5:26 | Gilbert Howland was already in the Army when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was down in Panama taking jungle training and his unit was guarding the canal. They moved to Trinidad to guard against German submarine activity and then the call went out. Volunteers were wanted for a dangerous jungle mission. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Keywords : Gilbert Howland Panama jungle machine gun mule Pearl Harbor Panama Canal Trinidad Fort Read Port of Spain Manzanilla Beach German submarine (sub) volunteer
Once he volunteered to join the unit that became known as Merrill's Marauders, Gilbert Howland was whisked across the country and shipped off to India. Several months of training and planning and then it was on into Burma, where they joined the British commander Orde Wingate, who was already engaged in deep jungle penetration missions behind enemy lines. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When the volunteer unit known as Merrill's Marauders got to Burma, they made a long march up the Ledo Road and began operating in the steep terrain. They gained valuable intelligence by tapping the telephone lines of the enemy. Gilbert Howland led a section of machine gunners as the battles began for the remote land near the Himalayas. Part 1 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
They were in a bad defensive position when the Japanese attacked at daybreak. The Americans were a unit of Merrill's Marauders and, after a full day fending off the enemy, they moved to a higher position in a bamboo grove. Gilbert Howland remembers the distinctive sound that bullets made as they tore through the bamboo. Part 2 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland describes the difficulty of fighting the Japanese in the mountains of Burma. The enemy had something that the men of Merrill's Marauders lacked; artillery. Then there was the terrain, which was mostly vertical, and the ammunition, which was mostly used up. Part 3 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
They had been holding off the Japanese for a long time when another combat team finally broke through to Gilbert Howland's group. High in the Burma hills, the men of Merrill's Marauders had been at a disadvantage because the enemy had artillery. Once someone figured out how to air drop a couple of howitzers, the situation improved. It was good news, bad news for Howland, though, when an enemy bullet found him. Part 4 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
The men of Merrill's Marauders finally had a day off from battling the Japanese in the foothills of the Himalayas. Gilbert Howland's turn to bathe in the river came and he headed down the path. Coming the other way was a soldier who made a strange comment and at that point, Howland realized who it was. Part 5 of 5. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
There were celebrities in Gilbert Howland's training unit at Fort Dix, including Eddie Fisher. They were preparing to go to Korea and it wasn't long before Howland found himself there in the frigid winter; dodging artillery and trying to capture prisoners for interrogation. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
From the rear at the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, Sgt. Gilbert Howland sent in the worst casualty report of his life. The tenacious enemy would not let go, even though the territory being fought over had no real tactical value. His unit was relieved and then, to the relief of everyone, came the armistice. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland had already served with Merrill's Marauders and was there at Pork Chop Hill in the next war. He shipped out for his third war in 1966 as an ARVN advisor in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He felt lucky that his Vietnamese counterpart spoke English, which made the job much easier. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Gilbert Howland moved from an ARVN advisor position to become operations sergeant at a1st Infantry Division unit with large artillery pieces. He was the in the command post, but he dodged the Viet Cong rockets along with everyone else. During the Tet Offensive, a few infiltrators made it into the base, but the damage was limited. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
One of Sgt. Gilbert Howland's duties was to make a circuit of the perimeter of the base and make sure the guards were awake. It was at this time in Vietnam that drugs began to flow from there back home, transported by soldiers. Knowing that disturbed him, but he, too, brought home something illicit, souvenirs. Before he left, the B-52 strike that had been requested finally came, to everyone's surprise. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
There were no disturbing interactions with anti-war civilians when Gilbert Howland returned from Vietnam. The veteran of three wars was retired at Fort Dix after almost thirty years of service. He finally got his parade decades later at Fort Benning and the Ranger Hall of Fame. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
After the Japanese surrendered, Gilbert Howland was transferred to an MP unit for a while, then discharged. He reenlisted after a year and left for a tour in Italy, guarding Trieste against Yugoslav incursion. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
While on Cold War duty in Italy, Gilbert Howland found the time for golf, a little cognac and entertainment in a Trieste nightclub. One of the entertainers became very special to him. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
He had served in the mountains of Burma and the mountains of Italy. Now, Gilbert Howland was serving at Fort Dix and trying to find enough whitewash for his part of the base. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
When peace came to Korea, Gilbert Howland's first job was to disburse a giant supply of lumber for the construction of new fortifications. Then it was back to Fort Dix and the training regiment, but it was his next post that he describes as a Christmas present; Hawaii. (This interview made possible with the support of DAVID W. MARQUEZ.)
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
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.)
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
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.
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.
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.
While still in high school, Marion NeSmith joined the National Guard. He was activated in early 1941, so he had to postpone school for a while. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his unit served on guard duty in Washington DC.
The ship was headed out into the Pacific with a large convoy when it lost it's rudder. After that was repaired, it had to make it's way to New Guinea alone. David Mealor was grateful there were no encounters with submarines, but once he got to the destination, there was impenetrable jungle and tropical diseases, one of which took him out of the action.
There were no jobs to be found in 1940, so David Mealor followed his brother into the National Guard. Just as his year was up, the country mobilized to fight a new war and he was in for the duration. He was sure his unit was destined for Europe, but when the ship was just getting out into the Atlantic, it turned right.
After a short stay in England, Marion NeSmith crossed the Channel and landed at Omaha Beach, where there were crosses on the graves from D-Day. As his unit moved into the interior, he never knew where he was, but there was a target coming up, the city of Saint-Malo.
He was sent home from New Guinea with jungle rot, but it cleared up on the trip. David Mealor began an odyssey of Army backwaters and disorganization. He was bounced around in stateside units, finally ending up in Petaluma on a converted chicken ranch. While he was there, his mother asked him to find his brother, who's ship had just docked in San Francisco. Find a sailor in San Francisco?
While on maneuvers, Marion NeSmith heard about the news from Pearl Harbor. His unit spent a year protecting Washington DC and training, then it was their turn to ship out. He crossed the Atlantic bound for Liverpool.
By the time sonarman Corwin Mokler got to the Pacific, the threat from Japanese planes and submarines was just about gone. His destroyer found no opposition as they took part in shore bombardment of Saipan and Peleliu. Later, as kamikazes began to appear, they had a near miss from one of the suicide planes.
While still in training, David Mealor thought that it was too cold in camp, so he volunteered for mountain training and maneuvers. He figured it would be hiking through the hills, but he had a rude awakening when he saw what he would be climbing. The maneuvers were disorganized, which led to a plot for a little getaway.
In the Philippines, Corwin Mokler's ship escorted LSTs and troop transports through the region. He remembers a lone aircraft at high altitude that was relaying a signal that identified it as a friendly. That turned out not to be the case. When the ship was reattached to its task force, they took part in a bombardment run on Japan.
During the attack on Saint-Malo, Marion NeSmith narrowly missed getting cut down by a German machine gun. He ran for a ditch, where he found the rest of his unit taking cover. This worked for a while, but the German 88's began to wreak havoc. There was a blast and he went one way and his rifle went another.
It was just terrible in New Guinea. Jungle so thick you couldn't move and rain that never stopped. David Mealor was in the communications section, so he had a little wire trailer that he could sleep in. That was about all the luck he had there.
While in the armada at Iwo Jima, the men on Corwin Mokler's destroyer went to the aid of a sister ship when it was hit by a kamikaze. They escorted it to a safe anchorage and took the opportunity to have a little beer on the beach. They then sailed for Leyte Gulf, where they encountered a Japanese task force and confronted them head on.
After being wounded by shrapnel from a German 88, Marion NeSmith began a journey through aid stations and field hospitals until he wound up back in England in a first class hospital. He could hear buzz bombs going over and there was always that tense moment when the engine cut out and it would fall.
He was getting acclimated to Navy life. Corwin Mokler had completed sonar school and went to Brooklyn Navy Yard, where his ship was still being built. The crew moved on board and dealt with all the noise. Finally, they set out an a shakedown cruise down to Bermuda and, once that was done, they made their way to the Pacific.
They had a secret radio in the prison camp, so they could contrast the BBC with the German newscasts. Jim Wicker recalls how the news of the approach of the Russians caused their captors to take all the POW's out on the road to march further into Germany. The conditions were terrible at the end of that march when the men were packed into a camp meant for far fewer prisoners.
It was the safest job in the army, according to Buck Stiles. He was company commander of service company in the 66th Armored regiment and it was his job to move whatever needed to be moved. His trucks were in constant movement to each forward company, first in North Africa and then in Sicily.
Corwin Mokler decided to enlist in the Navy before the Army got him through the draft. At Great Lakes Naval Station, he was selected as a sonarman and went to Key West for training, where he saw the ocean for the first time. The destroyer USS McGowan was his ship and it was still being built.
He had qualified as an aircraft mechanic in the Army Air Corps, but Jim Wicker jumped at the chance for pilot training. He aced a test for those with no college and began flight school. It was a proud day for him when he graduated because he thought he had no chance to become a pilot.