LEYTE: INTO THE VALLEYS I

Despite the loss of Catmon Hill and their other beach defenses, the Japanese remained confident that they would defeat the American invasion of the Philippines at Leyte. There were 432,000 Japanese soldiers in the Philippines, who were well supplied, and who believed that their naval and air forces were strong enough to support their counterattacks. One of the 14th Area Army’s staff officers was quoted as saying, when he learned of the Leyte invasion, “Good, they have picked the place where our finest troops are located.” Japanese troops and supplies were already in the process of being transported to Ormoc and Carigara Bays on Leyte. So quickly did this transfer begin that by October 25th, less than a week after the invasion, a battalion of the 55th Independent Mixed Brigade and another from the 57th Independent Mixed Brigade had already arrived on Leyte as did two battalions from the 30th Infantry Division. These reinforcements made up for Japanese losses at the beachheads. Japanese commanders still believed that the American forces were much weaker than they actually were and that the Americans were already having a hard time consolidating their beachheads. As the 35th Army’s Chief of Staff, Major General Yoshiharu Tomochika later put it to American interrogators, “We were determined to take offensive after offensive and clean up American forces on Leyte Island … We seriously discussed demanding the surrender of the entire American army after seizing General MacArthur.”

Things looked differently from the “other side of the hill.” General Krueger was ashore on October 22nd visiting X Corps in the Dulag and Palo areas. The visit “satisfied me that everything was going well.” Due to congestion on the beaches, Sixth Army Headquarters remained aboard ship for the first few days until a suitable location was found ashore. Finally, a spot near San José, south of the Tacloban Airfield, was selected and the army staff settled in. Information soon began to come in that the Japanese were sending reinforcements to the Leyte garrison through Ormoc Bay. Information from guerrillas soon identified the 41st Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division among the reinforcements. Within a week the 169th and 171st Independent Infantry Battalions, as well as two battalions from the 102nd Infantry Division, had also been identified by Sixth Army intelligence. The 20th Antitank Battalion and other elements of the 30th Infantry Division were soon added to the growing list. As if the rapid enemy reinforcements weren’t enough of a problem, three successive typhoons with torrential rains and winds hit the east coast of Leyte. Trees were uprooted, terrain flooded and all movement halted until repairs could be made. “But in spite of all these difficulties and the stubborn resistance of the enemy, we were making satisfactory progress and I (Krueger) so informed General MacArthur when he visited my headquarters early on the 28th.”

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North of XXIV Corps, the X Corps had also moved ahead. The 1st Cavalry Division was to secure Tacloban, pushing the 33rd Infantry Regiment away from one of the cornerstones of General Suzuki’s delaying line. Anxious to push into Leyte Valley and secure critical road junctions, roads and airfields, General Krueger ordered the advance to continue without pause. Capture of Tacloban would allow the Americans to control San Juanico Strait which, coincidently, put an end to the Japanese plan to land the 68th Mixed Brigade near Catmon Hill. It would also secure Tacloban Airfield and open a route into Leyte Valley.

General Mudge gave the 7th Cavalry the assignment. Colonel Walter Finnegan’s regiment brought its two squadrons to bear and attacked through swampy terrain which slowed but did not stop the attack. As the Cavalrymen approached, resistance was minimal, and while they conducted a house-to-house search for hidden Japanese, the local Filipinos gave them a riotous welcome, waving American flags and showering them with gifts of eggs and fruit in general celebration. On the flank, however, the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, was stopped by 200 Japanese entrenched in pillboxes and foxholes on 1,500-foot Hill 215 and hidden in thick vegetation. Colonel Finnegan sent the regimental Antitank Platoon and Weapons Troop to assist. Private First Class Kenneth W. Grove, an ammunition carrier from Racine, Wisconsin, volunteered to knock out a bunker which had pinned down his platoon. Working his way forward under fire through the underbrush to the rear of the bunker, he then charged across a remaining open area and killed the enemy gun crew. For his courage, Private First Class Grove received the Silver Star.

It took the rest of the day and into the next to clear Hill 215, but the 7th Cavalry secured the area and found 335 dead enemy troops in and around the hill. With the fall of the hill, Tacloban was in American hands. As General Mudge inspected the town from a tank, he ordered it to clear an overturned truck which the Japanese had left as a road block. As he did so, forty Formosan laborers happily gave themselves up to the commanding general. Elements of the 8th Cavalry Regiment established themselves along the beach at Anibong Point to control San Juanico Strait. The 1st Cavalry Brigade moved forward apace protecting the division’s flank. As they did so, the 12th Cavalry captured a large Japanese supply dump with food, vehicles and equipment. Nearby the 5th Cavalry encountered a group of Japanese who indicated they wished to surrender. An experienced unit, the 5th Cavalry set up machine guns before allowing the Japanese to approach their positions. As they did so the Japanese opened fire on the Americans who returned the fire effectively. Five Americans were wounded in the encounter. For the next few days most skirmishes were like this, small groups of Japanese eliminated or pushed back by the advancing Cavalrymen.

In order to fully secure San Juanico Strait, elements of the 8th and 7th Cavalry made a number of waterborne movements to establish bases along the Leyte shoreline. Occasional Japanese resistance was soon overcome and the strait secured. Other elements landed on the adjacent island of Samar and established bases there as well. By the end of October 24th, the 8th Cavalry was firmly established, with tank and artillery support, on Samar.

To the south, the 24th Infantry Division had established its firm beachhead near Palo. They had seized Hill 522 and overlooked the critical village of Palo, which became the next objective. Using a road which led northwest through Leyte Valley towards Carigara, the 34th Infantry Regiment placed two battalions on either side of the road prepared to advance. Covered by the 19th Infantry on Hill 522, the advance began after the Japanese counterattack at 0100 Hours the morning of October 21.6 After the attack was defeated the Americans instituted heavy artillery, air and mortar barrages on suspected Japanese positions to their front. This delayed the advance until about 1400 Hours when Companies E and F were ordered forward to seize a hill. Company E encountered no opposition but Company F, under Captain Austin, faced a steep hill covered by cogon grass. Visibility was limited and access restricted to a trail leading to the top. Moving in a column of platoons, F Company reached the foot of the hill without difficulty. While the 2nd Platoon continued up the trail the other platoons turned to advance directly to the top. Just as the 1st Platoon reached the hill’s crest, about 200 Japanese from the 33rd Infantry Regiment opened fire. With the 1st Platoon pinned down the Japanese began to toss grenades onto the 2nd Platoon still struggling up the hill. This defense stopped the attack. Soon both platoons were forced off the hill entirely.

The following morning, an air strike by Navy planes was requested, but did not arrive until afternoon. After ten minutes of close air support the Japanese fire seemed to weaken considerably and Captain Austin, this time accompanied by the regimental commander, Colonel Newman, led Company F back to the hill. The Americans swept over the hill, suffered no casualties and secured the area by mid-afternoon.

Nearby the 19th Infantry finished mopping up around Hill 522 and eliminated the last of the 33rd Infantry Regiment’s survivors in the area. In the rear the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry prepared to seize a bend in the beach road near Palo, to secure that area. Naval gunfire was used to clear a path toward the objective, which was known to be defended by mutually supporting and well-built pillboxes of logs and earth, with trenches and spider holes throughout the area. After bombarding the area all night with naval gunfire, mortars and artillery, the 3rd Battalion attacked on the afternoon of October 22nd. The advance of the leading units, Company I and the Antitank Company, was halted at the bend in the road some 200 yards short of the town. The following morning, reinforced with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry, the attack was renewed. Corporal Irving Duane of Sacramento, California rolled his big tank destroyer through the dense thickets until reaching a clearing. There he knocked out one enemy position after another as they opened fire on him. Enemy fire eventually knocked out his vehicle’s periscope, but after pulling back and replacing it, Corporal Duane returned to the fight until he ran out of targets. The two battalions pushed the 33rd Infantry Regiment out of its defenses, leaving two hundred and seventy-six dead behind, while to the north the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry attacked Palo directly.

Moving through machine gun and rifle fire, the soldiers bypassed enemy defenses and reached the junction of the beach road and Highway One before noon. Still under enemy artillery and automatic weapons fire, the battalion scattered small groups of Japanese who resisted their advance until they reached the critical steel bridge over the Palo River. Here incoming artillery fire increased in intensity but the Americans speeded their advance and crossed the bridge into Palo by mid-afternoon. Once again the Americans were welcomed with an exuberant group of Filipinos who had to be ordered to seek shelter while the Americans cleared the town. After booby traps and field entrenchments were found and destroyed, but no Japanese were seen, they set up a defensive perimeter for the night.

Just before dark the 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry was joined by the 13th Field Artillery Battalion. The artillerymen immediately opened up on the Japanese surrounding Palo. Incoming fire exploded a Japanese ammunition dump in one of the houses and the fire burned, illuminating the night, for three hours. Shortly before dawn, the 33rd Infantry Regiment launched a counterattack, coming down Highway Two. Outposts managed to deflect the attack, which then hit Company F and Company G. The battalion mortars soon exhausted all their ammunition in supporting the defense. So Battery B of the 13th Field Artillery moved closer to the lines—for artillery it was point-blank range—and opened fire on the attacking Japanese. Despite this fierce defense the Japanese continued with their attack. One platoon attempted to reach the steel bridge which was the American lifeline into Palo but were unsuccessful. Lieutenant Colonel Robert B. Spragins directed the defense from the window of a Philippine house in Palo, looking over the battlefield. Wounded in the forehead by shrapnel, he was bandaged and back at his window seat within minutes. After losses of 16 men killed and 44 wounded, the 19th Infantry had repulsed the Japanese, who left behind 91 killed. In daylight the battalion requested an emergency re-supply of ammunition and evacuation of wounded, both of which were accomplished despite the Japanese mining the supply route. That afternoon the 3rd Battalion moved into Palo, as did 19th Infantry Regimental headquarters. Palo was now secure. Contact with XXIV Corps to the south was made on October 25th by patrols.

The Japanese were not finished with Palo, however. Colonel Tatsunosuke Suzuki, commanding the 33rd Infantry Regiment, organized a raiding party armed with rifles, swords, grenades and mines. He led this group into Palo on the night of October 23rd. Using civilian Filipinos as shields to screen them from the Americans, they fooled guards at the outposts into believing them to be guerrillas and letting them pass. Some of the captured Filipinos, at the risk of their lives, alerted the guards to the oncoming Japanese. But the enemy quickly captured two American machine guns and a 37mm antitank gun. Charging through the town they tossed grenades into houses, vehicles and a tank. Some entered a hospital where they killed helpless wounded. They were only prevented from burning down the hospital by Sergeant George Nieman and Corporal Eugene Holdeness, both wounded, who opened fire on the Japanese and distracted them. Others moved toward the steel bridge where they mounted the captured machine guns and opened fire. However, the bridge guards were not unprepared and responded with such accurate fire that the Japanese were forced to abandon the guns and retreat. Private First Class Frank Wisnieuski took over a machine gun when the gunner was wounded. Alone, he faced a large attacking force. Three of them threw grenades into his hole. He jumped clear, waited for the explosions, and then jumped back in the hole. He had no idea if the gun would still fire, but he was determined to make a stand. As two Japanese charged him with fixed bayonets, he grabbed the gun’s trigger and squeezed. The charging Japanese went down, and by dawn, there were twenty more enemy dead counted in front of Private Wisnieuski’s position. African-American Quartermaster troops in the town joined in the defense. Colonel Chapman, the regimental commander, whose headquarters had just moved into the town, organized his headquarters clerks, linemen and messengers into a fortress defense. The next morning, some fifty dead Japanese were counted around the bridge alone. Colonel Suzuki did not survive the raid. Another 14 Americans were killed and 20 wounded during this night of terror.

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Clearing the beachhead area began to develop into a pattern. When the 24th Infantry Division tried to clear the remainder of its area, it found that due to the detachment of one of its regiments and combat casualties, it could not accomplish all of its objectives with the forces at hand. Accordingly, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division, which had encountered significantly less opposition than expected, were used to relieve battalions of the 24th Infantry Division so that they could be freed to complete their other assignments. This usually involved seizing a hill which blocked the American advance or overlooked a critical American objective. The pattern was that the Americans would advance until fired upon. They would attempt to clear the opposition but if they were unable to do so they withdrew while artillery and air pounded the hill, usually for much of a day. Then the infantry battalion would attack again. More often than not, the opposition had departed or been killed. The process would then be repeated at the next objective. The 34th and 19th Infantry Regiments encountered this pattern repeatedly over the next few days as they cleared Hills B and C and other final Japanese defenses around the beachhead area.

Sometimes the Americans got lucky, as when Lieutenant Colonel Spragins’ 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry attacked Hill B near Palo. Companies E and G attacked as usual and Company E was soon forced back. But Company G managed to hold its position on the hill. Moving the rest of the battalion to reinforce Company G, Colonel Spragins lost his way in the dark. Just at midnight, they came upon an enemy observation post which was empty. Apparently the Japanese had gotten into the habit of spending their nights in nearby local villages. They left no guard in their positions. The night movement of the 2nd Battalion caught them completely by surprise. The 19th Infantry now owned Hill B. With both the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th Infantry Division now poised to strike directly into northern Leyte Valley, X Corps was ready for the next phase of the Leyte operation.

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To the south, XXIV Corps was about to implement a rarity of the Pacific War, an armored thrust against enemy positions. Usually the Japanese were too well entrenched to make an armored thrust successful, but occasionally there were opportunities. Now an opportunity was seen in the sector of the 7th Infantry Division. Its objective was to move into Leyte Valley along the Dulag-Burauen Highway. Previously Company C, 767th Tank Battalion, had crushed an enemy antitank position protecting the road in this sector. This had instigated a fierce firefight in which Company G, 32nd Infantry was hit by concealed enemy machine guns. Three men were killed and nine wounded. One of the wounded was Technician 4th Class Boyd J. Davis, a company aid man. Despite leg wounds, Sergeant Davis crawled to the other injured men and treated their wounds, while shouting to the others how to treat their own wounds while they waited for him. Every time he moved or yelled aloud, the Japanese would concentrate their fire on him. Two of the wounded were hit a second time, and as Sergeant Davis treated one man, the sulfa powder packet was shot out of his hands by enemy fire. He then saw one wounded man fall into a small creek. At the risk of his life, he raced to the wounded man and pulled him to a position of temporary safety. After all of the wounded had been ministered to, he remained in the fire zone to assist the litter bearers in evacuating them. Only when the last of the men left the field did Sergeant Davis allow his own wounds to be treated. He received the Distinguished Service Cross.

General Arnold now decided to make a thrust down the road led by tanks, with infantry following. Led by five tanks from the battalion Headquarters Company moving straight down the road, Companies A and B would flank the road in support of the leading tanks. Company C was to follow while Company D, the light tanks, followed in reserve protecting the supply and maintenance vehicles.

Leading off on October 23rd, the “flying wedge” of tanks pushed forward. They soon overran three enemy machine gun posts in the town of Julita. Soon, however, two leading tanks of Company A bogged down in the usual swampy terrain. The company commander simply ordered another platoon to take the lead, leaving the stalled tanks behind. Moving well past Julita, Headquarters Company lost its lead tank to mines on the road. A small group of Japanese then appeared from the brush and tried to place a satchel charge on the rear deck of the tank. The effort was made futile when the following tank shot the demolition charge off the tank with its machine gun. The Japanese were killed by tank fire and the disabled tank abandoned. Meanwhile the “flying wedge” moved forward again.

It continued for another ninety minutes when once again, Company A ran into swamps. This time there was no way around and Company A moved onto the road behind Company C. The advance continued, and another Headquarters Company tank was knocked out by a mine. Once again the disabled tank was abandoned and the advance pushed ahead. Ten minutes later a Japanese assault group rushed the leading tanks with satchel charges. Tank number 17 was hit and caught fire, the crew escaping unharmed. Again the advance pushed on. Soon the armor reached the village of San Pablo. Quickly the tankers took possession of the village. Company B moved to San Pablo Airfield, one of the key American objectives of the campaign, and took control. Behind them Company D’s light tanks escorted the supply and maintenance vehicles into the circled American perimeter.

That afternoon the column moved on. Company B again went off by itself and seized Bayug Airfield, another key objective. By late afternoon the column had seized Burauen against light opposition. However, the armor had far outdistanced its infantry support, and without it could not risk staying overnight in the advanced positions they had carried during the day. The 767th Tank Battalion withdrew to San Pablo where they met the advancing infantry and settled in for the night. The following day they did it again. This time Company D followed immediately behind Headquarters Company as they led the column and reached San Pablo and its airfield before lunch. Company C took Bayug Airfield, again, and a group of Japanese was spotted along the road to Burauen. The tanks moved toward them, and they scattered. But the leading tank hit a mine as it reached the area where the Japanese had been seen. Soon a second tank was knocked out by a mine. It was now clear that the Japanese had been mining the road. Undeterred, the American tankers moved off the road and continued on to Burauen. Company B circled the town and captured its northern end and the road leading to Dagami. The tanks of Company D entered the town but lost two vehicles to mines. Again the road was blocked. Using side streets, First Lieutenant Frances M. McGuin continued to lead his men into the town. As he directed the tanks forward from behind the two disabled tanks, he was killed by a Japanese sniper. As Company A’s commander, Captain Bruce B. Scott, was trying to organize his tanks for a push into the town, he, too, became the victim of a sniper. Soon after, the 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division arrived and began clearing the enemy snipers out of the town.

Meanwhile, Company C captured both Bayug and Buri Airfields but were under heavy fire from north of the field. Swamps prevented them from outflanking the enemy. Under increasing artillery fire and with one tank disabled, the company could not hold its conquests without infantry support, and withdrew to Burauen. Later when the 7th Infantry Division arrived, they too, were hit by this fire and waited for the next day to move on the two airfields. An attempt by Companies B and D to advance on Dagami was halted by strong Japanese resistance and a heavily mined roadway. That night the Japanese seized one of the abandoned tanks and turned its guns on the 17th Infantry. Fortunately, they were shooting high, and nobody was hurt.

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The 7th Infantry Division had been advancing steadily from its invasion beaches, limited more by terrain than enemy resistance. In one case, the swamps were so deep and wide that the 32nd Infantry had to leave its 2nd Battalion behind because it could not cross or bypass the swamp. The route of advance also brought problems to the advancing infantry. The same 2nd Battalion which had become stalled in front of a swamp had to cross the Calbasag River twelve times in one day during its advance. It was also this battalion which encountered the only serious enemy resistance when Captain Roy F. Dixon’s Company G was pinned down for the day by a strong enemy defensive position. The remainder of the battalion moved around the enemy resistance, and after darkness, Captain Dixon led his company after the rest of the battalion.

A brief enemy attack against Company G, 184th Infantry by the 7th Independent Tank Company at the junction between the 32nd and 184th Infantry Regiments was stopped by the Americans. Three enemy tanks rolled down the road and sprayed the area with machine gun fire, but no Americans were injured. The Americans fired back with rifles, bazookas and mortars but also caused no damage. A return an hour later resulted in one Japanese tank knocked out with its crew killed. Soon after, an enemy scout car met the same fate.

General Arnold wanted to keep the pressure on the retreating Japanese in order to prevent them from establishing new defenses in front of his division. He had determined to push ahead to capture the airfields in his zone as soon as possible, allowing the Japanese no time to set up defenses and to allow American air power to use the fields to provide support. It was this intent which resulted in the formation of the strike force made up of the 17th Infantry Regiment and the 767th Tank Battalion, resulting in the “flying wedge” previously described. Supported by the 48th Field Artillery Battalion, the attack led off with the 767th Tank Battalion’s “flying wedge.” Behind it came the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 17th Infantry Regiment under the command of Lt. Colonel Francis T. Pachler. Alongside, the 184th Infantry Regiment was to mop up any opposition that might develop along the Daguitan River south of Burauen. The 32nd Infantry was occupied with the seizure of the San Pablo Airfield Number 1 and the Buri Airstrip. Both regiments were to try to keep abreast of the advancing 17th Infantry’s attack. It was known, however, that the terrain was more than likely to hinder their advance.

Moving from its reserve position near the beaches, the 17th Infantry Regiment moved to Dulag Airfield on October 22nd and the following morning moved to a line of departure, passing through its two sister regiments. The 767th Tank Battalion had already set off and the 17th Infantry moved behind the advancing tanks until they returned from Burauen, when both units settled in for the night. Intense heat and moving through thick vegetation had slowed the infantry advance during the day. Men passed out in the high cogon grass and the number of heat exhaustion casualties soared. Swamps and rice paddies were everywhere and had to be crossed. Nevertheless, by mid-afternoon they had reached San Pablo Airfield Number 1 and secured one end as a part of their night defensive perimeter.

The next day, October 24th, the riflemen were able to stay closer to the tanks, which advanced more slowly. Early in the morning the 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry secured San Pablo Airfield Number 2 against no opposition. By mid-morning the first infantry scouts had arrived at Burauen. Again, no enemy opposition appeared. Within Burauen, however, as we have seen, there were several enemy snipers and antitank teams from the 20th Infantry Regiment which the infantry cleaned out over the next two hours. The heat and closeness of the village caused several more heat exhaustion cases. Colonel Pachler ordered his battalion commanders to pause, allowing the men to rest and rehydrate.

Up ahead, the patrol of the 767th Tank Battalion had hit the newly laid enemy minefield on the Burauen-Dagami Highway. Engineers of Company A, 13th Engineer Combat Battalion, went forward and cleared the road of the Japanese mines under the cover of the infantrymen. By mid-afternoon the mines had been removed and the infantry moved forward along the road. Some two hundred yards further the leading infantry came under rifle and machine gun fire. Scouts trying to locate the main enemy position suffered four killed and four wounded. Colonel Pachler called it a day and ordered his task force to set up night defensive positions. On the left flank was another swamp which came to within a hundred yards of the road while on the right lay a fifty-foot ridge that was within 250 yards of the road and defensive positions. Although no fire had been received from the ridge, Colonel Pachler was concerned since it dominated the entire road in his sector. He ordered Lieutenant Colonel Delbert Bjork, commanding the attached 2nd Battalion, 184th Infantry, to secure a line near the hill as a part of the night defensive position. Although not ordered to seize the ridge, Second Lieutenant Thomas Humfreville decided to take his platoon of Company F to the ridge. Other platoons had been stopped and only Lieutenant Humfreville’s platoon advanced. Very quickly they ran into several mutually supporting enemy machine gun positions. The first burst of Japanese fire wounded eleven men, including Lieutenant Humbreville, who despite his wounds knocked out the enemy gun. He then moved to the front to lead the advance squad in resuming the assault. He and several men were wounded in this new attack. He called his platoon sergeant to him to issue orders for the continued assault, when an enemy counterattack struck. Despite his already serious wounds, Lieutenant Humfreville stood erect and drew the enemy’s attention on himself to allow his men to prepare to meet the attack. As he diverted the enemy’s attention long enough to allow his platoon to defeat their attack, he was bayoneted and killed by the attacking Japanese. His Distinguished Service Cross was posthumously awarded.

Staff Sergeant Charles D. McRunnels took command and moved the wounded back while trying to find a way to knock out the enemy positions. Even while he did so, he soon realized that he was still being attacked by large numbers of Japanese. Some came close enough to bayonet wounded Americans. Automatic weapons fire drove off the Japanese and the surviving platoon members took cover. Calling his company commander, Captain James B. Hewette, Staff Sergeant McRunnels was told that the rest of Company F was coming forward. The added firepower of the infantry company allowed the trapped platoon to withdraw to the defensive perimeter.

Now alerted to the Japanese presence on his flank, Colonel Pachler expected an attack. It began after dark with mortar fire falling among the foxholes of his men, along with coordinated machine gun fire from the ridge. This was the point when the Japanese seized the abandoned tank of the 767th Tank Battalion and used its guns on the Americans. Japanese patrols of twenty to thirty men began moving on the outposts. Using only grenades to not give away their positions, the combat-experienced Americans responded. Captain George E. Adams, commanding Company F, 17th Infantry, against whom the main attack developed, called in artillery fire so close to his own lines that the Japanese were forced back. After two hours the Japanese withdrew.

The Japanese were not quite through, however. After midnight a company of enemy infantry attempted to rush Captain Adams’ F Company. Machine guns and antitank weapons slowed the attack, and when they reached the barbed wire in front of the American perimeter, every weapon in Company F and their supporting arms opened fire. It was the heaviest concentration of fire that the 17th Infantry, a veteran of two previous campaigns, remembered seeing to that point. Realizing that the attack was defeated, Captain Adams tried to order a cease fire, but the din was so great that messengers had to be sent to each platoon to stop the firing. The rest of the night was unusually quiet.

The following morning, however, provided evidence that the Japanese were still present. A platoon from Company C, 17th Infantry was moving forward when it was struck by machine gun fire from a nearby hill. As the platoon sought cover, Private First Class Edward F. Jeffers, an automatic rifleman with the flanking squad, noticed several Japanese soldiers moving to get behind them. He immediately leaped to his feet and opened fire on the enemy squad, neutralizing them. Then he noticed another group of Japanese in a nearby trench firing on his platoon. He raced forward under Japanese fire to the lip of the trench and opened fire, killing several and forcing the rest to withdraw. Then he saw that one of the platoon’s wounded lay fully exposed to enemy fire and could not be reached by litter bearers. He ran to the wounded man and set up to protect him until the fight was over, at the same time administering first aid. Private First Class Jeffers survived to receive a promotion to sergeant and the Distinguished Service Cross.

 

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