The War Journal of Major Damon Rocky Gauseby Major Damon "Rocky" Gause, Stephen E. Ambrose
A Veterans Day treasure, the true, first-person account of a captured World War II soldiers incredible escape and courageous journey home, discovered after more than fifty years. Of all the heroic stories to come out of World War II, few are so extraordinary as that of Major Rocky Gause, who was captured by the Japanese, escaped from the infamous Bataan Death March, and, with a fellow soldier, endured a harrowing voyage across the enemy-held Pacific in a leaky, hand-crafted boat. In the battered notebook he kept throughout his journey and later converted to a thrilling narrative, Gause traced his steps from the besieged city of Manila on New Years Eve, 1941, to his safe landing on the Australian coast ten months later.
The New York Times Book Review
- Hachette Books
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)
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All morning on the 5th, the sounds of battle grew in intensity. We expected a flanking attack because we knew that the Japs were catching hell although advancing steadily. But at noon General Jonathan "Skinny" Wainwright walked out on the battle line and, with tears in his eyes and voice trembling, he ordered the surrender of the last American stronghold in the Far East. The orders were to destroy all small arms and raise a white flag in our individual sectors. Then we were to march our men, disarmed, to their headquarters to await the arrival of our captors.
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!"
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