116 Engineers Combat Battalion

by Sergeant Ken Gwin with Frank Turosik with Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

 

Continued from Salamaua and Wakde Campaigns

On 16 June 1944, A 116 Engineers was already on Biak to assist our 41st in combat. West of Bosnek near Ibdi, our first position lay under coral cliffs. We were warned that we'd be under direct fire from those cliffs.

Yet the Maas brothers Oscar, Ray, and Bill had worked hard opening the rear of two supply trucks. Hardly had they finished when Jap .70 mountain guns made direct hits on the back of those two trucks.

The Japs shelled us just after supper. Frank Turosik was out in the open rinsing his mess-kit. He heard two shells explode - was hit already. He dropped his mess-gear and ran for safety to the first-aid tent with its sandbagged front. His right arm bled from shrapnel slashes. The back of his neck was cut, and a pellet was embedded in his scalp.

From the crowded first-aid tent, 3-4 men would run down a path to hide in jungle near the coast. Billy Gwin - Ken's brother - told Turosik to run for that jungle. Billy said, "Shells hit every seven seconds.”

Billy ran and saved himself, but Turosik hoped that the shelling would cease. It did not. In a 5-6 seconds count, he ran to cover under a communications van while the shell missed. Before next shot, Turosik joined Billy on the path. He thinks that Billy's advice may have saved his life.

One man was killed in the motor pool; Sergeant Tom Wirth lost parts of two fingers; two were seriously wounded near the kitchen, several in the bivouac area.

Sergeant Riley Maxwell - a former 116 man and Raybon - both then in AT 163 - are reported as silencing the gun in the cave at different times. Both may have done it, for the gun would fire 12 shots, then roll to safety around the comer of an L-shaped cave. But it was finally silenced.

Later, Fred Thorson and other A 116 men fought West Caves with flame-throwers, and even grenades. Our Engineers broke the final resistance of the Japs with two flaming oil drums.

 

Continued in Zamboanga Campaign…