41 QM Company: Those Indispensable Quartermasters

By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian and Colonel Henry B. Cary, QM

 After our return to Australia, we voyaged back north into the great New Guinea campaign of 1944. Each D-Day our cargo-carrying LST's landed at about 0900. Besides a capacity load of personnel and vehicles, and LST carried 200 tons in bulk. To secure from twilight plane attacks, all LST's had to be at sea by 1700. The Navy spared us little time to unload.

To help 41 QM, we pressed every soldier not at the front to unload ships - any man who could lift a box or shove it down a conveyor. Since we lacked workers in the beach dumps, when the ships left, all of our supplies were badly stacked in the dump. Using partly untrained personnel, 41 QM had to stack, store and issue at the same time. We were always short of hands until their release at the end of fighting in Europe.

At Hollandia Beach, 20 minutes after 186's first wave landed, 41 QM had four men ashore to find dump sites. In this necessary recon, we were exposed to Jap machine gun fire.  Lieutenant Colonel Clarence E Reid was an officer thus exposed; another at Hollandia was Captain Boyd H Myhr who was early ashore on Biak also. Supervising sailors, amphibious engineers, and Cannon 186 and 162 Company's, we unloaded seven LST's and the attack transport "Westfalia" before dark. But swamps retarded road building to clear White Beach 1. On 23 April, our detachment went to Pim Jetty to set up an alternate base for 186 Infantry supplies.

And shortly after dusk 23 April, a lone Jap bomber guided himself down on us by smoldering fires from wrecked Nippo dumps. One bomb detonated Jap ammo; the fire spread to aviation gas and other supplies. Fires raged all night of 24 April QM had eight wounded in this bombing. Fragments hit Captain Frank W Moore, who spent 30 days on his stomach in the hospital.

QM men were heroic among explosions in smoke and in flame. Pfc Clemen A Schweitzer dashed into smoke and saved a wounded man before the ground flamed up behind him. Sergeant Mitchell raced through exploding gas and ammo to rescue a second wounded man. Corporal Thomas A McGinitie carried another wounded man to safety, placed him on a litter, and ran back for others. Even with incendiary burns on his hands, Shell brought out a man. Although wounded himself, Major Gerfen helped in evacuations, dispersed troops from danger zones and helped move field artillery.

In the entire campaign, QM had probably ten wounded - all but one in that bombing. On 24 April, Pvt Lawrence M Ankrum drowned. He believed that an LST was still on beach and walked off its ramp into deep water. (Archival records state he drowned during enemy raid on LST. The names of the wounded are Captain Frank W Moore, 1st Sgt Henry F Orman, Cpl Gaylord D Robertson, Pfcs Paul V Salo, John S Seim, William C Shuster, and Pvts Wilbur W. Drennen, Ireland H McClain, Donald J Saver.)

During two days, over 60 percent of division rations and ammo were burned or blown up - the equivalent of 11 LST's of supplies. Frontline infantry went on half-rations. For three-four days, 186 Infantry lived mainly on Jap fish and rice. Continuing explosions kept us from the best landing beaches for more supplies while 11 loaded LST's waited offshore.

While flames died down, we detached 38 men to bypass the destroyed dumps. They set up a new dump across Jautefa Bay, south of Pim Village. From here, we supplied 186 Infantry at Lake Sentani and Cyclops Drome. We used "buffaloes" on Lake Sentani. Captain Melvin C Ruedy instituted and operated the emergency dumps near Sentani. His system of coordinated trucks and "buffaloes" supplied 186 Infantry.

Other QM men were outstanding in the Division's emergency after the bombing. Charged with unloading rations on the beach, Sergeant Robert J Justus had to start rations from five different holds to five different beaches. He named destinations to coxswains and kept accurate records of all supplies, and relieved critical shortages. Sergeant Joseph J Krejci was efficient in computing shares of rations to various outfits and in trucking rations forward. With 41 trucks to haul supplies daily over bad roads, he prevented a critical bottleneck in transportation. Major Henry B Cary had notable skill in setting up dumps in the right places.

            We saved lives on 28 April 2nd Lt Shirley Swann, Corporal Norman F Hogg, and two unnamed men leaped into the sea and rescued two drowning men caught in an undertow dragging them into the depths.

While most 41 QM men beached at Hollandia, a 22-man detachment landed for 163 Infantry at Aitape. Attached to Service 163, we distributed rations. Some of us rode an LCM to supply G 163 stationed on the main Hollandia trail at Serroe.

 

Note:  Following publication, full names and rank were added to the names mentioned in this article from records in the National Archives.  Silver Stars were awarded to Lt Col Clarence E Reid and Cpl Thomas A McGinitie for their actions at Hollandia.