Leyte Landing, Philippine Islands, October 20, 1944
Chuck Blunt, Company C, 19th Infantry Regiment
After the Hollandia Operation in New Guinea, the 19th Infantry Regiment was in camp waiting for the next operation. When we started to get fresh meat, eggs and all the good stuff that we normally did not get we knew we would be moving out soon.
We were right and soon loaded on a troop ship headed for the Philippine Islands.
Tokyo Rose was on the radio telling us she knew that the 24th Division was on its way and that they would be waiting for us. She called us “the 20,000 Devils from Hell.”
When we finally arrived at Leyte there were all kinds of ships milling about.
The troops were deathly silent as we started to climb down the rope nets draped over the side of the ship into the Landing Craft.
Then someone started to sing the Aussie Song “I Got Sixpence, Jolly, Jolly Sixpence. I got Sixpence to last me all my life. I got two pence to spend, and two pence to lend, and two pence to send home to my wife, poor wife. No pretty little girls to deceive me, happy as a lark believe me, as we go marching, marching home.”
It didn’t matter if all the words were correct; every soldier was singing as they went down the nets into the Landing Craft. It did relieve the tension and the mood changed.
I am Chuck Blunt, and I was Assistant Squad Leader of the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, C Co, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division.
Sgt Gladys was my Squad leader, and Sgt Don Irwin, my best buddy, was Assistant Squad leader of the 2nd Squad. Sgt Osborn, our Platoon Sergeant, was in the Landing Craft along with Company Commander Captain McNeely, and his runner.
Soon our craft, along with the others, began heading toward the beach near a town called Palo. There were two squads in our Landing Craft; we were told to keep our heads down until the landing craft hit the beach.
Suddenly, there was a tremendous explosion at the front of the landing craft and shrapnel sprayed all over. A Japanese artillery round had hit the craft’s ramp directly shattering it badly. There was a lot of screaming and moaning, and blood was everywhere.
Both Gladys and Osborn lost arms. Captain McNeely had been killed, and his runner lost an eye.
I glanced over toward where my buddy Don Irwin was and saw that he too was bleeding very badly from a piece of shrapnel in the face. After the war, when I went to see him at a hospital in Menlo Park CA, I learned that he had been blinded from that hit.
The ramp was down in the water, which was mixing with the blood. It looked like red wine.
The ramp was so mangled that the Landing Craft could not move onto the beach normally. Finally, it ground to a stop as the ramp hit bottom.
I moved to the front to lead the Squad, and saw that with the ramp hanging down like that we would not be able to walk off onto the beach. The water was about 6 or 7 ft deep, so I took a big breath and jumped into the water. When I touched the bottom I pushed forward and came to the surface. I took another deep breath of air and went back down once again. Soon my head was above water.
I waved for the rest of the squad to do the same. The eight remaining squad members all made it and we moved towards some cover. There was constant machine gun and rifle fire, and men were getting hit all around.
We moved inland about 30 or 40 yards and came upon a tank trap filled with water. There were Japanese pill boxes on the other side spitting out machine gun fire as we slipped into the tank trap in water above our waste.
Japanese machine gun fire continued and we stayed in that tank trap in that water for several hours.
The Japanese guns were finally silenced, and we proceeded on toward Hill 522 behind the town of Palo. It was beginning to get dark as we started climbing.
Japanese soldiers from trenches at the top of the hill were tossing grenades down the hill and wounding some of our troops. It was almost dark and I could hear moans and groans as we dug in for the night.
The next morning we discovered the Japanese had driven a wedge between Hill 522 and the beach, cutting us off completely. Added to that we were running out of water. We found some in a pond that water buffalo had been sloshing around in. It was awfully muddy, but we filled all the canteens. Thank God for Halozone purification tablets.
We secured Hill 522 the next day and waited for our next mission.
Charles E. “Chuck” Blunt
Life Member 1271
77 Tulare St.
Brisbane, CA 94005-1742
The Taro Leaf, Vol 63(3) Summer 2009, pg. 26-28.