Hugh Reynolds, B Company, 163rd Infantry

"It is impossible for any one person to see all that takes place on the field of battle; therefore, there can be many versions of the same action. This is my version of the events and battles I was personally involved in during my five years and three days of active service in World War II. Comments entered here are taken from division records as well as my memory of the events recorded. Many dates are taken from my book “THE JUNGLEERS” and others are from my coded diary. I will also be clarifying some passages that are only alluded to in vague terms in the book. –Hugh Z. Reynolds

In the year 1934, on the 9th day of May and at the age of fourteen, I joined the D Company 163d Infantry of the Montana National Guard in Harlowton, Montana. Upon my enlistment I attended summer camps in Helena, Montana and also participated in weekly drills held at the Harlowton National Guard Armory, which was located in the building that now is the Moose Lodge. These drills continued until I entered the Federal Service in 1940.

In August of 1940 our D Company went to Fort Lewis, Washington for annual summer field training. I did not attend this training. On September 16, 1940 we received our orders that we were being inducted into the Federal Service for a period of one year. The report that we received informed us to get our shots and physicals. We were also informed to settle all of our personal affairs and then they issued us our clothing and gear.

Our company began training immediately following that order. The training consisted mainly of close order drills. On September 23 we began preparing for the trip to Camp Murray, which was part of Fort Lewis, Washington. Upon arrival to Camp Murray we set up a tent camp. The camp had floors with four-foot high sideboards. We lived here throughout the winter as we continued training. As a result of the cold, wet and foggy weather we called our camp “Swamp Murray.” We had a cook shack but no mess hall; therefore, we had to eat on outside tables even during the fog and rain. The food was fair but the training was hard and we had to assimilate most of our weapons. As spring approached we began to receive weapons and tactical vehicles.

During the winter months carpenters were busy building a nice area of barracks to house the 41st Division Containment. During this time the area was becoming quite a military complex because other units were being mobilized and brought into the area.

In September of 1940 the United States Armed Forces consisted of 27 Infantry Divisions, 18 National Guard and 9 regular Army. Our Division had 14,000 Officers and Men upon induction. Our strength went to 18,300 after we received replacements. Shortly after induction the 41st Division was rated as one of the top three Divisions in the Army. In early spring the 41st took part in a Corps review that involved over 45,000 men and equipment. It was quite a show.

During Christmas time most of the troops were allowed to go home on a ten-day leave. Some personnel had to stay in the camp area for security so I stayed at the camp. My brother Cliff commanded the detachment from our unit to remain in camp.

On January 21, 1941 I was promoted to the rank of corporal. This promotion brought a nice boost in pay from the monthly pay of $21.00 that I received my first four months of service.

In March of 1941 we began to receive filler personnel at our containment area at Camp Murray. I was picked as part of the team dedicated to training these recruits that were fresh out of boot camp. This training consisted mainly of close order drills, manual of arms, squad tactics, and getting used to army life. After about six weeks of this the new recruits were assigned and integrated into our units.

Our Division soon began to make large-scale maneuvers in and around Fort Lewis. We then traveled to the Hunter Ligget Military Reservation in King City, California. We maneuvered against the 40th Division. This maneuver involved about 65,000 troops. A short leave was granted after this. I decided again not to go on leave but to wait for Christmas time. This proved to be a mistake because in August, President Roosevelt issued an executive order extending our tour of duty for another 18 months. Things did not look good. Maneuvers began again in earnest along the Washington coast. We were plagued by rain, mud and Continual night moves over almost impassible roads. I still planned on having a leave to go home around Christmas. The day of December 7 changed all of my future plans.

The troops were on weekend leave and scattered all over nearby towns. I had been to Tacoma but came back to camp Saturday night. On Sunday morning, as we were loafing around the barracks, we received the shocking news that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. Orders were immediately broadcast all over the Northwest directing all personnel to return to their commands as soon as possible. We were receiving orders fast and furious. Our first actions involved issuing live ammunition, loading machine gun belts, and preparing the vehicles to move. We packed all of our personal belongings, labeled them and stored them in the recreation hall.

In the weeks prior to the bombing we had been busy organizing a defense system and digging gun emplacements along the Washington coast from Aberdeen to Port Angeles, along the Strait of Juan De Fuca. By 1800 hours our extended convoy was loaded and we began moving out of our camp area toward the prepared positions. The weather was cold and foggy, so dark came early and our move had to be made under total blackout conditions. It was a slow treacherous move that took until the wee hours of the morning to complete. After the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the whole West Coast braced for an invasion of Japanese forces. At this time we began to assess why we had been preparing these positions. We assumed that someone higher up must have known that war was a very strong possibility or certainty.

Within a week our 41st Division was deployed all along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, extending 150 miles south of Fort Lewis. We spent our time manning our positions and patrolling back roads and reporting any suspicious activity we encountered. We had the authority to stop, search or question any civilian who acted suspicious. Patrols were all made under blackout conditions at night. This continued until late February when we were relieved and returned to Fort Lewis. We stayed here until moving overseas.

During this period our Division was reorganized from a Square Division with four Regiments to a Triangle Division with three Infantry Regiments. The 161st Regiment was taken out of the Division and filled with personnel from the other three regiments. This was done with the expectation of the 161st going to the Philippine Islands to reinforce the troops fighting the Jap Forces.

The 161st Regiment started overseas soon after this. After about three days out it became apparent that we were about to lose the Philippines. They were returned to the United States and later were sent to the Hawaiian Islands. The regiment became part of the 25th Division and later fought Jap forces on Guadalcanal along with the Marines.

Our newly reorganized Division now began to prepare for movement overseas. The 162nd Infantry, along with some other units, moved to the East Coast. We had been trained for European type warfare and were not surprised by this move. We soon found out however, that those orders were to be changed. The situation in the Pacific became so desperate that the powers to be decided that we would go to Australia. We moved to Camp Funsten at San Francisco. Ten days later we began loading on the Queen Elizabeth, the largest ship afloat, for the trip to the Land of the Kangaroo. At that time we were not sure where we were going. Even the top command and the ship captain were unaware of our final destination until the orders were opened on the high seas.