Yank The Army Weekly-CBI-Edition|
June 24 1944-Vol. 1 No 47
By Sgt. Dave Richardson
Yank Staff Correspondent.
OF MULES AND MEN.
BEHIND JAPANESE LINES IN NORTHERN BURMA-Odds and ends from the battered diary of a footsore YANK Correspondent after his first 500 miles of marching and Jap-hunting with Merrill's Marauders:
SUCH specialists as clerks and radiomen were pressed into service as mule-drivers with the Marauders to make up for a shortage of experienced animal men. Leading, feeding, watering and grooming the mules turned out to be one of the toughest jobs in the raider outfit.
Passing through the pick-line after a day's march Brig.-Gen. Frank D Merrill came across a sweating grimy-faced mule-driver tenderly combing a mule's back.
"You certainly seem to take good care of your animal," remarked General Merrill. "Had much experience with mules in the states?"
The soldier, Pfc. Casey Turiello, turned his weary face. "No, sir," he said. "But I did see a mule once--on an ice wagon back home in Brooklyn."
PARTNERS IN MISERY:
ANOTHER mule-driver was having trouble with his animal. It balked at the bottom of a very rugged Burma hill. The driver had to coax, cajole, cuss and tug at his animal constantly. Finally on one hill the mule stopped dead and layed down. This was the last straw.
"Get up, you sonuvabitch," cracked the driver, who had answered President Roosevelt's call to join the volunteer Marauders. "You volunteered for this mission to."
FOR weeks the Marauders hadn't seen a piece of mail or a scrape of reading matter. They sweated out a few books or magazines each time transport planes roared over to parachute rations and ammunition to them. Then one wonderful day after an attack on the main Jap supply route near Laban, the unit I was with finally got manna from the sky--an airdrop of a few books. Not many of them--one book to each platoon. Eagerly we scanned the titles.
The books were the "Pocket Book of Etiquette." "Children's Book of Wild Animals." Boy Scout Hand Book." and last but not least, "Rhyming Dictionary of Poetic Words and Phrases."
Battle of Verse
SPEAKING of poetry, there's a saying that when a GI starts composing verses he's been in the jungle too long. Both the Marauders and the Japs they fought had a candidate for this dubious distinction of "Jungle-Mad Poet Laureate."
Representing the Marauders was T/5 Stanley L Benson, a gun repair man. Here's his first endeavor in the field of verse:
Four thousand dead Japs behind us --
A hell of a stinking mess.
The lives ones now around us
Soon we will join the rest
When Tojo gave his orders
To kill us one by one,
He didn't know Merrill's Marauders
would sink the rising sun.
(Benson took a slight poetic license in his first line. Actually the Marauders are credited with killing only 2,000 Japs in six weeks.)
And the Japs literary weapon in this battle of the poets was this hymn of conquest, found on the the bullet-riddled body of a dead Son of Heaven. It doesn't rhyme when translated into English, but it still possess undoubted literary merit:
With the blood-stained flag of the Rising Sun,
I'd like to conquer the world.
As I spit on the Great Wall of China,
A multi-hued rainbow rises above the Gobi Desert.
On the Ganges River at the foot of majestic Himalaya Mountains,
Sons of Nippon look for some crocodiles.
Today we're in Berlin,
Tomorrow in Moscow,
Home of snowbound Siberia,
As the fog lifts we see the City of London,
Rising high, as the ceremonial fish of Boys' Day does.
Now we're in Chicago, once terrorized by gangsters,
Where our grandchildren pay homage to our memorial monument.
Oh, Governor-General of Australia and South America,
Only Japan sweet odor of fragrant blossoms permeates.
When I die I'll call together all the devils,
And wrestle them in a three-inch rivulet.
I've set my mind on making my home in Singapore.
For there my darling awaits my return.
(Looks like the babe is going to have a long wait. Right now her poet is wrestling with the devils.)
WHEN the Marauders reached the rugged hill country of the Monaung Valley, their columns of men and pack mules started to string out as mules tumbled off ridges and bogged down in muddy ravines to hold up part of the column. Frequent messages were passed verbally from man to man up the column to keep the point platoon posted on the progress of the rear.
Usually these messages were "The column is broken behind the __ platoon." or "Lost contact with the mule train." Occasionally however, a new wording crept in to cause confusion.
One of these new wordings was contained in a message passed up one rainy night on a forced march through enemy-infested jungles. "There's a gap in the column." was the way it started. When it reached the front of the column, however, it had changed to "there's a Jap in the column." T front, unperturbed, sent back word to throw him out.
Some hills were so steep steps had to be cut into the sides so the mules could climb up. On one of these occasions the message was passed from front to rear for "All men with shovels forward." When the message reached the rear it had become "Old men will shuffle forward." Some wiseacre sent back the retort: "We young guys aren't exactly prancing up these hills."
Hara-Kiri Two to One
FOUND in a Jap supply dump were packs of "Silver City" cigarettes that exhibited the Nipponese flair for imitation. The packs were similar in size and design to those of popular U.S. brands. According to the English wording on each package, they were manufactured by "Eastern Virginia Tobacco Company." And there was a familiar ring to the blurb on the back of each pack: "Silver City cigarettes are a blend of the finest Turkish, American and domestic Tobaccos, manufactured by expert craftsmen and guaranteed to satisfy the most exquisite of smokers."
FOR security reasons the Marauders could neither write nor receive mail while behind enemy lines. After two months of marching and fighting, however they were pulled back for a rest and got that long awaited mail drop and an opportunity to write V-mail replies.
In a stack of letters from a gal back home, S/Sgt. Luther S. Player of Darlington, S. Car., came across the remark, "I'll bet you're seeing plenty of action." Players unit had been cut off for ten days' during which it was shelled and counter-attacked constantly. He answered his gal's letter as fully as censorship would permit. "Baby," he wrote, "you ain't kiddin'."
T/Sgt. Joe Diskin of Hoboken N.J., received among his mail a letter from an old pal who didn't know Diskin was overseas. Diskin is a World War veteran who's been in the Regular Army for 27 years and was sent back to the States from Pearl Harbor as "unfit for foreign service" because of 1918 wounds and age. His pal's letter read. "I am in Italy and have been in action. Believe me, this war is too tough for you old guys. No wonder you're back in the States." Diskin had just led his platoon against a fierce Jap counter-attack. His reply is not for publication in YANK's sacred pages.