The Ridge

A few days later we were sent up on the ridge. We jumped in the truck, went up the West Rd. and stopped at the spot that we were going up to and had to half scale our way up the side of that cliff.  It was all very sharp coral outcroppings, with something resembling a path going up.  We climbed up there without rifles, carbines. 

There were a few selected foxholes that apparently the infantry had used probably, the same area in which Navar was shot.  I got into a so-called foxhole with two other guys, one was Tiger, last name forgotten and I can’t remember the other fella.  The foxhole happened to be a kind of a ledge with no back on it and when you looked behind the ledge there was a shear drop of about thirty feet. A drop from there would have taken care of a guy, especially if he were wounded.  We had to be a little agile the way we stepped backwards. 

In front of us was a kind of a short wall, a little ledge in front of us a built up section of coral rocks which some one had probably built up.  We could look over the rocks and look upward another twenty-five or thirty feet of the slope of the ridge.  A little to our right was another larger foxhole.  I think Neal Vincent was in that one.  Nothing much happened that first day we were there.  There was a pioneer outfit next to us on our left side.

There was a cave there, I don’t know if it was the first day or the next day but we were looking down toward the road and there was a jeep that pulled up and three or four men got out and climbed the ridge up to that cave in the Pioneer Battalion area.  Pioneers were basically an engineering group that constructed things in the field under combat conditions.  They were a fairly tough group. 

The three guys came up and walked up to that cave and started to yell into it with a bull horn and the one guy I guess was a Japanese interpreter kept talking, finally he disappeared into that cave.  We were a little awestricken watching him do that.  He was in there for five or ten minutes.  Finally he came out leading about fifty civilian laborers, I presume they were Koreans because the Japanese used them for labor.  Maybe the Japanese decided to let them get away because they were just using up food and water.  At any rate that was one of the incidents.

browning1.gifThe Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)

Tiger had found a BAR Browning Automatic Rifle in our foxhole. He picked it up, looked at it, pulled back on the lever and it was stuck.  Probably slightly rusted so we thought we would just forget about it because it could have been dangerous to shoot with thing.  However, Tiger picked it up and sure enough that evening we started to get some rifle fire zinging around us.  Tiger jumped out of the foxhole put the Browning Automatic Rifle up and sure enough the thing went off and started firing and it went off like crazy.  So we had that assurance, the BAR and our foxhole.
 A night or two later we thought we heard Japs coming down on us and we started to fire in the dark at various shapes.  Somebody must have had a telephone in the other foxhole and called for flares.  That night we started to get flares coming up over us that somebody was firing to help us and there was this ghostly configuration of shadows of things as the flares came drifting down.  You could swear that there were Japanese out there moving around it was very deceiving and scary.  We had always heard that the Japanese could sneak upon you and put a knife in your back while you were in the foxhole while you were sleeping.  We were careful to keep a good watch.  Everybody took turns with a two hour watch, which was very nerve wracking because you were as tense as you could be keeping your ears open and your eyes clear and looking out there to see that nobody was coming.  During that previous night Neal Vincent’s group had thrown out about a half a case of grenades because they thought there were Japs trying to get up there.  The next morning everything was OK.
I guess we spent about a week up on that ridge and every day after the first or second day our cooks came to the bottom of the ridge with the chow truck.  We would go down in singles or doubles and get some hot food.  So it wasn’t entirely bad, we did go down to get water periodically so we weren’t too badly off and I guess in our position we were spelling the infantry guys who were needed at the interior of the ridge.  We did climb the ridge once and at one point we were looking down into one of the valleys and did fire our rifles down into some of the caves.
Once there was a Jap soldier who came running out to get to another cave and everybody opened up on him including myself.  I don’t know whether we got him or he got hit, whatever.  At the same time a little to the left of us one of our pack Howitzer Batteries brought up a couple of 75mm Howitzers.  They were using those to fire into the caves across the valley.  We were up at the ridge about a week and were relieved by another group.
On several occasions while we were on top of the ridge looking down across that valley we could see Napalm carrying tanks coming into the Valley firing Napalm into the mouths of some of the caves.  They would move up as any tank would and instead of a cannon they had a long snout for spouting out the Napalm and they would let out a burst which would travel 50 feet maybe more and hit the mouth of that cave and just blaze away.  It would also suck out oxygen inside the cave so that if you were at all close you would suffocate. A terrible weapon!
About this time was when Eddie Plunk was killed.  The rest of the battery was down at the airfield at the foot of the Umurborgol at the side looking in toward those valleys and since they were goofing around not doing a whole lot, a group of about 15 decided to go forward, there was really no front line just the entrance to some of those valleys.  Someone suggested they go hunting for souvenirs. They thought they were safe because the area was semi secure and didn’t seem to be too dangerous.  They all went up and it turned out that a Jap had popped out of a cave and threw a grenade, which exploded, and everyone scattered.  They all decided to come back because it was getting a little risky.  When they got back they found out that Eddie Plunk was gone and they couldn’t find him anywhere.  The group reorganized, went back and did a little searching and couldn’t find hide nor hair of him.  He simply disappeared.  About two or three weeks later some of the infantry guys had pulled his body out of a cave.  The  Japs had grabbed him and dragged him into the cave, tortured and bayoneted him many times.  That made us all very angry but there was nothing we could do about it. Eddie Plunk was the guy who had found the Mauser on New Britian, he was a good friend of mine.  He was from Florida.  I often wondered how his folks took that.
After coming down from the ridge we were pulled across the road at the foot of the west ridge where we had been and assigned to a machine gun post just off the road.  In back of us was a kind of a higher ridge, we couldn’t see the ocean from where we were; but we could look up and see that ridge.  There must have been four, five or six of us.  Our mission was to man that machine gun and guard the road and take care of what ever might happen on top of the ridge.
One of the fellas on the machine gun post with us was a guy named Snyder, we called him Schnader, from Indiana, a real little farm boy who looked like the cover of Mad Magazine.  Schnader was out scouring the area because it was fairly quiet where we were .We used to pass the time  by watching the Corsairs taking off and dive bombing the other side of the ridge with Napalm bombs.  On this particular day Schnader had gotten a hold of a Jap bicycle, some Jap sneakers and a Jap hat and he looked pretty damn close to a Japanese as he came riding down the road.  There were people who started to yell at him:
      “You want to get shot Schnader?” 
      “Get off of that Bike and get in here”
We did get a laugh out of it.