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Myron Swanson

Staff Sergeant 
24th Infantry Division
19th infantry regiment
2nd battalion, Company E
2nd platoon

BAR gunner during the battle of the Philippines

Mr. Myron Swanson was born in 1926 and grew up on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression. He remembers this time in his life vividly. He was the fifth of seven children, having two brothers and four sisters. Times were tough and he remembers the struggles he and his family faced. He worked on the family farm until he was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18. 

Mr. Swanson received notice that he was to report for an indoctrination physical as did many of his age group. He was ordered to report to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and three months after his 18th birthday, he was inducted into the United States Army. He was sent from Jefferson Barracks to Camp Robinson, Arkansas, an Infantry Training Replacement Center (IRTC). He trained for 17 weeks and was sent home for a week before being sent ON TO Fort Ord, California for follow on training. 

His days at Fort Ord were busy ones and Mr. Swanson believes that the reason for such was to keep the men preoccupied; otherwise, there would be problems and fighting (some things don’t change). After numerous training exercises, the men were ordered aboard trucks and sent to San Francisco. This was the same day that FDR died. 

The men boarded the USS General E. T. Collins on April 12th, 1945, and left out of San Francisco Harbor. Mr. Swanson swore the mast would hit the golden gate bridge, but the ship made it. The men spent 27 days aboard the ship on their way to the Pacific.


The men were kept busy, being fed two meals a day, and were afforded many activities in order the keep the men from "fighting and getting in trouble". Mr. Swanson remembers the men's spirits not being very high, as they knew where they were headed. The ship traveled in a zigzag pattern to avoid enemy ships. They made this voyage with their sister ship, the USS General Hersey.

The ship landed and traveled through the Solomons, passing many iconic battlefields such as Guadalcanal. The ship docked off the coast of Leyte, and the men took Higgins boats ashore, landing at the same spot General MacArthur had landed several months prior. Swanson remembers seeing the destruction from the fighting, recalling that the palm trees all had their tops shot off. 

Mr. Swanson was sent to the replacement depot on Leyte, waiting for the Navy LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) to pick him and his comrades up. These boats could transport a company of men. They spent four days traveling south to Mindanao in the Philippines.
The LCI dropped a stairway into the five feet deep water, and Swanson recalls walking down the staircase with all of his gear into the surf.


He was picked up by truck and after an hour's drive, he would join his new home, the 19th Infantry regiment, 24th Infantry Division. His first assignment would be guarding civilians as they returned to the city of Davao following the major combat within the area. He remembers families carrying all their earthly possessions, carrying children, clothes, and animals. After the civilians safely returned, the unit received orders to move on. The men were sprinkled around to different outfits as combat casualty replacements.

When arriving at his new unit, Swanson remembers sleeping in his shelter half (Each troop carried half of a tent, to be combined with another servicemember) and digging foxholes. They would carry a day's worth of C and K rations. These rations contained cans, coffee, toilet paper, and cigarettes. This would later lead to a joke among the men that they should sue the government for giving them cigarettes.  

Some of the men in his outfit had been in the fight since the invasion of New Guinea. Malaria was widespread and rats were a common problem. Many of the men suffered from jungle rot, including Swanson himself. He was given penicillin by the medics, and he saw significant improvement. 

His unit was headquartered on the outskirts of the city of Davao. Out of this base, the men would conduct patrols and live in the elements for the following months. They lived out of their duffle bags, relying on the limited supplies of clean clothes And equipment. Most missions occurred at night, and they would often encounter pockets of Japanese soldiers. These missions would vary in length, from days to weeks. The men were always happy to return to the company area. Swanson remembers special occasions when hot food was brought in by jeep. By this time the men were sick of their C and K rations. 

The men would dig their own foxhole once they arrived at their destination for the night. Swanson remembered having no difficulty in this aspect of soldiering due to his upbringing on the farm. He was happy that “it finally paid off.” They would set up the perimeter at night and the officers would set up in the center of the formation. The enlisted would pull 2-hour guard shifts throughout the night, pulling two shifts per night. Every outside movement was treated as hostile. Myron remembers the Japanese taunting them at night, attempting to imitate English words, and making goofy noises.

Swanson remembers a man of his platoon named Danny, who had been overseas for roughly two years. Danny woke up in the middle of the night and mistook Swanson for a Japanese soldier. He began beating Swanson with his rifle until Swanson cried for Danny’s help. it was then that Danny realized that this was his friend, not a Japanese soldier. The next day Danny was sent back to the United States. Swanson never found out what happened to him.

Swanson would spend 6 months in combat in the Philippines. During this time Swanson carried the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). He was chosen due to him being the tallest in his platoon. He worked with the Philippine guerilla forces on occasion. These forces were trained by American officers and proved to be much help to the troops fighting in the region.

The Japanese had dug in on a mountain named Mount Apo. The men of the 19th Infantry Regiment tried for days to gain a foothold in the mountains. Swanson remembers the snaps of bullets constantly ringing over his head. They were pinned down by machine gun fire. They were told to get down in their holes as they awaited an airstrike. They sent 17 B-25 bombers to bomb the ridge. After this bombing run, the men were able to take the mountain almost unopposed. Mr. Swanson recalls a near friendly fire incident where a bombing run was called in on their own position. No one was injured luckily. 

Myron recalls being sent in to clean up casualties after an ambush. It was here that he found his friend Conrad Robak’s helmet. That was all that was left of him. A mortar shell had killed him. The two had plans to meet after the war, but it was never to be. Occurrences like this were not uncommon, and Swanson recalls many of his friends who made the ultimate sacrifice, many just 18 years old.
Swanson recalls a patrol through a coconut grove where his platoon Sergeant was killed by a sniper. Swanson recalls him being one of the nicest men, from Corpus Christi Texas. A single shot rang out and hit his friend directly through the heart. The Platoon Sergeant, just 28 years old was just three feet from Swanson at the time of his death. The men in his squad eliminated the sniper within 30 minutes. After taking out the sniper, the men brought their platoon sergeant back to friendly lines.  

Swanson recalls hearing the news when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. Just a week before his 19th birthday. He was sent to mainland Japan for the Occupation. He remembers the Japanese civilians watching them land ashore. He recalls young Japanese girls asking about the actress Shirly Temple. Swanson was able to travel throughout Japan, taking in the sights and tourist destinations. 

Returning to the States, Swanson was discharged out of Illinois. He had made Staff Sergeant within just two years, even being offered a commission as a Second Lieutenant. Swanson turned it down to return home, marrying his girlfriend who would become his wife of 68 years. Swanson would attend reunions for his outfit throughout the years following the war. He currently lives in Davenport, Iowa. 



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