Each Construction Battalion had two Supply Corps Officers. One was the supply officer responsible for supplies and the mess halls. The other was the disbursing officer responsible for all payments to the men and to venders. I was the disbursing officer for our battalion and one of my duties was to pay all of the civilian employees. We had a saw mill up in the mountains in the center of the island where some of our sailors as well as a number of civilian worked.
I remember clearly one time I made the trip to the saw mill with the payroll. I started out one morning with a petty officer armed with an automatic weapon who rode shotgun. As we were slowly making the winding, tortuous climb, about halfway up, we suddenly heard the rapid fire of an automatic weapon coming out of the jungle. We had apparently intercepted one of the Japanese patrols. The Petty officer with me swung around faced the direction of the shots and, I shifted down and did as close to a burnout that was possible on the side of that hill. (I guess I learned something from my high school driving!) We roared around the next corner and made it the rest of the way to the top, where the saw mill was located.
As soon as we arrived at the saw mill, we had them radio back to base camp to send out our patrol to intercept the enemy. They radioed back to us about two hours later that, the Japanese apparently had left the area by the time our patrol reached the spot we had been shot at. That evening I made the trip back down the mountain faster than my trip up earlier that day.
Several times each week, one of the PT boats would come into our dock to refuel and restock. These boats had three big engines on them and burned gasoline pretty fast. Their food aboard was limited to what you would call “snack food.” These guys would always arrive thirsty and hungry and they had a lot of great stories of their exploits to tell in the evening at the officers club. I am sure the stories over at the enlisted men’s club were even better.
One such story was from a Skipper of one of the boats about what they had done early that very morning. The night before had been very dark with no moon. They had quietly, with engines idling, slipped up a large river, holding close to the south bank. On the North side of this wide river was a rather large base of Japanese. The Japanese had built a whole line of outhouses out over the river on stilts.
Our guys had gone on up the river past the Japanese and spent the rest of the night up there. At early dawn with the PT boat wide open, they came barreling down the north side of the river, just a few feet out from all those out houses. They figured most of the outhouses would be occupied at that time, and they were right. The PT boat was racing as fast as it would go with all guns, 20mm canons and 50 caliber guns blazing. They said those outhouses fell like dominoes as they roared past, and the whole camp looked like a bunch of chickens running in all directions, trying to get away from a pack of dogs.
Those PT Boat guys were kind of like Navy Seals, well trained in what they do but kind of wild and crazy.
Photo of PT Boat found here.