741 Ordnance Had To Make Those Guns Work

By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

(Continued from history began in Biak…)

            On the Navy transport Storm King, we had good American food as we sailed north to the Philippines. And Captain Burns kept us happy with calisthenics every morning. After a day of waiting for orders by the coco-flats south of Leyte, the Storm King drove NW in convoy into the center of the Philippine Islands. The men of 741 Ordnance will never forget that day of travel into the Visayan Philippines. After dizzy mountain gorges alongside, we cut the water among purple islands with gigantic volcanoes lost in the mists overhead. Then we sailed out of sight of land among great inland oceans. And always the sailors stood to their guns above us to watch for Japanese planes. Again and again the cry came, "Flash Red!" as Radar probed every "blip" on the screen. But we had no air-raids.

            On the great empty island of Mindoro, we staged with the Division for the Southern Philippines Campaign. Mindoro was any how better than Biak; we were out of the jungle and among people again. It was almost cold on that dry, dusty plain below the dim mountains where the pagans still lived. But San Jose village was small and crowded; soldiers were many and girls hard to get. Why was Mindoro a big empty island, and that close to Manila and the heaviest population in the entire Philippines? Historians tell us that the Moros had used Mindoro for a staging area also for raids on Luzon, and that it has never recovered from that systematic destruction, centuries ago.

            Now Zamboanga was invaded, and our First Echelon men came back with dire stories. Jap shells struck the foredeck of a nearby LST and killed a half-dozen men. And then WF Rear Echelon of 741Ordnance embarked with carbines on an LST and spread our blankets on cots on the crowded decks. It looked like war when we pushed into Zambo! In the mountains above the city, planes were still machine-gunning a pocket of Nips. But except for our truckmen and front-line details, 741 Ordnance got nothing at Zamboanga but hard work in Ordnance fashion-seven days a week and details at night until the grumbling was loud and there was a complaint to the Inspector-General.

            And we were indeed a chicken outfit! We couldn't even guard our tents without first shining up and enduring a formal guardmount. Those of us with no "T" under our stripes even had to live segregated on a little knoll at Zamboanga away from the technicians of higher grade than we were. Exasperating indeed was the episode of the sliding mosquito bar. Deft with hands, one carpenter devised a holder for his net that folded into the side of the tent. No officer could rest after that until we all fabricated sliding mosquito bars ....Perhaps some 741men remember also the beautiful two-story native bungalow our carpenters erected so that natives could sell refreshments to us. Prices rose, and those same carpenters (I have heard) poured gasoline on it and burned it to the ground.

            Such are my memories of 741Ordnance; I left the company in its big camp on the flats to the west of Zamboanga City. While on Jolo, I visited the detachment which lived there in a local skyscraper. They had refurbished the Power Plant of Jolo City - three stories up in the sky. And at Kure near Division Headquarters, I found 741Ordnance back in barracks again, and most of the old Dobodura men gone, and the later men up for rotation .... Such are my memories of 741 Ordnance, and I forgot now the monotonous grind of labor - seven days a week, and the chicken when a non-com was not even allowed to work with the detail he was in charge of. I remember instead the camp under the live-oaks on Biak, Geelvink Bay lazily rolling down among the Padeadori Islands - and lying on my cot listening to the talk of good guys in the tent with me.-