Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Donald C. Boyd's World War II Story...
This story of an American Hero was given to me by his son Matthew Boyd. And I want to share it with everyone.
My Father, Staff Sergeant Donald C. Boyd, served with the 32nd "Red Arrow" Division, 128th Infantry Regiment, Cannon Company. He fought on Leyte, Luzon, the Druiniumor River, and the Villa Verde Trail where he drove an M7 Priest, carried an M1 Garand, and was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism. He is currently recovering nicely at home in Swanton, Ohio from recent triple bypass surgery.
Donald C. Boyd
32nd "Red Arrow" Division 128th Infantry Regiment, Cannon Company
Donald C. Boyd's World War II Story...
I was a soldier in the Cannon Co., 128th Infantry. I joined the company as a replacement at Aitape after most of the fighting was over. Our company area was on the beach near the Driniumor River. At that time, we had 81mm mortars as our main support weapon. We went to Hollandia to train for landing on Leyte and to our surprise, Cn. Co. was given 6 new M-7's to replace our mortars. Of course, no one knew anything about them. A Major from the tank battalion came to teach us driving, shooting, maintenance, etc.
The M-7 has a 105mm Howitzer and a .50 cal. machine gun on an M-4 Sherman tank chassis. It's powered by a 9 cylinder radial air-cooled 380hp engine. Our mortar men adapted to the Howitzer sights easily, but we had no drivers. A notice was posted on the company bulletin board saying "Anyone interested in driving, sign up for a tryout." I signed up with little hope of getting the job. At 18, I was the youngest and newest man in the company. Several of us met with the Major the next morning and since only one driver and one backup were needed per M-7, I thought my chances were poor to say the least.
The Major explained that the engines were governed so you couldn't over-rev them, but you must drive full-throttle in every gear. Never lag the engine. The 5-speed transmission had to be double-clutched to shift gears. Some of the guys stalled, some couldn't shift right which lagged the engine which can foul the plugs. When it was my turn, I thought "I'll give this thing a ride" because I might not get another chance. The major must have been impressed, for I was picked to drive. After much gunnery and driving practice, we were ready for Leyte. We went ashore on Leyte with no problems, as the 24th Division secured our landing area earlier. We eliminated a Jap machine gunner that had been harassing this beach area for our 1st kill.
I was surprised that you didn't mention in your book of the slaughter of Jap reinforcements at Ormac Bay. Some of us were on a high hill overlooking the bay when flight after flight of our planes caught some Jap troop ships in the harbor. Were some miles away but with binoculars and spotting scopes we had an excellent view. Our planes bombed and strafed those bastards and were credited for killing 7000!
Your book brought back memories of actions that now seem incredible. A group of us we were standing around in front of our position overlooking a valley of waist-high grasses. "Harper," our B.A.R. man, said, "Isn't that a Goddamned Jap out there?" It was, and as we watched in amazement as he stumbled his way toward us. He appeared to be unarmed. As the Jap was about 100 yards away, we saw he was oblivious to everything. I said, "I'm gonna blast that son-of-a-bitch." Someone else said he was. Harper said "I saw him first," raised his B.A.R. and fired the whole clip. The 1st round hit him in his left foot and some of the following rounds tore through his body, killing him instantly. Among his effects, was a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes. When I think back that I would have killed this man without hesitation, in fact, pleasure it's scary.
On to Luzon and the Villa Verde. Our landing at Lingayen was uneventful, but that changed when the 1st Platoon's M-7's were to drive up the Villa Verde. "Preston" drove the #1 M-7 and I drove #2. As you stated in your great book, the engineers had made a narrow road out of that goat path. The road was fine for an Army 2-1/2 ton truck, but my M-7 is considerably wider and in many places we scraped the side of the mountain going up. I made a mental note that 2 turns would be really tough coming down if we survived to come down. The engineers had scraped out a firing position for us and it worked out well. We could fire across this valley at Jap positions as close as 600 yards and any range beyond. I don't know how many rounds we fired from there, but it was a lot.
One day, the engineer's bulldozer slid off the trail and down the side of the mountain and was stuck. Our Lieutenant to me to "Fire it up -- we're going to get the 'dozer back on the trail." The bulldozer operator was working several hundred yards, and around several curves from where we were. We took off and found the bulldozer close enough to hook a cable on, which we did.
By now, we were drawing rifle fire. They hooked the cable to my front so we would pull him up in reverse. We couldn't do it. The M-7 crawlers just dug in the soft dirt. It was decided to start the bulldozer and with it running and backing up, and me pulling also, we might get him out. While the bulldozer was being started, I had to turn around so we could hook on the back of my M-7. I could hear an occasional bullet hit us. I put my M-7 in first gear, and with the bulldozer in reverse, we yanked him back on the trail. We unhooked and started back and WHAM! At least a 75mm round hit the side of the mountain about 100 feet in front of us. The shell blew the foot off a Filipino bearer in front of us. Sgt. Weimer yelled "Stop! We'll pick him up!" I yelled, "Are you crazy?" But, I stopped and the crew pulled him aboard. We took off and immediately another round hit were we would have been, had we NOT stopped.
This shell put a 6" x 3/4" piece of shrapnel in a G.I.'s thigh. We picked him up and again, WHAM! This round hit behind us where we'd just left. We made it to a curve, out of sight from the gunner. If we hadn't stopped to pick up that Filipino, I know we would have been hit. To this day, I don't know why that Jap didn't clobber that bulldozer but as far as I could tell, they never did.
I was never wounded, but besides the bulldozer episode, a Jap machine-gunner nearly got me on Leyte. And driving out of the Villa Verde Trail, the whole crew, including Sgt. Weimer jumped off leaving me strapped in the driver's seat when it appeared we were sliding off the road. I had the tracks locked up but we were like a sled on the wet clay. We stopped just before plunging hundreds of feet down. The Sgt. climbed back on and I was able to back up enough to make the turn and get safely down.
I was on my way home, in late Dec. 1945 and like you, had quit taking Atabrine. Malaria hit me and I was really sick. I couldn't answer formations, but fortunately, Clinton Beamer answered for me, brought me soup from the mess hall and looked out for me as best he could. I didn't want to miss my boat back to the states. Beamer was a farm boy from Attica, Ohio. We went through basic together and both ended up in Cn. Co. in the 1st Platoon. He, in the #1 M-7 and me in the #2 M-7.
One other thing, there was a scumbag from Maryland in our out fit that collected gold fillings from Jap corpses. I once saw him urinate on the face and mouth of a dead Jap who was covered with mud to see if there was gold fillings in there. He always carried pliers with him.
----- Donald C. Boyd