|Cassette recorded oral history copied from an interview with William Harvey prior to his death. He served in the United Army during World War II. He served in the 37th Division in the Pacific.
A recounting of his experiences in the Second World War.
(This is a transcription of the audio portion of a VHS tape Mr. Harvey created for his family. It is copied with permission of his wife, Ruth. R: indicates Ruth; X: indicates an unidentified female and Y: an unidentified male, possibly a son, both of whom pose questions of William).
Okay. [ ] to bring you up to date on my army experience. So I thought I would take it from the time I was in high school when war was declared in 1941 when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor, just in case Deanna and Jeff don't know that.
December 7, 1941 I was listening to a Packer game when I was ushering at the [Ford East] Theater. We had a radio in the lobby. And while I had just taken somebody down to their seats and when I came back up to talk to the ticket taker, it broke out on the Packer game that the Japs had just attacked [ ]. So I had to make an announcement over the PA system to the audience. And then everybody started leaving the theater to go and check at home and all this and that.
But anyway, that's how it got started. And that was in '41 and in March of '43 a friend of mine, Chipper Condon from the First Ward where I lived, and I decided that we had enough school so we thought that we'd volunteer for the Army. And we volunteered on March 9th. We went to Milwaukee. Oh by the way, we volunteered but we were sent with the draft people. So we didn't have our choice on where [ ] the Marines or the Air Corps, whatever.
So we ended up in Milwaukee for our physical exams on March 9th. And then at that time they gave you a week's furlough. A week of inactive service, so I had to report back to Milwaukee on March 16th. And that was the day they buried my grandpa, the man I was named after. My folks decided it was too short of a time. They asked for an extension of time and everything, and what could I do? So I ended up at Fort Sheridan, Illinois that night, Chipper and I. And we spent one day at Fort Sheridan. And you know where Fort Sheridan is, down in Illinois, near Chicago. And the next day, yeah about the 15th, no the 17th we were shipped out.
And we ended up at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. And I was a member of the 106th Infantry Division. That book there with the golden eagle, or lion on it, that division was activated March 15th of 1943. And the average of our division was about eighteen and a half years old. We were all young kids. And of course there was an older cadre, they called em cadre, those were the teachers that came from other divisions to teach you how to fight. And we had basic training at Fort Jackson for nine months.
And when I went in, I was a private. Oh by the way, when I was at the theater, after the, oh it was probably about in 1942, a fellow by the name of Carl Hibler who was the manager of the [Ford East] theater was drafted. And then the head manager of the theaters from Madison made me the manager of the [Ford East] theater. I was a sophomore in high school. I got $35.00 a week at that time. That was back in '42. And I had to take tickets, I sold candy, I had to change all the advertising, I had to do everything. I had to vacuum and polish the brass. And I had to do all of that kind of stuff. And I, then I hired a couple of my buddies from high school as ushers under my direction. Dick Sullivan, one of the guys that was at our house and just died recently, and Bill Hardy, remember Bill Hardy? They were ushers for me.
Well anyway when I was down at Fort Jackson, my friend Chipper ended up in the 423rd Infantry Regiment and I ended up in the 424th. A division by the way, has three regiments. So there was the 422, 423 and 424. And it is comprised of about 15,000 soldiers with all of the other groups that are part of service companies and the medical and the auxiliary. Well anyway I was in Company G of a rifle company and I was trained as a rifleman in Company G of the 106th Division.
And then all of a sudden they decided they needed an anti-tank company, a mine platoon of the anti-tank company. An anti-tank company was a company that had little guns called 37- millimeter guns. And you would chase tanks with that. And then you would have to spread the tracks and try to put it in action. By the time you got the gun in action, the tanks were gone. So they weren't too good. That's when the bazookas came into play. Then we started using bazookas, which you fired from your shoulder. One guy put the shell in the [ ] and another guy fired it.
But anyway, after I was in the Company G for about four or five months, I was promoted to a Private First Class, PFC. One stripe. And when I was promoted to a PFC, I got moved to the mine platoon of the anti-tank company, which was just a new company in the anti-tank company. And we were trained on de-activating mines, land mines. The round land mines about like that thing there. And we learned how to do that. They weren't loaded. They just had blanks and if you touched em wrong, of course they would explode but it wouldn't hurt you.
But you learned how to de-activate those things. You went around, all the way around the mine with a bayonet to see if there was any wires connected to it to connect it to another one. And then you put some pieces of stuff underneath it, the deactivator type of thing. And then you unscrewed the deactivator and were able to deactivate the mine. We did all those things in the states and I never had to deactivate a mine overseas.
I was home on furlough in June of 1944 when they invaded Normandy, the Normandy invasion of France. And I was home on furlough. I think I had a two-week furlough then. And when I got back to Camp Atterbury, Indiana where we had gone to after we had maneuvers in Tennessee, after we had a nine months basic training in South Carolina, we went to Tennessee in the winter for maneuvers. It was so cold, what we'd do during the day, we'd build a fire on flat rocks. There were a lot of flat rocks. It was near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. And we'd build that fire and those rocks would be hot. And then at night we'd sleep on em. And that's where you played army. You had the blue team and the red team. It was like this [ ] game you know, where you had red bands or blue bands and you tried to capture one another. And that was the maneuvers.
Well then we went from there to Camp Atterbury, Indiana and that's where I was home on furlough. And when I got back, my outfit was gone. The 106th Division had shipped out to Europe. And Chipper and I were still at Camp Atterbury because we had been trying to get a transfer to the paratroopers. And even though I was home on furlough, I couldn't go because the [ ] they had shipped out. Chipper was there and he didn't have to go because they were waiting for his transfer to come through.
So we were still at Camp Atterbury after the 106th got shipped over to Europe. And to make a long story short, the 106th Division that was in the Battle of the Bulge that the Germans attacked. They were the center division in the Battle of the Bulge and they found out that they were just all young recruits from the United States and that's where they attacked. So if I would have not been home on furlough, I would have been there and we had, they had 50% casualties. They had more men killed and more men wounded. And I ran into two of the guys that survived down at Madison when I enrolled at Madison. I met a couple of guys and they told me about what happened. But anyway that was one thing that saved me.
So I was home on furlough. I got back and then we got a whole bunch of guys that were called ASTP, Army Specialized Training Program. Fellows that were going to the universities, learning how to be doctors and other types of things in the Army. And we called them "Junior Birdmen." They were Air Corps boys that were in Air Corps school and because they needed more soldiers in the infantry, they brought these guys back in [ ] training.
And then us guys were the cadre. We had to train them. And we got a little upset about it because we would be out on a 25 or 35 mile hike and we'd get back to the barracks at night, and these guys, while we're all pooped and tired out and took a shower and tried to rest; they'd get their books out and start studying again. So we'd have them take their toothbrushes out and we'd have them scrub the floor. That's the way it was in the Army. You got after somebody like that.
But anyway, so then Chipper and I volunteered for a port of embarkation. By that time I was a buck sergeant. That was three stripes. And we volunteered because there was a POE assignment, that's port of embarkation for Fort Meade, Maryland where they needed so many sergeants. Non-coms. So we volunteered for that. Chipper didn't make it because his papers for the paratroopers came through and mine didn't. so he was waving goodbye to me and I was on the train and the train didn't go to Maryland. It ended up in Fort Ord, California.
So I was assigned to the Pacific and we stayed at Fort Ord, California, that's near Monterey and the Grand Sur, which we never knew about when we were there because we were only there a couple weeks. And so then I shipped out of San Francisco and the motto was when we were going under the Golden Gate Bridge, was "Golden Gate in 48." And that was in '44. We all said we'd be lucky if we got back by '48.
So then we went from there to Buna in New Guinea. This was New Guinea and there's a little place called Buna. That's where the 32nd Wisconsin Division got all shot to pieces in the early part of the war. Our Red Arrow Division from the state. So I thought I was going to be attached to the 32nd Division. But a few days later I got my orders and I was shipped to the Solomon Islands, to Bougainville, which is right here. There's a whole bunch of islands there and Bougainville was one of the Solomons. And that's where I joined the 37th "Buckeye" Division from Ohio.
And those fellows, some of those guys had been overseas for thirty-six months already. And I joined em as a buck sergeant. And some of those guys were still privates. And at that time I was just assigned to a squad. I didn't have any non-com duties. I was just a fill-in. And eventually as some of those fellows were rotated home on rotation, you got rotated home when you had so many numbers or so many points. When I ended up I had sixty-one points. You got five points for every battle you were in, and five points if you were a combat infantryman, and five points if you got a Bronze Star, or five points if you got a Purple Heart and all this and that. And that's how they decided how to send guys home.
So anyway I trained with the 37th at Bougainville and when I got there it was still a battle zone so I got five points on my rotation. And actually all I had to do there is learn parts of what the squads did and all this and that. Because we were on the perimeter. In other words what we meant by a perimeter there, the island was not secure. There was still fighting and what would happen is if an outfit would go up to the front lines every so many days, and then the other outfit would come back into the rest area. You'd have movies and you'd have Bob Hope and those type of people entertain.
So I was there I think, from September of '44 and then we left Bougainville I think around November of '44. And we had the largest fleet in the Pacific war at that time. And they took us from Bougainville and all the other islands where there were various army and elements. And we went up through the Admiralty Islands and some other islands and I finally ended up in Lingayen Gulf, which is right in here on Luzon in the Philippines.
X: How do you spell that?
What, Lingayen? L-I-N-G-A-Y-E-N. It's all in the stuff there if you want to look at it. So anyway I ended up on January 9th of 1945, that's 51 years ago almost, we invaded Luzon. You probably heard of Leyte and all those other islands. They were down in here. But this was MacArthur's main island, Luzon. He ah, his headquarters before the war was in Manila.
And what happened on the invasion of Luzon, Formosa is right up here. The whole fleet, the Naval fleet made a feint like they were gonna invade Formosa. So the Japs weren't knowledgeable about us landing in Lingayen Gulf. And then they turned around and they shelled that area, the Lingayen Gulf area of Luzon and the first day some of our elements got in as far as thirteen miles which was very far because the Japs were retreating at that time.
They, I always said the Japs were always cowards. They were always retreating. They were killing civilians and everybody else and they were always retreating and trying to burn up everything. Well anyway from Lingayen Gulf to Manila which is about oh, right about in the middle here, it was about 160 miles. And on January 9th we invaded and I was in Manila on February 3rd.
And there was fighting all the way down. And again I was lucky because I was in a mechanized outfit. I didn't have to march or hike. The guys in the infantry, the foot soldiers, had to wade through rice paddies. They had to lay in the water. The Japs would be hiding in these rice paddies and picking you off as you went by. Luckily enough I was, we had Jeeps and we had ton-and-a-half trucks that pulled our little guns.
So anyway we made it to outside of Manila by the 2nd of February. And on the 2nd of February, that night when we got there to this point, before there was a river we had to cross, there was a brewery called the [Balatowoc] Brewery. I don't know if they still make beer or not but I have seen it once since I got back to the states. And the Japs had been making beer there. And when we started, when we were coming down the road going there, we saw all these guys coming with their helmets like mine, without the liner in them. And then they had the straps, they were carrying their helmets full of beer. And then there was some guys, two guys with two bamboo poles and they had a keg of beer tied onto the poles. They were walking down the street. Well anyway when we finally got there, our captain decided we were gonna stay there that night. So we had some of that beer. And it was all green. We all got sick from it.
The next day our captain, Captain Horvath, he was from Columbus, Ohio, he was one of these guys that was, oh he wanted to be the first guy everyplace. So to get to that place we had to ride on a Jeep with our 37-millimeter antitank gun hooked on. And we rode on narrow gauge railroad over those ties to get to the spot. And when we got to that spot we bedded down there overnight and then the next day we built a little raft to take our Jeep and our gun across the river. It's all written up in the book there with that red insignia on it. And when they wrote it up in the book, they called it the Antitank Company of the 148th Infantry. But it was Antitank Company of the 145th. It was us, not Antitank Company 148. That was another regiment. We had the 129, 145 and 148. I was with the 145. Remember that was the 37th Division, not the 106th.
So anyway on the 3rd of February our captain and four or five of us that were on that Jeep and gun drove down [Lazelle] Avenue in Manila, which was the main avenue. And there were snipers. And we got through and we were in Manila. We got the guy (referring to Douglas MacArthur?), in Manila sometime in, about the 10th of February. And he held us, he held our division up at that river. Some of our elements of our division couldn't get across that river because he held up a pontoon bridge that you could drive across. So his outfit that he was with in the first war could be the first outfit into Manila, the 1st Cavalry.
And when they finally did get into Manila they were trying to rescue some American prisoners that were in Santo Tomas University [ ] prison. And that outfit was circled by Japs and our 148 Regiment had to go in and rescue MacArthur's old outfit. And that's the way it was in the whole war. MacArthur was always trying to be first in everything. And he would hold up things so that he could be the star. They practiced him wading ashore four or five times because he got his boots wet. They had like these [ ] they use to show those things in the movies in the news on what was happening overseas.
Well anyway on the fifth of February my sergeant, Sgt. Hobart Reed from Cleveland, Ohio and I were assigned to pull our 37 millimeter gun up a bridge that was blown out in the Tondo Chinese district of Manila. And we were supposed to fire that gun at a machine-gun nest that was in a church steeple about half a mile down that street. And while we were trying to do that the Filipinos that were in that area were trying to get out. There was a lady with her leg almost shot off and her baby in her arms, and I rescued her. And I brought her back. All there was, was a couple planks to walk across. And she was trying to crawl across. So I got her out.
And this bridge was like this at one time. With this nice little river. And I was lying on the ground, ready to load our 37-millimeter antitank gun and Sgt. Reed was kneeling in a kneeling position to fire it. And a shell came through and took his head off. Right next to me. I had his blood and everything all over me. And luckily enough, I was lying down. That's where I got the Bronze Star, at that place. Reed didn't get anything. He was killed. I looked in the book. He never got a Bronze Star.
But anyway that was in, and the guy that wrote me up for the Bronze Star was a lieutenant that was with our company by the name of Lt. [Lickman]. He was a Jewish fellow from New York. And he wrote me up for the Bronze Star.
And after the battle of Manila ended around the end of February, our company, the antitank company was put on M.P. duty in Manila. And it was our job there to be military police. We'd ride around in our Jeeps and our trucks and we would break up fights. And we would do this and so that and we were located in what was called the [Melacanon] Palace Gardens which was right across the Pasay River from the presidential palace where what's her name had all of her shoes?
Y: Marcos, Imelda.
Well I was right in that garden, right across that river. And there was a nice building there like a country club building, with a swimming pool. There was a gym and a bowling alley in the gym. And that's where we were headquarters for six weeks, our company. And before we left there, Lt. Lickman was shipped out of our company for something that happened between he and some other officers.
And when we left MP duty at Manila, we were shipped east of Manila to an area called the [Mt. Pakawagon]. That was a mountain, one of three mountains. And we were sent there to relieve an element of the 6th Division. And when we got there, on the evening before the infantry tried to scale that mountain. The mountain was a 60-degree angle. And the 6th Division was there before the First Battalion of our regiment got there. They'd been shot out of there.
And so they replaced them with our regiment. Well anyway, Lt. Lickman brought his company of, I think it was Company C in and we asked him if he would stay within our perimeter. We'd stand guard that night. And he could bring his company in there and they could rest because they were the guys that were going to have to go up the mountain about 4:30 or 5 o'clock [ ]. So we did. He came in and of course I knew him probably real well because was more or less with us when that happened where I got the Bronze Star.
And our duty for awhile there, because we couldn't take our trucks and our guns up that 60-degree incline, was to carry rations, and water and wounded down. They went up that mountain on one day, and the next day I helped carry Lt. Lickman's body down. He was killed up there. And all because of some little petty thing that happened between he and other officers in our regiment er, in our company; was transferred to a rifle company and then he was killed. Just like that, that's how things happen.
So anyway we finally with bulldozers, caterpillar bulldozers and such, they made a winding road so we, and then they pulled our 57 millimeter antitank guns. At that time we had 57's and the difference between a 57 and a 37's was that 37's were just armor piercing. They would just hit a tank and run around inside a tank. But a 57 millimeter was [ ] and that would blow up whenever it would hit anything. And we used em up on that mountain in lieu of artillery because the Japs were all in the caves and they couldn't get any artillery up there. So they pulled our smaller guns up there and we kept firing across. That's where I went deaf. We fired, one day my squad fired 200 rounds of ammunition into those caves. And by the time we were done, our barrel was almost red hot on that gun. And I think that's where my ears went. Because most of the guys that were in the artillery or had those kind of guns did have that problem.
Well anyway we finally secured that whole area east of Manila. It was written up in one of my papers I've got in there that that was one of the most strategic battles in the Philippines because it was the last resistance that the Japs had of retreating. They couldn't retreat too much the other way because that was the ocean. And so they headed for the mountains. So after that battle which I can't remember, it started in April, yeah April of '45, yeah on May 18th of '45 we were relieved. And this is what the supreme commander said: He said, "Your regiment had the bitterest opposition in the Philippines. We had captured three major mountains, six square miles of vital watershed area in 25 days. We had 1566 soldiers killed, over 1300 Japs, with our loss of 100…. No, there was 1500 soldiers killed and 1300 Japs with a loss of 100 killed and 476 wounded. We had contributed to the resistance of the Jap forces in eastern Luzon."
Well that wasn't the end then. You think well, you know, jeez we just got done with Manila. We just got done with this area of Mt. [Pakwagon] and all these other mountain areas. Then we got orders and we were sent up the Cagayan Valley. And the Cagayan Valley was from this area here all the way up to northern tip of Luzon. The island of Luzon. We ended up in a little area called [Tagigula]. And that's way up at the northern point.
And, well there's a lot of things that happened on the way up there. But we were up there. On August 10th there was a false report that the war was over. And we were there at [Tagigula] at that time. That's where I cut my finger. I gashed my finger there because we were sitting in a little bar they had there where they served [neepa] wine made out of some local stuff. And there was a C-ration can on the table. And when we found out the war was over I hit the table like that and I cut my thumb.
Y: Did you get a Purple Heart for that?
Well they tried to give it to me the next day. When I went to get something put on it they said, "How did that happen?" And I said, "Well I just cut it on a C-ration can." "Well you can get a Purple Heart on that." I says, "No, I don't want no Purple Heart on that."
So anyway, then on the 15th of August the war did end. And even though the war ended, it wasn't over for us. Because then we were assigned to bring in Jap prisoners from up in those mountains. And, er Japs. They weren't prisoners at the time. They were prisoners when we made them prisoners. They didn't want to be prisoners. They would rather kill themselves than be a prisoner. But we brought a few back. So I have some pictures of some of them there.
R: That's because they knew what they…
[ ] in the service and sixteen of em were in the states and seventeen something were overseas. I had almost spent a whole year in the Philippines. I ended up with malaria. And we were shipped out of a place called San Fernando, which is on this side of the Luzon Island. And then that's the route we came back home. And while we were on the ship, we were on the ship on Thanksgiving Day, in November of '45, and we all had malaria or dysentery. And they were trying to give us ham or chicken and that kind of stuff and nobody could eat it. And that was the roughest trip you ever wanted to have. It was all rough water in November.
And I got back to Camp Mc…no first of all I got back to a little place near San Francisco called San Pedro, California. To an old Marine camp called Camp [Anza]. And when we got off the ship we were taken to a mess hall and they gave us a half a head of lettuce, and a steak, and a baked potato and a quart of milk. You guys would have liked that! And they said, "Okay. Now you guys eat this and then you go to such and such a barracks and we'll call you. You're being shipped out of here just as soon as the train comes in."
And we just about got through eating and went to a barracks and put our duffel bags down and sat down for awhile. And they said, "Okay, the train is here." So any of the guys that we knew that we had been overseas with, some were from Ohio, some were from Wisconsin, some from Michigan, some from Minnesota, that's the last time you saw em. Because you got on a train that was goin to Wisconsin. They might have got on a train that was goin someplace else. Or whatever.
And I got back to Camp McCoy on the 20th of December, 1945. And that's when we got out. And to make a longer story short, in January I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. And in March I met her.
R: Oh in March we were engaged.
I met you in March during the basketball tournament. Remember?
R: That was our first date. Yeah.
So anyway I met her at the union in March and we hitchhiked to Milwaukee and later on in the spring we told Grandma and Grandpa that we wanted to get married. And her cousin [Witten] who was a prisoner of war in the Bataan death march and her dad were bowling on North Avenue. And Grandma was going out to play bridge. And she said, "I don't have time to talk to you two. I have to go play bridge." She said, "Your dad and [Witten] are over there bowling. You could go over and visit with them." And so we went over there and [Witten] and I started talking about the Philippines. And I was at Cabanatuan where he ended up as a prisoner of war. And I was all over the whole area where he had been. And that night when we were sittin at the table for dinner at her home with her mother and father, Grandma said, "Ruth and Bill decided they'd like to get married." And Grandpa said, "Well hell, if he's alright for [Witten], he's okay for me." (General laughter). And that was it. So that's the end of my story.
X: Well that's pretty neat Dad.
That's the end of it.
R: You'd better show him the….
Y: What was the bullet in [ ] when you were at the old theater or whatever?
Well, I didn't tell you about that. This is a 50 caliber, what do they call the kind, a tracer bullet. That's fired at night. And this is one that has been fired. And this is the one, gimme that helmet a minute. I was lying on a truck on the seats, on the side seats of the truck. In fact I was layin on the left side and the truck was, the back end of the truck was facing the street. And this was in a place where they would bring supplies and stuff into a theater to put on a stage show. And our truck was in there and I was lyin down and I kinda had the helmet like this over my face, you know. Trying to keep the light out, whatever. And this shell hit right here, right in here and the guys that weren't sleeping said that had ricocheted around the walls of that area where that truck was. And they found it for me the next day. And that was one of our own. That was an American shell. It wasn't a Japanese shell.
And that's because up in that area where we were, there was there what we called "wall city inframuras]." Which was a wall or a fort that the Spaniards had built and it was right on the coast of the ocean. And the wall was as wide as this room. And it was about fifteen feet high and it was built with stone on the outside and dirt and gravel and all that. You could drive a truck down it, it was so wide and so strong. And it took 155-millimeter artillery shells firing point blank about a block away from it to knock it down so that the rifle companies could get into it. And each one of the buildings that was in there was another retreat area for the Japs. They had every one of those things set up so they could retreat from one to the other. And finally our infantry drove em into the ocean and that was the end of the war in Manila. So that's what happened with that shell. There were a lot of other things that happened.
This, by the way, I got when I was at the 37th Division reunion in Ohio. And one of the guys was sellin these. So my friend from Iowa [ ] bought em. This is a combat infantryman's badge. Anybody that was in the infantry, that was in an infantry division would get one of those. And that meant you got $10.00 a month more. Any time you ever see one of those on any soldier, you know that he was a fighting man. That's what that stood for. This one here is the Asiatic-Pacific. And this is the one I got the three stars. I got Bougainville, or New Guinea, Bougainville and the Philippines on the ones I have at home. This is just a fake medal that these guys had made.
This is a Good Conduct Medal. Anybody that was in the Army that didn't get kicked out got a Good Conduct Medal. You got one, didn't you John? In the reserves?
Y: Nah, he got kicked out.
This was the Philippine Liberation Medal. And this was the Bronze Star Medal.
R: Didn't you bring your real one?
No. They're hanging up at home. And this was our insignia, the 37th insignia…
(The tape recording ends here).
Audio Copy of a VHS recording created by William Harvey for his family.
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