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Colonel Carlos Romulo, Last Man Off Bataan, speaking at Carlsbad Army Airfield, New Mexico, February 17, 1943.

 

“Those gallant boys of the 200th didn't go down to defeat. They stood on their sturdy southwestern legs until the last. They would never have surrendered, no matter how futile the fight might appear to be. They only quit when they were ordered to do so. They were gallant, courageous heroes, of whom the nation will always be proud. Their achievements on Bataan and Corregidor have taken their places on history's pages.”

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Joe Stanley Smith

Paul Foch Womack

 

We Shot Down the First Japs

Two U.S. Gunners from New Mexico Meet Attack on Philippine Field

 

The first Japanese attack on the Philippines occurred Dec. 8, when two squadrons of pursuit bombers attacked Clark Field. This is the story of two sergeants in the anti-aircraft battery defending that field. Both come from Carlsbad, N. Mex., where they trained in a National Guard unit which now has 83 members in the Philippines. Sergeant Joseph Stanley Smith is 21, married and has a four-months-old son. Sergeant Paul ‘Doc’ Womack, 22 and unmarried, used to be a rancher.

 

Life Magazine

21 DEC 1941

 

 

 

Mobile anti-aircraft gun, possibly like the one manned by Sergeants Smith (top) and Womack (bottom).

 

 

 

by Sergeant Joe Smith

 

We’d just finished lunch at the gun battery and I was brushing my teeth when one of the fellows called over: “Hey, it’s just 12 o’clock. Let’s listen to the news.” We had been alert all night and just after breakfast we were at our positions. I had radio earphones on when the news flash came that Oahu had been bombed at the same time Secretary Hull received the note from Kurusu. I told the fellows and we all said, “Well, it’s here. This is what we came over for.” Somebody said: “Okay, let’s get it over with and then maybe we can go home.” We were still fixing gun positions and started digging foxholes near the gun. We figured that since Honolulu was attacked, we’d probably get it soon.

 

I had the radio on all the time and at about 11:30 heard the report that Clark Field had been bombed. Well, we were right in the middle of Clark Field, so we just laughed. Then we thought it might have been fifth column or something—couldn’t figure it out. We were sort of suspecting we’d get action within four or five hours and we were just sitting around shooting the breeze. Our chow service came and we finished lunch and that was when one fellow said, “Let’s listen to the 12’oclock news.”

 

“Look at the pretty planes”

 

Just then somebody from the next battery yelled, “Hey, look at the pretty planes,” so we walked out a little ways and saw them. They were about 20,000 ft. high, in perfect formation. There were two waves: nine, nine, eight, and then nine, nine, eight in the second wave I counted. We thought they were our Navy planes. They looked nice. They were directly overhead when I looked through glasses and saw they were a different type from the Navy’s. It looked like they were four-motored, but I didn’t have time to think about it—just then there was the darndest noise. It sounded like the darndest thing I ever heard and gave me the darndest feeling. Those bombers just came over once and dropped their stuff in a straight line across our field. Our mess truck which had just left us, cutting straight across the field, got a direct hit. Smoke and dust just went up like a fountain. We found later that both drivers were killed. Those were the only casualties from our outfit. It all happened so quickly that for a minute it seemed like a death trap.

 

We could see the dust spurt up from the bombs as they got closer and each time the noise was louder. It looked like they would cut a path right across us, but they stopped about 200 yd. short of our positions. After the last bomb it seemed kind of quiet and everything was all dirty from the explosions.

 

We stood up and had a kind of relaxation period for a minute. We all said: “I never knew what war would be like. I guess this is it—let’s get busy.” We started loading guns. We had never fired at a live target before and felt kind of funny as we talked over concussions and how we felt. We wished we could fire a couple of rounds to get over that tense feeling, but we held our fire until all of a sudden pursuits started coming in over us. I just yelled to the fellows to stay low, keep calm and keep firing. All I could think of was to take dead aim. Those pursuits kept diving right over us. They had come in from every direction at once in a sort of crisscross formation. They did a beautiful job, but once we started firing we felt fine. They got very close before they felt our fire. At first we all just aimed at any plane we saw. Then we calmed down and every gun would pick on the same plane at once.

 

In the middle of it our lieutenant came running up. He’d been at lunch and came across in a jeep car the minute the bombing started. They machine-gunned him in the jeep but he didn’t care. He just ran up to me and said, “Let’s give ‘em hell,” and grabbed the machine gun.

 

I could follow the enemy’s tactics clearly. As each plane approached he’d come in on the slant and then get over us and start diving, and then wed all let go at the same time with machine-gun and rifle fire and he’d be afraid to come into our fire, especially into the 37-mm. They came so close we could have reached up and slapped them. I saw the pilots clearly but couldn’t tell what they looked like because they had goggles and helmets on. I never had any harsh feelings toward Japanese before, but I learned to hate them right then. They’re good sports, though; when one we hit was falling, we saw his buddy dive down alongside and waggle the tail. Behind us we saw a dogfight too and that proved to us, right then and there, that our P-40s are better than anything they’ve got. Some of the boys thought it was a Messerschmitt in the dogfight, but the P-40 outflew and outmaneuvered him all around. Soon our plane got up behind and must have hit the fuel tank because the other caught fire and just seemed to stop there in the air a minute, then fell down in a long streak. We saw three more of their pursuits crash, and two more we think we got but the smoke was too thick to be sure. They had the jump on us first but we stuck to it till we chased them off, and that made us feel good.

 

None of us was really excited after the first minutes when the bombers caught us. We were too busy—and it felt good to be firing. When one would come down wed just let him have it till he couldn’t take any more, and when he pulled out wed give him a hand wave at our noses. We just said, “get those bastards out of the air,” and we kept at it till we knew wed run them off. The whole raid lasted just 53 minutes. Then we saw the last trail off through the smoke, and I looked around to see if all the fellows were okay.

 

We stood up and looked at each other. We were all covered with mud from sweating and lying in the dirt. We looked funny, I guess. After it was all over we had a laugh—they couldn’t complete their dives and we knew wed stood up to them. They had us scared for a minute at first, but we felt good when we got started and wed like to see them try again. We have a score to settle and were waiting now.

 

 

by Sergeant Paul Womack

 

I was in charge of one of the guns at Clark and at noon Monday I was writing a letter to my mother. All I got down was, “Dear Mom,” and, Christ, it happened. I put the letter in my pocket (I’ve still got it) and jumped up to the gun. Bombers were right over us and the dirt from the bombs was kicking over our heads in middle field. The dirt was so thick I couldn’t see, but it looked like a bomb had hit our second platoon. It made us so damn mad that when we started firing, the bombers just went over once. Our fighters had taken off earlier and I think they came back to chase those bombers. We just got in position when pursuits started coming over us. It was right at the start and I was down on my knees behind the sandbagging at the gun when I got hit. I’m the luckiest fellow in the U.S. Army—if Id been six inches further over, Id have got it. It felt like a red-hot wire going right under my arm and past the forearm. I looked down and saw some blood and it felt hot a minute. But I didn’t have time to think about it, just wiped the blood off and kept firing. It didn’t hurt much. We knew the only way they could shoot was to come right at us, so wed wait till they got directly over and then wed let them have it. The first plane we got we hit smack in the motor and she just flared up and dropped. We were laughing and hollering. We were tickled to death and after that we felt good. We felt like fighting. What I kept thinking was the wonderful way the fellows were taking it. We were just a bunch of little kids out there when we started. We didn’t know what it would be like. We had no officers—our second lieutenant was still at lunch—we sergeants were the only ones there. Just at first the men were surprised but when it started they cooled right down and did a swell job. It was remarkable. It really showed our fighting spirit and all through it I kept feeling proud. Our motto is, “First, in spite of hell,” and we sure lived up to it. We didn’t lose anybody and they did, and we know now just what we can do to them. I’m just hoping for them to come back. We know now we’ve got what they cant take.