Redemption at Leyte: U.S. Army Captain Francis B. Wai
By Dieter Stenger, U.S. Army Center of Military History
Around the same time General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore on October 20, 1944 at Leyte, Philippines, and delivered his famous radio message to the Filipino people, declaring his return "as the voice of freedom" during the "hour of their redemption," Captain Francis B. Wai fought the Japanese with the greatest valor until he was killed in action for the principles of MacArthur’s declaration.
The strategic invasion of Leyte of the Philippines island group began on October 17, 1944, in order to cut the Japanese sea lines of communication and threaten Japan's internal communications within the archipelago. Captain Francis B. Wai, of Honolulu, Hawaii, served with the 34th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Division out of Schofield Barracks, Oahu. He was one of only a few Asian-American officers in the U.S. Army in 1944.
The 24th Division was one of two belonging to X Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Franklin C. Sibert. Together with Maj. Gen. John R. Hodge's XXIV Corps that formed the U.S. Sixth Army under Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, both corps came ashore at Leyte in the face of light Japanese resistance.
The assault beach (Red) assigned to the 24th Division was narrow but consisted of firm sand. Behind the beach the Japanese established a tank obstacle, tunnels and well-concealed pillboxes among thick jungle growth and marshy ground. Open rice paddies fringed Hill 522, the most prominent terrain feature, which dominated the beaches and roads in the surrounding area.
The 34th Infantry led the attack, landing the regiment in battalion columns. The Japanese allowed the first wave to land but unleashed mortar and machine gun fire when the following waves were 2,000-3,000 meters offshore, inflicting heavy casualties. Japanese gunfire from positions located in a palm grove frustrated the assault.
With many senior NCOs and officers either killed or wounded, Captain Wai found the beaches crowded with disorganized and pinned down soldiers. When Company K ran into a series of five defensive pillboxes, Captain Wai took command of the situation and issued orders. Disregarding heavy enemy machine gun fire, Wai moved inland without cover and inspired the men to follow. During the advance, Captain Wai deliberately exposed himself to draw Japanese fire from enemy strong points in order to reveal their locations. The pillboxes were systematically neutralized with BARs and hand grenades. Wai was killed while leading an assault against the last remaining Japanese pillbox.
Harold Rant, a wire technician from the Headquarters Battalion said of Wai, "A hero came forth but we knew he had come to die. He was a big Hawaiian captain, one of the most popular officers." Rant added, "Word passed that he was really ripping and had knocked out three pillboxes. With real luck, he was jumping, running, dodging, and crawling under machine gun fire to get hand-grenades into the fortresses. At about the fifth one they got him, laced him with fire and he was hit ten times through the chest."
Captain Wai was largely responsible for the speed by which the beachhead was secured. For his actions, Captain Wai posthumously received the Distinguished Service Cross.
On June 21, 2000, Captain Wai's Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor was donated by the brother, Robert Wai, to the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii, Fort DeRussy, Hawaii. The medal is part of the U.S. Army Historical Collection.
The National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin is one of the leading combined-arms training centers for the U.S. Army. For many 24th ID Desert Storm vets, desert training at the NTC helped prepare them for the real world battles of the Gulf War (1991).
Located near Barstow in the Mojave desert of Southern California, the NTC offers about 1,000 square miles for combat training that enables the complexity of maneuver warfare across the full range of conflict for both ground and aviation forces. Each year, the U.S. Army rotates brigade size units and their enablers through NTC for training.
NTC PHOTO GALLERY
IN THE BOX: A Tour Through the Simulated Battlefields of the NTC
In the Box Tour: Battles in Fake Iraq
Rock-steady symbol unveiled at Painted Rocks
Being the Enemy – OPFOR at the NTC
Do you remember the Army recruiting commercials running on TV when you enlisted? If those commercials are just a fuzzy memory, we have you covered. This week’s Taro Leaf Tuesday features Army recruiting commercials from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
I enlisted in 1989 and served for 5 years (active duty) all with the 24th Infantry Division. I remember the “Be All That You Can Be” commercials. Those commercials were corny as hell, but don’t compare to the commercials from 1962 and 1973. Be sure to check out John Travolta in the 1973 commercial.
(1962) Army Recruiting Commercial "You Want Action?"
(1973) US Army Recruitment Video with John Travolta
(1979) This is the Army
(1979) U.S. Army - "Exactly What I Need"
1980s Army commercial (My Hometown)
(1982) Army Recruiting Commercial
(1986) U.S. Army Recruitment Commercial
(1989) Army TV Commercial
(1989) US Army Recruitment Commercial
(1990) Be All You Can Be. Commercial
(2011) Symbol of Strength - More than a Uniform 2011
(2015) U.S. Army: Prepared for Anything
(2016) U.S. Army Commercial: "Microdrone"
Gain full access to all website content at 24thTaroLeaf.com by joining the 24th IDA.
See the original image at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/DesertStormMap_v2.svg
Master Sgt. Keeble Medal of Honor Recipient
The inspiring story of Medal of Honor recipient Army Master Sgt. Woodrow Keeble (Eagle Feather), who distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Sangsan-ni, Korea, on October 20, 1951.
Produced by Army Sgt. Brian Buckwalter
Video courtesy of the Pentagon Channel
(LENGTH – 23.36)
Looking west on Fuggerstrasse; the Augsburg Opera House at Kennedy Platz in the distance,
By Don Maggio, 24th IDA President
Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany was the home of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) Headquarters and major elements when I arrived in May 1967. There were also a significant number of troops in Munich. Many of us Cold War Era veterans remember the Rathaus (Town Hall) as Augsburg’s symbol.
Augsburg has a long history dating back to 15 BC as a Roman camp under Caesar Augustus’ soldiers. Its location at the confluence of the Lech and Wertach Rivers made it a major Roman trading center.
Augsburg has seen the wrath of the Huns, and been a part of the Holy Roman Empire.
Thanks to Anton and Jakob Fugger, Augsburg became Europe’s banking center in the 1500’s. In 1521 they established the Fuggerei, the oldest social settlement in the world. It still exists today and provides apartments to Augsburg Catholics who have fallen on hard time.
In 1530 the Augsburg Confession occurred in an attempt to reconcile the religious schism between Martin Luther’s Protestants and the Catholics. In 1806 the city became part of Bavaria.
Rudolf Diesel, an engineer for the Augsburg Maschinenfabrik, invented the first internal combustion engine in Augsburg in 1897.
The U.S. 5th Infantry Division was stationed in Augsburg at the end of World War II, being replaced by the 11th Airborne Division during Operation Gyroscope, 1947-1956.
The 24th Infantry Division was reactivated July 1, 1956, and replaced the 11th Airborne Division at Augsburg. The 11th Airborne Brigade became a part of the 24th. In the early 1960’s the 24th Infantry Division was reorganized into the 24th Infantry Division Mechanized, with the mission to patrol along the Czech Border and defend against a possible Warsaw Pact invasion.
The 24th Infantry Division was rotated back to Ft. Riley, Kansas from June to September 1968 under Operation REFORGER (REturn of FORces to GERmany). Equipment was positioned in Kaiserslautern for rapid deployment in case of a Warsaw Pact forces invasion.
Twenty-Fourth Division troops were deployed back to Germany for at least two REFORGER exercises for joint training with other NATO troops. Units of VII Corps Artillery and the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade took over some of the Kasernes.
Those of us stationed in Germany during the mid- to late 1960’s had a very pleasant time, despite the frequent alerts and cold winters.
There were times troops had just returned from their assigned staging areas only to be “called out” again on alert from a higher command. The Armor Battalion on Sheridan Kaserne had to load partially-repaired engines into their compartments and tow the vehicle behind a tank retriever.
One U.S. dollar would get about four German Marks, so our purchasing power was good. But those who had “unsponsored” dependents (family not authorized to accompany a soldier) had it much more difficult as rent at private homes was very expensive relative to the authorized housing allowance.
This was when the German economy was changing from capital intensive to consumer intensive as most of the post-war reconstruction had been completed.
German citizens were beginning to make major improvements in their quality of life. They began to buy Volkswagen Beetles, Gogomobiles, Messerschmitts, Mercedes Benzes, Porsche’s, BMWs, Autounions, DKWs, and other cars.
Many of us were impressed that the standard taxi was a black Mercedes diesel. But most Germans still utilized the Strassenbahn (street car) or buses.
Many Germans only drove their cars on the weekends and in good weather. Road and highways became crowded on Sundays after church as families drove to the country for a picnic or to a rural Gasthaus.
On the Autobahn, “Kamerad” drove with abandon! Passing on hills, curves, and narrow bridges seemed commonplace to them while unnerving to most of us.
Most of us stationed at Sheridan Kaserne had our favorite Gasthaus. There was the Pink Haus west of the Kaserne and the “Gasthaus zum Lamb” where trolley #1 turned around in Stadtbergen. Across from the east gate were a couple of more GI spots and a bistro or two.
Hasenbräu and Riegelebräu were produced in Augsburg and served in most of the local “Gasthäuser” along with Spatenbräu, Löwenbräu, Pauliner, Franziskaner, and Hofbräu from München.
With our beer, we ate Schnitzels mit Pommes Frites, Spätzele, Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Curriewurst, Semmel, rye bread, and mixed green salads. The cakes and other bakery items were also very delicious.
Augsburg had a “bierfest” each summer. Hasenbräu and Riegelebräu would set up large tents with a band platform in the middle. We would order liter steins of beer, eat roasted chicken, cheese, pretzels, “steckelfisch,” lox and onion sandwiches, and radi (the large white radishes spiral-cut and soaked in brine). We tried to sing along with the Germans as they swayed to the music. Often we could barter American cigarettes for more beer.
The Germans were very friendly as long as we behaved with some measure of civility. They often began a conversation with a tale of their recent visit to the U.S. or talking about a relative who lived there. A few steins of beer seemed to improve their English and our understanding of the German/Bavarian/Swabish language.
All-in-all, our duty in Germany was most enjoyable. Those of us lucky enough to return have seen significant changes in the city.
Augsburg celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 1985 with major renovations of the Rathaus, Perlacherturm (Perlach Tower), Augustus Platz (across from the Rathaus), and other major fountains and buildings. They opened the newly-restored Grand Hall in the Rathaus for the event and had docents dressed in period costumes leading tours of the city.
Augsburg’s downtown area is now a pedestrian only zone with only street cars and buses allowed. The sidewalk cafes are still busy and good places to watch people. Beer is still the popular drink and Gemütlichkeit is still a way of life in this wonderful city.
Donald E. Maggio, 2009
“Beetle Bailey” comic strip artist Mort Walker died Jan. 27, 2018, at age 94. Walker, a former Army officer, was very supportive of the US military and often produced special drawings for units like the 24th Infantry Division.
Walker was part of producing more than a half-dozen comic strips in his career, including “Hi and Lois,” ‘’Boner’s Ark” and “Sam & Silo.” But his greatest success came from drawing Private Beetle Bailey, the hot-tempered Sergeant Snorkel and the rest of the gang at fictional Camp Swampy. Walker drew the strip for nearly 70 years.
Addison Morton “Mort” Walker was born Sept. 3, 1923, in Kansas and began publishing cartoons at age 11. He sold his first cartoon at 12, and at 14 he was selling gag cartoons regularly to Child Life, Inside Detective and Flying Aces magazines. By age 15, he was comic-strip artist for a weekly metropolitan newspaper, and at age 18, Walker became chief editorial designer at Hall Bros., ushering in a light, playful style to the company’s Hallmark Cards line.
Walker was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Europe during World War II. Walker served in Italy, where he was an intelligence officer and was in charge of an Allied POW camp for 10,000 Germans. After the war, he was posted to Italy, where he was in charge of an Italian guard company. He was discharged from the Army as a first lieutenant in 1947.
After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1948, Walker went to New York to continue to pursue his career in cartooning. He began doing “Spider,” a one-panel cartoon series for The Saturday Evening Post, about a lazy, laid-back college student. When he decided he could make more money doing a multi-panel comic strip, Spider morphed into “Beetle Bailey,” which was eventually distributed to 1,800 newspapers in more than 50 countries for a combined readership of 200 million daily.
“Beetle is the embodiment of everybody’s resistance to authority, all the rules and regulations which you’ve got to follow,” Walker explained. “He deals with it in his own way. And in a way, it’s sort of what I did when I was in the Army. I just oftentimes did what I wanted to do.”
The character of Beetle was originally a college student at Rockview University. The characters in that early strip were modeled after Walker’s Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers at the University of Missouri. On March 13, 1951, during the strip’s first year, Beetle quit school and enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Most of the humor in Beetle Bailey revolves around the inept characters stationed at Camp Swampy. The location was inspired by Camp Crowder, where Walker had once been stationed while in the Army. Camp Crowder was a U.S. Army post located in southwest Missouri which was constructed and used during World War II.
In May of 2000, Walker was honored by the Army at the Pentagon with The Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, the highest award the Secretary of the Army can bestow on a civilian. Walker was also honored at the Pentagon ceremony by the Association of the United States Army, the National World War II Memorial Campaign and the Non Commissioned Officers Association for his efforts to help build awareness and raise funds for the National World War II Memorial.
Do you remember your barracks when you served with the 24th Infantry Division? Depending on whether you were stationed at Fort Stewart, in Germany, or in Hawaii, you have very different memories about where you lived when you were a soldier.
Gary Haynes, a member of the 34th Infantry Regiment Dragon’s Lair Facebook group, visited Schofield Barracks in early September and had these memories to share.
FROM Gary Haynes (Sept. 5, 2017)
Yesterday we visited Schofield Barracks, HI. The barracks complex you are looking at (below) is one of the Quadrangles that date back to probably the 1920's. The 34th Regiment was stationed in one of these Quads just after arriving in Hawaii from San Francisco.
There are several of us that were stationed at Schofield Barracks. The Quad pictured is C Quad, My unit A Company, 4/22 Infantry was stationed in this Quad. The 35th Regiment now occupies this Quad.
There is so much history here, many thousands of soldiers lived in these old buildings. If you have ever watched the classic movie "From Here to Eternity" with Burt Lancaster, these Quads were featured.
These quads were open bay barracks back in the 40's and 50's. The whole post (Schofield Barracks) has been virtually rebuilt, but this old Quad has only had a few more coats of paint and some trim added from what I can tell.
Old Quads Get New Look
Many of the Quads — including one that dates to 1914 — have been restored to historic accuracy on the outside, while their interiors were gutted and rebuilt to meet modern needs.
Completed in the early 1900s, each of the Quads at Schofield Barracks housed 1,500 Soldiers, who lived one company to a floor. The barracks were strafed on Dec. 7, 1941, and 11th Field Artillery Regiment history holds that men of K Quad shot down one of the 29 Japanese planes downed on the day of infamy.
Author James Jones lived in the Quads, and his classic 1951 novel, "From Here to Eternity," opens with Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt leaning on the third-floor railing of a Quad and surveying the busy courtyard below. The movie version starred Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Deborah Kerr, and featured one of the best-known embraces in cinematic history.
READ ABOUT THE REBUILDING OF THE QUADS AT SCHOFIELD BARRACKS
Old Quads Get New Look At Hawaii Army Base
Retaining the Historic Shells of Two Buildings in Quad E
MILCON: Rebuilding U.S. Army Hawaii
Gain full access to all website content at 24thTaroLeaf.com by joining the 24th IDA.