December 19, 1941

DECEMBER 19, 1941 TO NAVY YARD, CAVITE

In those early days of the war, there was but little harsh reality — we did not know of the long range planning of the enemy. We expected the loss of French Indo China and an attempt to close the Burma Road. But, in our own little theater, we thought that the Philippines were relatively safe from invasion — we more looked for a war of attrition than a blitzkrieg. on the southern islands. Visions of sitting on an isolated area protecting naval bases from air and sea raids filled our minds. Hand to hand combat did not appear imminent. We had a gas attack scare one night which tended to bring us down to earth, but we did not think that within a month we would be in combat with enemy troops on land.

Fear propaganda ran rampant in the town of Binacayan one day — we made several attempts to locate the source of the vicious rumors being spread but to no avail. We then resorted to patrolling the town at night, both for protection and for the quieting effect on the natives. Our Filipino workers left us, preferring the quietness of the provinces. This was our first initiation into the on purpose or chance Fifth Column — we never discovered which.

We fished an aviator out of the bay during one raid and learned in part the answer to the question, “Where was our aircraft?” It was not a happy answer. We began to learn that an officer’s job in war was a hard one — the responsibility of decision with life or death at stake cannot be taken lightly by many of us. In our case, two second lieutenants had that responsibility with eighty men dependent on that decision. It was a larger unit than any company of the 4th Regiment with its captain and three lieutenants. We did not know that this responsibility would last until the end of Bataan: nor did we know how much of a burden it would become. We counted ourselves lucky to have the jobs we had — I believe we were.

The U.S.S. PILLSBURY was our luxury liner from Cavite to Mariveles. We moved from Binacayan on no notice at all — the Colonel with orders and the transportation arrived within one minute of each other. Men and equipment went to the docks and then personnel spent the night on the nearby beach. Early the next morning we met the Pillsbury commanded by Lt. Comdr. P____, an old acquaintance of the trip to the Orient. A sleek destroyer already a veteran — her sides had been pierced many times from bomb fragments — she had wounded men among her crew, plugged holes in her bulkheads and pipe lines, and distinct aversion to lying alongside a dock during daylight hours. Nevertheless she had hot coffee and bacon and eggs for breakfast, chairs for her officers, bunks for her men. Her contribution was to come later, yet she already had an air of bravado for her former action — she had not heard of Celebes and Java.

Again we passed by grim forbidding Corregidor — by now I had heard of its fabulous might but not of its myth. Perhaps its power was best displayed by its dark, rocky form seemingly devoid of life — it allowed one’s imagination to run wild picturing many concealed big guns, innumerable AA guns, lengthy tunnels, and impossible beach defenses. Corregidor, guardian of Manila Bay, symbol of American might in the Philippines had yet to be proved, however — its nerve, its brain had not been tested.

Mariveles again; now no subs roamed slowly about the bay, otherwise it seemed the same — it was yet untouched by wear. We disembarked and reported to the SOPUSMC. I had the job of disembarking the men and equipment.

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