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My Dad said it best: Welcome to Battaan, Courtesy of the 38th Infantry Division. I live in the Philippines, and I seen a maker there in the middle of the street on the way to Olongapo. Don't say how I found it, I just had a feeling to look in the tall grass, and there it was. I can tell you more if you really care. bobogold@yahoo.com

Letters from John M. Russell

Letter from John M. Russell to Mom


The wars in the south is over and we are to go back to camp tomorrow and then I can come home next week so until then hoping you are right and I could not be better outside a few bites I will close I be home soon thank for all the picture expect to get home around 8th of Oct. Maybe later well good nite all. Happy day.

Your Best to the family I know

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Dec 22 2012 18:51 GMT BobRussell
Japanese Marines were holding Zig-Zag Pass. It was predicted it could never be taken. We had never been in combat, this is what we were facing. I wrote this story 30 years ago because of nightmares I was having, reliving the bloody battles of combat. I was told if I put my memories on paper, it would relieve my nightmares.

One never forgets this kind of tragedy, no matter how old you get. It is set in my mind as clear today as it was the day it happened. The number of Veterans of this conflict left to tell the personal stories of Zig-Zag Pass, are getting less and less. I was only eighteen at that time, most of the men were in there 30's and 40's, I doubt if they are around now.

I was attached to the 38 Cyclone infantry division. We had just had a 6 month assignment in New Guinea, mostly unloading bombs from ships, the heat there was unbelievable!! We were just 10 degrees from the equator. No refrigeration, we buried our soda & beer in the ground, for cooling, which wasn't much cooler. We were camped in the jungle. This was heaven compared to combat, we found out later.

We were put in a convoy of ships heading for we didn't know where. Until we unloaded at Leyte Island in the Philippines. We were on guard duty there for3 months. Then we shipped out again, back on a troop carrier in a large convoy of ships , destroyers, submarines & other combat fighting vessels. We knew we were in for something big, we didn't know what, until we arrived off the coast of Luzon Island in the Philippines, at Subic Bay.

Our convoy was moving in a huge circle, at the same time lowering large landing craft loaded with combat troops, while the big guns on our ships were blasting away at the beaches. When a landing craft was in the water, it would join others in a smaller circle, until all the landing crafts were in the water. I need not tell you how scared we were, you could see the panic on men's faces, with out a doubt we were praying!

The command was given the order to hit the beach. We came out of the circle and headed for the beach. The landing craft couldn't quite make it, so we jumped off the end of the craft and waded the rest of the way. To our delight there was no enemy waiting on us. We were told we had a 20 mile hike ahead of us. That is a long hike with full back pack, cartridge belt, hand grenades and rifle. We ran into sniper fire and artillery, with the loss of several men. It was getting late in the evening so we dug in for the night. I had my fox hole nice and deep, I knew there would be big trouble that night.

We were dug in, a small valley with a horseshoe hill surrounding us on 3 sides. It was a long day and I was so very tired. We had a quick dinner of C rations. While we were eating we looked up on the ridge above us, 600 to 700 yards away. There was a column of Japanese solders circling us. I can't tell you how scared I was, and I'm sure every one else was too. I was getting ready to get down in my nice deep fox hole, where I would be pretty safe, when my Platoon Officer called my name, "Frame, you go with these two men, back on the side of that hill, and keep us informed of what the Japs are up to." He was evidently going by a training manual, It was hard to believe he would send men into a sure death trap. The Japs would be coming down that hill at any moment. Our artillery would be zeroing in on them, our own troops would be turning 30 caliber machine guns at them, and we would be right in the middle. You obey orders in combat!!

My two buddies and I took off with our rifles and radio transmitter, and snuck up a ravine for some cover. We climbed the hill for a couple hundred yards. It was getting dark and there were some artillery shells exploding around us. We had to take cover fast, my two buddies went to one side of a small hog-back ridge we were on. I went to the other, I don't know why. I believe it was because I saw a large tree that had fallen. I crawled up under it as far as I could get, and pulled leaves up over me.

It wasn't long before all hell broke loose, the Japs were attacking our troops in the valley, throwing mortar and artillery shells down on them. Our troops were lighting up the skies with flares, and saturating the area with machine gun fire. I could see it all from under my tree. I thought my platoon commander was sending me into great danger, but I was being led to safety, and didn't know it!!. The only thing that attacked me were mosquitoes, they were big and nasty biting right through my clothes, I think they enjoyed eating through repellent.

The next morning we radioed that we were coming in, we were afraid we would be picked off by our own men. I don't remember what we had for breakfast, food didn't taste good anyway with your guts in knots. We started our push into Zig-Zag pass. The Japs didn't push very easily, they were dug into the ground, with tunnels and bunkers, so concealed you could step over them, or fall into them. It was really slow advancing. We were pinned down with sniper, or machine gun fire so much of the time.

Our artillery and fire bombs from low flying airplanes would clear out the jungle in front of us. That didn't get rid of the Japs, they were down deep in the ground and would pop up almost right under you, I was walking along the side of a tank as it moved along blasting at bunkers. A Jap jumped up out of a hole just a few feet away with a TNT charge, ran to the tank, threw the charge under the tank and ran back to his hole. I wasn't fast enough to get a shot at him.

We had just taken a hill and we were feeling at ease getting ready to dig in for the night when all of a sudden the Japs cut loose with a machine gun. Several men were hit before we hit the ground . One of my buddies standing beside me got his arm half shot off. Over the hill from us, artillery dropped in on the men in the valley, a man's head flew up over our heads. We were laying on our stomachs digging in for the night.

I felt cramps in my stomach, like I needed to go. I snuck back down over the hill and nothing happened. I kept hurting so I told the medic and he examined me. In short, he told me I was having a appendicitis attack, and would have to go to the hospital. Was that good news to me? You better believe it!! I was getting out of this mess.

I was loaded in one of the ambulances that was coming and going. About ten miles back was a small emergency hospital. I was put on an operating table, an army Captain with a 45 hanging on his hip, and a male nurse carrying a gasoline lantern, checked me out. Captain said you have a busted appendix and would need to be operated on now. He gave me a spinal injection, which numbed me from the waist down. Half way through the operation, the Japs started throwing hand grenades and firing on the hospital. I thought I was lucky to get away from the front line, now I wasn't so sure! I could hear the hospital help running outside. I was looking for the japs to come through the tent at any moment. The doctor had to sew me up fast. I was put on a cot and left alone. I was the only one in the tent. I couldn't move because of the spinal injection. I tried to roll off the cot, and get under it so I could hide, but I couldn't move so I did the only thing possible: I
prayed, and went to sleep.

The next morning I was taken to a army hospital in the town of San Antonio, I believe. Word was trickling in from wounded soldiers saying that I hadn't been gone long before another counter attack on my company took place, with lots of casualties. I was in the hospital a couple weeks when the head nurse caught me and another patient out behind the hospital, riding a bucking burro. A few more days and I was headed back to combat.

I caught up with my company. They were retaking Clark Air Field. I hadn't been in combat too long when my heavy cartridge belt came down over my incision and tore it open. Back in the hospital, another operation! They removed gauze that the first doctor missed when he sewed me up too quick. I'm surprised he took the time to do that, with hand grenades being thrown at the tent. That was some of my personal involvement in taking Zig- Zag Pass from the Japanese.

Dec 22 2012 20:30 GMT annieann PRO
WOW!!! What an experience and one hell of a story . you shuold write a book . it was awful wo were a very brave man ... hat happened to your comrads i pray for them and y
Dec 22 2012 20:39 GMT BobRussell
My Dad couldn't talk about it. I was told about the war from his friends, and they where all crying, It even made me cry.