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Immediately following his return to safety, Major Gause wrote his gripping memoir using his notes from the battered ship's log and the handmade diary he kept throughout the journey. His account begins with the siege of Manila, where...
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Immediately following his return to safety, Major Gause wrote his gripping memoir using his notes from the battered ship's log and the handmade diary he kept throughout the journey. His account begins with the siege of Manila, where the young Army Air Corps pilot was stationed, and the eventual fall of the Philippines into Japanese hands. Along with 70,000 other American and Filipino soldiers, Gause was captured by the Japanese and destined to walk what would later go down in history as the Bataan Death march.
In the first of many amazing feats, he managed to escape, then swam three miles through shark-infested waters to the rock island fortress of Corregidor. When Corregidor fell, Gause and two Filipinos escaped during the night and continued on a ten-mile trek across the water to reach Luzon Island. Island-hopping for two months, Gause was sheltered and moved about by several Filipino families, always staying one step ahead of enemy patrols. On the island of Mindoro, he met a fellow American escapee, Captain Osborne, who was also determined to make it to safety. Osborne and Gause embarked on a 3,200 mile journey to Australia, and to freedom, in a twenty-foot wooden fishing boat. Along the way, they faced strafings from Japanese fighter planes, tropical storms, jagged coral reefs, and near starvation. Once there, Gause met General MacArthur, commander of the American armed forces in the Philippines, who had been ordered to regroup in Australia months before."Sir," he said simply, "Lt. Gause reports for duty from Corregidor!"
Vividly written with astonishing attention to detail and a surprising sense of humor, "The War Journal of Major Damon 'Rocky' Gause is impossible to put down. Accompanied by photographs taken during the voyage and an introduction and epilogue by Rocky's son, Damon L. Gause, this amazing document reveals a true American hero and pays tribute to the bravery of those who fought and died beside him.
Damon L. Gause, the son of Rocky Gause, was invited by the Philippine Ambassador to the United States to speak at the dedication of the American-Philippine War memorial. A frequent speaker before veterans' groups, he is a general contractor living in Georgia.
Mr. Gause cordially invites all readers to correspond with him at email@example.com.
After the danger, privations, and hardships the men had undergone during the siege, I expected and would have understood had they cheered and rejoiced at the order to surrender. I looked at Manuel, a 40-year-old Filipino who had left his family on Bataan. He had been manning a machine gun. Then there was young Philipe, who had volunteered for every assignment. My eyes roved up and down the loose ranks of unkempt but courageous men. Not one had even the trace of a smile. Some cursed and swore, and a few cried, as they obeyed my order and broke their rifles on the rocks and threw the bolts into the sea.
Leaving their arms broken and useless I marched my company to headquarters, placed them in charge of the first sergeant and went into the tunnel to report to Lt. Col. Herman Anderson and Capt. Pat McMakin of the Fourth Marines. Even then I had completed plans with Lt. Alberto Arranzaso to escape Corregidor, because I knew what would happen to me if the Japs should catch me again, as they had a good description from several sources. The colonel nodded at me when I approached his desk, and I noticed deep lines at the corners of his eyes. I told him about my men and he stood up and said, "Gause, you've done a good job and I'm not telling you to leave but I understand. Bon voyage!"
I saluted, did an about-face, and rejoined Arranzaso in the tunnel. We hoped to reach the mainland and find shelter with his mother in the hills. We were both absorbed in our plans when someone grasped my arm at the tunnel exit. It was Millie Dalton, a frightened Millie Dalton and not nearly as crisp-looking as the girl who nursed me when I reached Corregidor. Another girl, a Miss Kennedy of Philadelphia, Mississippi, was with her. "I'm horribly afraid of what will happen to us when the Japs arrive," Millie said in a rush and her friend nodded emphatically. She wanted me to take them to the mainland, but neither Lt. Arranzaso, who stood quietly by, nor I was sure that we'd finish the journey alive, so I reluctantly refused. When I last saw Millie at the tunnel entrance she waved and bravely wished me good luck. I had never felt so low, but I turned and ran with the Filipino for whatever cover the northern edge of the island might afford until nightfall when we could start for the mainland, six miles across the bay. We hadn't covered a quarter of a mile when we heard motorized equipment, Jap, of course, thunder up to the main tunnel, and then there was loud talking and shouts and screams. We got away fast.
Arranzaso and I at last flopped breathless under the protective shadows of a beach cliff on the northern edge of Corregidor and damned the Japs. They had resumed their bombardment of Corregidor, undoubtedly out of anger because General Wainwright refused to order men on other islands in the Philippines to surrender also. American and Filipino soldiers were standing around unarmed and helpless in the barrage.
About seven o'clock, we ventured out of our hiding place to scout around in the gathering dusk for some means of getting across the bay to the mainland. A short walk up the beach revealed a sluggish-looking native outrigger that had washed up on the sands. It was duly launched, and the Filipino flyer and I were heading into the waves about 200 feet offshore when Japs on the cliff several hundred feet above caught us in the beam of searchlight that combed the water searching for anyone foolhardy enough to try and leave Corregidor. They fired at us, of course, but we were too far out in the sea for their shots to be effective.
When it was quiet again we heard someone calling to us in English from a rock on the shore. I cautioned Arranzaso that it might be a ruse to draw us back, but we paddled parallel with the island and after close scrutiny called to the figure that we would come in for him. The logy craft hadn't been turned, however, when the man who hollered that he was a Filipino scout was in the water and swimming out to us. We helped him over the side, handed him a piece of plank without asking any questions, then the three of us began making energetic whirlpools in the water, and the outrigger moved faster than it had moved in its lifetime.
I was beginning to think that getting to the mainland would be a cinch when, once again, we were framed in a searchlight from one of the Jap cruisers that continually circled the island to discourage and pick up fleeing soldiers. The cruiser's gun crews must have been at their stations because a shell went sighing over our heads a few seconds after we were sighted, and several more followed, none very close. In the excitement, however, the boat was overturned, and we were unceremoniously dumped into the water. The sailors, probably slapping each other on their backs and telling each other what marksmen they were, promptly forgot us. Arranzaso couldn't swim, I was dismayed to learn, so we righted the outrigger and swung our dripping bodies aboard. We paddled along with the gunwales submerged, but it was a bit comforting to have something beneath my feet after so many hours in the water previously.
The night was dark and the sea was choppy. We headed into the wind and our paddles lifted and dipped, lifted and dipped. Shells and bombs were still bursting on Corregidor and every once in a while one would come sailing over the island -- the Japs couldn't always hit the island -- and burst near us. Whenever I heard one whistling in our direction I instinctively drew in my neck and hoped that it would keep on going. When dawn broke, we weren't a third of the way from Corregidor to the mainland. Treacherous crosscurrents carried us sideways during the night, and we made little headway in the water-filled boat.
We were debating what to do next when a Jap fighter plane peeled off from a formation and fired a few bursts at us. The bullets spat into the water alongside the boat as the three of us went over the side, and when I came up Lt. Arranzaso's voice rang in my ears.
"I've been hit!"