My name is Robert Eugene Hudson and I live in Casper, Wyoming. My friends and family call me Gene and I was born and raised in Lake Wales, Florida. When I turned 18 years old my ambition was to join the Air Force and become a fighter pilot. To join the Air Force, one had to take a physical at the Air Base located in Orlando Florida. The first part of the exam was an eye exam, which I failed for being color blind. I was inducted into the Army in September 1943 and spent 16 weeks in basic training at Fort McClellan located in Anniston, Alabama. Basic training taught us to operate the M1 rifle, Browning automatic, the 81 MM mortar, 30 caliber water cooled machine gun, and the 61 MM mortar. At the end of basic training I was rated as an expert rifleman with the M1 rifle. We also marched a lot, the longest march was a 20 mile night march with a full pack and M1 rifle.
Upon completion of basic training I was shipped to Milne Bay, New Guinea, a replacement depot with the rank of a PFC. It took 21 days to travel from San Francisco to Milne Bay. Our ship was traveling alone and used a zig-zag route to protect us from submarines. To pass the time we would sit up on deck and watch the sailfish. In Milne Bay, it rained everyday, but it did not keep us from sitting on palm tree logs watching movies. I was assigned to the 40th division 160th Regiment Company D on New Britain Island. Company D was a heavy weapons company that used the 30 caliber water cooled machine gun and the 81MM mortar. Our assignment was to add fire power to the rifle companies A-B-C.
New Britain had the largest bats with one to two feet wing spans, the largest I had ever seen. The bats looked huge flying through the jungle. I contracted a fungus in New Britain called jungle rot, which was treated with a solution that would steam when applied to the infected areas on my arms. The good news was that the jungle rot disappeared when I left New Britain. For entertainment we would take mattress covers and blow them up and ride in the surf. A few miles to the north was an active volcano that was spewing hot gases and fire into the air. The volcano would shake the area.
Our responsibility was to be prepared for the invasion of Luzon. We practiced everyday with the 30 caliber water cool machine gun and 81 MM mortar. After much practice it would be possible to set up the machine gun and mortar in 15-20 seconds and be ready to fire. My assignment was to keep communication between the mortars and front observation points in working condition. Communication consisted of a battery spool of wire with a telephone on each end.
A troop ship picked us up and we joined a small convoy heading for the invasion of Luzon, Philippines. As we steamed towards the Philippines we picked up troop ships along the way. By the time we reached the Philippines there were many ships in our convoy, including a jeep aircraft carrier, which was a small aircraft carrier, escorted by several destroyers. As we steamed through the Philippine Islands, a Japanese plane, a Kamikaze, appeared above us and started a vertical dive which appeared to be coming directly at our ship. The tracer bullets from the carriers and destroyers appeared to be behind the diving Kamikaze. The Kamikaze hit the carrier broad side and the ship was left burning as we steamed towards Luzon. I do not know the fate of the carrier.
On December 9, 1944, our troop ship arrived at the staging area off the coast of Luzon in Lingayen Gulf during the night. At day light I looked out and had never seen so many different types of ships before. On our port side was a large battleship firing 16 inch projectiles at the landing area. The projectile could be seen as a red dot. The recoil from the firing of the 16 inch projectile would push the battleship sideways approximately 3 feet. Our company was in the 3rd wave to land with the objective being to advance to Clark Field, the air base at Luzon. We transferred from the troop ship to a landing craft by going down a rope net. Carrying a full pack and rifle made this difficult with both ships bobbing in the waves.
At Clark Field we turned and headed into the Zambales Mountains. We had several methods of detecting the Japanese at night. We would put rocks in tin cans and string them in front of our fox holes. If the Japanese would hit the string we would fire flares to illuminate the area. While in combat in the Zambales Mountains I was wounded by mortar fire and received the Purple Heart.
When we completed our mission in the Zambales Mountains we were moved to Panay Island to push the Japanese back into the mountains. The health conditions on Panay Island were poor. In the streams were dead cows, horses and a few dead Japanese soldiers. The flies were so bad one had to wear socks over your hands to keep the flies from eating the skin off. The flies made meal times hard too. While on Panay Island I came down with anemic dysentery and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and my weight was down to 135 pounds. It took about two years to recover.
We had our normal close calls as one would expect in combat. Several Times I came under fire of snipers as I was installing telephone wire. The sniper’s bullets hit the ground around me. Thank goodness they were poor shots.
Our next assignment was Negros Island on March 29, 1945. The most dangerous encounter that I had was on Negros Island. We were dug in a tight perimeter, everybody slept in fox holes at night. At dawn I was sitting up in my fox hole putting my boots on when all hell broke loose. The Japanese had crawled within 50 to 100 feet of our perimeter when they began firing. Their bullets were kicking dirt into my fox hole. Had I gotten up a few seconds early I would have been in their sights. Out platoon leader and a couple soldiers were killed in the attack. Our 30 cal water cooled machine gun saved us.
After the Negros Island campaign was completed, our unit was pulled back and started training for the invasion of Japan. A notice was put on the bulletin board that General MacArthur was forming a guard company to protect his home and office. The unit was to be composed of one soldier from every battalion in the Pacific. A full Colonel was sent to interview all interested soldiers. I decided to apply and when I got in line it was so long one could not see the front. When the Colonel was interviewing me, one of his questions was, what my plans were when I got out of the service. I told him my plans were to attend the Colorado School of Mines and study Petroleum Engineering. The Colonel said that is a good school and you have a good plan. Several weeks went by with no word about the interview, then the Army Intelligence Service arrived and asked questions about me. They told me to pack my gear, that a plane was waiting to fly me to General MacArthur’s Headquarters in Manila and I was promoted to Corporal.
The assignment had many amenities that we did not have in combat. We had ice cream, hot food, hot showers, movies inside, and a bed to sleep in. I remember one of the first things I did after landing was get ice cream. At that time it seemed like the best ice cream ever made.
My assignment was to stand guard in front of General MacArthur’s office. I would see General MacArthur daily and he would always salute. I remember those rare times when General MacArthur would stop and we would chat about life back home. I would also see all the generals and admirals in the South Pacific coming to General MacArthur’s headquarters. I was standing guard at General MacArthur’s office when the Japanese peace envoy arrived in Manila. The Honor Guard arrived in Tokyo, Japan three days before the peace treaty was signed, to set up guard duty of the transfer to the new headquarters. After the treaty was signed, we went to guard General MacArthur’s home, and new office and other brass at the Imperial Hotel.
The Imperial Hotel is a beautiful building that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The hotel is built on pylons and is earth quake proof. The Guards on duty would get the treat of eating at the restaurant in the basement of the Imperial Hotel. The guards barrack was a large office building a short distance from the Imperial Hotel, with many windows that would rattle from minor earthquakes.
When we had two or three days off from guard duty, we would take the train into the hills and stay at the pagodas. They were so beautiful and quiet compared to the busy streets in Tokyo. They also offered wonderful views of the forests below them.
When I left Manila and went to Tokyo I stopped taking malaria medicine and as a result I had an attack of malaria while at the Pagodas. I was shipped back to the states in December 1945. On the troop ship from Japan to Washington State I had another attack of malaria and was put in the hospital in Fort Lawton for a couple of weeks, but I did make it home for Christmas. I continued to have attacks of malaria for the next couple of years.
When I was discharged from the service I enrolled at the Colorado School of Mines and graduated as a Geological Engineer in 1950. I later married a wonderful woman and had four terrific children.