P-101, Air-Sea-Rescue boat assigned to the Maritime Unit (MU) section in Detachment 101’s OSS Arakan Field Unit, speeds away from a successful reconnaissance of Foul Island, off the coast of Burma, on Feb 21 1945

The MLS arrived in position about 1200 yards east of Button Island at 2125. The Kayaks were lowered into the water by means of a rope attached to each end, on the leeward side of the ML; Kayak pairs boarded this craft via the ship’s ladder while others, on the deck, held the ropes attached to each end of the Kayak. At 2130 the three Kayaks proceeded, line ahead, on an azimuth of 350° M; the irregular black landmass for which they were heading was about 1 1/2 miles away. At 2245 the patrol was within 150 yards of the shore. Instead of the mouth of Uga Chaung, there was, as far as the eye could see, a forbidding fringe of large rocks on which a heavy surf was beating. Obviously, the azimuth computed by the ML skipper was in error. The patrol leader called the Kayaks together just outside the surf line. Since Button Island, looked rather large to the southeast, the consensus of opinion was that the objective lay to the northwest. The patrol leader led the way to the northwest, paddling slowly in search of the break in the rocky reef that would be the entrance to the Uga Chaung. The entrance was found at 2350, and the Kayaks landed among rocks and mud on the west bank of the Chaung just inside of a rocky peninsula that jutted out diagonally across the mouth of the Chaung.

The canoes were landed and hidden behind the rocks; and the patrol moved off on foot on the muddy wast bank but was halted, after 400 yards, by an impassable jungle on the left and a marsh, extending to the water’s edge, to the front. The CO decided, therefore, temporarily to abandon the attempt to reach Uga in favor of reconnoitering Zikha on the opposite bank of the Chaung. On the return trip to the landing point, the leading scout fell into a hole which upon investigation proved to be one of ten reverted firing bays in a trench which extended for 100 yards in a semi-circle corresponding roughly to the curve in the shoreline. Had the position been manned, the patrol could have been wiped out immediately upon hitting the shore. The patrol crossed the Chaung in the Kayaks, hid them under trees on the east bank, left one man on guard (there was a greater likelihood of discovery on this side), and turned east across paddy fields towards Zikha. A dark mass 200 yards from their starting point proved to be the village, a promiscuous assortment of bamboo shacks on stilts. Finding one hut, more isolated than the rest, the CO grouped his men at the door and entered with his interpreter.

(Illustration) CPT Erik J. Anderson of the Arakan Field Unit MU section leads a rubber boat team down a Chaung (tidal creek), Burma, 1945

When awakened, the native sprang upon the CO but was quieted and eventually agreed to lead the patrol to Uga where, he said, there was a Jap post of 2 men. The patrol forded the Chaung 300 yards north of the Zikha village and arrived in Uga village at 0215. Since the Japs lived one mile north of the village, the patrol would not have sufficient time to negotiate the distance and meet the re-embarkation deadline of 0300. The CO decided, therefore, to go at once to the head man’s hut. This person, very frightened at first, became quite talkative and cooperative once his fears had been allayed by the interpreter. After the interrogation was completed, the patrol returned with all possible speed to the east bank of the Chaung mouth to investigate the defenses which the headman had described to them. After examining entrenchments and a 20-foot watch tower, the patrol re-embarked at 0255. Since the original azimuth to the Uga Chaung was in error, the CO had no way of knowing the correct back azimuth to the ML. He attempted to estimate the number of yards he had been off course and, on that basis, decided to go back on an azimuth of 110° instead of 170° (the back azimuth of 350°). At 0400 the ML had not been sighted; the CO tried to contact it by #536 radio to no avail. Rather than resort to the use of lights until the last possible moment, he gave the order to continue paddling for another fifteen minutes. By 0415, with the ML still unsighted, everyone on the patrol was quite worried. After a few minutes of pre-arranged flashlight procedure, however, an answer was finally received from a point 500 yards to the west. The ML skipper stretched a point and waited past the 0430 deadline. All men of the patrol were on board by 0438. From the standpoint of future planning, the outstanding contribution of this first mission was the practical demonstration of the time-safety factors which must be included to cover unforeseen and time-consuming circumstances.

The Catalina PBY-5A Flying Boat was used extensively to infiltrate agents and OSS personnel along the Burma coast

OPERATION BAKER – RAMREE ISLAND NOVEMBER 15, 1944
(Combined British-American Patrol)

The intelligence officer of the XV Corps was still screaming for a Jap prisoner from Ramree Island. The interrogation report turned in by Operation Able stated that there were 500 Japs in Ramree town and outposts of 10 to 20 Japs in Thetmochaung and Aunglabyin. The intelligence officer wanted positive authentication. He called for a second patrol to the Uga-Zikha area with the mission to capture the two Japs stationed north of the village of Uga. The date for the operation was set as November 15. In computing the time needed, it was felt that with a correct azimuth and because of its knowledge of the terrain, the patrol would now have no difficulty in meeting the time schedule as set up in the previous operation. The time of arrival in the Drop-Zone was, therefore, set again at 2130. The general plan called for a landing on the east bank of the Uga Chaung because the eastern entrenchment observed was at least 500 yards from the bank, whereas the reverted trench on the west bank was only 75 yards from the water’s edge. After reconnoitering the east bank trench, the patrol would move on to Zikha, pick up a guide, and attempt to locate the Japs north of Uga. Transport craft, patrol craft, individual and group equipment, armament, and operating procedures would remain unchanged from the last operation. The only major change was the addition of one Kayak team to the party, making a total of 8 men. Additional special orders to cover special situations were included in the following excerpts from the patrol leader as order: (1) (Initial Reconnaissance). Reconnaissance of all defenses on the E bank of the Chaung will be made before attempting to move inland. If an enemy force is present and small enough to handle, the signal to open fire will be shot from CO’s pistol. If the force is too large, the operation will be abandoned. If defenses are unoccupied, the patrol will move to the outskirts of Zikha. Two men will reconnoiter the village before the house of the guide (the same man used in the previous operation) is entered. The guide’s house will be entered by an interpreter followed by the CO; the balance of patrol in positions around the house. The guide will be questioned about defenses on the west bank of the Chaung. If these defenses are occupied, the mission will be abandoned. If defenses are unoccupied, the guide will be instructed to lead the patrol to the Jap location north of Uga, or to the nearest Jap post. Plans for the capture of Japs will be made after a reconnaissance of their house. (2) (Patrol Procedure). The formation, single file. Distance between men: visual, but not more than five yards. Contact and control: oral and visual. If the enemy is sighted: two men will go forward to investigate. If fired upon: disperse in Kayak pairs, and return to Kayaks.

M3 Grease Gun

On the night of Nov 15, the ML carrying the patrol party was at some pains to joke itself into a position from which it would give a more accurate azimuth on the target. The Kayaks were launched in 2115. One hundred yards from the rocky peninsula which marked the entrance to Uga Chaung the patrol leader changed his mind about landing on the east bank because the bright starlight night would make the landing visible to anyone in the defensive position on the west bank. He decided to reconnoiter the west bank positions before moving his Kayaks into the entrance to the Chaung. Finding a break in the rocks 250 yards east of the west bank defensive position (screened from that position by a large rock), he landed his kayaks. While the men were in the process of carrying the canoes into the jungle for purposes of concealment, a green flare went up from the defenses on the west bank, followed almost immediately by a white flare from the east bank. The order was given to embark.

As the patrol withdrew a large beacon flared up on the hill behind the landing point. Although the beacon lighted up the canoes, no fire was received. The time was 2240. When the patrol boarded the ML at 2300, orders were given by the skipper to bombard the landing point. The bombardment in which all crew-served weapons (Per ML 1 three-pounder, 1 40-MM Bofors, 1 20-MM Oerlikon, 1 75-MM mortar, 2 pairs of (twin-mounted) Vickers machine guns) on the two MLTs took part, lasted from 2305 to 2315. For the most part, the fire of all weapons was either over or short; Indian gunners made no effort to adjust their fire although the high proportion of tracer would have made this possible.

The three 85-foot Air Rescue Boats formed the heart of the Maritime Unit fleet. Despite the inadequate range and noisy operation, the boats were the principal craft for infiltrating agents and OSS personnel on the Arakan coast

OPERATION CHARLIE, MAYU PENINSULA, DECEMBER 2, 1944
(Combined British-American Unit)

The 25th Indian Division was slated to push off from its Maungdaw base, in its third attempt to clear the Mayu Peninsula, on December 10. Operation Charlie was one of several missions performed during November and early December to determine the size, composition, and disposition of the Japanese forces on the peninsula two agreed on the promise of the patrol leader to take them with him on the ML after the mission was completed. The patrol pushed out at 2000; one guide was in the lead, and the other was in the center of the patrol (single file). Since the hut was on the east flank of the village, the patrol circled wide to the east and approached the hut by marching west. Two hundred yards from the beach the scrub gave way to open paddy fields. After another four hundred yards the village was discernible as a dark mass two to three hundred yards away. Two scouts were sent forward with the guide to reconnoiter the hut. Upon their return they reported that the hut was isolated from the village by scrub jungle; it stood on a fairly steep embankment that sloped to a path running parallel to and twenty feet away from the front door. With the exception of the embankment in front of the hut and the path itself, the entire immediate area consisted of the scrub jungle. The embankment in front of the hut formed a rhomboid. The shorter of its two parallel sides corresponded to the front of the hut; the longer parallel side, about 30 yards in length, lay on the edge of the path. In other words, the width of the clearing from the path to the house narrowed from thirty yards to about ten yards (the length of the house). They further reported a light in the hut and sounds of talking. The patrol proceeded to a point on the path 50 yards east of the hut.

Burma Campaign OSS Det 101 (Illustration)

Here the patrol leader split the party in two, taking with him one guide, two enlisted men, and the Interpreter; the balance of the party was left under the second-in-command to form an ambush on the path five yards from the point where it broke into the clearing shore-base for the recon patrol. The Americans felt that they would prefer to fight their way back out to sea rather than scatter into the jungle and attempt to hide from Jap searching parties in the event of running into an ambush. Consequently, the OG Platoon was organized into two recon sections of three seven-man rubber boats each. Each section, capable of independent action, was composed of a recon party of seven men armed with the M-3 submachine gun (Grease Gun) and a beachhead party of fourteen men who, in addition to the submachine gun as a basic arm, carried an A-6 light machine gun (Browning Cal .30 Light Machine Gun) and a BAR (Browning Cal .30 Automatic Rifle). Ship-to-shore communication was improved by the addition of two SCR #300 radios, one with the Headquarters ML, and the other with the beachhead party. Communications between the beachhead party and the recon party were to be maintained by #536 radio. Officer personnel in this section consisted of: the Platoon itself was commanded by a major. Duties of the mess, supply, boat maintenance, communications, and S-(1-2-3) were divided among these five officers.

M-1919-A-6

The first mission, that of landing near Kywibyin, a small village situated at the mid-point of the western coastline of West Baronga was part of a series of operations that had been planned as forerunners to a large-scale amphibious landing on Akyab. Gen Christison naturally wanted to know what action, if any, would have to be taken to protect his right flank during the amphibious assault. The patrol leader then placed his men and himself in the same relative position at the other end of the clearing. He instructed the guide to enter the hut and announce that a large force of British soldiers had landed on the coast. The guide went into the hut. The first man to come out came straight over the embankment and started to run down the path toward the second-in-command’s group. Ten yards away, however, he suddenly swerved and plunged into the jungle. The guide with this group yelled ‘Japan’ and the group opened fire, but it was too late. The second man answering the description of the Jap MP (he had been described as wearing a white shirt) ran out within three yards of the patrol leader’s group, stopped, turned, and ran back the other way with Corporal (x) in pursuit. Then he too plunged into the jungle. Corporal (x) shot him in the back, but he staggered on and disappeared. The patrol leader called his men together to search for the body, but, due to the darkness and thickness of the undergrowth, nothing was found. The search was abandoned, and the hut was entered and ransacked, yielding Jap clothing, equipment, a rifle, a grenade, and papers. The party then withdrew to the Kayaks at all possible speeds, taking one guide with them. The one who had entered the hut had disappeared during the excitement, thereby indicating that he might have warned the Japs about the ambush. Re-embarkation on the ML took place at 2215.

Illustration Burma Det 101 OSS - firing an M-1 .45 cal

OPERATION FOX, WEST BARONGA ISLAND, DECEMBER 28, 1944
(American Patrol)

By the end of December, all major allied fronts had moved forward against Jap forces which were now definitely on the defensive though still fighting tenaciously, still preferring death to surrender, and still holding the heart of Burma. In the north, the 11th East African Division had crossed the Chindwin River at Kalewa and was in the process of strengthening the bridgehead over which the 14th Army was to cross into the plains of the Irrawaddy Basin. Sultan’s (Stilwell was recalled to Washington in October, and Gen Dan Sultan took over his command) Chinese and Americans had taken Ghamo and were patrolling towards Lashio.

On the Arakan, the 81st West African Division advancing in the Kaladan Valley had captured Kyawktaw; the 82nd West African Division had finally carried by storm that oft-attacked citadel, Buthidaung; and the 25th Indian Division, driving along the seacoast, had taken Sinbaik and patrolled as far as Foul Point. Thus, the XV Corps was poised on the springboard which would eventually catapult it into Akyab. By the middle of December, the entire OG Platoon was in the forward base at Teknaaf, and operational SOPs had been set up and practiced by the time orders for the first all-American recon mission were received. The two American officers who had worked with the British Special Boat Section believed that the British organization could be improved by the substitution of seven-man rubber boats (LCRs) for the rather delicately balanced Kayaks, and by the addition of a relatively strong beach-head group to stand guard over the landing craft and provide more efficient firepower.

The landing by the OG Platoon proved to be strictly routine and uneventful. The LCR’s were over the side at 2356, landed on a rocky shore in relatively light surf at 0047, proving that they could make better time than the Kayaks. A native was contacted in his lean-to about fifty yards from the landing point. He was quite cooperative, talked freely to the interpreter, and stated with great conviction that the bulk of the Jap forces on the island (originally a company) had departed in late September, leaving only an outpost of 15 men in the northern tip of the island. The story was confirmed by another native contacted by the patrol in a hut on the outskirts of Kywibyin. The interesting feature of the operation occurred in the planning phase a week before the landing date. The normal planning procedure was followed in that the GO and S-3, after a study of aerial (vertical) photos, selected a landing point and alternate landing point which met the desired requirements, namely: (1) that they are only mediocre benches because the best beaches were more apt to be defended; (2) that they are accessible both at high and low tides (rocks invisible at high tide may prevent entry at low tide); (3) that they are fringed with scrub in which to conceal the boats.

Illustration - Members of OSS Det 101 - Burma 1944

The S-2 then hauled out his maps and prepared a terrain study designed to aid the patrol in laying out their recon plans. In addition, he attempted, as usual, to find a prominent landmark on which both the ML skipper and the landing party could guide in reaching their respective objectives. In this case, his efforts were highly successful. Noticing that there was a spiney mountain range running the length of the island, he drew a profile of a 4000-yard section of the highest ridgeline behind the landing points. He then drew another 4000-yard section of the foothills immediately behind the landing points. Due to a ravine that cut into the mountain range on a line perpendicular to the coast, the resulting profiles, when placed in their natural positions, one behind the other, presented two very definite notches so aligned as to provide a direct line of sight to the objective. By means of this profile sketch, the ML skipper was able to locate the drop zone without the usual jockeying; and the LCRs went straight into the beach without using an azimuth.

ML Unit OSS 1944-1945

OPERATION GEORGE, CHEDUBA ISLAND, JANUARY 10, 1945
(American Patrol)

The 25th Indian Division took Akyab in a bloodless amphibious operation on the third of January. An L-5 pilot, out of gas, had made a forced landing on the Akyab strip the day before to become the actual conqueror of the island. All the Japs had flown. Knowing that the Ramree Island was next on the list of the XV Corps objectives, the platoon was not surprised to receive the mission to make a landing on Cheduba, the island which lies ten miles east of the southern half of Ramree. Typical of the intelligence that units of this type have to work with, the only item provided by the XV Corps was an aerial photo which the photo interpreter had dressed up with the usual red marks indicating trenches, foxholes, antitank ditches, coastal batteries, barbed wire, and teakwood stakes (protecting the beaches). Worse yet, the area designated by higher headquarters, Cheduba town, was practically inaccessible due to mudflats along the coast both north and east of the town; the flats canalized entry to the town to the Chaung which bisected it; therefore the Chaung was bound to be heavily guarded. The Platoon CO picked a Chaung 4000 yards south of Cheduba as the more sensible approach to a ticklish situation.

The MLS left Akyab, the new OG base, at 1300. At 2350, they were in position. At 2400, the LCRs were over the side. Three-quarters of a mile from the shore, the leading LCR halted the two behind it and went forward to investigate a dark object in the water which turned out to be a native fish corral. At the half-mile point, the leading LCR pushed on alone to reconnoiter the landing point. A half-hour later the red flashlight signal glimmered, indicating that all was clear. The mudflats necessitated debarkation in the water 400 yards from the shoreline. One man was left with each LCR and told to push back another 100 yards into the water in order to avoid possible detection from the beach. Obviously, the scouting party could have been slaughtered on its way through the mud to the shore, but luck had been with it. The Chaung which the platoon was supposed to have hit was nowhere in sight, so as soon as the beachhead group CO had set up his weapons and positioned his men, the recon party moved out to the south, the safest direction, in an effort to find the initial objective which was necessary as a guide-point.

Illustration - OSS Det 101 Burma

The Chaung was discovered after a march of 500 yards. By means of an oblique aerial photo, the CO had discovered a solitary hut on the south bank of this Chaung which he had planned to investigate in the hope of finding a friendly native who could be questioned by the interpreter. Therefore the patrol leader, Sergeant (x), and the interpreter proceeded to swim the Chaung with the balance of the patrol acting as a covering force on the left batik. This plan was abandoned almost at its inception when a dog appeared and set up a terrific barking on the opposite bank. The patrol returned through the beachhead group, then turned east into paddy-field country dotted with small clumps of bushes that had to be sweated out individually. Passing through a lane of bushes about 800 yards from the beach, the patrol halted at the edge of a wide paddy field. Two hundred yards away was a campfire with the figures of men silhouetted against the flames. The men were talking. The patrol leader, his interpreter following suit behind him, crept forward on hands and knees, then, snake-fashion, on his belly. The interpreter indicated that the men were Burmese. The patrol leader crawled back to the patrol and ordered it to crawl forward in a wide semi-circle, thereby moving the entire patrol to within ten yards of the fire undetected. When the patrol leader rose, the others rose with him and quickly closed the circle about the fire. The interpreter called out to the men to warn them against crying out and told them they had nothing to fear. Immediately behind the fire was a hut that created a shadow suitable to the needs of two sentinels facing in each direction; they took their positions, and the patrol leader moved out beyond the immediate flare of the fire with his interpreter, one of the Burmese and Sgt (x) as close-in security.

Each Burmese was interrogated separately. While this was going on, a fifth Burmese, on his way to the fire, was seized by the two sentinels on the east side of the hut. The latest prisoner carried a bamboo cylinder that contained a document covered with Japanese characters. Since it was now already 0315, it was too late to interrogate him. The patrol leader, therefore, decided to take him aboard the ML. The patrol moved back to the beachhead with the five Burmese in the center of the column. The Burmese designated to be shanghaied was carried out to an LCR immediately followed by the remainder of the party in the echelon. The four remaining Burmese were instructed to tell the Japs that a large British force was preparing to attack the Island in the near future. The information gained from the on-the-spot interrogation, plus that acquired from the kidnapped Burmese, who was turned over to the XV Corps Headquarters, contributed valuable information on Jap dispositions and numbers on the Ramree Island as well as Cheduba. The British 26th Division landed on Ramree on January 21, and Cheduba on January 26. The Japs put up a fair amount of resistance on Ramree, none at all on Cheduba.

FINALE

The platoon continued to average one operation a week for the next two and a half months on the Ramree Island where it captured one of two Japs who walked into the beachhead positions, on the Sagu Island south of Ramree, on several Islands to the east of Ramree and on the mainland near Letpan and Taungup. It was during the Letpan operation that a 37-MM shell landed in the LCR which was conveying one section of the platoon up a Chaung to an interior drop zone. One man was killed, and four were wounded. Near the end of March, with Mandalay in the hands of the 14th Army, and all of the Arakan Coasts as far south as Taungup in the hands of the XV Corps, the doom of the Japs in Burma was sealed. There would be only one additional mission for the XV Corps, the amphibious assault on Rangoon. The OG Platoon was withdrawn and sent off to China to become Paratroopers.

ADDENDUM

Message sent to Doc Snafu by Douglas Waters, one of the sons of Capt Martin J. Waters.

I attach some info below from my Dad’s War scrapbook and Diary. As I mentioned, it was interesting to read the Article by my father Capt Martin J. Waters, I recognized his writing style and I have several missions described in the last article, during one of these amphibious missions on the Arakan Coast he saved the life of a Royal Marine – Capt Cowap (3rd SS Commando). Through my brother’s efforts, the two were reunited 52 years later. My father did not think Cowap survived after the multiple gunshot wounds he endured. Cowap & Waters marched together in the 50th WW-2 celebration in London. The reunion was written up in a Newspaper article. What is not mentioned in the citation was that everybody ran away when they encountered the jap machine gun nest, except my father who stayed behind with the wounded Cowap and carried him out on his own back under heavy machine gunfire. Anyway, my Dad stayed in the Army started the Green Beret in the 50s with several other Ops types, and retired as a Colonel. He was an amazing guy, very well educated at Ivy League schools, and took his orders from Gen Donovan when he was with the OSS and with the Merrill’s Marauders as well as during the Amphibious missions on the Arakan Coast. He also trained the first Chinese Paratroopers unit in the History of China right before the end of WW-2. Before they dropped the bomb on Japan, they were going to do a Normandy-style invasion of Japan, that is why my Dad was training the Chinese, he always said that this would probably have been his last mission!
Regards,
Doug

ADDENDUM

Office of the Commanding General
Chinese Commandos
Kumming China – September 6th, 1945
Subject: Authorization of wearing Chinese Army Parachute Wings
To Captain Martin J. Waters 0554113

1) You are hereby authorized to wear the Parachute Wings prescribed by the Chinese Army for Parachute units.
2) It is with great pleasure, that this small token of our gratitude is given for the part played yourself in the training of the first unit of Chinese Parachutists in the History of China.

S. G. MA
Major General
Chinese Commandos
Commanding

1
2
3
4
Previous articleMagnificent Gurkhas – WW-2 (Sanju Gurung)
Next article96-ID (Okinawa) Conical-Oboe Hills Area (May 1945)