741 Ordnance Had To Make Those Guns Work
By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

             These are recollections from my three months with the Division's 741 Ordnance Company good guys, expert technicians, hard workers. Remember the camp in the beach east of Bosnek under the live-oaks, with the bushy Padeadori Islands on Geelvink Bay to the southward?

            On Biak after the battle, most Ordnance men seemed to be still old-timers from the original complement who made up the Ordnance Maintenance Platoon on September 28, 1942. They were tanned and atabrin-yellowed homesick men. They never let us forget their adventures in jungle pioneering at Dobodura, like "Jake" Kirkcalde, a tough broad-shouldered Sioux Indian truck-driver. Others had served a turn with a rifle at the front like black-jawed DeWitt of 186 Infantry. Up in the coral by Mokmer Air-Strip, DeWitt spied a Nippo tank driving hard at his position. He made a direct hit on it with a grenade-launcher, and it scuttled away and disappeared.

            741 Ordnance actually stood GI military formations in the Battle of Biak until one memorable morning. Perhaps on the dawn when the Second Battalion of 163 arrived for re-enforcements, the company stood stiffly at attention. From the low jungle ridge but a mile north, two Japanese Zeroes came helling it down at just the level of tall Captain Burns' cowpoke campaign sombrero. Individual privates took charge of themselves without orders and leaped for their foxholes. The Japanese pilots had no time for Ordnance, and they died over the crowded shipping of Bosnek Landing. But never again did 741 Ordnance hold a reveille for a Nipponese inspection.

            But a man remembers the little things about warfare best. I remember blonde First Sergeant Elmer Ahola and his effectively managed orderly room. Then there was "Chuck" - whose name I never used - that fine Sergeant and leader of men in "parts" with his ability in handling a combative drunk one night. There was the wrestling match between Deiraca and Slim that started in the showers and concluded under our cots. Wichita Indian Edmonds was a wrestler too; he had a bout one night with "Chappie OldBoy" (George Chapman). There was dark, heavy-set Grimm the Company Clerk who has a fine history of the Company somewhere if we could locate him. He had a knack for getting his tentmates to run his personal errands for him. There was big Sgt. Prosak with his "roar," and that joker of a Szezwyzk. He loved to hear us pronounce his name literally with all the "z" in it, but he said it to rhyme with "Prosak"- which is "Susak."

            A man remembers the little things like Bill Caldwell's little blonde Aussie Mrs. and the plate-glass over her picture on his desk, which he dusted daily . . . and also Sgt. Posner, who had a gift for repartee during police-calls. Who can forget Chris Hirschi the dog-robber with his prayer to the rising sun when we got him up for reveille?

            To the men of 741 Ordnance, the man most deserving of a medal was Dick Crosswell, whose right name I forget. In Australia, a curvaceous Mrs. Croswell languished for his return at Christmas, and here he was alone with a bunch of men on Biak. At Christmas, Crosswell got a pass to the yon side of Biak to visit a pilot pal of his. With his overnight bag beside him, he sat down in the cockpit of his friend's plane. The plane took off for Australia while he sat in it, and he was too valuable for the Division to risk his life by jumping. Arriving in Brisbane, he boarded a train for his Australian beauty and spent Christmas in her arms. After two days' passionate bliss,he emplaned for Biak again. He was a couple of days AWOL, but Captain Burns knew nothing of his a d v e n t u re was at least officially unaware. Well, Dick Crosswell got a week's confinement to quarters for company punishment, and he should have gotten a medal, in the opinion of many an Ordnance man.

            Then we loaded ship and good-bye to New Guinea battered caves on the cliffs by the airport and the coral ridges and our graves.