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Capt. J. Richard Gerttula, 41st Infantry Div.,641st TDB,82nd CMB, Mar. 2, 1918-Oct. 2004

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by CAW1, Apr 2, 2017.

  1. CAW1

    CAW1 Member

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    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.]"


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    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
  2. CAW1

    CAW1 Member

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    June 13. Captain Gerttula, in an effort to improve the observation of the firing on the ridges, made arrangement to re-register the mortars from the deck of an LST outside the reef. Three tanks on board were also used in an attempt to achieve a precision adjustment on the enemy-occupied ridges. Concentrated fire was maintained until 1930 hours with apparently satisfactory results as the road was again open. Company D was again ordered to a position 100 yards north of Mokmer Drome on June 15. Registration was completed on the West Caves area in support of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Combat Team, at 1645 hours. Also taken under fire was an emplacement of four naval guns. The infantry was meeting stiff resistance in this area.

    June 16. Company D fired 400 rounds in preparation for the attack of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Combat Team, in conjunction with 81mm mortars. This time the infantry met only minor resistance and counted 50 enemy dead in the target area.

    June 17: Re-registered and fired harassing fire on the main road to West Caves.

    June 22. Mokmer Drome came into limited use by the RAAF P-40 squadron. In the meantime, the 1st platoon was firing a concentration west of Young Man's Trail in support of the 163rd Infantry Combat Team to reduce Ibdi Pocket. Again, harassing fire was placed on the enemy road net in the West Caves area. At 1310 hours, a concentration was fired in conjunction with Division Artillery and 81mm mortars on enemy artillery, resulting in its silencing. Requested replacement of one defective mortar was made. At 0415 hours, a large fire was observed in the West Caves area which lasted for 30 minutes. Air observation was maintained every day by Captain Gerttula and S/Sgt White to make sure that shells were impacting the target area.

    --

    June 23. When Company D moved to positions 300 yards east of Mokmer Drome, the East Caves area was taken under fire. This was the same area fired on June 8-13. Precision adjustment was made from the air by Lieutenant Colonel Cochran, which effectively silenced enemy interdicting fire which had been harassing the roads and jetty area. The next day, fire was continued in this area with the same good results. In the afternoon, Company D was relieved of assignment to the 162nd Infantry Combat Team and attached to the 186th Infantry Combat Team, and moved to positions 600 yards east of Borokoe Drome. Captain Gerttula acted as FO, with Pvt Kelly as radio operator, and took up position with the 3rd Battalion, 186th Infantry Combat Team, which was receiving heavy fire from concealed enemy positions. Sound sensing was used for registration as rough terrain made visual observation impossible. Later, a normal barrage of sweeping fire traversed the target area. When the infantry moved into the area it was found largely undefended, with abandoned weapons and several dazed enemy soldiers. They later asked if they had been bombarded by automatic artillery.

    June 27. S/Sgt White, who had been acting as a FO since Lieutenant Russell was killed, received a field promotion to the rank of 2nd lieutenant He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 186th Infantry Combat Team, and successfully brought down a new concentration of fire on enemy strong points. Our infantry occupied the West Caves Area with only minor resistance, and counted 32 enemy dead. Captain Gerttula was called to 41st Infantry Division HQ to plan the silencing of the East Caves Area which was again harassing what was by then the division rear area. It was decided to displace one mortar to a position 300 yards east of Mokmer Drome, to locate the caves with smoke shells for an air strike.

    June 28. The stage was set. With Captain Gerttula observing from an Air Corps OC 3, adjustment was made with smoke on the East Caves Area. The 405th Bombardment Squadron B-25's then plastered the area with tons of explosives.

    July 12. Orders were received from 6th Army HQ. The unit loaded on LST 475 from Bosnek on July 15 and arrived at Hollandia on July 17, then proceeding to the battalion area in the vicinity of Wabron Boroe. In addition to the letter of commendation to Company D from the commanding general, 41st Infantry Division, for the Biak operation, the following decorations were awarded for conduct under fire:


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    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
  3. CAW1

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    Capt Gerttula, Silver Star
    Lt Russell, Bronze Star (posthumously)
    Lt Bell, Bronze Star
    Sgt Greenshields, Bronze Star
    Pvt Koskela, Bronze Star
    Pvt Turner, Bronze Star
    Pvt Goorsky, Bronze Star

    Summary: One officer KIA (Killed In Action); one officer and six enlisted men WIA (Wounded In Action); four enlisted men injured in accidents. A total of 7,986 rounds of smoke and HE were fired in the 40 days that Company D was in action on Biak. This ended the last operation that Company D would have with the 41st Infantry Division, and the "Bastard Boys" again covered themselves with glory. Meanwhile, as Biak had gone long past the deadline for use as a heavy bomber base for the Carolines Operation, it was necessary to secure another fighter base at the head of Geelvnick Bay to short circuit any possible interference by land or sea of the staging operations for the Philippines. Noomfoor Island was the designated target and Company B was with the Task Force designated to take the air strips there.

    --

    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.

    Meanwhile, the 20th Infantry Regiment with Company A in support was approaching from the northwest. The 1st Battalion was ordered as a reconnaissance in force into the Cabaruan Hills in an effort to locate the enemy positions. It was planned to surprise the Japs by making a night march into the hills and confront them in the light of dawn. Unfortunately, the movement had to be carried out in a tropical rainstorm which made progress extremely difficult as three of the 1st platoon vehicles were bogged down. The platoon was able to struggle into Company C's perimeter by daylight and began firing for the patrol action which was developing. That afternoon the platoon was relieved by the 2nd platoon and returned to Santa Barbara to repair its vehicles. The 1st Battalion was slowly moving through the hills without finding more than a few roving enemy patrols. The enemy was apparently centering his defenses on the north flank of the Cabaruan Hills. The 20th Infantry Regiment then moved to San Jose which had previously been secured by the 1st Infantry Regiment.

    Lieutenant Bell's 3rd platoon of Company D was moving south with the 169th Infantry Regiment of the 43rd Division and joined up with Company C of the 98th CMB for several days on the Pozorrubio Road. At this time the 25th Infantry Division entered the scene and Captain Gerttula reported to Major General C. L. Mullins at San Jacinto. The two divisions were moving cautiously in an effort to corner the Japs for a knockout blow.

    By January 29, the enemy hold on San Manuel was broken at a cost to them of 3,000 casualties and the loss of 48 tanks as well as numerous field guns, mortars and machine guns. Company D was credited with the destruction of four tanks and partial credit for fifteen more, which were destroyed in conjunction with other arms. No serious casualties were sustained by Company D in this action.
    Here is an excerpt from a letter by Colonel James Dalton, CO of the 161st Infantry Regiment.

    "During the period 19-30 January 1945, Company D, 98th Chemical Mortar Battalion was attached to the 161st Infantry for attack on San Manuel, P.I. Elements of the company were employed in both direct support of assault battalions and in general support of regimental action. Throughout the period, Company D fired 3,000 rounds of smoke and high explosives in preparatory fire, support fire and normal barrage. The firing was remarkable in its accuracy and its destructive effect. Not one round fell short or in any way damaged our troops. The liaison established with front line elements and with command posts was thorough and continually efficient. I wish to state my admiration for the proficiency of Company D and to commend its officers and enlisted men for their valuable assistance in the taking of San Manuel.
    "Especially, I wish to commend Captain J. R. Gerttula, commanding Company D, who functioned under me at my command post. He was constantly alert, aggressive and cooperative. He commanded a superior unit in a superior manner. I should be pleased to have this letter made the basis of a Bronze Star award for Captain Gerttula for this cited performance."

    One more major battle was required to break General Yamashita's North-South line of communication for good. Going back to February 5, the 25th Infantry Division was coming into the picture. Captain Gerttula of our Company D reported to Major General C.L. Mullins and was assigned to the 35th Infantry Regiment at San Roque which was 1.5 miles west of Lupao. The 1st platoon was attached to the 1st Battalion and went into position in a rice paddy 300 yards in the rear of the assault companies. There was no camouflage and of course no defilade. Registration was begun in Lupao and, as the buildings began to burn, twelve Japs ran out and were caught in the ensuing volley of HE. Each probable route of the enemy approach was included in the registration fires for the night. Several unsuccessful attempts at infiltration were made after dark.

    Captain Gerttula was ordered to the U.S. on rotation, and Lieutenant John Slocum was ordered to command Company D. The company was relieved of its assignment and went into division reserve. We received our first ration of beer!

    The 6th and 43rd Infantry Divisions, with the help of the 25th, had succeeded in driving a substantial wedge between General Yamashita's north and south forces and he would no longer be able to have access to the mountains of supplies stored in Manila. How the SIXTH Army drove the enemy forces into the mountains where they could be effectively neutralized is the rest of the story.


    [Editor's note: For more detail on the Battle of Lupao, see the Addendum to this history.]

    Citations and Commendations

    Silver Star
    Pvt Joseph G. Betyn
    Capt Gilbert B. Doolittle
    Capt J. Richard Gerttula
    1st Lt Robert E. Millious
    Cpl Richard H. Myers

    Bronze Star
    2nd Lt Joseph P. Russell*
    1st Lt Benjamin Bell
    Sgt William J. Greenshields
    PFC James L. Turner
    T/5 Robert W. Goorsky
    Maj Charles R. Preston
    S/Sgt John R. Kinkey
    Capt John M. Slocum
    PFC Edmund T. Ezell
    1st Lt Darius H. Nease
    Cpl Joseph J. Ponte
    Cpl Christopher S. Franzen
    T/5 James M. Jeffery
    Sgt Martin W. Rebich
    Cpl Ingram

    *Awarded posthumously
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2017
  4. CAW1

    CAW1 Member

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    August 28, 1944
    Corvallis Gazette-Times from Corvallis, Oregon · Page 6
    Publication:
    Corvallis Gazette-Times i Location: Corvallis, OregonIssue Date: Monday, August 28, 1944Page: Page 6
    Corvallis Gazette-Times from Corvallis, Oregon on August 28, 1944 · Page 6

    Excerpt:
    CORVALLIS GAZETTE-TIMES, MONDAY, AUGUST 28. 1944 Corvalliu, Oregon Page Six

    "Richard Gerttula 0391944, field artillery, U. S. army. For gallantry ordered to withdraw from the area t village using elements of one oi us raiiauons ana uw mortar company commanded by Captain Gerttula to cover the withdrawal when the covering infantry had withdrawn. Captain Gerttula personally supervised the explicit execution of this order, remaining behind until the last of the regiment had withdrawn. The firing exceediningly accurate and effectively in such volume that very few of the enemy were able to penetrate the area and harass the withdrawal. Captain Gerttula carried out his instructions with complete disregard' for personal safety. Captain Gerttula is a graduate of Oregon State college and a member of Theta Xi fraternity. He was called to active service in February of 1941 and went overseas with the 41st Division early in 1942"

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    641st Tank Destroyer Battalion

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