G Company 162 Infantry Medic: Medics at Parai Defile

 

            About 1000 hours on G Company 162 Infantry’s second day on Biak, Medic Lewis Weis’ real Battle of Biak began. At 1000, Weis was hiking in a column of twos with G Company 162 behind 3rd Battalion towards Jap Mokmer Strip. Just as Weis saw Parai Road leave the coast and start the climb up Parai Ridge, Jap fire crashed down to cut off 3rd Battalion. A Jap mortar shell exploded on Weis’ near right. He took a little steel fragment in his hand, but it was a minor wound easily dressed. A G Company cook to Weis’ right had a left arm wound, but Weis cannot remember who gave first aid to the cook.

            While G Company flattened under fire behind palm logs or coral outcrops, Weis heard the call of “Medic!” down on the beach. Weis ran towards the sound of the call as he was trained - indirect lines in short bursts of speed to avoid shell fire, and found the prone wounded man. While both men tried to hide behind a coconut log. Weis cut away his pants with scissors to bind the wounded man’s buttocks. It was hard to wrap a gauze bandage around legs and a 40-inch waist. Weis rejoiced with the wounded man that he had an ideal excuse for rest out of combat. This wounded man - probably from G Company - seemed happy.

            Then a 3rd Battalion Rifle Company Medic called Weis for help in the area where G Company and 3rd Battalion were in contact when the Jap bombardment started. Past where 3rd Battalion was grounded, Weis saw the two casualties. A mortar shell had shattered between them. A young Lieutenant lay there gashed head to foot by fragments, and Weis - himself a veteran from Roosevelt Ridge - pronounced the Lieutenant dead. (The Lieutenant may have been L Company’s 1st Lieutenant Minner, although K Company’s 2nd Lieutenant Barnes was the other 162 officer killed that day.) The other man, a Sergeant with unremembered name, had a broken leg from that same mortar shell. Passing where men still hugged the ground on both sides of Parai Road, Weis wondered why he was running, for by then the noise of battle had died down.

            Soon Weis saw a flatbed truck with Medics and litters on it, probably from 116 Medical Battalion. How they carne so close to the front, Weis wonders, but they were more than welcome. The NCO in charge lent Weis two litters, and a litter squad offered to bring out the two casualties. Although a detail carried back the Lieutenant’s body, Weis decided not to take the live Sergeant to the rear, with his leg now splinted to a rifle. (Probably this casualty was L Company’s Staff Sergeant Koelfgen.)

            Orders had come that while 2nd Battalion was withdrawing, all 3rd Battalion rifle companies would have to go forward to consolidate the forward positions of 162 Infantry in Parai Defile. Weis feared that Japs would infiltrate through the gap that these moves would open up. With two riflemen’s help, we Medics carried the wounded Sergeant west towards 3rd Battalion Headquarters.  The beach was so narrow and congested here that we had to carry the Sergeant through the sea - waist-deep and sometimes up to our arm pits. At 3rd Battalion Headquarters we found too many men jammed on a strip of sand at low tide.

           About this time, some 4-5 DUKWs of 542 Amphibious Engineers were maneuvering offshore with ammo and medical supplies. From a Jap gun high on Parai Ridge, exploding shells splashed geysers high around the boats, but all were near misses. The first brave pilot drove his craft straight into the beach and climbed it up on its tracks safely below the Jap gunner’s trajectory. And in turn, the other DUKWs would also gun their motors inshore while the Jap gun continued to miss. (As at Zamboanga in 1945, a floating amphibian craft looked easy to hit from the land, but actually while in the water, it became a small, elusive target.)

            After the first DUKW’s supplies unloaded, Weis boarded it with the wounded Sergeant and the volunteer litter men and other 162 wounded. For the first 50-100 feet, the DUKW pained our Sergeant horribly as its tracks lurched over the coral hunks on the beach. Then in deep water, it was like riding on a cushion. We never knew why the Nippo gun did not harass us again from Parai Ridge.

            Such were Weis’ memories of that first day of 162’s defeat in Parai Defile. And never did he forget a poignant casualty of 29 May, 162’s second day of frustration in that first attempt to force Parai Defile through to Mokmer Strip. About noon on 29 May while talking to our 2nd Battalion medical officer, Weis idly watched a destroyer moving alongshore. Suddenly a smoke ring showed that it had fired. Then he heard the shell explode - either on the cliff wall or in a large tree topping the cliff. Weis and the 2nd Battalion medical officer were almost deafened.

            After momentary silence, Weis heard the call for the Medic. Here lay a young man dead on the ground, with no mark on him - K Company’s T/5 David I. Newman whose name was on the current list to go home. Weis thinks that he himself made out the tag with “KIA” on it. Our own Navy actually slew four “K” men there: Pfc Harry L. Copp, Tech Sergeant H.T. Higgenbotham, Staff Sergeant Tony Portel, and Newman, who should never have been up front on a home roster.  Such are the lasting memories of T/5 Weis in Parai Defile.

 

Parai Defile story is from 4-page typescript of G 162’s Medic Lewis Weis dated 20 March 1983 with 162 Infantry’s Biak Casualty List, and RR Smith’s Approach to the Philippines. Weis was inspired by Charles Brockman’s Jungleer history, “First Two Days in Parai Defile,” (K 162) in Jungleer for April 1983.