1942 War Experience
By Ernest Philip Fager, World War II Veteran
I worked till I was drafted. I left home October 19, 1942. I went to Chicago was shipped out of there to Fort Sill Oklahoma. I arrived in Ft. Sill October 26, 1942. Took my basic in the mule pack, trained on the 75 Pack Howitzer. I trained with the old 03 rifles and they were in pretty bad shape. They gave us all our shots there. I had to do a lot of hiking there. We would saddle up the mules load them up and go out 15 or 20 miles and stay all night in good weather, it wasn’t too bad. I remember seeing my first herd of deer. There was about 30 of them. We left one day about noon and got to the area we were to camp in about 5:30 or 6:00. Approximately 21 miles or so. It started to sleet and snow and the General sent work for us to come back in. We arrived back at camp about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. They had food and hot coffee waiting on us. Back then we averaged 5 miles per hour. This was one of the longest hikes and roughest I ever made. I made it with rifle and a full pack. A lot of them were trucked in. While I was at Sill you could see Lookout Mountain. When we went out there to Ft Sill when Arthur was out there and took Catherine, Adam and Elizabeth. Drove up on that Mountain. I think it is a National Park now.
I left Fort Sill January 25, 1943. We were put on a troop train it stopped for everything. We arrived at Fort George Meade January 30, 1943. I think they got all the troops they needed for the North African Campaign. We trained there till March 3, 1943. Then a troop train arrived and took us to Camp Stoneman, California. We arrived on March 9, 1943, that was one long train ride. A few 16 knots and never in a straight line always zig sagging. New Caledonia was a staging area they had acres of supplies there, I was only there about 17 days then we shipped to the Canal. While there we worked unloading supplies. We spent all night and a day unloading 55 gallon drums of gasoline. The ship would let them down into a landing barge and we would roll them to the front set them up, then take them ashore, load them in trucks to be taken to different areas. A drum weighed approximately 450 lbs. Three men loaded them in the big army trucks.
We left New Caledonia April 20, 1943 on a large troop transport it had lots of guns mounted on it. On our way to Guadalcanal we had a couple of air raid alerts. We lucked out they were our planes. You had better get out of the way of the gun crews or they would run over you. They had been through air attacks and they were scared. Arrived on the Canal April 24, 1943. The Canal was a pretty Island nice sandy beaches, coconut groves along the shores. Oh there were a few sunken ships along the beaches that spoiled the view. Our gun battery was within 2 or 3 miles of the beach with the guns trained on the beach. I think they were still expecting the Japanese to try to come back. But by this time they had lost over 10,000 troops on the island besides those lost at sea that went down on. This is something I just remembered on the troop train going to California. There was a young man about 20 who heard about a man whit the same name and it was his dad. His dad and mother split up when he was about a year old. Hadn’t seen or heard anything for about 18 years. They really hit it off an they were together from there on.
The Japanese would come down between the Canal and Talogae Harbor another island with battle ships, cruisers and destroyers for a while and shoot everything up they could find, until finally the U.S. got new ships with radar on the battleships and cruisers and they sunk several Japanese ships the next time. The Japanese quit that. The Americans airplanes would spot any large fleet before they got there and sunk a lot of them. We had several air raids while I was there. Mostly at night just a few planes to cause you to lose sleep. One large raid during the day of about 100 planes. Most were shot down by shore battery or the Air Force. Left the Canal July 21 and headed for New Georgia Island in the Solomon Islands. We landed on a small Island. We went there on a LST we set up our guns to fire on New Georgia which was about 4 miles across a channel. There was a Japanese airport across from us that we fired on. Our planes had knocked out every thing there but the Japanese had other air ports farther north. We had several air raids there. I witnessed several dog fights there. I watched American Air Men bail out of airplanes land in the water and PT boats went out and picked them up. I remember one air raid when our planes were chasing the Japanese, they flew just above the coconut trees. The Japanese planes had Rising Suns on the wings they were easy to see. I was in my fox hole with another solider when the raid was over he enlarged our fox hole. Arrived at this small Island July 22. Arrived on New Georgia August 4, 1943. The airport was a mess. It was just above the ocean with high bluffs on two sides. We set up on top above the airport. It had been bombed and shelled there was nothing but splinters left of the trees there. We only stayed there two days and nights then moved on. Left several piles of ammo where our guns had been the Japanese the next night came in and bombed the area, we did not have to go back for the ammo. We left New Georgia August 4, 1943. The next Island we were on we called Lizard Island. Arrived September 28, 1943. My self and three other soldiers took a rubber Japanese boat we had found and started out for our new area. I still don’t know how they ever talked the Captain into letting us do this. It was probably 10 or 15 miles there and we rowed all one day and part of the next. The first day late evening we came to an air force area. They were lined up for the evening meal and we went in and lined up and nobody said a word to us. We looked like every one else. The second day about noon a small boat about 20 feet long came along and asked up where we were going. It was the mail boat so they tied our boat on took us right to our area. It probably did 25 miles per hour.
We left Lizard Island October 16, 1943 and back to New Georgia Island October 21, 1943. Stayed there five or six days it was a staging area by then it had really built up. Left New Georgia November 7, 1943 and arrived in New Zealand November 14, 1943. This was almost as good as being home. Good food, beer, friendly people and very few work details. We had a great time there. We were there through Christmas and New Year. We left there February 21, 1944. Back to New Caledonia February 24, 1944. We were there for training on some new equipment to get ready for the Philippines Campaign. Arrived on Luzon January 11, 1945. I remember seeing a couple of big 16” shells that hadn’t went off in from the beaches a way you walked by them real easy. We unloaded onto Landing Crafts. They took us in to about 100 yards of shore and you waded from there in 2 or 3 feet of water. We assembled a couple miles in till we got all our trucks, guns and everybody together then we moved to our assigned location. It took all day and we didn’t get started moving till dark and how they knew where we were going, I don’t know. The lights they used at night you couldn’t see them if you was 30 feet from them. We just crept along at 3 or 4 miles per hour most of the night. Made camp set up our guns and were ready for action. A day or two they decided to send out a patrol. I got invited to go. I was a radio operator. We were told we would be back in camp by dark. By late afternoon we ran into Pilipino near a small town. They reported Japanese and tanks in a Cemetery close by. To be sure we were told to check it out. So we did, There was a street there that ran from town to the cemetery. Some of the men were in the street about 100 yards down the street. Some Japaneses walked out in the street that was tree lined on both sides. The Japanese waved at the Americans. They knew. They were Japanese and our boys waved back. Then moved off and took cover. There was a 61 millimeter mortar in our outfit with us. The officer told them to drop two or three rounds in the cemetery area which they did. That stirred up the Japanese and the three tanks come out down the street right past up. We had a bazooka team with us but they were at the rear of the line so didn’t get a shot at them. They went into the town where an Infantry Company was at. They had a couple of these M7 I think they called them. They took care of the Japanese tanks. Except for one and the Japanese set it on fire and left it and walked down the street. The Americans were all around it they were afraid to start shooting so just let them go. We backed off to the edge of the area in a rice paddy and dug in. There was eight or ten men all squatted down in a circle talking real low. A man appeared out of the dark and squatted down with his rifle right in front of him. One of the men grabbed the rifle said something and the Japanese took off. The next morning when it got light he had a Japanese 31 caliber rifle. I think it was the next day we got back to camp. I believe they sent a fire direction party out then to direct fire on the town. It took a few days to clear the town. The Japanese had one tank dug in to all that stuck out was the turret. They could fire in all directions. They took one gun and fired on it till they got a direct hit and knocked it out. Then we were moving almost every day chasing the Japanese p through the plains of Luzon toward the Mountains which didn’t take long. We took off one morning up through the mountains by evening we had secured Belate pass they thought.
The Japanese had three small cannons dug in on three sides of us they shot us up pretty bad. It took the infantry about three days to get to the guns and knock them out. We just lay low or moved fast when we were out of our holes. It was at the pass that a sniper killed the Infantry General Dalton. It was later on up through the Mountains that I got hit. Walked out to a field hospital and put a cast on my arm like it was broke and sent me to the big field hospital on Laytie. They flew a bunch of us down and came back to Luzon on a ship. We came into Manila harbor. They loaded us on a little train that ran about 110 miles down through the flat plains. Then I caught a truck and a jeep that took me the last 10 or 15 miles. I walked about 1.4 miles on a side road to the Battery. I think they were all glad to see me back. I think it was my last trip to the front but I am not sure I may have forgot. They tried to road but the Japanese had guns dug in up on the sides of the Mountains there from on the front side and when you went around there was one on the back. They had a big 6” long tom up there that covered the whole valley. They went over on a northern ridge made a road that was hidden by the trees. They took a 90 millimeter anti-aircraft gun up there. They blasted all the trees in front of the Japanese and knocked it out. The next one they dug into a bunker put logs over and in front of it about 6 feet thick. When they blasted the trees this time they shot the Japanese gun off the Mountain. I don’t remember how come I happened to be there but didn’t come up from the bottom. I came down from above walking back to our area. There was a jeep up there getting ready to go down I couldn’t see the hill from there and the driver asked me if I wanted to ride down and I said sure. We went about 30 yards then down it must have been a 45 degree slope and he had it in four wheel drive low gear and the wheels were sliding most of the time. He was all over that road I found out they winched every thin up. When I got out at out outfit I told him next time I will walk down. We moved down out of the Mountains to the flat land and set up camp. This is where they started sending up home by points. You got so many points for months served and so many for campaigns and I remember it was 5 points for a Purple Heart. That got me out ahead of a lot of the boys who were there as long as I. This was a bout the time the war was over. I remember them telling us about the Atomic Bomb. I wasn’t there to much longer, as I got my shipping orders. Then it was homeward bound about 18 days on the ship. Back under the Golden Gate B ridge. I was sent from California to Colorado where I was set free. Got home October 31st, I believe. I arrived into St Louis on Halloween Night and stayed at the YMCA overnight. Went to the address where the O’Guinn’s lived, but they were all in Murphysboro except for Albertine. She was going to take me to the bus station but passed out before we got there so when she came to I took her back to the apartment and started out on my own. I wanted to go to the train station. I had no idea which way to go, there was a man working on a telephone box and I asked him for directions. He looked at me and said I am about done here, I will take you there. It was a good thing because I would of never found it. I think I got on the train about eleven o’clock and got to Murphysboro about 4 o’clock that evening. Caught a cab that took me out to New Hill. They didn’t have any idea I was coming home till I got there. Jerry came out of the door in a dead run. She had an old raggedy dress on as they were cleaning house. Boy, did she look beautiful. We hugged and kissed and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She got dressed and we borrowed her dad’s car and I headed for home. I met Henry Lichliter at the top of the old niger hill stopped. He was on a tractor and I stopped and talked to him a minute or two then went on home. Got there in time for supper but I didn’t eat. I was wound up tighter than an eight day clock. I didn’t remember that I had not eaten anything except breakfast at the YMCA in St Louis. Victor was home on leave and he kind of looked after me for the next few days. He was afraid I might get in trouble. I didn’t realize why he stayed with me for them first few days. I wasn’t looking for trouble I had had all the trouble I cared about.
Home from the War – 1947
This was the year I started thinking a lot about getting married. Geraldine and I were talking about it. We started planning and I started thinking about a place to build a house. We did not want to live with her parents or my parents and we wanted to build a house. I don’t know how I got started talking to Uncle Tony Mileur about a lot he had North of his house but he sold it to me for a dollar. I think he wanted me for a neighbor. So he sold me the property and I started digging the foundation so that we could pour the concrete. At this time building material was hard to come by. I found out I could buy glazed tile in Campbell Hill, IL. I used sawmill timber for sub floor, sheeting for the roof and framing and inside walls. That was quite a neighborhood. So that is what I built my first home out of and it is still there and looks as good as ever. Wayne, Barbara, Dennis, Mark and Arthur were born at the tile house down at # 5. Wayne was born January 8, 1948, Dennis and Barbara were born June 30, 1950, Mark was born July 5, 1954 and Arthur was born March 15, 1962. I sold it in 1962 to Clifford Reiman.