2nd Battalion 162 Infantry Headquarters Company: Bradshaw Liberates Zamboanga and Basilan Island

by Joe Bradshaw with Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

            On the afternoon of 7 March 1945, Scout Joe Bradshaw in 2nd Battalion 162 Infantry Headquarters Company embarked from Mindoro with his Regiment aboard a sleek, streamlined LCI. Next morning, we left Mindoro Island forever and after three hours' travel, met a four-day raging typhoon. The LCl rolled and dipped and zoomed while we endured seemingly endless hours of seasickness.

Yet on 10 March, 162 Infantry came topside into a golden sun above calm waters. Looking at palmy San Mateo Beach 600 yards away portside, Joe with Sergeant Lewis Daniels had orders to hit the beach in the first wave to scout the coconut plantation across the beach. They were to be in different LCMs. Above them, they watched the planes of MAGZAM (Marine Air Group Zamboanga) as they bombed and strafed the beaches. Our Navy and even the LCls with their .50s shot at the grove past the beach.

As our Naval bombardment lifted, our spearhead of four LCMs landed 40-50 yards apart, at 0930 on Yellow Beach 2. Joe and Daniels dashed in to check out the coconut plantation ahead. Behind us, the other Yanks dug in to wait.

When Joe and Daniels reported that the grove was safe, they advanced towards it. Just as they reached the inshore edge of the grove, heavy Jap rifle fire struck behind them, but hit nobody.

For the next hour, the advance party worked 500 yards up through open jungle of the Filipino civilized type with little trails through it. Then on a small, flat plateau, we saw our first Filipinos. We saw men, women, and children bounding towards us, faces distorted in fear.

We sheltered behind trees and waved them on. We feared that the Japs might attack with those natives to shield them.

But they had seen the Nips retreating, and were no longer afraid. We gave them cigarettes and K rations, and lunched with them in the grove. After they told us where their village was, we sent them to the rear. We decided to set up 2nd Battalion 162 Headquarters there.

This village with an unknown name was about 500 yards up the gentle hill and 40 yards left of our principal trail. Entrance was cut from the jungle just wide enough for a small one-horse cart or a jeep - maybe six feet wide. The track opened into a three-sided village square, with native houses of 2-3 rooms on the sides. Behind these better houses were scattered one-room palm-leaf shacks. Fleeing Japs had looted whatever they could easily carry away.

During the next few days, Joe and Daniels acted as first scouts before elements of 2nd Battalion which met only feeble resistance and suffered only a few casualties. The push up that would be known as East Ridge towards Mount Capisan was beginning. We had few losses because the Japs mainly tried to delay the preliminary moves against Jap Headquarters on Mount Capisan.

Then Major Radcliff made Joe his unofficial recon officer for the invasion of Basilan Island at the south tip of Zambo Peninsula just across from Zambo City. F Company was the core of this little task force - with a Platoon each of Cannon 162 and 41 Recon, a section each of H's 81s and heavy machine guns, and a detachment of 295 Joint Assault Signal Company. At 1300 on 16 March, our LCMs landed unopposed on a high, narrow beach, near Lamitan and lsabela villages on northeast Basilan.

In three minutes, Joe had searched out the thin line of beach side jungle. He waved forward Radcliff's men to a paved road with a welcoming handful of Filipinos. Now Joe had orders to scout alone 2-3 miles down the road, with F Company some distance behind him.

Two miles up the road, Joe found a bridge that seemed intact, but he had to scrutinize it for booby traps. In 30 minutes, he crawled around and over the supports of the bridge that was eight feet high. Then he laid his pack with his personal valuables behind a rock 30 feet from the bridge and made his final test. He marched over right and left and center of the bridge and found that it would be safe for F Company to cross. He was much relieved to be still alive and that nobody would souvenir his pack, after he died.

After searching out a small deserted village, Joe heard a bullet whiz by his ear. After he had hit the ground, Joe realized that an F Company man had tried to kill him. He came back to hear a short, hefty F Company Sergeant bawling out the replacement who had fired without thinking.

Returned to temporary 2nd Battalion Headquarters, Joe had orders from Major Radcliff to scout in a certain direction and report back if he saw anything interesting. He came upon a village of 20-odd fine Filipino houses scattered without design in all directions. This village was quiet as a grave. As Joe tiptoed up a step with his tommie-gun well forward to stab one Jap to death, a pleasant female voice lilted, "May I assist you?" She was a dignified, attractive Filipino lady in her mid-20s. Her hair was tied in a flat bun, and a cotton print dress was worn below her knees. She spoke as softly as a prudish school teacher. "Just wondering if you've seen any Japs around," said Joe. "It's JOE!" she shouted. As her voice died away, a horde of men, women and children flocked out crying, "Liberator! Liberator! Joe liberated us!" Alluring older teenage girls with long, wavy black hair overwhelmed him with hugs and kisses. Here was a womanless tropical soldier's dream come true, but Joe took no chances. Long-barreled Jap rifles might even at that moment be leveled at him. Yet while children wrapped their arms around his legs, older sisters again embraced him and showered kisses while their men smiled and applauded. Bradshaw wondered how on earth they knew that his first name was Joe.

They told him that Jap soldiers had fled past their village all morning. The last hurrying group had shut the Filipinos into their houses and threatened to behead them if they looked out. Through cracks in the walls, they had seen Joe scouting around. This one lady teacher had appraised Joe slipping among the houses, and had dressed up to come out and greet him. Only later did Joe realize how they seemed to know his first name already. He had been so many years overseas that he did not know that "Joe" was a name for all U.S. soldiers.

Joe shook hands with all the men. "Miss Teacher," the woman who first greeted Joe, hugged and kissed him and broke down in tears. Finally, the village chaperone - whom even the village mayor dared not offend - came out in her long formal, high-necked dress. She extended her hand, and prayed, "God bless our liberator!" Joe doffed his helmet and kissed her hand. When he left the village, he had to order them back from following him. He gave them six packs of cigarettes and seven K rations, and departed.

Like any passion-starved soldier, Joe had felt that a multiple sexual conquest was open to him, but he feared that Jap riflemen still waited for him in the Basilan jungle. He now had with him a young man from the village who had been a Filipino scout in the days before the Jap invasion.

Ten minutes later, they found another opening in the jungle. Near a brown, narrow rice field stood a three-sided, windowless grass shack without a door. The 12-foot entrance was merely the open fourth side 12 feet wide. Sitting on a crude bench were an aged, bearded man with a skinny, wrinkled old woman. For a tropical climate, they were heavily clothed. Leaning against a bamboo rack was a sultry 17-year-old girl in a beltless knee-length wrap, with bared shoulders and masses of long black hair down her back. A bare foot was propped on a bamboo strut to expose a leg six inches above her knee.

The Filipino scout queried them in what Joe thought to be Tagalog. They said that the Japs had sped along the track earlier - no doubt while Joe was liberating the village. As the scout and Joe left, the 17-year-old ran gracefully to follow them. The Filipino scout turned her back, and said that she was a Mom (almost surely a member of the living Yakans on Basilan).

Joe and Lie scout found no Japs on Basilan. On 494-square-mile Basilan Island with its heavy jungle and some six mountains, the Japs still had much room for concealment. It would take at least a fortnight to kill most of them.

By two days later, the scout had recruited six young men for a guerilla force, and with arms that we issued them, began close-order drill. That night in Port Holland, also called Basilan City, the Filipinos celebrated their liberation with a Community Center dance. Next morning, Basilan Force returned to Zambo Battle, except for an F Company Platoon and B Company 162 which had landed on 17 March. With the Filipino Army, they hunted down the Japs.

We found 2nd Battalion 162 Headquarters far from the sea, up on East Ridge at the end of a new one-lane road. The front line for pushing on Mount Capisan was 600 yards farther upwards.

Joe had returned from Basilan during the last days of the fight for Capisan. Major Cawlfield now commanded 2nd Battalion. Joe had last seen Cawlfield as a Lieutenant in 1941 in Oregon. At once, Joe was ordered to lead a walking carrying party forward to the front. Including Joe, there were five cargadores, whom he thought were short-eared jackasses or mules.

During the next few days, Joe had double duties: to be a scout on call, and otherwise boss of the five-man pack team.

Next morn, Joe had to scout alone up East Ridge a quarter-mile to search for Nippo positions. Half an hour later, a good trail had taken him to where he could see Capisan, 1200 yards ahead to his left. About 300 yards slightly below him on a hogback, there was movement - G 162 breakfasting. "G" was at the jumping-off place for capturing Jap Bald Hill, the gateway to Mount Capisan.

Back at Headquarters, Joe was hardly through a cup of coffee before he got orders to move with the pack-train. The five-man team brought supplies to G Company, whom he had overlooked before. These packers assisted two walking wounded to Battalion Medics. These two wounded in heavy bandages, later joined the packers in the chow-line.

Before finishing his after-chow cigarette, Joe was called to check another part of East Ridge. He was to cross to the right side and scout up the valley there. He was to end up on East Ridge where he had overlooked G Company.

Although hearing spasmodic fire to the right towards Zambo City, Joe found no Japs. The fire was probably from 163 Infantry’s battle.

Turning back down the valley in the hottest part of the day, Joe saw a sparkling 12-foot waterfall. Having seen no Japs, he took a shower with his clothes on. While "greedily swallowing thousands of rainbows," he held out his tommie in his arm before him to be as safe as possible.

Afterwards, he saw his only Jap. Five yards above him, part of a Jap lay in the water, with his headless shoulders tilted into the stream.

In the afternoon of 22 March, Captain Feddersen's G Company, with "E" and "F" to the right on East Ridge, fought up to seize Mount Capisan, while 186 Infantry's 1st Battalion pushed up West Ridge. All day, Joe's carrier team lugged supplies and returned wounded. Finally, Cawlfield ordered Joe to lead alone and protect 20 Filipinos who had volunteered to assist our wounded.

Besides helping walking wounded, Joe and his 20 received two stretchers of men with stomach wounds. After a wild flurry of shots ricocheted past us, the Filipinos craved more protection than Joe alone. But we stumbled downhill, with halts every few minutes for rest and cigarettes, of which we had plenty. The stomach wounds of the stretcher cases caused horrible thirst. Joe moistened two first-aid pads in canteen water to rub on their lips and taste with their tongues.

While in rest camp after Capisan was stormed, Joe awoke one morning with chattering teeth. He had lost the will to move, which is one of the marks of malaria. Half an hour later, Medics wheeled him into the hospital malaria ward for three weeks with Medics and Filipino nurses.

Despite the female nurses, Joe was happy when the ambulance returned him to 2nd Battalion 162 Headquarters. Rest camp was over, and rumors were out that 162 Infantry would be "surfing" again. Joe Bradshaw was headed for the landing in Cotabato Province, east from Zambo Peninsula across Moro Gulf on the Mindanao mainland. Joe was about to have his last great patrol with new Filipino buddies against the Japs around Mount Blit. He did not know that he was very near to rotation home and the end of his war.

 

CREDIT: One purpose of this story is to remind our readers of what it means to be a free people. Most of the story comes from Joe Bradshaw's 10-page, double-spaced typescript, "Battalion Two and the Philippine Liberation." I used some meager help from 162 lnfantry's Journal from 27 January through 29 April 1945, "Report of Operation ... 10 March 1945 to 2 May 1945," and "Eighth United States Army Operational Monograph on the Zamboanga Sulu Operation." This Monograph afforded me a map of the Basilan Operation. (Captain Feddersen has ably told the story of G 162's storming of Mount Capisan in the October 1964 Jungleer.)