The 24th Infantry Division Association

Founded August 1945 on a Philippine Island beach


“19th’s ‘Lost Battalion’ in Leyte Fight”

In The Torrington (CT) Register via Associated Press, 1946

The Torrington (CT) Register 1944:  PFC Frank Fantino, 126 LaFayette Street, Torrington, helped carve an historic niche in the annals of Leyte's re-conquest with an epic of grim courage and determination up against overwhelming odds at the critical peak of fighting for the Ormoc corridor. This according to an Associated Press dispatch from 24th Division Headquarters in the Philippines.

Frank Fantino

Frank Fantino in Winsted, CT, just before leaving for Panama, during the Korean War; when he was called back into the Army. He says he was lucky to be sent to Panama. Later his wife was able to also go to Panama, where their oldest son was born.

PFC Fantino was serving with the Second Battalion of the war-famed 19th Regiment, which became known as Leyte’s “Lost Battalion.”

The battalion was battle fatigued from nearly a month of continuous fighting when it received orders to advance through the mountains to throw a road block against Japanese reinforcements. They were attempting to reach a strong troop concentration against American forces hammering to break southward toward Ormoc.  This was before an amphibious landing was made behind the enemy at Ormoc to smash his defense line.

Loaded with supplies and ammunition, the battalion had to fight the enemy and the tortuous mountain terrain for four days to reach the road. After 24 hours without food, the men fought savagely to take dominant heights.  Then they ate rice from the packs of dead Japanese and stripped the hearts from palm trees. An air drop provided a fraction of a meal per man.

They established the road bock and held it for four days against enemy tanks, truck columns, artillery fire and fanatical charges.

Patrols fought for food dropped by airplane near the enemy.  They fought for water from a mountain stream. The number of wounded in foxholes increased alarmingly. Medicine ran low. To conserve their dwindling ammunition supply, the men were ordered to fire only when they could actually see their targets.

Men were continually wet. Feet began to swell and Jungle Rot developed. They slept in fox-holes that were often half-filled with water. Dysentery and stomach troubles weakened many.
But they clung doggedly to the block across the vital supply road until ordered out after four days. The retirement took another four days of fighting.
Trails were treacherous. Stretchers made of saplings and parachutes sometimes had to be passed hand-to-hand on down the steep slopes. At one swollen river, a rope of bamboo and vines had to be fashioned to help the men cross.

When the battered battalion finally reached the main American forces, US casualties were ten percent killed or wounded. It had counted 600 dead Japanese and many more undoubtedly were pulled away
during night attacks.

Sgt. Henry E. Schubert of Terryville also served with the battalion and he and PFC. Fantino came through the ordeal safely, according to the dispatch. #####
Hi Tom:
I thought Taro Leaf readers may be interested in this article about an action I was in that my mother sent me while I was overseas in 1944. I didn't write about it to my parents while I was on this mission; I didn't want to worry them. The clipping just appeared in the "The Torrington Register," our local paper back in Conn.
I have no idea how the AP got my name and home town; I was never interviewed or questioned. 

To elaborate on the article a bit, I was on the heavy machine gun at the road block.  During the first couple days, our gun was positioned above the road on a ledge. But after some contact with the Japanese, and getting grenades thrown at us, we got orders to move higher up on the hill.
It took three of us to get the tripod up that hill as we hadn't eaten for over a week.

Later, after we had fired at a Japanese weapons carrier that had come down the road toward us, one of their tanks came around the bend and fired a round at us. The round hit just below us with enough force to lift the machine gun a couple inches, but the round didn't explode! Then they fired another round, which went just over our heads and hit the hill above us. But that round didn't explode either! The tank then left.

For many years I would dream I was back there. Then about twenty years ago I was doing some genealogy research, and was asked to write my story for my grandkids and nieces.

After finishing my story I stopped dreaming about those experiences.

Frank Fantino

 Here's Frank in a more recent photo above.
Frank Fantino, Life 402
19th Inf, “H” Company
13443 Paoha Road
Apple Valley, CA 92308-3727

Fantino, Frank, 2008, The Taro Leaf, Vol. 62(3) Summer, pp. 41-42.



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