K Company, 162 Infantry Balut Island to Calinan

By Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian, with K 162 Charles Brockman & Bob Irick

 

This is the story of K Company -162 Infantry's wars in southern Mindanao, when we fought for the 24 Division to defeat the Jap 100 Division north of Davao City. We had two main actions. First came the amphibious expedition far south of Davao City into Sarnagani Bay on the southernmost tip of Mindanao. Most memorable part of this expedition was the landing on Balut Island. Second action was the hard battle to capture Calinan north of Davao City. Calinan was the center of resistance for the Second Defense line of General Jiro Harada's 100 Division.

Leaving newly won Zamboanga City at 1300 hours 3 May, "K" with our 162 Regiment voyaged over 150-mile Moro Gulf and arrived at Parang on the main part of Mindanao Island at 0800, 4 May 1945. Leaving most of the 162 Infantry to guard 24 Division's lines of communication across southern Mindanao to Davao Gulf, "K" started with the rest of 3rd Battalion on its detached mission.

With our 3rd Battalion and attached C Battery 205 Field Artillery, we got orders to join 24 Division in the Davao City area immediately. Traveling in LSTs, we voyaged an estimated 300 miles around the great southward projecting mass of mountains and swamps of southern Mindanao. Rounding Tinaca Point, which is the farthest southern land on Mindanao, we traveled north into Davao Gulf for about 100 miles. Landing at Talomo on the western side of Davao Gulf about 20 miles southeast of Davao City, we saw that battle was going on close by.

Marine Dauntless dive bombers were striking at Nippo positions so close that we saw white stars on the fuselages. Farther left, we viewed tall, snow-topped Mount Apo (9,693 feet) and feared that we would have to storm it.

About 1200, "K" boarded 6x6 trucks and rode north down a narrow concrete two-lane highway through the jungle. We were still surprised to ride again on the right side of the road instead of the left side, as in Australia-New Guinea. We saw many 155 mm guns towed by heavy tractors. All bridges were blasted away and replaced by temporary structures.

That night in perimeter, Brockman heard eight M-1 shots and a grenade blast. Next morning, Ball exhibited a fine saber to reward him for last night's shooting. (We do not know how many Japs died that night.)

After 2- 3 days' security patrols when some 90 mm Jap mortars landed too close to us, we trucked south again. We were riding down the shore to Malalag where PT boats had a base near their supply tender.

On the afternoon of 12 May, K's convoy halted while advance elements scouted the area. We heard a terrific explosion. A mine had blown up our command jeep. First Sergeant Carl DeRyk died at once; Captain Robert C. Watson died of wounds that same day. Lucky Driver Gribbons survived with only a face wound.

In this Malalag area on the west coast of Davao Gulf, K Company spent about two weeks in routine security patrols. With other 3rd Battalion 162 Companies, 162's l&R and 640TD, 205 Field Artillery, and guerillas, we secured routes across southern Mindanao back to the west coast. We protected large Padada Strip, and the rear of 24 Division which was now fighting from Davao City northward. For to the south of us above Sarangani Bay were 2,000 organized Nips who potentially threatened the rear of 24 Division.

Then after two weeks, "K" embarked from Malalag on one of our Division's last amphibious raids of the war against Sarangani Bay Japs. "K" was the core of a sea-borne force to clear the last Jap bases on the southernmost part of the Mindanao coast. Here Japs had set up motor torpedo boat bases to raid our Navy, but too late in the war to be effective.

It seemed a large force. Guarded by Destroyer Escort Leland E. Thomas, Destroyer Flusser, PT boats and LCls with rockets or guns, we boarded some 10 LCMs. Including 12 men of Naval Fire Support, our force totaled 260.

K Company made three landings. First was on 1st of June at Luayon, about 30 miles down shore from our Malalag base. After an hour's destroyer bombardment and air-strike, we landed and destroyed the radio station. We found three Japs dead already, killed two, and wounded one who escaped. (As of 30 May 60 Japs had garrisoned Luayon with several machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.)

Second landing on Balut Island 3 June, was most eventful. Located off Tinaca Point, most southern tip of all Mindanao, Balut Island is 23 square miles in area, with a volcano 29,895 feet in height.

But men like K Company's BAR-man Bob Irick saw no volcano. To him and other "K" men, Balut was just another jungle terrain for tiresome, sweaty hiking in full pack. Balut was the hottest place that we had ever known in the Philippines. Almost everybody seemed to suffer from heat exhaustion.

Landing at 0800, "K" started out in open, flat country and patrolled slowly and steadily inland. Covering several miles, we saw no Japs or Filipinos of a post-war population of 1,377 Filipinos.

Next day, 4 June, Balut seemed still hotter, but we again found no Japs of the estimated garrison of 40-50 - largely naval personnel, with a mobile radio station. Relieved, we expected to leave our harmless objective and head "home" for Malalag without fighting.

Then suddenly, intense rifle fire struck at us. We thought that a whole company of Japs were firing - steeled ourselves for a charge.

Fearfully hiding behind a large rock, Bob Irick did not take time to look around. Encumbered by his BAR, and heavy equipment, he painfully slid down a stony gorge. At the end of the slide, he was in pain. Medics bandaged him and splinted his leg. Although carried on a litter back to the barges, he had nothing broken. (Irick spent just some 10 days at 52 Field Hospital before rejoining K Company.)

But Jap rifle fire ceased before us; nobody charged. Of those 40-50 estimated Jap "marines" on Balut as of 26 May, we slew just three. We demolished their radio station, and all other installations, and a three-inch gun. Machine guns had already been smashed before we landed.

K's third and final landing was on 5 June at Cape San Agustin, back eastward across 30-mile wide Davao Gulf. Cape San Agustin was another of the southern points of Mindanao. PT boats had already brought off two plantation owners with accurate data on the Japs. Earlier reports had credited this 100-man garrison with two 6-inch guns, two .50 heavy machine guns, but the bombardment chased the Japs deep into the jungle. With no reported Jap or U.S. casualties, we destroyed a radio, two large generators, two fuel dumps, a 20 mm gun, and small arms ammo.

For all three landings, we finally claimed a total kill of six Nips, one probable, besides another 10 whom the Filipinos reported as killed. (It would be many years before "K" men realized that 2,000 Japs, well-fed and in good condition, were alive in the Sarangani Bay hills.) With about 450 naval troops were some Companies of 167 and 168 Jap Infantry, and some field artillery. Five weeks after "K" left Sarangani Bay, a special U.S. - Filipino task force concluded organized resistance on 25 July after killing 450 Japs. Ironically, Sarangani Bay was where General MacArthur had planned his first invasion to reconquer the Philippines. It became the site of the last attack against unmolested Japs in the Philippines.

K's return from Cape San Agustin meant the finish of our first main action in southern Mindanao. In our second main action, "K" with our 3rd Battalion fought the entrenched Jap 100 Division. These Japs still held out bravely, only 17 miles northwest of Davao City, in the dark abaca hemp jungle of the Talomo River bottom. The 24 Division had broken General Jiro Harada's First Defense Line in six weeks of battle, but now the worn 24 Division men moved to the flank while 162's 1st Battalion and 3rd Battalion and our attached 3rd Battalion entered the Talomo cockpit. With 24 Division, our 41 Division units shared in probably the hardest fighting of the campaign to seize the Mindanao mainland from the Japs.

Relieving 3rd Battalion 34 Infantry 4,000 yards north of Ula on 13 June, 3rd Battalion was to secure the road junction 3,000 yards east of Calinan, and from there strike Calinan itself.

When I and K Companies moved on 14 June, "K" was in reserve. At 1045, a Jap knee mortar harassed us. It fired a few rounds, then moved several hundred yards and fired again. Our 60s evidently silenced that mortar, which only damaged a light machine gun of ours. But ahead of us, I Company suffered heavily from a Jap mortar and a 75 mm cannon - had four killed, 12 wounded.

Next day, 15 June, K Company passed through I Company now in reserve - and pushed with two tanks of 716 Tank Battalion. At 1800, "K" slew 17 Japs at a village road junction. Lightly wounded were Pfc Lawrence Corolla, Lieutenant Elwood J Baldwin. We dug in for the night just south of that road junction.

At dusk 16 June, "K" suffered the tragic instant death of four Sergeants from one shell. The morning had gone well enough. Despite 90 mm mortars, knee mortars, and even Jap fire from M -1s that they had captured somewhere else, we had knocked out a pillbox and were within 75 yards of the next road junction. That morning, we had lost two wounded, and at 1340, a Jap machine gun wounded three more men. Only this is known about the five men. When "K" gathered for close about dusk, a Jap 75 shell hit with such accuracy that we suspect observers were close. Probably because of this pin-pointing by nearby Japs, four Sergeants were killed. Sergeant Victor R. Torre died, with Staff Sergeants Harold O. Hartmann, Walter O. Kmicinski and Earl R. McShane. We believe that not one man of the four knew what hit him. Irick surmises that he too missed death with Torre and "Chink" Kmicinski only because he was then on out-guard. Marked seriously wounded was Pfc Francisco M Lopez.  Pfcs Bruno Arcangeletti, Anthony F Gerlach, Earl K Hall, James T Litke and Henry P McElroy were lightly wounded. That night, mortars harassed us from the northwest. Small Jap groups shot into our perimeter, but caused no casualties.

The Japs before us fought as bravely as ever. Lacking planes and tanks and with only outranged 75 mm cannon short of ammo, they still resisted doggedly. They did have the advantage of concealment among dark, tall acres of abandoned and overgrown abaca (Filipino hemp) fields. And General Harada had thrown in his best troops (probably 167 and 168 Infantry Regiments) until the survivors had escaped into the mountains. On 18 June, although all fronts still resisted heavily, 162 Headquarters said that resistance was more scattered than before. The attached 3rd Battalion 163 Infantry had not seized Calinan Village on 18 June, and thus relieved 162's 1st Battalion to fight westward from Calinan. K Company's own 3rd Battalion fought strong Jap positions northwest of Calinan. It failed to crack the Jap strong point west of the first road junction 700 yards northwest of Calinan. Here I Company was forced to dig in. K Company lost Pfc Harold J Lyon, lightly wounded. But the Japs again withdrew, now that they had lost Calinan.    .

Now our 3rd Battalion had to clear Japs from north and far northeast of Calinan. We had cleared Villafuerte, Dacodao and Lascon Plantation.

On 19 June, "K" advanced up Villafuerte Road on ground that Japs had held shortly before. About 1600, we met heavy machine gun and rifle fire from a Jap pillbox and vicinity, 300 yards north of the road junction. Two more pillboxes then fired. Our patrol withdrew and called down field artillery on the pillboxes, but too late that day to appraise results. On that 19 June, Pfc Wesley G Parrish was lightly wounded, Harold Stambaugh lightly injured. At 2230 that night, "K" in perimeter slew three Japs. Next day, the pillboxes were deserted.

On 20 June, K Company again met heavy resistance northeast of Villafuerte road junction. Lightly wounded was Pfc Edd R Gilbert.  Pfc Thomas E Turner lightly injured. Pfc Leonard Wilkins Sr. was killed, our final battle death of "K. "

Next, 3rd Battalion had to fight in the Mount Monoy ridge mass where some Japs still held out. On 21 June, while 1st Battalion 162 cleared the southwest section, 3rd Battalion had to storm the northeast part. Despite Jap 75 Field Artillery and mortars, L Company with our field artillery preparation took Mount Monoy. "K" joined "L" on the summit about 1830.

Finally, "K" was in probably the 41st Division's last fight of World War II. After an AT 162 patrol recoiled from the fire of four automatic weapons on the dirt road southeast of Lorenzo, "K" acted. On 27 June, we seized high ground near where "AT" had escaped. On 28 June, L Company passed through our position but met a small holocaust - five dead and 12 wounded. ("K" lost nobody.) Not until 30 June, after CN 162's preparation and with two tanks' help, did 3rd Battalion advance again. The Japs' 22 pillboxes were totally deserted. The whole 62 Infantry sector was now totally cleared of Japs.

Thus ended K 162's war for the 24 Division in the Davao area. Losses were luckily few, but we still lament the death of four fine Sergeants by one shell, and excellent Captain Robert Watson with 1st Sergeant Carl DeRyk. We would be happy for the close of K Company's final action of World War II.

 

CREDIT: Charles Brockman supplied a three-page manuscript. Bob Irick wrote on 12 May, about 1 June, then 19 June, 21 June, 29 June, 20 July, 4 September, 9 October - all in 1981. I used also 162's V-5 Operation "Report of Operations," and "Journal" beginning 4 May 1945, along with "Preliminary Joint Discussion on Clearing the Davao Gulf Shore" (26 May 1948), and 162's "Casualty List" - although the V-5 List wrongly omits any mention before 13 June 1945. Important was Samuel Eliot Morison's Vol XIII of his History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II, on Luayon, Balut Island, and Cape San Agustin. Useful also were R. R. Smith's Triumph in the Philippines and General Douglas MacArthur's Japanese Operations in the southwest Pacific Area.