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December 8-10, 1941

On Monday, December 8th, which was just another day to us, there seemed to be a sort of tension in the air. Rumors were flying around that something was happening and there was great activity on the field — nothing tangible you could put your teeth into, but somebody had guessed at a rumor saying that the Japanese had come in in the morning early and had bombed Fort John Hay and Baguio, but like all army fields, rumors are always in order, therefore not much attention was paid to these remarks. Airplanes were constantly taking off, coming in for re-fueling and the situation seemed to be getting slowly to a concrete idea that where there is smoke, there must be some fire.

In Hangar 3, I had two B-17’s undergoing painting, camouflaging, and in No. & I had one B-17 being camouflaged. Previously, however, we had completed about five airplanes and at this time we were still using the Air Corps insignia with the red ball in the center of the star and using yellow paint to denote the number of the airplane. Some few weeks previously, General Brereton, who had taken over the Far Eastern Air Forces, had assembled all the officers in the General Honneycut Theatre and had told us that things were likely to get worse before they
got better. So, based on his remark, and the events that were happening, it’ is more or less easily understood why our proposed flight to the Island of Basco to recover the B-18, was cancelled.

It is assumed without any actual knowledge of the fact, that the Japanese, knowing this airplane was down, realized someone would come up to check it and were lying waiting for someone to come in. That being the case, it is undoubtedly possible that had we flown in to Basco, we would have been taken prisoner and thus become the first official, or unofficial prisoners of the present war.

Our squadron, the 7th Materiel, attached to the 19th Group, was comprised of Major Buck Davis, my roommate, Captain Harry Glenn, another roommate, Lt. Roy Day, Medical Corps Flight Surgeon, and Lts. Chennault, Noles, Kaster, Stanton, Kelly and Geer, and is, in the main, a tactical engineering squadron.

As the flights of the airplanes started coming in and setting down late in the morning, rumors are flying around thicker than ever, stating it to be a fact that Fort John Hay has been bombed and about 11:30, after reporting it in to my office in the Engineering and Operations Building, we hear from the radio shack on.the other end, the loud speaker say that the Japanese have definitely bombed Pearl Harbor and are then in the process of bombing our field, which, of course, we don’t believe and think it is just another one of those screwy commentators that is building something out of nothing. But we do realize something is happening somewhere and what turned out
to be a rumor of Pearl Harbor we now have verified as a fact, and we know war is on.

There was a briefing going on in headquarters for a proposed flight to photograph the Island of Formosa which is heavy with Japanese installations of airplanes and it is thought that we should know what it is all about. Tension is mounting, of course, and as we all go in to lunch, the sole topic of conversation is Pearl Harbor. As the pilots come in one by one, or in groups, to have lunch, we ask them what they have seen and what is going on, but none of them seem to be able to report anything and therefore, the meal goes on, with Don Bell, the announcer. from Manila, saying the Clark Field is being bombed and that Iba Field has been bombed, also Nichol’s Field. We are ready to believe him about Nichol’s and Iba, but not about our own field, so there are the usual sarcastic remarks that, “A broadcaster doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

Part. of Major Grover’s outfit, the 20th Pursuit Group is on the field, most of them. from the 3rd Pursuit Squadron, and they have joined us for lunch, along with the rest of our outfit, Lee Coates, Glen Boes, Kenny Krepps, Bill Cocke, Sig Young and the usual: assortment of folks with whom we eat side by side daily, and the meal finishing, we leave the mess hall and stand around in groups or repair to our individual rooms for 15 or 20 minutes to await the usual gatherings and chatter which goes on before going back on the job.

All the radios that are working now are being used and the announcer keeps saying, “Keep tuned in, we will have more flashes for you every minute,” and by this time, of course, he has repeated the one burning fact that Pearl Harbor has definitely been bombed and that other parts of the Island of Luzon have been under bombardment. We expected a flight of Navy ships in and also had anticipated the 7th Group to land and reinforce us, so it wasn’t
with a great deal of surprise that we noticed a flock of airplanes coming over the hills toward the northeast of us from the direction of the China Sea, and someone remarked, ‘Well, it must be the Navy,” standing on the porch in a group, one officer had a pair of field glasses and turned them on these ships coming over and by that time
we could all see the bomb bay doors opening and the red balls on the wings and also this chap with the glasses at that time yelled: “Navy, Hell, its the Japs,” and we all took off, running for the slit trenches.

For anti-aircraft protection we have surrounding our area, the 200th Coast Artillery from New Mexico, and we also have two battalions of tanks, as I remember they were WW I Renaults (French) which had arrived from Fort Knox, Kentucky in September just about the same time the 200th got in. While actually on the ground and set up ready for firing in pits, are 30 caliber Lewis machine guns.

Just ahead of me was Bill Cocke and Davis, and as I came out the door, Bill hollered around and said, “Don’t be the last one out,” and I said, “No, I won’t, Bill;.1I’1l be right with you;” then the bombs started to hit all around us. The first one tore the front of the B.O.Q. out, as I recall, and then the machine gun bullets and fragments started to rain all around. On my immediate right, I saw Buck Davis fall and not move; by this time I had dropped in back of a tree. Looking around, I saw Bill Cocke had been hit, so I hollered and told him to hang on, that I was coming to get him, and left the safety of my tree and started toward him. Before I was halfway there, something hit me and I pitched over on my face. More or less unconsciously, I struggled up and tried to stand up. My left leg gave way and down I went again. Sitting on the ground with my helmet blown off and the bullets bouncing off the ground like rain off a puddle, I unbuckled my gun belt, laid it on the ground and proceeded to take off the first aid kit. Looking at my right leg, for some unknown reason, I saw two holes appear in the slacks and down I went again, on my side.— There-was no feeling –no-pain– just a-shocking force of something hitting me and by this time, looking toward the Link Trainer building, which was alongside the B.0.Q., I saw that it had been set on fire and that it was also in danger of toppling over on me. Not knowing why, I unbuckled the belt of my slacks, pulled myself out of them, and tried to bandage up the holes in my legs, but there were too many of them, so I gave it up
in disgust. By this time, the burning embers from the building were beginning to set my clothing on fire and various other parts of my anatomy were exposed. Sailing immediately over us was a Zero doing lazy eights and apparently me being out in the open and still alive, I was fair game.

By this time, what with the burning embers falling on me and these machine gun bullets bouncing all around, I thought it was time to move out of there, but found I couldn’t move. I happened to spot Harry Glenn packing Jack Kaster along to the slit trench and seeing Kenny Krepps on the other side, I hollered to them and asked if they could get me out of this mess. This they proceeded to do by the simple process of grabbing me by the hands
and dragging me over the gravel and depositing me, not too gently, in the bottom of the slit trench. By this time I was sure that my left leg was broken because it was flopping all over the place, and my foot had turned so that it was-lying on its side on the ground. Immediately in back of me was Capt. Joe Allen, also in the trench, fortunately unhurt, and sitting on the edge. Pulling his gun out and pushing it back in the holster, was Krepps using some
language that coming from Krepps was a little bit unusual. They were beginning to count the airplanes by this time and they came to the conclusion that there were 54 twin-motored Mitsubishi Bombers and 87 Zeros, which count later proved to be correct.

In spite of all this bombing and a sort of chaotic condition, there were some folks who insisted on standing up and taking pictures. Apparently the devil takes care of his own, because none of these people were hit.

There were several Filipinos killed and badly wounded immediately back of the B.O.Q. and, of course, Officers’ Row came in for its share of bombing and strafing. After making the usual few passes over the field and seeing it pretty well demolished and burning, the bombers took off.

By this time, the ambulances and anything that could handle patients were being filled and rushed to Ft. Stots Station Hospital. Lying on the bottom of the trench, all I could do was look up; I could still see these Zeros doing lazy eights; it seemed the whole front of the ship was on fire from their guns, and there was lots and lots of lead flying around. Shortly, what we called a “goon” car pulled up alongside the trench and they started lifting patients in. On the front seat was Jack Kaster who had been shot through the hip. On the back seat was Lt. Jim Elder with a gaping hole in his left thigh. On the floor was Bill Cocke and that is where they heaved me, tossing my gun and belt in after me. What little I could see from the trench was something of which the Medical, Department and the whole medical fraternity may well be proud, and that was Major Luther Heidger and Lt. Roy Day, Medical Corps men, out in the middle of all this hail of iron. Their helmets had been lost, but they were going around the wounded, taking care of them as best they could. When they came to one apparently dead, they turned him over and looked at him, then passed on to the next with never a heed to their own safety. It is one of the things that is rarely given to people to observe.

Bill Cocke had his back and chest blown out and was in bad shape, rolling around on the bottom of the car. In order to ease him, I put my arm around him and pressed his back up against my shirt front, hoping to stem some of the bleeding. This seemed to quiet him and we started off toward the hospital. We had gone 100 feet when the car stopped and everybody that could jumped in the trench because there was a Zero on top of us, strafing us. Why he didn’t hit us, I’ll never know, but he went on his way: the driver jumped back in the vehicle and we tore for Stots Station Hospital. When we arrived, they loaded us on stretchers, Elder, Cocke and myself. The little Filipino stretcher bearers were quite agitated, and of course, not knowing that my left leg was broken, when they lifted me up it came straight up without bending at the hip. One of them got excited and dropped it again which was not too pleasant, but the shock effect was still present, because it didn’t hurt so terrifically. .

We were carried up on the veranda of the Station Hospital and there the nurses proceeded to give us a hypo in the arm, which, we later found out, was to prevent gas gangrene. Directly ahead of me on a stretcher was Bill Cocke and I heard them say, “Mark him ‘killed in action’.” So, apparently Bill died in my arms en route. That was why he had quieted down.

We were taken in to the wards after a time, and made as comfortable as possible. That evening, although everything was blacked-out, General Wainwright came through all the wards, stopping to say something to everyone, shaking them by the hands and saying: “Non’t give up; we’re going to lick ‘em yet.” After lying in this
bed of mine for several hours, it must have been close to midnight when it came my turn to be operated on. Major Jack Shwartz, M.D. was on the staff then. As they picked me out of bed, one of the nurses standing by with a flashlight said, “Look at that bed!”

I looked at the sheet and it was black. Obviously I had been bleeding quite heavily. I was pushed in to the operating room where they had two tables going; the chief nurse, Miss MacDonald, was giving the anesthetic and the doctors were working there from one table to the other. The usual operating room aroma, plus sweat and blood, was rather unpleasant, as I recall.

That was the last I knew until the next morning when upon-awakening, the nurse said: “He’s awake now, we’d better start immediately,” and with that, they prepared my right arm for what turned out to be a transfusion of plasma and saline, which procedure took most of the day. It seemed to have the desired effect rapidly, because Miss MacDonald came in the ward, took a look at me, as I was lying there, and said, “Well, the ruby fluid is doing its work.”

From then on it was a succession of bombing and strafing missions daily and we heard rumors of how many ships the 200th Corps Artillery ack-ack from New Mexico had knocked down. Chaplain Brown would come in every afternoon after the bombing and strafing raids were over and give us the score. If he didn’t come in, then Chaplain LaFleur came.

After the first few days of bombing, the sense of fright seemed to leave. Later on, they brought in a Lt. Beyers, a
platoon leader from the New Mexico ack-ack outfit, who had been shot through the left shoulder. He told us more of the score so we thought everything was going to be pretty well handled.