WWII Medics of the 124th Infantry Regiment
The Diary |
April 12, 1945
President [Roosevelt] died. We packed everything that we were going
to take with us. Johnny and the other boys shipped out in the morning.
"Johnny and the other boys" were Dad's boyhood friends and former
classmates at Saint Elizabeth Elementary School in East Saint Louis,
Illinois. Dad and Johnny were close. "Pvt. John C. Branz, 36925896,
Co. I, 19th Infantry, A.P.O. 24, Inter-Island, Mindanao" is the first
entry in Dad's address book. Right: Some of Dad's boyhood friends (L
to R): Back Row: John Branz, Charles Rigney, Gerard Tonies, and
Unknown. Front Row: Richard Somerville (Dad's first cousin), Lawrence
Branz, Paul Tonies, and John Ray 'Kissy' Kistner. (Bob Webber)
Friday, April 13, 1945
Shipped out of Fort Ord for San Francisco. Got on board ship. It
sailed at 7 P.M. P.W.T. [Pacific War Time] Found that the boys were
President Roosevelt instituted year-round Daylight Savings Time, called
Time, on 9 February 1942.
Left: Soldiers in bunks aboard the S.S. Pennant, port of embarkation
San Francisco, California, on 1 November 1942 (National Archives). Right: Photo
of a berthing compartment aboard a
troop ship. (Bluejacket.com) Troop ship quarters were cramped. Dad
stayed at Fort Ord from 3 through 12 April 1945, before shipping out
of San Francisco aboard the
General E. T. Collins, a General Squier class troop transport
which carried 3,300 troops. The web page of a sister ship, the
General R. E. Callan, shows more photos of this class of ship.
John Einmo, a friend and World War II veteran, wrote to me in
February 2002 and described his journey aboard a troop ship. He
wrote, "I boarded a converted United Fruit Co. ship with exactly the
same setup of bunks, just like in your father's diary page photos. We
always fought for the top bunks because after 18 days of rolling and
bucking heavy seas in the North Pacific, almost everyone was heaving
up on the unlucky ones in the lower bunks. One in particular didn't
get out of his bunk during the whole trip,
and we kept him alive feeding him Fig Newtons. Sanitation was almost
nil, and many of us developed strep throat." Right: A General Squier
class troop transport in Bombay
(Mumbai) Harbor, India,
during World War II.
Sunday, April 22, 1945
Crossed equator at 7 A.M. in the morning. Crossed it close
to Baker Island but didn't see it. Haven't seen land since
we set sail from Calif.
Since the ship crossed the International Date Line one day later,
it must have crossed the equator due east of
a tiny uninhabited atoll in the mid-Pacific at
176.48ºW. Baker Island lies 4291 miles from San
Francisco, on bearing 246º, and 1975 miles from Hilo, Hawaii, on
bearing 230º. It is slightly east of the
Gilbert Islands. For an overview of
the Pacific Theater see
Pacific Naval Battles,
War Timeline, and
Hyperwar: World War
II: Pacific Theater of Operations.
Sunday, April 23, 1945 [Monday, April 23, 1945]
Today is Sunday again - we crossed the international date
line - two Sundays in a row. [date and entry crossed out]
Left: The certificate which confirms that Dad crossed the
international date line on 23 April 1945, aboard the troop ship
U.S.S. General E. T. Collins (AP-147). It is a colorful honorary
certificate adorned with green dragons and blonde maidens, bearing
the inscription "Domain of the Golden Dragon, Ruler of the 180th
Meridian." Dad told me about seeing flying fish during his Pacific
Ocean crossing, but he said nothing about dragons or maidens.
Tuesday, April 24, 1945 [Wednesday, April 25, 1945]
Crossed the internatl date line last nite so there is no April
24th - it's now Wed [April 25]. We skipped from
Monday to Wed - no Tuesday.
The time change when crossing the International
Date Line can be confusing.
Friday, April 27th
Saw land for the first time in 13 days - we now know where
we're at. We passed between Guadalcanal and San Cristobol
[San Cristobal] Islands in the
Group. We're now in the Coral Sea. Coral Sea is
rougher than the mid Pacific - the ship is really pitching
probably due to nearness of land. A
Vega patrol bomber picked us up off Guadalcanal.
It swooped down so close you could touch it with a broom.
identified us as a friendly ship.
Left: QM2/c R. H. Swickard operating a signal
aboard the U.S.S. Sandlance during World War II. (National
Archives) Right: A Lockheed Vega
Ventura patrol bomber like the one Dad saw. I contacted
Alan C. Carey in
February 2002, and he wrote, "Only the Royal New Zealand Air Force
(RNZAF) flew the PV-1 Ventura in the vicinity of Guadalcanal during
April 1945. It was probably No. 1 Bomber Reconnaissance
Squadron (RNZAF), which was stationed at Guadalcanal from March-May
1945. The purpose of RNZAF PV-1 squadrons was to harass the
Japanese on Rabaul."
Sunday, April 29th
Passed New Britain Is. and then went into Finchaven
[Finschhafen], New Guinea - didn't even stop -
got instructions from shore by blinker and changed course.
Finschhafen is on the east coast of
New Guinea, due east of Lae on the Nugidu Peninsula. Dad told me
that he remembered sailing close to New Guinea. He said that none of
the GIs knew whether this was their destination. When he saw the
thick jungle growth, he was scared and thought, "It would be hell to
live and fight in this." The ship sailed on.
Monday, April 30
Steaming toward the Admiralty Isles which are on the horizon.
Since we left Finchaven [Finschhafen] yesterday have been passing
all kinds of unidentified islands. Most of them mountainous
with peaks sticking up into clouds. Just peaks stickin out of
These were islands of the Bismarck Archipelago, part of Papua New
Guinea, in the Bismarck Sea south of
Manus and the
Admiralty Islands. Right: A photo of Dad's diary page with the sketch
that he drew.
May 2, 1945
Arrived at an unidentified harbor in the Carolinas (near Palau).
20 or more ships anchored here. ["Carolinas" is crossed out.
"Pelielieu Is" and "Palau, Is." are written in blue ink in the margin.]
This was Peleliu, also known as Beliliou Island, in the
Islands, west of the Caroline Islands, and about 500 miles due east of
Mindanao. Here is a
of the West Pacific Islands and a
of Peleliu. The U.S.
Marines invaded Peleliu on 15 September 1944. Here is a photo of
Marines who fought in the battle. (National Archives)
May 3, 1945
Left harbor - convoy of 7 ships and two DE's
Escorts]. Sister ship to ours in convoy. Several tankers and
some merchantmen. One DE dropped ash cans
[depth charges] at
about 6 PM - sub contact.
May 4, 1945
Had another sub contact and changed course. After danger
was past resumed old course. Our destination will be
announced tonite, but we all know that it's Manila ["Manila"
crossed out] Leyte.
The rumor mill was active. Imagine a bunch of 18 and 19 year-olds
going to war and trying to figure out their destination.
May 5, 1945
Pulled into Leyte.
Here is a
Map and a
Map of the Philippines.
May 6, 1945
Landed on a LST on Red Beach. ["S" in LST is changed to "C"]
Ship Tank and LCT =
Craft Tank. I remember Dad talking
about the LST, but I don't know whether he sailed on one. He
went ashore at Leyte on an LCT, which is smaller than an LST.
Here are two photos of LSTs on Leyte's Red Beach in 1944:
1, LST 2. (National
Archives Photos) Red Beach was at Palo, Leyte, just south of Tacloban
on Leyte Gulf. This is where
Douglas MacArthur went ashore on 20 October 1944, during the
initial landings to
the Philippines. Here is a photo that shows
transporting American troops ashore during the Allied invasion of
Leyte. The men are looking up to watch the air battle overhead.
(National Archives) The subsequent naval
of Leyte Gulf marked the end of the
Imperial Japanese Navy
as an effective fighting force.
[May 25, 1945]
Stayed at Leyte until Friday, May 18, 1945. We boarded LCI's
and sailed for Mindanao. Arrived at Malabang
airstrip on May 21st, 1945. Pitched pup tents and slept on
ground. Eating nothing but emergency rations - 10 in 1 -
Have been here since 21st. It is now May 25th. We should
fly out of here to the front in C-47's to Valentia [Valencia] 31st
division - Dixie Division.
Left: An early model Landing Craft Infantry Large, LCI(L)-39.
(Patrick Clancey) The LCI(L) could carry an entire company of 200
infantry troops and their equipment. Malabang is located 30 miles
north of Cotabato
on the west coast of Mindanao.
is due south of
in Bukidnon Province, and was the location of the
31st Infantry Division Headquarters at that time. See this
of Mindanao from
Southern Philippines Campaign. It shows the Allied strategy
of invading Mindanao at Parang and Cotabato on the west coast, and
advancing inland via Highway 1 and the Mindanao River. The
ration was a ration package designed to feed ten men for one day.
It was intended for feeding small groups for a limited time when they
were beyond their field kitchens, and prior to actual commitment to
[June 3, 1945]
We left Malabang on landing barges and headed up the Mindanao
River. We stopped overnite along the River and pitched
tents. The next day we arrived at this place - I don't know
it's name if it has one - 75 kilos up river. We've been here
since May 28th. Left Malabang Sunday, May 27th and arrived
here May 28th. It is now June 3, 1945. I celebrated my
19th birthday on Thursday, May 31st.
Left: A Landing Craft Medium (LCM) transporting troops on the
Mindanao River during World War II. (National Archives) This is
probably the type of landing barge on which he traveled up the
Mindanao River. The place 75 kilometers upstream was Pikit, or Fort
Pikit, an old Spanish fort. Pikit is near the Libungan Marsh and the
Liguasan Swamp, which are habitat for crocodiles. Dad celebrated his
19th birthday in Pikit, Mindanao, 75 kilometers ESE up the Mindanao
River from Cotabato, with crocodiles nearby. This is when Mom says he
had his photo taken next to a sandbagged hole (below, left). His
caption on the back of this photo is written below. It refers to
Oriental, two provinces in north central Mindanao. I found another
copy of this photo on which Dad wrote, "Our pos[ition] on bridge guard."
The photo on the right shows Dad holding his
M1 Garand rifle.
These two photos were taken at the same location. It appears that
during their 11-day stay in Pikit, the troops had time to relax and
wash their socks.
31 May 1945
PFC ROBERT THOMAS WEBBER
36925893 U.S. ARMY
124TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
[June 8, 1945]
Left Pikit by truck on June 8th. Arrived Parang June 8th
- 45 miles. Boarded
218 and set sail for northern Mindanao.
Right: A Landing Ship Medium,
(Patrick Clancey) The LSM was configured to carry tanks and trucks,
and could also carry 50 combat troops. Parang is a harbor on the west
coast of Mindanao between Malabang and Cotabato. They had traveled
all the way to Pikit in the interior of Mindanao, 70 miles south of
Valencia, and turned around. They returned to the west coast of
Mindanao and boarded LSMs to travel to the north coast. Perhaps the
roads were too bad to travel north from Pikit. Knowing how much my
father loved flying, I am sure that he was disappointed at not being
able to fly in a
from Malabang to Valencia. Here is a photo of an
LSM at Mindanao and
photos of the Parang floating dock facility:
(Photos Paul Tillery)
Sunday, June 10, 1944 
I'm now aboard an L.S.M. I just happened to remember that
Grandma Sculley died 7 years ago today. Time flies.
Janet [Dad's sister] will be 7 on June 18th.
Left: Dad's family at home in 1945. Left to right: Janet, Irene,
Carol, and Mike. Dad's Army portrait is on the table next to Janet.
Dad may have taken this photo in March 1945, during his leave after
he completed Infantry basic training at Camp Robinson, Arkansas.
Dad's maternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Breslyn) Sculley,
lived with the family at 2300 Belleview Avenue in East Saint Louis and
shared a room with Dad. He was with her when she died. He told me of
his vivid memories of her dying of heart failure on the humid stormy
night of 10 June 1938. She was sitting in a chair, having great
difficulty breathing, and told Dad, "Get your mother!" She died soon
Landed at Buga on North coast. Rode by trucks during day
and slept by roadside at night - beautiful country -
road very bad but it winds like a snake thru the mountains.
Cold at nite. Passed thru Del Monte Plantation.
Crawford - Owner.
Left: Bob Webber and Massie Vanderbilt posing with pineapples and
weapons. This photo was probably taken during their truck convoy stop
at the Del Monte pineapple plantation in Bukidnon Province in
northern Mindanao. Dad is holding a
automatic rifle, which must have been Vanderbilt's weapon.
Vanderbilt is holding an M1 Garand rifle, which was Dad's weapon.
"Buga" is Bugo, on the north coast of Mindanao, 15 kilometers east
of Cagayan de Oro, on Macajalar Bay. The Del Monte pineapple
plantation is 34 kilometers southeast of Cagayan de Oro, near Camp
Philips. Mr. Crawford was the plantation manager.
MacArthur escaped from the
Airfield in a B-17 before the
fell in May 1942. Mom told me that Dad described how he and some
of his buddies went into the pineapple fields to sample the fruit.
After they had returned to the trucks, some local Filipinos asked,
"Did the snakes bother you?"
Here are photos of a
truck convoy and a typical
snake-like mountain road
on Mindanao in 1945. (Paul Tillery) Right: The Del Monte Pineapple
Plantation in Bukidnon Province, Mindanao.
June 14, 1945
You might call this the beginning of my combat experience.
Yesterday we finally reached the rear echelon of Co. F. We
slept in a tent and got rained out. I've been sleeping on
the ground for about a month now. This morning I had my first
hot meal in 3 weeks. After breakfast we began a hike that I
will never forget. Partly because of the physical torture I
endured and partly from seeing Jap corpses all along the way.
We are fighting in the mountains about 13 mi. from Malabalay
[Malaybalay]. The night of the 14 we dug in (4 of us
to a hole) each fellow taking a two hour watch. The fellows
were pretty trigger happy. Today I saw two dead Japs and a
Dr. Tom Deas confirms that this was near Silae, in the mountains
due east of Malaybalay. He said, "F Company was part of
Second Battalion and was the factor that cleaned out those
Japanese in the Silae area."
June 15, 1945
Today we hiked as far as a field hospital over one of the worst
mountain trails there are. In the valleys you go into mud
up to your waist and the trail over the mountains are wet and
slippery; so far we've carried packs and rifles.
June 16, 1945
Today we added a 4.2 [inch]
mortar shell to our load. (28 lbs) We figured out that each
guy was carrying 70 pounds now. My shoulders are raw from the
pack straps. Going up the side of a mountain with such a load
is just plain torture. You feel like your going to die from
exaustion at any moment. 5 miles in these mountains is
equivalent to a 20 mile hike with full field pack back in the
states. Yesterday and today I saw dead Japs all along the
way. Some were just bones, others just corpses by a few
days. You can smell one coming up about 50 yards away.
We've been drinking water from a fast flowing creek that is
polluted by dead Japs. Today we waded knee deep in a swift
mountain stream that nearly carried you away. (up stream.) My
feet have been wet for 3 days now.
I remember Dad telling me about this combat patrol. As the patrol
hiked upstream, he and other new replacements drank from the stream,
unaware that they would soon encounter the decomposing bodies of dead
Japanese soldiers in the water. He described seeing maggots in the
corpses and the skin peeling from their arms and hands. He also
described the horrific realization of what was in the water he had
June 16 [second entry]
We got to this place yesterday and have been resting all day. Our
supplies are dropped by plane. A C-47 flies over every day and
drops K rations. Ammo and Med supplies also dropped this way
too. It's a damned queer feeling to be cut off from the rest
of the world so completely.
Left the old Btn. hdqtrs. and head for F Co. which was on patrol in
the mountains. Still have the mortar shells. Slept in an
open field with a few dead Japs nearby.
Today we finally joined F Co. I'm now on one side of a river with the
Japs on the other side. (just a swift stream). More physical
endurance. Climbing the mountains. About noon a patrol brought in a
Jap prisoner. They questioned him and then turned him over to the
Guerillas. The Filipinos beat the hell out of him and then a couple
of Replacements like myself shot him. I couldn't force myself to
watch it and still feel like it was murder. However there was no
possible way to get him back to a prison camp thru these mountains.
After the boys pumped 30 slugs into him there wasn't much left of
him. I feel that the guys that shot him did the wrong thing. They
should have let the Filipinos finish him off. As I write now I'm in
the dugout looking across the river. A few holes away on either side
are 30 calibre heavies
caliber heavy machine gun]. We're dug in in a perimeter the only
defense ever used at nite over here. Anybody that gets out of his
hole from dark to dawn is a Jap. You shoot first and ask questions
later. (or heave out a grenade)
Dad spoke of one soldier whose weapon was a
Submachine Gun, who let him test fire the weapon. He described to
me how the muzzle would rise up and to one side when firing a long
burst. He later witnessed this soldier killing a Japanese POW with
the weapon. It sickened him.
We were told that we were going back to Salay [Silae] to ambush 50
Japs. However when we got to Salay [Silae], we found that the
Filipinos had taken care of the ones they found.
June 20, 1945
Today I was outpost guard on top of a high hill overlooking the Salay
[Silae] valley. It's a former Jap observation post. Much to my
surprise I found an old Catholic bell (Spanish) dated 1898. It had
this inscription on it.
SAN YSIDOR LABRADOR
Saint Isidor Labrador in the year 1898. How it was ever brought up
into these mountains is beyond me. They say that years ago a
missionary traveled thru here.
My mother told me in May 2001 that Dad began smoking while in the Army
in the Philippines. The Army provided cigarettes along with rations,
and Dad told her that he sometimes smoked while on guard duty because
"there was nothing else to do." He smoked cigarettes until 1953.
Today we marched back to the Palangy River. (where F Co. is
located.) Again we carried a 4.2 mortar shell back with us - I was
really tired out when we got back. ["Palangy" is crossed out and
rewritten as "Pulangi." It is marked for pronunciation with the
accent on the second syllable.]
The Pulangi River is the name for northern reaches of the Mindanao
River, east of Malaybalay. Silae is located west from the Pulangi
River up Silae Creek.
Just layed around today. G company crossed the Palangy
[Pulangi] on a patrol.
Today I crossed the River and we took over G Companies old perimeter.
Although we sleep in dugouts, everybody is using Nylon sheets and
covers. 4 of us got a red nylon 24 foot parachute that is used to
drop ammo and medical supplies. Food is dropped without a chute. Each
chute costs better than $150 - $200. However there is no way to get
them out of the mountains, so the boys tear them up and use them.
I went on a 6 man security patrol up the river. Found a couple dead
Japs killed by maching [machine] gun fire yesterday. No living Japs
seen. This afternoon we came back over the river on a rubber raft.
Back to Salay! [Silae] We're finally going in.
Layed around waiting C47 food drop.
Went as far as hospital unit and supporting 105's.
[105 mm howitzers]
Got back to Malabalay [Malaybalay] at noon Thur. Had first hot meal.
Here is photo of a 124th Infantry
mess hall in Malaybalay
(Paul Tillery). Hot chow is always a favorite of any army in the
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