One Night On Tagaytay Ridge


By Ed Cole

 

On 04-Feb-45 the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion of the 11th Airborne Division jumped on Tagaytay Ridge on the island of Luzon in the Philippine Islands following the drop on the previous day of the 511th Parachute Infantry Battalion.


Being in an area not considered completely clear it was important that all of our equipment was stored in a safe place for the one or two nights we spent on the ridge prior to barreling down toward Manila. I had volunteered (been chosen) with several others, whose names I cannot recall, to occupy a native house on the highway at the top of the ridge (battery area) whose "front porch" faced Batangas and Lake Taal with the highway running in front of it.

This native house, as with most all others, was built on stilts with about eight feet of ample storage space under the house making a fine sheltered place for the equipment. We loaded it up and moved in about one hour before dark. The battery (B) down the hill to our left was already dug in for the night and we had our sound powered phones hooked up for communication with the battery should the need arise.

As it became dark the moon cast a bright light across the highway in front of us and several of us were lying on the floor at the front of the house peering under a bamboo fence with our carbines ready. We figured anybody crossing that highway in that bright moonlight was dead meat and the Japs were on that side of the highway where the ridge dropped off toward Batangas. They had an annoying habit of trying to get at our 75 MM Howitzers and we expected that we might get some company that night. I had no trouble coming up with a long list of places where I would rather be spending the night.

Along about 0200 we began to hear a series of "pops", each followed by a louder "pop". Needless to say those of us in the house that had been off watch were awake in record time. We figured that somewhere in the area, ours or theirs, someone was spotting a target with rifle followed by one round from a 50 Cal. MG that was set up on the perimeter. There was part of the 511th still in the area a little further down the highway toward Manila.

This went on for quite a few months (30 Minutes) when all of a sudden one of those "pops" became a loud "BOOM" ! Our collective thinking decided it was time

to pick up the sound powered phone and express our concern to whom ever answered it and at the same time ask the person how long he figured it would take us to run down the hill to the battery at top speed and how good were our chances of not being shot on the way through the perimeter.

I picked up the sound powered phone and blew into it as was the accepted procedure and knew in a nano-second that the damn thing was DEAD !!!

Now in a situation like this all you can think of is those sneaky little %&#@$*#@ crawling around near our house, cutting our phone line into one hundred pieces.

Here we were, the gallant four about to become martyrs in the logistical history of the 457 PFA. Needless to say we were ALERT for the rest of the night that lasted at least 12 more hours or maybe longer. Anyone that even breathed stood a good chance of getting killed (by one of the others)

Daylight finally came and after surveying our house and area three of us sauntered down to the battery area. We noticed some little red tubular items lying here and there within the perimeter. These were UNEXPLODED KNEE MOTOR SHELLS, the little "popping " noises we heard during the wee hours of the morning. Some had exploded, some had not but most of them landed across the highway. Some of our more intrepid souls picked up the unexploded ones that still had the bamboo safety pin in place (reason enough for not exploding),

unscrewed the exhausted propellant charge and taped them to the butt end of our hand grenades. It took a Gorilla to throw them but what a blast they made.

We also found out that during this noisy period Bill (Bull) Howard was staring at a 12 inch bush about six feet in front of his foxhole. During the night this bush kept moving (according to Bull) so at about 0300 he crawled out of his foxhole and blew the bush to smithereens with a 45 !! This was the damn bush that our phone lines were tied into and the pieces of our defunct communication system were still tied to the remains of the bush !!

I thanked Bull for our enjoyment during the evening hours, (he was too big to do anything else) and left with our relief crew for the house. The 511th had caught a few Japanese trying to infiltrate the area just to the downside of our area and we also surveyed the remains as we passed. Times like this remain in ones memories forever.....

E.J.Cole, Editor, Commo Bunker

"Voice of The Angels"