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Virgil L. Aimes
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Locking horns with the devil


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December 7,1941, U.S. Time
December 8, across the International Date Line

Battery D, 200 CA-AA Stationed at Clark Field. Our barracks were half mile plus from the runway. We were used to being coiled out for practice day or night, but this day seemed different. We moved out right after breakfast to a position between Clark Field and Fort Stotsenberg. Fort Stotsenberg was a Filipino cavalry post. I guess we were supposed to give what air protection we could for both the air field and cavalry post. About a mile and a half separated the post and air field.

About noon. First Lt. Eddie Kemp called 40 to 50 names; I don't remember all of them. My name was on the list. Rufus Whitman, Sgt 4, Gun Commander, Frank Jones, Jack (Bailey) Hnidak, SS, Tom Hunt, SS , Frank Wilson, Harold Hise, Tony Bolt, Gap Silva. These names and others were in the process of becoming Battery D, 515 CA-AA. We didn't know at the time but the wheels were in motion.

We loaded on a couple trucks, left our 3" guns behind and went back to camp where Lt Kemp told us we were at war with Japan. They had bombed Pearl Harbor, practically destroyed our Navy. We would be next under attack. All most of us had at that time were our 30-06 rifles, a couple of air cooled louis machine guns. I think Harold Hise was on a 50 cat mach gun when he came into camp after the air raid. He said he had shot down a zero fighter.

Sgt. R. Welch, in charge of supplies, opened up the warehouse and we had access to the ammunition. I filled my gun belt about the time the first wave of bombers came over. They were out of range of anything we had, all we could do was watch them destroy Clark Field. Fires were burning where planes, barracks [were hit. There were ] many casualties, mostly Air Force at this time.

After the last wave of bombers were gone, the zeros came in. The air was full of them. They were diving, straffing everything they could see. But it gave us a chance to shoot back. Lt. Kemp, myself, four or five others were standing beside a barracks. I don't know what the others were doing. We should have been looking for cover but this was new to us. All we wanted to do was fight back. The zeros were coming in so close, you could see the pilots' faces looking down.

All I can remember feeling was rage at what they were doing. When a plane got close, I would empty my 30-06, reload and wait for another. I remembered to give a little lead, like shooting ducks. Lt. Kemp was right behind me and he kept asking, "do you think you hit him?" All I could say was I don't know. My rifle barrel got pretty warm. Then they were gone. We had a chance to look around. It looked pretty hopeless. Our Motor Pool hadn't been hit quite as bad, so we still had some trucks running.

Taking what we could carry in our back packs, our rifles, ammunition, canteen, mess kits, we loaded up in trucks, leaving everything else behind. Sometime after dark, we pulled into Manila, to a warehouse where we worked most of the night cleaning up equipment, 2 3" guns, a director, ammunition, and by day light we were set up and ready. On a beach at the edge of Manila, we were in full view of Manila Bay, Corregidor, and in the path of Jap planes heading for Cavite Naval Station. A few days later it was official. Battery D 515 CA-AA: First Lt. Eddie Kemp to Captain; Sgt Thomas Hunt to Staff Sgt-Director; Cpl Jack (Bailey) Hnidak to Sgt-Director; Pvt Frank Jones to PFC-Cpt; RFC Virgil Aimes to CPL-runner; CPL Ruff us Whiteman to Sgt-Gun Commander; Sgt Frank Wilson to S.S. Director; CPL Pecavich to Sgt Commander; other names and positions they worked out, I can't remember, just a few of my closest friends; Jack (Bailey) Hnidak, Rufus Whiteman, Frank Jones, were very close friends.

Air raid sirens screamed, often day and night. Planes, sometimes in our area, sometimes just going over to other targets.

Christmas Day - 1941 - P.I. Christmas Dinner 1941, a can of "c" and a can of "k" rations. It wasn't too bad. We hardly knew it was Christmas anyway. We loaded up, left Manila. It took us a couple days to get to Bataan. Setting up in different locations to cover the retreat. About 3 days later, we set up where we were to stay for a while. On the Manila Bay side of the peninsula and in the path of planes going to attack Corregidor. One of the locations we set up was where a Battery from Corregidor had been the day before. But they had been bombed out, lost 2 or 3 men and gone back to Corregidor.

About the first of January, we were pretty well set up. We were in the path of Jap planes going toward Corregidor. West had a couple small air fields with 3 or 4 planes operating from Bataan. General orders from General MacArthur to all units went something like this: "Help is on the way. We will hold out for 30 days. Help will be here."

His orders left no doubt what we had to do. But 30 days came and went, no help. General MacArthur was ordered to Australia. 60 days, 90 days, no help. Rations were down to almost a starvation diet. An old Filipino man came by with a little pet monkey and offered to sell it if we didn't eat it. Ruffus Whiteman and I scraped up 5 or 6 pesos for it. I still remember the little monkey. He was crying with his hands over his head when I hit him with my bayonet. A medic took it to the kitchen, cooked him and made gravy. He brought some of it back to us, but I couldn't touch it.

All through our part of the war, I was very angry at what the Japs were doing. I wanted to shoot down all of their planes. I was very happy when one went down, but I can't forget what I did to that little monkey. When I dressed him out, he looked just like a little baby.

The controls on our guns were clock like pointers to be matched by the operators. When pointers matched, gun commander gave orders to fire. Gunners would fire as fast and as many times as they could till they got cease fire order. We didn't have time to look up to see what had happened till we got a cease fire. I was very proud of my gun crew, actually it was Ruffus Whiteman's crew. He was the Gun Commander, his job was on the telephone from the director crew. My job was gunner, then we had the fuse setter, elevation, asmuth, ammunition handlers. Everyone worked as a team. When planes were coming in, Ruffus would grab his telephone and I would call out, "Man the guns", and [we] were ready in seconds. When things were quiet, Ruffus and I would have long talks about where each man worked the best, who was most dependable. We had several Filipino boys, untrained of course, they were used mostly to pass ammunition.

A few days later, a few of us were sitting around on the gun platform when there was a small explosion. Three men got shrapnel wounds, Gap Silva, a Filipino boy, and one other, I can't recall who. I checked the Filipino boy, it was just a flesh wound. A medic was checking Silva. He got shrappnal in his leg and arm. One of the books I have, said it was a stray 37 mil shell, but there was no activity that day and I still think it could have been a hand grenade, it was pretty dense jungle behind us and someone could have gotten in pretty close and ran away.

Things got pretty quiet for a while. I guess the Japs had to wait for fresh troops and equipment. That was good for us, we were pretty beat any way, malaria, hunger, etc. Capt Kemp told us to put our guns out of commission and get ready to move out. I dismantled the firing mechanism and scattered it in the jungle behind us. Others destroyed the controls, clocks and cables. We loaded up and moved down the road about a mile and set up a new line. It was on a jeep road on top of a ridge. Jungle behind us and an open flat in front. The bottom of the valley, open space about 300 yards across that gave us the advantage over any Japs coming across. Most of us had 30-06, three or four 30 cat mach guns.

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