96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

Guard Duty 
 
   On November 22, 1944, the 3rd Battalion was ordered from the front line.  Our casualties had been very high - nearly two hundred killed, missing, or wounded.  We were stationed on Mecham Ridge about one mile behind the front.  Although we still lived in foxholes, we were now able to customize our quarters.  Some had suspended bamboo floors so that we could stay above the water and damp, cold ground.  Others had makeshift roofs to shield the occupants from the rain.  This doesn't seem like much, but after what we had been through, we thought of it as the Leyte Hilton.

   The Army has a theory that an idle soldier is an unhappy soldier with nothing to gripe about, so it thought of a million things to keep us busy.  Guard duty was their favorite.  We guarded everything from from deserted warehouses, the sleeping quarters of officers, ammunition dumps, the mess hall, the finance office for the Division and water pruification points, to name a few.  This brings me to the point of this story.  About 5:00 pm, Don Silva - my foxhole buddy - and I were detailed to guard the water purification point, which was nothing more than a large Lister bag hung on three cross poles.

   Next to the water point was an old run-down shack, which a Philippine family had commandeered after they had returned from their hideout in the mountains.  They had been exiled for nearly three years during the Japanese occupation.  The family consisted ot five children ranging in age from an infant to about twelve years old.  The children were dressed in rags, but were clean and apparently healthy.

   After looking around for a place to locate, Silva and I decided the small porch with a makeshift roof would be the driest and most comfortable place to set up shop for the night.  We asked the father if he would mind, and he readily agreed.  Perhaps the fact that we were heavily armed influenced his decision - he was very glad to have protection - and in fact invited us to to dinner.  The dinner was served in bowls fresh from the coconut tree.  The dinner fare consisted of fish and very sticky rice.  We ate only enough to be polite, and appreciated the bowls of water that were furnished each of us so that wee could remove the rice from our fingers.  The problem was that no utensils were furnished, and eating with our fingers was a new experience and very messy.

   We visited with our hosts for a short time and listened to their stories about the hardships they had endured during the Japanese occupation of their homeland.  We then retired to our porch and the wonderful view of the Lister bag.

  With nothing else to do, we entertained ourselves by singing.  We had several verses of You Are My Sunshine when we noticed three of the children watching us from the open doorway behind us.  We invited them to join us on the porch, and proceeded to teach them the words to our song.  After about a half hour, they had the words down pretty good, and the five of us spent the evening singing the song over and over.

   Fifty years later, I returned to the Barrio of Bureaun, where a huge crowd greeted us.  I couldn't help but wonder if somewhere among the crowd the three children - now adults - were silently singing You Are My Sunshine.