Raid on Paluan

An Interview with Jack Herzig, B Company, 503rd RCT

Private Jack A. Herzig

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Home on leave in Teaneck, NJ in July of 1942


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In mid January 1945, B company of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team ("RCT") was tasked with destroying a Japanese radio station located in Paluan, a small town halfway up the western coast of Mindoro, a large island in the Philippines. The radio station was being used by the Japanese to observe U.S. planes leaving San Jose airbase to bomb Luzon, still held by the Japanese at the time. As the bombers flew toward Luzon, the Japanese garrison at Paluan radioed their warnings to Luzon enabling the Japanese to prepare their anti-aircraft defenses. Since the area around the radio station was surrounded by civilians, bombing the radio station was not an option and a raid was planned to destroy the station using B company of the 503 RCT, a light machine gun section from Headquarters 1st battalion and assistance from Filipino guerrillas.

Using one LCI, B company and a light machine gun section from Headquarters 1st battalion were dropped off approximately 20 miles south of the radio station. The landing wasn't flawless. As  we were disembarking, the Navy captain of the LCI spotted a Japanese aircraft and decided to start pulling out before everyone was off the boat, drowning one of B company's mortar-men. The 503rd's regimental commander, Col. George Jones, was so enraged he never forgave the Navy for this incident. Village.JPG (33567 bytes)
Bernie O'Boyle with a Browning Automatic Rifle
As our platoon led the rest of the company down the coast to Paluan, a strange event started to unfold. While we were making our way down the overgrown jungle trail, we encountered a frightened Filipino who was running down the trail toward us. The man told me he was forced to lead a Japanese patrol that had been sent on a reconnaissance mission, from the garrison at Paluan, to contact us. The man stated that thirteen Japanese soldiers had just crossed a stream and had taken off their shoes to dry their feet. When they removed their shoes he fled. I asked the Filipino what they were armed with and responded they all had rifles and one man was armed with an M-1 rifle.
machinegun.JPG (23797 bytes)Combat photo of a 30 cal. machine gun crew in action  taken at Paluan. With this intellegence in mind, I placed the men in ambush positions and waited for the Japanese to come up the trail. The signal for everyone to open up would occur when James Pascarelli, a highly skilled and experienced BAR man, saw the enemy and started firing.
The first Japanese soldier to appear was a large NCO, who could have doubled as a sumo wrestler. Pascarelli opened fire with his BAR and the rest of the platoon followed suit, dropping most of the Japanese patrol. Donald Blum and I moved out on the trail to determine what was left of the patrol. Instantly, a Japanese soldier appeared armed with the M-1 rifle and had a dead bead on Blum. With Blum is his sights, the Japanese soldier pulled the trigger - click. The rifle failed to fire allowing Blum to fire his weapon killing the horrified soldier.

Traveling that day and night, B company infiltrated Paluan undetected around 2:00 am. Using intelligence they received from the Filipino guerrillas, we knew that every morning at dawn the Japanese garrison at the radio station would wake up, fall into formation, mostly unarmed, and bow to the Emperor. Accordingly, an attack was planned on the unsuspecting Japanese at dawn. But, like so many plans, everything didn't proceed as scheduled.
Prior to the attack on the radio station, Filipino guerrillas charged with seizing an ammo dump, near the station, started firing on six Japanese soldiers guarding the ammunition. This alerted the main body of soldiers stationed around the radio station who immediately dove into trenches and other defensive positions. radiostation.JPG (24488 bytes)
Securing the radio station the day after the battle, Lapinskas (left) and Frank Layden (foreground rt.)
As soon as the firing started, Ernie Larson, one of my rifleman, took aim at a Japanese lookout hiding in an observation post on top of the radio station, and with one carefully aimed shot the operator crumpled over. Meanwhile, the Japanese started firing a captured a .30 caliber machine that they had retrieved from a downed American fighter plane. With its high cyclical rate of fire, the machine gun was directed at us hitting B Company's commanding officer, Captain Chester R. Smith, in both legs. As the day wore on, the attack became unorganized. Firmly entrenched in defensive positions in the basements of two schools, the Japanese fought on. To dislodge the Japanese defenders, some of the men would run into the schools and fire through the floor boards at the entrenched Japanese, killing a number of the defenders. Others were cut down in a series of connecting trenches.
After ensuring the destruction of the radio station, we pulled back leaving the remaining Japanese in the town. Four paratroopers, including Donald Blum, and Bill Ferguson were killed during the attack, Japanese losses were heavier. The next day, the we returned to the town and the villagers informed us that the remaining Japanese went up the coast.

My platoon was tasked with chasing the fleeing Japanese and after more then a week in the jungle we found a few stragglers. The remaining Japanese soldiers were killed as their boat was bombed trying to leave the island.

For its superior tactical accomplishments, and the difficult task of attacking the enemy by surprise, after a forced march over rough and mountainous terrain, B company received a commendation for the engagement at Paluan.

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Raising the American flag over Paluan


Audio taped interview with Jack Herzig, Lt. Col.(USA).
Commendation, WC Dunckel, Brig. Gen., USA, 29 January 1945.