At the time the 3rd Platoon commenced firing, the artillery was to shift their fires up towards the crest of the hill, and make succeeding fifty-yard shifts to the east as the assaulting platoons advanced. As soon as the fire of the 3rd Platoon was masked by advancing troops on the enemy positions, they were to displace and join the assaulting elements on the objective. Each of the assaulting platoons would have a squad in support, and with this squad would be a light machine gun crew. Briefing for this attack had gone on for a week. The most thorough recon had been made down to and including the squad leaders. Troop A could find their positions in the dark, and this they actually did on the morning of the attack remaining in concealment until jump-off time. All of this recon and maneuver took place within three hundred yards of the enemy positions. The troop commander feared that because of this the intention to attack might be discovered, but when daylight came on, no unusual activity or fire was noticeable on the part of the enemy.
The artillery commenced firing promptly at 1000. As soon as the enemy-held positions became obscured in the dust the two platoons started their descent into the draw separating the two positions. Going down into the draw was accomplished with no difficulty. The enemy had no security outposts. Climbing the steep grade to the enemy positions, however, was more difficult. Seeing that the men were panting and out of breath, the troop commander signaled for a brief halt just before the leading elements reached the summit. This was accomplished by simply raising the arm in the signal for a halt. The platoon leaders were well-trained and kept the troop commander in view so that his orders could be communicated in this manner.
During this short halt, it was noticed that the radio operator carrying the SCR-300 was too fatigued to be efficient. Because all the members of the troop had been trained in radio procedures, the radio was transferred to the troop commander’s runner. Then the signal to advance was given and the two platoons resumed their climb. The troop commander and his command group including the artillery and 81-MM mortar observers were in front of the left platoon. As they stepped onto the plateau, the artillery fire was promptly shifted fifty yards forward. The two platoons followed closely in good formation and in good order. Control by the NCOs was good. The center of impact of the artillery was about fifty to seventy-five yards in front of the troops. The artillery observer objected to bringing fire in this close to the troops but acquiesced to the troop commander’s wishes.
Concurrently with the shift of the artillery fire, the 3rd Platoon let loose with a tremendous volume of fire which was laid a few feet in front of the attacking troops. So far there had been no evidence of enemy reaction but at this time a Jap soldier raised out of a bunker and took off at a dead run into the artillery impact area. Before he could be killed by artillery fire, though, the troops dispatched him with their small arms. At the same time, a small amount of rifle fire was received from the leading bunkers. The troop commander shouted to his platoon leaders to reduce each bunker before moving on. The squads then began a systematic destruction of the enemy within the bunkers. The system was simple. While one or two men would keep the occupants of a bunker down by firing into the aperture, another would walk up and drop hand grenades into the slit.
This had been practiced many times in training and proved to be an effective method. Most of the bunkers were found to be occupied by two or three Japs. Evidently, the Jap plan of resistance was to allow troops to pass occupied bunkers and then fire upon them from the rear. When the enemy in succeeding bunkers saw that the leading positions were being neutralized and that none were being passed, they began to bring a volume of small arms fire upon the attackers. They used some light machine gun fire at this time. This fire was wild and ineffective. It is believed that this was because of the heavy artillery pounding and the heavy volume of small arms fire from the 3rd Platoon.
As the troop continued the work of neutralizing bunkers, some of the enemies tried to run out of their positions only to be shot down by the troops. Others destroyed themselves within the bunkers. One resourceful Jap Nambu Light Machine gunner ran to the rear with his weapon slung over his left shoulder and the muzzle pointing in the direction of the attackers firing as he ran. He was covering his own withdrawal. He was last seen as he disappeared into the smoke and dust of the artillery impact area. There his rearguard protection was of little use. The troop continued to work up the gentle forward slope of the enemy-held hill.
During this time some enemy light mortar fire began to fall upon them but it was not serious enough to hamper them at their work. When the crest of the hill was reached, however, the assaulting elements were met with heavy small-arms fire from the ridge to their front, another ridge running north and south, and about a hundred yards from the one now occupied. The first casualties were taken at this point. One man was wounded and one killed. Our 81-MM mortar fire was still falling in the draw between the two ridges and it was felt that it was serving a useful purpose there. So the artillery fire was shifted to the next ridge. This caused the enemy fire to be reduced. At the same time, through a natural break in the foliage, several Japs were seen to be running toward the left flank of the troop.
The support squad and light machine gun of the left platoon were immediately ordered to engage this target. The 60-MM mortars with each platoon supported this action with low-angle fire made possible by the modifications on the weapon. The effect was good, but it was not known whether or not the developing counterattack had been stopped. There was a possibility that this counterattack might catch the 3rd Platoon in the process of displacing forward to the newly won position. This fear was soon dispelled as the 3rd Platoon arrived upon the scene under the command of our NCO.
The officer platoon leader had become a casualty. The 3rd Platoon was immediately deployed to meet the counterattack and advanced to take up positions on a slight rise of the ridgeline. As they crossed the low ground in front of the rise, they were fired upon. But the resistance was not in strength or well organized. The platoon opened fire, assaulted the rise, and took it. They dug in hastily to protect the left flank of the troop. At this point, the troop commander made a complete report to the squadron commander. The troops were on their objective; the opposition on the opposite ridge was estimated to be a reinforced company; a counterattack was developing, but it was not known in what strength the counterattack would be made. The squadron commander replied that he had watched the entire action from a good observation post and that he considered the position too large for one troop to hold. Consequently, he had already ordered Troop B to march to the position to reinforce Troop A, by taking over the left half of the objective, the part now held by the 3rd Platoon of Troop A. Neither troop commander was given command of the newly won position as a whole. Orders to the troop commanders were merely to coordinate. The SCR-300 radios worked perfectly in this exchange of messages.
The 1st and 2nd Platoons were ordered to dig in and organize their positions as quickly as possible. They were arranged so that when the 3rd Platoon was released by the arrival of Troop B it could dig in on the rear of the two forward platoons and thus establish a tight perimeter for Troop A. The heavy machine gun section was assigned a position in the 2nd Platoon area so that they could be centrally located and support both the perimeter of A Troop and B Troop. But the non-commissioned officer and the men of this machine gun section lacked aggressiveness. Some fire was being received from the enemy ridge but it was mostly ineffective. It caused the machine gun section to remain in defilade when they could have been carrying out their orders and digging in with the rest of the troops.
When the troop commander learned of this situation, he placed the machine gun section under the command of the officer platoon leader of the 2nd Platoon. With this leadership, the section got into position with no more trouble. As B Troop moved into position, it was fired upon by remnants of the repulsed counterattacking force which had remained in the position to the rear or east of the 3rd Platoon position. One platoon of B Troop was committed to attacking this opposition. This was done promptly and with success, but the platoon suffered three casualties, including the officer platoon leader. The 3rd Platoon was released and it began organizing its assigned position in the troop perimeter. As the two troops worked on their defensive positions, enemy opposition ceased almost entirely while our artillery and mortar fire was discontinued. By dark, A Troop had its defenses completed. The area was still very large even with the assignment of part of it to B Troop.
The Commander of Troop A had all of the men available with him including the cooks and most of the mule handlers. Artillery and mortar concentrations were planned. The men were entrenched in two and three men bunkers, each bunker with heavy overhead protection. Bunkers had all-around fields of fire so that any penetration by the enemy would be constantly under fire. Because of the nature of the terrain and the close proximity of the enemy, no outposts were used. However, the perimeter was ringed with warning devices and booby traps. There was an ample supply of food and ammunition within the perimeter. Just before dark, the Commander of Troop A visited the Commander of Troop B for the purpose of coordinating artillery and mortar concentrations. B Troop was far from being ready for the night. Many of the positions were shallow and without overhead cover. Some pack mules were still in the area and the B Troop Commander stated that these animals would have to make a round trip yet that night to replenish their supply of ammunition, as they were almost out. There was just time remaining before complete darkness for the Commander of Troop A to give his own positions a final check, so with this on his mind he left Troop B. With everything in readiness in the area of Troop A, the commander waited in his CP for the enemy activity which he felt sure would develop.
The enemy did not keep the troop waiting long, but within a half-hour after complete darkness, they began to probe the perimeter. Several booby traps were exploded, but the men held their fire. They were told not to open fire until an attack was evident. The exploded booby traps were all in front of the 1st and 3rd Platoons. No attack developed. When it was evident that the enemy had finished probing the position, selected men of the platoons performed the daring feat of creeping out forward in the darkness to reset the traps. This was accomplished without loss or incident.
At 2330, a sudden and intense volume of enemy heavy mortar and artillery fire was delivered on Troop A’s position. This lasted for approximately fifteen minutes and then was lifted as suddenly as it had been delivered. It was immediately followed by heavy small arms and machine gun fire in front of the 2nd Platoon and against the boundary separating the 1st and 3rd Platoons. The attack was delivered simultaneously from two directions. The screaming and yelling Japs charged the perimeter, setting off the warning devices and booby traps as they came. The troop commenced firing with all of its weapons, artillery and mortar fire was called for and delivered. With the exception of a few fanatical individual enemy soldiers, the attack was repulsed. These few penetrated the perimeter but were killed by riflemen who did not have to leave their foxholes to fire on them. The all-around fields of fire which had been carefully arranged in daylight paid dividends.
B Troop had been attacked simultaneously with A Troop. When the attack subsided on A Troop, a terrific battle could be heard in progress in the B Troop area. Apparently, their positions had been completely overrun. One of the troop officers of B Troop radioed the commander of Troop A saying that they were overrun; they had taken heavy casualties; the Troop Commander was missing; and that they were out of ammunition. The Commander of Troop A warned this officer not to give such information in the clear and advised him that Troop A would give what assistance it could. At this stage of the fight, a flare was sent up from the Jap lines on the hill to the east, and with that, the enemy left the overrun position of Troop B. It was never understood why the enemy gave up this newly retaken position.
The commander of Troop A sent his executive officer to Troop B to find out what condition existed there, while he himself inspected his own perimeter to see how the men had fared during the attack. In the Troop A area, it was found that the troops were all in position and in good order. The 2nd Platoon had suffered two men killed and three wounded. One of these was a squad leader. The 1st Platoon had taken three wounded; the 3rd Platoon had no casualties. The men were busy repairing the damage done to their bunkers, and details were in front of the perimeter reinstalling the warning system of booby traps and sound devices. There was an ample supply of ammunition remaining in all positions and the aidmen were taking care of the wounded. No automatic weapons had been damaged. Nothing more could be done in his own perimeter, so the Troop A Commander turned his attention to the conditions in Troop B.
Here the situation was not so encouraging. The Troop A executive officer stated that heavy casualties had been sustained; the 60-MM mortars, which had been set up in battery, had been completely demolished. Whether or not the weapons could be reconditioned and new crews assigned to operate them was not known. The mortars were also out of ammunition. A gap existed in the north part of their perimeter, a critical point. The troop commander and 1st sergeant were missing, and the morale of the men was badly shaken. Because of its heavy casualties, Troop B would no longer be able to hold its original perimeter.
The executive officer estimated that with a squad from A Troop, the gap in the north part of the B Troop perimeter could be restored and that the survivors could reorganize the remainder of the perimeter. He further stated that B Troop should have a portion of A Troop’s reserve ammunition in order to be effective. The Commander of A Troop was willing to part with some of his reserve ammunition but hesitated to weaken his own troop to reinforce B Troop, especially if they were to be sacrificed to a hopeless situation.
The 3rd Platoon Leader was ordered to prepare to send one of his squads to the B Troop position and to send the squad leader of that squad to meet the Troop A Commander at the B Troop Command Post. Then the Troop A Commander immediately left for the Troop B Command Post to get a first-hand estimate of the situation. The remaining officer of B Troop gave the impression of being capable and efficient. The Commander of Troop A decided to reinforce the position with one squad, and at the same time began to help the Troop B officer reorganize the position. One of the glaring deficiencies was found in the fire plan for support fires. These were too far out in front of the perimeter, thus they had allowed the enemy to attack undisturbed by mortars and artillery once they had gotten in close to the perimeter. Luckily, the artillery observer with B Troop was still living, so that condition was corrected at once. Next, the remaining men of B Troop were placed in advantageous positions and reorganized. When the Commander of Troop A was satisfied that all preparation that was possible had been started, he left for his own perimeter.
At 0400, the enemy attacked both perimeters again. This attack followed the same pattern with a fifteen-minute concentration of mortar and artillery fire. The second attack, however, was not as aggressive as the first, and it was repulsed from both perimeters. The close-in mortar and artillery fires played an important part in breaking up this attempt. A Troop lost one man killed in this action, and one heavy machine gun was put out of action with a bullet through the water jacket. The remainder of the night passed without incident.
In the morning a thorough search was made for any enemy that might have entered the perimeter and remained there. But the only enemy found were dead ones. The squadron commander came on the position early in the morning and stated that A and B Troops would have to remain in position for two or three days before an attack could be launched to take the Burma Road. This was because the entire task force had been heavily engaged in combat, and the casualties had piled up at the clearing station. The only means of evacuation was by L-5 liaison-type plane, and it would take that much time for the medical services to catch up with the situation under this handicap.
Until February 2, A and B Troops held their positions. No further large-scale attacks were launched against these positions, but several minor harassing attacks were made. Artillery and mortar fire frequently fell on the troops, and sniper fire was consistent throughout the period. On February 2, Troops A and B were ordered to engage in a firefight to contain the enemy while the 2nd Squadron made an attack around the north flank. They were to keep the enemy occupied all through this attack, but were not required to take any ground. This was done. By early afternoon the 2nd Squadron had secured its objective. This placed the squadron in advance of and slightly to the left of Troops A and B. The enemy troops opposing Troops A and B were now in a precarious position.
Long-range artillery fires began to fall in the perimeters occupied by Troops A and B. Enemy patrol activity was increased, and continued acting throughout the night until about 0500 hours in the morning. At that time an unusually heavy concentration of artillery fire was placed on the positions. This heavy fire continued for about an hour. Then suddenly the situation became quiet. A patrol was sent out with daylight on February 3, only to find that the enemy had accomplished a good withdrawal. Resistance had also ceased in front of the 2nd Squadron. The meaning of this was not clearly understood at the time, but the fact was established later on that the entire Japanese force had executed an excellent withdrawal to the south, moving their troops on the Burma Road in front of the entire task force, and disengaging those in front of the 475th Regiment at the last.