their attention.
When I looked to my right I saw that my Filipino scout was dead. Then I felt a burning sensation in my right leg and blood started to flow. I realized that a Japanese soldier had killed my riflemen and gotten close enough to kill my Filipino Scout. He also was close enough to toss a hand grenade that fell between my legs.
I crawled back to some cover and had one of my riflemen pour some sulfa powder on my wound and bandage it the best he could. A short time later one of my other riflemen crawled back and said “Sarge, I saw a Japanese Officer waving a samurai sword and shouting like he was going to lead a bonsai charge towards our position.”
I motioned for the rest of my men to follow me, including Gene Welsh, who was wounded in the foot but still able to walk.
I located the Platoon Sgt. a few yards back at the base of a low lying hill with a gradual slope. I told him about the Japanese Officer, and he looked at me with a blank look on his face. He did not say anything.
I told him to get out of my way I was taking what was left of my squad out of there. We proceeded to make our way up the hill about fifty or so feet. I glanced to the left and spotted a Japanese machine gun squad preparing to fire on us. They had flanked us and had the high ground.
I shouted to my squad to get down on the ground and follow me. We crawled towards a ravine with thick underbrush about forty or fifty yards away. We crawled on our stomach and dragged our rifles. The Japanese machine gun had opened fire on us but they could not see us in the tall grass.
We were lucky; it was just starting to get dark. We stumbled down into the ravine all the while grabbing branches or anything we could to break our fall until we finally reached the bottom where the thickest underbrush was located.
I motioned to my men to be very quiet, and we sat back to back facing four directions with our rifles pointed in front of us in case the Japanese located us we could at least have a fighting chance.
I removed my tee shirt and wrapped it around my wounded leg. We could hear the Japanese soldiers beating the brush with machetes and jabbering in Japanese. It got dark and they went away. We stayed there in that position all night.
When morning arrived I checked our bearings and proceeded to lead my Squad on a trail headed to the coast and the beach. I am sure glad I did not have to fire my rifle as I had discovered the barrel was clogged with dirt from dragging it on the ground. I did have a side arm, a 45 pistol.
Once we reached the beach, we took cover and looked around to see if there were any Japanese soldiers around.
About then, I spotted a Filipino in a small boat and I walked onto the beach and motioned for him to come ashore. My men were covering me with their rifles.
The Filipino turned out to be friendly, and I don’t recall if he paddled me around the point where our camp was located or if he went around and sent a boat back to pick us up and take us back to our base camp.
Gene Welsh and I ended up at a makeshift Hospital where they operated on my leg and removed some of the shrapnel. I am sure glad the grenade was not one of ours or I would not be here today telling this story.
Gene Welsh and I were flown back to a field Hospital on the Island of Mindoro to recover from our wounds. While we were in the field Hospital in beds next to one another a group of Officers came in and presented us with the Purple Heart Medal.
We were told that later when they went back to pick up the dead they discovered that the Japanese had tortured them by running wires thru their eyes and throats and cut off fingers etc.
This is how it happened on the Island of Romblon in the Philippines in March of 1944!
Charles E. “Chuck” Blunt, Life#1271
Squad Leader, 1st Squad
C Company, 1st Platoon
19th Infantry Regiment
77 Tulare St.
Brisbane CA 94005-1742
The Taro Leaf, Vol 64(3) Summer 2010, pg. 35-36