Joyce Sooter, in uniform
Photo of Joyce Sooter; his mother, Frances; brother, Dale, and U.S. flag
Joyce Sooter, left, with his mother, Frances, and his brother, Dale. The flag was presented to his widow, Roberta, at his funeral.

Joyce M. Sooter
U.S. Army, World War II Active Duty Memoirs
February 1943 - September 1945

Feb. 1943
I went to Wichita and to Kansas City to pass the physical for Air Force pilot training but failed because I had a hernia. During Spring Break at Southwestern College I had surgery to correct the problem and finally had my draft status changed to 1-A and was eligible for military service.

July 23
Boarded a bus for Leavenworth, KS. The bus was a long trailer with windows and an underpowered tractor that drove 35 miles an hour, which was the speed cars and trucks were allowed to drive during the war.
July 24
We were sworn into the Army after passing a written test and a physical exam. When taking the code test I was seated by a wooden wall. Someone was bouncing a basketball on the other side and sometimes against the wall. It was hard to concentrate on the test so I just filled it out the best I could and put my head down on the desk waiting to leave. Later a childhood friend, Robert Orhood, called me into his office and said my score was certainly high enough for the Air Force and they would give me another chance at pilot training. We were given 21 days to get our affairs in order and then come back.
August 13
Reported back to Leavenworth for active duty.
August 23
Arrived at Amarillo, Texas

  1. Took 9 days for processing
  2. Took mental test - passed with a score of 184
  3. Took AirCorp physical for pilot training and was rejected because of my eyes.
  4. Took 12 weeks of basic training. I changed shoe size three times. Finally settled on 13D and I still wear that size.
Nov. 10
Left Amarillo AAF - had an 8 hour layover in New Orleans. Was with two soldiers on the train but they ditched me in New Orleans because I wouldn’t drink with them. So I got on a bus and rode the length of its route. Then rode a paddle wheel steamer up to the Huey Long Bridge and back. Still had time to get a coke and make it to the train on time.
Nov. 13
Arrived at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida
  1. Co.D 1st Training Reg. 1st Battalion. Processing to wear a gas mask.
  2. Co.B 1st Training Reg, 1st Bn. Schooled in carbine 03. Fired carbine for score of 161.
  3. Co.A for room and board.
  4. Co.E for paper work and went to school for four weeks, Unit 527.
    Passed mental and physical test for A/C. The Air Corp takes over the . Signal Corps training in Jan. 1942.
  5. Co.F 2nd Bn.
  6. Co.A 1st training Bn.
  7. Project 0125 E First Aid.
Jan. 12, 1944
Signed out but didn’t leave until the 13th because the train tickets were delayed.
Jan. 28
Reported into BocaRaton, Florida, Air Field.
March 5
Left BocaRaton by troop train. On pulling out of Chicago our train met a train load of WAS’s (Women’s Air Corp) and some of the girls were not very modest.

March 10
Reported into Camp Stoneman, Calif.
March 19
Left Camp Stoneman aboard the USS Catalina at Pier 7 and boarded the USS General House in San Francisco.
March 20
Sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and headed west. After a stop in Honolulu, Hawaii and crossing the equator we zigzagged across the Pacific Ocean to New Guinea.
April 12
We landed at Lae and were met at the dock by trucks. We reported to the Headquarters of the 583 SAW at Nedzab.
April 15
Was assigned to Co.B583 SAW at Pinschafen APO 322.
April 17
Was assigned to the 11th Platoon of Co.B 583 SAW and was put aboard a Liberty Ship. We were heading for my first invasion.
April 22
We were put ashore on the second wave of the landing and watched the Navy bomb and shell Selio Island. After going ashore we moved our equipment to the other side and set up to operate. I was told we were three miles off Aitape. When our tents were up we dug foxholes.

Next morning our foxholes were full of water - the tide had come in. After breakfast some of us walked over to the area shelled by the Navy - it had been an ammunition dump. I found a trunk - like box containing some clothing, 3 silver bowls, and a Japanese flag. I spread them out on a board to dry as they were very wet. When I looked up again they were gone. I asked some of the guys and they said the “platoon gambler” took them. Being new to this life I guess I learned a lesson the hard way. I did find another flag and a boat; Darrow found a motor to fit the boat. One of the group, Herb Blakemore, came by and asked if I would like to catch some butterflies. (Herb became an entomologist, now lives in Blythe, Calif., and writes me a note each Christmas). He said there was a place near camp where there were many kinds of butterflies and that he had an extra net so I could catch some. He taught me how to kill them, fold their wings, label them and store them. He also said if we weren’t in camp all the time we might miss out on some of the duties they found to keep everyone busy! Frank Cinder was in our tent and he taught me how to play pinochle. He also told me about the “platoon gambler” who each month took a lot of guys (money by gambling) and then sent it home Everyone got mad at him but didn’t seem to realize that all they needed to do was to stop gambling!

Our company seemed to be “overloaded” with corporals, sergeants, etc., so there was lots of disagreements and not much chance for advancements. There are three things I especially remember while we were on Selio.

  1. One day our radar was being repaired and I asked how it was coming. They said, “We’re working hard at it - if we don’t get it fixed before Smalley (supposedly and expert on radar) gets here and gets his hands on it, it will take us a week to correct what he messes up.” It was fixed before he got there.
  2. One night when I was on duty, the scope showed 3 friendly aircraft but also showed another plane near the formation. I reported it to the commander he wouldn’t call it in to headquarters because he didn’t believe I read it correctly. In this case, the 4th plane was a Japanese plane flying behind and below our 3 planes. He veered off, flew over a freighter and dropped a bomb and the ship sank. I told Pete about it and he advised me to forget about it - I couldn’t win, the damage had already been done, and it would just get a mess started. I never felt right about it but followed his advice.
  3. About three days after we began operation we heard lots of gunfire, which lasted several days. After it stopped we learned that a company of Jap Marines had walked across New Guinea from Henrick to Aitape and had dug foxholes next to our men during the night. There was quite a battle when they were discovered but our men finally won.

A little later a steel truck that could travel on land or water showed up in camp. They had been looking for Japs on Selio and were headed for another island not far away. Some of us were told to go with them and we did. On this island we found a Catholic mission but no missionaries were there. In a pen we found an old Hereford Bull and they wanted to butcher him. I told them the meat would be tough and not good but they butchered him anyway. A few days later Pete came by and asked if I had any Jap souvenirs. I said I had a Jap flag. He took that and borrowed my boat and Darrow’s motor. He went out to one of the ships off shore and asked for the supply officer. He came back with a crate of apples and a large case of meat. We lived “high on the hog” for a couple of days.

We received orders to pick up and move to the mainland and Lt. Smalley told two of us to load the trucks. He was tired of having a 2 1/2 ton truck, a 3/4 ton truck, and a Jeep so loaded you could hardly get in them to drive! We were to load all we could on the 2 1/2 ton truck. I told him to get everything ready to go and we would start loading. Two hours later we had everything on the 2 1/2 ton truck with an empty 3/4-ton truck and Jeep and thought we’d done a good job! Sgt. Pete Harris asked Lt. Smalley what would happen if the 2 1/2 ton truck accidentally dropped into the ocean as it was being taken aboard ship. So we unloaded the radar onto the 3/4 ton truck and all the office records onto the Jeep.
May 22
We left Selio Island and stayed with headquarters at Aitape.
May 25
We left Aitape aboard LSJ 68 and stopped at Hollanda.
May 30
We landed at Biac APO 920. Another fellow and I had “dinghey” fever and were very weak but went everywhere the platoon was digging in. One time we found that no one wanted us in their foxholes because we were sick so we started to dig. About six inches down we hit solid rock. We got out our picks and found we could hit the coral about 3 or 4 times and we would be so tired we couldn’t lift the pick! We were into the coral about one or two inches when Pete Harris came by to ask if he could share our fox hole. We said he could but it would be crowded if we ever got it done. He said he would help us dig and make it large enough for three. We all worked but we soon noticed that when Jap plane flew over Pete dug much faster! Also when a Jap plane flew over everybody shot at him. There were machine guns mounted on tree stumps, (4) .50 caliber machine guns in a turret and if the plane made it through all that, the .90’s would open up. Every time a plane was shot down, the men would stand on the edge of their foxholes and give a great cheer just as fans do at a football game. If the plane came down on land the souvenir “hounds” would be on the move. We went to a Jap warehouse and found soap that would lather in slat water. I made two trips into the hills north of our foxhole - the first with four other men. About 3/4 of the way up and near the path we found a Japanese foxhole. One man found a pair of binoculars, I found a Jap flag and a German BRC ( a high powered automatic gun with a quick barrel change). The second trip was to see a Jap plane that had been shot down. There was not much left to see.
June 7
By now, Pete had the foxhole five feet deep in solid coral. We received word that we were to move to Woendi Island. Woendi was a very small island - a part of a group of three islands. These islands were just four or five miles from Biak but because two islands lay parallel to a long coral reef we had to travel about 35 miles to get to Woendi. We were loaded onto a landing craft - three trucks and all personnel. It took us several hours to make the trip and then three days to get the camp set up and get radio and radar back on the air. The radar unit had first choice of location so I was lucky. The tents were all set up along the shore so each morning I would swim 1/4 - 1/2 mile. One day Herb came by and said he was going to walk out to the reef so I went along. We walked over rocks and found some real nice shells with live mussels in them. We boiled water and dropped them in. Later we found an anthill and let them clean the shells for us. One day when we were there on the reef Herb went back to camp and I stayed because I was finding unusual shells. I lost track of time and when I looked up the tide had come in. I had to swim back to camp against the tide and later realized I was lucky to make it back.

The local natives came to our camp by boat from nearby islands. As the boats approached you could see the women putting on their dresses before coming to camp. They came to see the platoon medic. They had tropical ulcers and other problems that Smitty could treat and usually cure.

One time some natives from our island came to camp, pointed out into the bay and said, “boom”. Two of our men took a grenade and went with them - they could see schools of fish in the bay. We heard a dull “thud” - I suppose they threw the grenade into the water. Anyway, there were soon lots of fish floating on top of the water and the natives almost filled their three boats before coming back to camp. The natives built a big fire in their camp and there was lots of singing as they cooked and ate their fish. The next day they came and wanted some soap so the cook gave it to them.. Later when our men went to the spring to get water the natives were bathing in it! We had to dig to find another source of drinking water. The first one was salty but the next one was good clear water.

The last contact we had with the natives was one night when five of us were sitting on a log by a little finger of water extending inland just a few yards. We were talking about home and Christmas and we began singing Christmas carols. Soon a group of natives gathered on the other side of the water and listened. After a few more songs one of the natives held up his hand and indicated they wanted to sing to us. As we listened to the tunes we realized they were singing the same songs we were but in their native language - those natives must have been Christians!

One morning we were resting (as we had just finished working the night shift) and a Navy convertible drove up by our tent. The car had a driver and there was an officer in the back seat. They asked who was in charge and we said Lt. Smalley. He asked where to find him and we said he was at headquarters on Biak. He asked who was next in charge and we said Lt. Roe. So where was he? With Lt. Smalley on Biak. When will they be back? Tomorrow or the next day. who is next in charge? We guess that would be Sergeant Harris. Berry went to find Pete and by then our visitors weren’t too happy or very polite. We didn’t stand at attention or salute. Pete told him we had just come off night duty and we were not to be disturbed so we were dismissed. Then the Navy officer told Pete that he wanted our camp moved. Pete told him we were assigned here by Gen. Whitehead of Gen. McArthur’s staff and our camp could not be moved without written permission from that office. The Navy officer was angry and drove off saying he would have us court martialed for disobeying a superior command. When Lt. Smalley returned and Pete told him about the encounter he was very upset. Later we learned that Smalley reached an agreement with the Navy who wanted to put an officer’s club where our camp was. They agreed that our Radar tent could not be moved from it’s location. We would receive a new larger tent with a raised wooden floor and new cots to sleep on. We could use their mess hall and would not have to serve KP. We could also use the PX and the officer’s club so everything worked out.

One day I found a piece of plywood. I cut it up and made myself a wooden locker. A cook named Woodie came by and wanted me to make one for him. I told him I would if he could get the wood, hinges and lock. He found the materials so I made his locker. When he came for it and asked what he owed I said “only your friendship.” He gave me $10.00 anyway but we were good friends until I left the island. Another sailor came by and saw the BRC gun I had found and gave me $35.00 for it.

One night the Bob Hope show was not far from us and we got to go. I had been sick and the medic arranged for those of us who were being treated for illness to have special seats just behind the band and the nurses.
Oct. 5, 1944
After two corporals who had been sent to Biak Headquarters returned complaining of their backs and other problems, Lt. Smalley told Don Palmer and me to get our packs and he ordered us to headquarters on Biak. There we were told to report to Alloway in detached service. Then we were told to report back to Woendi Island; the trip was made by PT boat. We were all told to write letters home but to say nothing about our not being able to write for three months.
Oct. 8, 1944
The submarine Narwhal docked at Woendi and unloaded a group of former (31) prisoners of war. They were those left when a torpedo hit their ship. When it was sinking they jumped overboard and started to swim to land and avoid Japanese shooting. They were barefoot, just skin and bones, wearing broad brimmed grass hats, but there was a big smile on every face because they were back with their own people. It took three days for the sailors to clean up the ship - each man was sick with several diseases. While they were cleaning the ship, we (37 men) were taken to a big Quonset hut and were told to take any armament that we wanted to carry. I took one “45”, two grenades, and one carbine with wind adjustment and “V” sights. All food and ammunition was loaded in the sub next to the batteries, and all steel guns were coated with grease and wired to the outside.
Oct.11, 1944
We went aboard and were shown around the submarine. We were shown the Navigation Room, Officer’s Quarters, Chow Hall, two Restrooms (both could be used when on the surface but only one when under water), and sleeping quarters for the crew. On the deck under each bunk was a torpedo. We slept next to the batteries on top of boxes of food and ammunition. On top was one 6” gun - all other submarines had only 4” guns. On the way as we were in a passageway in Indonesian waters, a Japanese cruiser with two destroyers as escorts entered the same passageway. Our sub then went down and sat on the bottom. all doors were closed and locked - we were instructed not to move or say anything and to be especially careful not to drop anything. If we were located there would be “depth charges” shot directly into us.
Oct. 19, 1944
On this night our sub was floating quietly on the surface and many of our group had gone up topside. I was double-checking to be sure I wasn’t leaving anything when one of our group came in and said, “I wish you would come up on top - there is something that smells like vomit.” so we both went up to the top deck and looked out where the local natives were taking the guns off the sub and putting them on the local boats. When one passed just below us, we knew where the smell was coming from. It wasn’t long before we got off the sub into one of those native boats and taken to shore. As we looked back the sub was gone.
On land our group of six was sitting on the porch of a home in the village of Tolong, Negros, in the Philippines. The people seemed happy to see us but were a little nervous. As we talked, some of the natives seemed to be talking about us in their native language, happy, smiling, and eyes snapping. A couple were carrying some eggs and a chicken when Charlie stood up and said with great expression “egelow, manook, and salamat” which was native for eggs, chicken, and thank you. I looked at our new friends faces across the porch and I’m sure their faces were red as they looked at each other and then at us. One by one they left the porch and we were alone. Next we saw a couple carrying a bed without mattress or covers to a barn near by where they set it down. This is where Don and I opened our own blankets and slept the rest of the night.
Oct. 20, 1944
The next morning we all assembled and were escorted down to the local dock where all 37 U.S. soldiers got aboard a wooden boat along with native men to paddle. They paddled the boat going south. At one place along the shore we passed what we called in the USA a “pitsaw”. This was logs crossed upright to form a large “X”. When a log was rolled up into this “V”, one man would stand on top and pull the saw up - a man below would pull the saw down until the length of the log was cut through. Then they would repeat the process making one board, etc. Going on down the coast we had a big fish glide along the side of the boat. This fish was longer than the boat and just about as wide. He was close enough that you could see his eyes and touch his back. He was not a whale or a shark and left as quietly as he had appeared. Next as they paddled on down the coast, all of a sudden there was a Japanese “Zero” looking us over. Everyone waved; he dipped his wings and flew on. After a few more hours we landed at a guerrilla base dock.

After we were on land we took a short path to a clearing. There were several buildings, and off to the right and ahead several rods was a waterfall and a stream that disappeared around back of the buildings. In the clearing were several natives and native children. It was not hard at all to tell the small boys from the girls as they wore only shirts. The adults laughed at us for spending time washing diapers and cleaning up after our children! It was not long before it was time to be introduced to the adults. First to Col. Abcede and Col. Horzon, then to Maj. Flores, Maj. Mate, Capt. Cecelio E. Flores, 2nd Lt. Emilio T. Diav, and 1st Lt. Paterio A. Torres. Looking around, I saw a bird sitting on his perch. I asked Col. Abcede if the bird was a hunting hawk. He went over, held out his arm, and the bird hopped over on his bare arm.. Then he walked around, told us bird was an eagle. He told us not to get too close because he would peck our eyes out. We loafed around and then located our places to sleep. For the evening meal we went into a long building with a long table. It held our 37 men, the native officers mentioned, and approximately 100 more. The meal was rice with cut-up chicken, bread, sauce, and drink. After the meal there were short speeches from the leaders; then they asked a man to sing. He was stocky, his voice was tenor, and he sang in his native tongue with much emotion as tears rolled down his face. The song was “From Off the Mountain” and sounded a little like “God Bless America”.
Oct. 21, 1944
We were just standing around and were informed that the American forces had landed on Leyte, that the Japanese had increased patrols, and it would be too dangerous for us to go to our set up points by sail boat. The guerrilla leaders would have to find us another way to get to our assigned areas. One of the lieutenants told us about a great victory over their Japanese oppressors. About noon David and Lloyd came in and reported they had been hunting and had killed two 3 ft. lizards - their tails would provide the meat in the rice instead of using chicken.

One question we asked - have the Japanese ever invaded this area? Col. H. replied “they had come three times but we always moved out before they came.”

During the afternoon Lloyd and David reminded us several times that we would have lizard for our next meal. Also, they found their radio equipment, started up the engine and played with it for about an hour.

During the next few days I found out more about the plans. There was to be a relay radio station that the outlying radar stations would call into when they had enemy planes on the screen. This was also to be the command post with our two lieutenants, sergeants, and men to run the relay station. A couple of six-men crews left the area going north. On Oct. 29, 1944, we were loaded onto a sailboat. We would go part way up the coast making two stops before unloading at Cauanan on Nov. 2. Then on to Salong where we spent two nights, and finally to Kabankalau where the people were out in full force to meet us. Everyone was happy, Mayor Cardova gave a speech and Charlie replied.
Nov. 5, 1944
On this night, near the city of Kabankalan we spent the night in the home of a family whose husband was sleeping there for the first time since the Japanese came to Negros. He pointed out that he was a local politician; the Japanese had surrounded his home three times with blood hounds trying to locate him.. Not far from this home was a small stream. Along the streambed lay a tube made of bamboo that had been used to turn a water wheel that powered a car generator. It had provided electricity for a light in the house. Floodwater had damaged the water wheel and was no longer in use.

After packing our gear next morning we were on our way north. Fifteen native volunteers, 2 native officers, and 5 Americans traveled along a path - not a real road. When I asked one of the volunteers “how far?” he answered, “not far, be there soon.” Half a day later I got the same answer. A little past mid-afternoon we came to the Fabric Market. We rested awhile there and then went on to a house with a big front porch - this was called First Bn. HQ. After the evening meal our hosts became very excited - he told us they had captured seven Philippino collaborators. If we wanted to see how they treated these hated people we should come sit on the porch. We watched as the officers beat up the men. The next morning one of the collaborators who had been severely beaten had dug out of the room where the seven had been locked up for the night. After breakfast the volunteers carried our gear and we started north again.
Nov. 8, 1944
We entered the San Tole Market in the hills above Isabela. The people were amazed and happy to see us. After food and a good night’s sleep the volunteers showed up to carry our packs and radar equipment. With native officers to act as guides we skirted the lowland where the Japanese were housed and their patrols surveyed the land around them. On the way, we stayed in homes of local guerrilla leaders. Along the way we stopped to rest at a local camp. One man said, “We have a Japanese prisoner”. They brought the prisoner out. His arms were tied tightly behind his back; the end was then made into a slipknot around his neck. When he got his balance and looked around he saw Americans and his eyes showed pure hate. He would have killed us if he could. The guard pulled his bolo knife and offered us an ear, then the nose as souvenirs. We told him we had enough to carry and didn’t need a souvenir. We continued north.

Our trail took us through forests, across the foot of the volcano Caulson barren of all growth, along the foot of Mt. Mandafgan, then to a few houses called Sacup.
Nov. 12, 1944
In mid-afternoon Charlie became ill. Lt. Mankie asked if anyone would like to accompany him to the army camp. We asked how far and he said, “Not far - just a short walk”. So George, Smitty, and I accompanied him. We walked out to the top edge of a valley and the Lt. pointed over the way to the other slope and asked if we could see the house. It looked very small, so we ran most of the way and got there after sundown. The food wasn’t that good but it was the best they had.
Nov. 13, 1944
About noon we arrived at the home of Juanitan A. Amechazurra. Capt. Bromol was there and the food was good.
Nov. 14, 1944
We came to Sagang and there was plenty of food, music, and dancing. That night as we were sleeping - maybe towards morning - I woke up and could see the stars and the moon. I could hear a pig squealing loudly. Another man was awake and saw four men holding a pig down over a tub while another cut his throat. It was hard to get back to sleep but we did.
Nov. 15, 1944
The next morning we watched the pig being roasted - turning slowly over a bed of red hot coals - getting ready for a big party at the Commonwealth Dance. That night there was band music, many men and women dancing, laughing, and having fun - as were several of our group. The food served was rice, chicken, sauce, roast pig, banana candy and a hot drink. They served Tuba (a beer made from fermented sap of the coconut palm). They also had a drink called Nipa wine. One of our party from Philadelphia was used to drinking hard liquor and took a big drink of the Nipa wine - it took him five to ten minutes to catch his breath! The party continued on through Nov. 16. Also on this day Charlie and George with the equipment caught up with us.

Volunteers were loaded, Capt. Teveas, Lt. Joe Evondelesta, and Sgt. Miller were our guides, and we said goodbye to Div. G-2. As we were leaving, Dave’s gun slipped and he shot the Major through the foot - plenty of excitement on Nov. 17 to occupy our minds as we walked along to G-3.
Nov. 18, 1944,
We arrived at Div. HQ of the 72nd Division. We stayed at the home of Co. Mota. While there we met a Lt. Mann and Lt. McGee. They were pilots whose planes had been shot down. They were safe because two local natives walked them away before the Japanese arrived. We visited with them quite a bit. When talking with Lt. McGee I asked him what he planned to do when the war was over. He said he had an uncle near a big city on the East Coast who had 160 acres planted in Christmas trees, which he sold in season. The uncle made a fair living and didn’t have to work all the time. McGee and I traded watches before parting. Charlie became ill with amoebic dysentery.

Another group consisting of Richard Beard and five others came up the trail we had just covered. They asked if we had seen the Japanese the guerrillas had captured. I told him about the souvenirs the guerrillas had offered us. He said as they came up the trail the Phillipinos were taking the prisoner south. His hands were tied, hobbles on his legs, and a long rope with a slip knot was around his neck. They were dragging him by his neck over the rocks. All this seems cruel but remember how cruel the Japanese were to these people.
Nov. 23, 1944
Thanksgiving Day not only for us from the United States but also for all the people in the Philippines and on Negros Island. We were at a military base on the side of Mt. Mandolgan near Co. Mata’s home. Dinner was for Charlie and Richard’s men, Lt. Mann, Lt. McGee, Capt. Teveas, Lt. Joe Evondelesta, and Sgt. Miller. Our food consisted of dried fish, rice, and a drink. It was announced that for supper we would have fresh fish.

In the afternoon most of us went to a market a block or two away. As suppertime approached, Richard, Max, and I were about five minutes behind the main group. When we got to the table it was cleaned except for the skeleton of the fish with it’s eyes looking at us. So the three of us sat down and playfully had an argument over who would get to eat the eyes.

Nov. 24, 1944
Lt. Mann leaves for the South.
Nov. 25
Lt. McGee goes to the home of the island governor. Dave, George, Smitty, and Don take the equipment to Victory Lodge. Charlie and I go to G-4.
Nov. 28
We stop at the house of Lt. Locson.
Nov. 29
Maj. Beylon, Col. Mota, and Capt. of the Infantry Capt. Moya guide us through a security trail that ran through a rain forest. Before we started in we were told that it would be like having it rain all the time and that we should look each other over for leeches that might drop on us from tree branches.

Everything was as described except that the rain was like being under a tree after a hard rain moves on. It never stops dripping water and the sunrays never get through. When we finally came out of the forest we were beside a big waterfall. The water dropped 15 to 20 feet and it was 40 to 60 ft. wide. There was a big pool of water below - a perfect swimming pool! One of the men put his hand in the pool and pulled it out with several leeches hanging on. That took care of the desire to go swimming. We waded on to Regimental Headquarters.
Dec. 2, 1944
We came to 2M base and the home of Mr. Buncho. In the Buncho living room we were told that his son was in the next room dying of malaria. He was a lieutenant in the Philippino Army. I asked Charlie about giving him some of our atabrine. We each carried a small waterproof container in our belts. In addition, I carried a larger jar in my back pocket from which I refilled the individual containers. Charlie thought it would be proper so we did and then I repacked the jar in my clothes. After supper I went down to a running stream and took a bath. Had a good night’s sleep.

After breakfast on Dec. 3, the volunteers were loaded and we started for Victory Lodge. At noon we were at the home of a Major and a nurse who had been on Bataan. We had dinner with music. Then we were on the way again and the Catholic Priest told this story. “You have heard of the great victory of our forces over the Japanese in the South. A Japanese freighter ended up on the rocks during a storm. Some of the crew managed to swim ashore. As they were lying around on the beach, half-drowned, some local natives found them and tied them up. Having a great hatred for the Japanese people who were treating them cruelly, the natives hung their victims by their feet, castrated them, and skinned them alive. You could still see the ship on the rocks.”

On the trail we passed a place (very little to see) where, when the war started, several U.S. citizen families built a building and stocked it with a lot of canned food. The local natives were hungry and asked for food but the families would not share. Finally because of fear of the natives, the Americans surrendered to the Japanese, food and all.

We came to a river - shallow, rocky, wide, and fast moving water. As we were crossing Smitty and Dave were first to reach the other side. When an older man with a child crossing at the same time slipped, the child was swept downstream. Smitty and Dave ran down the bank until they could wade out and catch the child. The older man was very grateful.

We continued on to the home of Valderamma, the owner of the world’s second largest Philippine Mahogany Lumber Mills. This home was in the center of a horseshoe river bend. As we looked we could see a dam across the river with a generator to operate the lights. On the other side was a wooden bridge across the river. Mr. Valderamma stood about 5 ft. 7 in. tall and had the look of a well-fed businessman and always smoked a very long cigar. We were fed, and spent the night there. That night as I was going through the pack, I found that the larger jar of Atabrine had been removed. This changed the amount we would take from one a day to one every other day.
Dec. 4, 1944
We are at Victory Lodge. Here we met Lt. De La Pena, Lt. Groucho who was over the inshore patrols, Lt. Joe Evondelasta who was making preparations for our trip to Masbate, Lt. Mike Jeanjuquet, and Lt. Edward Montenolo. Our orders to move on were delayed because Lt. Joe Evondelesta was looking for different boats. Mickey joined our tour here.
Dec. 9, 1944
We were packed to make the move to Masbate but our orders were changed. We now were to move to a district in South Negros. We go back to Dist. Gov. Valderamma’s house (called Sherwood Forest) and had a breakfast of camotes.
Dec. 11, 1944
We stayed at the Garmelioris home - a lady whose brother had died of malaria the week before lived there.
Dec. 12, 1944
We reached Casanova and here we met Gov. Lacson, Mr. Lacson, A.J. Lacson Jr., and Estella Lacson - all of the city of Bacolod in peacetime.
Dec. 13, 1944
Arrived at Regimental Headquarters.
Dec. 14, 1944
George and I chose up sides and we had a baseball game.
Dec. 15, 1944
Radio equipment was to be sent to Div. headquarters, and a radio message ordered us to return north and operate.
Dec. 16, 1944
Lt. Montimolo and George moved north to Casanova with the radio equipment.
Dec. 17, 18, 19, 20, 1944
We ate mostly rice and porridge. Played some softball, read, and visited. We asked a Lt. why the guerrilla fighters were so well organized. He explained that after the Japanese took the Islands they were very cruel. They called in all the money (both U.S. money and native pesos - metal coins or paper money) and gave out worthless paper money without even serial numbers. They took from the people whatever they wanted. This made a few mad enough that one killed a Japanese soldier. The Japanese then rounded up the first 50 people they came to, lined them up and shot them. This happened a second time. This frightened the leaders and wealthy native families so they decided to get the “hot heads” off the street and into the mountains which they did. They started close order drills, using sticks for guns. The organized groups we saw coming up through the highlands had this beginning and are now known as Freedom Fighters.

Mickey and I were talking about bolo knives. A bolo is a knife about 20 inches long and 3 inches wide. It is the poor man’s tool and weapon. With it he can build a house for his family. When being used as a weapon, he can use the sheath in one hand to ward off the other man’s blows while using the bolo[ as a sword. Magellan was killed by a native chief on Cebu using a bolo. The best bolo is made in Mindanao. The men there can make a bolo that can cut off the barrel of a .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun without denting the blade. In the old days, if one of the natives felt extremely insulted he would find all the pressure points on his body, wrap the rest of his body, and then take his dent proof bolo out to see how many of his enemies he could kill before he was cut down. I asked Mickey if he could get me a bolo from Mindanao and he said he would try.

One day Smitty was in the kitchen watching a lady make banana candy. The candy was made by cutting a banana in half, then cutting a V in one half and filling it with sugar candy. The lady was cooking a pot of sugar candy over the fire. Smitty had a sore on his leg and had wrapped it with a bandage. He was taking the bandage off, it had stuck to the wound, and as he jerked it loose the entire bandage fell into the candy pot. The lady just took a stick, flipped out the bandage, and continued to cook the candy.

The greatest worry of the Philippine people as told by one of their lieutenants was a situation such as this: A Japanese patrol is scouting the side roads - the time is noon. They pass a yard full of chickens and start shooting them. Inside the house is the father of perhaps 12 children and he sees his food supply being taken. He grabs his bolo and kills an enemy soldier or two before he is killed.

One of the ways the Philippinos got the “laugh” on the Japanese was with food. They always ordered the best and most tasty foods be served to them. A favorite food of the Philippinos was a cooked, unhatched egg with the developing chick inside. When served to the Japanese it made their stomachs turn. The egg was then returned to the kitchen were the cook enjoyed it!

The Philippine people were proud of a dress their women had made for Mrs. Roosevelt; the thread in the dress was finer than silk. They were also proud that one of their girls had been chosen “Queen of the Universe.”
Dec. 21, 1944
Our radio equipment was returned from Division Headquarters and there were messages for Don, Dave, Smitty, and George.

Dec. 22
After breakfast we were told to stay in camp during the morning. After awhile Smitty and Dave said they were going to town anyway - they wanted to get some banana candy. Nothing we could do or say could keep them in camp. It wasn’t long until they were back reporting that when they got there they found the town surrounded, men searching the houses and lining the local men up to be the volunteers to carry our packs and our equipment. There was a message for George to go to a Quartermaster hospital, second Battalion, under Capt. Ramos. So we started north with Mickey as guide.
Dec. 23
Lt. Buncho, Garmetrous, Lt. Gov. Valderamma, and Charlie pick a site in North Negros to set up our radar operation.
Dec. 24
Set up equipment at Victory Lodge and it was operational, but we immediately went back to Gov. Valderamma’s home (Sherwood Forest) with Valderamma’s son. Capt. Magibillen was there but he left early in the afternoon and we had time to look around.

It was interesting to see that he had a bamboo pipe to carry water from the river to the kitchen, then to the indoor toilet, and then back outside. Before the war Mr. Valderamma owned the largest mahogany sawmill in the Philippines. It was called Insular Lumber and was second only to the American Mill at Fabrica. At one time during the afternoon he showed us a map of Mindanao, put his finger on the north shore and said that when the war was over he would own that land. (A note to his remark - between 1946 - 1950 I saw two Philippine articles in the Pittsburg, Kansas, newspaper. (1) The Philippine Army was in that northern area (where he had pointed) fighting the communists. I believe they were just small farmers who didn’t want to give up their farms to Valderamma, and that the Philippine Army was probably Valderamma’s private army. He especially wanted the land because iron ore had been found there. (2) The next article I read stated that Mr. Valderamma was suing our gov’t for one million dollars for damage done to his property during the war). Now back to the story. As super time came it was explained that on this night no food would be taken until after midnight. Shortly after 12:00 the food was put on the table; the host sat at one end and his wife sat at the other end. The Priest said Grace and we had a three-course meal, the food always being passed to the right. The next morning we found that his cigar roller had passed away during the night and Mr. Varderamma seemed very sad. Some whispered that perhaps it was because he might be unable to find a replacement for him. The noon meal was good but uneventful. So was the evening meal until the rice was passed and black sauce followed. As we were eating, George kept chewing on a piece of gristle and commenting how tough it was. Finally he put it back on his plate and the only word we heard was “stomach wall!.” Our host was insulted.
Dec. 26
After breakfast we were on the road again. For dinner we came to a man who shared his camote with us (a kind of watery potato from a 3 ft. woody stalk). As we walked, we tried to figure where George got the “stomach wall” and we all agreed it must have been in the black sauce. We knew that when natives killed an animal they saved all the blood, then cut up the parts inside the animal and cooked it all together to made a sauce. After that we called the sauce “General Patton Stew”. The first person to identify this sauce was to smile, pass it along and saying, “Have some General Patton stew”.

As we walked we passed through an area of tree stumps - they were 10 to 15 ft. in diameter and 15 -20 ft. to the cut above the ground. Later in the day we came to a grove of palm trees. Mickey went up the tree and cut down 4 or 5 coconuts before coming back down. He pointed to a tube hanging in the tree and explained when the nut first formed; it formed a tube with a very small nut on the end. A worker would climb up, cut off the nut, and fasten a bamboo tube to the other tube to catch the sap. The bamboo tube is taken down each day and emptied, then rehung. Beer made from this sap was called tuba. If distilled it was called Nippa wine. The first batch was used to run the generator motor, which made the current that operated their transmitter.
Dec. 27
We moved our equipment out of Victory Lodge to a good site, which was to the right (south) of a former USA Naval Observation Station before the war. About noon Charlie came into camp from the South, inspected the site, and agreed it would be a good location.
Dec. 28, 1944
We set up radar and tried to teach Lt. Sombito how it worked.
Dec. 29
We had the radar on the air before the rest of the party arrived and felt good about that.
Jan. 1945

New Year was brought in with lots of rain and sleep. (Another note - In the Philippines before the war they had gun registration and it seemed that left guns only in the hands of the wealthy. Lt. Gracho was a member of a wealthy family, and I was told that when he was a college student he killed a peasant with a gun and didn’t even have to stand trial.)

Off and on several girls came to Victory Lodge. First there were two older women who sat around and played Mahjong. A girl of high school age, probably of Spanish origin, came and talked to each of us. She even tried to teach me to play mahjong. A woman teacher came several times - generally it was to carry a message through Japanese lines.

Jan. 1, 1945
A short distance west and downhill from Victory Lodge (maybe half a mile) was a flat area. On the east edge sat a small hut. We started to move into this place, which we called “Bug Heaven”. We moved our tents, radar, and radio equipment into the area around the hut, set everything up and were ready to operate. During this time Mickey was helping around camp and loved to tell stories about how to use a bolo, how to hold the sheath, and to use the traditional “ten steps” to cut up an enemy. They sharpened their knives by sprinkling dust on a rotten stump and drawing the blade over it. He also told about the many uses of a coconut. First, it gives the purest water you will ever drink. When the meat is 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick it makes a delicious food. They laugh at Americans because ripe coconuts have much oil in them and act as a laxative. The shell can be used for a cup or a bowl, a fork or spoon can be made from the shell, and it can also be used to carry live coals to make heat.

Smitty and Phil got out the radio equipment to try it out. After working on it for some time they put it away and said nothing. Charlie went over to help and they were very rude and told him to mind his own business; they could take care of their own equipment.
Jan. 9, 1945
We made the big move into “bug heaven.” When we arrived we found a young mother with a small child living there. When it was time to go to bed Mickey said he was going to sleep in the hut and the rest of us slept in the tents.
Jan. 10, 1045
The next morning as we were getting ready for breakfast Mickey yelled that he had a bug in his ear. Charlie had him lie down, poured water in his ear, and the roach came to the surface and was smashed! When night came we took flashlights and inspected the hut. The walls and ceiling were black with roaches everywhere. Mickey didn’t sleep there again.
Jan. 11, 1945
The next day we wound up the radar, but Lloyd and Smitty couldn’t get the radio operational so we shut the radar off.
Jan. 12
Charlie stood looking over the city below us and said, “Sooter, if those two weren’t so stubborn, I could fix that radio in short order - but if I did that, they would blame us for all their troubles. But - don’t tell anyone I said that.” Without radio or radar operating we had nothing to do. As we visited, we laughed about the time we pulled into a guerrilla base along the trail and asked where we could bathe. They said we could use the cement horse tank down the way. We all climbed in; the next thing we knew the whole town had turned out to watch us. They stayed until one of the group reached over, got his shorts, put them on underwater, and got out. Then he handed the rest of us our shorts. The natives then left to let us dress without their help.

Jan. 19, 1945
There was Japanese activity in the lowlands but we did not know how much. A runner came by and said he was taking the native company’s books and papers to a safer place. When asked how close the fighting was, he said about forty minutes and took off - we never saw him again. With the enemy 40 minutes away and moving toward us, we had to consider what to do. Knowing we couldn’t pack and leave in 40 minutes, we didn’t want the Japanese to capture our equipment. Two of our group went down the trail to give us more warning if the enemy came nearer. Then we stacked everything, and moved on up the trail. The next day we found out the Japanese had surrounded the house containing our native platoon. Across the road another group opened fire on the Japanese. Between the houses the Japanese scrambled for cover. The guerrillas in the first house escaped across the road with other guerrillas protecting their rear as they moved into the woods. Then two U.S. aircraft entered the fight and the Japanese left.
Jan. 20, 1945
Sitting on the porch of Victory Lodge we heard the drone of approaching aircraft. As we watched, we saw Japanese bombers with fighter escorts - we didn’t know if they were after us or not. The planes kept coming until we couldn’t see the end in any direction - bombers with fighter escorts in formation. They were going east and were so low we could see the pilots looking down at us. They flew over our heads for what seemed to be 30 or 40 minutes. All we could say was the “somebody was going to catch it when they get where they’re going.” Later when I was in 133 Gen. Hospital I found out. Near Leyte there was a horseshoe bay and the U.S. Navy trapped part of the Japanese navy in this bay - all these bombers were headed for that spot. However, all the U.S. Navy planes from the carrier were in the air when the Japanese forces arrived. All the U.S. fighter planes on Leyte joined the battle. When the U.S. planes ran low on gas they landed on the air force runways to refuel, but the Japanese had no place to refuel and we won. This battle was known as the Battle of Tonkin Gulf.

When Mickey first joined us I noticed he slept on the ground without covers. He was from Mindanao and liked to talk about how his people lived and fought with a bolo. About the third night he was with us I cut my blanket in two and gave him half so he wouldn’t have to sleep on the ground. I had asked him if he could get me one of the good bolo knives from Mindanao and he said it would be hard. One night I noticed he did not have his blanket but he didn’t want to tell me where it was. Finally he said a native lieutenant who had been on the Bataan death march had taken it and he was afraid of him. When I saw the lieutenant I told him I didn’t think it was fair that he had taken something I had given someone else to use, especially since Mickey was trying to get me a bolo knife. He didn’t answer but just left.

A few days later he came back with a new bolo as a gift for me and asked if I would work for him after the war as Supervisor of Transportation of a liquor plant he intended to start. He said the salary would be $10,000 a year. I looked at him and all I could see was a cheat who wanted a tall American - then he could brag to his friends and say “See who I have working for me.” Anyway, he never returned the half blanket to Mickey, and he probably stole the bolo from an American we’d heard lived in the brushy areas and made bolos for people!
Jan. 21, 1945
Dave and Smitty are very yellow with yellow jaundice and are not very talkative. Major Baylon visits Victory Lodge and talks with Joe Evondelesta and Jeanjuquet.
Jan. 25
At 1:00 P.M. we started off the mountain carrying our packs and being escorted by Company K. We walked down as far as it was safe. After dark we walked into the town of Victoria. People peeked out the windows and then pulled the blinds. We came to a house where we were taken in and we waited until time to get on the boat.
Jan. 26, 1945
At 2:00 A.M. we boarded a sailboat and arrived an Panay at 6:00 A.M. As we sailed along, one of the sailors walked out on the outrigger to act as a counter weight. He also laughed at us about our toilet habits and the chatter lasted all the way. We asked what they would do if a Japanese PT boat would show up. The answer was _ “outrun them especially if we have a good wind.” That was saying something as a Jap. PT boat could outrun a U.S. PT boat. Some wished we had a bazooka. Goodbye Victoria, Negros, and hello Colasi, Panay!

As we stepped ashore a native came by and asked if anyone was a member of the Masonic Lodge - none were. We were then put on a truck and went north up the coast to Bungias, then west to the capital of Panay. On the road, many people stood along the road to watch us pass. Many were poorly dressed but were happy to see Americans again. In the capital, the local chief told ‘us that when people left their island they left their guns. We informed him that when we leave we will take our guns with us. A colonel and two majors flew in but wouldn’t even talk to us.
Jan. 29, 1945
We boarded the plane and flew to Leyte. We reported into Company D, 583 SAW as the 5th Fighter Command and G.H-2 had moved.

Jan. 30, 1945
We checked into the 133 Gen. Hospital. That evening after supper Charlie came and told me he had been in the restroom when the head officer of the hospital came in and “you really have it bad; I’m going to send you to the States tomorrow.” We shook hands and wished each other luck.
Feb. 22, 1945
After being treated for amoebic dysentery on Feb. 22, 1945, I was sent to the First Convalescent Hospital where I was checked each day. On one of these checks Capt. Corden found I also had Schistosomiasis and later I came down with yellow jaundice.
After treatment for the yellow jaundice I was sent to 118th General Hospital into a ward for treatment of Schistosomiasis. Capt. J. Maier and Lt. Co. Vanderfrift checked me. Capt. Brown gave shots each day. Most of the men in this ward thought they would die there and I wanted to get out. So I went to Headquarters and shot some basketballs, visited with two of my cousins who were stationed in that area, saw the play “Oklahoma”, and then talked Capt. Brown into letting me go back to our company. Someone gave me a lift to B Hq. 597SAW Bn. AP072.
May 23, 1945
On May 23 at the local airport I got a ride on a plane to Iwahig, Palawan, where I joined the platoon I was with on Woendi. As we rode from the airport we passed the basement of a burned out building where the Japanese had stored barrels of gasoline and 150 prisoners of war. Then they punctured the barrels and burned the prisoners alive. Our platoon was the first to find this and report it. One day when Gatius was out, a Jap shot at him and knocked the stock off his gun. He used what was left and shot the Jap.
Aug. 22, 1945
The platoon returned to Leyte and was reassigned to the 133 Squadron Mobil going to Japan. We assembled across the road from the 118th Gen. Hospital where I had been. So I went across the road to see how many were still in the ward. When I got there, the ward was empty. However, I saw the ward boy who had helped care for us. He was surprised and said “Sooter, what are you doing here? All the other men who were here with you were sent to the States last week!” He asked if I would rather go to the States or Japan and of course I said the States. He said to come with him - we went outdoors, entered another building and into a lieutenant’s office. The boy said I had been in the hospital and was sent back to the company but was in the group across the road. The Lt. wrote a note to the medic across the road that I was to be reassigned to the hospital. Those medics never did understand how I pulled that one! I didn’t care what they thought - I just got my gear and was back in the 118th Gen. Hospital again.
Sept. 5, 1945
I boarded and set sail on the Medeor.
Sept. 25, 1945
We sailed up the Columbia River to Portland.

From the journal of Joyce M. Sooter
© 2007 by Roberta Sooter
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