In His Words: The War Memoir


          My father graduated from Bloomfield High School at the end of 1942, about one-half year earlier than the rest of his class.  From what Dad told me many years ago, it had been my grandfather’s plan to have his son safely enrolled in an undergraduate program at Cornell University before he was called by the Draft Board for active service in the War.  This definitely did not sit well with my father, who played the obedient son for exactly one semester before he left college to enlist as a private in the United States Army.  His father must have been disappointed and worried, but he was still very proud of his son.  There was just one major hurdle to overcome in becoming a soldier, and that was the hearing exam.  As an infant, George was afflicted with a bad case of scarlet fever which made him deaf in his right ear.  Fortunately, the doctor who gave him the exam did not notice that he cupped his good ear twice and George passed the exam.  Of course, I think it very possible the doctor was fully aware of this subterfuge, and decided to overlook it.  Whatever the case, George was now in the Army.  Being a college student, he could have been an officer if he’d been willing wait a little bit longer.  But he didn’t want the war to be over before he made his own personal contribution for his country… 

Memories of a Marsman

George W. Haupin-42001476

612th Field Artillery Battalion

Mule Pack Artillery 

            When I got home at the end of the semester from Cornell in May 1943, I couldn’t wait to go into the Service.  That’s why I went down to the Draft Board to waive my college deferment.  In those days, every able-bodied fellow wanted to help in the war effort.  The quotas were filled for June, but on July 23rd I went by train to Fort Dix and was there only one or two weeks. During that time, I was processed as a Private and we all received our uniform allotments and duffel bags with our names stenciled on them.  Then we were loaded on the train for the long train ride to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  As soon as we debarked, we were trucked into the camp and immediately lined up on a parade ground in the blistering heat to be assigned to our barracks.  I passed out from the heat for it was so intense.  I sagged like a sack of potatoes, and I don’t remember where I woke up, but it wasn’t on the field.  I did get to the barracks and was assigned a bed and a foot locker.

            We received our Basic Training for eighteen weeks.  We were on the parade ground at 6 AM doing physical fitness exercises and calisthenics, and then we spent the weeks learning how to drive prime movers, open tanks with caissons, marching, and learning the nomenclature of the equipment.   We were taught how to clean and fire carbines, machine guns, and cannons, and went out on bivouacs. 

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            To be selected for Fort Bragg, you had to be 6 feet tall and weigh 200 pounds to be trained for the 200 millimeter Howitzer, which was the biggest artillery piece in the service.  Its firing range was over 20 miles so we thought they’d be used along the coastline of England.

            They had recreation halls on the base where I’d write letters and play the piano.  I’d write letters on my bunk, too, and my friends and I would go into the USO in Fayetteville on passes, and also to have our pictures taken.  One weekend in October, I got a weekend pass and went home.  I left at Saturday noon and got home 2 AM on Sunday and visited with my folks for two and a half hours and then got on the train again to start back.  I got back at 10 AM Monday morning.  Ten or fifteen of us were called in to the Captain.  He knew we were beyond the 50-mile limit, but he knew our train delay was due to a train wreck on the tracks ahead of us, and the circumstances were beyond our control so he was very nice. 

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     A picture of George during the brief weekend visit in October, 1943.

       In December when Basic Training was about over, I got all of my dental work done in one day, from 8:30 AM to 9 PM at night.  Because of this, I developed a very high temperature and had to be in the Dispensary Hospital for a few days.  I even tried to shake the thermometer down so I could get out, but when I was released, I discovered my unit had been shipped to Camp Bowie, Texas, eventually to go to a tank unit with the artillery on tanks in Italy.

            So I was one of the ones shipped to Camp Gruber in Muskogee, Oklahoma. One Sunday, when some friends and I visited Tulsa on a pass, a car stopped by us, and the family invited us to church which we thought was nice.  After that, we hitchhiked back to camp.

            At Camp Gruber, we did physical fitness and awaited a mule shipment from Fort Riley, Kansas.  All the mules came in a big train.  All of us were city people with no knowledge of mules so we weren’t sure what to expect. The train came along the ramp.  An ambulance was there, too.  Each guy got a piece of one inch rope with a clip on one end, and when it was our turn we’d peer into the boxcar and slip the rope on to the halter of a mule.  Then the handlers would open the gate, and as best as we could, we would walk the mules a half-mile after the ramp to the stables.  My mule was ok, but a lot of the group spent a long time chasing the mules that got away all over the camp.  A lot of them were spooked, so we all had to help out with the mules to get them all in their barns.  We got emotionally attached to them, but not right away.

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 A picture of George and two of his "pals".  While at Camp Gruber, he wrote of receiving a painful kick in his backside while he was bent over, inspecting a damaged mule hoof.  Fortunately, that his only reported mishap with the mules.

           Our days were spent with the mules.  We walked them with our saddles, and rode bareback.  Eventually, we got the gun saddles and loads on them, which was a two-man job.  We would walk along each side of the mule and hope we wouldn’t get kicked.

            We also received training with 75 millimeter Howitzers, the smallest artillery piece in the service.  So I went from learning about the largest artillery to the smallest.   We were there for most of December ’43, until we had to pack our mules in railroad cars for Camp Carson, which was quite a job 

            By the end of December, ’43, we were sent to Camp Carson, at Colorado Springs in Colorado.  Colorado is still my favorite state.  Denver was about 80 miles away, and some friends from camp and I visited the natural wonders there, in the Manitou section of Colorado, the Cave of the Winds, and the Garden of the Gods, which were great to see.

            Camp Carson was the camp for the 612th and 613th Field Artillery, and our Batteries had their official picture taken there. It was big camp and had a Rec Room, to write letters home and again there was a piano there which I played.

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A photograph from the Camp Carson souvenir booklet George sent home to his parents.  In this picture, he showed how a 75 mm. howitzer could be broken down and carried by a team of mules.  It took 8 mules to carry the parts and some ammunition for each gun.

            We really learned how to be mule packers and practiced leading the mules as well as learning how to care for them with brushing and grooming.   The Vets were there, too.  We practiced going out of camp with the mules for whole weeks at a time.  We slept in sleeping bags in the snow at high altitudes in the Cheyenne Mountains.  It was so cold that I kept my boots in my sleeping bags or else they were like rocks.  You could see Pike’s Peak in the distance.

            My mule was MO22, so I called him Mo.  He was a good mule, and I liked him.

            I heard that they were asking for volunteers to be BAR men.  The Browning Automatic Rifle was heavy.  It weighed twenty pounds, but I wouldn’t have to lead a mule.  I’d be more independent.  The BAR was used for the outer periphery guarding of artillery units and the bullets were 3 ½ inches long and there were twenty in a clip.  We carried twenty clips weighing 20 pounds, plus our pack containing a mess kit, shelter half, spare clothes, socks, blanket, jacket and poncho, all weighing about 40 pounds.  Incidentally, we wore army belts with canvas leggings, GI underwear, khaki fatigues, and a khaki hat with a peak and a metal helmet.  So a BAR man had to carry a lot of weight, about 80 pounds.

            The BAR was vey complicated and it had to be cleaned and oiled.  There was regular set of steps to keep it in top form.

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At Camp Carson and elsewhere, training missions were always called "problems."  Here, the men are waiting in line for food.  George is the second man from the right.

             By June 15th, we had some idea of where we were going, but were not sure.  I wrote a letter home to my folks telling them that the previous day was spent in loading equipment on freight cars and that we were given a speech by the Colonel complimenting us in our development as a fighting unit.  The Chaplain prayed for our safety in our ventures, and the Major said, “Good luck, men, and may you have good health, clear sailing, and good hunting.”  We felt very patriotic, all of us.

            The next two weeks, according to my letters, were days of waiting to be transported.  On the 17th of June, we rode our mules and gave them haircuts, and on the 18th, we loaded them on the freight trains.  It was easier to load them than when we left Gruber, but they were still quite frisky.  They went with two Batteries to New Orleans to be shipped around Africa to India.  Some of our buddies travelled with the mules and all the vets did.   We weren’t allowed to write home for two weeks but could receive mail.  It was hot, and on the 26th of June, a 26-mile hike was planned to the top of Cheyenne Mountain to keep us physically fit.  During that time went to two USO dances for they [the commanders] were easy on us as the mules and Howitzers had left.

            I gave a class to my section on BAR, instructing them in nomenclature, assembling and disassembling the gun. I enjoyed doing it and they seemed to understand.  It was important that they knew how to operate it in case anything happened to me.

            It was a hot hike to the top of the Cheyenne Mountain, but we cooled our feet in a refreshing clear mountain stream, and ate peanut butter sandwiches the cook had prepared for us.  That was some change from putting our boots in our sleeping bags a few months before.

            On July 4th, we had a 20-mile hike, which we did in four hours, and on the next Saturday, our orderly room was to be packed up and shipped, and then we knew that we were headed out soon after.

            All the rest of us were shipped to the West Coast to Camp Anza in California.  It was in the desert and was really hot.  It was a big camp and the food was really good.  Censorship of letters was started but I was able to write home to say I arrived safely at my destination.

            We were trained on gas attacks and would sit in a building with our gas masks on.  They were trying to prepare us for overseas.

            My friends and I palled around (five-ten of us) and went to the USO’s in Riverside and San Bernardino, and I sent my folks a postcard from Riverside so they knew what coast I was on.

            On July 23rd, we went by train to Los Angeles to the Dock, and we boarded the General H.W. Butner, a troopship which held 6000 troops, a huge ship.  We slept in four tiers of hammocks and it was crowded.  Our duffel bags were on the hammocks, too.  We went to the Mess Hall to eat, a cafeteria, and we ate standing up.  The officers ate in style. We could look into the portholes of their dining room and could see them being served on tablecloths with linen napkins and silverware.

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A picture of the General H.W. Butner, a newly converted troopship.  Richard F.Bates of the 475th wrote that in addition to the stifling, tightly-packed living conditions, the bathroom facilities included huge urinals that ran from one side of the ship to the other, so that when the ship rocked, it was difficult not to get splashed.

            Some of 612, myself included, served on KP every other day.  The kitchens were so hot we were dripping with perspiration.  Our Colonel volunteered us, but that meant we got a 3rd meal per day.  The rest of the men only ate twice a day.  A friend and I were on garbage detail and we had to put the garbage into a grinder and it spit the particles out of the grinder into the sea.  We disposed of big barrels of the stuff through the grinders that way.

            On board were all the 612th Battalion and the 124th Cavalry.  613 came a month later.

            The waters were beautiful at night.  The phosphorescence of the water made it look like the sky on a clear dark night with all the stars shining.

            We zig-zagged across the Pacific and it took 38 days.   When we first went aboard, the Red Cross gave us sandwiches and punch, a toilet article bag, and cigarettes.  We all smoked by now.   We had short haircuts and I even started a mustache.  During the day we’d sit o the lower decks and looked at the ocean.  We were all sunburned.  Some of the fellows saw 3 whales, and I saw some flying fish.  The ocean was calm with light blue water and was picturesque.  One guy played his accordion, and I had my harmonica.  We played cards.

            After our stop at Melbourne, Australia (we couldn’t get off the ship because on a previous stop some personnel had jumped ship), we were escorted by destroyers.  At the Equator, the air and sun were stifling and the nights were bad below decks for they had to close all the ports and openings at night to seal off the lights.  The majority of fellow had heat rashes, including me.  We were all given a card when we passed the International Date Line that we were members of the “Silent Mysteries of the Far East.”  We had salt water showers, but the soap wouldn’t lather.  Incidentally, I me Carl Rowe on the ship.  He was in the Cavalry and we had been in Sunday School in Bloomfield.

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I wrote a long letter home over the month on the ship, and by August 9th I still was not seasick.  I really missed home, and it was so comforting to think of my mom and dad there with my sisters Lu and Jean and baby Barbara.  Jean and Barbara were at home for my brother-in-law was fighting in France.  I wrote on note paper with a pencil.  I had decided I’d like a hunting knife to be sent to my APO# if possible.  That letter was mailed August 27th when we reached port.  There, I got 8 letters from home and some papers from Aunt Kate.

            Our port was, of course, Bombay, and we docked there August 26th.  We stayed there on ship for three days but could get passes to sightsee.   We went to British-owned Green Hotel and got cold drinks in the restaurant there, lemon-lime, and they were delicious.   We went sightseeing and saw temples where we had to take off our shoes before we entered.  I have some photos of those.  We were invited to some homes of Anglo-Indians to meet their families.

            At the end of August ’44, we were transported by truck to the Indian narrow gauge railroad train and travelled on it three or four days right across two-thirds of the middle of India leaving from Bombay.  It was a slow train with open windows.  It had benches on both sides of the cars on which we sat facing each other.  There were lots of flies and we went through so many dirty and smelly little villages.  When we stopped, the people would crowd to the trains, and we could buy bananas from them.  We ate Army K and C rations the whole trip, and bathroom facilities consisted of one car with a hole in the floor and you could see the tracks underneath.  The people were so poor, and their living conditions so primitive, and India was so hot and humid.

            On September 2nd, we reached Camp.  We had to train to get conditioned to the climate of India.  We weren’t there very long.  It was flat terrain.  From a letter home, “While I was in India, we stayed at a camp by the name of Ramgahr.  I was very disillusioned with India, for all the people are so poverty-stricken and poor that it makes me sick to think about it.  I also got a chance to see Bombay.  There are some very beautiful buildings there, and we were able to get some very good food at Chinese restaurants there.”

            We went from Ramgahr to Dinjan by train in Assam Province and met the Merrill’s Marauders at a rest came there.  They had been chased out of Burma by the Japanese. They had been trying very hard to keep the Burma Road open.  There was a cemetery here for the men killed fighting in the Battle of Myitkyina, a fierce one.  My friend Frank Nagrocki found the grave of a neighbor from Pittsburgh.

            It’s hard to say where we were when we got an idea of what we were going to do.  We knew, of course, that we were going to fight the Japanese.  We followed orders.  Basically, we were to be Phase 2 of the campaign that Merrill’s Marauders had so bravely just carried out in the Battle of Myitkinya, pushing the Japanese south of the city.  Previously, the Japanese had control of Burma, blocking all supplies on the Burma Road to the Chinese divisions General Stilwell commanded, assisting the British troops.  As Lord Mountbatten told us after our campaign was over, he had asked FDR for a task force to open the Ledo Road to the Burma Road to get the supplies through and push the enemy back.  The air flights “over the Hump” (Himalayas) were not enough to sustain the British and Chinese troops.  So the Mars Task Force was created, and we were part of it.  The Battle of Myitkyna had huge casualities:

                        American KIA – 272              WIA – 972

                        Chinese KIA – 972                 WIA – 3184

                        Japanese KIA – 3000-4000

                                                                        Source:  Burman News, May ‘94

            So many Merrill’s Marauders had to be shipped home, due to being wounded or being sick from malaria, typhus, typhoid, dysentery, tuberculosis, cholera and other diseases.  Disease was a deadly enemy, too.  The Merrill’s Marauders who were left became the 475th Infantry with some new replacements, and we in 612FA backed them up.  Our 613FA backed up the 124th Cavalry Regiment, and all of use made up the Mars Task Force.  Our mission, and I’m quoting from Marsmen in Burma, by John Randolph, was “to circle around and behind the Japanese lines through Burma jungles and over high mountains” to “finally open the Stillwell Road (the Burma Road) and push the enemy out.”

            There were tents at Dinjan, and we used our messkits. While there, according to letters home, I did some laundry, 6 undershirts, 4 shorts, 4 towels, 1 pair of fatigues, leggings, and suntans, and told my mother I could help her out when I got home.  I wished her a belated happy birthday and asked if they could send some candy and my swimming trunks.

            After Dinjan, we were loaded upon windowless transport planes and we flew over the Hump, and in just a few hours we landed in Myitkinya in Burma.  We had to take our overcoats and suntan uniforms and put them in a pile to lighten our loads by the airstrip clearing.  Then they lined us up and we marched 15 miles to the Irrawaddy River, which was designated as Camp Landis, although no vegetation had been removed.

            For a number of days, we’d line up in a big line and were issued machetes and we’d chop away at the brush and walk from one side of the camp area to the other.  This took several days.  We cleared the underbrush away and some of the trees.  The elephants helped in stump removal.  We would work a half-day and stop at noon for the heat was intense.  We had the afternoon to ourselves.  Showers were set up and tents were set up for the kitchen.  There was a Medic tent and a tent for the Commander.  I was in a tent with five other men and we had cots.  It was still part of the monsoon time so it was rainy, although it was ending.  We had to hear our campaign for the winter months when the weather would be more stable.

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 An aerial view of Camp Landis.

           We began to put atabrine tablets in our water canteens to fight off malaria.  We were cautioned that in Burma there were many things to watch out for, animals, disease, bugs, and we were now near the combat zone.  Our captains saw several snipers in the jungle.

            We went on hikes to get back into condition after our travelling and practiced hacking our way through dense jungle and tall grasses.  I saw a lot of Japanese entrenchments, fox-holes, and bamboo huts in the jungle near where our camp was, and one fellow found a Japanese 25 caliber rifle with a bayonet.  It was 5 ½ feet long and very accurate, which contradicted those saying about the enemy having inferior weapons to ours.  I also talked to many of the famed Merrill’s Marauders and they also said the Japanese were very much underrated as fighters.  All those fellows saw a lot of action, and many were now broken down due to disease and the very difficult time they had.

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George holds his BAR(Browning Automatic Rifle) while at Camp Landis.  This gun combined the rapid fire of a Thompson sub machine gun with the long range and accuracy of an M-1 carbine.  However, it was heavy to carry over long distances and prone to jam up if it was not cleaned and oiled regularly.

            I sent a clipping home about how many Hollywood performers wouldn’t come to the CBI area.  They couldn’t hack it.  We had electric lights in the camp by now, for we had brought a generator.  In a letter I wrote home I described the Burmese people, strong, wiry, and small.  The Kachins had been headhunters until the missionaries had come, but they liked Americans and hated the Japanese.

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A picture of two of the local inhabitants.   On the back of the photograph, George wrote "Some of the Shan People--rather ragged looking aren't they?  That's a clump of bamboo in the background."

            We had no fears.  It was one for all, and all for one.  We were young and on an adventure.  Another thing, in our outfit, no one was a “leaner” on others.  We all seemed to have a strong interdependence which we exhibited in our day-to-day life.  But we were all supportive of each other.  Each one was expected to fulfill his responsibilities.

            Our camp began to look like a real camp and the winter brought cooler and darker evenings.  I met Carl Rowe again, my Bloomfield friend.

            By the end of October, I was on guard with a full Burmese moon overhead, and the next day was a beautiful day, as I noted in a letter home.  My mom had just written that she was praying to the Lord to keep me safe, and I told her He was, for the other night I had a chance to test Him out.

            I think I was referring to this incident.  Our camp was located higher than the Irrawaddy River, thirty to forty feet above the river.  Trees were growing out the side of the river bank.  We had an alert that the Japanese were going to cross the river and sneak up on our camp site.  So we were all crouched down with our rifles and me with my BAR.  Imagination made us think we heard water dripping out of the trees.  That night seemed to be multiple hours.  Then our lieutenant fired his Thompson sub machine gun at a tree, but no one fell out.  So we realized no one had crossed over.  We went back to our tents.

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In this picture taken at Camp Landis, a class in the use of bamboo is in progress.  In one of his letters, George commented that bamboo is so versatile that one could make it into almost anything.

            At Camp Gruber and Camp Carson, we had a very good baker.  He had a bakery back home and his wife was still running it back there.  He was 38 and had varicose veins and his legs gave out so he was flown out of Burma and reassigned because he couldn’t make our campaign.  He was such a great baker and we really missed him.

            We knew we were waiting for conditions to be just right for our campaign, so we bided our time.  On November 11th, I informed my folks I was now a PFC and told them not to be alarmed if they didn’t hear from me for a while but that our Battalion would send two letters a month to assure them of my health, and the next day I sent another telling them that their letters meant so much to me.  I’m so glad I wasn’t married then.  A lot of the fellows were and really missed their wives.

            We were at Camp Landis until November 17th, 1944 and then we moved out with our mules and pack artillery to march on the Ledo-Burma Road.  We passed Dr. Gordon Segrave’s Field Hospital (The Burma Surgeon) and his nurses waved to us.  Dr. Segraves had been driven from his hospital in Nawhkam and marched out of Burma with Stillwell’s troops before the Battle of Myitkinya.  What I didn’t know then was that the Japanese had taken over his hospital as their Burma command post.   Dr. Segraves was in charge of all the field hospitals for the American and Chinese armies in the area.

            We ferried over a river on rafts than moved off the Burma Road to make our way to our destination over rough terrain and treacherous mountain ridges and jungle trails.  By the 3rd of December we had walked 195 miles.  Near Bhamo I saw a Japanese head hanging on a tree branch.  The Chinese troops had done that.  I took a picture to send home but the censors removed it from the letter.  We saw 5-20 dead Japanese bodies floating in the river by Bhamo whom the Chinese had killed.  Mostly troops buried bodies for we did see Japanese graves by the side of the trail.  Some of our officers found Japanese flags.  Also near Bhamo, we passed a Buddhist temple and a school house which had been burned by the Japanese and completely ruined.  I found a small carved wooden Buddha which I carried in my knapsack the whole trip.

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            Some days we marched for twelve hours straight.  The mountains were very steep and we had to zig-zag up and down the mountains—up to 6000 feet and then down to 4000 feet for they were too steep to go all the way up.  And there were so many.  Our mules were right along with us.  These Himalayan mountains were treacherous climbs for both men and mules.  We would sleep by the side of the trails with two blankets and a poncho.  We ate army rations and had no fires at night.  We had to be so careful of our feet, for we had to walk through streams and it was easy to get sand or stones in our boots.  One fellow cut slits in his boots for the pebbles to come out and ended up with contaminated feet and jungle rot and had to be evacuated. 

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George wrote "Ten-minute break" on the back of this photograph.  The wheels for the howitzers can be seen here, packed on the mules.

            We walked all through December until the middle of January and had Gurka and Kachins as guides.  We ate our Christmas dinner in our helmets but it was all mush so I threw it away.  We were air-dropped our supplies and ammo and each drop had a different identifying color.  Periodically, we had mail drops, which were wonderful and I got mail from home, which was very welcome.  On December 29th, I got 16 boxes of Christmas presents and 40 letters.  I was so happy.  I was so glad to have new clean socks and a new T shirt.  I shared all my cookies and food with my outfit.  I also got the knife I had asked for.

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George wrote "This is my section:  L-R - Kunes, Griffin, Oullette, Butcher, Myself and Bahr.  Notice the beard I had there."   Also to be seen are the two pack saddles on the left.

            On Sundays we had services, even along the trail and on December 31st I sent off a letter in a mail sack in which I told my folks I had given thanks to the Lord for protecting me for the last month and a half.

            After nearly 2 months of no rain, we got a lot of it while working our way on mountain trails.  The next day, we bivouacked on a rice paddy and Walter Bahr and I used our ponchos and rigged a tent, but the ponchos filled up with water and we both got soaked in the morning.  We had a good laugh over that… Walter Bahr was my assistant BAR man (he carried the ammo) so he and I didn’t have to lead the mules, but the rest did.  We all had to repack and saddle the mules.

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In a letter to his parents, George wrote, "This is your son "Georgie" and Walter Bahr.  We're digging a Latrine--No punishment either!!"  In a 1992 letter to George from buddy Frank Nagrocki, Frank wrote that he had this picture "of you and Bahr doing extra duty digging a slit trench.  I have to laugh when I look at it because I remember it well, though I don't remember why you two got the extra duty.  It was when we were down in the Hosi Valley after we came off the mountain."   Whatever the reason, George and Walter don't look very happy here.  George is sticking his tongue out at the laughing onlookers. 

            About this time, we had some replacement soldiers sent in to make up for the men who had to be evacuated for disease.  Charles Attwood came to 612 and we became friends.  Attwood was a farm boy from Kansas and was married.  His father-in-law was building a farmhouse for them (he and his wife) while he was overseas.  He kidded me about the dull edge of my knife and sharpened it for me.

            I got tired of the rations and only kept the chocolate bar.  I swapped the rest of my food for the other fellows’ bars.  For a while, that’s all I ate.  I’d scrape the bars with my knife and melt the bits in hot water in my canteen cup, and since they were fortified by all types of vitamins, they kept me going.  Most of the time, though, I just ate them since we had no fires.

            We had a sense of humor and we all got along.  The Lieutenants had maps and they’d tell us at the end of the day how much we had walked.  It was measurement as the crow flies, but would not account for the going up 4000 feet up one mountain, then down to 2000 feet, and next up to 6000 feet on another mountain.  There would be valleys in between.  I threw away my helmet and my BAR bipod.  Anything to lighten the load.  We hacked through the jungle and forded more streams.  I was carrying my BAR, my ammo pack (when Bahr wasn’t carrying it) my pack, and we wore GI shoes, leggings, olive drab pants, undershorts, under and outer shirt, and olive drab hats.  Occasionally the men would lose a mule down a ravine because the mountains were so steep.  That was rough.

            By the middle of January, and after marching several hundreds of miles through all kinds of conditions, we were nearing our destination of Nawhkam, still a Japanese stronghold.  The Japanese had no idea that we were near and we had to keep it that way.  We bivouacked and picked up an air drop of three days of rations and marched all day and night over the Loi Kung Mountain Range and took the hill left of Nawhkam which was deserted.  It was a thirty hour hike up steep hills and mountain sides in the dark.  We would walk for a while and then rest 10 minutes in place.  The way was slippery and I was up at the head of the column for BAR men were needed for protection and fire power.  To add to the eeriness of the night, we had to walk though a burning Burmese village set afire by the Ghurkas and Kachins.  The villagers were Shans who were sympathetic to the Japanese and informers, too.  They escaped.

            About 3 AM we reached the ridge above Nawhkam, facing a valley below and a ridge opposing us where the Japanese were entrenched.  Beyond them was the Burma Road.

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"Our gun position facing over the slope occupied by the 475th.  Ridge opposite held by the Japanese."  It is important to note that the carefully-hidden 150 mm. artillery guns of the Japanese had over twice the range of these 75 mm. howitzers.  The men of the 612th batteries had to maintain their bombardment while under devastating bombardment, themselves.  Richard F. Bates of the 475th, who was fighting in the valley below later wrote that when he turned back to look at the hillside, he could see that the 612th was taking a "terrific pounding."

            We established our ridge camp immediately and it covered a five mile area of ridge overlooking the Japanese held opposing ridge with our 612th and 613th backing up 475 below 612 on the mountain slope, and 124 below 613.  There were 4 gun sections in Battery A, 4 in B and in C of 612 and 613, so there were 24 Howitzers in total aimed at the Japanese ridge.  Each artillery piece had required 4 mules to carry its sections.  I was the BAR man for gun section 4. (612), and there were 23 other BAR men for the other Howitzers.  If the Japanese stormed the ridge, the BAR men would be defending each of the gun sections.  Our mission for 612 and 613 would be to provide artillery fire against the Japanese held ridge to allow 475 and 124 to free the valley and mountainsides of the Japanese army.  (Their fine work was well detailed by John Randolph in Marsmen in Burma.)  Through all the efforts of the combined divisions of the Mars Task Force, we hoped to drive the Japanese away.

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            We were told by our officers where to dig our foxholes.  They laid out our battlefield and the Japanese didn’t know we were there.  We had no lights but got ready for our first attack.  After our surprise 6 AM morning offensive on January 17th, Tokyo Rose thought we had been parachuted into position because it seemed impossible that we did what we did.  The officers picked Tokyo Rose’s program up in the Radio Control tents.  We really surprised them.  I had the last foxhole on the ridge.  Ours was the only BAR facing the woods, so we strung some string with cans on it to alert us if anyone came that way.  Our ridge was only 4000 yards from the front lines.

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Lowell West, another BAR man, stands guard at one of the camp outposts.  The foxhole beside him was the only protection to be afforded from the flying shrapnel from incoming artillery shells.  The men would be paired up in each foxhole so that one could stand guard while the other slept.  Typically, both men would need to be fully awake before dawn, because that was the most likely time of Japanese banzai attacks.

            We had a good view of our P-47s strafing the Japanese position.  We were firing night and day.  Shrapnel whizzed past us, too, so we stayed in our foxholes between bombardments.  We used a lot of ammo.

            We were on that ridge in place for sixteen days firing night and day.  The Japanese were very accurate in their firing.  One gun we called Whistling Willie because when the shells came over, we’d hear a boom and then a whistling of shells.  When they’d come over, we’d hear the bamboo break near us.

            612 and 613 had casualties.  Men were hit by mortar fire for bringing ammo off the drop field, and on January 16th, the 10th day of our position on the ridge, Attwood of our 4th section was killed and received a piece of shrapnel in his back.  He was just coming from the wooded area behind our foxhole.  There was a mountain spring back there although I never saw it.  He had just taken a shower.  We all called to him to get down for he was standing up—and then the shrapnel hit him.  I was the first one to get to him.  He was lying face down and every time he took a breath, blood gushed out from the gash up along his backbone from his waist.  He died right away.  There was no way that anyone could save him.  He was buried the next morning in a poncho in the Regiment Graveyard in the valley.  He was the 20th man buried there.  We had more casualties, too.  Our artillery men manning the guns had to stand up to the load and fire the guns before returning quickly to their foxholes.  No one complained.  One of our Howitzers blew up.  Gun #1 on January 21st.  A shell got jammed while they were returning fire.  One man was killed and 4 wounded.  I knew them all.  The Japanese opened upon on us for the 17 days we were on that hill.  Another Battery, B or C had three direct hits on one of their Howitzers.

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"Sgt. Gianchunna--Chief of 1st Section.  When 1st Section's guns blew up in combat, he had three fingers blown off, besides metal fragments in his leg.  This picture was taken in the gun position where the Japs really blew the 'Hell' out of our Battery."  Also severely injured were Cpl Lester Holewinski, Benjamin Penn and another man.  Pvt. Bernard Fiscella was killed in the blast.

            In a letter to my folks dated January 28th, two days after Attwood died, I referred to not writing sooner, because “I’ve been so busy running to and from my foxhole that I haven’t had time for other things.  Yes, the Japs have really been zeroing in our position.  I guess I won’t be able to tell you about casualties until I get home.  But that is not such a pleasant thing, anyhow.  As I’m sitting here writing, I’m still in the best of health, and I’m doing my best to keep up my spirits.  By the way, I’ve now seen the Burma Road and am in the Mars Task Force. We’ve done some rough mountain climbing to get to where we are now.”

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The Regiment Cemetery in the valley, where Charles Attwood and many others were buried.  This photograph, taken by Richard F. Bates, appeared in the CBI Roundup in March of 1945.



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            Our U.S troops had liaison planes for the sick and wounded, but the Japanese fired on them when they would land.  They shot down 3 or 4 of them but the crews survived.  These were brave men.

            Many of us kept diaries while we were over there, including me.  Since I cannot find mine yet, I am relying on the fine diary of Cpl. Noel Hughes A/612, which was published in our Mountain Artillery Association Newsletter.  Luckily, our campaign was accurately detailed in his diary from our departure date from Camp Landis on November 17th, the first day of our campaign, to the 91st day when we camped in a rice paddy southeast of Nawhkan.  My friend Attwood was killed on the 72nd day of the campaign about a week before we moved off the hill to a new position in the village of Ho Naw on the 81st day.  During the next few days, the Japanese abandoned the ridge opposite ours and the Chinese troops moved along the Burma Road again.  Our Mars Task Force had succeeded in their mission.  When I reflect now on this, I marvel at the planning behind the campaign.

            One of the things we found out was that the Japanese had their artillery mounted on tracks so they could be readily moved and repositioned.  One thing, they certainly kept them trained on us.

            We had some three weeks of rest in the valley and received mail and had several people come to talk to us, General Sultan praised us for what we did to drive the enemy away.  Lt. Ryan got a Bronze Star, and Lord Louis Mountbatten came to talk to us on February 11th.  He was so impressive, and that was when he told us that he had asked FDR for some good men to help him out, our Mars Task Force.  All of 612, 475, 613, and 124 came to the air strip to hear him speak 

            At that camp in the valley, south of Lashio, we used the multi-colored parachutes for tents.  We saw movies, and I saw my one and only snake when my friends and I were on our way to the movies.  A band came to play for us, too.  On February 25th, I wrote home that things were somewhat easy now, and that I went to church every Sunday for there was so much to be thankful for 

            On March 5th, we were on the march again and there were more mountain trails.  We marched on the Burma Road south to Lashio on our 133rd day March 25th.  There was an airstrip there.   Then we flew March 28th on a C47 to Kunming, China in two hours.  We had to wear oxygen masks for the Himalayas were so high.

            When we landed at Kunming Airport, we Americans were split up in five or six different camps.  There were different assignments for us.  We win 612 dissolved, and some like me flew over the Hump to Kunming and we were trucked to a FY airstrip no longer in use, but had regular army tents along one side of the strip.  This airstrip had been used by Claire Chennalt’s Flying Tigers.  On the other side was a compound surrounded by a high wall.  This was where the Chinese troops were located.  Other American sections were around here, too.  We were given the choice to teach the Chinese in field artillery, infantry, or in truck driving and maintenance.

            I chose truck driving and the first time I ever drove a truck, I looked at the dashboard to see where the gears were, and then I was a truck driver.  I was licensed to drive a Jeep ¼ ton, a weapon carrier ¾ ton, a light truck 1½ ton, and a heavy truck 2½ ton.

            Just about the time we arrived in Kunming, we heard that President Roosevelt had died and we were all very saddened to hear the news.  We thought he was a great president.  We were not so sure about Eleanor.  She said that we should be quarantined for a while because of all the disease we were exposed to.  That didn’t seem like a good idea to us.

            Our camp in Kunming, 600 feet above sea level, was located outside the city and we were given passes to the town.  We were issued different uniforms, Khakis, and we felt we were in a somewhat civilized camp.  It was a field artillery training center.  We had a day room where we could listen to the radio and transcriptions of The Bob Hope Show, Hit Parade, and all of America’s popular radio shows.  We even had barracks with hot water showers.  The kitchen was operated entirely by Chinese cooks and waiters and the food was good but not enough.  All the food had to be flown over the Hump

            In the beginning of training the Chinese (many of them had never seen a truck before) to drive the trucks, we had interpreters, but I began to learn the directions that I needed:

                        1st gear—Dee Dong

                        2nd gear—Dar Dong

                        3rd gear—De San Dong

                        4th gear—De Wu Dong

                        Change Gear—Hwan Dong

                        Good—Ding Hao

                        Bad—Boo Hao

                        So-So—Mama Foo

                        Reverse—I can’t remember that.

                        How are you?—Hao Boo How?

            In the morning we would start out with a convoy of 1 ½ ton trucks, including the truck my students and I had.  I usually didn’t have any interpreter-liaison person.  Ten or twelve students, many of whom were very young kids, rode I the back on benches on both sides with a tarp over the top and the sides open.  I would drive to the road we travelled on with flooded rice paddies on both side about 4-5 feet deep below the road.  The road was a narrow 2-lane road, and it was hard to pass when an oncoming vehicle would approach.  A lot of the traffic consisted of ox-carts.  I would call my drivers up one by one, and we would go through all the gears and they took turns driving.  They never went off the road but we were told to keep one foot on the running board as standard procedure in case we needed to jump out.  The troops were dressed in quilted khaki uniforms and wore sandals.  If their feet were wet and muddy, they put their bare feet on the pedals.

            We had two groups to train.  The soldiers and the officers who were more intelligent and in rank, up to majors and colonels, the elite of Chiang Kai-shek’s officers.  They did not drive the trucks, but I taught them how to drive jeeps.  A lot of them knew English, and had some college training.  I enjoyed the work.  One reason we were teaching these troops was because we were going to give the equipment to Chiang Kai-shek’s army.

            In addition to the training, I also did some guard duty around the camp.  I enjoyed getting my mail and newspapers from home.  One of the packages from home included some Campbell’s vegetable soup and it tasted wonderful.  My buddy and I rigged up a little burner.  All the things sent from home made me, and all of us fellows feel so good when we were thousands of miles away.  I wrote home proudly about getting a Good Conduct ribbon and my Asiatic Pacific Theater ribbon with two stars, and became a Corporal, CPL.  I asked my folks to send back my camera that I sent home before our campaign.  My mom sent me a four-leaf clover, which was nice, along with some gumdrops and treats like peanuts. I thought about home so much.  I missed my mom’s flowers  I told her that I had sat on cacti in Burma and had seen wild orchids there.

            After the truck training, I was assigned to a motor pool in Kunming and would drive our men into Kunming from the barracks for some visits.  Also, I could take my duffle bag and would get my jeep to visit my friends.  One time, I picked up two buddies, Leeper and Bahr (my foxhole partner) and we went swimming in a lake about 30 miles away.

            I also enjoyed going into Kunming.  I wrote my sister that the restaurants there looked like the swinging-door saloons in Western movies, but the meals were fairly good.  However, because of poor sanitary conditions, cases of cholera and bubonic plague scared us from eating there.  I got some pictures developed there and sent them home.  There were rickshaws and shops and temples, a regular China town.

            By May 8th, we heard about the peace pact between Germany and the Allies, and on May 29th remarked in a letter about the Air Force’s bombing of Japan.  By August 7th, we heard that the U.S. Air Force had an atomic bomb.

            On August 13th, we heard that the Japanese had surrendered and then found it wasn’t true, but on August 14th, we heard that the Japanese surrendered at 2:35 PM.  We all hoped we would be home by Christmas.  By August 19th, we all received notice that the war was finally over.

            By September 26th, I worked at the American Operation Center where the GI’s came to be processed and I drove them to the airport to head for home.  I had to wear a .45 automatic pistol because a previous truck had been hijacked by the Communist Chinese troops. 

            While I’d be sitting in the motor pool office, I was totaling up my points.  You could go home if you had 60 points.  At that time, I had 55 points.  By October 3rd, I had received 2 battle stars for China, thus bringing me up to 60 points. I felt so lucky to have been part of the lucky 35% of our A Battery who survived without being sick or wounded.  65% of us were casualties due to being wounded or ill with disease and dysentery. 

            Kunming was now a hot place.  The Chinese troops and the Communists were starting a revolution between themselves and our barracks were awakened at 5 AM with Chinese troops shooting and bullets ricocheting all over town.  All American personnel had been taken out of Kunming.   The town was off limits.  The U.S. Government had 60 transport planes at the airport in case of evacuation.  When I went out on detail that afternoon, I saw American guards along the road to stop Chinese troops from trying to take over our supplies and warehouses at the entrance of our camp.  There was a machine gun set up.  Several GI’s were hit by stray bullets.

            By September 20th we were all waiting for official orders and we were sweating it out as to where we could go.

            By November 11th, I wrote home that I was in Camp Kalaikunda, India.  We had been flown out (3rd plane ride) about October 28th from China.  This camp was 90 miles from Calcutta, and there were 4000 men there for the past 2 weeks.  Some of the boats intended for us had to go to Shanghai to evacuate all American personnel from there.  The Chinese Communist army was having clashes with Chiang’s forces.  They had 8000 troops in the vicinity of Shanghai ready to start trouble, anytime.  They were squabbling over American equipment, which we turned over to Chiang’s army, and the Communists wanted some.  At that camp they fed us well, and I added a few pounds to my 160 that I then weighed.  They had tubs of peanut butter there and we all snacked.

            Finally, we were loaded onto our troop ship (probably [one like] the General Butner)  and we headed for the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden.  I was on deck and saw the sand dunes along the side of the Canal and saw camels.  When we were in the Atlantic Ocean, we were hit by a winter ocean and the waves pounded the ship so much that the bow split open, but we didn’t worry about the ship falling apart.  On Christmas Day, we had a special dinner, but people were leaving the mess hall to get sick.  I was supposed to be on mop up detail but I was sick, too, and stayed in my hammock.  My buddies asked, “Where were you?”  They were really seasick, too.

            It was so exciting coming through New York Harbor.  The tugboats were blowing up sprays of water, and all the horns were blowing.  There was such a friendly atmosphere in greeting us at New York Harbor.

            So, my duffle bag and I arrived in Ft. Monmouth on January 6th, and it was so good to be home.  On January 8th, I was officially separated, and my mom and dad picked me up and we all went out to dinner on the way home.  They had left the Christmas tree up, and I was home for Christmas, after all!

            This whole 2 ½ year period was a very important part of my life, and I often think back on it.  I count myself fortunate that I was associated with such fine fighting men, and I have so enjoyed reading my newsletters from The Mountain Artillery Association and The Burman News.  My wife and I enjoyed the two Mars Task Force Reunions we attended and hope to go again this year

            I also feel so fortunate to have had such a good life since my separation from the service.  My dreams came true when I met my wife Betty and we have been happily married for almost 48 years.  During that time we had three sons and a daughter, all of whom are happily married.  We have ten delightful grandchildren with another one on the way.  I am lucky to have worked as an industrial engineer, a job which I thoroughly enjoyed.  My wonderful wife, a retired teacher, worked with me for many months on this CBI story and read through every letter I sent home to find information to supplement and augment my memories.  We felt it very important to tell our children and grandchildren about the Marsmen in the CBI area.

            We were both so surprised to learn that after the Japanese had driven Stillwell’s army out of Burma with Dr. Segraves, they had taken over Dr. Segrave’s mountain hospital as a command post.  After our American campaign and those intensive weeks of Mars Task Force action [against] the opposing ridge, the Japanese were driven away from there, and by the spring of 1945, Dr. Segraves had returned to rebuild his battered hospital with help from the Americans, Chinese, and his neighboring villages in Burma.  Dr. Segraves details these experiences in Burma Surgeon returns and My Hospital in the Hills.  My wife and I spent some time this spring reading those books.

            To complete this account, I relied on my memory, my letters, maps in Marsmen in Burma and Dr. Segraves’ books, as well as the diary of Cpl. Noel Hughes.


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© George P. Haupin 2012