LAZY DAYS ON LEYTE

   Bob Mosley Recalls Living on Leyte, Philippine Islands-Awaiting Airplanes        

My memory of fox holes existing takes me back to WW ll in the Pacific during the time in late 1944 on Leyte when I was among the group of pilots waiting for our planes to arrive from New Guinea.  Our 3rd Attack group sent some of us newer pilots up to Leyte on an LST about a month after Mac Arthur's invasion of the Philippines in 1944. That was done so we would be ready to conduct combat flight operations when construction battalions got the airstrip, they were building for us on Leyte, ready to receive our airplanes.  I had saved two Cokes from New Guinea during my trip to Leyte, Philippines.  After arriving on Leyte and getting our tents set up we found there was no water to shower with.  So I dug a shallow well for a source of water to wash our bodies and our dirty clothes with.  To get the Cokes cool I put them into the well.  On a hot afternoon after a couple of days on Leyte those Cokes sure hit the spot.  The picture below shows me showering my smelly body with water from the well.  Of course we had to wait for the Water Buffalo to get through drinking from the well and then wait a little longer for the water to clear before dipping our helmets into the water and pouring the refreshing water over our heads for our daily shower. 
 

 

     Bob Showering from the makeshift well on Leyte          

We were sort of like an advance cadre, I think you would call it, without airplanes and with very little to do except try to survive in the ground combat environment.  We were “Seeing the War From the Ground.”  Up until that time I had only seen the war from behind my 50 caliber machine guns on the attack missions that I had flown back in New Guinea.  Suddenly, we were looking at it from the other viewpoint--we were on the ground and the Japanese were attacking us.

It was an interesting sight to see a Jap up there in an airplane at night, caught in the search lights, with every antiaircraft gun near Leyte blazing away at him. I had absolutely no fear of the Jap pilot doing any harm to me from way up there so it was exciting entertainment for the night.  But, I sure would have hated to be the guy up there in the lights with all of those guns firing at me.   (I did get the opportunity to see what it was like to be in the enemy searchlights during the Korean war when I bombed North Korean targets from altitude at night).

One night the war activity went beyond entertainment.  Just after darkness had set in, the Japanese dropped a large group of paratroopers into our area. They parachuted them out of cargo planes similar to American Douglas C-47 "Gooney Birds". They came in low and dumped the troops throughout the area we occupied on Leyte. When Morgan, my WW II buddy, and I finally realized that we were actually under attack, we put our metal helmets on and jumped in the fox hole we had dug just outside of our hootch. Small arms and guns were firing from all directions. Detonations were going off everywhere while at the same time you could easily hear the Japanese planes overhead.  But, the single most dangerous happening that was really getting our attention was the shells from our ships naval gun fire out in the ocean and just off shore. They were shooting at the Jap airplanes flying above our troop concentrations while dropping enemy troops.  The problem, from our point of view, was that the planes were so low that the line of fire from the Navy guns was putting rounds right through the tree tops, just over our heads. You could hear and almost feel those rounds tearing through the palm fronds. We felt that the Naval gun fire was a much bigger threat to us than any Jap paratroopers.

I had heard the expression about feeling totally exposed when you were in a fox hole under attack, and believe me, I experienced it. I did not feel like I was in a hole; I felt like I was sitting out in the middle of an open room. The Japanese attack was a total failure except for the psychological or scare value. The Japanese paratroopers were all rounded up and captured or killed. My two gunners were working down at our airstrip that afternoon and were still there at the time of the attack. The paratroop attack occurred during the time the Army was building the airstrip for our Bomb Group aircraft there on Leyte. Mac Arthur was using the enlisted troops, including the guys like my gunners on flying status, to lay that PSP steel matting on the runway. My A-20 gunners told me that after some of the Japanese troopers had landed there at the strip, three of them came waltzing down the runway, arm in arm, singing, and carrying on. It appeared to my gunners that the Japanese leaders had gotten their troops all “Sakied” up and then dumped them out to go fight the Americans. Well, those three guys, waltzing down the runway, had their last dance that night.

We were truly happy pilots when our A-20 Havocs arrived from New Guinea and we were back in the air bombing and strafing the enemy instead of being on the receiving end of danger.

Bob

Robert L. Mosley