163rd Ordnance Maintenance Company
This article was written in 1946 by Judson Cates, Commanding Officer 163rd From February to August 1945.
THE 163d Odnance Maintenance Company was organized in May 1943 at Fort Ord, California by a merger of the 163d Ordnance Platoon (Armament) and the 3499th Ordnance Company (Automotoive.
Nearly every man in both organizations had been with the 3d Brigade thoughout its history, receiving training at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, and Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida before moving to Fort Ord. Hardly had the new company been organized before the entire armament section and many of the automotive platoon departed for the anti-aircraft firing range in the California desert south of Death Valley. Here they helped set up and maintained over 200 water-cooled machine guns on a continuous 2.5 mile firing line. Despite the heat and unpleasant forms of wild life the company profited greatly from the training as it dosclosed the weaknesses of automatic weapons when exposed to flying sand and when fired with relatively prolonged bursts.
The next trip - a far more enjoyable one - was to a bivouac in Yosemite National Park where amidst scenes of unrivaled beauty the outfit learned the rudiments of living in the field. Like the rest of the Brigade the Ordnancve Company's late summer and fall was devoted to collecting equipment and impatiently awaiting final orders to the port of embarkation.
December 22d found it aboard ship bound for the SWPA, and in January it debarked into the bottomless goo of Goodenough Island. Here it had the same miserable introduction to life in the tropics as did much of the Brigade. Its initial task in addition to repair work on the few Brigade vehicles in operation was assembling hundreds of crated, knocked down trucks and jeeps in scattered dumps hip deep in mud. In addition, much ordnance equipment including hundreds of automatic weapons was seriously damaged by being flooded in storage dumps, and the 163d had to take all these apart and restore them to operable condition. For several weeks the men worked to the limit of their endurance and finallly succeeded in putting in shape the mountains of ordnance materiel that the Brigade wpuld need in its operations.
In March 1944, the company moved up to Finschhaven and established itself on the Nugudu Peninsula building shops and a ball diamond and acquiring fame as having the best company ball team in the Finschhafen base area. The company had been designed to operate as a unit supporting the operations of an amphibian brigade that was reasonably concentrated. Thus the wide scattering of units of the 3d Brigade along the 1600 mile coast of New Guinea made it imperative that the Ordnance Copany be split up and sent out as detachments if it was to do more than operate an elegant rear echelon motor pool and repair shop. In June, therefore, Detachment One sonsisting of 15 men and one officer, Lt. Jacl Enos, moved up to Aitape and there became a permanent attachment of the 533d EBSR. The detachment's equipment included a shop truck, wrecker, a balanced assotment of tools and parts to perform third echelon and many types of fourth echelon work on all vehicles and weapons issued to the Regiment. The value to the Regiment's self-sufficincy was immediately obvious and led to the formation of similar detachments to operate with the 543d and 593d EB&SRs.
Within the deatchment work was divided betweenan automotive section which operated in the regimental headquarters motor pool area and an armament section which did most of its work at the Boat Battalion's base on seleo Island. The automotive section was further subdivided into general automotive repair, battery and small engine, carburetion and ignition, welding, emergency salvage, and parts supply sections. Though ar all times badly handicapped by having too few men, this section did yeoman work in keeping the vehicles of the Regiment in first class condition and repairing wrecked vehicles which otherwise would have been salvaged by task force ordnance oufits and in most cases not replaced.
The weapons section, in addition to assisting the boat companies armorers with their scores of issue machine guns, lent valuable assistance during the arming of the early LCMGs with their varied types of automatic cannon, american and Japanese.
In the Lingayen Gulf landing the Ordnance Detachment after helpingwaterproof hundreds of vehicles, found itself with the critical assignment of operating a vehicle dewaterproofing and emergency repair station on White Beach. Vehicles once waterproofed can only be driven a few hundred feet without serious damage from overheating, and yet are often desperately needed immediately after debarkation. So expediting stripping off the dewaterproofing materials and inspecting to see that this is done completely is a vital shore party function. So also is resuscitating vehicles that drown out. either because of poor waterproofing or going into deep shell holes. Not only was this service to the assault troops but it also helped keep the beach clear of dead vehicles which would gravely hamper the shore party itself.
As soon as the Regiment settled down to routine work, the 163d had its shops established and was reapiring the serious damage done to vehicles duringthe first hectic days of the invasion. Work grew heavier rather than lighter as the departure for Mindinao approached, butthe Regiment's vehicles were all in passable shape when loaded out in March.
In Parang, Mindinao, the Ordnance men performed the same functions on R day and then established themselves in one of the few buildings the naval gunfire and termites left standing. It had been fighting a losing battle with the termites, with nearly half the second story caved in; yet it had a concrete floor and made the best shop the detachment had seen since leaving fort Ord. Two months in Parang were followed by three weeks at Bugo with an interesting motor convoy trip via Malabang and Lake Lanao in between.
In July the detachment accompanied Regimental Headquarters Company to Leyte and thence to Oahu and finally to Wakayama and Kure Japan. in mid-October, to facilitate redeployment of the men and turning in equipment, all personnal of the detachment were transferred to the 533d, and Detachment One 163d Ordnance Maintenance Company was no more.
In sixteen months with the Regiment the handful of Ordnance men had contributed far out of proportion to their numbers to the ultimate effectiveness and success of the 533d.
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