The CBI Theater WWII 1943-1945
The Diary of Maj. Charles H. Hamilton
By Charles H. Megarity
A Jap Zero and one bomber shot down last 2 days. Still on our island. Tried to build a pontoon foot bridge but water was too swift. No hurry. Will try again when water settles down a but. Water is only 6 or 7 feet deep but it is too swift to swim and the Japs are only a few hundred yards down stream, I think. Patrols went out looking for stragglers but no luck. We got a few necessities by air drop today. I shall go forward as soon as I can cross the river. Must check status of two companies at Myitkyina and Mogaung. Had a bright idea, had an assault floated down to us on a long line and pull us ashore. Took about 3 hours to move HQ to safety.
Went down river by boat and stopped to inspect old Jap positions and battle ground. They must have been in pretty bad shape. I saw evidence that they have been eating snakes and digging clams from the river and I know they were short on medical supplies. The war in the Pacific has cut their supply down to a trickle as the war in Europe has effected our supplies, but we are better off than they are. I know that Chinese troops live off the jungle when they run short of rations. There are a lot of edibles in the jungle if you are not too particular.
Went on to Mogaun where I was pleasantly surprised. Had fried chicken and Ice cream, compliment of General Stilwell. The ice cream was from Chicago, but I am sure the chicken was cooked at Ledo and flown up. It was still hot. It was a fine meal and added to the Stilwell legend. He is really the enlisted mans general and is much respected by the Chinese and Americans in the field. He and old Shanker Jack do not get on too well though. He knows Shanker for what he is. (Refering the Chang Ki shek)
Lt. Lynn, one of my battalion officers, returned to duty today. He was wounded painfully but not seriously a couple of weeks ago. That is to say, he got shot in the butt. He is a K.C. boy and a good officer.
We went by boat today, 45 miles on a boiling river, 150 feet wide in some place and 200 yards in others. The narrow places make you pretty nervous. We take to halves of an assault boat, bolt them together and come up with a boat 24 feet long and 5 ½ feet wide. We put a 22 HP Johnson Sea Horse outboard motor on it and make about 25 mph if we are not too heavily loaded.
Saw lots of wild game drinking at the sand bars along the river, buffalo, deer and even an elephant. We also observed monkey migrations, which few people get to see. There were hundreds of monkeys on the move, whole tribes moving to new locations because of food shortage or battle noise. All the wild game seems to disappear when the fighting arrives in their part of the jungle. We saw many Pea Fowl, which are good eating. Saw my first Tiger in the wild today. We came around a bend in the river and there he was getting a drink. He looked up at us from about 100 yards and then moved slowly back into the jungle. He as much larger and handsomer than the ones I saw in Ramghar. None of the animals paid much attention to us and, of course, we did not fire for fear of attracting some other animals in green uniforms.
The word for this country is primitive, no sign of any human habitation. We were fired on about 20 miles from Kaimaing. A couple of dozen shots from some trees about 150 yards off to our right. Some of the bullets hit the boat but did no damage to the wooden hull. Lt. Hill, in my boat was hit twice, once in the shoulder and once in the head. Neither wound looked bad, although the head would put him to sleep. The bullet did not penetrate his skull, just gouged out meat and hair. We revved up and the Hell out of there, everyone emptying their weapons in the direction of th firing. We gave Lt. Hill what first aid we could and he regained consciousness as we came into Kaimaing, where we had a few more shots fired at us from extreme range. They were Jap stragglers alright, for the bullet taken from Rice’s shoulder was a 25 caliber. They would have to capture our boat and supplies, giving them a better chance of rejoining their people up ahead.
I thought Kaimaing was secure several days ago. We control the town and the road to Magoung on this side of the river but the Japs are on the other side only 100 yards away. We have cut a bypass around an exposed part of the road in order to keep traffic moving towards Mogaung. We do mortar and machine gun them at intervals but do not hear too much from them. We can smell their cooking fires but I think they are interesting in joining their main body than provoking a fight with us and they have a long way to go.
Last night a guard caught a Jap entering Capt. Baker’s tent and shot him. He had a grenade but no rifle. He was probably trying to steal food, which is an indication of the desperate situation they find themselves in. Japs in Chinese uniforms are frequently caught in the chow line. They could fool us but the Chinese spot them immediately. This is pretty much it is all about. Just about as I had imagined it would be, bad but not too bad. I had a whole lot rather take my chances here than in the ETO. There are small groups of Japs all around us in the jungle but they are not trying to harass us, just trying to rejoin their forces.
Most of them will never make it. We estimate there are about 500 lost in the jungle. We have combat patrols out and every now an then there is a lot of firing but we are unable to get an accurate body count. If you believe our Chinese officers, they have already killed about 2000 of the original estimate of 500.
The Chinese are suppose to turn over prisoners to us for interrogation. I get a signal that “A” company has taken some prisoners, I rush as fast as possible. Sometimes taking an hour to get there, only to have the Chinese greet me with “No prisoners, all dead.” Of course, the prisoners are not dead but soon will be. They have been taken back into the jungle, where tonight the Chinese will build a fire and dispose of them at their leisure. I cannot stomach this torture but both sides do it! The Chinese do it a little more artistically than the Japs.
We have uncovered the evidence several times of both the Chinese and Japanese torture orgies. It is a sickening site. I blew up this time and told the company commanders that if I did not start getting prisoners, when I know that some had been taken, I would see that they lost their commands!
Went to Mogaung by Jeep today. We were fired on several times but from a great distance, with no results. Later, we were fired on from close range. Capt. Graham and I crawled on our bellies for a while and I finally go off some shots at movement with no return fire but did not check for results. About 40 yards to my left, Capt. Graham cut loose with rapid fire and I started moving slowly to help him out but met him coming back. He said that he had killed 3 Japs at a range of 30 yards and he had souvenirs to prove it, their weapons and papers. Chinese and Japanese look so much alike to us that you almost have to shoot first and check up later. I took a few fooling chances today. The Chinese admire and have more confidence in an officer who will take part in a fire fight occasionally. I felt that I owed it to my grandchildren, if I am fortunate enough to have some sometime, to be able to tell them how their grandpappy helped win the war in the CBI theater.
I have my troops well in hand but on a patrol today we sure pulled a boner. You can never be sure that you are not being observed in the jungle. About dark, we took shelter in a small group of trees where we could not be seen and started up our alcohol stove to make some coffee. Before the water was hot, 2 or 3 Jap 77 mm anti-tank guns opened up on us from across a large rice paddy at a range of about 500 yards. They had caught the flare of lighting our stove and bore sighted in on us. We all hit the deck and I dived into a slight depression with Maj. Hipp right on top me. There we lay while they threw a lot of stuff at us. Maj. Hipp flinched and said, “I have been hit.” “Where?” I asked. “In the ass.” He said. We did not move because the shells started drifting away from us. Firing stopped and we sneaked out.
It was pretty dark by then, fortunately, most of the shells were AP rounds and only a few HE. The AP rounds just whipped through knocking off branches but an HE tree burst got me in the shoulder. I had to turn over on one side to give Maj. Hipp more room to grunt and groan and had just felt his wound, finding a large wooden splinter from one of the tree sticking out of his butt, when the tree burst came.
If it had not been and HE round, I very likely would not have been hit. Corporal Keener was slightly wounded by the same burst that got me and several other of the Chinese got scratches. We were all walking around except Maj. Hipp who was in severe pain and shock and we had to carry him. In about 30 minutes we reach the Battalion Aid Stations and the Mad Russian went to work on us. He worked on Hipp for about 3- minutes, trying to get the splinter out without taking much of his ass with it. He was put on a whirly bird and taken to the field hospital for more surgery and a few weeks R & R. It was a deep wound and hurt me just to look at it.
I had hardly bled at all so the Russian gave me a shot of morphine and opened it up, He took a small silver piece of metal out and it started bleeding pretty good. He stopped the bleeding, filled the hole up with Sulpha powder, took several stitches and said I could return to duty. He told me how to remove the stitches, which were silk, in about 10 days or whenever it was healed. No sweat and no pain to speak of. I have what is possibly a piece of one of the old junk cars that we sold them, the Japs, over the years when they were stockpiling junk metal in preparation for this war. Hope it was a Cadillac. We were lucky and it was a miracle that some of us were not killed. I think that I now know what happened to the Lt. Colonel I replaced, he took too many chances.
Flew to Myitkyina in the L5 today. Shoulder was sore this morning but Anicin took care of it. No signs of infection and healing nicely. Sulpha is great stuff to prevent infection or gas gangrene, which used to kill so many of the wounded that would have lived today. There is a real battle in progress at to Myitkyina! About 4,000 Japs bottled up in the town, with about 6,000 Chinese and 500 US troops hitting them from three sides with the Irrawaddy river hemming them in on the fourth side. We now have the airfield which is a large two strip field which the Japs had extended to accept the largest planes. We appreciate it! We also own a small part of the city.
The Japs are dug in deep and prepared for a no surrender finish a la Alamo. They have fortified the city and have large bunkers dug in 30 feet underground and seem to have plenty of ammo and other supplies. One thing they don’t have is air support! Our fighters and medium bombers are taking off and landing constantly in spite of the heavy shelling. The Japs have the Airfield well zeroed in when they left it. Two engineer companies cam in on gliders and are busy making repairs as damage occurs and they are taking some casualties. Not very pleasant work but they are doing a fine job.
Only one glider crashed, out of 30, which is an excellent landing considering the obstacles the Japs had left. Our casualties, mainly Chinese, have been high but, so have the Jap casualties and they are practically all dead.
Have not been able to locate my troops yet. We estimate that we have killed from 3000 to 5000 jJps in the last 3 weeks and perhaps 17,000 in the last 3 months. Chinese casualties are about 15,000 and US is about 50. Our air support has been terrific. The Japs have none. We get an occasional recon flight from Bhamo, about 50 miles towards Rangoon. Our fighters and bombers drop stuff on bunkers just 100 yards from our positions. We talk them in and they do a dive-bombing run.
We were not having much luck getting the slopes out of their deep bunkers, so we experimented a little. We got hold of some 1/10 th second delay fuses and rigged some 1000 lb. Bombs with them. This is about as large a that a Mustang can carry. They dive bomb the bunkers and, the ground being soft, the bombs penetrate about 30 or 40 feet before they explode, everything comes up. You never saw such havoc. The bomb can miss the bunker 50 to 100 feet and still cave it in. We must have killed a lot of them before they got the idea and started coming out where we could use mortars and machine guns on them.
The idea was not mine. Air Force gets the credit. Bombing is almost perfect. They aim their plane at the target in about a 60 degree dive, release at about 1000 feet and go after another. I should have thought of it because this is what the Japs did at Kaimaing with their 150 mm cannon, only some of their shells had as mush as a two hours delay. It was disconcerting to have them go off in the middle of the night when there was no action. The Japs are throwing a lot of mortar fire at us. It is small stuff but it keeps you in your fox hole!
I checked on my Chinese companies and I have about 100 effectives out of 200. Have sent to Shadazup for replacements. Chinese, not my troops, are reported to have taken about 40 prisoners today. We are trying to get some of the for interrogation. My people have given me two prisoners since I threatened them. One is a Major educated at Stanford and speaks almost perfect English. He said that he was on a visit to Japan when the war started and was drafted for officers school. He gave us much useful information and admitted that most of the Japanese troops not have a defeatist attitude but will probably fight to the end.
I have had the responsibility of operating several air drops fields in the area in addition to my other duties. Nearly all of the rice for the Chinese and many other supplies for the entire operation are air dropped. I spent one night at one airfield operated by a British Lt. Pitt-Kennedy, who has a black West African platoon acting as guards and scouts. They are completely at home in the jungle. They go almost naked carrying only a carbine and a long knife called a Dah which is very good for cutting bamboo or in close combat.
Lt. Pitt-Kennedy said, they go right into the Jap bivouac area at night and get information and occasionally have killed a Jap guard and brought his head back as proof of their valour. I said, “Not really.” In the morning when the black orderly brought our tea to wake us up, he pointed to the head hanging just outside our basha. He had been an officer and had two silver caps on his front teeth. Must have been a poor officer. Most of them have a gold tooth or two.
The Marauders had a tough time yesterday. The Chinese refused to take the point so Merrill’s boys had to take it. They killed a lot of Japs in a fire fight but lost several themselves. We found about 100 Japs bodies that had been left behind, hurriedly covered with a little dirt and leaves. I had my people drag them out, search them and bury them in a common grave.
To be continued