6TH ARMY H.Q., LUZON, P. I.
From the day hes sworn in, one single doctrine is dinned into the spirit and mind of the American soldier from morning to night, practically every hour on the hour. It is the gospel of teamwork. Yet, curiously, although the war has produced thousands of individual heroes, famous battalions, regiments of renown and great divisions, you seldom if ever hear of a heroic teamsomehow the word team gets lost when the combat record is compiled.
There is one outstanding exception the Alamo Scouts, proud to call itself a team and a collection of teams, a unique out fit that has made military history in the Southwest Pacific, and will produce a few more lively chapters as we close in to destroy the armies of Japan. Youll hear more about the Alamo Scouts before the Japs begin waving white kimonos in their homeland.
All through the request of the Philippines, the Alamo Scouts, at the beginning a team of fewer than fifty combat-trained infantrymen of rare prowess, roamed many miles through territory held by the Japanese, and sent back priceless information for the guidance of our advancing troops. During the Leyte operations, the scouts ranged for north of that island, organizing guerrillas and setting up important coastal watching stations. From the latter, they sent the first news of Jap convoys rushing reinforcements to Leyte, so that only a few hours later our Air Force was able to sink more than twenty transports, liquidating thousands of enemy troops.
Before our invasion of Noemfoor Island, two teams of five or six Scouts, under Lts. John R.C. McGowen, of Amarillo, Texas, and Woodrow H. Hobbs, of Fort Worth, Texas, landed on that island, got information about the disposition of the enemy forces, tested the landing beaches and waded neck-deep in the ocean for two hours, searching for channels through the coral reefs. The Japs discovered them but they escaped to a waiting PT boat. With their precious information. When Jap planes bombed the boat, the scouts helped to turn antiaircraft guns on them.
During our landing in Lingayen Gulf, there was tough opposition from Japanese artillery in the rugged hills to the north. Our bombers and naval gunners couldnt locate the positions, and the Nips were taking a heavy toll of American lives.
The Scouts went up into hills and located these artillery positions. At one gun emplacement they found some Japs eating breakfast, and killed them so quietly that other enemy units never suspected the scouts were there. The Scouts found that the guns were hidden in caves interlocked by tunnels. They got so close that they saw the little railroad tracks by which the Japs took their artillery back into the mountains after they fired, covering the entrances of the caves by camouflage. All this information was brought back without the loss of a single man.
The story of the Scouts goes away back into ancient history October, 1943, when Lt. Gen. [now a full general] Walter Krueger, commanding the United States 6th Army, was at Goodenough Island, a dot on the ocean at the eastern tip of New Guinea. Our forces had fought their way across Papua, New Guinea, and were just beginning their historic advance form island to island, until they would eventually retake the Philippines.
There were a great many Japanese troops on the islands between Goodenough and Leyte. Just how many, nobody knew. The available information about the strength of the enemy, the placing of his troops and his future plans of operation facts we had to have was all pretty fragmentary. Much of it came form dubious sources. It wasnt what the general wanted _ he couldnt risk his mens lives on it. He wanted accurate information, form specially trained men of his own, whose duty would be to rove through Jap territory far in advance of our own main lines and nail down facts about conditions there. He wanted men who could live in the jungle on scant rations, who could move silently and invisibly, stalking and killing Japs or getting prisoners, if necessary. They had to be men cool enough to withhold their fire under the most critical circumstances, if by shooting they would endanger the success of their mission.
When the general decided upon the exact character of the unit he wanted, he called into conference Col. Frederick W. Bradshaw of Jackson, Mississippi. Colonel Bradshaw is a lawyer, shrewd, soft-spoken, quietly humorous and gifted in the rare quality of leadership. He and the general designed the training program for a little group of scout teams to walk in the tradition of The Deerslayer and Davy Crockett. The general, whose home is in San Antonio, Texas, gave them their name The Alamo Scouts. They have become one of the great army legends of this war.
We picked out a training center, a little paradise called Gerguson Island, says Colonel Bradshaw. Then we began selecting men. First we called upon the 158th Infantry justly famous as jungle fighters the Bushmasters of Panama. We asked for volunteers with qualifications beyond their prowess as foot soldiers. We wanted men of individual initiative and competitive spirit. They had to be men temperamentally attracted by a game of great risks. They had to be crack marksmen, experts with the grenade, the knife, the tommy gun and carbine, and also able to kill with their hands, if necessary.
There were a number of American Indians in this first group of volunteers. Those Indians even taught the New Guinea natives a few jungle tricks. All our men had to be steeped in woodlore and the techniques of individual camping, in signaling by numerous devises, in map reading and drawing maps. No six-week course could possibly produce the type of men required. But it could help them to sharpen knowledge they already had, and teach them a few new tricks.
The colonel and a small staff put the hand-picked men through the six-week course. Many of the early volunteers were eliminated they were good soldiers, but they couldnt quite measure up to the extraordinary standards demanded. The survivors in the competition consequently developed an esprit de corps of exactly the kind desired- they knew they were tops. The out fit was divided into small teams, usually consisting of one officer and four or five enlisted men. Each team had a voice in selecting its own personnel- a notable departure from army routine.
At a little camp where I spent some days with the Scouts, Capt. Lewis B. Hochstrasser, Scott adjutant, a former reporter for the Davenport, Iowa, Times, proved to be an encyclopedia on how the Scouts functioned.
Each enlisted candidate, he told me, we asked to name by private ballot the three officers, in the order of their preference, whom he would be most willing to follow on a dangerous mission. Junior officers, in turn, were asked what men they desired to have with them. Added to the data so acquired were the recommendations of staff officers. The first Alamo Scout team were picked by this co-ordination of the preferences.
After the original volunteers from the 158th Infantry were brought in, other trainees were obtained from the 32rd, or Red Arrow, Division, the 1st Cavalry, 24th and other infantry divisions. When I was with the Scouts, fifty-one officers had been graduated from the Scout school, but only nineteen had been retained. More than 200 enlisted men had been graduated, but now, no doubt many more Scouts have been added to the original unit of fifty.
From the autumn of 1943 to this writing, the Scouts have accomplished forty-six missions, including nineteen in the Philippines, the rest in the Admiraltys, New Britain and Talaud and Pegun islands. Despite numerous clashes with the Japs, at this writing not a single Scout has been killed, and until they reached the Philippines, no Scout was wounded, though one, Sgt. Leonard J. Scott, of Comstock, Michigan, did have a Jap bayonet prick his belly. The way Sergeant Scott got his wound demonstrates the kind of work required of the Scouts.
He found himself surrounded by Japs and took cover in a dense thicket. There he stood, motionless and silent, while Jap bayonets, coming closer and closer, probed the twigs and branches methodically. He could hear his pulse hammering so loudly that he fancied the man hunters must hear to. Finally, it happened. The tip of a bayonet drew a thin red line down his stomach, and bright red drops fell. Still, he stood immobile, not even twitching a muscle. Then the bayonet went away.
Since reaching the Philippines, ten Scouts have been wounded. The official tally of Japs they killed is eighty-seven at the writing, but there probably have been more, because the Scouts have done most of their killing in darkness.
The average patrol of the Scouts has been about thirty miles per mission, but missions have lasted from twenty-four hours to six weeks. The six-week mission was commanded by Lt. Robert A. Sumner, of Portland, Oregon, in the Ormoc Valley in Leyte. There his team radioed back information on concentrations which brought down artillery fire accurately on the enemy. Just as their radio developed trouble, a Jap plane flew over and made a parachute drop of a fine Jap radio. The Scouts waved a cheery thanks to the pilot. The next day the openhanded Nip came back and dropped some spare parts. As part of this mission, Lieutenant Sumner brought information about the Jap forces to Maj. Gen Andrew D. Bruce, commanding the 77th Division, which helped to shape the plan of amphibious attack at Palompon.
The Scouts have brought in twenty-four Jap prisoners for questioning- six of their missions have been specifically to obtain such prisoners. In New Guinea, the Scouts planned the capture of Gen. Hatazo Adachi, commander of the 18th Japanese Army. From hiding, they watched the general and his guards tirelessly. They had a plan of the house he occupied, including the way every door opened. They mapped the route of his daily horseback ride along a jungle trail. But the many troops immediately around the Japanese general presented a hazard. The plan to capture Adachi was placed before General Kruger. He vetoed it, saying that it would be spectacular, but that no stunt was worth the life of a single Scout.
During their operations, the Scouts have rescued 197 prisoners of was held by the Japs. They aided the Rangers in the freeing of Americans at Cabanatuan, by providing an exact map of the camp, with every Jap position and the number of the garrison.
Of the Scout missions, it would be hard to select the one which involved the most peril or the one which brought back information of the highest value. Every job was dangerous, as all were behind enemy lines. The Scouts generally agree that their minutes of greatest suspense have been in landing on hostile shores, when they cannot tell whether they are being observed. They particularly recall their first landing on Los Negros, which preceded the storming of the island by the 1st Cavalry Division; a mission conducted by Lt. George S. Thompson, of Bevier, Missouri, in the Camotes; that of Lt. William B. Lutz, of Howell, Michigan, on Talaud; and two by Lt. John M. Dove, of Hollywood, California, in Hollandia.
The mission on Los Negros involved a daylight landing from a Catalina flying, boat which was observed by the Japs. Feinted out of their original positions by this landing, the Japs sent our patrols to catch the invaders. Once the Scouts lay motionless in bushes while a patrol of thirty Japs passed within ten feet of them. Eventually, a whole battalion of Japs was pulled away from one beach, which was to be stormed by the cavalry. The Scouts were able to inform Brig. Gen. William Chase, waiting on a destroyer, that there were many more of the enemy on Los Negros than had been suspected. Ositions were reported. Naval guns bombarded the positions successfully, and the plan of attack was altered because of the information received.
While scouts under Lieutenant Thompson were spending a night in a little seaside collection of shanties on Poro Island, in the Camotes, six bargeloads of Japanese infantry landed almost at their feet. The Japs surrounded the shack where the Scouts were keeping watch form a second-story window. Two came upstairs into the very room where the Scouts were stationed. Calmly Lieutenant Thompson ordered no firing. He and part of the team escaped by jumping into the sea. The others escaped down some rear stairs, in the darkness brushing past Japs coming up. The Japs took alarm and threshed near-by bushes with their bayonets. That was the time Sergeant Scott was pricked, but nobody else was scratched.
At Pegun Island, Lieutenant Sumners team was sent to rescue three Air Force enlisted men. For five hours they searched in vain for the men. As they were returning to their pickup point they were discovered by a Jap patrol of platoon size. The Scouts signaled the PT boat they were coming, and backed into the water with their carbines ready. The Japs opened fire from the front and left flank, and the Scouts returned it. The PT boat joined in, and bullets flailed the waters around the Americans.
Flirting With Death
A beaufighter flying offshore was reached by signals from the PT boat. It swooped over the beach, strafing the Japs and driving them for cover. The fact that no Scouts was injured must be ascribed to a miracle, to terrible Japanese marksmanship or possibly to their training. They had learned that a man swimming twelve inches under water is safe from small-arms fire.
A team under Lieutenant Lutz visited Talaud Island, not knowing whether the natives were hostile or friendly. They picked up an affable islander who talked fair English. Another native ran screaming away from the Scouts into the bush. The Scouts had barely time to dive for cover, carrying their willing prisoner with them, when a Jap patrol passed within a few feet of them, pivoting to right and to left. Fortunately, the Japs veered off to the left, but not before one of them, swinging a machete, chopped twigs from a bush two feet above one sergeants head.
A rubber boat in which Lieutenant Dove and his team were trying to paddle through the surf to a PT boat one night at Hollandia capsized in the waves. All aboard were tossed into the sea, losing their guns. The Scouts swam ashore and killed four Japs with clubs and knives. With the rifles of the slain Japs, they killed eighteen more before they were rescued by the PT.
On another mission in the area, Lieutenant Dove took his men through the heart of the village where some Japs were sleeping. He had to go through, Lieutenant Dove said, because there were swamps with neck-high mud on either side of the village and his men already were pretty tired from a long hike. So they killed the two sentries posted by the Jap unit and made a successful dash up the trail beyond it.
The Scouts made one outstanding commando raid, in which tow teams of Scouts were assigned to rescue thirty-two Dutch and Javanese prisoners of war in the village of Moari, New Guinea. Natives, telling the Scouts about these prisoners, drew diagrams on the sand, showing the huts where Jap guards were sleeping. They reported the number of doors and windows in the huts, and even where the enemy stacked his arms.
The job of rescuing these Allies was given to two teams of Scout, headed by Lt. Tom J. Roundsaville , of Atoka, Oklahoma, and Lt. William E. Nellist, of Eureka, California. In three rubber boats they were lowered from two PT boats with eleven enlisted men. The Scouts carried unusual armament for this job. They were loaded with hand grenades, smoke grenades and thermite grenades, to blind the enemy and start fires in the huts. Flashlights were lashed along the barrels of their rifles, so they could shoot accurately in the dark..
Two Jap machine-gun emplacements were located on the beach between the Scouts and the enemy position. Lieutenant Nellists team was assigned to wipe these out, once Lieutenant Rousavilles team started shooting in the village. Rounsavilles team marched nearly all night along a slippery, muddy trail to reach its objective. Before the attack, a native boy was sent into the village. He had been an orderly for the Jap garrison, but had escaped. Silently he slipped into the room where the Japs were holding the headman of the village as hostage, and brought him our without waking a single Jap. Then he went back into the house and brought our some of the Japs weapons.
Rousaville attacked at 4:10 A.M. and at the sound of the shooting, Nellests team quickly slaughtered all the Japs in the machine-gun emplacements. The Scouts rushed the Jap huts, throwing grenades.
Within three minutes, every Jap was killed. As they were rounding up the rescued prisoners of war, Sergeant Andy J. Smith, a former civil-service employee in St. Louis, inspected a pile of records beside a Japanese phonograph and found one by Bing Crosby. He immediately played it; it sounded just grand, he told me.
Instead of thirty-two prisoners, as expected, the Scouts rescued sixty-six Dutch and Javanese, including three women and eighteen children. On their way back to shore, they picked up a Frenchman who had been hiding in the bush with his wife and ten children. Four PT boats took those liberated back to Biak.
Before the Scouts left New Guinea natives told our forces of 100 missionaries, held prisoners by a small Jap force at Goya, a village six miles inland. A single scout team, led by Lt. Michael J. Sombar, of Wyoming, Delaware, staggered through the six miles of muddy trail, knee-deep in many places, and delivered these captives. One of the nuns threw her arms around sombars neck and cried, Its good to see a real man again!
The Scouts captured a Japanese officer there. With a gun at his head, he said in very good English, All right, I wont run away. On the trail toward the beach, he refused to carry the pack of a missionary who was exhausted. He talked about the Geneva convention and said the Scouts could shoot him, but he wouldnt carry that pack. One of the scouts waved two missionaries out of the way. The Jap picked up the pack and carried it.
Naturally, some of the territory through which the Scouts patrolled held no Japs whatever. Often, the Scouts were greeted by natives so happy to see Americans that they could not escape big feasts in their honor. At a Little town in Luzon, with American troops still thirty miles behind them and the Japs all around, a Scout team was greeted by Filipino guerrillas who had an automobile. They loaded the Scouts aboard and staged a triumphal procession into the town. There the mayor made a long speech eulogizing the American liberators. Then the Scouts were led to the banquet hall. There four Filipino girls dressed in evening gowns put flowers around their necks. The dinner consisted of fish, roast pig, fried chicken, carabao tenderloin, camotes, rice, bananas and jack fruit. Jack fruit is something like watermelon, except that its insides are pink and taste more like cantaloupe. The Scouts also were served with a distilled nipa wine called palauig, of which a very little is quite sufficient. After dinner, there was a dance. For every Scout there were five Filipino girls who wanted to dance.
Badges of Courage
Because of their exploits, the Scouts have naturally collected a lot of brag rags, as soldiers of their kidney label decorations. These include forty-four Silver Stars, two of them with Oak Leaf clusters; thirty-three Bronze stars, eleven of them with Oak Leaf clusters, and four Soldiers Medals. Three awards of the Distinguished Service Cross have been recommended. So strong is team spirit in the Scouts that one of them, Lieutenant dove, has refused a higher decoration than has been awarded him because all the members of his team could not share it.
The only morale trouble we ever have with the Scouts, according to Maj. Homer A. Williams, of Glen Olden, Pennsylvania, who succeeded Colonel Bradshaw as training-center director, is when General Krueger gives us a mission. Everybody wants to go, and there is a family fight until a team is picked.
The Scouts, in turn, are the darlings of General Krueger. One team in rotation is always kept at headquarters to accompany the general as a personal guard. This little outfit has never failed the Sixth Army, he told me, in yarning about the Scouts. Im personally proud of every one of them.