96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

The Assault
 
   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 our arrival.

   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.
LL
   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 Japanese invaders.

   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 Battalion.