H Company 163 Infantry: Japanese Shellfire at Zamboanga

By S/Sgt Harold Ingle with Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

            On 9 February 1945, H Company l63rd Infantry landed with our Regiment on Mindoro Island near Luzon [Philippines] to stage for the Zamboanga Battle. Already, we had ominous signs about our coming fight with the Japanese. We passed a gutted ammo ship that the Jap navy had destroyed.

            On l3 February, S/Sgt Harold Ingle watched death in the air, a crash of two P-38s. One sheared off the tail of the other- then exploded. Both pilots were killed. On 14 February, even a Flying Fortress misjudged his landing. With wheels already down, he struck earth where trenches had been hastily dug when Jap ships blasted the area. All of H Company rushed over to help, but exploding ammo from the gun belts repelled us. The crew escaped unhurt but for one gunner who had both legs broken.

            On 16 February, Ingle saw a heroic act of the Air Force. The 14th Station Hospital lay close to H Co's tents. When a P-51 pilot took off from the strip, his engine conked out, just as his wheels came up. He was airborne only 20-30 feet above the hospital. But he wouldn't jettison his belly tanks for fear of killing patients.

            Ingle could see his face as he fought to keep his P-51 up until he passed over the last tents. He crashed in a sea of flames, yet came out walking to an ambulance. Although burnt to a crisp, he calmly asked for a cigarette. He died on the way to 14th Station Hospital. (On that same 16 February, two Mustangs crashed over the field.)

            By 19 February, H Company's camp on Mindoro was completely set up, a neat tented city with officers and kitchen all taken care of. For a short time before action, death or wounds, nothing could be more pleasant. Ingle reveled in H Company's baseball games against F Company.

            But on 23 February, Ingle was on a six-hour detail to 0300 that night to load gas, trucks, and rations on an LST for the 186th Infantry. That Regiment was headed for Palawan Island where Yank prisoners had been trapped in a cave and burned alive.

            On 4 March, "H" began training for Zamboanga. They practiced a beach landing - first hiked four miles to the beach, then simulated an inland attack. Returning to camp, we beat our time back by 10 minutes. So hot was the day that we had to watch ourselves to keep from tripping over men who collapsed.

            On 5 March, we tore down camp. For the first time in the war, Ingle felt premonitions. He wrote a letter to mother and girlfriend which he left to Doc the Medic to mail when he would be killed. He had never felt like this before. On that same day, a Liberator crashed about 700 yards from "H" - burnt to a mass of twisted metal. (But nobody was killed.) Meanwhile some officers tried out their carbines and tommies at an Air Force pipeline and flamed up 4200 gallons of gas.

            On 6 March, we hiked down to the beach - then had to lie there for hours. The Mindoro dust was hellish; it choked us until we were glad to board our little LCI (Landing Craft Infantry). This fighting LCI had credit for downing one and half Nippo planes. After another day aboard, we up-anchored for Zamboanga Beachhead.

            Our little LCI tossed and pitched like an unbroken bronco. Even the sailors' monkey and dog seemed to hang over the rail. Ingle managed to climb the ladder topside to keep from being sick, but he watched a destroyer escort pitch and toss to starboard until he had to give in. (Seasickness is funny only to a man who never had it.)

            At 0915 on 10 March, H Company landed at San Mateo Beach, west of Zamboanga City. Navy and Air Force had plastered the beach and made our landing safe. Thankfully, we viewed the great bunkers on the beach that the Japs had evacuated.

            Across the beach, we climbed a slight rise through sparse trees and turned east towards San Roque Airstrip. A Jap .75 whistled in our general direction; the shells missed us by 200 yards.

            As "H" hiked along a road, a destroyer was firing into a grove of trees separating the road from the beach. Overhead, bombers flew low as their crews waved down at us.

            By 1125, 163's leading 3rd Battalion had hit some opposition while H Company moved slowly behind it. H's Cano had hurt his back, and Ingle flagged down a jeep on the road to take Cano down to the beachside Medics.

            H Co pushed on to a "small river" - probably Baliwasan River- where we were a few hundred yards from San Roque Strip. So far, our losses were one killed and six wounded, contrasting to 42 Japs who were found dead, so Ingle heard.

            Waldenstein and Ingle contacted F Co after "H" made our nightly perimeter. "F" was in a little grove about 100 yards away. The night was quiet except for a heavy "bombardment" of Filipino mosquitoes.

            On 11 March., H Company was still pushing towards our real Zamboanga Battle. At 1000 hours, F Company crossed San Roque Strip. Numbly, Ingle could no longer see or hear anything. For Jap field artillery had fired our coastal oil dump, and smoke was rising high above the palms. H Company now followed G Company across the Strip. Near the Zamboanga City Road, 163's Cannon Company was exchanging fire with Jap 75s.

            As "H" took a break, a tank halted in the center of us. The sweating crew climbed out for a little air.

            We heard 3rd Battalion receiving fire along the beach. Then Jap field artillery opened up on our tank. In seconds, the crew was back inside bolted down - but for one man beating on the side and begging to be let in. He was admitted still unhurt. H Company happily parted company with the tank that probably clunked off to help 3rd Battalion capture Zamboanga City.

But as "H" moved on, that same 75 gun opened upon us.

            One shell landed under one of Ingle's heavy machine guns and ruined it. Luckily, Suly and he had left the machine gun just seconds before. Ingle's men picked up their remaining machine guns and emerged from the trees onto the Zamboanga City road. Our Regiment could have possession of the Air Strip if only that .75 could be destroyed. H Company crossed a deep ditch past a Filipino house and entered an open field about 900 yards north of Zamboanga City. It was now 1730 hours - time to dig for our second night in Zamboanga Battle.

            As we took off our jackets to start digging in, we heard a scream. A shell landed about two yards away from Ingle. A blow on the right side knocked him down. "Help!" yelled Ingle. Cumba asked, "How bad are you hurt, Ingle? Lourence Simonian is hurt bad." Ingle replied, "If I can yell like that, I'm all right. " He got back on his feet.

            Ingle's stomach was bloody. He pulled off a huge chunk of liver but found that it wasn't his. To strike Ingle, the fragment had gone through Simonian - had given Simonian his death wound. After another shell or two landed, he dived into a ditch.

            His helmet spun off. In a lull of firing, he decided that he had had enough. He rose up and started towards the rear.

            When another shell screeched in, he crawled over Lazur until he came to where "H" had crossed a deep ditch full of water. He walked across the opening before the ditch as shells flew by, but never thought of them. He just wanted to escape from that field. In the water, he got off the shallower part of the ditch and went in deep. Trunnel was crouched in the shelter of the bank and pulled Ingle out by letting him grasp his rifle.

            Now walking up the road, Ingle saw two Medics pass him. They were carrying a wounded man. The second Medic pulled out his shirt-tail for Ingle to wobble along behind him. First aid station was in a grove of trees, but Jap shells were landing there too often. He was hurried through the grove and off to the rear by truck.

         The hospital tent was crowded mostly by youngsters who had given out from the heat. Simonian and Ingle were the only wounded. Medics worked hard and long on seriously wounded Simonian, but they had to let Ingle lie in his blood all night, for Jap rifle fire stopped them from working on him. Ingle had bled quite a bit and the clot had stuck him to the bed. He had to talk a lot to persuade a recruit to crawl over and pull off his combat boots so that he could at least twist and turn in his pains. (Back before H Company's holes, the Jap .75 kept on firing for some time.)

            Next morning, Ingle was readied for an operation because of the wound in his ribs. But because he was stuck to the bed with congealed blood, he had to have warm water used to pry him loose. The Medics naturally cursed him for getting their bed all bloody.

            Before they dug out the steel fragments, the Mess Sergeant kindly heartened Ingle with coffee. After his operation, an ambulance carried him for further treatment at second Field Hospital. (One man arrived at the hospital with bloody rags over his privates. He feared that he was forever crippled sexually, but a Medic removed the rags and smiled encouragingly. Two bullets had stuck him - a bullet to each thigh. His "man- hood" was safe!)

            Meanwhile on that same 12 March when Ingle had his operation, H Company's Roth reported more casualties. When they were getting coffee at 0600 near Santa Marchia, the Jap gun fired again. Lacoste and Samples were hit - Samples badly wounded.

            After withdrawing 100 yards, "H" turned inland towards the hills and that gun again. After crossing the Air Strip, we had the Jap gun fire again - but unsuccessfully. Our 2nd Battalion dug in near a hill, with our 1st Platoon pinned down. Nearby G Company had two killed, 16 wounded.

            On 13 March, Ingle was carried aboard LST 459, now converted into a hospital, clean and well serviced. He took another tetanus shot - Number three in three days On 14 March, Ingle's chest still bled. Lying opposite Ingle but on the floor, Samples told him that after the shell wounded him, he came to on his side with his left heel in his mouth. Medics believed they could save him; he was happily expecting to go home. But Samples still needed two men to turn him over to relieve his suffering from being in one position. His legs were still in a cast, waist to ankles.

            By 15 March, Ingle's chest felt better; he even staggered off to the ship's "head" by himself. But below him a man with a stomach wound was thrashing around. During air alerts, the ship must button up in that heavy tropical heat.

            On 15 March also, LST 459 had a full cargo of 95 casualties, and was standing by waiting for a convoy to Mindoro. Four days later, they were seaborne north into the rough Sulu Sea. From his high bed on the well deck, Ingle heard the LST creak and groan. As it slapped along the waves, the water swished back and forth alongside. (Homesick Ingle was beginning his 37th month overseas. He had been engaged to his future wife Millie - by mail- for 10 months.)

            Landing at Mindoro at 0900 hours 20 March, the casualties rode ambulances far back into the hills to 165th Evacuation Hospital. Ingle found himself in a ward with nurses. He was by now recovered enough to give Samples a bath or two - half of his body, that is, which was not in a cast. Soon Samples was flown to Leyte on his way home.

Ingle's wound steadily got better. An X-ray found a few slivers of steel in his right side, but the    Medic advised him to leave them in if he had no pain. Every day, silver nitrate was applied into his wound to keep it healing from the inside out. On 30 March, the Medic started to draw the sides of the wound together. Three days later, only half an inch was unhealed.

            The fifth of April was Ingle's 25th birthday, with his present a Purple Heart which he was awarded with other wounded out in the sun before the Hospital. He was deeply homesick and yearning to see even the handwriting of the girl Millie to whom he was engaged. But soon he would rejoin H Company on Jolo Island where the main fighting was almost concluded. Such is the tale of S/Sgt Harold Ingle's wound at Zamboanga.

 

CREDIT: Most credit is due to a large part of Harold Ingle's diary overseas. It came to Hargis as a 19-page typescript from 22 Dec 1944 through 9 May 1945. Ingle helped to pioneer the 41st Division Association's great collection of more than 200 histories published already in the Jungleer. His was the fifth to appear - the title "Machine-Gun Duel on Wakde."