Morotai: Stepping Stone to the Philippines – Sidebar: July ’99 World War II Feature

8/19/1999 • World War II

Recollections of a Bitter Battle

George Villielm, a first lieutenant with the Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 136th Infantry, remembers the bitter fighting on Morotai vividly. “On Christmas Eve, the Japanese harassed us all night long,” Villielm recalled. “At one point they fired three mortar rounds in quick succession, which was great because they didn’t have the range, and all three rounds went into the bay. Back at base camp, our guys were getting a good going-over, and we in our foxholes could feel he ground shaking from the impacts there. They were giving us a good Christmas party. By morning we had several wounded.

“I remember the area was so bad that no vehicles could be used. The wholes beach was five to six feet above sea level with swamp all around. Eventually, the jeeps were sent back. The little D-4 bulldozer remained–the Japanese using it every night for target practice. It was out front of our perimeter with its left side exposed to small-arms fire. In spite of all this, there was not a mark on the fuel tank because the enemy didn’t have enough firepower to put a hole in it. The rest of it was so dented and filled with holes that it looked like a cheese grater.

“The last day of 1944 was bright and sunny. Most of the day we observed our white phosphorus artillery rounds falling on the distant hills to the south and east, and the impact zone was moving north toward us. About midafternoon, the liaison plane flew over our position and dropped a note in a weighted-down minichute. And what a surprise! We knew the artillery was shelling the enemy, but didn’t know the number [of Japanese soldiers]. The note said 300 were in one location, 400 in another, and several hundred more in a third–all were heading north! The note ended with, ‘Happy New Year!’

“The days went by very quickly, but the nights were long. Most of the time we had clear night and bright moonlight. Clear nights would reduce Japanese activity. I don’t remember the exact date, but about this time a platoon from Company C, 130th Infantry, came ashore, under the command of Lieutenant Joe Kutys. We were now up to a reasonable fighting force. We pitched in and continued building out fortifications. During this time we also received a shipment of hand grenades, but we also had to go offshore to retrieve them, wallowing in mud with water up to our waists. A human chain was formed, and the grenades were floated ashore. There, we opened the boxes and dried them in the sun. We also go some 60mm mortar shells.

“I remember the last day on Morotai. About midafternoon, the forward echelon of the battalion arrived back at the beachhead. We were about like we were at Christmas when the campaign began, but now in reverse order. We had DUKWs (amphibious vehicles) and Water Buffaloes (LVT-2s) read to take us aboard. Artillery personnel came ashore from the 136th Infantry regimental headquarters. They wanted to look over the impact area. Myself and several of the GIs warned them, ‘Don’t go in there, it’s all boobied up.’ I had just warned a colonel from artillery when a short time later we heard an explosion, It was a lieutenant colonel and a lieutenant; both had been hit by a ‘bouncing betty’ land mine. This was what we were trying to avoid happening.”

William P. Endicott[ TOP ] [ Cover ]