The Memoirs of Armand Charest Part II

Chapter 12

D-Day Plus Three… Retreat and Regroup

Map drawn by Armand Charest of the Biak Island engagement

Just after dawn the call goes out for volunteers. A reconnaissance patrol is needed to check on the enemy’s dispositions. Naturally Sgt. Brown is first in line. The Captain frowns on this, believes that T.J. takes too many chances. The Sgt. insists on going.

A dozen men step forward. At the same time the Japanese resume mortar fire. That is ignored for the most part since that weapon is notoriously ineffective and inaccurate. The consequences are tragic and unforgettable. As the patrol is forming up, one shell lands in the middle of the group. Five men are killed and the rest wounded. The dead are: Able, Anderson, Grove, Miller and one Sergeant Brown.

I’ll never forget the shock that swept through E at the news:

“T.J. bought it”
“The Japs finally got Brown”
“You’re joking, not Brownie”
“He was indestructible!
“Oh God, no.”

The patrol is called off as the Japanese move forward once more. By this time the heavy machine guns of H Co. have finally arrived, so the attack is blunted quite easily. We do not realize that the frontal attack is a diversion, however. The enemy has succeeded in turning our flank and is now positioned in back of E Co, cutting it off from regimental support. F or all intents and purposes E Co. are surrounded on three sides. The only escape is by sea!

After a conference between the company commander and regimental headquarters, it is decided that E Co. will pull back to a staging area where

Amphibious engineers will be waiting to take it off the beach. The high command has also arranged for the air corps to give E Co. cover from the air in the form of B-25 bombers, the best plane for that operation. At two P.M. E Co. leaves the foxholes and moves to the rear. The tank crews will take their tanks through the rear Japanese lines. They cannot be evacuated by sea.

At 2:10 the planes come roaring down the road with their four nose machine guns spewing hundreds of bullets per minute. From the air friend and foe look alike, so the air gunners in the lead plane make a terrible mistake. Bullets meant for the pursuing Japanese hit American G.Is. For some mysterious reason I am spared but men on each side of me are hit. Their heads disintegrate. I freeze in place. A Sergeant gives me a shove and I resume the march. Fortunately, someone from the ground reaches the pilots so the mistake does not recur as following planes move further up the road before opening fire.

We finally reach the beach and climb aboard the amphibious boats for the long trip back to the starting point. We have no idea what will happen next, but we are sure of one thing. The fight for Biak Island has just started.

Websites About Present Day Biak Island:

 A database of photographs, descriptions and locations of WWII wreckage remaining on Biak Island, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

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