Warren Hutchens - Pearl Harbor - Guadalcanal - Europe
July 15,1940. Wally and I went to the National Guard Armory located at 7th and Alamitos Street in Long Beach California. We went there to see if they had opportunities for Officer Candidate School. The sergeant showed us around the armory, and told us of the 251st Coast Artillery Anti-aircraft. We only had to come there twice a month, the first and third Mondays. We would be paid $4.00 a month for our small effort. Wally and I thought it was a good deal, so we signed up. We were assigned to the 2nd Battalion Battery G.
In August of 1940 we went to Chehalis, Washington for a three-week maneuver. The National Guard had a war practice with the regular Army. The National Guard won, of course.
September 6,1940. The 251st was called into Federal Service along with other National Guard units. We stayed in the armory a few days and then moved to Ventura California. We stayed in tents set up on the fairgrounds in Ventura. Wally transferred to the Band while we were there. They were a total of 600 soldiers stationed in Ventura. Our group was the Second Battalion; San Diego was composed of the First Battalion stationed in San Diego. They had 700 soldiers, which made a total 1300 in the 251st C.A. A. A. Regiment. While in Ventura we trained on 37 mm and 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns. We also went to the firing range to practice firing our rifles. The tracers from our guns started a brush fire, which took us a day to put out. Our unit marched in a parade in downtown Ventura. I was in the Bugle Corp that played with our band. From that time on I was the bugler for Battery G!
October 30th, 1940, we boarded the SS Washington headed for Hawaii. The government did-not have any troop ships available at that time, so we chartered the Washington leaving from Long Beach. I was in a stateroom with six other soldiers, a little crowded but nice. We ate in the dinning room that included regular waiters and an orchestra playing while we ate. A trip to Hawaii would cost $1,500 for regular passage at that time. It took five days to get to Honolulu.
November 5th, 1940, we arrived in Hawaii and were taken to Fort Shafter. It was real nice at Fort Shafter but we was transferred five days later to an area west of Barbers Point. They named this spot Camp Malakole with tents set up on the hard coral. The army engineers cleaned all of the aleroby (scrub trees) from the area before we arrived. Our regiment built our own in six months and the general was surprised we could do such a good job. The trenches for the water and sewer had to be dug with jackhammers since the coral was so very hard. I was in bugle school part of the time; we practiced on the coral next to the ocean since our camp was on the ocean. They took us to Honolulu about two times a month in 2 ½ ton trucks. We had inspection of barracks, rifles, footlockers, and personnel on Saturday mornings. We had to pass inspection before we could get a pass on weekends. Honolulu was about twenty miles away from camp.
December 7th, 1941, we had our breakfast at 7:45 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, an hour later than during the week. While eating breakfast at 7:55 a. m. we started to hear explosions. I thought the engineers were setting out dynamite at Red Hill. When we came out of the mess hall, after eating breakfast, we looked at Pearl Harbor about ten miles straight from camp and at first thought it was some kind of maneuver, but it looked like real war to me! A few minutes Captain Lemon came running around the end of the mess hall. His pants were half unbuttoned and holding a pistol above his head he yelled, "Come on get with it a war is on!" We could not believe what he said until Japanese planes started strafing the camp. Every one started firing their rifles at the planes; we did not have time to do not have time to get our 37mm & 90mm anti-aircraft guns into operation. I started running messages from Colonel Sherman to Captain Lemon. While on a run to headquarters I stopped at Battery E latrine to do my regular routine. While sitting on the toilet a Jap plane strafed through the tin roof cutting the bowl next to me in half! There was an 18-inch distance between bowls. Luckily I did my thing so I pulled up my pants and lay under the urinal thinking they might come back. After a couple of minutes I got up and went out the door. I looked at the corner of the latrine and saw one of our soldiers was hit in the shoulder. He had plenty of help so I went on my way. They told me later that they shot down that dirty Jap that almost got me, and hit my buddy (he survived).
We soon hooked up our artillery and headed for Pearl Harbor. We arrived at Pearl Harbor about 11:00 a.m. what a mess! The Arizona was on fire; the harbor was covered with oil and partly on fire. The sailors were coming ashore burnt and covered with oil. Battery G headquarters was set up at the submarine base. We stayed in the lower part of a barracks, which was a storeroom. We had a lookout post in the diving tower that was one of the highest points in the harbor. Our battery set up 50 caliber machine guns on the barracks roof. The 2nd Battalion also set up 37 mm and 50 caliber guns at other locations around the harbor. The 1st Battalion had 37 mm, 50-caliber machine and 90 mm guns with searchlights.
Three soldiers from F battery, Henry C. Blackwell Cpl., Clyde C. Brown Cpl. and Warren Rasmussen Sgt. were flying civilian aircraft December 7th. The two Piper Cub airplanes by incoming Jap planes, about 250 of them. All three in the two planes were killed. These three soldiers from the 251st were probably the first United States casualties of World War II.
The night of December 7th I went to relieve another soldier of guard duty since it was my turn for serving two hours of guard. When I approached the soldier, whom I thought I Knew, raised his rifle at me and pulled the trigger. The bullet in the chamber did not go off. After examining the rifle we found that there was no firing pin in it. The Lord was sure looking after me the first day of the war!
Duty at the submarine base was real good since we ate chow with the submarine sailors at the base. We saw submarines come and go to sea for their duty for forty to sixty days. Some subs came back pretty beat up, with damage from Jap warships. Ammunition was loaded on subs to take to the Philippines and gold bars were brought back. I talked to one sailor who said their sub went into Tokyo Bay. The Japs were launching a warship with all their dignitaries present. When the ship slipped into Tokyo Bay the U.S. subs released a torpedo which sunk the cruiser. The Japs dropped their nets at the entrance to the bay. The sailor told me they lay at the bottom of the bay until dark and followed another enemy ship out of the harbor when they lifted the sub nets. We saw the damaged U.S. warships in dry-dock at Pearl Harbor. I guess we fellows of Battery G Headquarters saw more of Pearl Harbor than most sailors did since they were on board ships most of the time. I saw Admiral Nimitz many times when he took his daily walk by my guard post. He stopped and talked to me one time. I did not know who he was until a sailor told me; of course I always gave him a big salute since I knew he was a big shot!
May 15th, 1942, I knew the good duty at Pearl Harbor could not last. The whole regiment, about 1500 men, was moved to the Fuji Islands. The Japs were going to invade the Fiji’s until the island was fortified with American Australian and New Zealand military forces. We dug in our gun positions around the airstrip and docks. The 2nd Battalion had 37mm and 50 caliber guns. The 1st Battalion 90 mm and 50 caliber guns. On July 26th, 1942, the Regimental Master Sergeant, Bill Bailey, ask me to be the bugler for the officers candidate school. This was a great break for me since he picked me out of the 18 buglers in our regiment. I blew calls from morning to night for two 90-day classes. There were 150 candidates in each class, graduating a total of 300 90-day wonders. The major kept asking me to go to the second class from October 1st, 1942, to January 30th, 1943 and I would come out a second Lieutenant. I turned it down since I believed I had a better chance of living being a corporal. Little did I know that I would later go into the infantry? On February 5th, 1943 I was moved back to gun position on the island of Fiji near Nandi. We had our gun position around a P-40 fighter strip to protect it. The Japs did not invade the Fiji’s so we had no fighting there. On the island there were a lot of wild horses. The natives broke the horses in for riding and then sold them to the GI’s. I bought a small horse from a native for twenty dollars. We rode them around the island on our time off. I was thrown off a horse and landed on my back and was sore for about two weeks. I guess my back problems came from that accident. We enjoyed our stay on the Fiji’s. The natives were real friendly and the island pretty.
On November 15th, 1943, the regiment was moved to Guadalcanal for a week. We then left on LST’s to Bougainville where the action was. We dug in our gun positions around the Marine airstrip. Major Boyington and his fighter squadron was there along with a bomber squadron. From this airstrip they took off to go to Rabul to bomb and strafe the island. We would know many missing in action. The majority of the planes came back with some damage. Some would have to make a belly landing with the sparks flying on the airstrip. The Japs were dug in, in the mountains in front of us. The fired artillery from the caves they built. I was the generator operator for our 37mm since it worked on electric motors. One time, while operating the generator a Jap 77 mm landed in the pit near me. It did not explode (which it was supposed to do!). For the third time the lord was keeping an eye on me! On February 1944 the Japanese (this is the right word!) infantry made a big push to take back the island. Our regiment was changed to infantry to back up the 37th and Americal Divisions. We had some action and stopped the Japs from advancing.
The Japanese Imperil Marine Division was on the island of Bougainville. This was supposed to be one of the Japs crack divisions. The Japs were killed mostly with artillery fire and bombing. Our 90mm guns destroyed the caves where the enemy had their artillery. The Navy had a blockade around the island to cut off their supplies. There were probably 10,00 Japs killed on the island.
April 15th 1944, I was sent back to the U.S. after three and one half years overseas. After being processed in Monterey California I arrived home on Sunday, Mothers Day in Bell Gardens, California. The whole family was in church when I got there so I waited for them to come home. We had a good get together with brothers and sisters. Wally was not there; he was killed in the Air Corps as a Bombardier on a B-29. He made a few raids over Tokyo. I was home for three weeks.
June 5th, 1944, I was sent to Camp White Oregon (Medford) for reassignment. After 10 days I was sent to Camp Hahnn, Riverside California. We went to Ft. Irwin California for gunnery practice. I talked the sergeant into giving me another furlough. In October 1944 I received a telegram telling me to report to Camp Howze Texas for infantry boot camp. It was real rough training but I appreciated it later while in combat. We had machine gun practice, Bazooka, hand Grenade, rifle ad everything they used in the infantry. Infiltration course, crawling on your belly in the mud with real bullets being shot over your head and explosions all around you! It was about 50 yards long. We were covered with mud along with our rifles. The clean up took awhile! Infantry training was probably the worst but we needed it to go into hand to hand combat
January 10th, 1945, we loaded up on the Queen Elizabeth in New York (12,000) troops and headed for Europe. We arrived in Scotland five days later. Only a few of the 251st251st Regiment went to Europe. After an overnight trip on a passenger train, we arrived in South Hampton England. They took us on a small troop ship to Le Harve France. We than loaded on 40-8 boxcars. The two nights and days on these small box cars were very crowded (about 30 soldiers). We had to sleep in shifts, as there was not enough room for all of us to lie down at once. Twice a day the slid open the doors for about 15 minutes and gave us a case of C rations. The guys started fighting over the beans and stew cans. No one wanted the cold hash rations! I ended up with cold hash; fighting for better food wasn’t worth it! It was very cold in Europe in January with lots of snow on the ground. The two days on a small boxcar wasn’t much fun, but we survived. Some froze their feet; mine were ok since I kept wiggling my toes. After arriving in Belgium we stayed in homes as much as we could as we could stay out of the cold. The Battle of the Bulge ended in mid January 1945 which we were thankful for. Our bunch of GI’s came over to replace soldiers lost in the Battle of the Bulge. We were assigned to different Army Divisions. I was assigned to the 83rd Infantry Division, 330th Regiment, Company K. The 83rd had lost a lot of soldiers as they were hit very badly at the bulge. (See 83rd Inf. Book).
February 29th, 1945, we moved into Germany launching our assault across the Roer River. The snow was starting to melt; we could see dead German soldiers along the way from Belgium. Some bodies were crouched up from their fox holes with rifles in hand, still frozen. This was our first sight of the hell of war. German artillery shells were coming in at us. We crossed the footbridge at the Roer River. We had to step across our dead GI’s on the bridge. Our first machine gun fire from the Jerry’s when crossing to the other side of the river which was Germany. We were in the town of Julich and had a fire-fight for most of the day. We lost several buddies. (See the Thunderbolt across Europe, which tells in detail the battles we fought. Page 73 on to the end tells of the time I was in the 83rd).
Our division was the first to reach the Rhine River when the European war ended. For the third time while fighting in the Harz Mountains the lord was looking after me. When going up the side of a hill, a Jerry popped up behind a bush but did not fire. I than killed him with my rifle. My buddy and I went up to see why his rifle did not operate. We found the bullet was jammed in the chamber. For the fourth time the lord protected me. We lost many of our buddies in the fire-fights while crossing Germany. When you can feel the wind from bullets coming by you, you know to keep running and zig zag while moving.
I carried and fired the bazooka part of the time across Germany. I tell people they took away my bugle and gave me a bazooka when the war started. We used the bazooka to knock out tanks, blow holes in the side of buildings, shoot into the Jerry’s pill boxes and fox holes. When we were fighting in farmlands, there often were many chickens running around our feet. The buddies in my squad would pick up the chickens by the head and ring their necks. They would put them in the bazooka bag for us to eat later. Toward the end of the war we were moving too fast for food to get to us. On one occasion I had five chickens in my bag so I threw out two bazooka shells. Later we came upon a German Tank to knock out. My assistant and I fired one rocket hitting the tracks, which disabled it. Our Captain told us to fire another shell to make sure. I’m glad the old man didn’t ask for another rocket to be fired because I would have had to pull out a chicken, which I had Five of. The binoculars I have came from a German officer who left them in a farmhouse. The small dagger knife came from a German Nazi youth. His mother took it away from him and gave it to me. The spoon and fork combination was taken from a dead Jerry.
It was great to meet the Russians at the Elbe River in Magedaburgh because we knew it was the end of the European war.
May 20th, 1945, I was sent back to the United States on the troop ship Brazil. We arrived in New York ten days later and took a troop train to the West Coast. We were processed at Camp Beale California, near Sacramento.
June 22nd, 1945, I was honorably discharged and came home to Los Angeles this time. My dad was pastor of the Glassell Nazarene Church. It was good to get out of the Army after being in for almost five years.
3rd Battalion, 3rd Platoon,
7. June 10, 1945 Camp Beale California, Discharged from the US Army
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