Pacific theatre encounters in 1945, with Wally Harpen
continued from May 1945; the airstrip at Malabang . . . .
Early next morning our C47 was ready to proceed to Del Monte, in Bukidnon Province about 80 miles in a Northern direction. The sun shone brightly and a beautiful day was dawning. The plane flew uneventfully for about 45 minutes until the Del Monte air strip appeared below us. It was a long green strip of land that had been the fairway of the country club golf course in pre-war days. The entire scene below had been a vast pineapple plantation, owned then by the California Packing Company. We landed and deplaned.
A truck was waiting to take us to Headquarters Company , 99th Signal Batallion, a short drive from the air strip. We had been officially a part of this unit since our arrival overseas, but this was the first time we had ever actually lived among the unit’s people.
The detachment had been on detached service with several units, the 41st Infantry Division and Filipino Guerrilla Forces. Now we were to be a part of the Radio Intelligence Platoon. Eventually I would become the platoon sergeant. Our duties were to monitor certain radio frequencies for enemy radio traffic and American army lapses in radio security or other offences.
The food was much better than we had become accustomed to with the 41 st. It seemed that as a unit came closer to the front lines the poorer the quality of food. For the first time we received a ration of beer. Unfortunately the beer supply played catch up with each man receiving around a case of 24 bottles. A boisterous party took place which displeased other soldiers of the 99th and required lots of reparations for a long time after that first night.
Our detachment was considered a gang of Johnny-come-Lately wise guys. We had worn out our welcome on the very first night with the home outfit. The Company didn’t realize that we had been through the entire campaign on Mindanao and had served in combat with other units. But as time heals all wounds we were accepted.
Our routine at Del Monte was not taxing. Actual combat was taking place several miles to the south. We had time for some baseball and volley ball. One soldier hit the ball into the adjacent pineapple field. In searching for the ball the GI’s ran into a Japanese straggler who had been trying to find a pineapple to eat. The enemy soldier was armed with a hand grenade only, which the GI’s , brandishing a baseball bat took from him. The POW was marched to the company and turned over to several MP’s. This enemy soldier was probably the only prisoner ever taken by an American with a baseball bat.
The radio tent had a couple of receivers which we used to monitor the special frequencies and several typewriters with special qualities which we used to record various signals.
I used to monitor the Domei News frequency. Domei was the official station of the Japanese Imperial Government. They transmitted in plain text using the International Morse code. Their news was always suspect but it was an interesting change from conventional American traffic. I would pass along the Domei items to those interested. I’d always read them myself even though I read along with the coded transmission.
Life was dragging along each day like the day before. The nights were long and lonely. I listened to Armed Forces Radio broadcast from some other islands playing popular music. Their sign off song at 11:00 P M was ‘Dream’ by the Pied Pipers. When the lyrics got to “—things are not as bad as they seem, so dream dream dream,” I always said ‘how bad do they have to get?’
How long will this war last? It will never end was my guess.
There were many islands left in the Pacific. It took months to take any island. It now was August, 1945 and there was a big surprise in store; one that I couldn’t guess in my wildest dream >>>>> continued next week.
Other experiences shared by M. Sgt. Harpen . . .
May 1945; the airstrip at Malabang
A Sharing Experience with Master Sergeant W.J. “Wally” Harpen
NAMBU Model 14 Pistol
Master Sergeant Harpen left the Military service in early 1946 after serving in the Pacific Theatre. He writes of his exciting time in the Pacific war. He is happy to share his experiences with the public and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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