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Silence of a Soldier
William J. Duggan
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The 803rd left Ft. McDowell near the first of November, 1941. The troop ship, Tasker H. Bliss awaited the
men at a San Francisco pier. The Bliss was the former ocean liner, The President Cleveland. Bub was chosen
for M.P. duty. This was fortunate because the MP quarters were aft, separated from the rest of the troops. A
large room housed the MPs; each having his own cot. They also had their own latrine. The rest of the troops
slept on army cots crammed into the hold of the ship.
Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge was a beautiful sight. One not to be enjoyed again until four years had
passed. The sky was a light blue and the sea a dark green. A breeze was playing with the wings of the gulls. The
ship cut through the water like a knife through butter. One day out and this would change dramatically. A
severe storm came up suddenly. The ship was buffeted with fourteen foot waves. Seasickness was rampant. The
latrine floors were covered with the fluids from retching stomachs. Bub was not prone to seasickness. His many
years on the Great Lakes had given him worthy sealegs. The mess hall was empty. Bub had a great choice of
food from a lineless buffet. The food aboard the ship was far better than what the army had provided to date.
The 803rd had its equipment stored on the foredeck of the ship; bulldozers, graders, dump trucks, and power
shovels were rolling freely back and forth with the roll of the ship. Help was needed to lash down the
equipment. Bub volunteered. It was impossible to secure the machinery because of the pitch and roll of the ship.
Bub asked an officer to have the Captain head the ship directly into the wind. The Captain not only steered the
ship into the wind but also slowed the ship down. After four hours of intense work, Bub and his crew were able
to secure the equipment. Bub’s job as an M.P. was to protect the nurses quarters from possible intruders. The
nurses were young women on their way to wonderful times in Manila. Their deepest wishes were that they
might meet attractive officers with whom they could share their lives. Sometimes they would leave their cabin
in the evening to catch the fresh sea breezes. Always pleasant and proper, they liked to chat with Bub about
their hopes and dreams. Little did they realize how their dreams would be shattered, how dreadful their lives
would be, when Manila fell to the Japanese.
The ship made a port of call at Honolulu on its way to the Philippines.The soldiers put on their best attire
with the expectations of going ashore. They learned quickly that only the officers were given shore leave. The
problem was that a few ships before had let the soldiers go ashore. It took days for the Shore Police to round
them up. Most of them were quite drunk. What Bub saw of Honolulu was from the ship’s railing. Occasionally,
a launch with hula dancers aboard would circle the ship as a ritual of welcome. So much for Bub’s adventures
in Honolulu. When the ship pulled into Manila harbor, the troops disembarked. They were loaded into trucks
and transported to Ft. Stotsenburg in the Philippine interior. What they saw of Manila was through the truck’s
tarpaulin. The 803rd would stay at Ft Stotsenburg for five days. There was no marching or drilling. The men
were not allowed outside the compound. Time and inactivity increased the anxiety that began to build up. But,
this would be short lived.
The 803rd was ordered to Del Carmen, a sugar plan-tation.(See maps and notes at end of chapter.) The
mission was to build an air strip. In addition to their construction machinery, they were issued WW1 Springfield
rifles. They had little else with which to defend themselves. The “Aviation” Engineers began construction of the
airfield. Del Carmen had new barracks. The roofs were thatched. The bunks were reasonably comfortable. The
men were at Del Carmen for six weeks. During this time Pearl Harbor was bombed. Bub was on a grader when
the first Zeroes flew over. They bombed and strafed the field. Bub’s first instinct was to take cover in the sugar
cane field. He soon discovered that the cane was very poor cover from the Zero’s machine guns. The fox hole
was far better and Bub learned exactly where the fox holes were dug. On one occasion a Zero was strafing the
airfield. Bub and a few others rose from their fox holes. They hid behind a large Palm tree. When the Zero made
another sortie, the men fired their rifles. The Zero was hit and crashed. The men ran to the downed Zero. They
put out the fire and retrieved the machine gun. It became their main defense against the Zeroes. On another
occasion when the Zeroes flew over, the men remained on their machines. They had learned that the Japanese
were not the greatest marksmen. For his bravery under fire, Bub would receive the Bronze Star and the Silver
Star with the Oak Leaf Cluster.
American fighters began to use the airfield. The dust was kept at a minimum by treating the surface of the
field with molasses. As the day heated up, the molasses would seep further into the dirt. A junior officer got the
bright idea to put the molasses on the thatched roofs of the barracks to camouflage them. He also ordered the