5:53 | During their escape from the Philippines, the men of the USS Quail faced a harrowing voyage on the open sea in their tiny motor launch. Their skipper was highly capable, even devising a homemade sextant. The sun and salt water caused painful blisters on young Lyle Bercier. They were twenty days out and headed for safety in Australia. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Keywords : Lyle Bercier USS Quail (AM-15) Mindanao Philippines Filipino Japanese Dutch East Indies navigator Naval Academy sextant Australia
Lyle Bercier left a North Dakota Farm to join the Navy in 1940. Assigned to the Pacific Fleet in the Phillipines, his base was destroyed by Japanese air power the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. The remaining US ships moved to the mouth of Manila Bay after ground forces took the city. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
The crew of the USS Quail was under constant air attack on Corregidor after the Philippines fell to the Japanese. Lyle Bercier describes the miserable days spent hiding in tunnels and the night missions to clear mines. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
When the Philippines were surrendered to the Japanese, 18 men from the USS Quail decided to try and escape in a motor launch. Lyle Bercier details the beginning of their harrowing voyage south. They almost didn't make it out of Manila Bay. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
After 31 days on the open sea in a small boat, 18 men from the USS Quail finally reached safety in Australia. They had scuttled their ship and fled rather than become POW's. But in Australia, their story was not believed and it took some time before they were treated as the heroes they were, especially their skipper, John Morrill. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
After his harrowing escape from the Philippines, Lyle Bercier was lucky to remain ashore in Sydney for two years. He was ambitious, though, and returned stateside to get a new ship. After cruising the Atlantic, he headed to the Pacific, where he participated in the bombardment of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Lyle Bercier came home to North Dakota, but he was determined to make a career of the Navy. After a short return to the Philippines, he returned to the states to instruct aviators in gunnery. He had one last posting to a destroyer before disability forced him to retire. He found a job with the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance, though, and continued to serve in a different way. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
As a 20 year old sailor, Lyle Bercier had survived an adventure in a small boat on the open sea, when men from the USS Quail fled the Philippines rather than surrender. Safely ashore in Australia, the Navy tested his mettle in different ways. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
The invasion operation became an occupation operation after the war suddenly ended. Howard Dean was in charge of a radar unit, which he had to get off the ship and into a safe place ashore in Japan. He found a Signal Corps station where he could put it, but the officers there took off for leave as soon as he got there. This led to a potentially embarrassing situation.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
Howard Dean was an engineering student at Georgia Tech when he was turned down by the Navy. He settled for the Army and they sent him back to Georgia Tech, where he finished his degree, then they sent him to Boston for a Harvard and MIT program studying radar.
After victory in Europe, Marvin O'Neal's crew transported grateful French POW's home to Paris. Then, they were scheduled to switch to B-29's and head to the Pacific. When the news came that the war there was over, they were jubilant.
Shortly after the main landing on Leyte, radar officer Howard Dean came ashore. He had no assignment, yet, so they sent him to a nearby anti-aircraft battery. He began to observe gunners on the ships in the bay, who were undisciplined and shooting up the shore when they fired.
Joseph Williams was one of the first black Marines, serving in an anti-aircraft unit defending the Marshall Islands. The guns were advanced for the time, with a computer-like fire director that translated weather data into fire control.
B-17 radio operator and waist gunner Marvin O'Neal recalls his first mission, which involved a lot of flak and a lot of praying. He entered the war in Europe near the end and, on his last mission, he saw a German jet fighter streaking through the sky. Could they win the war with that thing?
Radar officer Howard Dean was in the 12th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, but he didn't know it yet. He'd arrived in the Pacific with no real assignment, and was attached to an anti-aircraft battery for a while. Then he was told to load a radar unit on a ship and prepare for a landing. Where was that going to be?
After boot camp at Parris Island, Paul Deverick went first to Quantico, where he worked at the Officer Candidates School. His next stop was Cherry Point, where he went to MP school and then served as an MP on base. He had two brothers serving in combat, which kept him out of action in the Pacific.
He was in the Marshall Islands to man an anti-aircraft battery. Joseph Williams recalls how the guns would respond before attacking planes got close, thanks to the radar unit. He also remembers the furious typhoons that would keep him hunkered down in bunkers.
Radar officer Howard Dean became a specialist in gun laying radar, a system which linked radar with the fire control on an anti-aircraft battery. The Army wanted his engineering talent at MIT, designing radar units, but he wanted into the shooting war. Eventually he got his orders to ship out for Leyte.
He could hear the buzz bomb. Ray Hutchins was billeted with an English family and on his first night there, he heard the closest one he'd ever heard. It actually was a good thing if you could hear it coming.
While on occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean took a train to Kyoto. The station master tried to clear out an entire car for him, but he refused and insisted the civilians be allowed to stay. Soon after this, he became part of a massive operation to account for all the equipment scattered across the Pacific.
After the war, Ray Hutchins had some German prisoners working for him in the motor pool, and some of them were the best mechanics he had. There was a lot of work to do, including collecting and shipping war vehicles.
After occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean stayed in the Army Reserve. The Lieutenant was destined for a higher rank in Korea, but lingering health problems from his days in the Philippines kept him at home. He went to work as an engineer, always remembering his great friends from the military.
After a slow Atlantic crossing, Ray Hutchins landed at Liverpool and began his job directing the transportation of Army vehicles across England. The half-tracks and other heavy vehicles needed assembly before they could be used. Eventually he moved to Southampton, where many ships were being loaded for Normandy.
During some down time, Howard Dean made a boat excursion to Corregidor, where he saw the entrance to the Manila Tunnels, a vast underground complex. What he later learned about it caused some surprise. The radar officer had another surprise when he drove his jeep near a combat zone.
He'd been working as a mechanic for an airline, so when David Hirsch was drafted, they let him go to the Army Air Corps. There were too many cadets, so he was offered a spot as a gunner and accepted. The aircraft was the latest heavy bomber, the B-29.