War Stories

My Experiences with the 35th Infantry Regiment

by Charles R. Sheaffer

My Experiences with the 35th Infantry Regiment

By Charles R. Sheaffer

October 2008

I reported to the Seattle Recruitment Center on August 27th, 1943, and was assigned to the United States Army as an infantryman. This assignment took me to Camp Adair, Oregon, where I joined the 70th Infantry Division for my basic training. Following basic training, I was selected to attend a radio operator school at Division Headquarters. Upon completing the radio operator's school, I was promoted to corporal and assigned to Battalion Headquarters as battalion radio operator. Soon after, there was a call for radio operators in the Alaska Theater of Operations and I was selected for duty in Alaska. While being processed for the transfer to Alaska, a more urgent call came in for replacements in the infantry in the South Pacific. Ultimately, the assignment was with company H, 35th Infantry Regiment, which was reorganizing on the island of New Caledonia. Neither Company H nor the second battalion had radio operators on their roster, but Company H had a listing for motor pool corporal. Even though Company H had no vehicles, my assignment matched rank with the roster. It was fortunate that company H had no vehicles, as I knew nothing about motor vehicles and had never even possessed a driver's license. During the entire duration of my time with company H, my title remained motor pool corporal but my actual duty was serving as squad leader or section leader in a machine gun section.

Having no specific assignment, I attached myself to a heavy machine gun section and served the remainder of my tour of duty on this loose arrangement. I had no duties or responsibilities, so I just hung around and observed during the morning training sessions. During the afternoon hours, the regular members of my platoon took turns on various camp duties. Since I was listed as motor pool corporal, I never had to go on special duty. My afternoons were spent shooting baskets or playing baseball. On every evening, we engaged in volleyball games.

On December 17th, 1944, the 25th Infantry Division boarded a group of British troop ships and we embarked on our journey to Luzon, Philippine Islands. Our convoy entered Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, late the night of January 10th, 1945. Our outfit was among the first wave to go ashore at Lingayen and under massive cover of U.S. airplanes. U.S. Naval vessels had shelled the beach, leveling all cover and driving the Japanese back from the beach. The landing was accomplished without any incidents and the enemy was not engaged for another three days.

As motor pool corporal, I was assigned a .45 automatic pistol, which I consider to be worthless in combat. After the third day ashore, I came across a couple of M1 rifles that had been left behind by American casualties and I picked up one of these rifles. I carried this M1 until I was evacuated. It served me well.

My experience in combat covered 95 days, beginning with a landing at Lingayen Gulf and continuing on the Balete Pass at the summit of the main highway leading to the northern part of the island of Luzon. The main Japanese troop encampment was in the valley north of Balete Pass and the Japanese made their last stand at Balete Pass. On the 95th day in combat, my platoon was part of a push to capture a hill overlooking Balete Pass. That night, we set up the usual perimeter defense around the top of this hill. At daylight the next morning, a Japanese banzai attack hit our position. During this gunfire, I received a gunshot wound through my right shoulder. The platoon medic attended my wound immediately and he continued to care for me until a team of litter bearers arrive to carry me down the hill. There were no other American casualties that day, but the Japanese experienced 36 dead as a result of the banzai attack. The litter bearers were delayed considerably as they waited for patrols to clear the route of enemy troops.

I arrived at Battalion Headquarters at dawn, where a jeep was prepared to transport me further. My litter was strapped to the top of the jeep as I was carried down a freshly bulldozed road to a dry rice paddy where a Piper Cub airplane awaited to carry me further on my evacuation trip. The litter was now strapped to the bottom of the tiny airplane and I was flown approximately 70 miles south to a tent field hospital. It was midnight when a field surgeon cleaned my wound. The next morning, I was one of 16 wounded soldiers who were strapped onto stretchers inside a DC 3 airplane. We were flown to the 133rd Station Hospital, near Tacloban on the Island of Leyte. After twelve days in recovery at the Leyte hospital, I boarded a hospital ship that carried me back to San Francisco. I boarded this ship on April 29th, 1945 and my association with the 35th Infantry Regiment came to an end.

I received a Certificate of Disability for discharge from the McCaw General Hospital, dated 1 July 1945 and I received an Honorable Discharge dated 22 July 1945.