4:38 | The Ranger battalion was supposed to make it to a certain point in Italy by nightfall, but rain and mud slowed them down. The result was that the Germans were already there and had a distinct advantage. Jack Roan describes the humiliating surrender of hundreds of Rangers that followed.
Keywords : Jack Roan Italy Mussolini Canal German Thompson submachine gun surrender
He thought some of the things he had to do in basic training were stupid, like getting up early and running, but Jack Roan came to appreciate later the preparation he got there. He went first to North Africa, where he encountered the legendary General George Patton.
Jack Roan has a scar on his arm that he received from a mounted German soldier who attacked him in a manner that was straight out of the nineteenth century. It took place in North Africa, where he was found himself without a unit after being in the hospital. They had shipped out, so he volunteered for Ranger training. Big mistake.
On his way to a German stalag, Jack Roan was shown a camp where prisoners were starving, perhaps to scare him. When he got to his own camp, it was large and filthy. He jumped at the chance to become a laborer for a German farmer.
He was sick with dysentery, but Jack Roan was determined to escape. The Germans were marching prisoners aimlessly on the road, so security was lax. He and two others made their move during a big storm. They hid in the woods and took potatoes from fields until they made contact with allies.
Finally, they were in Burma. The unit that would become known as Merrill's Marauders worked out their nervousness by firing at the first noise they heard in the jungle. Bob Passanisi was the radio repairman, but his M-1 was expected on the line. This was going to be the first time the Japanese were up against the modern firepower of the M-1 and the BAR.
Jesse Linam's life at sea was far from over after the sinking of the USS Chicago. Upon rescue, they'd be given medical treatment and sent back to the states. He had hoped to be reassigned to the European Theater for a chance to fight the Germans, but the winds blew him from Newport News, VA to the Panama Canal and he was on his way back to the Pacific Theater.
Bob Passanisi recalls a perilous trek along a mountain trail in Burma as Merrill's Marauders attempted to out-maneuver the Japanese. It was so dark that radium compass dials and phosphorescent plants were relied upon to follow the man, or mule, in front of you.
In their campaign through Burma, Merrill's Marauders relied on mules for transporting much of their gear. Bob Passanisi was in charge of the radios and he was also in charge of a mule for carrying the heavier equipment.
As the war raged on in the Pacific, U.S. forces were trying valiantly to take over as many islands as they could from the Japanese. Jesse Linam found himself a witness to the carnage of the Marshall Islands Campaign where many men lost their lives on the beaches. From the sea, they could support them by bombarding the islands, but it was often so close he was worried they'd hit their own men.
His outfit was headed to the European theater, but Ernest Stiles was not on the roster when it came time to go. He never found out why, but he was sent to jungle training and reassigned to a Pacific bound unit. Once there, he found assurance that he would make it through and he found a leader he admired.
He thought he was a slacker, but when Bob Passanisi was evacuated with malaria, he was unconscious for two weeks. Once recovered, he rejoined Merrill's Marauders, where the unit was beginning to have trouble with green replacements and ineffective Chinese allies.
As a new Air Corps cadet, Crawford Hicks began his training in a biplane and then progressed through a series of more powerful aircraft. His first instructor got rid of his fear with a bold maneuver and, despite his shaky landings at times, he got his wings and his 2nd Lieutenant bars.
The kamikaze hit just as Ernest Stiles was climbing down the cargo net to hit the beach at Luzon. He made it to the beach and turned to see the ship sinking. He was soon on the other side of the island, where he would face the worst fighting he would see, trying to take Zig Zag Pass.
The trek across India was slow because the railroad gauge changed frequently and Bob Passanisi had to change trains every time. He spent three months in a tent in an empty field while the British command wondered what to do with the American volunteers.
He was still eligible for the planned Japan campaign, but Crawford Hicks was relieved when the atomic bomb was dropped while he was on his honeymoon. He went back to school and though times were tough, he persisted and had a fulfilling career.
While WWII was raging, Ed Cottrell knew if he didn’t put his name in he’d end up being drafted. Noting a program to train college students how to fly, he opted to get his license so that if he had to go overseas, he wouldn’t be walking, and the Army Air Corps gave him the best offer.
Early in the war, the USS Chicago would join the ANZAC Squadron, a fleet made up of ships from New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Jesse Linam remembers sailing to Guadalcanal and supporting the 1st Marine Division in their assault of the island.
He didn't care for farm life, though the food his family grew was handy during the Depression. Crawford Hicks loved two things growing up, reading and airplanes. He badly wanted to fly, so when Pearl Harbor happened, he enlisted in the Air Corps.
Pooch Pace recalls the positive memories he had of being a control tower operator, but also the immense stress. He had to maintain a constant focus because he knew the men flying these planes and they relied on him to land safely.
General Joseph Stilwell wrested control of the American volunteer unit away from British command and put General Frank Merrill in charge. The diverse unit included Bob Passanisi, who was in charge of the radios. They began a march through India as a ragged and undisciplined group, but as they approached combat, they gelled into a superior fighting force.
He had some close calls in his B-17, one of which left him with a hot souvenir, a piece of flak. Crawford Hicks recounts several of these incidents and tries to describe his calm state of mind, which got him through the missions. The officers received a glass of whiskey after the flights, but he always gave his to an enlisted man.
Ed Cottrell’s last mission was 2 days before the end of the war in Europe, and following that some men in the unit were assigned to fight in the Pacific. Ed got to spend some time at home, but before he could get past San Antonio the war had come to a close.
He had volunteered for an unknown assignment. All he knew that he was going overseas, so Bob Passanisi shipped out from San Francisco. The young radio repairman curried favor with the captain on the Pacific crossing and was rewarded with superior grub.
Pooch Pace would conduct his basic training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. There he'd learn to be a control tower operator in charge of managing the departures and landings of hundreds of planes. He recalls one tragic event where they lost a B-25 and it's crew and he spent the evening guarding the morgue.
Bob Passanisi was shocked when he disembarked in Bombay. How could the the USA send him to such a place? The locals were shocked by the GI's casual shower habits and the food was horrible. At least when he visited the Taj Mahal, it was pleasant.
There was a lot of ingenuity in the captured flyers. Crawford Hicks describes the clever way that "clipped" wings were made from powdered milk cans, so they all had a distinctive insignia. He also tells how the men gave themselves an unlikely morale boost and how they got along with the German guards.
Jesse Linam, like many WWII veterans, had a tough childhood. Growing up through the Depression, there were not a lot of opportunities for a young man, so before the war even started Jesse had joined the Navy which would put him face to face with history.
Surprise was a big part of Merrill's Marauders' campaign against the Japanese. Bob Passanisi describes one such attack which caught them unaware. Operating in the jungle was a challenge, and food and water were never in good supply. Most of their meals consisted of the dreaded K-ration.