That afternoon, the paratroopers’ assaults began to force
some Japs out of their caves and tunnels on the side of Malinta Hill
that faced us. Suddenly, we saw about half a dozen of them scurrying out
of the caves, like a bunch of monkeys, trying to move to the right. They
looked confused and disorganized, as though they had taken a wrong turn.
They panicked when they discovered they had suddenly become targets on
the side of the hill facing us. Almost everyone on the beach immediately
opened up on them. One sergeant next to me pulled out his .45, which was
only good at point blank range, and began firing at them. I told this
that thing away! You can’t hit anything at this range.”
I didn’t fire either, because my grease-gun was only accurate up to 100
yards, and I might have hit our own men in front of me. After a few
moments, the Japs disappeared back into the caves, and we ceased firing.
I don’t know if we even hit any of them.
That night there were more flares, and around 11:00 pm,
we heard tremendous firing from the top of Malinta Hill that lasted for
two or more hours. At daybreak on the 18th we got word that the Japs had
made a fanatical counterattack during the night on Companies K and L
which were holding the top of Malinta Hill. They had been hit hard and
there were many casualties. That morning the medics began to transport
the wounded down the trail on the side of Malinta Hill to the aid
station at our beach position in preparation for evacuation from the
island. The trail was a steep, narrow, twisting pathway.
By the second day of our landing, a short section of the
trail had come under sporadic fire from a Jap machinegun nest. The Japs
still held positions in the nearby high ground that was full of caves
and tunnels. They had managed to place a machinegun that could hit the
trail at one point from far range. On the morning of the 18th, four
medics were bringing down a wounded man on a stretcher—a casualty from
the night attack on Malinta Hill. Suddenly, they came under machinegun
fire at the vulnerable point. They panicked, dropped the stretcher with
the casualty, and made a run for it down the hill. Col. Postelthwait
pointed to the wounded man and shouted, “Someone
get that man!”
I was closest, so I ran up the trail. It wasn’t a conscious decision to
take a risk or to do something heroic.
The Colonel had ordered something to be done, and I was
in the position to do it. As I reached the wounded man on the stretcher,
machinegun bullets dusted up near my left boot. Even though he had
certainly already been treated, my training automatically kicked in.
I turned the man over. There was a gaping bloody wound in his chest. I
pulled out a sulfa packet, ripped it open and poured the powder on the
wound. A few other men, including Frank Alvarez had followed me up the
trail. We all grabbed the stretcher and brought the wounded man down to
the aid station. All the while, we were under fire, but no one else was
Decades later, Frank said that one of the medics had been
hit, which had caused the panic, and that we also rescued him as well.
It could have happened that way, although I don’t remember seeing the
other wounded man. After we got down, I heard that the medics wanted our
names because they were going to put all of us in for decorations. “Hey,
said the adjutant, “I’m
putting you in for a Silver Star.”
I replied. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because it really
didn’t mean much to me one way or the other, and I soon forgot about the
whole incident. For me it was just another day of following orders and
trying to stay alive at the same time. I later heard that the stretcher
casualty didn’t make it.