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Thread: A Horse Soldier's Recollections of Pre WW ll Army

  1. #1
    Military Professional vaughn's Avatar
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    06 Jan 06

    A Horse Soldier's Recollections of Pre WW ll Army

    This is another tale copied from Prodigy's Vet's BB around 1995. These tales were memories of some Japanese POW's that posted their stories on Prodigy's Veterans BB.
    PRE WAR ARMY – Otto W. Whittington
    Memories of adventures (or misadventures) of a cocky young horse soldier before the war. Always looking for a battle and had several before the war. Hearing about a man from Spain recruiting for the Spanish Loyalist in the Spanish Civil War (which was a bloody one) I caught a freight to San Antonio to sign up for the Loyalist army. He said we're looking for men not kids. I didn't care about the politics just looking for a fight. The Communist Party backed the Loyalist’s and they lost. Going into the army from hobo jungles and just working for Al G. Barnes Circus assigned to Bring-em-Back Alive Frank Buck to handle his props and luggage. I arrived at Ft. Bliss on a train from Dallas around four in the afternoon. Assigned to E Troop, 8th Calvary I had just gotten into the barracks on a summer day with all windows open when the retreat cannon fired right under the barrack window. I thought, "Damn I've been in the army less than a day and someone started a war!" It was explained we could expect the cannon firing every afternoon. That night was my first army fight when another rookie and I tangled in an all out fight over closing a window. Used to living outside I could not stand to have a window closed. It stayed open. Most fights occurred with my good Indian buddy Ona Swinford, a second cousin to Will Rogers. When asked why we fought all time and we both had skinned up faces, I explained that his Indian blood did not mix with fire water and every time in the honky-tonks he got a silly grin I knew he was looking for a fight. I would kick him in the butt, and say you crazy Indian, I'm going to knock the hell out of you. After we fought until we were tired, we enjoyed the evening together. I explained that if I didn't fight him he would fight a stranger and perhaps get a knife stuck in him. I would never cause him any bad harm. To show what a close buddy he was he came to see my parents after I had become a prisoner in the Philippines. He assured Mother that they could never get me down that I would survive. But my Mother being a good Southern Christian lady was shocked when he told her I had to survive because he wanted to get married some day that I knew good horses and women and he would not marry a woman until I had spend a night with her and gave her my stamp of approval. I had many nick names in the army but at Ft. Bliss I become known as "El Tigaro" after one all night of fighting. Swinford and I had fought and got mad at each other and went our separate ways. Sucking on a bottle of cheap soto, which is much more deadly than tequila, I wandered all over El Paso fighting anyone who would fight. Two men from the 82nd Field Artillery picked me up and took me to my barracks. I was out on my feet and fell
    across the bed. I woke up hearing guys talking saying I thank his throat is cut. Bleeding from a busted mouth it had run all down my throat and with my eyes closed, back of head busted open where I had been knocked to the pavement, busted knuckles, I looked like hell. Being a good soldier I fell out for reveille and standing in the front rank covered with blood and clothes half tore off, the Captain came up and said "Trooper what the hell happen to you?" Half drunk and still feeling cocky I said, "Sir, I was fighting wildcats and someone ran a tiger in on me" From then on out I was the tiger. He ordered me to the infirmary and I had to eat special soup for a week. The old army stuck up for each other so that night some of the troopers, all being golden glove champions, took me into town to try and find some of the people I had fought. We started at "Five Spot" where all the streetcars terminated and carried soldiers to the post. We went into a small all night cafe where soldiers hung out. Walking up to the counterman. We asked if he had seen me that night. Looking around my bandages he laughed and said, " You came in here around midnight looking like you had been fighting all night long with blood all over you and walked up to the counter very politely asked for a drink of water. I gave you the water and you asked, "Do you have anyone in here you would like for me to throw out?" I said I was very accommodating and surprised I had not been beat to death. The horse soldiers were very proud of their profession as soldiers and felt like one of us could handle any ten men from other armies. Capt. "Blind Tom" Sheehan", commanding officer of E Troop use to say, "**** those damn hats and look like you mean it! I want to hear those spurs click as you mount!" Transferring to the Remount Service where we broke and processed horses and mules for the Calvary and horse artillery.
    I was appointed to the Stud Barn where the hot-blooded Thoroughbreds were handled. Doodle Minton and I being the only stud monkeys, we made our own hours and lived at the stud barn. The horsemen wore no uniforms but wore what the civilian horse wranglers wore, cowboy boots and levies.
    I had a standing offer to fight any man on the post or ride any horse two men could put a saddle on (notice, I did not say I would whip the man I fought not that dumb) for a case of beer. With my face always bruised up and black eyes sometimes a broken rib my buddies thought I was crazy. But as I told them I had more beer than any man on the Post, and which they always seemed glad to drink with me. Major Ireland was in charge of the Stud Barn and very proud of his two stud monkeys. He was also in charge of the Two Year Old Barn where the young Thoroughbreds raised on the post were supposed to be processed. Col. Pinky Hardy, Chief of Remount, came down from Washington to inspect the stock and told Major Ireland he wanted to see the two years old under saddle. Major knew the men at the barn had been timid about breaking the skittish young horses and couldn't ride them. He sent for Doodle and I to bring our saddles and report to the two-year-old barn next day. We revolted and said it was not our job we handled the stallions. The Major started trying to make a deal with a couple of cases of beer. We told him it would cost a case of gin. Oklahoma was a dry state but the officers had plenty of booze on government land for the officer's club. Ireland said we were trying to blackmail him. We said no we're trying to make a horse trade. We got our gin and we had a rodeo for Col Hardy. In the horse army rank did not count as much as your knowledge of horses and horsemanship. The Russians were attacking Finland and I told my two buddies all of us being ex-line soldiers, we needed to help the Finns. I contacted the Finnish Counsel in Washington and he was pleased at our offers but explained that under International Law they could not recruit for the army in another country. It was agreed that we would be sent to Finland as optical technicians to work in factory making searchlights and once there could go into the army. I was called into Capt. Prunty's office, commanding officer of the detachment, and told to open the official looking envelope from a foreign counsel addressed to me and read the contents to him. He went through the roof when I finished, He hollered, "Whittington you're going to Leavenworth for your crazy stunts. Don't you know you can't join a foreign army while in the U S Army!" I calmed him down and explained we were not going AWOL but had three girls at Ora's Bar in town who had agreed to marry us for ten dollars each and we would be discharged as it was against regulations to marry without permission. After this I told my buddies McCormick and Kasier we had better move on. We put in for short discharge and reenlistment for overseas posts. I convinced McCormick to go to the Philippines the furthest we could find but Kaiser wanted to go fishing so chose Alaska. The army had only one transport the USS Grant. It made a trip to the Philippines every three months. We were supposed to receive a 90-day furlough before sailing but Capt. Prunty kept our papers on his desk and called me in every week to try and talk me in staying at Reno. Major Ireland did not want to lose one of his stud monkeys so he sent his wife and daughter, who went to school with my girl friend, to try and convince me to stay. Finally the Major decided he had better talk to me himself. He came to the barn in pegged riding breeches and high polished field riding boots, very West Point and military. I'm in my regular faded levies and dirty boots covered with horse manure. He lost his temper when I kept telling him no I had to go. He shouted, "I don't give a damn if you go to Hell!' and spit a large spurt of tobacco juice on my boots. All horse soldiers chewed tobacco or dipped snuff. I said, "I know you don't give a damn." and spit on his high gloss boots. Doodle was watching this and laughed out loud. This threw the Major in a real rage and for the next five or ten minutes we cussed each other as we spit on each other’s boots. Doodle was breaking up. The Major realized we were both making fools of ourselves and stomped off red as a beet. I finally made it to the Philippines and found the war I had been looking for. As you will note I picked the Loyalist, they lost. I picked Finland & they lost. I made a war and after running out of map we lost. So it is guaranteed if we get into another war all the US has to do to insure victory is to get me to join the other side. One day when I get in a mental rambling mood I'll tell you of the nice compliments I received from Marines of the 2nd Battalion in Nam that my son Johnny was attached to as a Navy Corpsman. Mabuhay and best to all,
    USS LCI (L) & (G) 450
    WW ll Gator Navy

  2. #2
    Lei Feng Protege
    Defense Professional
    Join Date
    23 Aug 05
    Arlington, VA
    speaking of horse soldiers,

    i hear US cavalry's last great horse charge was actually against the japanese, i believe in 1942. anybody have that tale?

  3. #3
    Officer of Engineers
    Quote Originally Posted by vaughn
    This is another tale copied from Prodigy's Vet's BB around 1995. These tales were memories of some Japanese POW's that posted their stories on Prodigy's Veterans BB.
    I really do appreciate these stories, Sir.

  4. #4
    Military Professional vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    06 Jan 06
    I looked with no sucess for a file I did have of Otto recounting how he was in charge of a group of burros during the fighting for Bataan and was told to camouflage them. He went scrounging for some dye, he located some packages of green dye so his charges were modified into green burros.
    He said his burros were eventually eaten to help substain the men.
    It sticks in memory that this file also had a tale of some Filipino troops astride burros attacked a couple of Japanese tanks dying during the charge.
    Here's another Otto Whittington tale I saved.

    "KOKURA, Japan" By Otto Whittington -
    I was at the same camp as Millard Hillman, Fukuoka Camp #3, at outskirts of Kokura on the Suo Sea. This was about equal distance between Hiroshima on southern tip of Honshu and Nagasaki on western coast of Kyushu. We all have different ways of viewing events. The dropping of the two bombs was the greatest humanitarian acts of the war. The United States to avoid as many civilian lives as possible dropped leaflets more than a week before the first bomb on Hiroshima advising all civilians to evacuate ten circled targets as they would be totally devastated. Of course the type of bomb was not mentioned. To avoid panic on part of the civilian’s, special police gathered up all leaflets. Thus most civilians were killed because of the acts of their own officials. Kokura was circled as target No.2 because of the large electric generating plant near our camp supplying power to one of the
    largest steel processing plants in the world at Yawata. The two bombs brought the Japanese war dogs to the realization that total destruction of Japan was imminent. For many months the military had been training women and children from age of twelve up to fight invaders with bamboo spears. They were prepared to fight to the death to protect their homeland if invaded. We were advised that at signs of off shore naval bombardment or low level air attacks indicating imminent invasion we would be executed. We agreed among ourselves when signs of possible invasion we would swing our shovels, crow-bars, or any tools handed and try to fight our way toward the beach. We didn't expect to make it but you always try. The two bombs killed many civilians but nothing like the thousands perhaps millions who would have died in the bloodiest battle in history in the invasion of Japan proper. American soldiers would have the tasks of killing fanatic women and children who fought to protect their homeland with only bamboo spears. Also, all POW's would have been executed. The plane from Tinian (this from a speech made by the pilot at Ft. Worth, Texas, after the war) made a circle over us but could not drop because of the overcast. Orders were to drop where the target could be observed. The bomb was dropped with a parachute to
    detonate a few hundred feet above earth for maximum heat effect, and also allow the plane to clear away from intense radiation. We wondered why a single plane when we were use to squadrons of 20 or more B-29's. I explained it was probably carrying leaflets or "chafe" to screw up Japanese radar. We later learned that it continued on to Nagasaki 60 air miles away but it was socked in. We heard it return and again pass overhead above the clouds. According to the pilot he advised the bombardier to select a third target to have enough fuel to return to base. The bombardier told the pilot he saw clouds breaking as they approached Nagasaki for the second time. I learned to never complain about cloudy weather, if that day were a sunny day over Kokura I would be a cinder on the landscape of Japan. My work detail at the Yawata Steel Mills was (Di Ni Sako" (known as Number Two Hot Steel Gang) The work we did in limestone furnace room and cleaning gas chambers covered in hot red glowing soot. Only another POW squatting in a small three foot door spraying us with a hose kept us from burning alive. This made Hell look like a church picnic.
    /s/ Otto Whittington
    USS LCI (L) & (G) 450
    WW ll Gator Navy

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