Veterans Share Their Memories: John William Manix, May 27, 2004
I joined the National Guard in Montana. I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Montana, on the morning of December 7, 1941. We were dispatched to the West Coast for fear that the Japanese were heading to the West Coast. We were dispatched via the Queen Elizabeth out of San Francisco en route to Australia. The trip took 23 days. We were under blackout conditions for the entire 23 days. We landed at Sydney. We trained for about a year in Australia. We were at Rockhampton, and the circus was in town. The tightrope actress was also purported to be a stripper. After her performance we tried to locate her, and we asked several of the other circus performers if they knew where she would be "performing next". We got a ride back on an elephant to our camp. The guard at the gate wouldn't let us through because we were coming in on an elephant. One of us told the guard that we knew of no regulation prohibiting entry via elephant. The first sergeant threatened to demote us to private the next day. When we were called to the captain's quarters he told us what a ruckus we had made and that the colonel was also aware. The colonel made it a rule that from that day forward, no entry into camp via elephant. Our infantry eventually made it to New Guinea where we now understood we were in the war. We fought back the Japanese in their tracks. This was the first time the Japanese were stopped on their way to Australia. This was a major turning point in the war in the South Pacific.
We came upon a Japanese hospital, and many of their soldiers were booby-trapped. We lost two men before our command received word that from then on if we came upon a Japanese soldier we were to shoot them. The word was if they did not already have a hole in their head, to shoot them.
The Chicago Sun reporter who was embedded with us gave us the nickname The Butchers. After he printed his story he understood that he might be the next guy, so he took off.
During this major series of battles, about 80 percent of us were suffering from malaria. Temperatures reached 103, and we stayed in combat. In September '43 I was sent to OCS in Australia. On my graduation day I came down with malaria again. My first assignment after OCS, I was assigned to New Guinea with the Red Arrow. They were engaged with the Japanese, pushing them back north. I was a communications officer with the Red Arrow [Division] and we were in combat. The conditions were terrible. We fought most of the time in the jungle, without much food or fresh water. We looked forward to rations being airlifted into the area.
During the Battle of Aitepe [?] while walking towards another company that was without telephone service my corporal, his last name was Bunda, stepped across a booby trap and was killed instantly. The blast knocked me out. I was only about four feet from Corporal Bunda when I went down. I was hit by shrapnel in my leg, and when I woke I figured it was probably mortar fire. Later I learned the fate of Corporal Bunda.
The saddest day for me was the day we buried Corporal Bunda in a shallow grave and our bugler played Taps.
I came home before the end of the war because I had received the leg wound and had numerous bouts with malaria. Some people might think that malaria is a bad thing. For me, it got me home from the war ahead of the end and once I was well enough to go out, we were on leave in Santa Barbara at a restaurant one night where I met a beautiful girl, who later became my wife, Winnifred Ann Rudolph. I asked her if I could walk her home, and while walking I flagged down some MPs in their Jeep and they gave us a ride back to her place. She was duly impressed for it was not long after that she agreed to marry me.