I: I want to thank you on behalf of the
California Military Museum and the California Military History
Educational Project. We are starting the interview today, and
the interview is with Lt. Col Edwin Price Ramsey, we are at his
home in Los Angeles, today's date is July 2nd, 2002, it is now
11:05. Welcome Colonel. Thank you for the hospitality of your
home and allowing us to get this oral history interview. I wanted
to start with a couple of basic things first for the record. Your
date of birth is what sir?
S: May 9th, 1917
I: You were born in what city and state
S: Carlisle, Illinois.
I: Were you raised in Carlisle?
S: No, by the time I was two years old, we moved to Eldorado, Kansas where we lived until after my father was dead. Thereafter we (my mother, sister and I) moved to Wichita, Kansas.
I: You were in Eldorado, Kansas?
S: Yes, Eldorado 'e l d o r a d o' Kansas.
I: At that point, you were there through
the time you were in high school, through high school?
S: Oh no, my home was in Wichita officially, because my mother was living there, she was a dermatologist and she had a clinic in Wichita. I went away to school to the Oklahoma Military Academy (OMA) after, in my third year of high school - fourth year - my last year. My first two years of college were also at The Oklahoma Military Academy.
I: So The Oklahoma Military Academy included
high school and college?
S: Two years of college.
I: So it was all at the same time?
I: So you went through there in three years
at The Oklahoma Military Academy?
S: That is correct.
I: You were in Eldorado as a youngster;
what kind of town was it? How big was it? How many people were
S: As I recall it, it was very small. Because we left there when I was about eleven years old, maybe twelve, I really don't even remember what the population was. But it was quite a small town.
I: Eleven is when you moved to Wichita,
and so your growing and pre-teen years were there?
I: Was your family still intact at that
S: No, my father died before that. He died when while we were living in Eldorado.
I: You had mentioned - you and your sister
had gotten very - very close just before your father died and
after that. I was looking here - and there were a couple of things
I thought would be kind of fun. Because you and your sister got
closer - and you were without a father - and you had a different
image at that time. You all went to work then. Because your mom
was supporting you?
S: That's correct.
I: What kind of work were you doing? You
were eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen
S: No, by that time I was fourteen or fifteen. I worked in a soda fountain for a while. Later on, by the time I was fifteen, I was working in a nightclub. I was acting as a waiter; I was also becoming a fairly good dancer, so I was teaching dancing on the side, to anyone that would pay me.
I: So the nightclub worked for two things
- for recreation and for money?
S: That's true.
I: Do you remember the name of the nightclub?
S: Yes, it was 'The Palms', in Wichita.
I: I remember you said they had a couple
of palms there.
S: Quite a few make believe palms.
I: Your sister, what was she doing? She
was older than you?
S: Yes, she was six years older, and at that time she was acting in a secretarial job and was learning to fly on the side without my mother knowing about it. She was taking her money, going out, and learning to be a flyer.
I: I thought it was interesting, when you
talk in your book about your sister, Nadine, right?
I: What prompted her to learn to fly? Not
many women learned how to fly then.
S: In those days, there were very few and it was just she was a daring sort of a person. The idea of flying appealed to her, she loved it. From the time she first began to fly, up until the time she died actually. She became very proficient and shortly before the war she was a stunt-racing pilot. She had come to the west coast from Wichita and was flying mostly here in the Southern California area. She was flying with a group of stunt pilots here. That is what she was doing until she crashed near San Diego in 1940. So I was in my last year of law school and since it was just my mother and I, and my mother had to keep her clinic going, so I left my last year of law school and came out to the west coast to take care of her until she was well enough to carry on.
I: How long was that?
S: Oh, about five months the best I can remember. She was badly, badly mangled in the crash.
I: So you had to do everything? So how long
did you have to take care of your sister once she was disabled?
S: About five months is the best I can recall. Shortly after the school had started, when this happened, so it had to be about September until February when she was well enough to make it on her own. I applied for active duty with the Eleventh Cavalry.
I: Can we go back a minute there? She was
in a plane crash in San Diego?
S: Near San Diego.
I: They recommended they amputate her leg.
S: That's correct.
I: How did you get her out of that?
S: Well, she refused - she did not want to have an amputation. She actually refused it. A friend of ours who was a well-known orchestra leader, and don't ask me for his name, it was too long ago, I can't even remember it. Heard on the radio about the crash, ran down there, and refused to let them operate and had her brought by ambulance to Los Angeles. He got her into the Good Samaritan Hospital, in Los Angeles, where a friend of his who was a top bone surgeon. She made them promise they would not operate, would not remove her leg. Although they did have to remove part of the bone and shorten the leg almost an inch, so where she had to wear the rest of her life a shoe that was made to take care of that.
I: I want to go back a little bit, you were
still in Wichita and then going to high school in Oklahoma. I
wanted to go back to Oklahoma Military Academy. Who made and how
the decision was made to get you from Wichita to Oklahoma to the
Military Academy. How did that happen?
S: Well, obviously by that time, my mother had become an employee of the state. She was President of Kansas State Board of Cosmetology. She had to travel a good deal. My sister, who was only six years older than I, lived together. She was working as I said as a secretary. I was a little bit rambunctious as a teenager, so my mother knowing how much I loved horses, was smart enough to dangle in front of me - the possibility of my going to a military school which would be very good for my character building and the way she did that was by telling me about the Oklahoma Military Academy which she had researched that had a Cavalry R.O.T.C. unit. So, that is how it came about.
I: So you made the decision to go. How old
were you when you transferred from high school?
S: I would have to have been, about sixteen, possibly seventeen.
I: The stigma of your father committing
suicide is a hard thing for a kid to handle. Did that separation
- I know you always live with these things - even when people
don't know about it - and you move to another town. How did you
handle the issue of that separation as a young person now - high
school kid - going to a whole new school - with discipline - where
you didn't have discipline before?
S: Well, I don't think that bothered me very much. I liked the idea of going to where I could ride, learn to play polo, which I learned when I was in O.M.A. It had already been by that time about six years. So, I didn't really have much of a problem with that.
I: You went there as a sixteen/seventeen
year old kid. How was the transition from high school kid, like
normal high school kids doing normal high school things - going
to a military academy - all boys? How did that happen?
S: Well, actually that was probably why in a way I welcomed that. Because when I was still in high school - my first two years of high school - as I said I was prone to be pretty undisciplined. My mother was traveling a lot of the time. So when I did go there, I took to the military fairly easily. I enjoyed it - I enjoyed the Cavalry aspects of it. I immediately learned, I already knew how to ride, but I didn't know how ride as a military rider. I also always liked the idea of polo. All of this was all sort of a carrot that made it rather easy for me to take. Nobody enjoys in the beginning the discipline you have to go through especially in those days they had corporal punishment when you got into - - in other words - an upperclassman could use a board on you and that happened to me a time or two. But, it also didn't hurt my character too much I don't think in the long run.
I: You mentioned in your book how one of
the ways you were able to console things I thought was kind of
interesting - you said 'emotion was weakness and obsession was
death' You kind of countered that, that you wanted to be your
own person. To be different than the examples you have had before.
How did you begin to shape yourself as a person? How did you?
S: Well, I would say that the discipline you get in the military school which I am very much in favor of because we don't really, as a teenager, we really don't shape ourselves as much as we are shaped by our peer relationships and our peer environment and in a military school you either shape up, or you have a problem. And it doesn't take long for them to straighten out those that have a problem. So, I would say I give complete credit to rearranging my priorities as far as discipline is concerned to the training I got at the Oklahoma Military Academy.
I: Tell me about the honor system and what
loyalty was like at the time to your fellow cadets? How were conflicts
S: Well, actually you don't have too many of those things happen. The honor system means you just don't squeal on somebody else who has done something wrong or which would get them in trouble, that sort of thing. I can only remember one occasion where I was called up onto the carpet and asked to explain the fact that I had been badly beaten by an upperclassman at one time. I refused to tell them who it was, but at the same time, I took care of the problem. I found a dead rattlesnake and put it in his bed one night and he almost died of a heart attack. That straightened that out pretty quickly.
I: He left you alone?
S: I never had any more problem - he couldn't prove I was responsible.
I: Everybody knew.
S: Everybody pretty much knew.
I: I thought that was pretty interesting.
Tell me about the textbook "Horsemanship and Horse Mastership"
that was kind of your bible. That was the bible for all cavalrymen;
tell me about how that works.
S: Well actually, you get in your training we didn't use the book itself. It was issued by the U.S. Cavalry. But. this was the standard training; how to take of your animal; first how to ride; and how to take care of your horse. You are asking me something, which was sort of second nature. Because during the training, you automatically learn all of these things. It is a part of the cavalry training.
I: How do you explain that to a granddaughter that never understood what cavalry was anyway? Now it is mechanized, so how would you know a horse cavalry, how would you describe that? How would you describe it to someone that has never seen a photograph with you on horseback? This photograph here was in the Philippines I believe. I am going to ask you to explain that a little later.
I: When you get into the differences of
how the school was. The military school versus a military school
with a cavalry component was a little different wasn't it?
S: Yes. Our school had an infantry unit in it also - The Oklahoma Military Academy. As well as the cavalry, but the largest part of it was the cavalry unit. I don't know how really I could explain the differences - I guess I am not really clear in what it is you are asking.
I: I am trying to figure out if you were
going to describe: How cavalry units function in a military organization?
That might be better.
S: Well, essentially, basic military training you teach the same way - your organization of it and your close ordered drills, and your extended order drills, and all of these things. Now in the cavalry in addition to that you also have that same training, but then you also learn to take care of your animal, how to ride the animal, how you maneuver - rather than being on the ground as an infantryman - you maneuver and everything is done mounted.
I: The cavalry has normally always been
used as an assault troop?
S: That's right.
I: As quick assault and to offset the enemy.
How were you taught as far as tactics and those kinds of things?
S: One of your basic fundamentals of cavalry is the cavalry is; shock, mobility, and firepower. The use of the shock is an illustration of that would be is the last charge in the Battle at Moron, which I happened to have lead. But mobility because the horse can go a lot faster than a man on his feet - It has always been - before they had the advent of air - that was always used for reconnaissance and for maneuvering. The mobility you go around, while the infantrymen learns to just slug right ahead until one of you are dead. Well in the cavalry you learn to maneuver around, you maneuver onto the flanks, you can drive a man's flanks in a lot easier than you can driving into it head on, or you can get in behind him. First off, reconnaissance is the most important one, to gather intelligence of the enemies plans are, and the second is from a maneuvering standpoint to hold in the flanks 'cause the weakness - by hitting him in the flanks you gonna cause him to break up in the center. So, the basic fundamentals of cavalry tactics is shock - mobility - and what we called fire-power in those days because we had machine guns with us and mortars and that sort of thing.
I: So the idea of cavalry is obviously that
assault issue. Tell me about one of the things that recurred throughout
your book, "The Poem of Fiddler's Green". How does that
seem to recur throughout your five to six years here in this book?
S: The "Poem of Fiddler's Green" was written by some soldier - some cavalryman in the days of the Indian Wars. They don't know who it was that created it. But it is something that builds the pride of the cavalry - it is an esprit de corps - sort of thing and I am not sure I can remember all of it. I certainly do not remember all of it. But I remember it begins; "Half way down the trail to Hell there is a meadow green where the souls of all dead cavalrymen meet at an old fashioned canteen," or very close to that, and it is something which is a morale builder. As I said, I don't know all of it, but is something, which gives you a status symbol to a cavalryman.
I: Now would you tell me about Colonel Glen
S, Findlay? At the school, I understand you recruited him for
S: Well no. He came after I had already started learning polo. But, he was the polo coach, at the same time he was a PMS and T, Professor of Military Science and Tactics. He was an old polo player, his son was there at OMA played polo and very good at it, Glen Jr. After I left OMA I never had any contact with him until in the guerrilla days and MacArthur had come back in. At that time, Colonel Findlay was the Commandant of General Mac Arthur's headquarters. General MacArthur when he learned that I was in the outskirts of Manila when we had gotten to that point he sent for me and I went back to his headquarters - which was back in the Tarlac Province towards the Lingayen Gulf - or the northern part of Central Luzon. When I got to the headquarters it was already night-time and the guards there said "you have to get in touch with the Headquarters Commandant before you can get into see General MacArthur" even though he had sent for me. So, I said, "Well, who is it?" They said, "It's Colonel Findlay". I said, "Colonel Glen Findlay?," he said, "Yes." So he said, "You pick up the phone there and you can call the Colonel." Which I did, and he came on the phone - he had a very gruff voice - he had a very strong low gruff voice, he said, "Yes?" I said, "Colonel Findlay?" he said, "Yes". I said, "Is that Colonel Glen Findlay?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Is that Glenn S ?" He said, "Who the hell is this?" I said, "It's Ramsey sir." He was quiet for a moment, then he said, "The hell it is - you're dead - get up here." So I went upstairs and he turned around, I was pretty ragged in those days, he turned to one of the Junior Aides of General MacArthur and said, "What size are your boots 8 or 8 ½?" He said (to me), "Will that fit you?" I said, "Yes", he said, "Take 'em off". He made the Aide take off his boots and give them to me 'cause I looked kind of raunchy and I was going into see the Old Man. So that was the last time I actually got to see Colonel Findlay. He is long dead now.
I: You spent several hours with him I understand.
S: Oh yes, and he got into MacArthur's refrigerator and got ice cream for me everything that I wanted.
I: You hadn't had any ice cream for a long
S: Well, you could get a little of it along the way, but not much that's true.
I: When you were finished at Oklahoma Military
Academy, you automatically got a reserve commission?
S: That's correct.
I: Before I went into that, because the
cavalry, tell me about polo. Not many places, not many schools
in this country or any countries teach polo as part of the curriculum.
Did you know anything about polo before you went there? What intrigued
S: Well, it was a game you played on horses, that's what intrigued me. And I knew what polo was but I didn't know how to play it. I knew how to ride a little. It is true, there wasn't too many universities that had polo because it is an expensive sport and in our case it was using government mounts. Or if you were someplace else and your group had a lot of money like most of the universities back east do because there are an awfully lot of wealthy people back there in those days. The idea of playing polo always appealed to me and it was the only game I could ever play half way decently. I tried football and I broke my bones and what little I did I wasn't big enough to be very powerful at contact sports. Although make no mistake, polo is a very rough game. Some of our friends were killed at it, I have had a lot of bones broken at it, but it is different than just man to man, beating on each other on the football field or something like that. So I loved polo and I miss it to this day. The last time I played was up her at the Will Rogers, and I got broken up in that so badly in that my right arm was shattered. So, it took them quite a while just to get it back together. That was in about 1964, late '64.
I: Just a little while ago.
S: When you relate that to the fact I am eighty-five years old now, it is quite a while.
I: Now, you finished at Oklahoma, then you
went onto law school?
I: Why did you choose that school for law
S: I went to University of Oklahoma 'cause they had a polo team. That was my main reason, my attraction there, Kansas where my Mother was from, did not have polo, at the University of Kansas. I wanted to get into law but the overriding reason that I went to O.U. 'cause they had artillery, horse artillery unit there. So therefore, they had government horses, and they had a polo team that was quite good. Several of our former players from OMA had played polo at O.U. That is the reason I went there.
I: Now you were at school two or three years,
your last year of school?
S: I had completed two years, I was in my last year the third year when my sister crashed.
I: Just you, your sister and Mom right?
I: Your sister in California, you were in
Oklahoma, and your Mom traveling a lot.
S: By that time she was no longer traveling very much, she had her clinic going in Wichita. Her dermatology clinic.
I: Your sister was flying, one of the things
I thought was interesting was she was one of the first people
to carry the mail. You mentioned that,
S: Actually, she was the first one, this was in the late 30's, probably 1935 to 1936 and I have her memorabilia here including the certificate was given to her by the government whoever is in charge of the mail. That this was the first woman to ever carry airmail. I have it here, I think it is in my web-site, which was highly unique.
I: So she was really quite a trailblazer?
S: Oh, she was that.
I: I understand, she taught you how to fly.
S: Yes she did, but I didn't really get that much of a kick out of flying. She taught me before I even went to the trouble of getting a learner's permit, which was probably illegal, but I didn't have enough interest in it to do that. I was too busy with other things. But she taught me how to fly one of the smaller, the small planes.
I: That is when she was damaged and she
was trying to get back to health? Now you brought her back to
LA, and you were both living there and your Mom was supporting
you both while you were taking care of your sister?
S: That's correct.
I: That is kind of hard to do, how did you
handle all of that?
S: Well, by that time, Mother was going reasonably well and we didn't have any choice. My sister didn't have an income, and I didn't have an income. My Mother just carried it.
I: You took care of all her needs right?
You did everything for her?
S: Oh yes, oh yes. Before she crashed she had had an apartment on the coast here, near where the Los Angeles International Airport is. Manhattan Beach, right on the beach. So I had to take care of her there, do everything; bathe her, and everything else, until she was well enough to care for herself.
I: Then you decided to?
S: It was too late to get back into law school for the year and I didn't have anything else to do at the time and also the shadows of the war were already on. It was on in Europe, we weren't in it, but the war was going on in Europe and it was obvious it was going to come everywhere. So I figured I might as well just go ahead and get involved right now. Since I had my commission, I applied for active duty and was immediately snapped up to go to the Eleventh cavalry on the Mexican Border up in the mountains above San Diego a place called Lake Moreno which later became a very very large, near there became, a very large base Lockett, Camp Lockett.
I: So you were there for . . . ?
S: Just about three months I guess, four months, I went in February that was horse cavalry. I was Eleventh cavalry - Second Squadron. The First Squadron was down in the desert at (Camp) Seeley.
I: What prompted you to volunteer from a
horse cavalry on the border? How did that even attract you?
S: Well, the Philippines. The Twenty-Sixth cavalry was the only regiment in the Philippines cavalry; they had Philippine scouts, one regiment of cavalry, and two of infantry. And, it was famous because it had a fine polo team always have had; some of the top American generals had graduated from that regiment. And that was the main interest, the second was the mountains along the border there in the wintertime are pretty cold and miserable and we were in tents. I didn't like that, because I am just not very fond of cold weather. So, at that time we received a request for people who would like to volunteer to go to The Philippines. So I immediately put in my application, I don't think it was even three weeks before it was a quick return. Get ready to move, I was ready to go.
I: Where did you ship out from, and how
did you get there?
S: My sister and a friend drove me up to San Francisco. I shipped out from the Army docks there, at the Presidio.
I: How long did it take you to go to Hawaii
from there, and then on to the
S: The total trip was about I believe 17 or 18 days. The ships didn't go all that fast in those days. It was about five days to Hawaii. We were only in Hawaii for a matter of, we got in the early afternoon as I recall and we shipped out about midnight.
I: That was about your birthday wasn't it?
S: Had to have been. I have lost all track of
I: This says June the 5th of 1941.
S: June the 5th when we shipped out? That is very possibly right. Well my birthday was in May.
I: So just after your birthday
I: I understand you learned how to play
poker on the ship.
S: Not very well. I ended up losing what little I had with me. And I had to hock my pistol to be able to have a little fun in Honolulu.
I: What was Honolulu like in those days?
S: It was a wide open city in those days, and there were an awful lot of soldiers and sailors and military people. Lots of bars, entertainment of all sorts. It was lovely, it is still one of my favorite places. My wife and I go there for our, almost every year; we spend our, anniversary of our marriage, in Honolulu.
I: It says here, you arrived the 22nd of
June in Manila. What were your first impressions? Your aboard
ship, your on a transport, what was it like for a guy from Oklahoma,
Illinois, Kansas, and then California? What was it like your first
experience in the tropics?
S: Well it was pretty overpowering, I remember that as we came into the Straits of Magellan I believe it is, which is between the island of Sumar and the southern end of Luzon you could smell the wonderful ..
I: Could you kind of point it out like that?
S: Yes, this is it. We came in through here. This here is the Straits right here that I am talking about, this is the Island of Sumar and this is the Beckhole Peninsula of the Island of Luzon, the southern end of it. We came through here and up through here and into Manila Bay. Manila Bay is here
I: Tell me about the Philippines as you
started to learn about it?
S: Well to begin with, I didn't even know where it was when I first volunteered except that it was a warm country, it was tropical, they had a good polo team there. By the time I got there, my introduction to it really was as we were coming into the Straits you could just smell the flowers and you would see the fishermen around there, the floating bancas - little fishing boats, lots of coconuts floating around there that had been harvested. It was a very exotic atmosphere.
I: When you get there, and you are in Manila
your first experience in Manila, now that is awfully interesting.
You had been to Pearl, and that was a big deal for a young officer
and the next destination port was Manila. You were there, and
they sent you off for some orientation at the Army - Navy Club,
tell me about that, it had quite a reputation, that building.
S: Yes, it was, it was very interesting. It was founded by, in the time, of Admiral Perry. General Arthur MacArthur was one of the earliest Presidents of the Army-Navy Club. The father of General Douglas MacArthur. First off when we arrived, we arrived at a very, very long pier; Pier 7 I believe it was called. It was one of the longest piers in the world. It was just loaded with all kinds of military stuff being unloaded. From there, they picked us up in trucks and took those of us, us that were officers. I was trying to remember, but it was about on this trip that the President Pierce, it was it's first trip as a trip transporter. There was some 3000 enlisted men and maybe 500 or 600 officers on it and about forty some nurses so the odds were very much against me having fun on that trip. That is why I ended up playing poker or shooting dice, or something like that. In any event, when we got over to the Army - Navy Club, it was a beautiful old building; it had been built shortly after the turn of the century. You looked out onto Manila Bay and from there as the sun went down. The most magnificent sights in the world, is the sun going down over Corregidor in the evening. It's just like a ball of fire and it just is magnificent. You have all the beautiful odors all the many many kinds of flowers that they have there. It was a very glamorous time.
I: Tell me about all the help all in white,
you were in a very polished uniform. Tell me about the kind of
atmosphere that it was. Very colonial like?
S: Yes it very definitely like the old British in Colonial times, by the time we got settled into the regiment we had to change our uniforms at least twice a day. We had to bathe at least twice a day and these are by orders. In the evening you had to wear dress whites. White mess jackets, even there were no women there, 'cause all the women had been sent home. So, it was a bachelor environment our regimental commander, and I think he was right, thought that if we did not, if they did not see to it that we were particularly careful of our personal conditions that we would deteriorate emotionally, mentally, and morally, and any other way. So the regulations were such that we had to dress every evening, even if we were just going to the Officer's Club for dinner. If we didn't go out at all, we stayed in our quarters, we had our own, we were set up so that in your own household, we had, there were three of us officers sharing one house at that time. We had our own cook, our own lavendera - wash woman, and a houseboy, so that we were pretty well taken care of.
I: Tell me now, that was your first experience
in a Colonial Military environment. From there you were transferred
out to (Fort) Stotsenberg was it?
S: No, that was Stotsenberg. We were already at the fort. 'Cause immediately after our indoctrination at the Army-Navy Club we were put into trucks and taken immediately to Fort Stotsenberg which was about, as best as I can recall, about seventy-five miles roughly to the north and west in the province of Pampanga.
I: The Pampanga Province is a very beautiful
province, a pretty area. Now you are in the 26th cavalry. Tell
me about the polo team and competition and what was that like,
it is the end of the year now.
S: That's right, actually it was just before the polo season got started it was the end of the rainy season. There were two things that affected all of this. First, we were on intense training schedules and then it was also coming to the end of the rainy season this was during that period of time. In the rainy season you don't play polo there 'cause it's too messy. So we didn't get started training our ponies again until about a month, December 9th, December 7th in the Philippines, the beginning of the war. The day that war broke out in Hawaii was the day we were playing the first game of the season against the Manila Polo Club. We had been working our ponies for several weeks before that, just scrimmaging but no games.
I: Tell me about the international dateline,
the difference in dates.
S: Well what was the 8th here, the beginning of the war, was December the 7th there, you are already ahead of it by about 17 to 18 hours I believe, maybe not quite that much. But in any event when the war broke out, We had been playing polo. I didn't know we were at war until I woke up the next morning. We had already been to war for several hours and I heard all the scrambling around. I went to the mess we had our mess together in the morning so I went over there. All of a sudden I hear everybody running around and I said, "Well what's going on?" well, we are at war, I said, "You're crazy, don't bother me I got a hangover." They said, "No, we are at war, they bombed Pearl Harbor." So I had to rush back at that time I didn't even have a war backpack. So, I had to rush back to my quarters and through some things together and get back over to the regiment and to my troop. So it was pretty hectic.
I: Colonel could you kind of describe on
that little map there a little bit about the Philippines that
you learned when you lived there and what it was like. How would
you describe it to somebody that never knew anything about it?
S: Well first off, as I had mentioned earlier, it is very sub-tropical. For me that is pleasant, I love warm weather. So it is a little like Hawaii only in the rainy season.
I: Same basic question. How would you describe
the Philippines if no one ever heard of where the Philippines
were, and most people don't? They have heard about but don't know
anything about the islands, or where they are, or how many. Can
you give us a little description about that Sir?
S: Well, the Philippines is quite a long chain of islands I think there is something over 7,000 islands, but not all of them are very large. The island of Luzon, which is the largest, Luzon is seen here, runs from here down to the point here in the southern part of the Beckhole Province. Then you have Samar is a fairly good-sized island, then Cebo, and Panay, this is what they call the southern islands. Then the island of Mindanao is quite large and rather ovular in size, which runs down into the Sulu Archapelogo, Sulu Sea, which ends up over here in Borneo and then one long slender island here called Palawan, it's very tropical. There are many, some forty odd different dialects amongst the natives, basically the Filipino, the pure Filipino, came probably from what is later Indochina, or Vietnam now. They are Indo-Chinese in other words. Their language, the basic language of Tagalog which is the root which is now what is called Filipino, is very similar to Indonesian. For instance, the word for bread is tenapai in Tagalog, the Filipino language, and tenapa in Indonesian, in Javanese from Java. In the Island of Luzon, you have two main mountain ranges running along the east coast. It is the Sierra Madres that runs up to the place which is all the mountain provinces from almost across from Lingayen Gulf to Baler Bay this area up in here is called the mountain provinces, it's all mountainous. Here, this is the Quartre Yeara Mountains that run up through here. And I forgot what it is called over on the other side here. Along here you have a mountain range called the Zambales Mountains. So you have many mountains. In the very center, here is the central plain which is the rice granary of the Philippines where most of the grains are grown. You have an awful lot of coconut palms in all of the islands; one of the big products of the country is coconut, coconut oil, several large oil producing companies there.
I: Colonel, we were in the middle of discussing
the Philippines itself. I would like you to kind of recall what
it was like when you first arrived, you went to the Army-Navy
Club, and Fort Stotsenberg. You were just beginning to experience
the Philippines and some time off, and the women, and the city,
tell me about your first time in Manila what kind of city was
it like? Was it like Pearl Harbor? What was it like?
S: Well, it wasn't like Pearl Harbor cause Pearl Harbor is an enclave of the Navy there were some parts that were quite similar to Honolulu. You had lots of nightclub, there were illegal gambling joints, gambling was illegal at that time in that area. But they did have nightclubs there, there were at least three of them that were run by Americans and run similar to the things that they have in Las Vegas very nicely done. Lots of beautiful women, the Filipinos, the mixture of the Malaysian and many cases Spanish similar to as it is in Mexico. You have some very beautiful women.
I: It was a pleasure as a young First Lieutenant
S: Yes, by that time I had just made it. I was a First Lieutenant, very glamorous.
I: How much did you get paid? And what did
it cost you to live?
S: Well actually, it didn't cost too much because the places in those days we would just go down for a night and you could just stay at the Army-Navy Club or there were other hotels that weren't terribly expensive, but neither was our income. I think by the time I was a First Lieutenant maybe $250 a month, or something like that. Living on the post, we had quarters and therefore didn't have very large expenses. Servants were very inexpensive. I don't have the slightest recall of what we paid them. But they were minimum, and we split it amongst the three of us.
I: You were proud of this first big polo
match of the season was on December 7th in Manila which was December
6th in Pearl Harbor.
S: No, it would be December 8th in Pearl Harbor, it's later here.
I: So on the Monday, it would have been
the 8th when you got the news right?
I: So the polo match would have been on
S: The polo match was on Sunday and as I recall that would be December 7th, 'cause that was the day our time.
I: Yes, December 7th in the Philippines.
I: Would have been Sunday there and was
Saturday in Pearl Harbor.
I: So your polo match was over you had a
nice night out on the town?
I: You got back and got the news, which
would have been Sunday in Pearl Harbor would have been Monday
in Manila. A regular day.
I: So you started trying to get back to
S: Back to what?
I: Back to your regiment.
I: You were trying to put things together.
Not much time to think about things at that time. What were your
first orders, what were you instructed to do on that first day
S: Well actually, it was early in the morning when I learned we were at war. I rushed back over to the regimental headquarters and I was ordered to take my platoon and take command of the forces in Baler Bay. Baler Bay is a Bay on the east coast of Luzon, this is it here. Right in there. You can see.
I: Where were you?
S: Well, in Stotsenberg is here, at the end of my little finger.
I: What distance would that be?
S: My guess is just roughly between 125 to 150 miles. What I was ordered to do was take command of Baler Bay, my platoon. And another officer and his platoon were to take command of the forces. Which included my platoon plus the local constabulary. Because there were constabulary units in all of these areas. Filipino constabulary belonging to the Philippine Services. So Baler Bay here and Dingowan Bay is in here. So I went across here. First off, in those days, what we did, we would mount our horses for any long distance where you weren't in a combat area. You would move in trucks, that's what they called it in those days, mechanization. We would mount our horses, they were trained to get onto the trucks, and we would move long distances that way. So in this case we went, I took my horses by truck all the way to Baler Bay then dismounted and I then sent the trucks back. And I disposed of my troops and the constabulary that were in the area to establish mostly a outpost area to watch for invading forces or spies who were dropped in by air or to be prepared for any airdrops, combat airdrops, that could come in. Fortunately I didn't have to face that. I was there until, shortly before Christmas when they had already landed at Lingayen Gulf.
I: Where is Lingayen?
S: Lingayen Gulf is here. If you look here, this white area here that's Lingayen Gulf. Now the Japanese main forces, as did Mac Arthur when he came back, the main forces landed there. 'Cause you're right in the central plain where maneuvering was easy, because there was nothing in the road. No big hills, mountains or anything like that. I was over here. We were ordered to withdrawal, the rest of the regiment was thrown into the first battles up there, in defending the invasion of the Japanese. They had begun to withdrawal and I, both I and the officer in command of this platoon over here, were ordered to withdrawal back over and rejoin the regiment, actually I rejoined them somewhere close to, I think it was Mexico Pampanga. When I got back. But we came back past through Neuvo Pasea and down into Papangus and into Pampanga.
I: Tell me about that first Japanese air
assault on your unit at the beach there.
S: You're talking about the one at Lingayen Gulf when we came?
I: No, when you were still there.
S: Oh, over in Baler Bay. Well it was only bombing, dive-bombing, and fortunately they were hitting mostly civilian areas. They didn't do any real damage to me or to my troops at all.
I: Civilians were injured?
S: We lost some civilians there and they hit some warehouses and things like that. But we had a minimum of problems at that point in time. Fortunately because when we got over there I had taken a load of TNT with me to be ready to mine the roads on the way back and for want of a place to store it safely, I made a bed out of it. That is what I was sleeping on. My bed was a bunch of boxes of all of our stores of TNT. If they had hit me, they would have made a very very big noise.
I: Did you disperse it? Or just fell asleep
S: Oh no, I slept on it for several days from the time I got there, from the nights, until we were through. I got over there probably on the following day on probably by the 9th I was already in Baler Bay and I was there until the low twenties.
I: When you were just a First Lieutenant
and it was your first kind of command and were at war and you
were out checking your sentries, and one of the guys was asleep.
S: Unfortunately, I had to put him under arrest. First place, going to sleep on post at time of war is a capital offense. And because of the times and everything else, I couldn't afford to ignore it. So I put him under arrest and took him back to be returned for legal action in the rear. In a way it was fortunate that we were dive bombed on the way, and I had him in one of the trucks and the truck was hit and he was killed along with some others. But that was the only case that I had a problem with during the whole war. Never a case of desertion or failure to obey orders or anything else. This was just a matter of, he went to sleep, like people are want to do when they don't think about the dangers involved in it.
I: Now when you were heading back south
towards Manila, and everybody was retreating, the Japanese are
coming in, tell me about the preparations for and the training
of the Philippine forces and how many American forces were there.
In other words, at that time both the American and Filipino's
were not very well trained, nor well equipped. Can you kind of
describe that going against thousands of Japanese who were highly
trained, highly fortified, and highly equipped? How would you
point out to someone that didn't know, how we needed more time
and money and equipment, things like that?
S: I understand what you are saying and what you are getting at. First off, the number of American's that were in the Philippines was relatively few, in terms of the combat personnel. The only ones that we had that were line combat people was your Air Force obviously, which were wiped out within the first few days and most of those were sent back to the rear areas into Bataan. I think maybe half a dozen airplanes left or maybe a dozen originally, then they at least several of those were shot down. You had the coast artillery where you had American officers and Philippine, they were Philippine scouts. You had the three regiments that were combat regiments Philippine scouts; the 45th, and 57th infantry Philippine scouts, the 26th Cavalry Regiment, Philippine scouts. You had one regiment of Americans that had been brought back from Shanghai that was the 31st American Infantry who were in my opinion very poorly trained. Mainly because they had been doing nothing but duty over in China and not had I probably shouldn't say that because, I did not have that much contact with them at the time. But in the final battles, I did not get the impression that they were very effective.
I: At Stotsenberg and Clark kind of describe
your geographic situations and what actually happened that morning
when you were informed and the aircraft, and the field and the
tanks around. How did that kind of thing take part in the chaos
in all that?
S: Well, things settled down that way, fairly quickly. Fortunately I got the orders to move to Baler Bay soon enough that I was able to mount my troops and I was on the outskirts of Clark Field or Fort Stotsenberg on the highway going toward the north as the first wave of bombers hit Clark Field. We pulled off to the side, fortunately they didn't see me. But they did destroy Clark Field, that is when they destroyed Clark Field. All of our planes were literally destroyed there. They flew over me, but I fortunately missed that part of it, I saw it. But we stopped; we pulled off to the side.
I: When you found out about it, can you
describe about how the planes had, the fighters, just come back
from refueling and how the bombers were just getting ready for
a bomb run in Hermosa and everybody took a break for lunch.
S: Well actually you see I was completely - I don't know any more about that than you do, or anybody who was there, who wasn't there because it wasn't until later that I learned all of the gory details of what happened. First off, Stotsenberg is a very large base and Clark Field in addition to that so that I wasn't even familiar with the ramifications of that other than the fact I knew where Clark field was. And I had been taken on a reconnaissance in a B-24, no; yeah a bomber that had the nose, the plexi-glass noses in them.
I: A B-17?
S: Yeah you're right, it was a B-17, a few weeks before, that just to familiarize me with the area. So I didn't know the details of what was going on until after the war really.
I: When you were trying to rejoin the
rest of your regiment, those in Lingayen and your two units, this
is now towards the end of December?
S: That's right. It was almost Christmas, it was just about December 25th, 26th around in there, 24th maybe. We were ordered to withdrawal, and as I pulled back, the Japanese were already approaching. Most of my regiment were already back below where I was. As I passed Cabanatuan, I didn't know it but the Japanese were already entering it from the north side of it.
I: From what I recall it was a big railhead.
S: It was a big railhead and the whole town was on fire. There were huge warehouses there, many of which we had destroyed but the whole city of Cabanatuan was a conflagration even as we went by. But what I didn't realize is that the Japanese advance guards were already there coming into the city of Cabanatuan as I pulled through. It was at that time we were dive-bombed and that truck was blown up with that soldier that I told you I had put under arrest, was killed.
I: Now you were retreating. Describe what
goes on in a retreat. You know it is not something organized like
S: Well in that case, it was fairly textbook. Because we were not establishing a defense line, we had been ordered to withdrawal and join the regiment further south. Because by that time there was no existing defense line established there. They had already withdrawn it to the next line which was pretty much through the area. I have something here where it shows the defense lines and it was back at that point where the regiment was regrouping. We had lost, by the time we had got back to that point, our regiment had already lost almost half of its officers and men, in the battles that had already taken place.
I: How would you describe the quantity and
quality of the Japanese forces versus Filipino and American forces?
S: Well the ones that came in, they were hardened, well-trained troops as opposed to our Filipino Army troops. Many of them didn't even have shoes, some of them didn't even have guns, and they had not yet had time to get them equipped or trained for that matter only superficial training. The ones that were really well trained was the scouts, Filipino Scouts, like the 26th Cavalry and actually the only one that was in combat in that area at that time was the 26th. That is why we took quite a beating, in the thing and I said we had lost about half of our officers and men in the very beginning action. The Philippine Army division that was up there had been pretty much routed, I think it was the 71st.
I: Why were they routed? If they were equal
in numbers and all that, equal equipment how is it?
S: They weren't equally equipped at all. Our Philippine Scouts had good equipment, the Filipino Army had very poor or no equipment. The Japanese that came in were well equipped with the equipment they are used to. The rifles they had I didn't think much of, but still they had been fighting with them for a long time, they were well equipped, seasoned troops, that came in there. As opposed to the fact that the only ones that were well trained that we had, was our regiment. That's the reason that we got massacred, because General Wainwright, who was an old cavalry officer incidentally, and he was the umpire at the polo games the day before war broke out, that day that war broke out. He threw our regiment in there to try to stem the tide of the Japanese invasion into Lingayen Gulf that is why we lost so many men at the time.
I: How did you first get through the city.
What happened, now you have gone through the plains and still
retreating, forces are retreating, how did they all get through
that narrow spot from all over Luzon?
S: Actually, many of them were sent back ahead, even before we were there. I have forgotten which divisions were south of Manila but they fortunately got up thorough Manila and over into Bataan. When we got into Bataan there were approximately sixty some thousand troops there, of which, 67,000 as I recall the number, that were surrendered of that number. It was only when we were back in Bataan and had time to get regrouped and the established defense lines in Bataan and dig in that they were able to hold off the Japanese attacks. And that was after we had withdrawn behind the main line of resistance which was essentially the Pilar-Bagac Road running from the China Sea over to Manila Bay.
I: Now, your retreating actions, the Japanese
have really been getting you guys. Now let me ask you about that
issue of the retreat. I asked this question before, how could
a bunch of Americans who were not hardened battle, as the Japanese
were, not fully equipped, not fully trained, many of the guys
in the tanks had never fired them - never trained in them. And
the Filipinos you said didn't have many of them, didn't have weapons,
and many of them had never been trained or fully trained. How
could that amalgamation of people hold out against the Japanese
for six months?
S: That's true and it was because, well, let me back up a little bit. First off, you have to understand the number of Americans that were there was a handful. The 31st American Infantry never got into action until the final days they were back in Bataan well to the rear. So they were not even committed to it. The two tank battalions, one was from Arizona and one was from New Mexico, Arizona, or New Mexico, and one I think was Texas. I think it was 192nd and 194th Tank Battalions, light tanks. They were not trained together with us and actually, they didn't do us an awful lot of good. They were constantly being pulled back, because they had never been training together with the tanks. Which was a disaster and shouldn't have happened, but that is what I said, the beginning of a war is always chaotic. Once we got into Bataan, and we were dug in there, and we did have time, 'cause while we were withdrawing and holding in the north and there was actually four lines of resistance before we got into Bataan. They had time to dig in and get at some revetments and get into a position to do a fair defense action. My regiment by that time was cut at least by half, and we were pulled back, reorganized like the troop I led into Moron was combined. (Troops) E and F, instead of two different troops, it had been lumped together under troop E and it was actually E/F. So, by that time things were organized and the Philippine Army equipment had been gotten to them so by that time they were quite effective. In the beginning when they were way off, they were quite ineffective, because of the lack of equipment and actually the lack of training, lack of time to train them. Artillery, incidentally, the Philippine Army artillery by that time had learned to do well. The 31st Philippine Army Division, Infantry Division, was quite good and their artillery was very effective in helping to slow things down. So by that time our lines of defense were dug in and the 11th Infantry Division, which were Ingerots from the north mountain province. They were tough little characters and the Japanese were scared of them because they found out some of them were headhunters and they had a good meal if the Japanese tried to raid their place. I don't know if that should be talked about or not. This I know, later on all of those troops of the 11th, that they could find were executed by the Japanese, because they had a reputation that scared the Japanese.
I: In that retreat, Filipino's were pulled
back, they left an opening and left the area of Moron where you
were involved. Tell me how your cavalry unit was involved in all
that. What actually took place?
S: The only part of the cavalry that was involved in that one was the part that I was in "E" troop. "G" Troop, which I was with, had been ordered to make a reconnaissance up through the jungles and along the China Sea coast to Subic Bay. Which was already in the hands of the Japanese, so I was sent as reconnaissance to find out where they were, what was going on, and that was the job I did for about forty-eight hours, prior to the Battle of Moron. So I went through there, unfortunately the Japanese had stopped at that time in Subic Bay in Olongapo area. When I got back, I was pretty beat. But, I was the only officer there, the only American officer left at that point. There were none left in "E/F" Troop, so when I got back there, I knew the territory and the troop commander who was an American, and didn't know the area, so I volunteered to stay behind with him since he had the job of the defense of that area. Which he snapped me up in a hurry and my Troop Commander approved of it because they were withdrawing for rest in the rear. That is how I got into the Battle of Moron. The first regular Philippine Army Division had been withdrawn back behind Moron. General Wainwright came into the division headquarters and I happened to be there with the Troop Commander, Wainwright was not happy with General Sagundo for having pulled out of a pretty good defensive position along the Botolan River, which was along the northern perimeter of the town of Moron. So he said, "Get out, get forward, and retake the place." And then he turned to me and said, "Ramsey, you take the advance guard." The only reason he knew who I was, was because he had been the polo umpire that day, and he knew I was playing polo the day before. That's the only reason I got stuck with that. My Troop Commander said, "Sir, Ramsey is pretty tired couldn't I send somebody else Sir?" General Wainwright said, "No, Ramsey move out." That was factually how it happened, stupidity on my part for volunteering. You know the old saying in the Army, 'Keep your bowels open, your mouth shut, and never volunteer.' Well, I violated all three of those.
I: Now before we get into the story of the
charge up Moron, Tell me what food was like for the soldiers and
for the horses. How was that different from the time just before
the war and to the point you were at there?
S: We didn't have very much fodder for the animals by that time that we got into Bataan. Before that, when we were in post, we were well taken care of, and the animals were well taken care of. But by the time we got into Bataan, and they had gotten as many supplies as they could back there. We were virtually out of supplies for the animals and unfortunately the jungle grass, leaves, things like that are not very nutritional. So the animals were beginning to suffer from it, and the people, we were down to I think it was only six ounces of rice a day per man. It may have been a little less, but I think it was six ounces a day. By that time we knew, that was in March, Wainwright came up from the rear and had mess, as it was, such as we had there with the officers of the regiment and he told us at that time, we had supplies we could only last for thirty days. It was thirty days after that that the surrender came. We had nothing to eat, you can't fight, and we were already starved. We were skeletons by the time we got there and we had all kinds of nutritional deficiencies, vitamin deficiencies and things like that. When you are like that, you get these sores on your feet and all over you. I forgot what they call them, what we used to call them, we all got them. We already knew the end was coming we just didn't know how.
I: Tell me about the effects of malaria,
dysentery, jaundice, things like that, tells us how that impacted
the troops and how many of them were impacted.
S: There was a very large number, I don't know the numbers actually, but there were a lot of them. Dysentery was one of the worst things, then malnutrition, mainly hunger. We were fairly careful in the beginning while we had, we would watch our water, but as soon as we no longer had the disinfectant tablets that we usually carried with us before the war. Practically everybody ended up with dysentery. I had both bacterial and amebic dysentery.
I: Most people have had diarrhea once or
twice, but they don't know about dysentery and the difference.
S: Dysentery is a bug that once you get it you know it. Amebic dysentery, you can tell it because even if you got medications for it, it comes back about every ten days. You stop it, then within ten days it starts all over again. Bacterial is more severe but if you can cure it at the time, it doesn't repeat itself. Other than that, I don't think I could describe it. It is a very miserable disease. Most of our prisoner's of war died of dysentery.
I: All nutrition is flushed out of the body,
with uncontrollable diarrhea, for how long a period of time until
S: I don't know that I could tell you.
I: In the retreat from Matoma, by the Ahno
River, that night the Americans didn't have any anti-tank weapons
the Japanese were using.
S: That's right, most of the Philippine Army didn't have them. Our regiment had, and I think all the Scouts did have some. But, they were just 37-millimeter canon, they were pulled by truck. The best I remember that is all we had as far as anti-tank weapons was concerned.
I: Tell me about the 23rd, you were talking
about how effective they were, but they had been pretty much annihilated
by that time.
S: The what?
I: The 23rd Field Artillery.
S: You are talking about the Scouts?
S: No, they were still very effective, they were pulled back into Bataan. The 23rd and the 24th also were there. But also what I was saying was by that time, some of the Philippine Army Divisions were quite effective. I know for one the guy that ended up as a G3 / ACSG3 (Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 or Operations and Training) on my staff later General Villareal, he was commanding a battalion of the 31st in a Philippine Army Division's Artillery, but they were very effective. But, he had been trained in the United States. He was a graduate of a military school, Colvert Military Academy. Our artillery really went a long ways saving our butts during that the time.
I: When did you get the feeling there was
no mile long convoy coming, with a thousand ships and all that?
S: I never expected it, but propaganda wise they had to keep it up. I really didn't expect it, I was hoping, but I never expected it. That's one of the reasons why Joe Barker, you referred to, that one that help start the Guerrilla Forces with me under Colonel Thorpe. He and I had already decided we were not going to surrender. We knew the American's were not going to come, when the time came we were not going to surrender. If we were going to die, we were going to die. We also knew from the history of what happened in China how the Japanese treated the prisoners. We just weren't going to take a chance on that.
I: Tell me about the old song, 'The Battling
Bastards of Bataan.'
S: It wasn't a song so much that it was a saying. I don't even remember it now. 'The battling bastards of Bataan, no mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam, and no body gives a damn.' something like that I've even forgotten what it was.
I: What was it stating?
S: It stated the facts. We were all in a very poor mental condition because I think most of the people knew that the end was coming.
I: How did people handle it? Some people
handle it better than others do?
S: Oh yes, as a matter of fact, I think I mentioned in my book, one case where I know there was an American First Lieutenant who was up in the mountains and had escaped from Bataan. He had gotten to an American planter, sugar planter, the Fawcett's. He and his family had established a hideout for the Americans that had escaped and no place to go and they got them up in there and they even had an American Doctor there. I had made my way to that when I had been captured by the communists and had probably was a stroke at the time. There was a Lieutenant there, an Infantryman, very well educated, very nice person, but he actually said "My country has let me down, I don't want to live." Within two weeks, he had willed himself to death. There was nothing overtly you could point to. He had no will to live, and he died. That was within two or three weeks.
I: There were people that had the will that
wanted to survive?
S: The only ones.
I: We started to talk a little bit about
Moron. You got picked to head "E" and "F"
S: No, one platoon, the first platoon of E/F Troop.
I: First give us a geography lesson, where
is Moron, where were you, and why was there a need to mess around
with that little town?
S: Well to begin with that was the most distant forward. Moron is located on the coast on the China Sea side, or the west side of Mount Natib. Mount Natib is a very tall mountain in the center, totally densely jungled, and there had been a defense line running from the coast there through Mount Natib over to the eastern side to the Manila bay side. That was the area first that I had been ordered to reconnoiter as far forward as the Subic Bay area. Along the Poland - American Navy had been before prior to losing it to the Japanese. It was a river called the Batolan River, that comes down from Mount Natib into the China Sea, fairly good sized river, and it's a fairly good defensive position except it's solid jungle and coconut palms, coconut plantation. Because of that it has two things, one is positive it is a good defense line; then two; you have a very poor field of fire. I think that is the reason that General Sugundo had pulled back away from it cause he had no field of fire there. I can't second guess why he did it but he did do it and Wainwright was very unhappy because he didn't want them to withdrawal from the Natib defense line which was the next to the last defense line, the main line of resistance. As I said, behind it was Bagac, the Bagac / Pilar Road or just south of that was what they called the main line of resistance. In order to try and hold off things as long as they could, he had ordered General Sugundo to go back in and take the thing and that is how I got mixed up in it.
I: Now, were they Infantry?
S: They were Infantry, yes.
I: So as cavalry, you were just reconnaissance?
S: But I was just reconnaissance for that. That is the only thing the cavalry was doing in those days. In the beginning, in the first resistance to the invasion to Lingayen, they were actually fighting the whole battle, not just reconnaissance. In this case I was doing reconnaissance and actually when we went forward it was just as the advance guard for the First Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
I: Now tell me, is Moron right on the river?
S: It is bounded on the northern side or toward the Subic Bay area by a river on the seaside is right on the sea; there is a swamp and then the beach. On the other side you are heading up towards Mount Natib. A little area there which is part of a large coconut plantation actually that is what it was originally.
I: So your troop was reconnaissance, how
many men and horses did you have?
S: I had just a platoon the Advance Guard of the troop; my platoon was 3 squads, so there were about 27 of us including me. The troop had three platoons I had the first platoon, there were two other platoons behind me with the troop commander. I had the advance point as we were paralleling the China Sea side along a little road that went along there, all the way to the river and even beyond the river. When we got to the river, on the left is Moron beyond that is nothing but jungle, that is the area I had been reconnoitering before this whole thing came about. That is when I split up into three troops of squads. As we got near to the thing, the village is over here and as we got near to the outskirts of it, my point, I had four men out on a point ahead of me, were fired on as they came into the edge of the town. One of them who was badly wounded was able to ride back to me and he had been stitched across here with automatic weapons fire. He is the one that I cited for a Distinguished Service Cross. I had ordered him back after he had reported back to me, I formed a line of foragers and made a pistol charge into the village. I had already told him to go back to be taken care of at the medical center and then I turn around and here he is standing, waving a pistol in his hand, he said, "Sir I am still on guard." He was so brave. I thought he was dead.
I: Colonel, we were talking briefly on the
military need for the retaking of the Moron area and what prompted
your reconnoiter of the area and how your cavalry unit was involved.
We were just at the point of approaching it. How would you explain
how things occurred that day?
S: As I had mentioned earlier, I think I had spent two days reconnoitering the area north of Moron up to the Subic Bay and back. Then the next evening is when my troop went back and I volunteered to stay with E/F Troop and then I got stuck with leading the advance guard the following morning. As I went along the road, I had gone into a line of foragers, and from that, moved into a pistol charge. We charged into what turned out to be the advance guard of the Japanese who had been landed from Subic, north of Moron, fortunately for us it was only the advance guard rather than the main body that we charged through. Just beyond the village, there was a swamp, before reaching the beach area, so I charged up through the advance guard scattering what was the remainder of those who had been killed and then went into dismounted action. Sending the horses to the rear supposedly, although not all of them got through to there because at the time this had happened, they had begun to fire mortars into us. We had scattered the advance guard and we were beginning to hunt for snipers and those who had been scattered in the original charge and we were being heavily hit by probably knee mortars. The Japanese had very light mortars that they could fire. Put it on the knee, drop it in and it would lob it over into you. Most of the action was taken in. By that time, I had deployed one squad along the river to delay any further of the Japanese troop to come across the river to reinforce those that I had hit in the advance guard. The rest of us were busy trying to go through the huts and looking for snipers and those who had gotten through to the other side of the village. It was at that point that I told you one of the points, the man from the point that had been badly wounded, was standing behind me. I turned around and noticed him there; he did not want to leave. He wanted to stay there even though he was badly wounded. And he did stay there until most of the battle was over. About that time, the remainder of Troop E/F came in, but they came in dismounted. The Troop Commander put his people into dismounted action and they came in on foot and left their horses back at a central point where I had sent our horses back. We deployed the rest of the troop and held the town until the First Infantry came in behind us and took over and deployed along the river in force. At that time we were withdrawn, both the Troop Commander and I had been wounded. We had removed our wounded and I believe I had three casualties and some wounded. Then we were withdrawn, and taken back. We were all pretty badly dehydrated it had been a long battle and fear dehydrates you pretty fast anyway. We got back to the regimental command area and at that time the rest of the battle had been turned over to the First Infantry Division and that was the end of the battle as far as I was concerned.
I: One of the things in the book that I
thought was interesting, an American Officer who was cowering
by a church.
S: Yes, the Chief of Staff.
I: You didn't know him at that time?
S: I didn't know who he was.
I: How did you react to this guy?
S: Well, I used some very rough expletives when I saw the guy sort of cowering against the church. I didn't know who he was; I didn't know why he was there. I turned around to him and said, "Come on you yellow son-of-a-bitch get up here and help us." Then I didn't pay anymore attention to him. It turned out that was the Chief of Staff for General Wainwright who had been sent in, who shouldn't have been there to begin with. He had been sent in to see what the situation was. Then he went out. My Troop Commander had a bullet through his leg and was sent immediately back to the hospital, I had a mortar fragment in my leg but it wasn't very bad so I didn't go immediately to the hospital. The Troop Commander, who I can't think of his name right now, put me in for a Distinguished Service Cross, but the Chief of Staff, who I had cussed out, put me in for a Silver Star, which went in first, therefore I didn't get my Distinguished Service Cross.
I: I wanted to explore a little bit about
the image, which was created by MacArthur when he said, "I
shall return." Was it exploited? Was it a true term? How
did the Filipinos respond to that? Did they believe it? Was it
something that was really meaningful?
S: Yes, I can answer that very easily. After the Air Force had been destroyed, and the Air Force troops were sent back to the rear, they were not combat soldiers, it's true. But, because they were back there and they were eating the food, all that we had left in Bataan, they were participating in. They were given rifles and made to get up in part of the combat area. Which irritated them to no end. So, the Air Force is the one that started the expression, "Dug Out Doug." Implying that MacArthur was a coward, and that was a damn lie, it was not true at all. They would say that he was never on Bataan. He was, I saw him there, but that is beside the point. He had before received in World War I, one Medal of Honor aside from a lot of other medals, and then later on he was given a second one. As for the expression, "I shall return", I don't know any Filipino or anybody who knew Mac Arthur and respected him as I did who didn't believe him. He was almost like a god to the Filipinos. Anything that he did, they believed in. He had become a point of dependence of the Filipinos. When he said, "I shall return', they believed him. That encouraged them to continue fighting, that's what helped an awful lot of us, I wasn't the only one in the guerrilla business, but that is the reason they were so loyal and continued to fight for the rest of the war until he came back. To this day when anybody tells you that the Filipinos don't like the Americans, you tell them they're crazy, because in spite of what happened in the Congress of the United States, the Filipinos still love the Americans. One of the reasons is very simple, and I have been asked before, "Why is that?" It's simple, because the Americans, not only MacArthur, but also the American government brought them education, and democracy without being forced to do it. They voluntarily brought it because it was the right thing to do. So the educational system, universal education, and the democratic process were all installed by the Americans. Because of that, the Filipinos always respected and loved the Americans. The reason they were kicked out of the Philippines was because a relatively small number of people who were very nationalistic and in many cases had an axe to grind financially. Because it was hard for the Filipinos to come up with the kind of money that it took to compete with big American companies, I can understand that. The net result of which was the cost of the livelihood of thousands and thousands of Filipinos who were kicked out of jobs in the Navy at Subic Bay and the Air Force at Clark Field.
I: I asked the question earlier, how would
ill equipped Filipinos, ill equipped Americans, hold out against
the cracker jack of these forces? Why would they just not surrender,
as the British did, as the Dutch did, and as the French did? Why
not just pull out? Why did they continue fighting when even if
they hadn't been told to surrender, by General King they probably
would have continued fighting? You were there you knew the situation.
S: I think it probably has many possible answers to it. Essentially, they believed in what they were fighting for. They believed in democracy, they believed in the philosophy of the American government, and they believed in what they had been given by the Americans during the occupation by the Americans, and it was in effect an occupation. They believed that they were going to be given independence and many of them, actually I think if you had an accurate count probably the mass of Filipino's would have voted for the Philippines to become a state of the United States rather than becoming independent. As a matter of fact I was sitting at dinner with President Roxas, before he was President, who was General Roxas then, he had been recovered from the Japanese and at that time was on the staff of MacArthur. I had dinner with he and his family. I told him, "You know, there are an awful lot of the Filipinos, the majority that I have met, would rather not be independent, they'd rather be a state of the United States, or part of the United States." He said, "No, nobody could ever be elected who did not stand for independence." This from the man that later became the President. He was a very good friend. When he was President, I spent an awful lot of time in Mal-Younge Palace. I got to see all the latest movies and I was a pawl bearer at his funeral actually. So the answer to your question is very, very difficult for me to give, I can't give you a very clear answer to it. But, mostly it was because they respected the Americans, they respected what we were fighting for, and they appreciated what they had gotten from the Americans, in spite of what later happened with the Congress and the Rescission Act of 1946.
I: While we were chatting over lunch, I
was thinking about the intense amount of personal commitment it
took for you and your friend to decide not to surrender, or not
to go to Australia, or get away, before you decided to become
an active guerrilla. What was the decision there? Was part of
it when you heard some of the natives what was going on with the
people in Bataan who surrendered? Tell me about the initial decision.
S: The original idea from Barker and I: First, we were not going to surrender we would rather take a chance of being dead, because we figured we wouldn't live through it anyway. Second; once we got out of there, it was so obvious the loyalty of the Filipino's, the average peasant, these weren't the rich people, these were the poor peasants but they were so loyal that we began to see there was a chance of existing for a while. And then the third thing was, we had gotten in touch with Colonel Thorpe. Our original idea was just to get out of Bataan, down and across into the Sierra Madres, south to where we could get a boat and work our way to Australia. It was very ambitious, probably stupid, to where only a couple of people that I know of did get through it alive did make it down there. One just recently died as a matter of fact, a cavalry Officer - Whitehead. He was one of those playing polo with me that day. Before we had left Pampanga, to get across to the Sierra Madres, looking for a way to get a boat, and go on down south we were able to contact Colonel Thorpe, who had been sent out of Bataan by General MacArthur to establish resistance while the war was going on. Before he left for Australia. So he talked Barker into it, Barker had met him up at his headquarters on Mount Pinatubo; Barker decided he would be willing to stay behind. So at that point in time, I decided we would go for broke and I joined with him. He was appointed as the Commander of the East/Central Luzon Guerrilla Area, that was all of central Luzon, all the provinces there, and I was his deputy. That is how we ended up getting into it. We immediately began to organize utilizing from the very beginning, troops that had escaped from Bataan, or had never gotten into Bataan and had already started spontaneously organizing guerrillas. I would often ask, "Why would the Filipinos follow you as an American to lead Filipinos?" I have been asked that many times. The answer is, I think very clearly; we didn't have a political axe to grind. In the Philippines, they are very politically active. Not only in the Philippines, but particularly true in the Philippines. In this case, when we offered them the leadership, of somebody who was a soldier, an officer and people who knew of what we were doing, and we had no axe to grind, they followed us very quickly. It began to grow, and grow, and grow. That is how we really began to get the guerrilla forces started.
I: It is interesting how you and Barker
decided to use the teachings of Mao Tse Tung. Tell us about that.
S: That was in the beginning you see we had no particular organizational structure. We had never been trained in the United States Army how to form irregular troops, partisan forces. Which now is totally different. Now you have the Green Berets, the Special Forces. At that time, the communists also had guerrillas operating in the area. They were called Hukbalahaps (Huks). They were using a structure which they had imported from China, from Mao Tse Tung, they even had copies of his books and everything like that. So, we also got copies of the book. I still have a copy upstairs. In any event, we started out structuring it similar to what Mao did on his organization. Locally organize farmers by day, guerrillas by night. Organized in a structure of what we called in those days 'squadrons'. The squadron could be of any size and any make-up. Later on, a year or so after Barker was captured and killed; I changed it over to a more traditional military organization. Very much like a typical American organization. That is how we got into it. In the process, part of that was getting educated on the way that Mao tse Tung had done it as well as others.
I: Why did you think that technique was
S: First off, there was no question that Mao had been very successful in the organization and he was doing something which was all very new to us. So it was a lot easier for us to adopt that system then to try and start out and invent our own. By that time Mao and the Red Chinese were gaining strength all the time, even against the nationalists. They had not defeated the nationalists yet, but they certainly were doing a good job of building their own forces.
I: One of the people who were starting to
form guerrilla squadrons was John Boone. He was part of that when
you ran across him from the 31st, because he was a corporal of
the 31st Infantry when you met him and you immediately saw something
that was innately leadership quality in him. How did that relationship
with you and Barker work out?
S: When Joe Barker and I escaped, one of the first people we ran into was Boone and his organization that was around Dinalupihan, Bataan. That was one of these spontaneous guerrilla groups, which coalesced around a man who was a professional soldier even though he was a corporal. It was obvious as soon as we became formally committed to being a guerilla unit, we inducted him into the organization, and actually, Joe Barker was the one that commissioned him. I believe he originally commissioned him as a captain, and I think I was the one that promoted him to a major.
I: He was a Marine as I recall.
S: No, he wasn't a Marine, he was an Infantryman. The marine was the one that had become my Headquarters Security Commandant, Jimmy Carrington.
I: I think that one of the things that when
Strickland died, Colonel Fore was restructured and a lot of things
began to change when I was thinking the structure began to change
when there was still no organized alternatives, you had alternatives
to do something, you guys decided to do it as guerrillas with
Thorpe. How did you handle the issue of since we were ordered
to surrender and we would be treated differently if we were captured,
how was that issue brought up?
S: We already understood from the beginning if we were in the guerrilla business after the surrender of the formal forces, under Mac Arthur's command, then we were no longer protected under the laws of the Geneva Convention. We became at that time 'war rebels'. As war rebels they could do anything with us, not that they wouldn't anyway, but they were not suppose to treat us in anyway other than as rebels, criminals. That is what the Japanese considered us as. We were offered a chance by the Japanese to surrender, we could have surrendered, any of us, early on, several times they would send out feelers to us if we wanted to surrender that we would be put in as prisoners of war. We refused to have anything to do with it. But, we also knew, Barker, Thorpe, Moses, Noble, Prager, all of them, these people who were Americans who were involved in guerrilla warfare were all later executed as war rebels. They were not considered as prisoners of war.
I: How did you get information on the American
and Filipino prison camps and the death march? How did you end
up finding out that information?
S: As far as the death march was concerned when we escaped from Bataan, we were paralleling the death march just a few kilometers in. We were getting constant information in from the natives as to what was going on.
I: The issue of the prison camps, both the
Filipinos and Americans, information coming out of there was obtained
S: We had people who were going in and out of the camp taking the supplies in, approved in most cases by the Japanese. The Japanese did not have enough supplies in any event, so they did allow a certain amount of things such as some medications, some medical supplies, some food, things like that. I assume there was probably some bribery that when on in many cases. One of the organizations for instance was the one that Wilma Snyder belonged to. It was a group of ladies from Manila mostly, who were of the upper class and who had a group of, I can't think off-hand what the name of it was, they had a name for themselves. What they would do, they would go into the base, and they would get permission to go in to bring medicine and things like that. They would funnel information both in and out to the prisoners of war and from the prisoners of war out to us.
I: There are some infamous prison camps
that became quite well known in the Philippines, one was Fort
Santiago. Could you mention what kind of a place that was?
S: Fort Santiago was originally built by the Spaniards, it was an old, old fort that was right at the mouth of the Pasig River, the entrance to Manila. Then after the Spaniards were defeated, it was taken over by the Americans. That was the headquarters of the American defense forces there in the early days later on I think it was moved over to Fort William McKinley. It was a very massive structure; it was almost like a castle with large walls, dungeons down below, and surrounding heavy fortification type walls going all around. They maintained in Fort Santiago, all the most dangerous people, for instance-guerrillas. When they would capture one of them that was a leader like Joe Barker or the others, in most cases they would be kept at Fort Santiago. They did keep some of them in the prison in the city of Manila itself, but most of the more important prisoners were held in the dungeons at Fort Santiago.
I: The term prisons and dungeons and we
have terms like San Quentin and Folsom what is the difference
between a prison and Fort Santiago?
S: The only thing was that Fort Santiago was really the headquarters for the Kempeitai, the Japanese Military Police and the ones that who were our big headache. They had units in other areas but the real headquarters was at Fort Santiago.
I: They did a lot of torturing and things
of that nature there?
S: Oh yes there was, definitely.
I: How did word of that come out?
S: There were a few that were actually sprung out of there and escaped. We had people inside, actually working with the Japanese posing as pro-Japanese but they were reporting to us. The Kempeitai actually had a painting of me as far back as in 1943 I moved up to number one on the wanted list in early 1943. They had an artist do a painting of me from descriptions that they had gotten from other people that they had either tortured it out of them or by someone who may have met me, in one case a counter-intelligence described me I guess. Which I knew, or I suspected, I was almost entrapped in Manila, but I had people working there in Kempeitai Headquarters and they were the ones that reported back. They told me, they know what you look like they know you have a moustache, so I immediately shaved off the moustache. That happened to by at the time at Christmas of 1943 when I was going into Manila for two reasons, one to meet a Philippine Army General who had been a graduate of West Point and he had been released as a prisoner after the surrender he had been a prisoner for a while then released. He had made contact with me and wanted to meet with me. But he knew he was under observation, so I agreed that I would come into Manila and I would meet him but the main reason I wanted to get in was I wanted to get some R and R, get out of the boondocks and have a little fun in Manila for Christmas of 1943. Then unfortunately the Japanese learned that I was there and that changed everything. I had already planted on the man who had been sent to contact me to meet with this man who was a spy, a counter-spy, for the Japanese, and I gave him a story which was repeated word for word to General Baba. General Baba who was the chief of the counter-intelligence repeated it exactly to Roxas who got the word to me immediately and I moved out from where I was in the new Manila part of Manila to Pasay.
I: Did they come to tell you Commander Colonel
Nagahama was there?
S: He was one of them, but he was in that area, he wasn't the overall Kempeitai. Baba was Chief of Counter-Intelligence he was a General, Nagahama was a Commander of the Kempeitaiin the Manila District, as far as I know, he was only in that area. He was very big in the Kempeitai but he was not above General Baba.
I: I see the guy's code number is CIO12?
S: Yes, that was his codename, C I O twelve.
I: Can you tell me how you got out, and
how Schmelcuss helped you?
S: Schmelcuss who was the one that actually brought me the message. Schmelcuss was a Czech; a Czechoslovakian, and he had contacts and was helping us with information, money and things like. He was the one that had been contacted by this representative of CIO12; his name was Franco Villa Reyes. General Lim was the General I was suppose to meet, he was a West Pointer. Reyes got through his intermediary told Schmelcuss that he was working for us, and that he wanted to meet with me. It happened that there had been a fight between the Huks and some of my troops on the outskirts of Manila the day before and some of my people had been murdered. So, I sent word back that I had to leave to go because of that problem, but I would be back at a certain time. That was repeated word for word to General Baba who was the one that told Roxas that I had been there, I was out of town, and I would be back in and I was in the New Manila area, so on and so forth. So, that way we knew that Reyes was a spy, a counter-spy.
I: Schmelcuss put you up someplace, where
S: No that wasn't Schmelcuss. Schmelcuss was the one that sent that word. You are talking about the guy, Wally Roder. Wally Roder was my Chief of Chemical Warfare. He was the one that made the sabotage machines for me. Later on I had to pull him out and bring him up to the headquarters because word got out. First, when I escaped from New Manila when the Japanese found out I was there I went over to Pasay, the other side of town. From there that night, we rode by bicycle into the Manila Gas Compound where Roder was a director of the Manila Gas Compound.
I: Roder taught you some German right?
S: No, Swiss. 'Ya ya Zoe zo.' All that means is 'yes, yes, that's so.'
I: So he taught you how to respond?
S: Yes. Just in case the Japanese would stop us. Fortunately they didn't. He had borrowed a bicycle, and I followed him and rode right through the Japanese guards and they were Japanese stationed right there next door to where I was staying, in the same compound. I stayed there for about ten days until it cooled down, then we peddled back out and then disappeared into the hills again.
I: At that time, they had about $100,000
American, reward on you.
S: At that time, yes.
I: It went up to how much?
S: I don't know, I have heard it went to $200,000, but $100,000 was enough. It was a moot question.
I: When you were pulling out, developing,
and reorganizing at that point and started going to traditional
systems from guerrilla systems, that was because of the size of
the group, or what?
S: Partly, it was more for control as much as anything. By getting them organized in a formalized military structure it was easier for me to communicate. I had them divided up into districts, which would be the equivalent of a division. Every province was considered a district, a military district. That military district would be organized similar to that of a division and structured that way. It was more wieldy that way, easier to be controlled. But, more than that, by doing it that way, by provinces, there is a lot of internal jealousy between let's say, Pampango's and Tagalog's. They originally had different languages, and the normal jealousy you get in things like that, so that is why I went to that to begin with so it made it a little more malleable and easier to communicate with and control.
I: Communications is very important issue,
especially with guerrillas in an occupied country. Tell me how
you communicated with your subordinates and other groups before
you had a radio.
S: In almost all cases, we would use handwritten things. For instance, we started off, most of it was done this way, you take lemon juice and write with it like a pen in lemon juice and you don't see it until you put heat under it and then it comes out. So, they would take something like that and wrap it up, put in a bag and carry it around like that. That is the way I sent messages to the southern islands where there was a long period where they had to carry it. Unless you put heat under it, like putting a match under it, you couldn't see it.
I: How vulnerable were your messengers?
S: We lost lots of them. They were quite vulnerable. Not really from that, but for other reasons. Sometimes they would be talkative and say, "Oh I work for Colonel Ramsey, or I work for John Boone, or " something like that.
I: When you got your radio, you started
to grow, you had more structure, you started to grow your command
size. Your command structure started to grow. Could you elaborate
S: The command organization grew because by that time then I had to have a broader organization. In the earlier days, my command organization turned over several times, my Chiefs of Staff were killed several of them, so therefore I organized a more formalized structure of my command. They had been as such, most of them, originally, but then I drew those guys back up to my headquarters rather than being out in other areas for instance, several of them would be in Manila, some of them would be in the provinces, like up in Pangasanan. So, I pulled most of them back into my headquarters at that time.
I: Part of your communications was not only
within Luzon, or within the populated area, the central plains,
but also with MacArthur back and forth. How did that take place
and how did you communicate?
S: In the early days, I could only do it via the Southern Islands then later on I was able to do it through the Islands of Mindoro which is right off of Luzon. Get messages to them, they had radios already, they had radios in the south as early as late 1942, by early 1943 they were in the Island of Panay, the Island of Cebu. In 1943, they already had them in Mindoro. I went to Mindoro right after Christmas when I escaped from Manila. I went to Mindoro mainly to meet with Major Philips, who was Allied Intelligence Bureau operative there, with the idea to go and get radios. Unfortunately, the day I landed in Mindoro at a different point, he was killed by an ambush. He walked into an ambush. Then after that he was replaced by Commander Nicholson, a man by the name of George Rowe, but he went by the nom de guerre Commander Nicholson. He got radios to me. So, I had already received one radio from the south from Panay I guess, maybe it was Negros. I had one radio there and I had a homemade radio that my radio operator had put together, he was great, he was a marine radio operator, civilian, before the war.
I: Now when you went down to Mindoro, you
were asked if you could get back by submarine to Australia and
become a regular soldier. What made you decide not to do that?
S: Actually, I was offered a chance. I knew when they were going to have another submarine coming into southern Mindoro. I knew that there were a couple of the guys that were being sent out that had been sent in before of the Allied Intelligence Bureau. But, by that time I had a very well organized organization. If I left, it would undoubtedly cause a lot of problems for both the organization and the attitude of the people who looked up to me, very much by that time. So I told them no, I'd rather not go back. It happened as soon as I got back up here, I received a message from MacArthur particularly requesting that I do not leave, that I stay with my organization and keep it going.
I: You were not in good health at that time.
You were down to less than one hundred pounds.
S: I was not quite that low at that time, but not too long later because I was back up there a month or so later near my headquarters which I had established at that time, near Manila, in the mountains near Manila.
I: Tell me why when you were the head of
an organization you should be able to get to the top of the food
chain. What was the situation?
S: There wasn't such thing as a 'food chain'. It was a catch as catch can. All of us were hungry, wasn't any of us that were well fed. I was lucky to even get medications. But, by that time, 1944 is when we are talking about now; I did get in some medical supplies from Australia by submarine. I got some radios in by submarine. I had developed; I had a lot of things wrong with me. In late 1944 I had gone down to the lowlands for a meeting of some kind, I don't even remember what it was, down in the outskirts of Manila. On the way back I developed appendicitis, I didn't know what it was at the time, but I had a doctor, who then became my Chief Surgeon, he was a young Spaniard, Dr. Esente Campos. He said, "Well, you have very bad appendicitis." But, we couldn't operate down there, I was too vulnerable, so we got back by horse and by walking, by every damn thing they could they got me back up to my headquarters. They got some supplies and they operated on me at that time. By that time I was down, after the operation, I was down to the low nineties. When I met the troops, I was about ninety-three pounds.
I: You talk about the operation. I know
Dr. Campos went down to buy a spinal block for you on the black
market, tell me about that operation.
S: He bought it on the black market and it was in ampules, but it turned out that it wasn't an anesthetic it was water. In those days everything was being done like that. You couldn't trust anything. First off, they couldn't get it I guess, and then second; they didn't worry about it if it was something they could sell. So when they went to do the operation I was already in the final stages of it exploding, and it actually did explode in his hands as he took it out. It would have been gangrenous if it hadn't gotten out when it did. It ended up that I said, "Go ahead, we hadn't got time to wait on it. Give me a couple of drinks and go ahead and cut it out." It took a long time for him to get the operation done. He couldn't even find it, it was hidden underneath there. But he finally got it out. And, as I said, it burst in his hands as he took it out.
I: With no anesthetic and a little bit of
S: A little bit of rum, chewing on the nurse's arm, and cussing. The doctor was cussing more than I was. He was a Spaniard he cussed in Spanish. Actually he was Austrian; his parents were from Austria
I: There was quite a bit written about him
in your book, in never realized.
S: He was quite a man. He ended up being director practically of all the big medical things in Manila.
I: Because you were recovering not only
from the surgery, and you did it with no anesthetic.
S: It was shock. I was in shock, after a certain point of pain you go into shock, then you don't feel anything anymore, by that time I was in that state.
I: By that time the Japanese found out you
had surgery so they tried to close in the noose on you. Could
you go into that?
S: What happened was you see a lot of the boys, the word went around that I had had the operation and they were all interested in what was happening to me so they would talk to each and that spread into the wrong ears. So, the Japanese did know that I had had an operation they didn't know I was in bad shape, and I was up until the very end there. So, they made a major attack. We were using my radio almost twenty-four hours a day by that time, so they could triangulate and locate pretty close to where I was. They sent a pretty sizable force in there, maybe a battalion, with mortars, machine guns, and everything else. They made a determined attack on my headquarters and fortunately by that time Jimmy Carrington and my boys were able to fend them off with our heaviest artillery was .50 caliber machine guns that we had taken off of the downed airplanes.
I: Tell me about Jimmy Carrington, and particularly
those .50 calibers that he was holding off that group.
S: Jimmy was an enlisted man in the Fourth Marines out of Shanghai. He surrendered in Corregidor, and then he was imprisoned in the prison in Manila, the main old prison there.
I: Intramuras wasn't it?
S: No, Intramuras is where Fort Santiago was. No what I am thinking was the civilian prison which was turned into a prison for all purposes, including they had a number of Americans in there. Anyway, it was the main prison in Manila. Jimmy and his friend had decided that they wanted to escape so they were able to climb up and crawl over the top where there were some hot wires. Jimmy was able to get over it, his friend hit the wire, which stunned him a little bit, and he was recaptured and later executed. Jimmy dropped to the ground on the far side and was picked up immediately by some of my boys who pulled him out in a little horse drawn carriage, a cartaila, and then ultimately got him up to my headquarters. Being a fighting soldier, and at that time the only one I had there who was American, and available with that kind of a background, I commissioned him as a Lieutenant first and then later as a Captain and he was in command of my headquarters security detachment. He is still alive incidentally; he is one of the few.
I: When you started getting twenty-four
hour intelligence, you knew that the invasion of the Philippines
S: I knew it was close and I was getting more information all the time.
I: I would like to explore that explosive
that Roder made for you, and how that thing really hit, that was
S: That was earlier. That was in July.
I: Yes it was, but I think it was instrumental
in keying things together at that point.
S: It certainly stirred up the Japanese. We lost a lot of people there, not all of them because of our fault. The explosive we were getting by that time, sabotage machines from Australia or from Southeast Asia on submarines. But, unfortunately the American sabotage machines were subject to being sensitive, the dampness would get into them and were losing an awful lot of them that did not work, we were losing people because of using machines that did not work. Wally had developed this thing, which was actually a toy, it was a metal tube, he would take two tubes, and he would put it together with a piece of copper. The thickness of the copper, it was as loose as a goose, but it would give you some idea of the timing it took for the acid to eat through that side and ignite the explosive. On one side, we put in acid, and on the other side, we put matches up against the metal, the copper, and next to that, black powder. Then on each end it would be sealed. If you wanted it to be an explosive, you would seal it with something that would really hold it there. If you wanted it to go as an incendiary, you would put a paraffin base in it. It would go out and just shoot out a stream of fire rather than explode. So, that is the way he made it.
I: You guys put them all over the place.
How many of them did he make?
S: I don't even remember. The most important one was one in July of 1944 when we planned a major attack. We got them set in the fuel dumps and the 55 gallon barrels of gasoline. We had them all set to go off at midnight of whatever the night was, I have forgotten it now. But they started going off about 1:00 o'clock in the morning and some of them were already on ships, some were in the major fuel dump area of Manila. One of them exploded and blew over onto a cruiser. So that just scared the hell out of the Japanese, they really were upset by that one. They also knew who was responsible for it, so they were very unhappy with me.
I: At that time, they thought you had gone
back to Australia, right?
S: Before that happened that's right. One of the things I did when I had met in Mindoro I passed the word around that I was going to be going to Australia. To fan this word back into where the Japanese would hear it. That actually took place, I found out that the Kempeitai thought I had gone to Australia so I had three or four months there where they were not hot on my tail until after that happened. This was in late July; from then on they were tracking me pretty close.
I: After you had gotten all your operational
radios etcetera and all the information started coming in about
the invasion how was it received and how did you spread the word
when you knew MacArthur was coming back?
S: We had to use the same systems that we had, because by then I still didn't have short-range radios, just runners. We just had the operational people send runners out everywhere saying, "okay, this is going to happen, get ready for this, do this " Because MacArthur was sending me an awful lot of requests for specific intelligence. 'What's happening where, is there a radar here, where are the airplanes cached ' all kinds of things like that. The word by that time was being spread out the same way by runners.
I: Also at that time you changed the complexion
from just gather intelligence and do sporadic things to a concerted
effort didn't you?
S: That's true. But, I also kept the operational orders that they would not start attacks in populated areas where the Japanese would react back against the civilians, until the landing began or until American troops, or Allied troops, were landing nearby and they could follow through. Which they did quite well. As a matter of fact, when the American troops, or the Allied troops arrived I was in the outskirts of Manila, I had set up my headquarters at that time in Meycauayan which is less than ten miles from Balintawak is part of Manila. By the time the American 24th Division arrived there, and the First Cavalry Division arrived along the foothills, the whole area around Balintawak was virtually under control from our people. They had already run off the Japs or shot them, so it wasn't too hard. We were able to dismantle the explosives that had been put on the railroad bridge there. One of the main things we tried to do was to secure the avenues of transportation like railroad bridges.
I: Did you ever estimate how many Allied
lives, military soldiers, were saved by your guerrilla efforts?
S: I have never had a means of making an accurate estimate. I would say tens of thousands easily, tens of thousands. Of course, we lost tens of thousands. It may have even been a lot more because the American losses were relatively light.
I: I understand that about one out of every
eight of your people were killed.
S: I honestly can't answer that, but I had five thousand KIA / MIA (killed in action / missing in action), of my guerilla troops of my unit only! That is just in the east Central Luzon Guerilla Area. Five thousand, that's a hell of a lot of them. You stop and think about the number of Americans that were killed there, it probably wasn't too much more than that.
I: When the Allied troops came to Lingayen
and they were moving south, your troops had already cleaned up
most of that area.
S: Most of my troops had been ordered to pull back, to be away from the beach and not to interfere with the invasion but to be prepared to join in with them or to attack from the rear. My troops were by that time, as soon as they knew that it was happening were already cutting communications, shooting them in the back, committing all kinds of sabotage, what ever they could in order to interrupt the activities of the Japanese. So, they were busy doing that. They were not right up on the beach area, very few of them were up in that area, they were back away from it.
I: There was a guy that was one of your
bodyguards that had an interesting story about a jeep and a General.
General Brighton was it?
S: Camacho. He was my Head of Communications. No, General Biedler. Camacho had captured an old jeep away from the Japanese and converted it to a radio carrier, so he had a radio set up on that thing. On the way to Manila, he had taken a couple of heads and tied them to the lights on the front of his jeep. He drove through the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Division, and just before he moved out of there General Biedler looked out and saw this and he exploded. And properly so, it was the wrong thing to do, and I had to raise hell with him when I found out about it. But, he just missed him, he got out before General Biedler could get a hold of him, and could ever prove who it was that did that. That was the wrong thing to do. His brother had just been executed by the Japanese Kempeitai because he was connected with me.
I: So you can understand why he responded
the way he did.
S: Of course you can understand it. He was mad as could be.
I: When he came back to your headquarters,
did he still have those heads on the jeep?
S: No, he had gotten rid of them by then. But, I knew about it.
I: Colonel, I wanted to ask you about the
last vestiges of Japanese resistance, which was in Manila, and
how that complexion changed and how you were involved. You had
been conscripted at that point now in a regular army. How did
that take place?
S: Actually, I hadn't been conscripted. I think I mentioned it earlier, as soon as the American troops arrived near to where I was in Meycauayan, I got the message from General MacArthur that he wanted to see me. I had gone back there, and from there he sent me over to General Kruger who was the 6th Army Commander and whom I didn't care for. But, in any event at that time I was put in operational control of the 6th Army, for operating purposes, that is correct. As the American troops came along, my guerrilla boys would report into the moving unit whatever it was of the 6th Army and be attached to them for whatever activities they were need for.
I: The statistics I had read said there
were over 100,000 Filipino civilians were killed in the last few
days of the war.
S: In the central district of Manila, south of the Pasig river, yes. It was horrible. That was mainly because the Japanese troops had been ordered to come out, move out of Manila, move north. This Navy Admiral Ebobuchi refused to obey the order. He said, "We are going to die here." And they did. Although some of his troops swam up along the bay there toward Malabon and many of them who were able to land in the Malabon area, which is northwest of Manila. There was one group my guerrillas killed close to 600 that had been there with Ebobuchi. It was a real savage operation. They killed everything that came in sight.
I: I understand they mined all the major
S: They did. They blew them up, not only mined them, they blew them up, most of them. All the big cities there were a mess. All the government buildings there were blown up. All of the major buildings were actually blown up, they were already mined and they were blown as they withdrew.
I: I read somewhere that the destructive
force to the major cities the only two majors as first and second
was Warsaw and Manila.
S: That's right. The only one worse than Manila was Warsaw. That is correct, I have read that in a number of cases.
I: Most of the businesses were destroyed
and a great deal of residential community not just the downtown
sections so it was a big area. When you saw MacArthur personally,
after you met with Colonel Findlay, first time he had seen you,
the first time personally?
S: The first time that I had met him personally? Yes, that is correct.
I: What was your response to him? Now you
had been a guerrilla leader since 1942, and here it is mid 1945,
at this time you are not taking many orders from anybody and to
see General MacArthur, was his image as big as people said it
S: Bigger. He was the most impressive man I have ever met by far and large. There was never any question when you were around him who was the dominating personality and force. He had a brilliant mind, a mind that he could talk about any subject almost instantaneously. He was conversant with practically anything you wanted to talk about. But, his interests, at that time particularly, was personalities. It was the last time I saw him alive in Tokyo, the last time I was with him was in Tokyo. He wanted to know who were the ones that had been trustworthy and loyal and it happened the then President, who had been Vice President, when Quezon died Osmena became President. Osmena, two of his sons were traitors. Nothing ever ultimately happened to them, they were in jail for a while but later on for political reasons they were released. One of the things he wanted to know was regarding Roxas, who had been on his staff with the Brigadier General and his staff, and had been in the puppet government as the Minister of Economic Affairs I believe it was. Because he was not an economist and he had gone into that after being a prisoner of war. He had tuberculosis and he had been solicited by all of his friends to take the job so that he could get better food, medicine, and things like that, and be more healthful, which he was. During the time he was with the puppet government he was in contact with me through Mona (Mona Parpana, Intelligence Officer). Mona was his contact with me. There was no question about his loyalty, and he risked his life by doing that too, and almost lost it. That was the main thing MacArthur was interested in, who were the ones that were loyal to us, who were the ones who were not loyal to us.
I: I understand when he invited you in,
he had an instant way of making people comfortable, who he wanted
to make comfortable. I understand he sat on the sofa, you on one
end, he on the other end? What type of questions other than those
kind, what kind of things did he want to know?
S: He was mostly interested at first, who were the ones that were loyal to us, who were the ones that were our enemies. Such as the communists who were causing us so much trouble. What were the things that our organization been doing which had been helping our troops in the Southwest Pacific. Actually, to this day, I have a stack of old radio grams in all kinds of paper; most of it is yellowed, falling apart, from him. 'MacArthur to Ramsey', 'Ramsey to MacArthur." Lots of them. He was very grateful for what I did, and he thanked me very much. At that time he told me how much he appreciated what our people had done and how many of the American lives that they had saved by that. That was instrumental in him giving me the Distinguished Service Cross later on, several others and me. I wasn't the only one to be decorated. He decorated Boone also. He didn't differentiate, he gave us all D.S.C.
I: It was under your leadership that you
had how many people totally in your group?
S: I have a copy of the order which was given by the Commanding General at West-PAC, Army Forces Western Pacific, that authorized 38,000 men, and 3,600 officers.
I: Over 40,000 then. At that time you were
still a Major?
S: He promoted me then. In 1945 right after the liberation, he promoted me to Lieutenant Colonel. But at that time I had just turned twenty-eight years old. That is pretty young.
I: Probably if it had been another situation,
you probably would be a Major General considering what you did.
S: If I had stayed in the service, there is little doubt that I would have made at least one star.
I: General MacArthur is the one that ordered
I: You had a breakdown?
S: I had two of them in ten days. I had one, got out of the hospital a couple of days later I had to go back in. He said, "Turn over and go home." You see, he had on his staff, a Guerrilla Affairs Section, that was under Colonel Bob Krueter, a wonderful guy, later on, he and Colonel Gayle, both of them in that section joined Hughes Aircraft Company and got me to join Hughes when I came back to the United States. They had become very dear friends. They greased all the skids and they got me out of there as soon as I got out of the hospital, when I was strong enough to keep going. I turned over the command at that time to my Chief of Staff. I have forgotten the continuity whether Villareal was sent to command General Staff school first or whether Colonel Bautista, who was my Chief of Staff, was sent first. I think maybe Bautista was in the States and I turned it over to Villareal at that time.
I: I think Bautista was at Command Staff.
S: At that time. Both of them I sent them all to the Command General Staff School as fast as I could.
I: When you were sent home, you got home
S: Yes, I almost had to swim. Two of the engines on the plane that I was on, it was fortunate it had four of them, went out on the way to Guam. We limped into Guam on two engines. Then, went from a plush plane to one where you sit along on the side on a piece of canvas. Whatever it was, they weren't all that comfortable. It was nice to get home. Then I immediately went into the hospital in San Francisco.
I: Didn't your sister fly you home?
S: Yes, but she met me there, picked me up in San Francisco, and flew me home.
I: Your Mother and everybody else thought
you were dead?
S: They didn't know. They had no idea, my mother or my sister both said they always had the feeling I was alive. That's natural that they would think that.
I: Over three and a half years they had
you listed as missing in action.
S: That's right. As a matter of fact, at Oklahoma Military Academy they had a picture up on the wall 'Killed in Action'. Raqui and I were in our motor home some years back for the first time we went back to visit it. This picture was on the wall and we had with us our housekeeper and she saw that up there, she said Ma'am, "There is Sir, killed in action." Isn't that funny?
I: Three and a half years you came back
from the dead? So your Mother was pretty surprised?
S: The first thing I did once we got into Manila, I got the Red Cross to send a message to her that I was alive. There was still a question as to whether I was going to make it.
I: You hadn't seen your sister since she
was just beginning to start walking?
S: When I went out there, yes, she was just barely getting around. She was flying immediately once she got her strength back, she got her license back, she still had a cast on, and then she joined the WASPS but before that she had been invited by Jacqueline Cochran, the famous woman racing pilot. She didn't want to join her, she didn't like her. She joined the gal that headed up the WASPS. She flew with them until they were disbanded.
I: What was it like to fly home with your
sister at the controls?
S: With her, it was great. It was a little plane and it took us a while to get there.
I: Who was waiting when you got to Wichita?
S: My mother, my sister who was with me, the guy who invented the private airplane - Walter Beech was standing there. There was a whole bunch of people out there waiting to greet me when I got back. He and his wife and some others were there.
I: You were about eleven months in the hospital
recovering from all that.
S: In and out, they would let me get out and I would go to New York a couple of times and things like that for R and R.
I: I had written down all your diagnosis
was, I don't know how accurate it is. Such as: Malaria, amebic
dysentery, anemia, acute malnutrition, and general nervous collapse.
S: And bacillary dysentery, I guess I had gotten rid of that, there are two kinds of it, and they are both bad.
I: You were down to about ninety-four, ninety-five
S: About ninety-three pounds when I got back.
I: So that was quite an experience?
S: Yes it was.
I: How long did it take for your release,
1946 or 1947?
S: I was released actually in May of 1945, but within thirty days I received a wire from the Army, asking me if I would be willing to come back on duty and go back to Manila to straighten out some of the guerrilla affairs. I said, "Sure", so I went back on duty until December of 1946, no wait, I was in the hospital up until 1946, I got out in May of 1946, back in June of 1946, back to Manila then took my discharge in Manila in December of 1946.
I: So you were back and saw some of your
old friends, saw some of the reorganization that occurred in a
little over a year.
S: Oh yes, but I was still in contact with all my key guys. Some of them were in the States. At that time I visited Tony Chonko at the Command of General Staff School he was there, I sent him there. I saw Roxas and all the other people there.
I: When you came out, you decided to do
some work for yourself, you worked for Hughes?
S: Not at that time, no, it was much later. It was two of my associates, Wally Roder and one other, we formed a company there, in Manila, which was called Insular Fishing and Trading, Inc. We had one boat, we bought a surplus medium trawler it was 78 feet, we had it converted for ice and refrigeration set up as what they call a new tossic trawler for deep-sea fishing in the South China Sea. Then also used it for international trading type of thing.
I: That was the same Wally Roder that built
the explosive devices for you?
I: Did he stay in the Philippines?
S: Yes, he was married to a Swiss gal, she was one of my nurses there. She was the one that I was chewing on most of the time they operated. Anyway, they broke up and then he stayed there and then he died much later on. So, I stayed in Manila. I married there in early 1948. I married the daughter of the French Ambassador there, by whom I have four children. My present wife wasn't even born at that time.
I: It shows your youth.
S: Yeah, all in my head.
I: Every person's life has it's peaks and
valleys, what would you say were some of your peaks and some of
S: I have had lots of peaks and lots of valleys. From peaks, probably the accomplishments during the war and the satisfaction that I got from having accomplished what I did and still stayed alive. The Valleys were many many during the war, too numerous to even think about. After the war, I went through several series of depression and emotional breakdowns. I had what they call PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), all these years and I still from time to time get a little touch of it. I would say probably my current peak is getting a nice young wife that can support me. Even though it is not in the style in which I am accustomed. When I was with Hughes, I had a very successful period. I was Vice-President and General Manager for the Orient there for Hughes. I won the first contract for the satellite that flew the 1964 Olympics that they broadcast live from Tokyo for the first time. I won the contract for Japan for the latest version of the air defense system ground control. Which lead to a multi-billion dollar business review. Because after winning that one, we won practically all of them around the world. That was the first decision.
I: That was a big one.
S: It was very big. It ended up being a couple of billion of dollars with them alone; it started out about six or seven hundred million.
I: Was it the best warning device? Very
S: It was very good. So, that was probably from a business standpoint, that was probably the most productive and I enjoyed myself there, I made so many good friends. Even those who were against me during the war, there were two, I don't know if I mentioned it to you or not, it is not in the book, I got to know two of the three men that had planned Pearl Harbor. There were three of them, Admiral Yamamoto, Captain Genda, and Colonel Sashima. Colonel Sashima was the Army man and he was classmate of the Emperor's brother, but he was the Army type. Genda was the one who led the attack, he was a Navy Captain, if you saw Tora Tora Tora, you heard, "Gendason, Gendason." well that was Genda. And then Yamamoto who was killed during the war. But both of those people became friends of mine they are the ones that got out the archives that said I was the worst bandit there in the Philippines and had a price on my head, I think they said $200,000, I think it was either $100,000 or $200,000.
I: Did they give you a copy of that?
S: No. It is with the Japanese in their thing. But Sashima's picture is upstairs. I think there may be a copy in my website. There is even a picture of General Baba. You talk about odd coincidences, after my book came out in 1991 I received a letter from a man by the name of Edwin Ramsay, spelled 'a y' instead of 'e y', who had been a coast watcher in the Lingayen Intelligence Bureau during the war. He is an Australian. He had copies of Genda in Borneo; he had pictures of him taking the surrender of the Japanese. You talk about a strange coincidence you can't get stranger than that. It was so interesting. I got a letter from that guy and I tried to write him not too long ago, maybe a year ago, no answer so maybe he died, moved, or something like that. It was really a strange coincidence.
I: On behalf of the California Military Museum I want to say thank you for allowing us to be with you today. It has been a lovely opportunity for me to get to know you and I really appreciate on behalf of the California Military History Educational Project.