Horn yelled, "Peterson,
get your gear and report to Ski at Headquarters, on the
As a private in a combat
infantry company, I know it can only mean
trouble when you're singled out for anything. I'm part
of a team, here; we've been trained to work as a group.
Horn didn't grab a bunch of guys to go out on patrol, or
paint rocks. or do the kinds of no-brain sluff that
privates do best - he picked me. By name.
Maybe it's KP, or I'm going to be decorated, or court
martialed, or ...
We (Company C. 383rd Regiment.
96lh Infantry Division), with the help of a few other
units, had invaded Lcytc, P.I. at M minute on October
20, 1944, and then participated in front-line
combat activities until yesterday, November I. Now we're
doing patrol duty, mopping up, and resting up in a "rear
Anyway, you don' I argue with
Horn. I got my stuff and went to HQ. First
Sergeant Cendrowski told me I'd been "volunteered" for
detached duty. "Elliott will give you a ride over to
regiment. You're gonna guard a bridge for three days,
then report back to me." Okay. So they need a
dependable, courageous, responsible man who can work
without supervision, That?s why they picked me -- makes
At regiment I learned that our
detail consisted of six other outstanding privates and
me, accompanied by 14 Filipino guerrillas.
A captain briefed us: "We're opening a
supply route from Dulag, across the island to Ormoc,
about 35 miles. The map shows seven bridges over streams
intersecting the road, and we need 24-hour guards
on each bridge to secure the road. One man and two
guerrillas at each bridge; you'll be relieved in three
days. Move out."
We helped each other load onto
a deuce-and-a-half; drove down the coastal road to
Dulag, and turned west on the new supply route. Not
much of a road, even by Leyte standards. but vehicles
should be able to meet and pass without too much
The truck stopped at each
bridge, and three guys got off with their gear and a
10-day supply of rations for their replacements.
At the fourth bridge, about 18 miles from the
coast and a half mile past the barrio of Matagpa, I
think, I unloaded and two guerrillas followed. We look
our supplies to the side of the road, and watched the
truck roar off to the west and disappear in a cloud of
It was a nice area - flat
lowlands, with scattered groves of trees, sugar cane
fields. random brush, a few typical thatched-roof homes
visible. There were some native folks near-by,
bathing and washing clothes in the creek, looking
on curiously, enjoying the mild, sunny day.
We carried our supplies across
the road, and introduced ourselves to each other. Abe
and Manuelo knew little English, and I knew no Visayan.
I sent them to ask some local folks whether we could
occupy a vacant hut near our bridge, II seemed to be
empty, in good condition, about 16 feet square. with an
elevated boar floor, palm-frond walls and roof. Abe told
me that a small Japanese unit had occupied
the hut for a month or so until a few days ago. The
Filipino family who owned it had moved away before that.
So we moved in, threw
our bedrolls on tile
floor, stowed our rations, examined
the "kitchen" area, and went out to
inspect our bridge.
The bridge spanned the road,
about 22 feet wide. It was just
slightly below road level, and
consisted of two coconut logs, each about
14 inches in diameter at the
butt-end; one butt north, one butt south.
The logs lay directly on
the muddy soil that was the
creek bed, At this time,
however, the creek consisted of
shallow pools along the course, and a
trickle of water under the bridge. Big deal. The
first three bridges we'd seen were more impressive
- two of them even
crossed running streams.
But we had been sent here for
good purpose; our bridge was a vital
link in the supply chain to
help restore democracy in the
and rid the world
of tile tyrannical
Japanese. We would protect this structure from all
enemies, foreign and
domestic. walk our post in a military manner, and
prevent such damage to its structural integrity as
might be inflicted by saboteurs or nature.
A heavy burden, but we could handle
it, for three days, anyway. Piece of cake.