The second of Dunn’s story and his days of Bataan
After we were pushed back to the Abucay line, things got worse and worse every day for us. The Japs continually proved our line and we expended ammunition at an alarming rate. We were continually told help would soon arrive, we just need to fight it out a little more and wait for reinforcements. Since I was a Sargent I was tasked with keeping my men in line and have the men follow the orders of our Captain. The men under my command were good, very good to be exact. I had been a grunt like them until my promotion and we had been together since the early days of 1940. There were 8 men i had to look out for, by the time it was all over only I would survive the war.
Pvts Frank Bonacelli and Ryan O'Donnell were both from Endicott New York. they had both enlisted in 1939 as inseparable friends. Both were street smart, knew their way around a knife and more importantly, tough. They were good men and I knew I could count on them when the time came. Pvt John Hayseed of Oklahoma was a lanky fellow but a good shot, he was a good kid, just not that bright. Pvt Thomas Arato of Philadelphia was a natural born killer in a good way, you could always count on him to finish a dirty and deadly job which became increasingly important during Bataan. Pfcs Samuel Goodman and Larry Rapisello were good communicators and were definitely on the path to becoming NCOs before the war, they were dependable soldiers and I could count on them any time, any day. Cpls Harry Dunn of Nebraska (no relation whatsoever) and Robert Souderland of Washington Oregon were good leaders/base NCOs. If I hadn't been promoted, one of them would have. Dunn had a natural leadership aura that men gravitated to. Souderland on the other hand was a good hands on leader who was down to earth and always looked out for his fellow squad mates.
Our squad had dug defensive positions along the western part of the Abucay line called the Mauban line and we waited alongside the other squads for a Jap frontal attack. Day and night from January 9th to the 23rd bombers and artillery pounded our positions as waves upon waves of Japs charged our line. You'll never know what war sounds like, the sights, fears every man must go through in his own personal way. The deafening sound of a bomb dropping near or on your position and the crackle of gun fire as a man yells for his mother, friend, wife or loved one is something no man must bear. I was in charge of the weapons section of 2nd Squad of Charlie company. Our squad had 2 water cooled .30 cal machine guns that required a gunner, loader and additional man to carry ammo and provide support if the enemy overwhelmed the gun. Pvts Bonacelli and O'Donnell along with Souderland made up the first gun and Dunn, Goodman and Hayseed made up the second. Rapisello and Arato were used as runners to convey messages to and from the headquarters and if needed fight if the situation worsened. On January 9th, we heard our comrades struggle to keep hold of the line as waves upon waves of aircraft pounded our positions and the Japs with their blood curdling Banzai! charged fixed defensive positions. We heard the thunder of the guns and crackle of gun fire but our part of the line was not hit. On the 10th though, we received our baptism of fire as our positions in the late afternoon came under a unannounced barrage of artillery fire followed by a massive Banzai attack. I had my men in position and was told to wait till they got to within 500 yards to open fire. I counted long and loud until i announced open fire and became deafened by the 30 cal machine gun fire that raked the Japs. I saw 20-30 Japs fall in the blink of an eye as we poured continuous fire into them. They still charged as sometimes 2 or even 3 men were killed by the same bullet, often passing through multiple bodies at once. I should have been horrified by the sight at seeing a fellow human be dismembered by our bullets, but alas I was not. I was merely focused on staying alive and fighting another day. My section started to run out of ammo 30 minutes into the fight and I sent Rapisello back to get more ammo (our guns were only allotted 300 rounds per gun). 10 minutes after I sent Rapisello out, I hadn't seen or heard from him and I sent Arato to get the ammo and find Rapisello. Unfortunately, Rapisello had been hit by a mortar shell 50 yards from our position and was killed. Arato was pretty shaken by the sight of this and I told him to forget about it and to focus on the job at hand (resupplying our machine guns). After about am hours worth of attack, the Jap advance stopped and only light skirmishes remained throughout the day. We all mourned Rapisello in our own way, but I felt his death hard. It was under my command that he had been killed. He was only 20 when he died and was the youngest one of the group. I still feel responsible for his death and will probably do so until I die. Our positions at Mauban were held until the 25th of January. By that point most of the ammunition for the machine guns were spent and we were down to one 100 ammunition belt per gun. While we were withdrawing, I saw over 300 or more Japs strewn across our line. A field of death as it may be called, bodies decomposing, men moaning and crying, flies and mosquitoes constantly picking on living breathing people regardless of ethnicity and race. Our final line of defense was at the Orion Bagac line nearing the end of the Bataan Peninsula.
On January 28th we were put on the line, sick, weary, tired, running low on ammunition and still no help in sight. Constantly being told rumors that help is on the way started to get old and tiresome. MacArthur already knew that help wouldn't come, but told us to keep fighting (this is in hindsight mind you). By the 31st, Souderland was deathly ill with malaria and pulled from the line leaving us with less men to defend the line. We were already spread thin and had wounded men that could fight alongside us to swell the thin ranks. Snipers were pesky and took their toll on us every day either physically or morale wise. I began my journey on Bataan 170 lbs, by the 31st I was 145 lbs and that number kept going down. We were on half rations and were being told that that would reduce to quarter rations in the next few weeks. On February 15th we lost another man in the squad. Hayseed was manning his post on the machine gun when we heard a crack. Everyone in the area hit the deck and when I looked over, I saw Hayseed sitting upright. I yelled at him to get down and crawled to his position to yank him down. When I got close to him, I saw the back of his head and brain matter drooping out. He got it pretty quick and painlessly but the sight of that still haunts me. By this point we were all desensitized by the deaths of our friends because of our conditions on the damn Peninsula. As long as it wasn't you, you felt bad for the man, but not much else. We had Filipino guerrillas and soldiers counter snipe the Japs either on our line or behind their lines which demoralized them as much as it did us. Malaria by this point was a common occurrence and many men in the regiment and in general fell ill. Constant artillery barrages and plane attacks took their toll as well. My sqaud was down to Bonacelli, O'Donnell, Dunn, Araro and Goodman as well as myself. On the night of the 18th of February, we learned that Souderland had passed because of the malaria and lack of medicine. His weakened state did not help things either and we all feared malaria because of our weak bodies and lack of medicine which was becoming common on Bataan. On February 28th, we ran out of rations and began to eat the horses and mules. I was given the task of killing our company horses (10 total) and took Arato with me. It was a terrible job to do but we did it to survive. Horse meat isn't bad if you needed it, and in a stew, it helps survive and strengthen the body. On March 1st, we received another frontal attack, which ended quickly but at a cost. Our machine guns were effectively out of ammunition and there were no ammunition reserves in the rear. 100 Japs charged our thin lines (1 man every couple yards) and within 15 minutes they were all slaughtered. We abandoned the guns which had provided protection against the waves of Jap attacks, and were now down to bolt action 03' Springfield's. I carried the only Thompson sub machine gun in our squad and while it wasn't good at range, it was very effective at short distances. The distances of fighting became close and very personal. Jap infiltrators snuck into our lines and at night you could hear yelling and men struggling in hand to hand fighting as someone always came out on top. The Japs were tired as well so the fighting was stalemating, albeit they still had the upper hand. In the morning I had seen other men in other squads with their throats slit as the Japs came into their foxholes and quietly kill our men one by one. On March 12th, we heard that MacArthur had abandoned Corrigedor Island and was being flown to Australia by FDR's orders. His famous "People of the Philippines I shall return" speech did nothing to help our moral. Dug Out Dug is and will always be his name to myself and comrades. He did nothing to help us and fed us false promises of hope that would never come. Jonathan M. Wainwright took MacArthur's job on Corregidor Island and Ned King took command of Bataan. By the end of March the situation was dire, Goodman collapsed and died in front of us due to malaria and starvation. I couldn't blame him for giving up though, many men wanted the end to come. On April 3rd a massive artillery and air bombardment was launched against us and I simply huddled to the ground as waves upon waves of bombers and shells pounded the line, you couldn't hear anything int the chaos that ensued. the Company hospital had been hit in the bombardment and everyone in it was killed instantly. One young fellow in the regiment went insane upon seeing the blood and limbs of friends strewn all over the area. The smoldering remains were a sickening sight that even the most desensitized person couldn't look at.
The line was beginning to crack and on April 6th a massive new Jap attack all along the line commenced. New reinforcements shipped from Japan were used to finish us off. Our thin ranks did our best to fight them off, our weapons being used as clubs as ammunition was finally out. They penetrated our defenses but Arato and the others threw everything they had at the Japs. I was involved in heavy hand to hand fighting, using the butt of my gun and even rocks to level the odds against the Jap who was trying to stick a bayonet in my gut. I bashed that Japs face in repeatedly until he didn't move, then I moved on to another Jap, and another. This went on for a good half hour before we were able to beat them off of our part of the line for a short time. Arato was wounded in the leg by a Jap wielding a sword and I helped him off the line as I told my men to withdraw to avoid being killed in the next assault. On the 9th of April, Wainwright knowing the situation was hopeless allowed Ned King to surrender all forces on the Bataan Peninsula, effectively ending the battle of the Philippines. All that was left was the garrison on Corregidor and the Philippines would be lossed. My journey though was just beginning in Jap captivity, and my story on Bataan is not over quite yet....Part III coming soon.