116 Medical Battalion: Three Medics’ Tales

By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian and Medic George Jackson


 On 29 May 1944, while 162 Infantry retreated from the Japanese trap in Parai Defile, Captain Drexler of 3rd Battalion. Medics led a litter party to save a wounded Yank. While 162's men were pulling back we laid our wounded man on the stretcher and started to pick him up. A shell exploded nearby.

It slew the wounded man. All of the party but one was hit. Drexler himself took a fragment in the leg but was able to walk. We turned back with the body in the litter. Somewhere in that brush, we saw a 162 man. He wanted to know what we were doing in that dangerous ground, for 3rd Battalion was getting out of there.

            Suddenly from thickets around us, a crossfire of our own guns halted us. Four Japs dropped dead nearby. Safe in our own lines, we heard a 3rd Battalion say "You're lucky we didn't gun you down. We shot some Japs five feet from where you broke out of the brush."

Next thing that Drexler remembers was letting wounded men down over the cliff to LCMs waiting to ferry them to safety. He was far too busy to attend to his own "walking wound." During the evacuation, he remembered jumping over machine gun nests and being fired at from a rifle company. Not until next day did Captain Lederman, Drexel's assistant, cut his leg to remove the fragment of Japanese steel.

 

On 5 June 1944 on Biak, C Company 116 Meds carried out another great action of devotion and bravery for our combat infantrymen - and probably for B Company 116 Engineers. We meds were then supporting 186 Infantry trying to find a trail up and over Mokmer Ridges so that 186 could take Mokmer Strip from the rear. C's medics were probably in an area of opaque tropical scrub some 10 feet high.

Suddenly Japs attacked. We fell prone on our faces in the midst of explosions and rifles blasting all around us. Grenades and mortars slashed at us.

Fragments slew a casualty that our commanding officer, 2nd Lieutenant Leeon Aller, was caring for Jap fire perforated a water trailer. A probable mortar blast knocked the wheel off our only ambulance, which we needed to haul wounded back down the new 116 Engineer supply road to 12th Portable Hospital. G Company 186 Infantry was probably the company that returned Jap fire and hunted down the raiders.

Despite danger of continued, long-range mortar fire, 1st Sergeant Stasiowski and Staff Sergeant Thomas B. Williams tackled the job of replacing the ambulance wheel.

A mortar blasted us again. Fragments penetrated Williams' abdomen and liver, but Williams was hard to kill. With devoted Stasiowski, Williams stayed on the job and replaced the wheel. We then evacuated Williams with the riflemen he was trying to help. But he refused treatment until other 186 wounded were cared for.

Meanwhile T/5 Hudon, our driver, also helped in treatment of the wounded men. Then he hauled them in the dangerous drive through Jap territory, back to 12th Portable Hospital.

But the travails of 5 June did not end with daylight. Late in the day, 186 had still more casualties needing the doctors of 12th Port. Hospital. It was dusky and lonely down that road in the scrub that C-116 men would have to travel, but that trip would perhaps mean life for some wounded Yank.

Darkness was falling on the raw, new supply road when driver Hudon and Lieutenant Aller arrived in a litter-carrying jeep. We filled every litter in that jeep with a wounded man. Then we started for the hospital-without infantry guards.

Other walking wounded tailed behind our jeep. While Hudon drove, Aller sat on the jeep hood and watched, ready to fire, like a shotgun guard on a stagecoach of the Old West. But by God's grace, our convoy arrived without being ambushed, safe at 12th Port. Hospital.

            Such were high points of C-116 Meds during our "day of battle," 5 June 1944. Although 186 archive's do not mention C-116, the Jap attack that wounded Stasiowski and Williams was probably 186's only fight of 5 June. At 1600, 186 Journal reported, some 15 Japs hit 2nd Battalion's rear with grenades, rifles and knee mortars. (This was probably the same attack that B-116 Engineers had to fight off.) In breaking this attack, G-186 claimed they killed 12 Japs. This was probably the attack of 5 June that wounded Stasiowski and Williams, and in which the more lucky Hudon and Aller won the honor they deserved.

 

Also on Biak, medics attached to an unspecified battalion had dug in for the night. Then Japs attacked with mortars and machine guns. Their rifles shot at possible targets, our casualties were many.

Staff Sergeant Gehrman with other medics went above ground to care for the wounded. Jap patrols infested the dark area, but Gehrman volunteered to go with litter parties to remove the wounded to places of safety. Seven times he bore wounded from areas of heavy mortar, machine gun and field artillery fire.

Date of Gehrman's action appears as 5 June 1944, but we have no record of Jap attacks on this date. Probably Gehrman's award was based on what he must have done on 7-8 June 1944, when 3rd Battalion 186 Infantry stood up against a heavy Jap attack on Mokmer Strip.

 

CREDIT: George Jackson, Secretary of our 116 Med Chapter, interviewed Colonel Leeon Aller in January1975. I also used medal stories of Aller, Stasiowski, Hudon and Thomas B. Williams, to which George referred me. Williams got a DSC for his bravery. Story No.4 based on Dr. Milton Drexler's letter of 5 August 1976. Stories Nos. 4 and 6 are from DSC citations of Randall Balch and Frank Gehrman.