My father in law, Richard Billingsley, was a World War II Army veteran who spent the war years in the Philippines. His unit was called to split up and replace the 31st Division. Landing barges took 150 of the replacements to Mindanao. He was assigned to Company B, 155th Infantry. Army trucks took the soldiers most of the way and then they hiked about 20 miles to join the outfit. He was assigned to a rifle company as a BAR man. The Browning Automatic Rifle had a 20-round clip. The next hike was about 50 miles, so the trucks were a blessing even though they continued walking and riding.
He was given one of the two handheld radios on one of the patrols and someone else carried the BAR. He received the Combat Infantry Badge and was promoted to Private First Class after one of the patrols.
The Army-issue leather boots would get soaked crossing rivers and streams in the mosquito-infested jungles, so the GIs cut slits above the soles of the boots to let the water out. They would wear their socks until they dried on their feet.
Canteen cups came in handy as a pot for cooking corn they took from a field. But the corn gave them diarrhea. A few days later they went to a Red Cross station and got some doughnut mix. They used steel helmets for mixing bowls and rolled the doughnut dough on a board with a round tent stake. They cut the doughnuts with a C-ration can and the doughnut hole with a small can from the gas mask kit that was about the size of a quarter. Those GIs sure were resourceful.
When the Japanese finally surrendered, Richard was transferred to Quartermaster Trucking Company as a truck driver in the Ordnance Company. Army equipment was hauled to boats and it was shipped to some other place. The Philippine Army got a lot of American equipment and the rest of the parts and equipment were run off a cliff and gasoline was dumped on the pit and set on fire.
Just as important as the job they had of hauling equipment, it was his job to pick up beer once a month for the base. Cigarettes were 50 cents a carton and the men would give him and his sergeant the money to get them what they wanted. After all these young fellows had been through, they deserved it.
While in the jungle, Richard contracted malaria from a mosquito. The Atabrine tablet he was issued made his skin and the whites of the eyes yellow. Malaria attacks caused chills that made him feel like he would freeze. Five tablets a day was the only cure. He still had attacks years later.
Richard was sent to Leyte from Mindanao. Again he was assigned to be a driver. He drove civilians to work in different offices and back to town at the end of the day. He also drove troops to sick call. Two days before he was scheduled to leave the Philippines he had to have his appendix removed and was unable to leave. He stood on the porch of the hospital and watched the boat leave with his Army buddies aboard.
After 20 months of overseas service, he was finally cleared to sail home on the USS Gen. A.W. Greely. What a welcome sight it was when the Navy transport ship stopped in San Francisco at 4:30 a.m. with the Golden Gate Bridge all lit up.
Added to his gear and issued by the Army and as a gift from the Gideons, he always carried a New Testament and Psalms Bible. There were three interesting messages in the Bible. The first from the Army: “Attention: By special request of the U.S. Military and Navy Authorities you are instructed to place your NAME ONLY on the fly leaf, nothing more. On no account name your post, ship or station at any place in the book. To do so might afford valuable information to the enemy.”
The second message from the Gideons is a page at the back of the Bible that tells the service member to “Look up your chaplain at the first opportunity. Your welfare is his first concern, and you will find him friendly and helpful at all times. His counsel and advice will guide you in avoiding or overcoming difficulties. In many ways you can help him in his service for others. A close friendship between a chaplain and his men preserves and promotes a fine spirit in any service unit.”
The third message is inscribed in Richard’s handwriting: “On the way to Fort Ord, California. Going to fight the Japs!”