Memories of a
My Memorable Patriotic Duties During WWII
by George B. Walden, Jr.
(Introduction by Andro S. Camiling)
George Walden, Jr. volunteered to join the Enlisted Reserve Corps while pursuing his engineering studies at Purdue University in Indiana in the early '40s. As part of his military science training (ROTC) and engineering studies, he was sent to Louisiana State University to finish his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and re-assigned later in Mississippi, Maryland, Georgia, California, Dutch New Guinea and in the Philippines.
In 1945, his military unit, Headquarters Battalion, Base X in Manila, sent him as a member of a group of three commissioned officers and three enlisted men on "detached duty" to San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines with the responsibility of appraising local real estate properties taken over temporarily by the US Armed Services for their usage and paying the property owners.
After completing the minimum requirements for honorable discharge from the service, he was honorably discharged as a technical sergeant and shipped back home to Indiana. He married his beautiful college sweetheart, Doris Jean Rose, in June, 1946 after she graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Education. George worked later as a mechanical engineer at Eli Lily & Company and was the Department Head of Mechanical Engineering until he took an early retirement in 1969 and settled in Florida. His famous scientist father, George Walden, Sr. discovered and patented the method to mass produce insulin at Eli Lily & Company in 1923.
In 1993, with their desire to live close to their two sons, Bryce and Kyle and their families, George and Doris built a beautiful home in Vancouver, Washington where they now reminisce the good old days and enjoy their wonderful golden years.
Not forgetting his memorable experience in the Philippines, particularly in Pampanga, here is what George remembers most in his own words:
Manila had barely been freed from the Japanese when we arrived. We were told some snipers might still be hidden in the old buildings. Areas of the old walled city were still mined. The Japanese had destroyed nearly everything as they left. We were first billeted in a warehouse near the docks. It was here that lined up outside the mess hall at the garbage cans where we dumped our leftovers were Filipino children with tin cans to collect the scraps we were throwing away. In a letter to Doris I said "You can't help but feel sorry for them; it's almost hard to believe. They're so young - last night we saw one who looked no older than 3 or 4 - the other kids said he was 8 and that his parents had been killed, home destroyed - he was sleeping wherever he could lie down and eating what he could beg."
In a few days we were moved to a tent city where the mess hall was in a former bowling alley. We were assigned to the Manila Real Estate Unit which had offices at the Filipinas Hotel. Basically each officer was assigned one draftsman and each team had a jeep. We would fan out to areas where various buildings, etc. had been occupied by the US and our job was to make floor plans for determining areas and values. The Army was reimbursing owners for buildings the army had occupied plus, I now think, many others. We were supplied only paper and pencils; I made my own clipboard out of masonite and bamboo (for the paper holder). Didn't even have a ruler but had to pace and guess everything. I didn't get around too much off the job.
One evening, a couple of us went walking in the ruins of the University of the Philippines. Came across a case of Japanese hand grenades, but didn't dare touch one - might have been booby trapped. At one time as we crossed an open space we heard a couple of rifle shots and took to the nearest ditch. We never knew if it was a sniper (with poor aim) or a guard chasing us off. We later found out the area had not yet been cleared of mines. In a burned out streetcar was the body of a Japanese soldier. I still have the photo I took. One of our assignments took us to Santo Thomas, the internment center for prisoners of war. It was relatively undamaged, as the Japanese guards had traded complete surrender without harm of the P.O.W.'s in return for leniency. The center of town was the worst, and of course all the bridges across the Pasig River right through town had been destroyed. The army had thrown up Bailey bridges in strategic places. Those Baileys saved many a day and were quite versatile. The last time I saw a Bailey was near Mt. St. Helen's where it replaced a bridge washed out in the mudflow.
Often at night we would watch movies shown on one of the navy piers. They used sheets for screens, so you could watch the movie from front or back! The ship tied up nearby was a navy ship being used to supply power to the city, such as it was. After a few weeks our little group of three officers (Capt. McCullough, Lt. Mitchell, and Lt. Blackman), three draftsmen (myself, Felix Dunkel, and Bill Carlucio), and three jeeps were sent to San Fernando to billet with the 8th Army headquarters and assigned to work the Pampanga Province area.
SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGA
When we first arrived, everyone drove on the left side of the street as they had always done in the Philippines. Soon, however, since almost all traffic was military the country was changed to right side driving like all the GI's were used to. I recall how difficult it was to drive a "normal" jeep on the left side of the road. We made about one trip a week into the main office at the Filipinas Hotel to leave off signed leases, pick up money to pay the landowners, and get new assignments. Lt. Mitchell had what he thought was a great idea - he had a rubber stamp made of his signature to save a lot of hand signing. When he took his week's worth of leases to the main office, he was informed the Army wouldn't accept his rubber stamp; he would have to re-do the leases and re-contact the owners. That same stamp worked fine on the Army driver's license Mitchell got for each of us Bad liquor was a problem, and a sign on the roads to Manila posted how many deaths and cases of blindness had occurred to this date. Whiskey and beer were one of the first businesses to get on stream in Manila. The bottlers used to collect old beer bottles to use. One brand was Panique; the original San Miguel distillery was also up and running soon.
San Fernando was the terminus of the infamous Bataan Death March, where those prisoners still alive were put on a train for transport to a POW camp at Capas, Tarlac. We also made drinking glasses from old throw-a-way beer bottles (they were quite thin compared to the standard bottle). The secret was to cut the bottle near the top to make a decent size glass. We did this by first tying a large string around the bottle where we wanted it to break. The string was soaked with kerosene and lit. When it went out, we plunged the bottle into a helmet full of cool water to crack the glass. Another way was to put sand in a helmet, add kerosene, and set fire. We had a wire prepared that fit snugly around the bottle where we wanted the break and a long handle. The wire was heated red hot over the flame, then placed it over the bottle and worked it around to heat the glass in a circle. Next the bottle was plunged into cold water to crack the glass. The rough edge could be dressed with a file. I made many a glass that way.
Our detached status meant that we were essentially free of normal army protocol, a real good deal. We were a self contained unit, and the distinction between officers and enlisted men was quite blurred. Once we lived together in the same house we worked in the six of us would play cards together, Hearts, usually. Our first "office" was a small house made of bamboo poles, woven palm leaf side walls, bamboo floor, bamboo roof framing with palm thatching. The officers slept in a house across the way with other officers; we enlisted men slept in a tent city, but here the tents had floors. Finally good meals, with eggs for breakfast, etc. 8th Army Headquarters fared well. After all, they were "heavy" in generals!
The officers usually slept in army cots like the rest of us, but one time I was out with Lt. Lehman when he stopped at a country hospital (why, I don't know). While I stayed in the jeep, he went inside. When he came back he was all smiles, said that he had just made a deal for a hospital bed in return for insuring them he could get them fresh supplies of orange juice, etc. So a day later a hospital bed was delivered to the officers quarters across the street. A few days later a truck showed up from the hospital to reclaim the bed (Lehman wasn't around at the time, so didn't find out until night when he tried to go to bed), as of course Lehman hadn't come through with the fruit. The other officers thought that was a great deal - no one told Lehman what had happened until he tried to go to bed that night only to find no bed, no cot. They all got a great chuckle out of that! Sometimes there is justice!
One rainy night I shall never forget I needed to visit the "facilities" in the middle of the night. The ground was rough, so in my sandals I carefully stepped from dry "hill" to dry "hill" until I happened to land on one also occupied with fire ants. I think I walked in the water the rest of the way as wet feet were preferable to stinging fire ants. It was in this office that tiny red ants got into my Bantam camera, necessitating my removing the lens to clean them out. Unfortunately when I screwed the lens back in, I missed by one turn, no photos taken after that were in focus. It was while we were in this phase that the bomb was dropped, signaling the end of the war. I remembered that in high school I was intrigued with the cyclotron, but suddenly at the start of the war it was hard to read anything about it or anything connected with splitting the atom. A physics assistant (Harry Dahglian) I had at Purdue was one of the first killed by radiation, apparently from "teasing" the atom by seeing how close together they could hold two pieces of uranium without getting a reaction. Harry lost.
Soon most of the headquarters personnel left, we think to prepare for the occupation. We kept the little bamboo shack for our office, but we enlisted men were then put up in what we think was the auditorium of a former school. I used to acquire K rations for evening snacks. When the final 8th Army men pulled out the Army rented us a house (or rather the second floor; I think the first floor was occupied by a Philippine army dentist). There was a central hall which became our office (with real desks) while on one side were two bedrooms with connecting bath. Guess we had one of the first "home offices". The Captain (Hiram McCullough) to whom I was assigned had the front room, the two Lieutenants the back room. On the other side of the hall we three enlisted men had a single room with adjoining bath. At that time there was no longer electrical power to the area (until then it had been supplied by the 8th Army), so no lights at night.
One Lieutenant (Bill Mitchell) was a former newspaper man from southern California, the other a financial type (name Lehman)( he replaced Lt. Blackman) from New Jersey. One of the other enlisted man (Felix Dunkel) was from Los Angeles and was a dead ringer for actor Bruce Dern, the other (Bill Carlucio) an Italian from Jersey. He had a brother stationed in the states in one of the only stateside camps where the mail was censored; we later figured it was Los Alamos. Of course we "needed" a file clerk, so the Army hired one. A young Filipino we called "Whitey". Actually he was the houseboy, cleaning, taking care of getting our laundry done (we supplied the soap), keeping the Servel absorption type refrigerator filled with kerosene, etc. Never did file. (Lt. Lehman procured the refrigerator; we learned not to ask how - he reminded me of Tony Curtis in Pink Submarine, a real scrounger and con man).
My mother had sent me some packets of dried ice cream (I think it was Junket brand) and a hand operated stirrer, so with my helmet as a bowl and our refrigerator we had our own ice cream. The officers liked the idea so well they managed to find a supply depot source and kept us supplied with gallon cans of Army ice cream mix; one of my duties was to see that there was always some finished ice cream on hand. Making ice cream was first priority each morning. Then we found the army bakery where we could get several loaves of bread at a time. Don't know where the jelly came from. The army baked bread in long pans (loaves lined up side by side), so unless you got an end loaf, the bread had crust on only the top and bottom. My kind of bread! By then we were eating with the Filipino Military Police stationed across the street. We all went through the officer's food line, but we enlisted men then had to sit with the enlisted Filipino MPs to eat. This was because the officers got American style food which we were used to, the enlisted men mostly rice, etc.
After the 8th Army left, there was no electric power. The MPs had electricity (from their own generator) and we didn't. Our officers said it was too bad we couldn't string a wire to our place but they said they didn't know how or who to get to do it. So with their permission I strung two wires across the street (overhead) to our house and we had lights and radio! Not much different than when I helped Dad wire the barns on the farms he owned outside Greenwood and Franklin Indiana, really. At some point Lt. Mitchell tried to get one or all of us (I know he did me) field promotions to Warrant Officer; said our responsibilities justified it, but it was no sale. (A warrant officer wore officers uniforms, but was lower than a 2nd lieutenant - and higher than a top Sergeant). At least we would no longer have been enlisted men. I kept up my bracelet making on a small scale. The aluminum I took from a wrecked Japanese fighter at Clark field, the plastic from broken aircraft windshields. Even traded a watch bracelet with Lt. Mitchell in return for him getting me a pair of oxfords at the Manila PX (enlisted men not allowed) so I didn't have to wear Army boots all the time.
I liked to sketch, and one thing I made was a composite map of our area, Pampanga province, using several Army maps as reference. It made planning our trips easier by having the whole area on a single map. I still have that map plus with modern color copying have a mounted color copy for my wall. We only had the old folding army cots to sleep in. I had a cheap air mattress (won the chance to buy it at a PX in a raffle) to start with. Somehow Mitchell promoted a real mattress for himself, so he gave me his better air mattress. I had linen sheets I got from one of the 8th Army draftsmen that shared the tent I was in earlier in "tent city". It was really high quality linen drafting cloth with the sizing washed out. Neat. Because bugs were a problem, we slept under mosquito nets as we had done in Hollandia. "Our" house had no window panes, only shutters. I suggested we get some extra netting and tack it up to all the windows to use as screens. That worked wonders.
Usually in the evening there was always one jeep free, so we enlisted men could take one to the movies, etc. One time we locked it in the usual way - a padlocked chain to keep the shift lever in reverse - and discovered when we got ready to leave no one had the key! We thought we might have to back it all the way "home", but one of us managed to forcibly hold the gear handle in forward while the other drove - slowly!. Never did that again.
One day when the workload was low Lt. Mitchell suggested three of us go for a swim in the army pool at Clark Field. We drove first to the officer's pool which was up on a hill with a great view but completely unoccupied. Lt. Mitchell tried to convince the GI in charge to let the 3 of us in, but he steadfastly refused enlisted men. So Mitchell drove us back to the enlisted pool and went back by himself to the officers pool. Within 10 minutes we looked up and there was Mitchell in the pool with us - said no one could tell he was an officer in his swim gear (he left his bars in the jeep). Said it was too lonesome by himself in the officers pool so he came down with us and the crowded pool. Went to Clark Field near Angeles several times. That's where I got the rivets used on my watchbands (still have some). Also some aluminum from a wrecked Japanese plane for raw material. We also had to gas up the jeeps there. Remember the gas tank was under the driver's seat! They had monstrous hoses up there to quickly gas trucks. Sure filled a jeep fast!
One day four of us were leaving Clark and when we got on the paved highway kept hearing this clicking sound. Stopped and found a 50 cal live bullet had punctured the left rear tire (the one I was sitting over). Of course we put the spare on. Back "home" I pulled the bullet out with a pair of pliers and it had gone clear to the rim and bent! Fortunately it was a center fire, not rim fire cartridge. Could have been a great way to have gotten a Purple Heart for a shot in the butt!
Bridges, or lack thereof, made for some interesting and exciting driving. One day I had to cross a bridge near Floridablanca. The "roadway" consisted of two planks, spaced just right for a jeeps wheels. Took a steady hand. One of the officers, Lehman I think, had to cross the same stream, but he chose to ford it waist deep rather than trust the bridge. Another time I was driving in the country and crested a hill next to a stream to discover no bridge. Stopped in time; used four-wheel drive do go down, across and up the other side. It's surprising what you can ask of a jeep when it's not yours! I should explain all the country driving. We had to locate farmers and other property owners to negotiate leases for their property the US Army had used in re-taking the Philippines. That took us to some interesting places and we met some nice people.
Actually there wasn't much negotiation. If they didn't accept our offer, the officer would say "If you won't sign, I may have to go back to my superiors and say that you were apparently a collaborator". They always signed. Some people would offer us food. One farm we visited had to send to the fields for the owner, so we were given dishes of the most delicious stuff I have ever tasted - I believe they told us it was Jackfruit. This was a typical farmhouse; bamboo, on stilts, bamboo ladder to get to main floor (leave shoes at bottom!), sewing machine (foot operated) on porch. Floor was typical; split bamboo laid flat with gaps between for ventilation and to sweep the dirt through. The pigs were kept underneath (and chickens if they had any) and would eat anything worthwhile, so it was cleaner than you might think.
The Filipinos were always very friendly to us. Another time I was out with Lt. Ashinger, a new gung ho Harvey type who was disappointed he had "missed the action". (By then McCullough had gone home and Mitchell was in charge) One farm (bamboo hut, etc.) we had to stop at was having some sort of big family meal - seemed like a special occasion. They invited us to eat: I would have turned them down, but not Ashinger. They watched while we ate (the pastry was delicious). I am convinced two of them did without their meal that day and felt bad about it, but it didn't seem to bother Ashinger. He enjoyed it, and felt not to accept would have been an insult. Great guy -..
Sometimes we would take Mr. Ocampo, our interpreter, with us (He was a lawyer by training). On one occasion when he and I were out he wanted to stop in the local church to see friends and insisted he would arrange for food - they "owed" him. He went in to visit and then came out to explain that we were going to a relative's house to eat, that the monks ate off banana leaves using their hands, and didn't think I would be comfortable. I think he secretly didn't want to eat there either, and I was his excuse. One time he took us all to eat at a restaurant in town, and assured us the food was safe as most of it was black market army supplies. Filipino grown food during the war could had been contaminated with chemicals from the use of local fertilizer, so we only ate at army camps or at houses of people wealthy enough to afford the black market stuff.
On one occasion we were invited to the house across the street for dinner. During the occupation it had been commandeered by a Japanese general, but now the owner was back. Everything was served in individual courses! I don't remember how I managed to handle it when a fish, head, tail scales and all was passed around (cooked, of course). For desert there was vanilla ice cream with yellow corn mixed in. Surprisingly good.
The better houses had large water tanks mounted high on the roof. City water was only on during the day (sporadically, at that) so the tank was a reservoir. "Our" house didn't have a tank, so we kept five-gallon cans of water in each bathroom not only for flushing purposes but to wash off the soap if the water pressure failed during a shower. None of the houses on the side of the street we were on had sewer connections; in our case the line dumped into the river behind the house. You could flush and run to a back window and check if everything came out all right! The house next door was even simpler as the bathroom was built over the river eliminating the need for any drainage plumbing. And little kids swam in that river. I hate to think where our laundry got done. The WWII version of "don't ask, don't tell!"
Some of the ways of doing things were interesting. Rice paddies were planted by hand - with a strolling singing guitarist for background music, yet! After the rice was harvested, it was hand threshed by putting it in large flat baskets and tossing it up in the air letting the wind blow the chaff away and the clean rice to fall back into the basket. On the way to Manila we passed a spaghetti factory where rice spaghetti was spread across racks outdoors to dry. Carabaos, or water buffaloes, were used to pull wooden plows in the muddy fields (I have a wood carving of this). They also were used as motive power for hauling things in carts. The Filipinos also butchered them for meat. Out in the country that was done out in the open with blood dripping to the ground and the meat covered with flies.
The army issued free cartons of cigarettes to everyone (looking back I think the tobacco companies provided them for free to get as many "hooked" as possible). I used mine as trading material. A pack would do the laundry for a couple of weeks. I got two handmade decorative knives for cigarettes. The handles were made of carabao horn. One with a wiggly shaped blade I gave to Phil. A nice straight bladed one I kept, but it was stolen from my study when our Glenwood home in Indiana was robbed. I got Doris a pair of carved wooden shoes, which Filipinos actually used as fancy dress shoes. We still have them. Also got a couple of decoratively carved boxes such as could be used on the dresser to hold small jewelry, and the like.
The Filipinos had an answer for diapers during the war. The little kids, both boys and girls, just wore shirts (no undergarments) so everything "hung out". I imagine that has changed by now!
During the war years, for me and many others far from home, the most popular tunes were sentimental, nostalgic and soothing - not flashy or jazzy, etc. Some of my favorites were (in no particular order) Moonlight Becomes You; I'll Be Seeing You; Long Ago and Far Away; You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; You'll Never Know; As Time Get By; It's Been a Long, Long Time; Sentimental Journey and Stardust.
THE TRIP HOME
When I had finally accumulated enough "points" (the system of determining when you got to go home - I forget the details) my orders came to ship home for discharge. First I joined others going home at a camp south of Manila. From there we were taken to the dock and went aboard a Liberty Ship for the trip home. Things were looser on this trip. No life jackets, just big pontoon life boats. No staying three feet from the rail - who in his right mind would fall or jump off when we were on the way home! These Liberty ships (one of Henry Kaiser's products) were all welded, not riveted, and we all wondered how good the welders had been. The metal used in the hulls was quite thin for such a boat. They were so lightweight they rode rough. When the fuel and water was getting low and the seas were rough the whole boat would pitch up and down, and whenever the stern came up the prop was partly out of the water and the uneven thrust made the entire ship shudder.
We made an emergency stop passing Guam. Rumor was some sailor had fallen and was injured enough that they took him to the hospital on Guam. The only other stop was Honolulu where we tied up next to the Aloha Tower. No one was allowed off ship (no one but a fool would have wanted to and taken the chance of "missing the boat" when it left). We were told the stop was to take on fuel and fresh water. The ship ran more smoothly after that. Back at San Francisco and a ferry ride up to Richmond, then by train across country to Camp Atterbury, Indiana (south of Franklin) for final "processing" and discharge. The train ride was long and the weather at higher altitudes was cold and snowy. Leaving Salt Lake City the train was stopped quite a while, with little heat in the cars, to wait for a helper engine to get over the pass. At Atterbury we even had to listen to a recruiting speech offering to let us keep our "temporary" rank if we signed up for the regular army. They had to be kidding !!!
I called the folks and they came down to get me. I could finally wear civilian clothes again! During the war we had to wear our uniforms even when off-duty or on leave, unlike the peacetime Army when uniforms had to be worn only while on duty. It was over. While in retrospect the experience now seems worthwhile for the places we had been, the ship rides, the people, etc. I think I did a lot of growing up in those 3+ years. But I wouldn't do it again!