K Company 162 Infantry: Cram Hill at Zamboanga

By K 162’s Charles Brockman and Robert Irick, with Dr.Hargis Westerfield , Division Historian

             About 0845, 10 March 1945,KCo 162 Infantry's T/5 Brockman watched from our LST deck while B-24s and Naval guns prepared our landing. About 0915, our Buffalos lined up and drove for San Mateo Beach, west of Zamboanga City. Ahead was a narrow beach, coconut palms, and high blue mountains.

            As K Company ran over the beach, we saw a wide plain instead of New Guinea jungle that we remembered too well. Our green helmeted columns with alert rifles moved inland some hundred yards, but found no Japs. Brockman heard what he thought to be heavy Jap field artilley firing from the high country ahead - and evidently firing by batteries, not like in New Guinea.

            Attached to Staff Sergeant Chainey's light machine gun squad with Thompson, Forehand, Dye, and T/4 Peacock, TI5 Cook.  Brockman got orders to dig in while waiting for orders. The Japs still fired over our heads at the landing. With holes half dug, we had to "saddle up" and move, to attack a small village. We thought that we heard our tanks ashore behind us and opening fire.

            The village which we were to attack was probably San Roque, but L Company in the lead found only deserted positions - and no sign of the Japs' great attack tomorrow. "K" had no casualties this 10 March, but 3rd Battalion already had 10 wounded.

            We sheltered that night in Jap trenches from small Jap raids. A Jap talked before our holes, but failed to draw fire. He rapped grenades on his helmet to arm them, and threw and missed. We threw back. Next morning, a Jap head hung in the trench about 15 feet from Chainey's squad's light machine gun.

            On 11 March, 3rd Battalion patrolled into the empty but heavily fortified San Roque area. About 1325, B-25 bombed Jap field artillery ridge positions. Then Jap salvos started again.

            That afternoon Sergeant Warehime with Martin and another man strung wire along a road and up a slight bank. While Brockman worked with a wire-coil, Warehime and Martin suddenly fired, hit the ground. Searching Jap bodies afterwards, Brockman found a map which Captain Watson, our commanding officer, hurried to Intelligence. On that 11 March, first man to die in "K" was  Armando H. Nava, cause unknown.

            On 12 March, "K" saw some bitter combat, with three killed, two wounded. Perhaps some casualties occurred when volunteers went to help L Company, who were expelled from San Roque Bowl by a surprise attack of 300 Jap Marines. But we know only for certain that one death happened during K's disastrous Masilay patrol.

            On that 12 March about 1430, K Company sent a 20-man patrol northwest from San Roque Village towards Masilay Village to try to contact a 1st Battalion patrol. Sergeant Warehime might have led, but only surely identified man in that patrol was Irick, a replacement who knew nobody's name. Shortly after the patrol left us, a wild burst of fire came from their direction. Brockman saw three men return; others arrived in scattered little groups.

            About 1515, some 100 entrenched Japs had hit the patrol from both sides of the trail. The surprise fire broke up the patrol. Fourteen men leaped into the brush and left the leader with only five men. These six withdrew down a streambed. One man was mortally wounded, and the leader stayed with him until he died at 1745. Three hours after the reported time of the ambush, the leader returned with two men, and reported two of his small group still missing.

            The other 14 returned before dark. After Jap fire struck, Irick hid under a fallen tree behind a rock, and never heard his leader say that it was safe to move. After two hours, he returned unhurt to K Company.

            Killed that 12 March were PFC Barney E Morgan, T/5 Victor Schumacher, Sergeant James J. Reynolds. Reported lightly wounded were Miller, Kelley. Time and place of all casualties are unknown.

            At first dark, Japs machine-gunned K's holes. Three M Company 81 mm shells silenced the machine guns, but other Jap attacks marred our sleep that night.

            On 13 March, "K" watched B-25s hit Jap gun positions, and after several passes, the guns were silenced forever. By 1400, we had advanced unopposed to join I Company at an important trail crossing renamed "Harlowtown" after a Montana town.

            Regimental strategy now was to envelope Jap Headquarters high on 1500-foot Mount Capisan. While 1st Battalion pushed up West Ridge to Capisan, 2nd Battalion pushed up East Ridge. Having bypassed San Roque Pocket for others to clear, 3rd Battalion with "K" was to drive the Japs from near Harlowton northwest up knobs and ridges to Mount Capisan.

            That night, Brockman and others in his hole threw nearly a case of grenades at Japs who sang "Dinah" and "Ohmonah" ("Ramona") to men wanting to sleep. Brockman thought that his grenade shut up the serenade. All 3rd Battalion reported three Japs killed.

            In the next 2 days, 3rd Battalion consolidated positions and faced Japs in numerous caves northwards. On one day, a Sherman tank halted among our holes and drew so much fire that K cowered low. Still under Jap fire, we left perimeter to reinforce "I" on a ridge ahead.

            On 16 March, K Company fought for Cram Hill, named after 2nd Lieutenant James L. Cram who would die there. We teamed with "I" to seize the first hill northwest of Harlowton against an estimated two companies of Japs. I Company had one killed, nine wounded, but held their new ground after rifle and machine gun fire. I Company faced only a single Nip platoon, but we faced a whole Company. And "K" failed.  One cause for K' s failure may have been a garbled order. After our riflemen hit the Japs, an order passed down to set up our mortars for badly needed fire. But Weapons Platoon got the order to send up the mortars. Mortar crews came up too close to fire on the Japs without hitting our own men.

            As the mortars came up, two rifle squads were fighting up the trail ahead of Chainey's light machine gun squad for whom Cook Brockman carried ammo. This trail smelled strong of Japs. Brockman had passed several unexploded black Nippo grenades beside the trail. On both sides of the guns, brush made a thick cover.

            Seconds later, we heard Jap fire at our riflemen up the hill above us. "Set up the gun," Chainey ordered. Thompson positioned the light machine gun. Brockman helped insert the belt.

Brockman moved 10 feet off the trail to the right. Ahead, we heard the firing halt and started over a number of times. With only a .45 in his belt, Thompson slipped over to Brockman and said, "Hand me your M-1 a minute." Thompson casually put the butt to his shoulder and took aim. He fired two shots and returned the rifle to Charles Brockman. "That takes care of one of them," Thompson said. Brockman could not see the body in the brush.

            But Pfc Glenn R. Thompson did not know that another Jap was near in the brush with the corpse. As tall Thompson knelt by his gun to await firing order, the Jap shot him. A bullet passed through his pistol belt, the gun handles, a .45 clip, and came out near Brockman. Our Medics were forward with the riflemen, but they could not have saved him.

            Chainey crept up the trail and pulled the gun back, but had to leave the tripod. Captain Watson called, "We're leaving here in 10 minutes!" Japs shot at Chainey and Brockman. Crawling backwards on his stomach, Brockman found himself down among more "K" men. He sheltered on one side of a tree, and Pfc James B. Turner on the other. Another Jap shot rang out. Brockman felt a hot sting on the left side of his neck. Turner's helmet flew straight up in the air, and landed on Brockman's leg below the knee.

            Just then, a man whom Brockman thought to be Lieutenant Doyle Brown crawled back dragging a bazooka. They worked their way downhill in a sitting position. Brockman believed that the Lieutenant and he were the last men off the hill.

            "Duck!" called Brown, and Brockman ducked. Brown's M-1 fired twice on their right. Brockman saw two Nippos fall.

            Now out of danger, they caught up with T/5 Veach helping Staff Sergeant Shaylor. He had two holes in his back, close to his spine. "Don't worry about me! " Shaylor gasped. "There's no need for us all to be killed." They helped him anyhow.

            At the foot of the hill, Beaty and more "K" men had halted. They covered Shaylor, Brockman, and Veach with Browning Automatic Rifle fire.

            K Company called this place of death Cram Hill. Brockman heard that 2nd Lieutenant James Cram died when he stood up firing into a Nippo position. Besides Thompson, Turner and Cram, we also lost Pvt Ernest Miraldi killed. Besides Staff Sergeant Shaylor, machine-gunner Sergeant Forehand was seriously wounded. Marked "lightly wounded" but hospitalized were Leake, Walker and Kettner. We had four dead, five wounded.

            Next morning when "K" formed to try to take Cram Hill again, Captain Watson mercifully relieved those of us who had for a man lightly wounded who remained on duty.

            But the hour of capture of Hill No.3 went unreported in 162's Journal. We presume, therefore, that K Company had a harder time to take Hill No.3, for we lost two killed by rifle-fire in mid-afternoon. Dead were Middleton and 2nd Lieutenant Doyle Brown. One of these men was reported killed by sniper fire at 1520, but his name is unknown.

            And now the main Battle of Zamboanga was over for K Company,162 Infantry after a hard fortnight of hiking, taking casualties, and digging in to face Jap harassment after dark. We were in truth lucky that our ambushed Masilay Patrol did not end in heavy losses - and lucky also that our fight on Cram Hill of 16 March cost only four dead.  Our losses totaled only 11 dead- in comparison, for example, with G 163 's loss on Biak of 10 dead, in another hard battle.

            K Company had been a reliable front-line company. On 26 March, we went into a brief reserve with other 3rd Battalion Companies and then marched inland to help mop up surviving Japanese.



CREDIT: Brockman sent me a 4-page single-spaced typescript undated, and letters of 17 June and 10 July 1981. Irick sent me letters of 12 May, an undated letter of about 1 June, dated letters of 23 June, 20 July, and 4 September - all 1981. Each man started writing without knowing of the other's existence; they have now reestablished their "comradeship formed in combat." Important also were 162's Zambo "Report of Operation," detailed Journal, Casualty List, and RR Smith's Triumph in the Philippines. I used a Xerox of K Company's Feb-June 1945 payroll to check on ranks and spelling of name, but it was hard to read.