by Bill McKenna, “A” Company, 34th Infantry Regiment
Mindanao, P.I. April 15th, 1945. Landing at Parang. The
operation will be the first time all units of the 24th Division have
been together since Leyte.
Ft. Picket, Mindanao, P.I., where the entire Division assembled for the push across the island.
Our objective: Davao, some 150 miles east, through valleys, high mountains, and jungle; an area inhabited by tribes of Moro natives, still addicted to head hunting and cannibalism.
It’s the third day of the invasion. We’ve moved up the river in LCVP’s and are now deployed at a barrio called Kabakan.
We’re “A” Company, 34th Regiment, 24th Victory Division; photo below is our company moving up the Digos road.
This morning Young and I split a k-ration and are heating coffee over a small fire.
Sgt Polk comes by. He’s chewing on a homemade cheroot of some kind. “You guys, take off up the road—outpost,” he says.
Young and I move out to a place where the road turns sharply out of sight. After only ten minutes, Young gets sick with the GI’s.
He leaves. Now, I’m alone. I decide I’d better be on the alert.
Suddenly, a Filipino, wearing a white shirt, appears from around the bend. Behind him, trailing in single file are many Moro’s–colorfully dressed pirates, each carrying a menacing spear, rifle, or a gleaming curved kriss.
“What the hell is going on; who are these guys,” I ask myself.
I don’t wait for an answer. I get up slowly and warily. I move out onto the road, and wait while they approach. I figure quickly that there must be seventy-five of them.
I have my finger poised on the trigger of my Tommy gun, but I sure as hell won’t point it at them—not with these odds.
They stop. The guy in the white shirt walks up to me. He says, in perfect English, “Welcome! I hear your President Roosevelt is dead.”
Now, this is the first time I’ve heard that the President has died, and the first time I’ve heard news of any American president – from a Moro pirate, on a jungle road, thousands of miles from home.
Dumbstruck, but relieved that these guys seem to be on my side and don’t plan on slitting my throat, I quickly retrieve a four-pack of cigarettes from my pocket, and light one up for the Chief.
He says there are no enemy forces up ahead, and that he and his people want to go ahead into the village.
(Photo of Moro’s from the Internet; Bill says his were much more colorful!)
I nod, and say, “Sure, Chief,” (like I could stop them anyway).
Together, we head into the village, one GI, and a band of fearsome pirates.
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McKenna, Bill, 2008, Jungle Grapevine, The Taro Leaf, Vol 62(2), Spring, pp. 28-29.