C Company 162 Infantry:  Battle Before Dawn at Zamboanga

by C 162's Bolt, Quaiver, and Grigar with Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

             In Zamboanga Battle, veteran C Company 162 Infantry did a disciplined job against our Japanese enemy. Most poignant experience, however, was our night of agony before dawn on 16 June 1945, when desperate Japanese charges might have destroyed "C."

            On 10 March 1945 at 0750, we jammed into landing craft off San Mateo west of Zambo City and watched planes and Navy bomb the beach. We landed dry and orderly on Yellow Beach 11. Our 1st Battalion's objective was to seize unused Wolfe Air Strip 500-600 yards inland. While A and B Cos moved forward, "C" secured National Highway with a road-block - until F Company passes us west to Caldera Point and so closed off 1st Battalion's left flank.

            By 1530, "C" was digging in 500 yards from the coast before deserted Wolfe Strip. While enemy field artillery shelled this coastal ground, a lucky hit fell on C's 3rd Battalion. It wounded Cunningham in the arm, and Kuznierz in the leg. Sam Allen was slashed in the stomach.

            About 2230, Japanese barraged us on the left with small arms. They seemed to want to draw fire to spot our holes; we stayed quiet. They ceased after an hour of intermittent volleys. Next morning, we merely contacted "A" and "B" with 1st Platoon's patrol, and dug in 200 yards ahead of yesterday's position.

            On the third day, 12 March, 2nd Platoon led "C" about a mile ahead to dig in near Masilay. This Platoon caught six Japanese sleeping in an outpost and slew them. As we dug in on a hill, enemy mortar shells made four "C" casualties and 1 "D" casualty. 2nd Lieutenant Larsen was hit in the shoulder, T/Sergeant Gardea in head and hand - all light wounds. Staff Sergeant Noah was seriously wounded in several places and badly shaken up. Combat fatigue hospitalized Patterson. D's Dooley was seriously wounded while with C Company.

            On 13 March in the same position near Masilay, "C" had our first death. This was when two squads of 2nd Platoon moved up at 1200 to the outpost where they had slain six Japanese the day before. The two squads then separated and tried to hit the enemy's two flanks in a surprise attack. But machine gun fire gave Pfc Paul Burgois his death. Rusch was wounded in right arm, and Hultgren "lightly injured in action," other circumstances unreported.

            On this 13 March, 1st Battalion's recon had found the main approaches to Japanese Headquarters on Mount Capisan. About halfway inland between Masilay Village and Mt Capisan, one ridge separated into two. The Japanese held both East Ridge and West Ridge with pillboxes and trenches. Orders were for 1st Battalion to move west to Sinonog River, then north on West Ridge.

            On this march, "C" secured battalion rear. "B" in the lead took rifle and machine gun fire from higher ground and had five wounded to hospital. On recon with B Company, Colonel Benson was shot in the stomach and came back wildly cursing. B Company had met 1st Battalion's first determined resistance which we had yet encountered at Zambo.

            On 15 March, an armored bulldozer of 116 Engineers cut a jeep supply road to C Company. While cleaning his rifle, Gonzales shot himself in the foot and was marked "lightly injured in action." But 2nd Lieutenant Larsen reported back for duty after three days' hospital for his shoulder wound. (But C Company knew nothing about our most important event of 15 March. Japanese scouts had precisely located our holes to help plan one of the bloodiest night attacks which the 41st ever had in World War 11.)

            Probable main reason for the big night attack of the Japanese before dawn 16 March was that they planned to demolish the armored road-builder that the Engineers had parked in C's perimeter before dark. (The heavy frontal attack of 50 Japanese on B Company seems to have been a diversion to take attention from the unrestrained charge on our C Company. B's 60mm mortars and D's 81s readily beat off their attack, with 25 enemy dead counted.)

            The carefully planned attack on C Company from the rear (south) seems to have been in three commands, with three different missions. No. 1 mission was to wipe out automatic weapons positions. No. 2 was to destroy Headquarters Platoon where Captain Krist, 1st Sergeant Hackos, Orderly Bocko, two field artillery observers, and maybe some others were sleeping above ground instead of in holes. And No. 3 mission was to demolish the armored bulldozer with a mine and boxes of TNT.

            Came then at the dead hour of 0300 this die-hard Japanese attack - apparently in one 50-man charge. Even in darkness, they seemed fairly sure of where our holes were, from daytime scouting. For "C," it was luckily timed just as the man on guard in each hole awoke the next man who was to relieve him. But even so, mortarman Sergeant John J. Bowman was unable to fire. He had told us that if the Nipponese struck, he would fire flares to highlight the charging bayonet-men.

            Bowman never got a round off from his 60mm - died with a bullet in the forehead. Other men fought heroically. When firing and grenading broke out, Weekley piled up half a dozen enemies. He may have hit the demolition man running with his mine to blast the bulldozer. This Japanese blew himself up -was found at daylight with his body split apart in two different areas.

            Suddenly aroused at the barren, black hour of 0300, Tech Sergeant Grigar heard footsteps nearing his hole and "came to attention like a house on fire," and waited his chance to shoot. A body thudded into Grigar's hole. Grigar raised his rifle to club the supposed Nipponese. "No, no Tom! It's Gus!" It was Staff Sergeant Gus Falgout.

            From the rim of his hole, Grigar, Falgout, and Lieutenant Petersen slanted rifles in three different directions. They waited for a Japanese body to skyline itself. One enemy squatted before the rifle of Grigar. Easing his M-1 towards the man, Grigar fired. The dying man gurgled so horribly that Grigar silenced him forever with a bullet through the head.

            Canadian-born Brownhill was "the bravest of the brave." If he fired his BAR in the dark, it would mean death. His BAR lacked a flashhider. Just as Japanese bayonet-men ran wild over our holes, Brownhill's BAR spouted fire like a blowtorch. His automatic clips may well have shattered the great rush, but a rain of grenades blasted his hole. Fragments blinded Brownhill for life, blew off the right foot of Pfc Homer L. Layne his helper and killed him. S/Sergeant Azevedo was also wounded in that hole, part of body unknown.

            And one grenade meant for Brownhill exploded in the hole with Tech Sergeant Grigar, 2nd Lieutenant Petersen and Staff Sergeant Falgout. They jumped out in different directions - Petersen with fragments in his rear. Grigar was tangled up in phone wire. He just rolled over the parapet and stayed prone in the dark. Then he realized that all he had with him were his helmet and six M-1 rounds left in his rifle after he had slain the other Nipponese. His other gear was still down in the hole. Then a Japanese leaped into Grigar's hole. Grigar heard the man chipping the grenade on his helmet to arm it. But the Japanese blew himself up instead. Just as before, another enemy squatted before prone Grigar.

            As he eased up his M-1 to fire, three more Japanese stumbled over Grigar's outstretched legs. Grigar remembered his disciplined training. If he shot the man in front, the three men behind would certainly slay him. He lay hardly breathing — could almost feel the bullet-shock into his body. But the three believed that he was dead. They moved off and stumbled into Kelly and two more Yanks who killed them. Grigar never knew what became of the man squatting before him whom he had feared to shoot.           Firing and grenading died down. The whole attack had lasted only half an hour, but the longest half-hour in the lives of most men. Grigar heard one young Yank cry for help, but nobody dared aid him. Came the long wait until day while Grigar listened to other Americans with Japanese moaning all over the black perimeter. He was horribly thirsty, but his canteen was down in the hole with the shattered remains of the enemy suicide. Rain fell. He cupped his hands and drank from his palms gratefully.

            In that painful daybreak of 16 March, Medics and unhurt C Company men gave what aid they could to the wounded and helped bear them away. They examined the many dead in the little heaps of corpses. As early as possible, seriously wounded Captain Krist was rushed back to the surgery that would save his life. Krist had taken a bayonet lunge into the chest, but for hours, devoted orderly Bocko had held him down and clamped the wound with his fingers. Prime credit for saving the life of his Captain goes to Bocko.

            Another memorable wound was that of an iron man, signaler Glen Hansen. A saber — a weapon usually carried by an officer — had lopped off Hansen's left hand at the wrist. Instead of dying from bloodletting and shock, tough Hansen reportedly shot dead with his carbine the man who had severed his wrist. After making his tourniquet, he was said to have fired a total of three clips and killed two Japanese attackers. From his dead hand, he retrieved a ring that his mother had given him for Christmas. He wanted to have the Medics pickle in alcohol for his mantel at home.

            Besides Brownhill, Azevedo, Captain Krist, 2nd Lieutenant Petersen, and Hansen, a sixth man was wounded — Falgout who had narrowly missed a clubbing from Grigar in the dark. Details are unknown.

            Besides Bowman and Layne, our dead were Pfc Patrick J. Sullivan, S/Sergeant Lawrence W. Myers, Pvt. Anthony Colucci, and Sumpter, who died of wounds. And so "C " lost six killed and six wounded — all but Petersen marked "seriously wounded," although Peter­sen was also hospitalized.

            For these 12 casualties, the Japanese left 26 dead. (They usually carried off any casualty who could not walk.) Despite their gallant attack, they failed to destroy the Engineers' bulldozer. But "C " never fought again on West Ridge. For when F Company had orders to occupy big Basilan Island south of Zambo City, our whole Battalion with tanks and AT Company were ordered to take over the San Roque fight from 2nd Battalion elements. Although by 16 March, 162 Infantry had secured San Roque Strip and Village, a strong pocket of Japs laired in the stream valley still in the San Roque area north of Zambo City.

            By the time our 1st Battalion took over the front, the Japs had retreated from a system of trenches and pillboxes. But they had mined the little roads up the valley, and still retained their fighting organizations.

            On 17 March, 1st Battalion patrols to the northwest drew light machine gun and rifle fire. And so on 18 March at 1400, C's Lieutenant Larsen with two platoons and a light machine gun section went to knock out a pillbox blocking 1st Battalion. One tank supported us. A Japanese road mine exploded under the tank. Killed were C's Pfc Joseph E. Sullivan, and five men wounded. 2nd Lieutenant Larsen got his second wound, more serious than the wound of 12 March. Ser­iously wounded also were Karnbad, Staff Sergeant Crucitt — and Knouff and Briesky lightly wounded.

            The Japanese covered the mined ground with intense machine gun fire, and our force retreated to Battalion Command Post. During that 18 March, our C Company. Command Post was taking sporadic 20mm fire. But the main body of "C " still pushed 900 yards northwest of our former position against the enemy.

            On 19 March, 1st Battalion's advances steadily continued. By 1100 hours, our A Company had contacted K Company, and encirclement of the new Nipponese positions in the valley was completed. Several times during the day, however, a 20mm machine-cannon and a light machine gun fired on 1st Battalion. At 1700, a light machine gun wounded Witbeck and Peyton.

            And on 20 March, in a search for the 20mm gun, Koehn of 1st Platoon was wounded — all circumstances unknown. Koehn was C's last Zambo casualty. With other 1st Battalion men, "C" had to mop up — with help of field artillery and Marine air-strikes.

            Patrols found the nuisance 20mm gun, but we have no reports on its destruction.

            On 29 March, 1st Battalion moved to Pitogo and Maasin Valleys about six miles west of Zambo City on the south shore. Our Battalion easily cut the main Japanese escape route up the west coast — the Mount Capisan-Batal Trail. When we found a dug-in position, they briefly held it and then withdrew.    On the night of 31 March, "C" took slight knee-mortar fire.

            On 4 April, "C" spotted a small group of Nipponese 200 yards north and had them shelled out. Everywhere, fleeing Japanese took to the rainforest.

            And on 27 April, 162 Infantry alerted to move to the Mindanao Mainland. We had fought well at Zamboanga, with just eight dead and 19 wounds that hospitalized men. We had bravely done all that was asked of us — even on that deadly night battle of 16 March, at 0300 hours in the dead of night.

 

CREDIT. Tom Bolt is most responsible for his preparation of this history which Westerfield has sought for over 17 years. Tom Quaiver contributed his 6-page typescript of his diary of 9-20 March 1945. Quaiver also sent Tom Grigar's 3-page story of his night fight. Bolt's letters are dated 10 and 25 March; 1 and 15 April; 12 and 18 May; 1 June; and 20 July — all in 1985. Bolt forwarded a copy of Roben Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" from San Diego's Union Tribune of 13 Nov 1945 about Glen Hansen's severed hand in the 15 March night fight. Useful data came from 162 Infantry's Casualty List of 10 March-27 Apr 1945, 162's First Battalion Zamboanga Operations 162nd Infantry, 162's Regi­mental Report of Zamboanga Battle entitled "Report of Opera­tion / Zamboanga Area." and "Journal, 162nd Infantry Regi­ment beginning 2 Jan 1945."