A Scary Ride

When the 8th Engineer Squadron, attached to the 1st Calvary Div., made the assault landing on the Admiralty Islands, I was in B Troop, as the troop clerk.  When my Troop was sent into action, after the beach was secured, the three troop clerks (including me) were temporarily attached to the Headquarters and Service Troop.  This pleased me because my staying out of the hot war zone seemed to be a very wise decision on somebody’s part. Besides, I was there by orders and could not be taunted by my buddies for not being with them.

Then came the end-of-the month, time to make out the payroll.  That wasn’t so bad, except that each soldier had to sign the payroll before it was submitted to Division Headquarters, who would then send over the cash to pay the soldiers on payday.  There was some conversation at Squadron Headquarters about this dilemma, which concerned all the troop clerks.  Most of the speculation seemed to be going our way, this is: there seemed to be no way for to get the payroll signed at the front lines.

To my inner dismay, the B-Troop commander came back to Squadron Headquarters with his jeep driver to get something straightened out and got the dilemma, for me, solved with a “Come along with me Corporal Hailpern and I will take you to the Troop and get you back somehow.”  “Yes, sir,” I responded and was ready so fast I think they thought I really wanted to go.  We got into the Jeep, which had a 30 caliber machine gun mounted in the back seat. “You will be our machine-gunner for this trip Corporal.”  “Yes sir,” I gulped.  I hadn’t touched a machine gun since my recruit days years ago at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.  But an order is an order.

We were traveling on a hard-packed dirt road that seemed to be well maintained.  Our trip was to be about 12 to 15 miles towards the interior.  The Captain explained to me that B Troop was working on a bridge that had been blown up by the Japanese as they were running away from the coast.  After 10 miles, the road changed to a rutted, still dirt, highway that wound through empty countryside of low hills and tall timber.  The Captain finally told me that it would be a very good idea to load the machine-gun.  I pulled the belt out of the ammunition box and threaded the belt tongue into place.  I had to stand up in the back of the gun so as to be ready just in case.  The road got worse and the shifting and bumping got worse.  All of a sudden, I was, to my horror, the cartridges were falling out of the belt as we bounced along.

Luckily, we didn’t have too much further to go. We saw a weapons-carrier parked in the shade of a very large tree and the driver stopped the Jeep some small distance from the weapons-carrier.  A G.I. came out of the shadows and called out, “You-all better park in the shadows like I did before the snipers find out you’re here.”

We walked to the temporary camp.  I got all the signatures I needed and was sent back to Squadron Headquarters in the back of the supply truck going back for rations.  I was extremely happy to get back to my tent again.