Correction: Social Security number 541-14-5280 was issued to J RICHARD GERTTULA, who was born 02 March 1918 and, Death Master File says, died 10 October 2004. Search Archives for J RICHARD GERTTULA. History of 98th Cml Mortar Bn Foreword This is the history of the 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion from the time of its organization in December, 1941, through its three and one-half years in the Southwest Pacific. It served in many capacities and eventually became the 98th Chemical Mortar Battalion, armed with 4.2 inch mortars, firing high explosive and white phosphorus shells. During the course of its existence, this outfit served as stevedores, engineers, and artillerymen who fought in defense of their gun positions and never failed to answer the call of "Fire Mission." This account is based on declassified records from the U.S. War Department archives, my own S-3 records and personal recollections, and the valued help of Captain David E. Stimson, Captain John M. Slocum, Captain J. Richard Gerttula, Major Martin M. Staudacher, Lieutenant Colonel Roland M. Groder, and First Sergeant "Pappy" Bates. Special thanks to Major Frank Stubbs for the cover design [omitted in this presentation. Ed.] and much information. This is a story that should be told and is dedicated to those who served. Bennett M. Saunders May 28 was a day of utmost confusion. The mortars were in place some 400 yards west of the jetty under sniper fire. The enemy was attacking in force and by infiltration, forcing the withdrawal of the 162nd Infantry Combat Team and, by 1300 hours, orders were received from Lieutenant Colonel Bailey, 162nd Infantry, to withdraw the 1st platoon to Ibdi and to cover the withdrawal of the 162nd Infantry Combat Team with fire from the 2nd platoon. The DUKWs pulled away from the reef with the 1st platoon, but were well peppered by 20 mm fire from the cliffs above. Hostile fire was becoming heavier and fire from our naval forces was crashing into the cliffs above in an attempt to stop the attack. Captain Gerttula and Lieutenant Sandwick adjusted the fire of individual mortars on apparent sources of hostile fire. And after two hours of furious action, the 162nd Infantry Combat Team had withdrawn and the 2nd platoon maintained interdicting fire until its ammunition was almost exhausted. An estimated 400 rounds were fired during this period. At this point, Lieutenant Bell took his 2nd platoon with what equipment could be carried to the reef and was there taken off by an LCT. The platoon suffered no casualties, but two sailors were wounded by hostile 20 mm fire from the cliffs. Captain Gerttula and Pvts Koskela, Turner and Goorsky remained behind to render the mortars inoperable and destroy all other equipment. Captain Gerttula and his detail then walked along the beach and reached Ibdi shortly after the 2nd platoon arrived by LCT. During the course of this action, one of the DUKWs was sunk by 20 mm fire which the enemy was laying down with great accuracy from the caves above the beach. The driver was rescued, wet but unhurt. "The SIXTH Army had two main objectives. I Corps was to divide General Yamashito's forces and push the 150,000 men in the Shobu Group into the northern mountains where it could be neutralized. And the XIV Corps was to drive into the Tarlac Valley and secure Clark Field and eventually enter Manila. The 43rd and 6th Infantry Divisions were on the right flank of I Corps and had the task of driving the wedge into the enemy's main line of communication. All forces landed on schedule and the 20th Infantry Regiment with Company A Provisional in support was right there. Beach congestion was at its worst and extensive rice paddies back of the beach worsened the normally complicated traffic problems. Telephone wires were being continually torn up by tracked vehicles and our SCR 300 radios all had dead batteries. Things gradually sorted themselves out and Lieutenant Benjamin Bell, with Company A's 1st platoon provisional, moved out with the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. The forward observer crossed the Bued River with Company B, 20th Infantry Regiment, and secured a position in Dagupan from which to direct fired on other parts of the city. The 2nd platoon provisional accompanied the 2nd Battalion. As Captain Stubbs had been hospitalized with wounds as a result of the "E" boat attack, Captain Gilbert Doolittle was ordered to command Company A. The two platoons loaned to the Navy were returned to duty and by S+3, Lieutenant Bell's provisional platoon had been returned to Company D. The 1st Infantry Regiment supported by Company D, 98th Chemical Mortar Battalion, had landed on the left flank of the 20th Infantry Regiment and the FO parties were advancing with the patrols which quickly gobbled up the road blocks that the Japs had set up to slow the advance. Many of the Filipinos offered to help carry ammo and do other manual labor, for which they were paid in "Invasion Money." Captain Gerttula went forward with the infantry command group in a fast moving situation. The 2nd platoon went into position on the outskirts of Mapandan and fired at dawn for the assault troops who afterward reported hauling 4 truckloads of enemy dead out of the impact area. During the day, the 3rd platoon moved to Lunec and on January 13 the platoons were attached to the 2nd Battalion and went into position between Tebag and Minien. The 2nd platoon party had a bit of bad luck when a short round from our artillery landed in the infantry lines and PFC Paul E. Toombs, S/Sgt John R. Kinkey, Corporal Joseph J. Ponte and Private Norman A. Couse were wounded, but remained at their posts until the mission they were firing was completed. Corporal Ponte and S/Sgt Kinkey were recommended for the Bronze Star. Company D was now down to four officers and the NCOs were taking over and performing capably. The infantry later reported 25 dead Japs in the area impacted by this day's fire. The 3rd platoon moved to Binday and reported to the 169th Infantry Regiment of the 43rd Division. Captain Gerttula moved the Company D command post to Catablan with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment. The platoons were in position nearby and fired heavy concentration southeast of the village. Sgt Leroy G. Hawes was promoted to S/Sgt and Pvt Glenn E. Childs was promoted to Corporal. T/4 Hill transferred in from HQ Company. At nightfall, enemy artillery opened up but we were well dug in and had no casualties. By now it was obvious that the enemy was withdrawing to the fortified area in the vicinity of Urdeneta and Cabaruan Hills to protect the line of communication along Route 3. The famous Japanese 2nd Tank Division was withdrawn along the Santa Barbara � Urdeneta Road and almost had one of its units trapped by the 1st Infantry Regiment which was leap-frogging down the road in the same direction. The 1st and 2nd Battalions converged on the town with our platoons firing heavy concentrations into the town together with other arms, including M-4 tanks of the 44th Tank Battalion. Huge fires were started and the enemy could be seen running around and providing the infantry with a turkey shoot. The town was flattened and huge quantities of supplies were destroyed together with nine tanks before the Japs were driven out. The 1st Infantry Regiment sped south on Route 3 to effectively surround the Cabaruan Hills. The 1st and 2nd platoons of Company D moved to the outskirts of Urdeneta and commenced firing to the southwest where the enemy was dug in with tanks and heavy artillery. [Editor's note: For more detail on the Battle of Cabaruan Hills, see the Addendum to this history.]"