The Memoirs of Armand Charest Part II

Chapter 13

D-Day Plus Four… The Morning Engagement

Map drawn by Armand Charest of the Biak Island Engagement

We were in a foul humor when we disembarked on the jetty, our initial landing spot. To make matters worse, a torrential downpour blanketed the entire beach area so that we had no idea where we were. Not only did we feel humiliated we were also hungry. Sergeant Duncan put things in perspective when he announced that hot coffee and donuts were waiting for us thanks to the good ladies of the Salvation Army. He lightened the moment and made life bearable again.

It was complete dark and still raining when we disembarked for the second time. We filed up to empty shacks that afforded shelter from the rain. The k-rations were still k -rations, nothing had changed. We did have Canned Heat cans that heated up our coffee. So we spent another night listening to the raindrops beat a crazy tattoo on the roofs. We could hardly wait for the morning and get back to the war (Huh?).

This time the top command decreed that the 2nd battalion (what was left of it) would follow the First over the ridges and come onto the fields from the rear. The rain had let up, something that cheered us up, but not for long. The ridges are straight up and straight down. The coral raises hell with our shoes and clothing.

We pass through guard detachments provided by the engineers. Let me say something about engineers. The war could not possibly have been won without the engineers. Their main reason for existence was to provide the infantry with drinking water and food. That they did admirably and without complaints. My hat is off to them!

As we move up to the ridges, we are overjoyed to see the Third Battalion come ashore. It will move back over the beach road, clear the roadblock and make contact with the Second battalion. It is not long before we run into trouble again. A patrol from the 3rd platoon is sent forward to scout the next ridge. All goes well until it reaches the ridge top. Somehow, the Japanese infiltrate the patrol”s rear and cuts off its retreat route.

Once again, E CO. is ambushed. The Captain brings up the two light machine guns and sets them up to clear away the ambushes. Soon, the ridges resound to the deafening noise of staccato machine gun fire. Runners bring up all available ammunition. The first platoon sends a patrol around the right flank; the second platoon sends one around the left flank. The boys scramble up the ridges and surprise the enemy soldiers who find it unpleasant to remain. The trapped patrol returns bringing back casualties, among whom is young Quinones from New York. He has both kneecaps shattered. Mercifully, he is under sedation and does not feel the pain—at that point. I never learned what became of Jose.

We move on past the dead Japanese. We heel grateful in a way that we will not have to deal with the corpses. I never learned who had the un-envious job of disposing of corpses. Soon we clear the ridges only to run headlong into a worse enemy—the jungles.

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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