It was dawn of October 20, 1944. The sky
was bright and clear, The sea was calm and blue. The
3rd Battalion of the 382nd Regiment was selected to lead the
assault. Two days earlier, the 6th Ranger Battalion had landed
unopposed to secure two small islands that guarded the entrance to
Leyte Gulf - Dingat on the south and Homonhon on the north.
The invasion fleet must have been a very impressive and awesome sight
to the enemy. It was the most powerful naval force ever
assembled. The invasion force consisted of 843 ships - aircraft
carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, transports and two
amphibious forces with every kind of landing ship known to man.
At approximately 9:00 am on "A Day", the preliminary softening up
reached a climax. The battleships and cruisers were belching out
huge black rings as they sent their 16-inch shells roaring toward the
beach. In addition, the target area was being bombed and strafed
by naval aircraft that looked like a bunch of mad wasps.
Occasionaklly, there would be a brief lull in the firing, hoping to
entice the enemy out of his protective foxholes and pillboxes.
Then, just before the actual landing, the beaches were blasted wuth
thousands of rockets and mortar shells from small LCI ships that were
stationed just offshore. It was a fearful chorus that announced
As the LST landing ship approached the
beach, the huge bow doors swung open and disgorged the amphibious
landing vehicles that were to carry us into the holocaust. We
crouched low in the vehicle and awaited the expected crunch of an enemy
shell that would disopatch us from this world. To our
astonishment, the first wave landed with very little opposition, and we
found ourselves safeky across the beach and still very much alive.
Our immediate goal was to capture Hill 120, which was about 120 yards
inland. The first obstacle I encountered was a very deep and wide
anti-tank ditch that was designed to stop any tank that might be
lumbering forward. Somehow, I found myself on the other side, and
to this day I don't know how I negotiated that ditch.
Hill 120 was no small task. From the top the enemy had a
commanding view of the landing beaches. It was honeycombed with
caves, foxholes and pillboxes. We took some casualties in our
efforts, but the pre-landing bombardnment had apparently left the enemy
dazed. The first U.S. flag was raised atop Hill 120 that signaled
the beginning of the liberation of the Philippine Islands from the
Fifty years later - to the day - I
stood atop Hill 120 again. The view was exhilerating and in
emotional contrast to the ugly scene I had witnessed a half-century
before. The entire landscape was now overgrown with coconut trees and
tropical foliage. At the crest of the hill there was now a
monument dedicated to my outfit - the 96th Division, 382nd Regiment, 3rd