World War II Honor Roll

Ernest J. Speakman

Private First Class, U.S. Army


155th Infantry Regiment,
31st Infantry Division

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: July 10, 1945
Buried at: Plot 2, Grave 324
                  Barrancas National Cemetery
                  Pensacola, Florida
Awards: Purple Heart

PRIVATE FIRST CLASS ERNEST J. SPEAKMAN was born October 28, 1924 in Pennsylvania to Ernest A. and Marion Slaight Speakman. The family, which included younger brother John W. Speakman, was living in Philadelphia in 1935. The 1940 Census shows them at 6148 Russell Avenue in Pennsauken, New Jersey. The elder Speakman was then working as a printer. 

Ernest J. Speakman was inducted into the United States Army sometime after Pearl Harbor. He was killed in action while serving with Company C, 155th Infantry  Regiment, 31st Infantry Division during mopping-up operations on Mindanao in the Philippines on July 10, 1945. He was brought home to the United States and buried in Florida on August 2, 1949, his parents having moved there by 1945.

The following is excerpted United States Army's Center For Military History's essay on the Southern Philippines campaign:

The Southern Philippines Campaign usually is given short shrift in popular histories of World War II. The campaign, which the U.S. Army recognizes as ending on 4 July 1945, actually lasted until news of the Japanese surrender in early September. Recapturing the southern Philippines cost the Eighth Army approximately 2,100 dead and 6,990 wounded. The Japanese Thirty-Fifth Army lost vastly more. Overall, the campaign's primary objective, eradicating Japanese military power on the Philippine Islands, was achieved quickly and' compared to other campaigns in the Pacific, at relatively little cost.

There were several reasons for the success of Eighth Army in this campaign. At this point in the war Japanese tactical doctrine had abandoned beachfront defenses for prolonged inland defense in depth. On several occasions, rigid adherence to the new doctrine caused the Japanese to miss opportunities to inflict a tactical defeat on landing forces, opportunities that might have contributed to their goal of making each battle as long and as costly as possible. Concerns of Japanese commanders about the tenuousness of their command and control probably contributed to their unwillingness to countenance tactical flexibility, as did waning morale, the poor physical state of their troops, and general supply shortages. Thus, the Japanese soldiers waited in their prepared inland positions, relatively immobile, and were subsequently ground down in bloody small unit actions until they fled into uncharted jungle reaches where, starving and in ill health, they tried to survive until the end of the war.

Another reason for success was the great assistance that organized Filipino guerrilla forces provided. In today's parlance, the guerrillas constituted a valuable "force multiplier" for Eichelberger's units. Before landings, guerrillas harassed Japanese units and provided valuable intelligence about Japanese dispositions and the relative suitability of landing beaches. After each landing, the Filipinos eagerly fought alongside the Americans and pursued the Japanese throughout the island interiors.

The most important reasons for success, however, were the skill and determination of the entire Eighth Army. From its leader, General Eichelberger, and his staff, down through the divisions and regiments to the individual soldiers who waged the battles, all levels of Eighth Army displayed the hardened competence and professionalism that marked it as a veteran command. Even as elements of the Eighth Army fought on Luzon, Eichelberger's staffs and their naval counterparts undertook the rigorous work of planning, and then coordinating, the demanding VICTOR operations. The success of these many amphibious operations demonstrated a high level of skill and efficiency. Planners had to continuously juggle available resources and invasion dates in order to assemble the required shipping for each operatlion, particularly the Army and Navy amphibian and landing craft that carried out much of the ship-to-shore movement during the campaign. Heading the staff of Eighth Army were Brig. Gen. Clovis E. Byers, the chief of staff, and Col. Frank S. Bowen, who, as the operations officer (G-3), was particularly responsible for drawing up the VICTOR plans. Talented officers, both men were combat veterans with multiple decorations for gallantry, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest award for bravery. When combined with dedicated leadership and courageous soldiers, the result was that "Eighth Army conducted a clinic in amphibious warfare."

Any narrative of a series of operations and battles like the Southern Philippines Campaign ultimately focuses on the combat forces and their commanders. Throughout the campaign, however, supporting units provided constant and critical assistance. Although generally not recognized by either medals or newspaper headlines, their effort was as important, as strenuous, and often as dangerous as any task in the theater. Medical personnel, especially those attached to infantry units, were one such integral part of combat operations. The Medical Detachment, 124th Infantry, 31st Division, for instance, became one of only four divisional units to receive battle honors during World War II for the heroic actions of its members during the brutal fighting in Colgan Woods on Mindanao. In the course of that battle several medics were killed and others were wounded, often while aiding wounded soldiers still under fire.

Similarly pressed to their physical limits were engineer units, particularly the combat engineers. While the need to maintain a continuous advance across Mindanao placed great strain on the infantrymen, and subjected the artillery units to severe hardship, it was engineers, like those of the 24th Division's 3d Engineer Combat Battalion, who performed the herculean tasks of removing the many Japanese mines and building numerous bridges under the most primitive conditions. Farther to the north, the 31st Division's 106th Engineer Combat Battalion did the same, removing mines and rebuilding bridges over the many deep gorges, rivers, and tributaries, all in ground that seemed to consist of nothing but thick slimy mud. Such labors were crucial for achieving victory.

Ultimately, however, the success of each operation depended on the Eighth Army's lowest level, the GIs who individually and in small groups engaged the enemy. The compartmentalized terrain of the Philippines made the exercise of command and control difficult, with most tactical contests depending on the actions of small unit leaders and their men. Combat was an extremely personal affair, generally 
requiring soldiers to kill the enemy at close range. In this respect, the huge casualty disparity between the Japanese and Americans is remarkable. The difference was partly a tribute to the infantry scouts and "sneak patrols" who, at great risk to themselves, forged ahead and doggedly uncovered enemy  ambushes and positions. Given the dense jungle growth, General Eichelberger remembered, "in the end," the only way to find a Japanese position "was to send in a man with a gun." Unlike their German counterparts, Japanese bunkers were largely underground, protruding only a couple of feet above the surface. Such small camouflaged protrusions were virtually invisible, and generally for the muddy, thirsty scout warily pushing through thick underbrush, his first knowledge of a bunker's location was when the enemy soldier in it began firing at him. Once a position was discovered, the grim and frightening task of closing with and killing Japanese soldiers fell to small groups of infantrymen employing weapons they could carry-usually rifles, grenades, and flamethrowers, but sometimes knives and hands.

Given the realities of jungle combat and the rapidity with which these battles were concluded, the degree to which some of the operations were pressed might be questioned. The bitter fighting on northern Negros, where the majority of U.S. casualties occurred in the northern mountains with the attack being pushed relentlessly against a trapped enemy, the eastern Mindanao "reconnaissance-in-force" of the Kibawe-Talomo trail, and the expedition into the Agusan Valley all come to mind. Nevertheless, the moral imperative of freeing Filipino soil from Japanese occupation was a responsibility not easily abandoned. Thus, from February through July the Eighth Army conducted more than fifty landings, many of which were large operations. The Southern Philippines Campaign showcased both the U.S. Army's mastery of amphibious and littoral warfare and its ability to simultaneously conduct numerous far-flung operations over a vast area. The very success of the many operations is the best tribute to the men of the U.S. Eighth Army.

Ernest Speakman

U.S. Army


Mr. Grady Beck, Friend


St. Petersburg Times - August 8, 1945

National Cemetery Interment Record

Pensacola News-Journal - August 17, 1949