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Monday, June 2, 2014

Yank Jungle Patrol

Uncle Len would be around 24 years old when he writes this narrative. I am not sure what “AA men” would be — AA is sometimes America’s Army, other times Anti-Aircraft  I am inclined to the latter interpretation. BAR stands for Browning Automatic Rifle — photo here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Browning_ar001.jpg. “Division CP” would be Division Command Post.
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[handwritten: Ed - Please return this when you are finished. Thanks, Arnold
by L. J. Nevis]

                              ON A YANK JUNGLE PATROL

     Several weeks ago I had requested the authority to go on a 
patrol outside the perimeter into Jap territory.  The other day Maj.
Ayres stopped by and said that preparations had been made for 
me to go out on a patrol.  Several hours letter the S-2 of one 
of our regiments called and told me to be at J (J because of 
censorship) Company at eight o’clock wednesday morning.   I drew
the necessary equipment, and spent the rest of the day cleaning 
my carbine.  Calling back the next day to check on the patrol, 
I found that I should be there at seven-thirty instead of eight 
o’clock.  Before I went to bed tuesday night I had everything 
ready. For the first time since i have been here I got up at 
reville.  After a hasty breakfast, I had Letwin drive me up to 
J Company area, which was situated thigh up on the ridge that forms
the perimeter.  I was introduced to the Lt. who was the patrol
leader, rations and ammunition were handed out, and a few instruc-
tions were given.  We then boarded a truck and are driven out to 
the Company whose lines we were to go out through.  our patrol 
consisted of fourteen infantry men, as we detracted we were met 
by fourteen AA men, who were to go out with us.  The AA men were 
designated to bring up the rear, and I followed behind the Patrol
Leader, whose was in turn behind two scouts.  We started out single 
file up over a little ridge.  On the other side we could see an 
outpost, as we approached they open the wire in front of them so 
that we could pass through.  At the outpost we stopped and made 
a check of the radio and our equipment.  The command was then 
given to load and look.  We went out through the wire and down 
a path through the mine field that was planted in front of the 
wire.  We were on our own now, out in no-mans-land.  We kept going
down,the trail getting steeper and steeper.  This was nice after 
climbing over the ridge to the outpost, but then I realized that 
every step we took down meant two steps up.

     The men in the patrol were all young, probably between twenty 
and twenty-five.  They were wiry, healthy, good looking kids.
They all looked capable  and looked like they knew what the score
was.  Apparently the misfits and weaklings had been weeded out long 
ago.  We finally reached the bottom of the little canyon, and 
started up  It was hard work climbing with a pack, I was sadly 
out of condition and became quickly winded, but somehow I kept 
up with them.  The morning passed slowly on, and we kept climbing 
or descending.  The trail became steeper and rougher.  Just about 
the time I felt I could go no farther, the patrol leader would
call for a halt.  The trail became even steeper; we would climb 
up for about fifty feet or so, and then rest.  I had only a piece
of toast and a cup of coffee for breakfast, and though I was wind-
ed before, I now began to feel weak.  I counted my pulse and it 
was constantly up around 150 or 160, and at times it went over
200.  I thought my heart was going to burst and my lungs ex-
plode with it.  Just about the time I felt I must stop, a call
came from the rear that that a man had fallen out.  We had to stop
and rest for a half hour, and wait for him to recover. This
certainly was a break for me.  A little while later two men fell
out and said that they could’nt go any further.  We radioed in 

[page 2]
our position and then left them there.  We then started forward
again, but this time a little slower.  We continued to climb and 
then descend, hour after hour, yard after yard.  A little before
twelve, we reached the crest of the ridge that we were to follow.
The mission of the patrol was to find a trail along this ridge to
an outpost that was our destination.  After following the ridge 
for about twenty minutes we stopped for lunch.  After I had eaten,
drank a good quantity of water and rested, I felt much better. At 
this point I learned that six of the AA boys had dropped out about 
eleven o’clock and started back, this decreased out patrol to twen-
ty men.  I was also told that the hardest part of the hike was be-
hind us, and so with the food, rest, and this knowledge I started 
off feeling more like my former self.  Although the ridge was eas-
ier than climbing up and down, it was was still rough.  The trail was 
narrow, and the ground sloped away rapidly on both sides.  If you 
can picture a flea walking along the top of a chipped and broken 
razor, you will have a rough idea of what it was like.  Occasion-
ally we would pass an old Jap gun position with some 75mm ammunition 
scattered around.  From these old positions we could look right 
down on our perimeter.  It must have been a terrific job for the 
Japs to get these 75mm’s up there.  Once in a while we would pass
a few abandoned Jap helmets.  Suddenly the Patrol Leader signaled
for a quick halt.  Ahead I could see a trip wire across the trail.
A scout went ahead to examine it.  It turned out to be merely a 
warning system, as it was attached to a couple of cans.  One of 
the men cut it and we proceeded, however a little more carefully. 
These two scouts had a tough job, every time the trail forked at 
a questionable place, they would drop their packs and each would 
investigate a branch.  They would then come back, and report their
findings to the Patrol Leader, who would decide which trail to 
take.  If any enemy was ahead they would be the first to contact 
them.  Behind me was a man with a BAR (automatic rifle) who could 
give immediate heavy fire power in case of contact with the enemy.

     We continued on when suddenly we were once again signaled to 
a quick halt.  Ahead was a newly prepared gun position.  We took 
cover, and the man with the BAR came forward to cover the scouts
while theyexamined the position.  One went to the left, the other 
to the right, and they started slowly crawling forward to flank 
the position.  Suddenly they jumped up and signaled us to come
ahead.  They postion was empty.  A little while later we reached some 
more old 75mm positions and the ridge fork at this point.  We
dropped down to rest, while the scouts went to investigate the 
fork.  In the distance we could hear artillery fire and some auto-
matic weapons firing.  I was so tired that I did’nt even bother to
try to find out how far away, where, or who it was.  The scouts 
finally came back, and it was decided to take the ridge to the 
left.  We were find later that this was to be an expensive 
mistake.  We started down the ridge, the going became rougher. 
Fortunately, the noon rest had done me a great deal of good and 
I was’nt any more tired than the others.  Once again we started 
to go up and down. The trail became steeper, and in many places 
it was necessary to use vines, or pull a man up with a rifle.
                                            -2-

[page 3]
Finally we started up a rather steep ridge, it was tough going,
but a least we thought we were on our way back to the main ridge.
However much to our disappointment we found our selves on top 
of a little pinnacle shaped mountain.  He we rested and the Patrol
leader planned the next move.  The dense jungle was a great hind-
erence on climbing up an down, but the vines are often handy at
a particularly tough spot.  We again got under way, this time we 
kept going down.  The slope became steeper, it was more and more 
difficult to descend we came to a little stream that was damp
but dry.  Here we started up again.  After a long climb we finally 
started down again.  The trail was an old one and hard to follow.
Suddenly the Patrol Leader signaled us to an abrupt halt.  The 
scouts went forward to examine a trip wire.  They were able to 
follow it for only about five feet on either side of the trail,
and then the going became too rough.  As it was slick they decided 
to cut it.  I got well back under cover, for if any booby traps 
were going to go off, I did’nt want to be around.  One man went 
forward and carefully cut the wire.  Nothing happened so we pro-
ceeded on down the trail.  After continuing down for several hun-
dred yards we found ourselves hacking through the brush.  Some-
where we had missed the trail.  The going got steeper, when we 
suddenly found ourselves on a ledge over a straight drop down.

     There was only one thing to do, and that was to go back.  I’ll
never forget that going back.  Once the Patrol Leader slipped and 
slid down about twenty feet before he finally caught hold of a 
root.  Somehow we finally made it back up and then down to the 
little damp stream bed.  Several of the men said that they could-
‘nt go up any more, they would have to go down.  We started to 
follow the stream down.  The rocks were slimmy with moss, here 
I took my first fall of the day.  The stream suddenly took a 
drop of thirty feet.  We went down a vine hand over hand. Every 
hold I took on the vine creaked and cracked, and I expected any 
minute to have it snap and go plunging down to the rocks below.
I was the fourth man down, the twentieth and last man said it had 
creaked and cracked on him.  Now we must continue downward for the 
vine would never hold if all of us tried to climb up it.  For some 
time now the men knew that we were lost, and they began to bitch 
bitterly.  A little further down the stream there was another straight 
drop.  We looked down and could’nt even see the bottom as it was 
obscured by folaige.  It looked like we were really stuck this
time.  The afternoon was wearing away, and in a few hours it 
would be dark.  The Lt. in charge finally worked his way around
a narrow ledge to the left, and we all followed.  After hacking 
along the edge of a very steep slope we finally came upon an old 
trail.  We started down, for over an hour we kept climbing down,
it was fast and rough going, as the Patrol Leader was trying to 
get us down to level ground before the sun went down.  We finally 
came out on an old Jap bivouac area, and upon crossing it we found 
a little stream.  Here we paused and filled our canteens, being 
careful to chlorinate the water.  Continuing on the trail, which 
now had become more  or less level we entered the site of a former
Jap hospital.  There were boxes, bottles, shoes, skulls, bones, 
and helmets strewn about. It was rather a funny feeling to look 
over at an old rusty Jap helmet, and see a skull nearby, sardonicly
leering up at you.  There were numerous foxholes, dugouts, and 
old fortifications on the other side of the hospital area.  About 
five-thirty somebody shouted, “This is far enough, lets stop for
                                             -3-

[page 4]
the night.  The Patrol Leader guided us off the trail to a little
level spot, and we threw off out packs.  I picked me a spot, and 
started to hack out a clearing with my knife.  About that time it
started to rain.  I did’nt even bother to put on a poncho, as I 
was already wet and covered with mud.  Normally guards and out-
posts would be posted, but we were all so tired that we were or-
dered to bunch up, and the Patrol Leader let it go at that. 
I asked him why we did’nt stop at the Jap bivouac area, as it was 
a much better spot.  He said that this place, well concealed and 
off the trail would be much safer.

     I opened my “K” rations and proceeded to eat a cold dinner of 
crackers, spam, and a choclate bar.  I took a couple of salt tablets
and some dextrose tablets, and prepared to settle down for the night.
I took off my wet fatigue jacket and slipped on a dry “T” shirt.
I dropped my poncho over my head and made a pillow out of my shelter
half, using part of it for a flap to keep the rain out of my face.
An hour later I woke up in a puddle, and had to move to higher 
ground.  Soon the rain let up and I fell asleep wet and cold with 
any and spiders crawling over my legs, and oblivious to the many 
sounds of the jungle night.About one in the morning I woke up ex-
tremely cold, I found that the warmest position was to lie on my 
side, cross my arms at my chest, and draw my legs up.  So once
again I fell asleep, however, this time with the moon shinning 
through a break in the trees right in my face.  About every hour 
i would wake up with a sore hip, then I would turn over on my back.
An hour later I would wake up very cold, so I would turn over on 
my other hip, curl up and go back asleep.  I did this alternately
all night.  We got up at six o’clock, ate breakfast, packed our gear,
and started off.  We figured ( or rather they did) that it would 
take us about two or three hours to hit the main trail that ran
out to a trail block and outpost.

     We went along a pretty good clip, I I was feeling pretty good
and did’nt mind it too much.  At one point it looked like we were 
going to have to cross a swamp, but they finally found a muddy
trail around the edge.  We were making pretty good time, when we 
found out that the rest of the patrol was quite a ways behind us.
They finally caught up with us, and they were pretty mad.  Mean 
words flew back and forth.  A man with a BAR wanted to throw it
away.  The Patrol Leader tried to find somebody else to carry it.
Every one declined, declaring that he was too tired.  Finally the 
Patrol Leader said that we would levee this spot until someone
would carry the gun.  The man that owned it then said, “I’ll carry 
the damn thing, lets get the hell out of here.”  Once again we 
plodded our weary way forward.  The jungle became very dense, you
could not see a man on the trail five feet in front of you.  Forty-five
minutes later we suddenly came out on the main trail, what a grand
and glorious feeling.  Because of the jungle out radio had not worked
since three the previous afternoon, so we flagged down a jeep and 
gave him the message to have the trucks come out and pick us up.
Two hours later I was sitting in my tent freshly showered and in 
clean sun tans relating my experiences to some friends.  Although 
we did’nt contact the enemy, I was well satisfied with patrolling, 
and determined to stay near the Division CP unless ordered to do
otherwise.



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