Military Experience
Pacific Theater

January 6, 1941

The 200th Coast Artillery - Anti Aircraft, formerly the 111th Cavalry of the New Mexico National Guard, was inducted into federal service for one year of active duty.

Lee Charlie Roach
I was raised on a farm six and one half miles northwest of Field, New Mexico, and did nearly everything there was to do with farming. I worked for about one dollar a day when I wasn't in school. I went to school at Field and played baseball and basketball in high school. After I got out of high school in 1939, I went to work at Field, New Mexico, for Mack Johnson, at a [store that sold] grocery, hardware, gas & oil of all kinds. I worked there until April of 1941 when I got drafted.

I was sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico, first, then hauled on a bus to Albuquerque. We got on a train at Albuquerque and went to El Paso, Texas. I was put in Battery E of the 200th Coast Artillery. We were issued army clothes. Nothing fit very good. There were five men to a half tent and the bottom half was wood. Our drill field was dirt with rocks to stump your toe on. I think the wind blew every day! James Hamilton from Clovis was our First Sergeant and when he said something he meant it.

T.B. Bryant, Staff Sergeant of the Motor Pool, later asked me if I wanted to drive a truck. I said, "Yes, anything is better than this." We would go out at night on maneuvers. There would be fifty or sixty trucks all blacked out. It was rough traveling thirty or forty miles an hour with only black out lights at night. After we completed all of our training, they cooked up a trip for us over New Mexico. About 1,800 men and a lot of trucks went first to Deming, New Mexico, T. or C., Albuquerque, Roswell, and Carlsbad. It was a rough trip but we enjoyed it. We were gone about a week.

Mike Pulice
I got into the National Guard in 1939. Well, you know in those days that was during the Depression. And we got 3 or 4 dollars for the week when we went on maneuvers and meetings, just like they do now. And then, of course, that was the old cavalry - the old 111th Cavalry to begin with.

Lorenzo Banegas
They consolidated all the National Guards of New Mexico to form the 200th Coast Artillery. And I knew that sometime I was going to be drafted. Since I was farming, I could have gotten a deferment to stay and farm. Three times the doctor told me I wasn't fit to go. I was underweight, flatfeet, and I don't know how many things were wrong with me. I told him I wanted to go. The third time he told me, "Well, if you really want to go, we can fix the papers so you can go". I said, "Go ahead." February 22, 1941 I was swearing in to go into the service.

September 1941
The 200th CA was ordered overseas, destination unknown. They didn't know they would be stationed in the Philippine Islands until they had sailed passed Hawaii.

Lee Charlie Roach
We got our orders after we returned to El Paso, Texas, and shipped out the first part of September 1941. We didn't know where we were going when they put us on a train going west. On arriving in San Francisco, California, they put us on barges and took us to Angel Island [in San Francisco Bay]. It was not very far from San Francisco. We were there about a week and then we were gone again. We boarded the President Coolidge, a wonderful liner, but we still didn't know where we were going. We made it to Hawaii and was there about a day before going on.

After we left Hawaii, for the first time I heard the name of the Philippine Islands. One of the men who worked on the ship said, "A lot of you guys have got a one way ticket over here." He sure knew what he was talking about and he was sure right.

Clifford Martinez
I enlisted September the 7th, 1940, 7 th Cavalry at Fort Bliss. We were issued everything except the horse. We got up one morning and checked the bulletin board and it had volunteers for overseas duty. It had Alaska, which we thought was gonna be too damn cold; they had Panama, that was too close to home; Hawaii, we didn't like the sound of it; Puerto Rico, didn't like it, and the Philippines. So we figured that was pretty far away. At this time the war was getting pretty strong in Europe. We said, "Well hell, we'll go to the Philippines. Nothing going [on there]."

So we shipped out of Fort Bliss. We got aboard the Sunset Limited to San Francisco. In San Francisco, we was taken out to what they call Angel Island. That's the depot for overseas, and was there about a week, or a week and a half. Had to go through a bunch of tests and shots - this, that, and the other thing. Finally, they said we were gonna ship out aboard the US AT Grant Troup Transport.

We got to Pearl Harbor and I had to stay aboard. Most of the guys got off or half of the guys. I think there was maybe about 400 on the ship going to P.I. [Philippine Islands]. I got my pass the next day [and went to] the old pineapple factory. I got sick on pineapple juice and went into a bar and grill called the Squeeze Inn. [I] looked at all kinds of stuff on the menu and spotted octopus and I said "What the hell's an octopus?" So I asked for it. It tasted good but the damn thing, you had to chew, chew, chew, you know?

We sailed outta there. We had to cross the International Dateline. And the officers had a big to-do about it, you know, big party and pollywogs, what have you. And we crossed it, of course you lose a day when you cross that thing. So we hit Guam, they had us stand out, anchor out of bay. I think they dropped off a bunch of people there. Then we went on into some other islands.

We hit the Philippines in Manila in October, about the middle part of October, I think. And we had to stay quarantine out in Manila Harbor, in the bay for 24 hours. Then they brought us into Pier 7 and Manila Bay and unloaded there and then they put us onboard some small inter-island vessels into Corregidor.

Corregidor is about approximately a mile high and, I forget how big around, it's pretty good size. So we landed at Bottomside, put us on some street cars and they stopped at what they call Middleside. Left a bunch off there and took us on up to Topside and unloaded us there.

Lorenzo Banegas
I think they knew that war was coming. After we trained for about six, seven months at Fort Bliss, they shipped us overseas to the Philippines to defend Clark Field.

I remember very distinctly because it was on September 16, 1941 that we arrived in the Philippines and the Filipino band started playing South of the Border. At that time, it was a very popular song and they thought we were from Mexico.

Mike Pulice
During the day, when we first got there (the Philippines) we would train a little bit, but it had to be during the morning. We always had the afternoon off because of the heat. We had to get acclimated to the weather.

December 7, 1941
In a surprise attack, Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese. The raid leaves 19 ships sunk or disabled; 188 planes destroyed; 2,403 people dead, including civilians; and 1,178 wounded. "Remember Pearl Harbor" becomes a call to arms across America until the surrender of Japan in 1945.

Click here for President Roosevelt's speech to congress declaring war on December 8, 1941, or here to view the Declaration of War document in a new window.

December 8, 1941
Just a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bomb Clark Field on the main island of Luzon in the Philippines. Because the Philippine Islands are across the International Date Line, though, the attacks take place on December 8. After the war, the 200th was recognized as the first artillery unit to fire against the Japanese in World War II when Juan Manuel Chavez of Cochiti Pueblo manned his gun alone during the first bombing wave at Clark Field.

December 9, 1941
The 200th is split to form a second regiment, the 515th Coast Artillery. The 515th is sent to defend Manila.
Click here to view a map of the Philippines from the Department of Defense.

Lorenzo Banegas
They attacked Pearl Harbor in the morning, around 8:00 o'clock in the morning, and they announced it on the radio that they had attacked Pearl Harbor. We thought it was just part of the training - just to get us used to war, in case there would be war.

We were laughing. We thought there wouldn't be war. When we saw the planes coming, we thought they were American planes. We saw this white cloud of Navy planes coming over. We started waving at them. At that time, they started dropping these black things. Thinking they were leaflets, we started running toward where those black things were coming down. They were bombs and started bursting. They sounded like when you pop popcorn. Boom, boom, boom! We went crazy. We didn't know what was going on. We didn't know anything about war.

Mike Pulice
The day we were bombed, which was the same day as Pearl Harbor, only over there it was the 8th because of the International Date Line, myself and several others out of my battery were at Fort Stotsenberg hospital, with malaria.

We were listening to the radio and listening to what was going on in Pearl Harbor. One of the guys came running into the ward at the hospital and said, "Hot dang, you know you ought to see the navy planes coming over."

We went out and looked and saw that red dot on the wings and [I] said " Hell, that's not the Navy at all, unless they've changed insignias."

Those bombs just walked right down the runaway, where all the B-17s were parked. In fact, the B-17s hadn't been parked for more than a half hour 'til they came in and they just destroyed all of them. There were two or three P-40s that got off and that was it.

Virgil Aimes
Our barracks were a half-mile plus from the runway. We were used to being called out to 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 airfield and cavalry post. About a mile and half separated the post and airfield.

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, P.X. used to be. 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, strafing 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 backpacks - 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. By daylight 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.

David Johns
We got to the Philippines in September '41. We were there as protection for Clark Field. Of course, when they came in and bombed it, they moved us into Manila for protection of the city from the bombers. We stayed there for about ten days and then they shipped us all into Bataan. The equipment we had was old and when we got into Bataan we didn't have near what we needed.

They didn't have the food sent down like they were suppose to. We ended up on short rations pretty quick.

In fact, before we got captured we were on one meal a day and most of it was red rice with monkeys, and carabao.

[Note: by surrender in April of 1942, the men were subsisting on fewer than 1,000 calories per day. According to a report by an Army surgeon, "The nature of the terrain in which the defense of Bataan was conducted required, conservatively estimated, an energy output of from 3,500 to 4,000 calories per man per day. By 1 March, serious muscle wasting was evident. The ration was deficient in vitamins A, B, and C and beriberi became universal. This, in combination with malnutrition, was the cause of thousands of hospitalizations."]

Winston Shillito
About two weeks before the eighth, somewhere in the latter part of November, they moved us out into positions around Clark Field. We dug in, dug our guns in, and never did go back to our barracks after that.

On the evening of the 7th one of our guys out of our battery went into Angeles and brought back two or three bottles of rum or gin. We had a drinking party on the 7th and woke up with hangovers on the 8th to the bad news.

Weldon Hamilton
People thought they were going into danger, there's no doubt about that. We were all young kids. The idea at that time was that no one could defeat us and the Japanese really wouldn't declare war on us. And if they did, we'd whip them in 30 days.

We had tents out in a sugar cane field. They had scraped the field off, and it was really just dust. We had 24 fighter planes and a tent city set up in Del Carmen.

Our commander went over to Clark Field and he came back and he said, "There will be war in 72 hours. The Japanese have 800 planes on Formosa and they will attack. Get out there and dig holes and maybe half of us will go home."

And so, we didn't really take that too seriously but then on the other hand we certainly listened. It happened almost to the hour.

LT Dorothy Still Danner, NC, USN
On Wednesday the 10th (of December), the Navy Yard was bombed. It was wiped out. This raid lasted about an hour. After the raid, we rushed to the hospital, and patients were all over the place. There were Filipino women, children, and men and our own people from the Navy Yard. It was really a shocking scene. The power to the hospital was knocked out. It was a pretty hectic afternoon. Triage was impossible. You just tried to find out which were the worst ones to go to surgery and so on.

Winston Shillito
We were there on the perimeter of Clark Field when the Japs hit us. Very shortly after that, they split the regiment. I was one of the people that was split off. They hauled us into Manila where we took over the equipment for another regiment. The personnel hadn't arrived so they issued us this greasy, cosmoline equipment. We cleaned it up and organized another regiment.

We stayed in there in position in Manila along the Pasig River until the 24th of December. On the 24th, they moved us out to Calumpit. Calumpit had several bridges, critical bridge crossings, from Northern Luzon down into Manila. We were set there to protect those bridges so they could evacuate Manila, which was declared an open city. We had Christmas dinner there, such as it was, C-rations.

Lorenzo Banegas
From Clark Field, we started retreating toward the Bataan Peninsula. Bataan is the peninsula in Luzon Island. The reason we had to retreat is because we didn't have enough troops to stop the Japanese who were coming at us at a ratio of five to one. The peninsula of Bataan is like a tongue that goes into the bay and they had more troops to stop the Japanese. The peninsula was narrow and that's where we had four months of intense fighting until we ran out of food, out of ammunition, out of medicine, out of everything. Earlier they had cut down our food to one or two meals a day, up to the day that we were surrendered. We were eating water buffalos and mules. The horses that were left from the cavalry were also killed for food for us, and whatever else they could find to feed us.

Christmas Day, 1941
General Douglas MacArthur's instructions were to hold off the Japanese for as long as possible. His strategy was to abandon Manila and to spare the citizens of that city a long siege. Across the bay from Manila was the jungle of the Bataan Peninsula, with rocky, mountainous, terrain. Americans dug into Bataan had a chance of holding out until American reinforcements could reach them by sea, although they would be cut off by land from supplies in Manila. During the withdrawal, the 200th Coast Artillery Unit guarded the bridges at Calumpit as U.S. troops crossed to dig into positions on Bataan. From Bataan, U.S. troops could also protect Corregidor, the island headquarters of the American forces that guarded the entrance to Manila Bay. On January 1, 1942, General Wainwright ordered the bridges at Calumpit demolished. American troops were safe from a Japanese invasion from land for a while, but utterly cut off from the rest of Luzon.