The battle rages and then we march on

From Ray Mitchell's memoirs...

The battle raged on for weeks, during the Monsoon season. The rains kept you wet most of the time. When the sun did shine, within a short period of time, we were wet with perspiration.

The rain would fill your fox hole causing you to leave your protection and lay on the water covered ground. Leeches would find a away through your clothes and attach themselves to your body. It was not unusual to see men strip off their clothes and have a buddy with a lighted cigarette touch the leech and it would fall off. If you tried to pull it off, often the head would remain in the victim and an infection would follow.

Myitkyina was taken and I searched out the MIAs. We took the degrading detail which was very difficult, burying our dead and the enemy's dead as well as searching out and disposing of the unexploded shells. We moved back about 15 miles and built a camp. Camp Landis was named for the first Marauder killed in action. Within days after moving back to begin the camp, most of the battle weary had to be evacuated to the hospitals-they were too weak and sick for duty.

At Camp Landis, the 5307th CUP, Merrill's Marauders, was deactivated in early August 1944.
Those of us that were left activated the 475th Infantry and began to receive men back from the hospitals and also troops from the states. We had the foundation of combat troops to begin a new Unit.

Training began in earnest and the end result was a strong, well equipped, well-trained fighting Unit that would see more combat down through Central Burma. Joining the 475th Infantry Regimental in August 1944 was a Texas National Guard Unit, the 124th Cavalry Regiment. With the two Units we became a Brigade. I understand this is the only Brigade in our Army during WWII. The reason for this formation was the British had limited our troops to be less than a Division, normally between seven to nine thousand men. The Brigade had about six thousand men. This new Unit was known as the Mars Task Force, a new name with new men, plus the veterans of Merrill's Marauders, making a fine fighting force that would make a name for themselves in the history books about WWII.

The newly formed Unit completed training and moved out of Camp Landis, crossing the Irriwaddy River and headed south. We would march for 50 minutes and rest for 10 minutes -- each man carried between 60 and 80 pounds of gear--blanket, toilet articles, extra underwear, socks, food, ammunition, his weapon, half a dozen hand grenades, two canteens, spoon, trench knife, compass, firt aid kit and anything else you thought you may need.

The mules, 275 in our Battalion, carried the heavy things such as machine guns, mortars (60mm and 81mm), medical supplies, radio equipment. The mules carried no kitchen or cooking equipment--you ate "C"rations, and they were not too bad.

We traveled 15 to 30 miles each day. The distance depended on the terrain. In the mountains, you did not go as far as on flat land. At times we would ford streams numerous times and other times we would stay in the stream for miles. We would try to bivouac at the end of our daily march by a water source. This was for bathing and watering the animals--both dogs and mules--and filling our canteens for the next day. Before dark we could have a fire to heat food, but after dark, there were no fires or lights. You moved around very little after marching all day with a heavy pack on your back.

The normal march began before daylight. The mules had to be loaded and ready for the trail. First to leave in the morning was the Quartering party made up of several men from each company, a squad of riflemen, a radio man, a medic and several others. Their mission was as the name indicated, they scouted ahead and located the place for the Unit to stop for the night. The men would determine where each company would be located and as the main Unit came to the area the men of the Quartering party would lead their Company to their spot for the night. The water source had to be marked, upstream one color for drinking was marked, one color for watering the animals, and the last for bathing.

Guard posts were set up, each man dug an area about three feet wide and six feet or longer and about one foot or more deep. This kept the typhus ticks from getting you and causing typhus, and the hole could be easily deepened if you were attacked during the night.

Every third morning the Drop party would head out and find a place for the food and supplies to be dropped to us. The Drop party would move out first, find a spot and contact the air drop group, put out marking panels that they could see from the air and time the drop to come at about the time the troop would reach that area. All was usually working good. We would move each day for several weeks unless we ran into a combat situation. We were behind enemy lines by a hundred miles or more.

We came to Tonkwa, Burma. We were told it was an important place even though it was a small village because five trails came through the village. The Second Battalion of the 475th Infantry moved into position after dark, dug in, set up machine guns, mortar and readied for battle. We didn't have to wait long because soon we heard the Japanese coming near our perimeter.

Fortunately, we had Nisei troops with us. These were American born Japanese men and they were very dedicated to their job. One of these men came forward, moved out near where the Japanese were digging in and listened to them. The Japanese did not have the faintest idea that we were anywhere in the area.

Part 5 The Nisei, Tonkwa Burma is here.
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