web analytics
February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Fighting In The South Pacific

Eli Freundlich

Eli Freundlich

In March of ’44 we were sent to Milne Bay, New Guinea. I was assigned to the 81mm mortar squad in the 19th infantry regimen, 24th division. My job was ammo carrier – I carried 6 rockets, 3 in a vest in the front and 3 in the back (along with my backpack and rifle). We fed the rockets to the soldier shooting them. We could never see if we hit our target because the job of the mortar squad was to shoot over the heads of our riflemen on the front line to the enemy. Well, put it this way, if we did see our enemy we were in big trouble because that meant he had crossed into our lines, killing all our soldiers in front. The set up was as follows: we were in a big circle with the foot soldiers in the front all around and 2 mortar squads in the middle, short distance mortar and the 81mm. We were in regular contact with the “site man.” He was also in the front and he was the guy who radioed to us in which direction we should shoot.

The first time I saw action was at the end of ’44. We were ordered onto ships that took us to the Philippine Islands. When we reached the beach of Leyte, the landing crafts were lowered into the water. With all our gear, we climbed down a net made of manila rope to the little boats that would take us close to the beach. We waded in the water to get to dry land. The idea was to make a dash for the treeline as the beach was open target for enemy fire.

I don’t remember being particularly nervous when we landed the first time or any time although I guess I should have been. I do remember that they woke us up at 5:00 a.m. for a good, solid breakfast. Unfortunately, it consisted of pork and beans. So there went my fortifying breakfast.

A bombed Japanese city

There was one time we were surrounded on all sides by the Japs. After the war I heard we were nicknamed “The Lost Battalion.” The fact was we were not lost at all. We won that round at the end. But it did get pretty hairy while we were going through it. We ran out of supplies and the army tried to drop new ones into our lines but most of the time they missed and the Japs got them. Some of the soldiers were getting so hungry, they were stripping the trees to eat the bark. However, at the end, our reinforcements were able to break through the enemy lines and get to us.

Now somewhere in the middle of that experience, I was hospitalized for jungle rot, a kind of tropical skin disease. When I was released, they took me and other ex-patients back to our unit. We took a circuitous route through the jungle in order to avoid the enemy. We walked in single file and were loaded up with supplies to bring to the men. I was so exhausted and weighted down, that I kept throwing off supplies as we went along.

When we were in the fighting area, we generally slept nights in the foxhole. One night we crossed a creek and were ordered to dig our foxholes. The problem was it was too near the water and my foxhole kept filling up. So I sat on my metal helmet to keep myself off the wet ground. Every time I fell asleep, though, I would topple off the helmet! One night lying in my foxhole, I saw bolts of fire streak across the sky crisscrossing each other. It was shooting going on between both sides. My unit was not involved so I was able to lie there simply watching this awesome sight.

There were no religious soldiers in my unit. However, I met a few who were not in my unit. One guy named Manny Waldman was a fellow I kept up with for many years afterward. We initially met when the chaplain organized the yearly Pesach seder. It wasn’t much of a seder, just eating matzoh and drinking wine. So there in the deep jungles of the Philipines, we decided to conduct our own completely authentic seder. There was another guy, Lieberman, I think his name was, from Boro Park. We used to get together every once in a while to commiserate on how difficult it was trying to follow halacha in the jungle. Speaking of halacha, I had an interesting experience with my tefillin that wouldn’t happen in New York. They rotted. I guess from the heat and the jungle conditions. I knew we were closest to the Australian continent and Brisbane was a large city there. So I addressed a letter to the rabbi of Brisbane, (I didn’t even know if there was a rabbi in Brisbane!) explaining who I was and requesting a pair of tefillin. I had no idea how much it would cost so I enclosed five dollars. Believe it or not, I received my tefillin!

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Fighting In The South Pacific”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
18,000 Iranian Centrifuges
Reducing Iran’s Number of Centrifuges Makes a Bomb More Likely
Latest Sections Stories
Niehaus-022715

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

Mendlowitz-022715-Basket

The mishloach manos of times gone by were sometimes simple and sometimes elaborate, but the main focus was on the preparation of the delicious food they contained.

Astaire-022715-Countryside

One of the earliest special Purims we have on record was celebrated by the Jews of Granada and Shmuel HaNagid, the eleventh-century rav, poet, soldier and statesman, and one of the most influential Jews in Muslim Spain.

South-Florida-logo

Jews, wake up! Stop educating the world and start educating yourselves.

The lessons conform to the sensitivities and needs of the Orthodox community…

The program took on special significance as it marked not only the first anniversary of Rebbetzin Kudan’s levayah but also the 27th yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, a”h.

It captures the love of the Jewish soul as only Shlomo Hamelech could portray it – and as only Rabbi Miller could explain it.

Erudite and academic, drawing from ancient and modern sources, the book can be discussed at the Shabbos table as well as in kollel.

I’m here to sit next to you and help you through this Purim with three almost-too-easy mishloach manot ideas, all made with cost-conscious paper bags.

Kids want to be like their friends, and they want to give and get “normal” mishloach manos stocked with store-bought treats.

Whenever he did anything loving for me, I made a big deal about it.

“OMG, it’s so cute, you’re so cute, everything is so cute.”

A program that started with a handful of volunteers has grown exponentially to include students from a wider array of backgrounds.

Tutor. Counselor. The doctor too,
Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with you.

More Articles from Malkie Schulman
Schulman-101014-Shabbat

The power of Shabbos to heal and connect is inestimavle, Rabbi Klatzko maintains.

Schulman-100314-Magen-Yeladim

An issue of grave concern, Debbie shares, is the rising rate of abuse between older and younger children.

I wonder out loud how Ruchoma would have handled her father’s putting down the law so strongly had she been a young girl growing up 100 years later.

Young men singing – Hodu laShem ki Tov- and gunshots. That was the tragic mix of sounds heard that Friday night ten years ago when two Islamic Jihad terrorists climbed up to the yishuv, cut the gate surrounding the yeshiva and entered through the kitchen door of בית ועד הר חברון, Hebron Hills Torah Academy, better known as Yeshivat Otniel.

Dorit grew up in sunny Eilat. She was involved in sports since she was a young child. As a teenager she was the table tennis champion of Eilat, winning 2nd place in the southern regional competition and going on to win 3rd place in the national mixed double championship. At the same time, she was running marathons.

My name is Eli Freundlich. I was 18 and had just graduated Torah Voddath in Williamsburg. America had entered the war a few years before. I wanted to be drafted so was happy when I received my notice. It was July 1943 – July 27, 1943 to be exact – when I was sworn into the American Army.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/fighting-in-the-south-pacific/2012/09/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: