|Cassette recorded oral history interview with Clarence Jungwirth by Gordon Doule. He discusses his experiences in the 32nd Division during World War II.
J: My name is Clarence Jungwirth and I'm 74 years old.
D: Where were you born Clarence?
J: I was born in Oshkosh October 5th, 1919.
D: And your wife's maiden name?
J: My wife's maiden name was Virginia Schubert. [ ] Yeah, and yeah, my occupation, I'm retired as a design supervisor from Oshkosh Truck Corporation in 1987. And I started at Oshkosh Truck in September of 1945 about five weeks after I left the Philippine Islands. And I worked there for 42 years and ah, after retiring in 1987, a year later, Oshkosh Truck called me back and I'm working for them now as a design consultant, engineering consultant.
Ah, when I married my wife, I ah, I'd been a bachelor all my life and I met my wife at Oshkosh Truck and she was divorced and had three young children when I met her. And we go married in 1971, and I got to know my wife because they were 10,12 and 14. The oldest was Scott, the second boy was Clayton, and the third was a young girl [ ] her name was Julie.
And I went to school at all the schools in Oshkosh, Sacred Heart Grade School, and I graduated in 1934 from Sacred Heart and I went to Oshkosh High School for four years and I graduated in 1938 from Oshkosh High.
Ah, my parents ah, my father's name was John, my mother's name was Josephine, and my dad worked at Paine's for almost all of his whole working career, and I've lived in Oshkosh all my life, particularly in the 6th Ward from 1921 until 1971 when I got married.
And, when I was going to Oshkosh High School, that's this was during the height of the depression, in order to get some money, I worked for as a delivery boy for a local merchant and I was working about 100 hours a month for $10.00 a month. For 10 cents an hour, and in 1940 we still had a depression in Oshkosh. I was desperate for money. And, a bunch of us guys were sittin' around on the porch of my home on the south side and we were talking about ways to get money. And one of the guys casually mentioned the National Guard needs people, Company H needs people and they were gonna pay a buck a night for drill. We quickly figured out, four bucks a month, besides that we heard that they were going to go to summer camp for three weeks and at a dollar a day, that was 21 bucks. For summer camp. And that, talking about that, it looked like pretty good money when we were only working for 10 bucks a month. That seemed like a lot of money and we went down, it happened to be a Monday night, we went down the same night and signed up to join the National Guard. The guys talked us into it more or less down at the National Guard office. I was only twenty years old, I was gonna be 21, this is in June of 1940 that this happened and I was going to be 21 in October and I had when signed up down at the guard, they told me I had to have my mother and father sign the paper because I was not yet 21 to make it legal to join the National Guard.
And I'll never forget that night as long as I live. Because when I come home and I told my mother, woke her up, it must have been around 10 or 11 o'clock at night and I told my mother that I had joined the National Guard. And she started to cry; she cried so hard, "Why did you do that?" And I never realized until later why she was crying. That's because my mother had married my dad in 1917 and shortly after they were married, he had to go, he was drafted into World War I and she thought being a young married couple, she was worried about what she went through at that time. And she just dreaded the fact that I was going to be in the army, but I convinced my mother and dad to sign the papers, telling that I would have been 21 anyway, that I would have gone anyway and they signed the paper. And that night transformed my life in a total direction. I'd been an unemployed kid 20 years old, no job, I was going steady with a girl, I wanted to get married, didn't have any money. The future looked so bleak. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had an adventurous spirit inside of me, that wanted to get away from the confines of the 6th Ward, ah, type of life, poor life.
D: The "bloody sixth"?
J: The bloody 6th Ward, and it, it just transformed me. But it got, it, the army was a, it transformed me.
And I had a very traumatic experience because I signed up in June of 1940 and in August of 1940 the National Guard went to Camp McCoy or Camp Douglas at the time for three weeks maneuvers. And we went down there in the summer and what had happened, I joined Company H. which was a heavy weapons company and I signed up as an infantryman. I hadn't been there, I think the second night of drill when they found out somehow that I could type.
D: And you became company clerk.
J: The company clerk they had didn't want the job so they knew that I could type and they asked me if I would try it. And I tried it and I've always been, I was an excellent typist in high school and I took to it like a duck took to water. Ah, it's interesting that I'd only been clerk for about a month and we went to the summer camp at Camp McCoy and the company commander down there, while I was at summer camp, he rode my ass. He was on me for every thing, every little bitty thing, and it wasn't good enough for him. And I would stay up late at night retyping to make it perfect. I'd get back, and he was just, he was a strict disciplinarian and it had a be, and I sometimes would sit at that typewriter and cry in frustration and almost to the point that I'd say, "I don't want this damn job. Put me in the mortar platoon or the machine gun platoon. But I hung in there and when we got back to Oshkosh after summer camp and I was frustrated. And that first drill night after we got back the company commander called me into his office. And I thought he was going to read me the riot act. Instead he said, "Private Jungwirth," he says, "I want to compliment you on the excellent job that you did for us at the National Guard encampment." My mouth dropped open and I could'a dropped through that floor. I was, I was stupefied! I never expected that from him. And from that day forward I never had any trouble with that guy. And in fact, we go back in August of 1940 and at the same time President Roosevelt authorized the induction of the 32nd Infantry Division be… federal…
D: For federal service.
J: For federal service.
D: That had nothing to do with the Red Arrow Division though.
J: Yeah. That was…
D: Part of the Red Arrow. 37th…
J: 32nd….[ ] Yeah, Company H was part of the 127th Infantry Regiment. Which was part of the 32nd Infantry Division. And to, to emphasize what, ah, job, what a good job I had did for him in summer camp, I'm a private. And in September or October of 1940, he put a recommendation in that I be made corporal. And this is a time, in the army at that time, it took years to make Private First Class. And they had the [ ] Then we got, we were supposed to have induction on October 15th for the federal service.
And then another dramatic incident took place that, ah, I'll never forget. First of all, to show you how dedicated I was to the job, I had been working for $10.00 a month. And then that September before we were going to be inducted, the company commander asked me if I could work extra hours without pay to fix up all the records so that we were ready for induction October 15th. So I was so enthused about the job that I quit the job that I had and I went down to the Armory and worked full time for nothin'. For the whole month of September until we got inducted. I was so enthused about being part of the army, the uniform, the whole bit, and the fact that we were gonna go to Louisiana for training…
D: Camp Beauregard.
J: Camp, Camp Beauregard was the place. And I was, I was so anxious and eager to get, come out of Oshkosh. To be confined in a poor… never got anywhere. And then after October 15th, we all had to take a physical examination, by regular army doctors. To get in the Guard, you had a local doctor, Haynes, and that was the case at that time in the National Guard, if the body was warm, you took it.
And when the regular army doctors came to give us a thorough physical examination, I think it took a couple of days. And on the last day of the physical examination, the doctor got me up, we were stripped naked, he got me up and he checked my whole body over. And he looked at me, he says, "Did you know that you go varicose veins in your right leg?" Varicose veins, I didn't even know what the hell they were. And he says, "I don't know - if we should pass you or not." And my morale plummeted. It was, "Aw," I said, "If I can't go in the army, I'd be devastated." And I pleaded with the doctor. I says, "Is there any way you can let me go?" I says, "I don't even know what varicose veins are. I says, "I never knew I had 'em and they had never bothered me." And my sincerity must have convinced him that I was speakin' the truth, and he passed me.
But I can remember this, that day, just like it was yesterday. And I'm standing there, I can see him looking at my legs and I thought, "Oh, my God, I'm going to fail!" And the elation, I can still feel the elation today. And, it was, it was a fantastic feeling to be able to be accepted into the guard [ ]
D: So then, once you were inducted, then what, was the Guard called up then?
J: The Guard was called up October 15th…
D: And then you went to Camp Beauregard.
J: Then we went to camp, we left October 20th for Camp Beauregard and then…
D: In other words, you were then in the military and ah, on a regular hitch..
J: For one year. It was supposed to be for one year, like all the Nation Guard Division, the 42nd Infantry Division, the 32nd Infantry Division. All the National Guard divisions called up it was supposed to be for one year. From October 15th, 1940 to October 15th, 1941.
D: And you were in, you stayed at Beauregard for that time….
J: We stayed at Beauregard then Livingston.
D: You weren't let out because almost immediately after October of course, Pearl Harbor happened. [ ] they extend your enlistment?
J: That's right. Then it was for the duration. And the funny thing about it, when October 15th 1941 came, in Camp Livingston, there was a movement started amongst the National Guard troops. They would write and protest verbally that `hey, how come the government isn't letting us go after October 15th 1941, and they started a verbal protest by writing the word "ohio" on fence posts, buildings, billboards while we were on maneuvers. And what ohio meant was, "over the hill in October." That was….
D: I remember hearing that.
J: They had the word ohio [ ] because we were on maneuvers most of the times. And, of course, when ah, after Pearl Harbor, we knew why they knew more [ ].
D: Well then, did you get to come home before you had to go overseas?
J: That's right. And, ah, they gave everybody they could, they gave a furlough. I'll take that back, I'll take that back. The government, the military people must have known something because they gave a lot of furloughs in November. Of 1941.
And I took advantage of going home around Thanksgiving time. 1941. Never realizing that Pearl Harbor was coming up. And then…
D: And then of course, you went back. And then you didn't come home again…
D: After that, because as I recall, the 32nd was one of the first ones ordered into combat because they were one of the few that had any training at all.
J: That's right.
D: Now tell me where you went from the 'states?
J: O.K. What happened, that the ah, ah, the 32nd Infantry Division was shipped to Fort Devons, Massachusetts to be shipped to Ireland. We were one of the first troops for the defense of Europe. We were in Fort Devons, Massachusetts for about three or four week. All of a sudden, orders come down, 'get ready, pack, you're going by train to San Francisco and to ship out'. They didn't even tell us where we were gonna go but the word soon got around that we were going to Australia. So we were shipped out to Fort Ord, California and ten days later we were on a convoy of troopships heading for Australia.
We left April 22nd 1942 by convoy. It took twenty one days aboard ship, and as soon as we passed under the Golden Gate, April 22nd, that evening that convoy ran into one of the worst storms off the coast of California. Ah, I think there was five or six thousand men on our ship. Within a day or two, there was five or six thousand sick soldiers on board that ship. And that was a mess. That was a real mess on that troop ship.
And we went to Australia and we went to Adelaide; we were only at Adelaide for a short period of time. And from Adelaide we were shipped by rail up to Brisbane, Australia and to New South Wales. And at the time, that we were down at Brisbane, going to Brisbane, the Japanese had made the big push for Port Moresby. And that was, the Battle of the Coral Sea made the, made the ah, the Japanese change their mind about invading Port Moresby itself and [ ] Bay and possibly eastern Australia. [ ] And then the battle of Buna ah, and Port Moresby took place that summer and that fall. And the Australian troops were in the forefront in the battle of Buna originally. And then with the 32nd Division, units of the 32nd Division were then dispatched to Port Moresby. To take [ ] in the battle of Buna. And then some of our units had to walk over the Owen-Stanley mountains. And it took one of our battalions ah, almost 100 days to walk 100 miles.
I was fortunate enough that ah, I had been company clerk in Australia before New Guinea. Somehow, I got the urge, I wanted to take part and see what war was like. You're young, 22, there was a certain glamour about warfare. I think that affects a lot of young people. So I asked the company commander if I could give up my clerk's job - I would train somebody - and I would join a mortar, an 81 mm. Mortar platoon to go, I wanted to go so bad, I could taste it. Why, I don't know. I regretted it after I got there.
So I was part of a mortar platoon. One of my good friends was a sergeant of the platoon. We got along real good. And we went to Port Moresby by ship, and then from, by, I was one of the lucky ones to fly from the outskirts of Port Moresby to Buna where the battle of Buna was taking place. And it took us only about half an hour, 45 minutes the distance that it took some of the guys 100 days to walk. It was horrible. It was horrible.
And I'll never forget the first day that I saw the first wounded come back on Buna. It was a horrible sight. I can see myself with my mouth hanging open, seeing the first wounded brought back on stretchers, carried by the natives of New Guinea down the jungle trails. And that night I prayed like I never prayed before. I was scared. Out of my, I was scared. I thought to myself, 'what did I get myself into?' And, but the training that I had soon pushed all these fears and that in the background and I did what I had to do.
And, ah, we get, ah, I'll never forget the reception we got when we got to New Guinea. We landed in New Guinea on Thanksgiving Day 1942. That night while we were camped outside Port Moresby, we experienced our first bombing raid. And the Japanese came over and bombed the airstrips which we were near. And again, this was our first experience. And then we flew over the Owen-Stanleys and we landed at [ ]…
D: Could you spell that?
J: D o p u dorah. I've got [ ] And we landed at Dopudorah and we moved up to the front and we went into combat on Christmas Eve, December 24th . My unit went into combat on December 24th, 1942, Christmas Eve. What a horrible, what a horrible thing. And, ah, the experience at Buna was a livin' hell. We didn't have any equipment, we were lucky if we had guns. Didn't have any Jeeps, everything had to be hauled on our backs or the backs of natives. There was no medicine. Very little food, no water. Ah, the stench of the jungles was something I'll never forget. And the wounded and misery and the constant rain. We were wet, wet all the time. Ah, the shoes would rot off our feet. The clothes would turn white from the heat and the mildew and from the salt of your body. All your fatigues [ ] and you couldn't take a bath.
D: Didn't a lot of you get malaria?
J: Malaria. And this, and after the battle of Buna which lasted until after the first part, it was, it was horrible. And it was, the Japanese were pinched in a corner at Buna village and Buna [ ] and put up a last [ ]. The troops opposite us were some of the best marines that the Japanese had and some of those Japanese marines had fought in Manchuria and they were top-notch soldiers. And they fought, it was 'no prisoners', they fought to the death. You had to fight for every yard. And ah, the battle was going pretty bad at Buna, and Gen. Eichelberger was sent to Buna by Gen. MacArthur to see if he could get some sort of victory there because Gen. MacArthur, he needed a victory desperately. And things were going very badly so he sent Gen. Eichelberger up there and when Gen. Eichelberger got there, he called all the troops that they could spare, from the front lines they called us to the rear area and he gave a lecture to us. And the lecture amounted to, in a sense, I'm paraphrasing it, "What's the matter, you guys got not guts, afraid to die?" And you should have heard the comments, the muttering amongst them. And I don't think the military realized the high, the high ranks, what the G.I. really hadda go through. The misery. And the lack of equipment. The lack of artillery. All we had was mortars. The Australians had a few artillery pieces that they used but they were small caliber. It really was a battle of ill-trained, combat ill-trained [ ] American troops fighting for some [ ]of the best in the Japanese [ ]. And to illustrate what the ah, the 32nd Infantry Division went at Buna, there must have been about fifteen or seventeen hundred of us that went across into combat and some companies towards the end of the battle for Buna were down to five or six men. When we assembled after the battle of Buna was over with and Buna had been taken, and we were on the way to go back, to fly back to Port Moresby to recuperate, out of the regiment that was there. There was only about 500 of us left.
D: That's out of how many?
J: About 1500. And most of the casualties were due to disease. I got malaria about three days before we were supposed to go back to the airstrip to be flown back to Port Moresby. And I would say that, ah, out of the casualties that we had at Buna, about 60-70% of them were due to malaria, typhus, dengue fever.
D: You think you were drinking the water…
J: We were drinkin' the water. If the water was, the situation for water was so bad that one time we were bivouacked in a Japanese cemetery. And the way we had to get water in that spot was you had to dig a hole in the ground and let the sea (we were close to the coast) the water would filter into the hole through the remains of that cemetery. And we would put it in your canteen and you'd put in all the chemicals that you could to kill, and the water was so bad that you could drink three or four canteens full and you'd be just as thirsty as [ ]. And ah, but it was the disease in New Guinea and the heat and the moisture which really sapped us.
D: Did you fellows get trench foot too or wasn't it cold enough?
J: We, a lot of us got jungle rot. I picked…
D: Jungle rot.
J: I picked up jungle rot and almost every G.I. had it. And one of the things that happened to me that while I was with the 81 mm. mortar squad, my First Sergeant was a guy I had signed up with. And the paper work was becoming so horrendous even up at the front lines, that they asked me if I would come up and be the company clerk again. So I went back as the company clerk during the last stages of Buna and we would ah, we would be in combat conditions during the daytime regardless of what you were. Because Buna was the type of a battle where so many officers got wounded or killed that it became a war that was led by sergeants. Many sergeants were running the companies. And that's what …
D: [ ] were battlefield commissions?
J: Battlefield commissions. We had a First Sergeant, he was the First Sergeant in another regiment up at the front and Gen. Eichelberger promoted him from Sergeant to Captain. He was Captain [ ]. And he had fought in the Spanish Civil War. On the side of ah, on the side of Franco. I'll bet he was….
D: On the Spain side.
J: On the Spain side. And he was a hardened veteran. He was, he was, we'd hear these tales of him, what he would do. And he would attack pillboxes single handedly. And he [ ] he made captain from sergeant [ ] battlefield commission. But this was a war for sergeants because some of the officers got killed.
D: Probably would you say that was before the officers wore their rank on the back of their helmets?
J: That's right. This was. [ ].
D: The snipers [ ] they caught…
J: The snipers would pick 'em off and the jungles in New Guinea were so thick and there were so many swamps that it was just, it was, it was just terrible. General situation. And so many got sick and the interesting part of it was three days before we were gonna pull out to go back to the airstrip at Dopudorah which is about 15 miles from the Buna Village where we were quartered at, at the same time I got real sick the night before we were supposed to leave - a malaria attack. And I went to the medics the first thing in the morning. They said, "We can't do anything for you. All the medical equipment is packed and is being shipped right now back to the airstrip to be loaded on planes for Port Moresby." I says, "Can I get a ride on the Jeep?" He says, "We don't have any Jeeps." [ ] What am I supposed to do? 'Walk." I had, I was burning up with fever that night and I walked, the next day I walked the fifteen miles back to the airstrip and the heat was so intense. But the strange thing about it, when I got back to that airstrip, that, late that afternoon, I never felt better in my life. And I never did have, when I got there, I could have gone to the medics at the airstrip. I felt so good, I think I must have burned the malaria right out of me. 'Cause it was the most strangest thing, that ah….
D: Then you went back to Port Moresby for R&R?
J: We went back to Port Moresby and then we went by boat back to ah, Camp Brisbane, Australia. Then we recuperated. And while there, I had two more malaria attacks. And the hospitals at Brisbane were full of patients from the 42nd, ah, 41st Infantry Division. And it got to be so bad in Australia that the army set up a camp at Rockhampton in New South Wales strictly for malaria patients. At the time this must have been in… I've got to think of the time must have been '42, '43, this woulda' been; yeah, this would have been in the summer or fall of 1943.
There were so many malaria patients that they set this camp up and there was a new drug come out at this time called atabrine and they still… There was about four or five thousand of us up, and we called it 'the fox farm.' It was a derogatory name and we were guinea pigs. And the experiments up there were to be conducted to the limits of what the G.I.'s could take in quantities of atabrine before we got sick. And, it ah, and we were up there for almost six months, thousands and thousands of troops. And they cured us. What they would do with atabrine, they would, the doctors, after you got done eating, the doctors would line you up. You had to take your canteen cup, take water in it, they would put the pill in your mouth, you had to drink it, make sure it went down. Then you had to turn the canteen cup upside down so that you didn't spit the pill out because it was kind of a bitter taste. And they increase the dosage from one a day to two a day, three a day, four a day, five a day, six a day, they went up to I think almost fifteen a day [ ] in stages. They were trying to see what the tolerance was actually what the G.I.'s could take. Then they reduced the, I think the dose got back down to one or two a day. When it did the job. And they cured us.
D: Well then, didn't you take it after that, for protection?
J: That's right. And we found that atabrine was a helluva lot easier because when we first went to New Guinea, we had to take quinine.
D: That was sour and bitter too.
J: Quinine was sour and bitter and the after effects of quinine was horrible. Because your ears rang. It was, it was just a bitter thing. And the taste of atabrine wasn't that bad. Compared to the taste of [ ]. And they cured us.
Meanwhile, my company and the 32nd Infantry Division while I was at the fox farm in New Guinea, had been shipped back up to New Guinea to take place at battles like [ ] river, up towards [ ] New Guinea. And we had been left behind so we were a cadre of four or five thousand former infantry members from regular units who were gonna drift. So what they did, they sent us back up to New Guinea at [ ] Bay as part of the ah, replacement camp.
D: You were still in the 32nd Division.
J: No. I was no longer part of the 32nd Division. We were, we were loose, and ah, we go up to the replacement camp at [ ] Bay, New Guinea. We stayed there for about, from about, in [ ] Bay, New Guinea, from about June to September of 1944. We were there about three or four months waiting for reassignment to different outfits. And around….
D: Where was the 32nd then?
J: The 32nd Division was in the northern part of New Guinea then. They were fighting battles and all of us people at the replacement camp were going to be reassigned to different outfits although we didn't know it because many of us hoped that we would get back to our original outfits. But the way the bureaucracy of the military operated, and we didn't know where we were gonna go.
And another, and all of a sudden in the latter part, in the last week of September we had heard that ships were coming into [ ] Bay and those of us that had been overseas for a long time were gonna go home 'cause it was a rumor. So we didn't know what to expect; the army didn't tell you anything in those days. You didn't know what in the hell was goin' on. So we get the, all of a sudden, all of a sudden we got the orders to move out, get our equipment and we went down to the bay at [ ] Bay and here's all kind of landing craft. [ ] We didn't know where we were goin'. This was October 1st; October 1st. And we got on board the ship and we started heading east, instead of toward [ ] or back to Port Moresby, we headed up north. And on board ship, we found out that the people on my ship were going to be joining the 24th Infantry Division in preparation for a landing in the Philippines.
D: Navy [ ]?
J: Navy [ ]. I was just a stranger on board that ship. I don't know anybody. I, my morale was rock bottom. We landed on Hollandia October 10th. It took 7-8 days to get from [ ] Bay up to Hollandia by LCI; Landing Craft Infantry. I'm thrown on board. I'm assigned as a rifleman to Company C., 34th Infantry Division, 34th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division. They had just taken Hollandia up there. They were beat. They were tired. And I was thrown into an infantry company as a rifleman. I had never been trained as a rifleman. I had always been doing company clerk work. Or been a mortar man most of the time. I said, "what the hell am I going to do as an infantryman?" And I feared that this was gonna be my [ ]. And then on October 10th, we got to Hollandia, we joined the convoys heading for Leyte and the landing was gonna be on October 20th.
That's a sight I'll never forget. We were in the northern approaches to the southern Philippines and here was this convoy, hundreds and hundreds of ships as far as the eye could see. Carriers, battleships, cruisers, submarines, troop transports. It was a [ ] it staggered the imagination, the immensity [ ] all heading for the Philippines. And our morale, for us guys who had been overseas for a long time was pretty low. We had been in combat, rough time, had been sick, and here we were going to go into the Philippines October 1944. We didn't know one, we thought the war was going to last forever because if you hadda go island by island [ ] MacArthur was [ ] and. But again I felt it was the discipline of the soldier that we acquired through the training that made, you have these thoughts of morale, bad morale and that, but you're discipline and your military training made you carry on. So I'll never forget that ah, October 20th when our convoy hit Leyte. And I…
D: You were still, you weren't on LCI's then?
J: No. We were on troop transports then. Troop transports. And this was going to be my first ship landing because in New Guinea it was by air and we walk in [ ]. And I was in the third wave at Leyte
With the 24th Infantry Division. And we made the landing and then we progressed up. And into Leyte, Truk, and I think something like from October 20th until the end of October or the first part of December before Leyte was secure [ ].
The curious part of that is that we advanced on Leyte against real heavy opposition, and a lot of casualties, the First Sergeant of the company had looked at my service record and he had seen that I had a lot of experience at regimental headquarters. And company clerks, and they were in desperate need of a company clerk at the company. 'Cause the guy they had was a novice. He didn't know anything. So they asked me to train him. But then it got to the point where the guy couldn't handle the job and they asked me if I'd become the clerk. So I got to be company clerk and ah, the ah, on Leyte. And that made my task a little bit easier although company clerks in that time advanced right along with the troops. Your typewriter and records would be brought up by truck and you'd get them as soon as you can. So I went through all the horrible experience of being an infantryman and also company clerk.
Then, while I was on Leyte, regimental headquarters of the 34th Infantry Regiment was in need of experienced paper work clerks. So I went to regimental headquarters applying for a job there. And he says, "Well, you'll have to get permission from your company commander." And I went back to the comp…I had had it with combat up to here. I had, I wanted to get away and I begged the company commander if he wouldn't let me take that job and so and [ ] but I was surprised that he did but he was a pretty good egg. And ah, I was company clerk for him but he thought that they could find [ ] so in reality that move to regimental headquarters really saved my life. Because this company took an awful lot of casualties. So how fate works and [ ]
D: Now you were, you say you were in the third wave at Leyte Gulf?
J: At Leyte.
D: At Leyte Gulf.
D: And I'm assuming that you were shot at. [ ]
J: Shot at, bombed, shot at, bombed.
D: What exp.. what particular act that you could recall stands out in your mind? As you were going in on that third wave.
J: Fear. Complete fear. Fear. Awe at the magnitude of the invasion force. Ah, I'm sure that anybody that has had experience making the infantry landing at a hostile beach is overwhelmed by what's goin' on. Self preservation plays a large role in how you act, what you do. It's, it's just a tre, it's difficult to describe. The turmoil, the shooting, the confusion. Nobody really knowing what the hell is going on. Fifty yards, all you know is what's going on in front of you.
D: But you can distinguish the Japs…
J: That's right. [ ]
D: Did you see, did you yourself see a lot of Japs?
J: I saw a lot of Japs, but mostly dead Japs. Ah, I remember one incident as we were advancing in Leyte up the roads, that one night a whole company of Japanese soldiers, drunk on sake', come walking down the road, staggering. And our artillery, our own artillery zeroed in on 'em and blew this company to bits all over the road and the ditches. Body parts, heads, arms, legs were scattered all over. The next, this happened at night. The next morning we started to advance and these body parts, and the Japanese zeroed in on us and us G.I.'s hadda take cover amongst all these body parts and to my dying day I'll never forget laying amongst all these body parts, intestines, brains, guts. Laying there while you're being shot at because while that [ ].
D: The only one redeeming factor; you're lucky it wasn't two days later, because they would have stunk to the high heavens.
J: They would have stunk to the high heavens. Yeah, they were starting to smell.
And then another incident I remember, as we go further down the road, my company, and the squad I was with was in the lead. In those days they would leap-frog among the companies, the battalions, so that one company, one squad wouldn't take the brunt of the fighting every day. You rotated. On this particular day, I was with one squad - even though I was company clerk, I was still up there. We go to a river and the Japanese had blown the bridge so we found some boats and our squad had go across just before dusk and we started advancing and the rest of the company couldn't catch up to us. Because it was getting' dark. So we found our, we entrenched ourselves on a hill on the other side of the bridge and they let us know by message that the rest of the company couldn't come up to relieve us and we'd have to spend the night and it turned out while we were there the Japanese had surrounded us and we were cut off. And talk of being, sitting there all night with your rifle at the ready, waiting for the expected counter attack. We had no food, very little water. I'll never forget, on the approach, I had picked up a coconut and split it open. And I wrapped a couple pieces of coconut and put it in my pocket. And that all I had to eat for that night and that day. And here we're sitting on this hill waiting for the counter attack any second. [ ] when you're cut off. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. And then the next morning one of the first sounds we heard was an American truck. Comin' up the approaches to the river. And they had a hot meal for us. Talk about being relieved, you know. And those are some of the things that stand out.
D: Now this was in the year of '44?
J: This was in '44.
D: In late…
J: In late 1944. And then, then the division, then the 32nd Infantry Division came up to relieve our outfit.
D: Like old home week.
J: It was like old home week. But I'll never forget that experience. We was, we were pulled way back and I thought I'll go up to see my old comrades in the company. And I hitch-hiked a ride and the [ ] and my company was in the front lines and they were making approaches to [ ] Valley which was a bitter battle.
D: What battle?
J: Ormoc. Spelled O-R-M-O-C. And I got up there and they were starting to shell where our company was but we didn't pay that much attention to it. And, ah, when I got up to the company, I was surprised at the reception I got. Because the guys had been so battle-weary from fightin' all over New Guinea, come to Leyte, and they were just battle-weary and they had so many replacements that I hardly knew anybody. And I went back with a different feeling that I thought I was missing something by not being part but I found out…
D: You would have been one of the missing.
J: I would have been one of the missing. So how fate works out, see. [ ] The good I, in retrospect, the good Lord watched over me and I'll never forget different things that happened.
One time [ ] this was in the battle of Leyte; one time the company jumped off to attack in a coconut grove and this was the typhoon season. It was raining, lightning, and the Ist Sergeant said to me, Clarence," He took me to the grove and there was a fallen coconut tree. He says, "You take these records and you stay here until I come back to get you." And the company took off, I'm all alone here and it's lightning, thundering, artillery is goin'. The Japanese are fighting and I couldn't see anybody. And I'm layin' there by this log and my instincts were, 'get the hell up outta here and run; get the hell', 'cause all hell was breakin' [ ]. But again, I stayed. And again I lay it to that military training not to disobey an order and I stuck. But my instincts were to get the hell outta here and I stayed. And he come back, eventually got back [ ] join the company. But that was a horrifying, that was a horrible experience.
There was a lot of horrible experience happened to all GIs especially infantrymen. And ah, from there after we got pulled back, then we were shipped up to the island of Mindoro which is in the central Philippines. And we stayed there on the island of Mindoro for a month or two, refurbishing, getting replacements. And then, a few weeks later we were aboard an LCI for the landing on Luzon.
D: Now you going to go through another battle.
J: We're going through, we're going through another landing and this landing was gonna be to the east of [ ] in Subic Bay. Corregidor was still in the hands and [ ] and Subic Bay were still in the hands of the Japanese. So we were going to land on the West Coast of Luzon and go across and take [ ] and Subic Bay.
D: From the rear.
J: From the rear. We were going to take it from the rear. We made the landing at I think it was called San Rosalia or San Rosario on the coast and we expected fierce Japanese opposition. Instead, who the hell's waiting for us on the beach but Filipino women with flowers. The Japanese had retreated and started back toward [ ] Subic and they weren't going to fight us on the beaches. But they, it was such a shock to us to get a reception…
D: What a reception after figuring you're going to be received by bullets.
J: Received by bullets, I'll never forget a, and then we moved by ah, by foot up towards [ ]and Subic Bay. And then the 24th Infantry Division got trapped in the mountains outside Subic.
D: Wasn't the 24th almost like a key to the 32nd? They were one of the old ah…
J: The 24th Infantry Division was a regular army division. And they had been sent to Hawaii in February or March of 1942 . For the defenses of… And this plays an important part in my story later on. The fact that they had been overseas longer than I was.
And we made the landing at Rosario and ah, then we ah, the 24th Division units got trapped up in the mountains at the battle of, we called it 'zig-zag pass'. The Japanese let the army vehicles get up this curvy mountain road and meanwhile they had, unknown to us, they had zeroed in their artillery and when the trucks got up there, they just blew the hell out of them. But then they kept going on and then the units finally took [ ] at the head of Subic Bay and then later on one of the, one of the divisions, one of the battalions from the 24th Infantry Division went into Corregidor and some landing unit to help the paratroopers that went in to took Corregidor. So, there we were at Subic Bay for ah, into February-March, 1945.
From Subic Bay to O.K. get ready for the next operation. We're land, we get loaded onto LCI's and I was only on board ship headed south toward the southern Philippines, we were gonna go make a landing at Mindinao in the southern Philippines. Here we were gonna make another landing and it was while we were en route to Mindinao that we got word that President Roosevelt died. 'Cause I can still see the flags on the LCI's being dropped to half mast. And, we go to Mindinao in the southern Philippines and we didn't know it at the time, but our destination was [ ] on the East Coast of Mindinao. At the head of, at [ ] Gulf. The Japanese, later on I found out that MacArthur had wanted to make a landing at [ ] and Mindinao before taking Leyte. Somehow the Japanese must have figured this because they made all, they surrounded [ ] Gulf with entrenched naval guns, heavy artillery. They buried 'em in concrete. Facing [ ] Gulf. So when our convoy headed for Mindinao, we went towards Borneo. And I don't know if you're familiar with town of Zamboanga..
J: Bob Hope and Bing Crosby had made a movie and they had, there was a song in it, "Monkeys have no tails in Zamboanga." And we remembered this and what the army had done, and it was a very smart move; they approached the western end of Mindinao. And I think MacArthur had made one of the smartest moves at the time, and we didn't realize it at the time. We [ ] we entered a town on the western part of Mindinao , and Mindinao's pretty high. But we got to the port. I think it was the town of Morang. We got there, off the landing craft, what did we find but native people. And they had a whole flotilla of small landing craft. Us infantrymen [ ] what the hell… and what they had done the river [ ] ran all through the center of Mindinao almost up to [ ] So the navy put us, became part of the operation, loaded on these small landing craft and traveled up the river. And where they would meet resistance, the G.I.'s would get off the boats, clean out the resistance, and keep on [ ] and the trip in a way was so interesting because it was a new culture. These, this is the land of the Moros. The Muslims. And we, it was like taking a tour because the resistance was light, we could enjoy the scenery, and it was a landing craft and we didn't have to walk. And then,
D: You didn't have to do any walking.
J: That's right. This was, this was a pleasure. And one of the things in the latter part of the Philippines ah, campaign that our equipment had improved, we had plenty of transportation, ammunition, food improved and life became a helluva lot better than it was in the early days of World War II. We had lots of support. We had aircraft supporting us. We had [ ] ordinance which we didn't have - very little in World War II in the early part, in the beginning. We had very little protection. So it became and the tide was turning against the Japanese and the closer we got to [ ] that the resistance lightened considerably.
And ah, we had heard through the rumor mill that thousands of Japanese troops and their families were retreating into the jungles. On Mindinao. One of the figures we heard was twenty or thirty thousand Japanese soldiers. The figures just came off of the…
D: They even had their families with them?
J: Some of them had their families because they had been in been in the Philippines for so long that [ ] and they had women and children and ah, but then we go to [ ] and, my, this is in June or, this is in June of 1945. The war in Europe was over. And we had got the notification [ ] the point system. Many of the troops in Europe were going to come over to relieve us guys who had been overseas for so long and it was with a sigh of relief …. I had been overseas since April of 1942. And here it was June of 1944, '45 rather. No chance, we didn't look at the time, no chance of going home. We didn't know how long the war would be in Europe. And while we were there at Mindinao in[ ] we started passing out literature about what to do for the invasion of Japan. So for us old guys we thought, hey. Then the point system come out. We got, whoever had the highest number of points could go home. We got a point for so many months overseas, for every Purple Heart, for every battle, for every campaign. All kinds of point system you had. Well, my morale didn't go as high as I thought it was because I was in an outfit that had been sent overseas February to Hawaii which was classed as overseas duty. So they had been over, sent overseas months before I had been sent overseas so I had to wait until every 24th Infantry Division man went home before I even had a chance to go home. Even though I had been in a long, had been in a lot and had been in much more battles, the fact that they had been overseas [ ] the points they'd accumulated, it wasn't much but it was enough.
So, I am at, we camped at ah, on [ ] Gulf in July of 1945. And we're all counting points every day and they would put out a roster of who was going home. And ah, meanwhile, I had done such a good job for the regiment that they offered me the Master Sergeant of Regimental Headquarters. If I would reenlist and stay.
D: They offered to make you Master Sergeant?
J: Yeah. I'd be the top dog of the regiment 'cause they figured I'd be going home soon and they offered me top dog at regimental headquarters if I would stay on. And I [ ] no way, no way. And finally in the first week or two in July I got my papers, that I would be going home. So I left.
The atomic bombs hadn't been dropped yet so we didn't know [ ] all the literature was being passed out to the 24th Infantry Division because they were going to go to Korea. Make a landing in Korea because the literature was all on Korea. That's the least, that's the most they would tell you, see.
So I'm getting ready and I finally go word to move back to Leyte to go home. On the truck leaving [ ] Gulf from our camp all the signs posted along the road were, "Beware of Snipers." Can you imagine us guys who had been through hell and high water and here we're going down to the beach to pick up our LCI to back to Leyte and here we had to worry about snipers along the road. That was one of the most hairy rides we ever had. And then, the best part of it yet. When we got to the beach at [ ] to pick up our LCI, we found out that the ship was not unloaded. It was filled with army cots by the thousands. Fuel drum. We went to the beach master. "When do we get on this thing?" "I don't know. I don't have people to unload the boat." So the guys that were goin' on that boat says, "We'll unload it for ya." So we worked a stevedores for a couple days unloading that boat. You never saw a boat get unloaded so fast as that ship. 'Cause we wanted to get the hell out of there. And we got that ship unloaded and the LCI headed for Leyte and we get to Leyte and we were taken to a camp where we had to get another physical examination. I had, I hadn't had malaria all the while I was in the Philippines but I thought 'if I get malaria - I just can't before I get on that ship.' I'm gonna, I'm gonna die of the heat. And I can still see myself sweating every day [ ] and they had the ah, it was a troop transport. It was anchored out in the harbor. And they didn't have any boats; they had small boats. We had to go on small boats and they had a raft attached to the ship and we had to crawl up that, that, that ladder. It was, it was hard but we were so glad to get out of there…
D: It was a rope ladder?
J: It was a rope ladder. That's what we had to climb up, be G.I.'s and get the hell out of here. And then, the ship was gonna go across the Pacific towards Hawaii all alone. No escort. So the captain, it was a Marine transport and it was built for four, five thousand troops but there was only about 2500 of us on it.
D: Was it, by any chance air conditioned?
D: A lot of those were, Marine transports.
J: This wasn't air conditioned but there was only a few troops on it, it was only about 2500. We left Leyte July 29th and that captain, it was the U.S.S. General [ ]. That captain poured on the coals. We were out about three, four days and the ship put out a newspaper every day and a note come on the ship's newspaper, the U.S.S. Indianapolis was about four or five hundred miles behind our ship and it got sunk. We didn't know it at the time but the Indianapolis had just dropped off the first atomic bomb at Guam. And as she was heading back towards the Philippines, a Jap submarine got her. And as we later found out, the ship sank, lost a lot of men. Hundreds and hundreds of sailors died in that sinking. But the captain kept right on going because he's got 2500 troops and he's sailing all alone. So he kept on goin'. And on August 6th, the ship's newspaper came out the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. And I can see that paper yet. I had been a reader of Popular Mechanics and that stuff and I had a vague idea what the atomic bomb was about. And I can remember sitting on the ship trying to explain to the G.I.s that weren't familiar with what that was. And then, and then a couple days later, after Hiroshima,…
J: Nagasaki. And then we arrived, we were headed for San Francisco and then ah, and then [ ] major approaches at San Francisco, [ ] made a ship course and we landed at Seattle on August 13th which I think was [ ].
D: Then you landed at Seattle.
J: At Seattle. [ ] And talk about a [ ] man, it was August 13th and we didn't know the war was gonna be over then although we sorta had [ ] and the first thing that I did was call my parents.
D: And how long did it take you to get back…
J: It took us, they, I got back, they shipped us from Seattle by train to Camp McCoy to be discharged. When I got to Camp McCoy, this was August 19th, 20th; I get's to Camp McCoy and one of the commanding officers in headquarters called me in to the office. He had my service record in front of him and he had looked at all of my qualifications, being company clerk, regimental duties. He says, "How would you like to work for the army as a civilian here at Camp McCoy to help discharge all the troops that were comin' back?" And I says, "I haven't been home for almost four years." And I says, "I tell you what; give me ten days, I'll go home, look for a job, and if I can't get a job, I'll call you and I'll come back as a civilian [ ] . So I got home August 23rd and I'll never forget that train ride from Camp McCoy to Milwaukee.
A guy I had enlisted with and we had been very close friends, buddies together, had left out company in Australia to become a second lieutenant. He and I in Australia were asked to take the test to become a second lieutenant and go to officer training school in Australia because we both had high I.Q.'s. He made it, I failed. I don't know why I failed. I didn't make it. And he went on to the 41st Infantry Division. In April of 1945 he got killed by a sniper. On Tarawa. And on the train home, I kept thinking, why did he get killed and I made it because I had been through bombed, strafed, shot at. I had so many close calls .
To illustrate what kind of a battle Leyte, we were camped on the banks of a river. And it was raining horrible. We could only dig a real shallow foxhole because it was gravel and hard pan. So I dug a foxhole that was only about three or four inches deep. And at night time ah, covered with a poncho, laying in this water, and I says, "I gotta get out of this [ ]. And I crawled outa the foxhole at night time which was the normal time but I was doin'. And the next morning [ ] sitting around eating breakfast, one of my buddies that had been near me, he says, "Your know [ ] last night when you got outa that foxhole," he says, "I thought you were a Japanese," he says, "and I put my rifle up," he says, "and I [ ] just couldn't pull the trigger." He says, "I couldn't pull the trigger. Somethin' stopped me." [ ] And this is one of the incidents why Andy get killed and why I didn't.
There were so many other incidents that happened [ ] that I did get killed. One night, we had dug the foxh… this was on Mindanao. Dug the foxhole, there was two men to a foxhole. We stayed up two hours and slept two hours [ ] up two hours. We did this day after day and we were all getting pretty tired. This one night, it was my turn to stay up for two hours while my buddy slept. All of a sudden, he was shaking me, waking me up. I had fallen sound asleep during my watch. Across the road there was some G.I.'s in a foxhole and the Japanese had snuck up on them, slit, cut their throats. I'll never forget that night. It was the only time I ever fell asleep. And it was a case, just one of those things, just one of those things that happen.
D: You could have been executed.
J: I could have been executed. Yeah, could have been executed. [ ] falling asleep on duty [ ] in a foxhole [ ]there was nothin' to [ ] but it was a combination of day after day after day and it just finally caught up with me. There was nothin, try, there was nothin it was almost like [ ].
But I bring these incidents out, how the hand of God and how the things…
D: I had several of the same things happen to me but they were different things [ ] gone the other way, I'd have been blown to bits.
J: And then, and then the gist of it was, I went home, when I walked in my - the train ride was about it was an emotional train ride. I'd been away for four years, I didn't know what to expect, I gets to the train station…
D: On the Northwestern?
J: The Northwestern. On the Northwestern train [ ]. Here's my father and my mother my sister and my sister's husband. And they had got married during the war. I had known him briefly before I went in the service. They got married [ ] the war and he had joined the navy [ ]. He had been all over the Pacific. And I never heard [ ] I could have dropped over when I saw Bill. 'Cause he and I had been friends, you know, and I'll never forget [ ] I walked into the house at home …
D: Bill was [ ] friend?
J: [ ] Yeah, and I walked in, I walked into the house and it was just like I was in a different world, the first time [ ] never figured [ ] I never figured I would get home, and [ ] the next day when I got home, I registered for the draft 'cause all this [ ] I get classified and I went down to Oshkosh Truck at the Oshkosh Employment Office. I'm twenty six years old and never had a regular job in my life, didn't know what the hell I was gonna do. I went down to the employment office, got two cards. The cards were for an opening at the woodworker factory and for a [ ] at Oshkosh Truck. I went to the woodworker factory first because my dad had been a woodworker actually [ ] didn't follow [ ] I had the training. I went to the woodworker factory, the boss looked me over, he says, "You're too light and too small. You could never handle the lumber."
So I went to Oshkosh Truck in the Engineering Department. I'd never had a day of drafting but I had been a model builder, model airplanes and model ships. And the chief engineer needed a boy to run the blueprint machine. And he asked me if I knew anything about blueprints. I says, "Yeah, I made model ships, model planes but that's [ ]." I'm sittin' there, twenty six years old, I'm as yellow as a Jap from Atabrine, and I'd been in combat, four- five weeks before, haggard, thin, dragged out. I'm sittin' there and he says, "[ ] I'll let you know on Monday." And somehow, he must have saw something in me that I never saw in myself. 'Cause he called me on Monday and I started to work.
And I stayed at Oshkosh Truck for 42 years. I ended up as a design supervisor, engineer, all trained on the job. They took me by the hand and when I had spare time during the day, they showed me how to draw. And I say this without bragging, but I became one of the most respected engineers that they had. [ ] This guy became my mentor. And so, and his name, the name of the chief engineer was Mr. [ ]. There was only four of us in the engineering department and he became my mentor. And ah, what they taught me. [ ] And I called Camp McCoy as soon as I got the job and told them. [ ]
D: And a couple of quick questions. Who was the most interesting person you met ?
J: In the service.
D: Yeah. [ ] other, possibly [ ] action [ ] here.
J: The problem is that my job as company clerk, I got to be the "father confessor." To many, many, many G.I.'s in my company. I'm the sort of guy that's got a lot of empathy with people and the G.I.'s realized that. And I met so many that it [ ] I gotta that Andy Kossel who was my First Sergeant was [ ] Andrew Kossel, yeah, he was from Oshkosh. We went into service together. [ ] That's different. It was a different [ ]. He was the First Sergeant and he was an intellectual. He was a [ ] and I'll have to qualify that. That before Andy was First Sergeant, we had a, our First Sergeant had been an old National Guard man. For years. He was my sergeant, First Sergeant. He was called Bullis. He was an alcoholic [ ]B U L L I S. I'd have to say that he was really the most interesting. He wasn't [ ] the ideal First Sergeant. He could party with the best of them, he could discipline with the best of them, he knew what soldiering was all about. He would be the type of person that would have been the typical First Sergeant that would be depicted in old western movies. In the cavalry. Hard drinking, hard living, 100% soldier, top top notch. All the finest things you could say about a soldier. And I think I would say that he was one of the most interesting. And ah,
D: Andy, did you say?
J: Bullis was Vernon. Bullis. He was from Oshkosh.
D: Did you keep a relationship up with any of the fellows that ah, that you were in the service with?
J: Yep. Just ah, superficial. I never, my attitude was I was so glad to survive that I wanted to forget about it. And for many years after World War II, I dodged or stayed away. I briefly joined veterans organizations but I didn't stay [ ] I didn't stay active. I didn't want nothing to stop….
J: Yeah. I didn't want nothing to stop. And it's only in later years now that I got my history degree at the university that I've done a lot of research and a lot of reading and I was able to publish my book. Diary [ ] Yeah, it's a [ ] hard bound copies library and the museum's got 'em for sale, they cost ten bucks I think, and the library has got [ ] but you have to get a hard bound copy 'cause in the hard bound copy I've got more than I had in the soft copy because the pictures [ ] I think that if you want to flesh out this stuff, that I would get, it's called, "The Diary of a National Guardsman." [ ] And if you punch up author it'll give you the shelf number. Yeah. This I think even if you read through it what I've told you on tape, I recounted in the book in more detail. And that'll flesh it out. I've got a lot of pictures [ ].
D: O.K. I think we can wind this up. This is a oral history of World War II ah, with Clarence Jungwirth and it's being recorded, been recorded on the 26th of January, 1994. And we hope that posterity will like to hear what Clarence Jungwirth had to say. Thanks very much Clarence.
J: Yep. Glad to have…
|Oral History Interview with Clarence J. Jungwirth
-WORLD WAR II
-Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
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