Headquarters Company 2nd Battalion, 162 Infantry: Patrol with Guerillas in Mindanao

by Joe Bradshaw with Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

 

            On 4 May 1945, Scout Joe Bradshaw landed in 162 Infantry near Cotabato City about 100 miles overseas east of Zamboanga - but still on Mindanao Island. We beached peacefully, for 24 Division ahead of us already fought Japanese 100 Division 100 miles eastward above Davao City. After 162's 3rd Battalion at once reembarked for Davao around the coast to help 24 Division, we other 162 men had to secure Cotabato Province which 24 Division had already passed through.

            Guerillas said that bypassed Jap outfits holed up south of us on Mount Blit and Dalican Village in a partly explored swamp and mountain jungle. We had to find out how dangerous those Japs were.

            About 12 May, 2nd Battalion's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Bailey, briefed Joe to lead a guerilla patrol to reconnoiter the lips to the south. Although Joe was only a PFC, Major Ratliffe made Joe his personal representative - knowing Joe's cleverness.

            To keep the patrol as secret as possible, Major Ratliffe himself drove Joe to the guerilla camp. Ratliffe introduced Joe to the guerilla Lieutenant Colonel as his recon officer. Joe saw a few tents and double-manned sentry posts with wide fields of fire. The guards said that we were already behind Jap lines!

            Joe dined beside the Lieutenant Colonel with 16 other officers.

            The Colonel asked for Joe's rank. Joe discreetly replied, "Sir, this mission is strictly hush-hush. Colonel Bailey advised me to say that I am his personal representative." The Colonel answered, "No one less than a major could hold this important duty." Joe gave the Colonel 12 cigars, and 12 packs of cigarettes.

            Next morn, Joe led his recon patrol forward - two sergeants with tomrnies, two corporals with carbines, and a turbaned Moro carrier whose conscience was against killing.

We hiked 9 miles to a hidden path to the advance post. It was too late to explore a Jap canyon between the guerilla outpost and US lines. (Mount Blit is an elliptical-shaped 4051-foot height about 25 miles south of Cotabato City.)

            We scanned a Jap detachment on a flat below us.

            Sentries seemed to spend more time in horse-play than in watching. Men lolled among the scattered grass huts. We spotted munition and supply dumps.

            On the third morning, we explored the Jap-held can-yon, looking from heavy jungle down into the chasm. Often, the Lieutenant asked, "Don't you see them? There they are." But Joe could not see any Nips under the jungle canopy below us. Three Filipino peasants came up from the canyon and also affirmed that they had seen the Japs. But Joe remembered too well the false reports that 162 Infantry had from timorous men on Roosevelt Ridge.

            Entering the canyon, we found that the Japs had left hastily, probably four hours before. Ashes were still warm, equipment strewn everywhere. The peasants had perhaps lied, to keep the guerillas from what the peasants considered to be their rightful loot.

            On the fourth day of their patrol, Joe and his two sergeants and two corporals sought for heavier Jap concentrations. The Lieutenant with his platoon lurked back 30 yards to secure us.

            At a Jap outpost, only two men guarded; others lay asleep in a grass shack. A light machine gun sat on its bipod. Two knee mortars lay on the ground, and three baskets of grenades. Farther back were camps totaling about 100 men, with ammo dumps and supply dumps. A small hospital stood on the edge of a garden, with a handful of patients. We saw horses and carts, but no motor vehicles. We wondered why there were many sacks of rice.

            Before noon, we had patrolled along a path on the side of a gorge above a turbulent stream. Now the clay sides of the gorge were over 100 feet high. Through jungle breaks, we saw tents, but mostly grass shacks where Japs were washing clothes in a big old drum, polishing sabers, or just lying around.

Also through that jungle, we saw a large, squat, thatched building. The Lieutenant said that this was Colonel Yamashita's Headquarters. He was the son of General Tomoyuki Yamashita fighting in Luzon.

We wanted to fire on them. We knew we could slay some 10 and escape in the confusion. But our patrol was incomplete. The Japs would horribly punish Filipino civilians, long before we could move Yanks from Cotabato to save them.

            Joe planned to kidnap Colonel Yamashita that night. While the guerillas waited outside, he would slip into the Colonel's room, knock him out, gag with an extra sock, tie his arms, and drag him into the jungle. Yamashita would be imprisoned in Cotabato Town before his officers would know that he was gone.

            The Filipino Lieutenant seemed to like the idea. He located Yamashita's sleeping area, and said that we could enter the building from the rear. If Joe failed and was entrapped, his tommie would fire. We would scatter to the jungle, and hopefully, rendezvous tomorrow. The scared lieutenant looked at Joe with an expression that still haunts Joe.

            In dull twilight, we moved out, single file. In 15 minutes it was darker, but Joe still saw the lieutenant's back ahead, and the lieutenant saw back of second of the two best trackers leading us. Thirty minutes later in blackness, Joe held to the lieutenant's pack-strap, and the man behind held onto Joe's pack. Every few minutes then, Joe whispered, "How much longer?" Always came the answer, "Only a few minutes."

            Morning light came after long hours. We were back in the cornfield where we had started - tired and hungry. Holding down his fury, Joe slowly smoked. Finally, he controlled his voice to ask, "What happened?" "Loco guides lose way," replied the lieutenant in pretend scorn. Every night, Joe had slept lightly because he feared treachery, but now he stayed awake until noon when he awoke the guerillas.

But Joe still had another mission. We were to spy on Japs at Dalican, a port some 3-5 miles west of the Filipino outpost, on Talayan River, which flows into Mindanao River near Cotabato Town. The lieutenant said that we lacked the men to examine this allegedly well-fortified Nippo town, but Joe said, "As a soldier, I must carry out my orders!"

            Using jungle cover beside the dusty road for the first 1.5 miles, we saw an opening 200 yards long, with 50-75 yards of bare ground on each side of the road. As point, Joe planned to run through the opening, while the guerillas doubled after him, man by man. As each man halted, he would cover the rear for Japs. But nobody followed Joe. He had to slip back and order them ahead of him with his tommie.

            In other 1.5 miles from Dalican, we found a rice plantation of many thatch-roofed buildings with Moro workers. Women wore ornamented vests and baggy pantaloons, tucked in at the knees. Two bearded older men told us of a little known nearby way into Dalican. All day, they said, Japs had patrolled every inch of Dalican, both sides of the river, and both sides of the road. The Moros did not know how we had missed that dragnet.

            Patrolling deep into green jungle, we found the overgrown trail. It ended behind an abandoned old grass shack. Nobody noticed us in Dalican until we came to some impressive riverside docks.

We talked to a few citizens. In fair English, one said that US troops had docked in an LCM a few minutes, then dropped back downstream. These had drawn the Nippo patrol from Mount Blit. The platoon had left just 30 minutes before.

            Many natives were not trustworthy. We told the truth where it was common knowledge, but exaggerated the size of US forces in Cotabato. We spoke of thousands of troops and tanks. While taking compass bearings, we visited the marketplace. We left by a hillside exit, which was closest to Cotabato - to throw off any Jap informants from our trail.

            Although returning to Cotabato was safer, Joe had promised to banquet at the Moro plantation that night. Refusing Moro hospitality might alienate them. Our guerillas wanted to be where women were.

Welcomed by the Moros, we chose a bivouac house.

            Knowing that they would turn out any household to let us rest unmolested, Joe chose a sagging old grass shack on the outskirts near the jungle. Its odor was unpleasant but endurable. Later, we found that it was a disused hogpen.

            We dined of course with our arms by our feet. Hosts were all male - the top men of the plantation. Women sat outside on the steps to enjoy the show - and warn against the Japs.

Joe was served first. Each waiter marched with a round wicker tray raised on five fingers high overhead - a dish to a tray. First came a bowl of chicken soup; then boiled rice; then chopped pork with rice, bean sprouts, and spring onions; then coarse brown sugar in coconut shells. Dessert was rice biscuits with coffee and milk - milk which Joe prized indeed.

            Outside the hall, we merely allowed ourselves handshakes. But middle-aged women hugged us, and their hugs prompted the girls to embrace us with passion unexpected from Moros. The men looked on indulgently. With songs and a mandolin, we were escorted to bivouac in our ruined hut.

            About 0300, our guard on duty awoke us. Loud Jap voices demanded and threatened. An estimated 50-man Jap patrol was ransacking every building to find and kill us. Moro voices wept and wailed and pleaded hysterically.

            Back to back in the death-dark of our smelly old hut, we crouched, hands on trigger-guards. If the Japs got within 20 yards, we'd blast them and while they were still in disorder, dive back into the jungle, and hopefully meet tomorrow. But now, Moros were laughing, and a Jap voice was saying in English, "So solly, please!" We heard the measured tread of their retreating patrol.

            Searching, ready to shoot, the Japs had turned out all the men, women, and children from all the Moro homes. The Moros loudly screamed that we had left last night. The Japs failed to examine our shack; they could not believe that Americans would sleep in a hog pen.

            In early dawn, we made a total reconnaissance back in Dalican. We mapped every street, road, by-path, house, or wayside thicket. In the market-place, we told the arriving morning crowd the names of islands already freed from the Japs. Then we retreated towards Cotabato Town and safety.

            By twilight, we had arrived at either E or F Company 162 Infantry. Here, a heavy-set 1st Lieutenant seemed to find fault with us when he said, "Figured you'd turn up a couple of days ago." Joe replied, "We could have been here four days ago, if we'd have shirked our responsibility." Then Joe said that we were famished.

            The 1st Lieutenant said that Joe could eat - but not his comrade guerillas. Joe said, "We all eat or nobody does." He unslung his tommie. "Lieutenant, I do not intend to argue. I am Colonel Bailey's representative until this patrol is over." The lieutenant gave in.

            We ate fresh potatoes with jungle rations, toast, plum pudding.

            At 1430 the next day in 2nd Battalion Headquarters, Colonel Bailey examined the guerilla lieutenant's map with Joe's entries of Japs' positions. Bailey said that air photos confirmed Joe's maps, and Joe's data.

As Bailey had requested, Joe offered his plan for a three-pronged attack to secure Dalican from the Mount Blit Japs. But Bailey replied that by now, those Japs were no real threat. (For 2nd Battalion was needed - 100 miles east to drive Lieutenant General Gyusaku Morizumi's men into the Mindanao Mountains.)

            Then Colonel Bailey had the grandest surprise of all for Joe Bradshaw long after midnight. Joe was going home! Joe had come back from patrol just in time to board a truck leaving Cotabato Town that morning to begin the trip.

            At 1100, Joe embarked with some 20 more men to truck 100 miles east across Mindanao to embark from Davao. We were unarmed and in sun-tans. As we drove through a battle area near Davao, Jap field artillery and automatic fire fell near us. We saw a dead man lying beside an overturned jeep and two men of a Service Battalion trembling in fear. Service 162's 1st Sergeant Bob Fleming and a motor pool man righted the jeep and with the dead man in it, followed us into Davao City. The rest of Joe's return Stateside via Leyte and Norfolk, Va., was routine. About June, 1945, Joe was discharged - but with a 30-day furlough to decide whether he desired to remain in the Army.

           

            Epilogue on Joe's patrol. From Jap reports, we believe that Joe had patrolled against a detachment from 1st Battalion 74 Jap Infantry. Assigned to gather rice for Morozumi's 30 Division, they were cut off by the US invasion. (This could explain why Joe had seen many piles of rice bags on his patrol.) From 2nd Battalion 162 Headquarters, we have notes on a 4-5 man patrol of 11-15 May, which seems to be Joe's patrol. Earlier Filipino civilians' reports were that some 300 Japs were in the Mount Blit area, but this report - probably Joe's - was that an estimated 100 Japs were in the Mount Blit garrison.

 

CREDIT: Most of this history comes from last 16 pages of Joe Bradshaw's 27-page, double-spaced typescript, "Battalion Two and the Philippine Liberation." (Pages I-II are Bradshaw's story of Zamboanga Battle and Basilan Island.) Typescript is on pages 15 inches long and 12 inches wide. Useful as background were "Addendum/Activities of 2nd Battalion (162 Infantry) from 3 May 1945 through 7 July 1945 ... V 4 Operation," R. R. Smith's Triumph in the Philippines, and Reports of General MacArthur / Japanese Operations in the Southwest Pacific Area, Vol. II. Also useful were 162 Infantry's Report of Operation ... 4 May to 30 June 1945, and "Journal - 162nd Infantry Regiment," beginning 3 May 1945.

 

 


 


 

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