Corporal Noel Hughes


The war in Burma was a remarkable chapter of World War II, and that appeared to be clear to the men who fought there.  Many men of the Mars Task Force kept their own private diaries of their experiences, and my father George was no exception.  Sometime after he returned home after the war, George’s diary went missing, and this upset him greatly.  After he became a member of the Mars Task Force Association in the 1990’s, he attended a couple of MTF reunions, one of which was held in Williamsburg, VA.  In addition to several of my father’s buddies from the old photographs, Mr. Noel Hughes was also in attendance at that reunion.  George received installments of the Hughes diary in MTF newsletters over several issues, and later clearly relied upon the Hughes account in placing a timeline on his own memories.  Mr. Noel Hughes passed away in 2009.  Mr. Woody Woodruff, the long-time head of the MTF Association described him as a “fine soldier and loyal Mars-man” who certainly would not have hesitated to agree to his diary being made public.  The Hughes document is presented here in its entirety.

 

MARCH FROM MYITKYINA

 

By Cpl. Noel Hughes

Battery A, 612th F.A. BN (PK)


1st  day 17 Nov 44

Mytikyina to Karayang 10 miles.


2nd day 18 Nov 44

Ferry over Nam Tabet river from Makarayang.


3rd day 19 Nov 44

Nawer to Bamkaurg 16 miles


4th day 20 Nov 44

Bamkaurg to Kantoayang 18 miles over rough ridges and jungle trails.

 

5th day 21 Nov 44

Kantoayang to Hkadaungyang 15 miles.  All rough trails.


6th day 22 Nov 44

Hkadungyang to Duhbaiyang 15 miles.  Mostly rough hilly terrain.

 

7th day 23 Nov 44

Duhbaiyag to Nalong 10 miles.  Very rough ridge and long jungle trail very narrow and hard on men and animals.

 

8th day 24 Nov 44

Contact Inf. At Nalong. Rest one day.

 

9th day 15 Nov 44

Nalong to Dawhpumyang 15 miles.  Very rough ridge.

 

10th day 26 Nov 44

Dawhumyang to Tali 8 miles.  Shortest march of whole trip.

 

11th day 27 Nov 44

My birthday. Was 29 yrs. Old.  Temporary bivouac area Tali rest.

 

12th day 28 Nov 44

Resting at Tali.  Enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal.

 

13th day 29 Nov 44

Our battery joined 1st Bn 475th Inf. Left Tali.  Rest of Bn headed south to Bhamo and places unknown. (Tali to Namting 10 miles)

 

[Editor’s Note:  Beginning with the last entry, Battery A of the 612th and 1st Battalion of the 475th, began their “separate mission.”  The rest of the Mars Task Force headed south towards Tonkwa.]

 

14th day 30 Nov 44

Namting to Mythit 15 miles.

 

15th day  1 Dec 44

24 more shopping days before Xmas.  Myothit to Namhpak 20 miles.  Forded Taping river, lost 3 loads, animals bogged down.

 

16th day  3 Dec 44

Namhpak Hka to Chyingtawng 20 miles.  Marched from 7:30

                                    A.M. to 7:30 P.M.  Very rough day.

 

17th day  3 Dec 44

Chyingtawn to Namsi Hka 18 miles.

 

18th day 4  Dec 44

Namsin Hka to Sinkau 20 miles.  Rough trails all day.

 

19th day 5  Dec 44

Sinkau to Shwegu 24 miles.  Destination so far mission to protect flank of Brigade.  Are

now in Jap territory can hear bombing and artillery Natha 4 miles S.W.

 

[Editor’s note:  This last entry clearly identifies the purpose of this “separate mission.”]

 

25th day 11 Dec 44

Our patrols contacted Jap patrols at Nangnaunk and killed 22 nips estimated strength of Jap patrol 300 strong.

 

34th day 19 Dec 44

Left Shwegu headed south.  Covered 7 miles.  Today easy going.

 

35th day 20 Dec 44

Covered approximately 8 miles.  Expect to lay over tomorrow to pick up air drop.  Bivouacked in heavy jungle, small streams 200 yds west.  Satkala reserved forest.   Heading south destination Yambo.  Yambo is 14 mi. W of Tonkwa which is Jap held.

 

37th day 22 Dec 44

Left Satkala Reserve Forest heading S.S.E.  Mostly up hill and rough trails.  Expect to reach Yambo 24th.  Camped at stream junction Lagot – C. Katpya North Nagsmu C.

 

38th day 23 Dec 44

Covered 12 miles.  Bivouacked in bamboo forest.  Expect Xmas dinner to be dropped.

 

39th day 24 Dec 44

Christmas eve.  Lay over, move out tomorrow. Made cpl. This PM.

 

40th day 25 Dec 44

Christmas day still no drop, expect it the 27th.  Covered approximately 10 mi.  Bivouacked in bamboo jungle on old game trail.  Killed green Pit Viper while fixing my bed, the most deadly snake in Burma.  It fell out of a tree not more than a foot from my bed.  I won’t sleep a wink tonight.  Expect to arrive at Yambo tomorrow.  Destination changed Nansin our next stop, not at a junction Ngalin C. Maingthae C.

 

41st day 26 Dec 44

Covered 16 miles of the roughest trail of whole campaign.  Trail was old elephant path and entirely covered with wallows, some waist deep.  3 gun mules bogged down and all animals had a toughtime getting through and so did the men.  Bivouacked at Sitha in Virgin Teak wood forest.

 

42nd day 27 Dec 44

Covered 3 miles today, very nice march.  Picked up air drop.  N of Sitha layover Xmas dinner, which consisted of two cans of turkey, sugar, coffee, dehydrated onions and sweet potatoes, and a few boxes of hard candy from Red Cross.  Expect to lay over until

tomorrow noon then proceed on to Nansin, our destination.  There

on our mission is unknown as yet..

 

43rd day 28 Dec 44

Left Sitha at 1:45 PM marched 5 miles.  It was a rough march today.  Hit a mud hole.   Two gun loads bogged down, got into bivouac late, had to go on Cpl of the guard.  Sure was a rough night.  Expect to hit Nansin tomorrow, approx 12 mi, from present camp.

 

44th day 29 Dec 44

Arrived Nansin at 2 PM. Lart air strip for C47, B-25, P-38 &P-47’s.  Received Xmas mail, no definite mission as yet.  Are now 6 mi. from Tonkwa where rest of Regt is pushing Japs southward.

 

45th day 30 Dec 44

Laying over here at Nansin.  Lost Lt. Stormont, who was transferred to B Btry.  We sure lost a swell guy.  Sure am sick, ate too much Xmas candy.  Mission is to proceed to Mongwe, there to meet rest of Regt and also 124th Cavalry & 613th F.A. Bn from here probably work up to Namkam and push Japs into China, in doing so will open up Burma Road.

 

46th day 31 Dec 44

New Year’s Eve still at Nansin.

 

47th day  1 Jan 45

New Year’s Day.

 

48th day  2 Jan 45

Left Nansin at 07:30, covered approx. 12 miles, bivouacked outside village of Si-V.   Lot of Chinese Army now appearing.

 

49th day  3 Jan 45

Covered 10 miles over 1200 ft. Mts., passed through Hkamofkakye Loi Sawng.  Bivouacked on W-bank of Nam-Mao of Shweli River.  Cross tomorrow.  Very swift flowing water about 300 yards wide.  Flows NE SW.

 

50th day  4 January 45

Crossed Shweli river on improved bridge of bamboo.  Covered approximately 5 miles, bivouacked on trail about 1 ½ miles from Winhke.  Pulled out at 6:30 hrs.

 

51st day  5 Jan 45

Covered 5 miles to air drop.  Now at Wegmun, Palaung.  Left Wegmun, Palaung at 0700.  First rain in two months.  Rained all day, trails up hill, 4200 ft. Mtn.  Bivouacked on trail and spent a hell of a night.

 

52nd day  6 Jan 45

Started out at 7:20 climbed up to 4605 ft. Stopped at Tapong for dinner break, bivouacked in rice field and spent another night in the damn rain.

 

53rd day  7 Jan 45

Started out at 7:30 and reached Mongue about 1100.  Now under Bn control; what a screwed-up outfit.

 

54th day  8 Jan 45

Prepared bivouac area, built rigging racks, dug fox holes, and cleaned up area in general.  Length of our stay here as yet unknown.  2nd and 3rd Inf.  Bns out to patrol.  1st Bn and our Bn only outfits left here.

 

59th day 13 Jan 45

Pull out tomorrow, mission Nawkam which is 30 map miles N NE

                                    of here.  Our Regt take N route and 124th S route.  Our task is to set

                                    up regt road block N of Mongyu on Burma Road.

 

60th day 14 Jan 45

Left Mongue at 7:30, covered 6 miles of Mtn trails now at 4000 ft. alt.

 

61st day 15 Jan 45

Arrived at air drop at 1:00 PM, rendezvous area for regt. Mission is to cut Burma Road, expect to make Nawkam Valley in 4 days. This is the pay off.  Jap resistance is expected.   Now laying over to pick up air drop of 3 day rations.  Bivouacked on terraced rice paddies.

 

62nd day 16 Jan 45

Left air drop and marched all day and night over the Loi Lun Mt. range, map 93E/14 northern Shan states.

 

63rd day 17 Jan 45

“D-Day” Enemy opposition at 1300.  Leading Inf. Elements ran into a Namboo road block at Nawhkam after several hours of hunting the Japs out.  The town is secured and the hill left of Nawhkam is ours, our btry went into position at 1700 and we now cover a 5 mile area of the Burma Road, with good firing, so far the BP and one concentration has been fired.  Case #301, our first firing on the Japs, this ended D-day.

 

64th day 18 Jan 45

D+1. Fired 3 concentrations on Jap bivouac area early this morning, fire effective.  P-47’s strafed and bombed valley.  1600 Concen. #302 fired 40 rds HE on Loi-Kang Cjs 70.35-42.50, knocked out the whole village.

 

65th day 19 Jan 45

0800 concentration #303 refired with time and Japan tanks, perfect adjustment, 0915 Btry concentration   ? fired on Jap troops Cjs 46.8-69.9.  1100 our first casualties this AM: 3 men hit by mortar fire while bringing ammo off drop field.  2000 hrs to 0100 (20th Jan) fired harassing firing every 10 min.  Fire missions intermittently all night, no sleep.

 

66th day 20 Jan 45

Three fire missions this AM. 1430 hrs concentration #26, fired on probably arty positions, 3d Sec ?; Jap ammo dump.

 

67th day 21 Jan 45

Sunday.  Moved to new GP at 1000.   Now on forward slope of hill top about 2000 yds of Jap front lines.  Fired on Jap in Loi-Kan and also SE end of valley.

 

68th day 22 Jan 45

Fired on Loi-Kang this morning all quiet in valley last night, except for occasional small arms fire and mortar.  3 target hits for 3d Sec. so far ammo dump, arty position, and Loi-Kang.  1300 fired con. #36 on W-slope of Loi-Kang in preparation for Inf. Attack, #3 fired 39 rds.  Concentration # 37 on Mong-Yu 5 miles SE of our position.  Mong-Yu is Jap staging area.  Effect good 1430.  P47’s bombed and strafed valley W of Loi-Kang.  Sure sounded good, everything quiet at present.  The action above was taking place about 4000 yds from our GP, very pretty sight and also reassuring to us.  Thank God for our air superiority. 69th day 23 Jan 45 0900 shelled Mong-Yu 40 rds HE.  1330 P-47’s bombed and strafed Mong-Yu, sure looked swell, can’t see how the nips can hold out much longer, Nip 77 fired on us this AM got an over and short but no effect on us, sure was sweating that baby out.

 

70th day 24 Jan 45

Last night about 1600, Japs made a Ban-zai charge on our Inf. Perimeter just 200 yds below our GP.  We shelled the hell out of them and really broke up their attack.  It was quiet for the rest of the night.  Whistling-Willie shelled us this AM about 06:30, had one pretty close short, no harm done to us though.

 

71st day 25 Jan 45

At approx. 0200 hrs the nips made a counter attack down in the valley.  They opened up with every type of gun they have and made it pretty hot for us for 2 hours.  Mortar shells were flying all over us and we just about hit the fox holes in time and were sweating them out.  No hits were scored.   C Battery opened up and shelled the hell out of them.  Things quieted down after that,except for an occasional machine gun burst and a grenade or two.

Whiz-bang willie was silent this morning.  1745 hrs we shelled Jap troops in Mong-Yu Valley really poured in the shells.

 

72d day 26 Jan 45

Jap artillery (Whistling-Willie) opened up on us about 07:30 and made it pretty hot for us for about 2 hours.  We kept pretty close to our fox holes, in fact we were in and out of them like rabbits.  They scored a hit on one of the C Btry’s guns, 2 men were wounded, Sgt Pfeiffer received some shrapnel in the back, arm and legs, it was a pretty rough time.  1400 hrs Japs shelled us again, scored a hit on #2 gun of B Btry and wounded 4 men.  Attwood of our 4th sec was killed and received a piece of shrapnel in his back and pierced his heart.  The poor lad never knew what happened.

 

73rd day 27 Jan 45

P47’s bombed and strafed Japs on ridge about 2000 yds to our left front.  Whistling Willie opened up again this morning and dropped some right below our GP.  They buried Attwood wrapped in a poncho in the Regt graveyard at the foot of the hill.  He was the 2oth.  1130 hrs 81’s and 42’s and machine guns laid concentrations on Loi Kan and knocked hell out of the nips on whole ridge.  The 2d bn hasn’t moved yet, and there is a doubt in my mind if they’ll take the ridge.  With the exception of two bashas, all that remains of Koi Kang is ruins.  Mam Sak SE of Loi Kang was bombed and strafed by P47’s.  We have a ring side seat, being only about 1500 yds W of these villages.

 

74th day 28 Jan 45

All quiet last night.  Whistling Willie, on old 150 mm, were silent this morning.  About 1330 hrs they opened up and got two hits on the main trail, one hit a basha on the left and the other hit between #2 and 3 guns of C Btry.  The 2d Bn is still held up on the ridge.  P47s knocked the hell out of the ridge and did a wonderful job.  Still the nips are holding their own, something is bound to crack soon.  The yellow squirts must be dug in.

 

75th day 29 Jan 45

0900 P47’s knocked hell out of Mong Yu again, one 47 was knocked down by Jap ack-ack.  This is the first sign of Jap Anti-aircraft action; evidently they brought equipment in during the night.  1430 hrs Jap 150 mm opened up on us again; this afternoon and kep us in our holes for about ½ hour.  Shrapnel was whizzing all over the place.  Muirate of B Btry was hit this morning.  A 150 shell hit right in the middle of their position.  P47’s again bombed and strafed Mong Yu.  Jap ack-ack kept them up pretty high.  We have a ringside seat, only 2000 yeds from the hell-raising.

 

76th day 30 Jan 45

Last night just before dark we relayed our guns, so that we now command the area, where we figure the Jap 150’s and 77’s are shooting from.  Fired 2 concentrations at 2200 and one at 0100.  It’s now 9 AM and so far Whistling-Willie has been silent.  At 1400 hrs Jap 150 opened upon us again.  1st round was short and the next over and the 3rd was right in between 1 and 2 guns.  We were having a fire mission at the time and we heard the old 150’ report then the shell screaming through the air.  We hit our fox holes fast.  The hole Vince is in or was, was only 4 ft deep and just a couple of steps from the 1st Sec ammo pit, then the shell hit and the concussion caved in his hole as you would say and buried Vince up (the shell hit the ammo pit).  He wasn’t hurt but he was sure shaken up, no one was hurt they sure had the hell scared out of them of course. I did too.  Later on just before dark they dropped in another one and we all hit the dirt; it’s been a nerve racking day, one hit just 6 ft from my fox hole.  I had my blanket hanging just outside my hole and I found big shrapnel holes in it.  I thank God that I wasn’t in it at the time.  I pray to God that we can kock that 150 out before something really happens to us.

 

77th day 31 Jan 45

Last night between 10 and 12 during a FM #1 gun blew up.  Fiscella was killed, Giachina, Holewinski, Kaminiski and Benjamin were wounded.  During the firing the Jap 150 opened up on us and while trying to pound a round in, which was jammed, Giachina struck the primer and the shell exploded.  All day the 150 kept pounding our position, one hit 3 feet from Vince and George’s fox hole, the concussion knocked them all numb, everyone’s nerves were completely shot.  [Editor’s note:  It is unclear which George is being referred to here.  Since George Haupin’s fox hole buddy was Walter Bahr, and no mention of this event was ever made by my father, it is likely that George Piehl was the person being discussed here.] 

 

78th and 79th days 1 & 2 Feb 45

Our position was pounded by a nip 77 and mortars and the 150.  Vandy and Bonardi got it on the 2d.  I was standing not 4 ft away from Vandy and didn’t get a scratch, boy what a feeling, and I again thank God for taking care of me.

 

80th day 3 Feb 45

We moved off the hill today, had to move guns by piece under shell fire, it was a relief to get off that hil..

 

81st day 4 Feb 45

New position in village of Ho-Naw.  Covered the 1st Bn attack on Loi Kang ridge; fired 356 rds.  The ridge was taken successfully.

 

81st, 82nd, 83rd, & 84th days 4th to 7 Feb 45

Still at Ho-Naw and all is quiet.  The Jap 15o was knocked out by 613th and the 77 moved out when the first Bn attacked.  We’ve been shelling the suspension bridge just S of Mong Yu and I don’t mean the bridge in Ohio.  In comparison with “Tragedy Hill” (I’ll call it that cause it brought tragedy for our Btry) our old position.  This is a rest camp and I pray to God that we aren’t shelled again.

 

85th day 8 Feb 45

Resting at Ho-Naw.  Chinese 30th Div moving in to throw block on road south of us.  All quiet today except for P47’s bombing and strafing south of us.  Move down to air drop soon for a so called 10 day rest.  You can just imagine a rest for us.  Then we move on again probably towards Lashio.

 

86th day 9 Feb 45

Still at Ho-Naw our mission is completed here in Nawhkam Valley.  Chinese 30th and 112th Divs are moving southward along Burma Road.  We’ll probably move down to rest camp tomorrow.

 

87th day 10 Feb 45

We moved from Ho-Naw to valley for the rest.  Received Christmas packages from air drop.

 

88th day 11 Feb 45

Gen Sultan reviewed our battalion today and praised us for our outstanding arty support for the Inf.  Lt. Ryan received Bronze Star.

 

89th day 12 Feb 45

Still resting as they call it, cleaning guns and equipment, grazing mules, and so on.  May see a movie tonight.

 

90th day 13 Feb 45

Saw our first movie “Coney Island” in 3 mos.  The first phase of our campaign is over, we are now resting in the wonderful beautiful rice paddies SE of Nawhkam.  Our next phase is the taking of Lashio, which will probably end our fighting here in Burma.  I’ll resume this diary at start of Lashio mission.  “End of 1st phase”

 

Phase II

 

110th day 5 Mar 45

Ho-Si Valley today, covered 13½ miles, destination is KutKai, C47 strip, possible move next according to rumor is China.  Sure hope so.

 

111th day 6 Mar 45

Made Kukai today, covered 11½ miles of mountain trails.  Very rough going.

 

112th day 7 Mar 45

Covered 6 miles today.  Received mail.  Tomorrow is last day of march.  Hseniwi is destination.  New Bn Co, Col Dupuy, a west pointer.

 

118th day 11 Mar 45

Arrived in bivouac SW of Hseniwi, semi-permanent camp.  We’ll set her for a while.

 

122d day 17 Mar 45

Still in garrison set up.  Possible movement to China as motorized heavy arty, sure hope so

 

127th day 22 Mar 45

Breaking camp at Hseniwi, preparing to leave for Lashio our last stop here in Burma.

 

128th day 23 Mar 45

Left for Lashio, time of departure 1600, passed through Hseniwi, which was in a pitiful state of ruin.  Reached bivouac area after marching about 12 miles, bivouacked at 2130 hrs.

 

129th day 24 Mar 45

Left bivouac at 1600 hrs covered 17 miles on Burma Road.  Bivouacked at 2300 hrs.  One more night march to destination.

 

130th day 25 Mar 45

Reached camp at 2130 hrs.  Semi permanent camp to be set up.

 

133d day 27 Mar 45

Semi permanent camp now established on S bank of Wun Tua river approx. 8 miles north of Lashio.  Broke camp at approximately 1400 and left for Lashio air strip to hop a plane to China.  We arrived in city of Lashio and put some overnight tents up so we could sleep under some shelter in case it should rain.  We’re supposed to catch a couple of planes tomorrow.  Broke camp at approx. 0800 and preparing to take a truck ride or walk to the strip.  Left bivouac at approx. 0900 and rode to strip.  All we did practically all day was to load and weigh equipment.  Supposed to catch a plane today I hope. Well we finally took off on a C47 to China.  We arrived in China approx. 2 hours after taking off from Lashio.  I can just imagine how long it would take if we were to hike it.  It’s a wonder that they didn’t have us hike it.  We arrived in Kunming, China at about 1800 hrs and the place looks a little cleaner than Burma.  We arrived in a sort of semi garrison camp, and of all we getting sun tans, I can’t make this outfit out, at all.  One day we’re a bunch of dirty old fatigue wearers then a bunch of rear echelon cowboys.  Well live and learn.

 

The end for a while anyway.

Hope no more combat.

© George P. Haupin 2012