PRIME TIME: Local's memoirs recount assault waves through South Pacific

Published on Sunday, 16 July 2017 21:54
Written by Bob Montgomery

Staff Writer

Bristol resident George E. Ledger, 93, died at Sheriden Woods on July 7, 2017.

He was a U.S. Army veteran of WWII, who received a Purple Heart when wounded during his service in the South Pacific Theatre. He had written his military memoirs and this is part two in sharing them with readers:

“We went by a lot of islands, too many to name. While we were in the China Sea, we were spotted by a Japanese reconnaissance plane. We took a horseshoe turn back toward Lingayen Gulf near Luzon to throw off the (Japanese). As we started our assault, after the circle, our Higgins boat started to sink. I didn’t think I was going to make it. As the water was coming in our boat, a PT boat pulled alongside. We boarded and they took us a few feet from shore, just as the Air Force started strafing and bombing.

“We started our first assault wave on Jan. 9, 1945, at Lingayen Gulf on the island of Luzon. When we got to shore, it was a different war and world that we had been in. A buffalo charged us; one of the boys put 15 rounds into it and dropped it dead. We crossed a small stream and came in contact with some Filipinos. We traded some C and K rations for fresh chicken, boy it was good.

“On the first patrol we lost one man. He was on an OP and opened fire with an automatic. We had to shoot him or he would have killed our entire squad. We think he fell asleep at his post and was startled by us when we came in. This never happened again. We moved on and hit the outskirts of Manila called Chinatown on Feb. 5, 1945.

Chinatown

“Fighting was spread throughout Manila. The section we were in was consumed by fire. We fought street to street. We had to cross an alley that was filled with smoke and we couldn’t see a thing. Some of our buddies turned around instead of going straight across as we did, and they were gunned down by the (Japanese). I took my handkerchief and soaked it with water from my canteen, put it around my face and nose and ran across the alley very fast. I didn’t turn but ran straight across and made it into a large town square. I knew I had wounded buddies in there and I ran back and started carrying them out. I knew some were dead but I had to get those I could to safety. Really, it felt good about doing this because it could have been me in there.

On to Manila

“Later, when we cleaned up Chinatown we moved to Manila. We had to cross the Pasig River and our squad was ready to cross when Joe Szuba, from Jewett City, CT, let out a holler. He was shot by a sniper and was shaking all over. I was checking to see where he was hit. The bullet went in his chest and exited his back. It went through, but didn’t hit anything vital. I dressed the wound the best I could and told him to head for the rear and someone would take care of him. I was one step behind him and a bullet missed me. I guess my time was not up. Joe returned to the squad about a month later. Two days later, I was hit with shrapnel, not too bad, about three inches long on my wrist and my finger. I went to the rear and joined my squad a week later.

“My unit got together and went over the campaign to Manila. As we just finished one campaign by cleaning up Wall City and Manila Bay, next we were to take Baguio Summer Capital. The company moved up the mountain. Two of my companions and I volunteered to recon a ridge. We surprised 50 or more (Japanese) that were on the other side of the ridge. We were heavily outnumbered but my comrades and I directed heavy fire at the (Japanese) force killing or wounding 12 or more of the enemy and dispersing the remainder of the force. After that, we rejoined our company on the main road.

Silver pesos

“As we entered Baguio, we saw 12 dead (Japanese); shot head to toe by our Air Force. One of our tanks was loading up flour sacks full of silver pesos. Those 12 (Japanese) had been stealing it out of Manila banks to get it out of the country. I filled my helmet with silver pesos and put it under a small tree. Then we got orders to move out to check a large hill. No one was there but we could see the (Japanese) made a tunnel to put their ‘ack-ack’ (anti-aircraft) guns on a track so that they could fire at our aircraft and retract it back into the trees for cover. Then we pulled back down the hill and I found out that someone had stolen the pesos I had left under the tree. Without warning, a half-track vehicle opened fire over our heads from about 100 yards away with a 50-caliber machine gun. It scared the hell out of us!

“It was almost dark when we were told we were to move to the Cagayan Valley. We got three bottles of beer and we boarded trucks. I am glad to say that I was in the first truck of the convoy. We had to move back to Manila. We went up a mountain valley and had to go through Belete Pass. As we went through, the (Japanese) cut our line and some of our men were killed. We got through part way when all hell broke loose.

“Bill White, from Alabama, and I saw a large hole left from mortar shells. We thought it would be safe to jump in, but ‘Bang!’ More fire came in, a tree was hit, then Bill was hit in the knee...it was very bad. I was hit in the back of my left knee, not too bad, and another hit my back. The shrapnel put a lot of holes in my jacket and back. Then we heard the medic come. We were put on stretchers and taken off the mountain. That was work, I don’t know how they did it. We ended up in a small field where piper cubs transported us to a field hospital. I came back to the company about three weeks later. I didn’t know where Bill was, but I knew his fighting days were over.

An old friend

“The company was two miles past Belete Pass and they were idle so passes were given out. I got a pass, but only had a few bucks and wanted to go and get a little rest. We took a plane without a door on it to Manila; it was a short trip, an hour or so. The second day on pass I sold a (Japanese) saber that I got off an officer. I got $150.00 for it. I always regretted selling it. But, the beer and food in Manila was fair. I didn’t know if it would be the last visit, so I wanted to see Manila. I walked down Resaul Avenue and visited a large cemetery. I wanted to talk to all my buddies. I could see all the burnt dog tags. It was them and that was hard to take.

“After, I took a long street and passed three Navy sailors. As I passed, I turned and yelled, ‘Hey Millard!’ Surprised, he turned and yelled, ‘Hi George!’ He was a fellow I went to school with in 1940. What a small world. We had a small talk and he had to get back to his ship. My time was up too and I went back to the company.”

(Note: Part 3 will appear here next Monday.)

Write to Bob Montgomery, ℅ The Bristol Press, 188 Main St., Bristol, CT 06010. Call 860-973-1808, or email: bmontgomery@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General News on Sunday, 16 July 2017 21:54. Updated: Sunday, 16 July 2017 21:56.