The death knell of the Japanese Navy in the Battle of Leyte Gulf brought
Gen. Douglas MacArthur ashore near the Leyte capital of Tacloban on October
20. The U.S. quickly commandeered the Japanese base at Tacloban and set
about establishing additional facilities in Samar.
As Allies forces streamed into the Philippines, the 93rd Seabees were
deposited on November 15 at San Antonio, Samar to construct a base by themselves. They
were the only outfit sent to San Antonio, and their stay was barely a month.
that brief sojourn, the 93rd was hunkered down amidst the
continuing combat in Tacloban and the Leyte Gulf.
Charles Lawrence Curtis
was killed, and Bob Conner and others had stories of near misses.
At any rate, the ground was not suitable for a base and soon they pushed
on to Guiuan. But not without leaving behind the detritus of war.
Today, San Antonio is barely a spot on the most detailed map, but it
boasts the beautiful, modern Samar-Leyte Beach Resort
Co-owner Ben Gacud, Jr., tells us of lines of cable wires and drum covers
unearthed during the resort's construction. Various equipment and
weaponry have been been found by residents and sold for recycling over the
years. Visitors can still hear personal accounts of the 93rd sojourn
from residents of the area.
His uncle was recruited by the US forces and other elders in the
community remember the Month of the Seabees.
Reveille the following morning, 14 November, was at
0400. It was raining heavily as the Cape Johnson was
making its way into Leyte Gulf. General Quarters sounded at 0603 followed,
a few minutes later, by another
explanation "Firing on the outskirts, not much else." A later announcement
was made at 0751, as the ship was
being anchored in San Pedro harbor, at the extreme northern end of Leyte
Gulf. "Two Jap planes have been
shot down; one by a P-38, the other by Army shore based (Leyte)
At 0800 all men went over the side into barges. As each barge was filled
to capacity it would circle the ship.
When all barges were filled it was expected to strike off for shore. This
was not to be the case. Around and
around they went, around and around, until at noon an order was issued
bringing the barges back to the side of
the ship and everyone clambered aboard. While the two ships were at
Hollandia, Lieutenant Hubert Schmidt
had been transferred to the Middlemas. He was to have arrived earlier, as
he did, and he was entrusted with
selection of a campsite. When the Middlemas arrived in Leyte Gulf,
Lieutenant Schmidt was not allowed to
leave the ship, orders from the ship's captain. And so it was that when
the Cape Johnson arrived and the 93rd
prepared to land, there was no place to go. That night was again spent
aboard the Cape Johnson. By next
morning, 15 November, arrangements had been made and the battalion landed,
but on Samar, not Leyte, as
had been expected.
WE LAND ON SAMAR
The campsite was in a coconut plantation which fringed a beach. Nearby was
a small village, San Antonio. It
consisted merely of a cluster of thatch huts and a few frame buildings one
of which was a schoolhouse. Across
narrow San Pedro channel, the modern city of Tacloban, Leyte could be
plainly seen. Just below Tacloban
was a landing strip and a very busy one.
For the first two weeks ashore the 93rd did nothing other than to service
its equipment, build some access
roads, set up a permanent camp, repair a native church which had been
damaged and conduct surveys for a
coming assignment. The local terrain was found to be too unstable for any
permanent construction, consisting
mostly of swampland and rice paddies. This led authorities to abandon the
area. On November 30, sixty men
of the 93rd boarded small landing craft and traveled southward to the very
tip of Samar, arriving at a fair sized
town of Guiuan. Here they found coral deposits that could be used in
construction and the terrain presented
better possibilities. The battalion had to move again but this was only a
short trip, so it moved in sections, via
small landing craft.
LIFE AT SAN ANTONIO
The period spent at San Antonio was one that no one should ever forget.
Air raids were common. At first they
came at all hours of the day. Later they started a schedule, every morning
and every night. Then they stopped
their morning attacks. All this time the enemy was concentrating on the
Tacloban airstrip, Tacloban itself, or
more often they were after the enormous shipping in the harbor. On such
occasions Leyte-based anti-aircraft
units were firing in the general direction of Samar . . . and the 93rd. As
a result, the battalion was practically
living in bomb shelters, dodging both friendly and enemy shrapnel. Not
being very successful in high altitude
bombing attempts, the enemy resorted to mass suicidal attacks. It was not
uncommon for the enemy to come in
low over the 93rd camp and attempt crash dives on ships in the harbor.
On two instances "Conditional Black" was announced. This warning meant
that enemy paratroops were being
expected. Extra guards were posted and everyone was armed to the teeth.
The enemy did land some
paratroops, and in a Seabee camp at that, but on Leyte, in the 61st Seabee
Battalion camp. These Seabees
posted ten parachutes on their score board. Ten Japs had gone their
ANOTHER ALERT SOUNDS
Action had been heavy on 26 November. At 1100 another alert was sounded
and everyone sought shelter.
One man reached a foxhole but never lived to tell about it. A projectile
had his name written on it. That was all.
The 93rd had lost another man. Burial was at Tacloban's Cemetery. A man
from another Seabee unit had been
killed at the same time. Both men were buried together, with brief and
simple services being conducted by
At the new Guiuan location only one thought prevailed and that was to
construct an airstrip as early as possible
Bob Conner's Diary and Letters
The sojourn at San Antonio: 11/14-12/17/1944
Sat. We were told today by the Captain of the ship that in the
morning we would be 60 miles from Palau and would be joined by another
convoy. He has told us more on this trip than
has since the Battalion was formed. Another target practice this morning.
We drew our carbines this afternoon and had the pleasure of cleaning all
the grease from them. This evening we enjoyed one of the most beautiful
sunsets that I believe I have ever seen. The sea was very calm and it,
with the sky, ran the gamut of imaginable colors.
Sun. A rather quiet day. Only one call to general quarters and that was
only practice. We sighted a Jap plane this afternoon but he gave us no
trouble. But each day brings us closer to it. A man fell overboard from a
neighboring ship this afternoon but was picked up by one of our
destroyers. The convoy which we joined this morning was almost the same
size as ours.
Mon. A most exciting day.* We drew our ammunition and started packing our
stuff this morning. And in the middle of the afternoon we had a call to
general quarters which was the real thing. It lasted till 7 tonight. The
Captain of this ship must appreciate our position in having to
remain below decks, for as soon as he would learn something he would let
us know over the P.A. system. Three flights of Jap planes came in on us
but only one tried to do anything. After messing around for a bit he came
in on a ship near us dropped his torpedo and was hit at the same time. The
former missed its goal and the latter sank. P-38s came in about dusk but
the enemy had retired. Captain Farley kept us posted. It was quite
a relief to get back topside and cool off.
SAN ANTONIO, SAMAR,
Tues. After most everyone had gone to bed last night a hospital ship
passed by all lighted up. It was really an odd sight. Shortly after we had
another alert but apparently the planes could not find us. Woke up this
morning to the tune of an alert. Were being attacked by four planes.
Ack-ack* got one and a P-38 another. We ate chow very early this morning
and dropped anchor off Leyte. Men were disembarking all morning but did
not go far. For some reason or another the landing was postponed till
tomorrow. Those of us who are to remain aboard for a while spent the
morning trading with some of the natives who swarmed around the ship. The
women are rather attractive and seem to do most of the bartering. They had
coconuts, bananas, Jap invasion money, and various woven things. Their
weaving seems to be very good. Read all afternoon and went to bed early.
Wed. Thought I would never get to sleep last night. Had to move to G
compartment yesterday and it was terrifically hot. The boys went ashore
today and we started unloading the ship. I had little to do other than
watch but it was 2:30 this morning before I was relieved. Believe I caught
a cold last night from the heat.
Thurs. We all came ashore this morning and are again learning what mud is.
Found some natives to carry my clothes bags and stuff. The Filipinos are
most anxious to get clothes and are happy to see Americans. To us it seems
good to see some clean, courteous, and English-speaking natives. Set our
tent up this afternoon between rains. G.S.K. seems to be in its usual
mudhole. Have a bad cold now which makes me feel lousy. Went to the beach
this evening to watch the show during the alert. The tracers are most
impressive shooting into the sky. Our bakers had hot rolls for us at chow
Fri. Back to work this morning. Started putting up issue tents in the dump
area which will be permanent. The mud is getting worse all the time. Found
my boots today so perhaps I can keep my feet dry. Maggot Issue* has
cleaned out all of the boots and rain gear already. We seem to be in for
several alerts a day. There was quite a display this evening. Went to bed
Sat. Still going strong on our construction program at G.S.K., considering
the rain and mud with which we have to contend. The chow hall and other
buildings are gradually taking shape.#
November 18, 1944 Saturday noon
There seems to be just as much mud here in
the Philippines as there has been anywhere else. I suppose you had
guessed we were here in Leyte. Our trip up was not without its air raids
but they were without incident. We have several alerts here a day but
the Japs seem more concerned with other spots than ours. We have not
been troubled at all. A favorite pastime seems to be to go to the beach
in the evening and wait for the alert. It is quite a sight to see the
tracers go up and the planes come down. The Filipinos seem to be very
happy that we are here and are constantly running through the camp
looking for odd jobs for which they want clothes more than anything else
in payment. The women - who are quite cute - seem to be the best off on
clothes. The men are quite ragged and the small children wear dresses
that sometimes donít even reach the navel. The fellows already have the
women doing their laundry and they seem to be doing a very good job. No
one pays much attention to the women when it comes time to taking a bath
or what have you. If they did they would never get anything done. Our
camp is gradually getting into shape. The night of our second day here
our bakers were putting out hot rolls. We have been very much surprised
by the climate for it is very hot during the day and quite the opposite
in the evening.
Sun. Lots of rain today, in fact there has been little else for about 24
hours. Of about 6 tents in our platoon, 4 have had to move to higher
ground for the water rose to as high as a foot and a half. The work we
were able to do amounted to very little. A little first class mail came in
Mon. Almost finished our first building today and started on the second.
Trucks and "cats" are getting stuck everywhere. Saw one D-8 in a hole over
the top of its brakes. Planes buzz overhead all day long, mostly P-386,
P-61s. Went to the "show" tonight. Quite a few bombs were dropped on a
distant portion of Leyte.
Tues. The sky was rather clear today. Were able to do quite a bit of work
but have been without help. Had to go down to the beach area this
afternoon to put up a temporary issue tent, for the roads are impassable
into the regular dump area. Took a walk down the beach this evening to
catch a breath of some different air.
Wed. The mud has dried up considerably today. Worked on the second of our
two buildings and could have covered it had we not been called to put up a
second temporary issue tent. Still having a lot of alerts.
Thurs. Back to finishing up our temporary construction work today and
ducked the rain. Had the usual alerts, and with the moon growing full,
expect to see more of them.
Fri. Started work in the dumps - merely stacking them up and not getting
them in order as the present set-up is only temporary. This has really
been an exciting day for it has been almost one continuous alert. Things
started off this morning with a real display of fireworks. During the
night a bombing raid took place on the ships in the harbor which means a
convoy must have come in. One ship was struck which was still burning at
daybreak. Around 8 there was another raid on Leyteís strip across the bay
from us which produced a number of huge fires. P-38s and anti-aircraft
accounted for at least four Jap airplanes which went down in flames. A dud
shell from one of the ships landed in our area and then went off which,
with falling flak from firing over our heads, has made almost everyone
foxhole conscious. They are being dug everywhere -- all sizes, shapes, and
designs. Dug mine this noon. This evening there have been a number of
attacks with quite a brilliant display which again dropped quite a bit of
flak on us with everyone hitting a foxhole. More planes came down. One of
our men and a native woman were struck by flak during the day, both rather
Sat. Another alert early this morning which put some of the fellows in
their holes. Had a box drop on my toe in the dump this morning which was
not so pleasant. Took the afternoon off to keep my weight from it. Was
able to get some of my gear in order at the same time. The chow hall,
barracks, and camp in general seems to be coming along in fine shape. Will
be glad to get moved in and settled down. We really put in an evening. The
Damn Japs took advantage of the bright moon. It seemed we have spent the
entire evening climbing in and out of foxholes. Had quite a close call
when a 20 mm dud went off about ten feet from me and tore the end from
Tom Haleís* bunk. The fragments really chewed up a bedspread which he
has been using for a pillow. It was close to 10 before things cleared up.
We did have the pleasure of seeing about four planes come down. Seems the
gunners on the ships in the harbor are considerably better than those of
the shore batteries.
Sun. This has been a very pretty day but not without its raids. Had two at
noon. One came while I was in the head. None of us there lost any time in
getting ourselves elsewhere. The 93rd had its sixth casualty this noon
when one of the men named Curtis* was killed instantly when he was
struck by some sort of a shell. He had been in a foxhole under one of the
new buildings. Church services were only 100 feet away. The dump is still
operating on the same old basis of doing everything backwards. Had a few
raids this evening but they gave us no trouble.
Mon. I understand there were several raids during the night but I must
have slept through them. Worked as much as possible today which was not
very much for most of the time was spent in moving the crane. Skies have
been rather quiet all day. Tonight though we had our share of alerts plus
a new scare. About dusk, word spread around that Jap paratroops had landed
here on Samar and Leyte. Everything was blacked out and a string of guards
were placed around the camp area.
Tues. Did not see a Jap plane all day although we had the usual number of
alerts. The skies really broke loose with rain today. It poured down all
day and through part of the night. The paratroop scare was apparently true
for Leyte, but not here on Samar. Quite a bit of mail came in today.#
November 28, 1944 Tuesday noon
The skies have really been cutting loose
today with rain. Will have to dig out my boots again for the afternoon.
Boardwalks were made for some of the muddier portions of camp but they
have all disappeared for making foxhole covers. The honorable Nipponese
still pay us frequent visits but we are thankful that they lay their
We were able to get a little margarine and
salt this noon after chow so now my belly is full of pop corn. It tasted
very good. We have a new stove now which does a very good job even
though it is somewhat dirty. It is some shoe dubbing which comes in a
can and works very much like canned heat.
Wed. No serious alerts today at all. It has been very quiet for a change.
The outfit was really messed up this morning for word came in that we were
leaving here. All work details were stopped and preparations were begun
for leaving. An hour later all was changed and only a survey crew with
guards amounting to about 75 men will be leaving tomorrow in the L.C.T.s
parked on our beach for Baybay. The location is purely scuttlebutt. It is
expected that we really will be moving before so very long.
Thurs. The 75 left around 8 this morning, not for Baybay but for a point
on Samar about 65 miles distant on a southeast peninsula. Had our first
meal in our chow hall, doughnuts and real live fried eggs. Chow this noon
was not much. This evening the big meal began at 4 and was served by the
chiefs. It was really a meal. Roast turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, corn,
dressing, mince pie, and ice cream. It was really wonderful. Everyone
seemed most happy this evening with full stomachs. So far as the Japs are
concerned this has been a real quiet day.
Fri. Had several alerts last night, so I was told this morning. Heard this
noon that Luzon is to be invaded from several directions between Dec. 5
and Dec. 20. Spent part of today getting some supplies ready for the
second wave which is to leave in the morning. A little over 100 men will
be in that group. Have had an unusual amount of rain today and unusually
quiet sky from alerts.
Sat. More rain. Have started stacking (as well as unstacking) the dumps
again. It seems to be the same old monkey business. Have also been getting
more supplies ready for a third wave to leave in the morning. There is a
little scuttlebutt out that a skeleton force of about 50 men will remain
here to handle supplies for our new base to be hauled there in our own
barges. The alerts seem to be tapering off considerably and we are all
keeping our fingers crossed.
Sun. Another group was to leave this morning but the L.C.T.s never arrived
for them. This has been another quiet but rainy day. Had communion in
church this morning. For most of the day we were getting things ready for
the next wave whenever that may be. Creamed turkey tonight.#
December 3, 1944 Sunday noon
More mail had better come in or I shall
have to be resorting to V-Mail again which I do not like to do. This
outfit is really a messed up affair and seems to be growing that way
more and more each day. I wish I could tell you just what is going on
now, but believe that would be out of order at present. It has gone
beyond the disgusting stage.
I thought you had realized I had made the
(grass) skirt. When I started out I thought it would be a small job but
it turned out to be a major undertaking. I collected my materials and
started out. How many trips I had to make for more before I finished I
do not know, but I certainly had to chop down a bunch of trees to get it
all. I started several but did not like them so tore them apart. One
time some rats chewed part of one of them to help build a nest in my
pack. I must have been over a month making the whole works.
There is a Strauss waltz coming over the
amplifier now, which really sounds good. One of the boys just brought a
small monkey into the tent. He is having a big time eating some
chocolate up on the tent pole.
Mon. Fay and I moved back to the old dump to fix up a bunch of
boxes. Have not heard the sound of a Jap plane for quite a while. Still
getting too much rain.
Tues. The weather cleared up remarkably well. Not a drop fell today.
Fay and I have spent our second day on rejuvenating a few boxes.
Havenít seen Myers all day. From Nov. 25 to Nov. 30 we had 42
alerts which is quite a few per day.
Wed. More repair work today. And another sunny day. Several alerts today
with a raid this evening. The plane was invisible to us but must have been
very low, for the tracers seemed to skip across the water. Something
happened out there for there was a crimson flash with several white ones
at intervals afterward.
Thurs. Alerts and raids jumped us out of bed all night. Heard this morning
that the flashes last night were the result of a Jap crashing a liberty
ship. Special guards were called out again early this morning.
Parachutists were reported to have landed in the Tacloban area across the
gulf from us on Leyte. There are spies reported to be in San Antonio and
Basey, also several Jap transmitters in the vicinity. Several cases of
dynamite have been stolen from our dump. A few light showers today but
still quite hot. Another group left for the new location. We received
about a hundred and fifty replacements this afternoon fresh from boot
camp. They are certainly a crummy looking bunch.
Fri. The news of yesterday sounded very good. Another draft left for the
new location this afternoon. Our chow hall is scheduled to begin to come
down in the morning. Canít understand why we can not be told whether some
of us will stay and if so who. A little mail this afternoon. The perimeter
guards are still on duty. Had a circus in this tent last night. George
and Duffy were having a discussion that the rest of us instigated
and kept prodding along. For a while I thought we would never get to
Sat. Yesterdayís scuttlebutt that the chow hall would begin to come down
today became a fact this morning. The storage wing and the mess wing have
both been torn down and we are eating under canvas. The rain really fell
last night and lightning flashed everywhere. One of my boots had a cup of
water in it from sitting under one of the leaks in the tent. Am afraid our
box making will soon be over. It has been quite enjoyable working away
from the general melee. Heard from Mrs. Gimbal today that Dick was assumed
to be in the Philippines. If so I hope I will get to see him. Several
drunken white boys attempted to rape several Filipinos this afternoon a
few hundred feet from where we were working. They were from some other
Sun. Still pouring down. Lots of letters and packages today. Hope I didnít
get any of the packages yet unless I am to stay here. Am afraid our box
repairing is about to catch up with us. Had a long alert tonight but
Mon. The planes (ours) have certainly been buzzing overhead today. Someone
up the line must be catching the works. Had only a few showers today. No
Tues. A list came out at 10 last night that covered the first 3 platoons.
The boys were to leave at 8 this morning - they are still here tonight
which makes two groups of Company C. scheduled to leave tomorrow morning.
Fay and I had to move from our tent. Went into Hdgt. Co. I slipped
and sat in about six inches of mud while moving. Couldnít help but laugh
at myself. Japs pulled a sneak play tonight. Came in and were not detected
till they had dropped four bombs near the strip and started several fires.
Wed. This has just been a day of general chores which did not tax my
energies too much. Several planes crashed on the Leyte strip this morning
which caused a fire that we could see over here. Had a short alert at
sundown this evening. A lone plane came in flying directly over our heads
but above the clouds. Not a shot was fired which led us to presume our
fighters were up but we could not hear them. Several bombs were dropped in
the vicinity of the strip. Two more groups left for Guiuan, our new base,
this morning. The 75th is now in the process of moving too.#
December 13, 1944 Wednesday noon,
Filipino Christmas Card*
These just came out today and I thought you
would like one. The man leading the buffalo carries water in the bamboo
on his back and it looks like my laundry on the womanís head. The stamp
situation is growing critical out here, so you might enclose a book of
air mail every now and then. If you have to send loose ones they should
be folded in wax paper. If you would also send some larger denominations
- say 10Ę and a couple dollars worth I could send you a package.
Thurs. This has been a most quiet day for us. There has been very
little to do although I was busy this noon packing all my gear for I am to
leave tomorrow sometime. Packed most of my gear in the G.S.K. trailer so I
shall have very little to carry. The 93rd has a Navy of its own
now. Two pontoon barges and an L.C.P. I had the job of sorting and
distributing the Company mail this noon which was quite a job,
particularly when I got none myself.
Fri. Had a 4-hour alert last night that I did not know until this morning.
Since my cot is packed, I spent the night in a jungle hammock. Fooled
around all day trying to keep out of trouble. Our L.C.T. has neither shown
up nor been heard from. Now have no idea as to when we will be leaving.
This has been a very overcast day and this evening the heavens broke
Sat. Our boat never came in till late this afternoon so I guess we will be
leaving tomorrow for sure. Spent the whole day trying to keep away from
work. Our showers are back on this evening after a water famine which has
lasted for several days. Went to the beach this evening to watch the
Filipinos buy groceries from one of the L.C.T.s. It was a circus. The
women handled the cash giving the men small amounts to make specified
December 16, 1944 Saturday morning
About all this day is good for is staying
in the bed. It is one of those mean drizzly affairs. It sounds good
falling on the tent but does not feel good when you walk under a leak,
and there seem to be lots of them. A little Filipino came into the tent
a little while ago to get out of the rain. As is usual, he had not been
here long before he started wanting things. First it was a deck of cards
so he could play blackjack. A little bit later it was a pencil for
school - now it is money to buy a pencil and a tablet for school. I did
not give him any of the things for they can become too pestiferous. Up
in our other tent a 15 year old boy came around for our laundry but he
never asked for a thing. He was really a nice kid and we gave him lots
of odds and ends.
This tent was taken over by a bunch of bugs
last night that were most peculiar to watch. They had tobacco juice
brown wings - flew in - swarmed around the light - sat down - shed their
two pairs of wings - rolled over on their backs and just wiggled. This
morning they were gone.
GUIUAN, SAMAR, THE
Sun. Up way before daybreak this morning in a drizzling rain to eat and
carry our gear to the beach where we waited till 7 for someone to show up
who knew what we were to do. The L.C.T. could not make the beach so we
were ferried to one of 4 beaches. Stitcheson and I made a cubbyhole
under a tarp to get out of the rain and spent the whole morning there.
C-rations were on the menu for noon chow but with the 93rd
aboard we had tuna fish, peaches, graham crackers, and mixed nuts. Rain
stopped shortly after noon and we sat around in the sun trying to dry out.
Reached Guiuan at 4 and disembarked to stand on the beach till 6 waiting
for transportation to camp 8 miles away. Went down many narrow and muddy
roads. Through Guiuan though, we were on the first paved road since
leaving the States. Everywhere children made Vs with their fingers and
yelled "Vectory." A number of buildings in the town had fallen due to a
recent typhoon. Passed a church reputed to be 100 years old and complete
with flying buttresses. The road into camp passed the strip and was half
submerged. Our new camp is on the ocean side and directly on the beach.
Drainage seems to be very good because of the sand base. Lecoq had
a place for us to park our gear. After chow, we had to report to G.S.K. to
handle the cargo which came up with us. I caught the second shift and
slept in the building in my hammock till midnight.