I have decided to write fictionalized short stories about various soldiers during the Second World War in an attempt to show not only famous battles of the war, but also show the horrors and everyday life of a soldier in WWII that’s hard to do in a matter of fact way. The stories will cover 1941-45 and are based off of real accounts of those who had survived the war that either I have heard of or talked to. This is the first one so bear with me.
In the first installment we shall look at Sgt. Jonathan Dunn of the 31st Infantry Regiment of the Philippine Division during the initial days of the war and the Battle of Bataan.
My name is Jonathan Dunn and I was born in Wichita Falls Texas on December 30th 1919. I am 99 years old and I am a veteran of the Second World War. I was a Sergeant during the Battle of Bataan in 1941 and I am a Bataan Death March Survivor as well. I had joined the Army at the age of 17 because of the Depression and Dust Bowl that had hit us in 1936. My father had died in 1935 mainly from alcohol related illnesses, the Depression effected everyone in different ways, for my daddy he turned to alcohol to cope with the fact that he was attempting to support myself and younger brother as well as my mother. I had enlisted underage in June of 1937 after I stole a Chevy Coupe in a drunken stupor with a few friends of mine and was facing obvious law troubles. I was facing an imminent arrest and went to the nearest recruiting station, saw the Army was taking volunteers and decided that I could beat any troubles that would eventually come. The prospect of getting a job, three meals a day, a bed and clothing paid by Uncle Sam also was a good incentive to join up. I had lied to the recruiter and told him I was 18 at the time, mamma was not too happy to hear I had joined up with good reason. I had effectively abandoned my mother and younger brother regarding financially since my mother relied on myself and herself to effectively pay for the rent, food and my brother and I. At any rate I had promised mother to send a majority of my paycheck to her when I got it. I had taken my physical examination and after passing was officially inducted into the United States Army in late June 1937.
In November of 1937 I was officially given my orders of assignment which was on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. At first I had no idea where the Philippines were let alone Luzon. They told me it was in the Far East in the Pacific and my first thought was that there would be naked island women with coconuts wooing you while you sat under a palm tree hahahaha. I arrived on Luzon in the Capital city of Manila in late November or early December, I cannot remember exactly when and was assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment which was part of the Philippine Division which was the crack division of General MacArthur's defense forces in the Philippines. I had never been so far away from home before, everything was so new to me, the sights, sounds, people. I knew my mother was happy when I wrote her because everything on the newsreels in the late 30s was about Hitler and Europe. Tensions were increasing yearly it seemed and so my mother and myself included was happy that I was thousands of miles away from any potential conflict. For me it was sort of like a paradise since it was warm all year round, there were parties for enlisted personnel like myself and officers (who always found ways to get caviar and champagne some 2,000 miles from home) and the Filipino people were generally friendly with American service men. Daily duty was always easy yet monotonous and weekends were always something to look forward to. Looking back on it from 1937-1941, it was more like a civilian job on a relaxing paradise then a dangerous army job. I became a Pfc in February 1938 (by that time I was eighteen) and by September 1940 I had risen to the rank of Cpl. Of course by September 1940, the war in Europe was raging and Germany seemed to be on the brink of winning the war. There was talk in the barracks that we was probably going to get involved somehow since Roosevelt started arming the Brits with destroyers and airplanes. No one wanted war and FDR promised us that war would not come to the us since he was determined to have us remain a neutral country away from European affairs. Every servicemen seemed to be slightly on edge in late 1940/early 41 since we didn't know if we would be transferred to the states and sent to another post closer to Europe somehow. We all felt fortunate that we were safe on Luzon and that all that fighting was thousands of miles away and we were not apart of it. Around March of 1941 I had risen to the rank of Sgt since our old one fell terribly ill with malaria and had to be sent back to the states for treatment. I wrote my mother every so often who said that things at home were slightly getting better every so often and that my paychecks home helped a lot with the rent and food bills. Everything seemed fine until December of 1941 though.
On December 7th 1941, the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor, while Pearl harbor was being bombed, we were simultaneously bombed as well (it was December 8th across the international timezone). General MacArthur immediately got all defenses on the alert and we waited for the imminent invasion that we all knew would come. While we dug in and counted ourselves lucky (only one of our Sgts. was killed in the air raids on the 8th) we were completely shocked that the Japanese had attacked us unexpectedly and were seizing all western territories in the Pacific. The main invasion force did not arrive until late December 1941 and the city of Manila was in complete shock as we pulled ourselves back to the Bataan Peninsula to delay the invasion force long enough until reinforcements would sail to our rescue. With Manila declared an open city, our regiment had been pulled back continuously and we not seen action (which changed on January 9, 1942) at this point. We were pushed back at the Abucay Line after our defenses at Layac had failed just a week earlier. Our regiment dug in and set up our machine guns and waited for any sign of the Japs who were increasingly tightening a noose around our neck.........
To be continued in Part II