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William Gash

Private First Class, U.S. Army

32243119

151st Infantry Regiment, 
38th Infantry Division

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: March 27, 1945
Buried at: Plot L Row 14 Grave 94
Manila American Cemetery
Manila, Philippines
Awards: Purple Heart

PRIVATE FIRST GLASS WILLIAM GASH was born in Pennsylvania in 1920 to William and Rebecca Gash. His father was a machinist in one of the manufacturing plants in the Camden NJ area. His parents had both been born in England, had emigrated to the United States, and married in 1919. His father had worked in 1920 as a waiter in a restaurant in Philadelphia, he later found work as a machinist in one the many factories in the Camden NJ area. The Gash family had purchased a home at 13 State Street in Delaware Township NJ, now known as Cherry Hill. 

Private First Class William Gash worked at the RCA plant in Camden prior to entering the Army. After being inducted into the United States Army, he was assigned to the 151st Infantry Regiment, 38th Infantry Division. 

The 38th Infantry Division arrived in Hawaii on January 17, 1944. It received further training and the duty of the defense of Oahu. Elements trained in the Oro Bay area, New Guinea, from July to November; then moved to Leyte, in the Philippine Islands, in December. Enemy paratroops attempted to capture the Buri, Bayug, and San Pablo strips on December 6. The 149th Infantry Regiment destroyed organized resistance, December 11, and defended the strips until relieved, January 4, 1945. The Division landed in the San Narciso area in Southern Zambales Province, Luzon, January 28, 1945, without opposition. The San Marcelino airstrip was secured on the same day and the port facilities at Olongapo were captured on the 30th as well as Grande Island in Subic Bay after an amphibious landing. Driving west of Olongapo the 38th destroyed an intricate maze of enemy fortifications in Zig-Zag Pass. While elements landed at Mariveles on the southern tip of the peninsula, February 15, other units pushed down the east coast road to Pilar and across the neck of land to Bagac along the route of the March of Death. Bataan Peninsula was secured on February 21, although mopping-up activities remained. Elements moved to Corregidor, February 24, to clear the enemy from the Rock. Battalion-sized units assaulted and captured Caballo Island, and Fort Drum on El Fraile Island on March 27, 1944.  

Private First Class William Gash was killed in action on March 27, 1944 during the assaults on Caballo and El Fraile. It appears that Private Gash was killed during the assault on Caballo.


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CABALLO ISLAND

 Caballo, once the site of Fort Hughes, is a small barren, rocky island not far from Corregidor and another key to Manilla Bay. Less than a mile long and only a few hundred yards across, its prominent features are three hills overlooking a small flat plain. In earlier and happier days, the United States had built two sunken emplacements for 12 inch coastal mortars. The gun pits, with ten-foot concrete sides, were tied in with a system of tunnels, sealed rooms and compartments, and with ventilator shafts. The installation on what was called Hill 2 was practically impregnable.

 As expected, the Japs chose Caballo for a last ditch stand. John Cashman, an INS War Correspondent who later lost his life in Okinawa, was so right when he said " it was the scene of the most merciless, exhausting battle for its size ever seen in the Southwest Pacific. "

 The 151st Infantry was assigned the mission of seizing the island and the 2d Battalion selected for the assault. Preceded by a concentration of bombing and by artillery fire from Corregidor and Cabcaben (Bataan), Company E landed the morning of March 27th and immediately occupied Hill 1. Other troops landed and the advance on Hill 2 brought withering Jap fire. Working its way to the south of the island, Company E began the steep ascent of Hill 2. It was a job for mountain climbers. To reach the peak required moving over a two foot ledge, covered by Jai) machine gun fire from the mortar pits. Under a smoke screen, the men did reach the top. Crawling, using ropes and advancing by inches, the climb had been costly. Injuries from falls and sliding boulders alone accounted for 12 casualties.

 Reaching the top, evacuation and re-supply was a serious problem. For 36 hours the men were without food and water. Then a rope gun fired from an LCD enabled them to haul up supplies. More rope was needed for evacuation, and a small plane made a water and rope drop. The tops of the hills were secure; the little island was overrun. But the impregnable pits remained, thanks to the efficiency of the Army Engineers of bygone days. Bombardments and point blank fire was futile. Japs withdrew into the safety of the tunnels, to emerge and repel the follow-up assaults.

 The burning oil treatment was begun with a mixture of gasoline, diesel oil and napalm. Drums (55 gal) were winched up laboriously, emptied into an exposed shaft and ignited with a phosphorous shell. The inject enough for a successful blast. One account credits Lt. Col. Fred C. Dyer (Division C-4) and Captain Emory Williams with the winning idea of running a pipe line up the hill and pumping the mixture from barges into the shaft. The Division Engineer with the assistance of- an Engineer Petroleum Distributing Company worked out details. Sections of the pipe were hauled up steep slopes with ropes and connected with flexible points. A heavy-duty gas pump on one LCM was connected with oil storage tanks on another. After a test with sea water proved the system was working, 2,600 gallons were pumped into the pit and ignited with WP mortar shells. Although the explosion and ensuing fires were tremendous, it was not 1007 effective. Jap small arms fire continued. Another oil treatment was administered on April 6th. The few remaining Japs rejected an offer to surrender (delivered by dropped leaflets ) and the final dose was given on April 7th. In addition to the pumped oil, a bomb was dropped down a shaft and another bomb placed at a tunnel entrance.

 A week later the pits were cool enough to enter. Troops found complete destruction and 50 Jap dead, some of which were suicides. The operation was over. C-2 of XI Corps bad estimated enemy strength at 522. The final score was 229 killed and three prisoners, plus the 50 found dead in the pits.

 THE CONCRETE BATTLESHIP

El Fraile, a tiny reef near Corregidor in the entrance to Manilla Bay, was the site of a most unusual fortification. Built between 1912 and 1922, it took the form and general style of a battleship, with concrete sides from 18 to 30 feet thick. The deck, 40 feet above the water line, was 15 feet thick. Its two turrets provided for 14-inch guns and 6-inch guns were in side casemates. When the Americans surrendered in 1942, all guns were made inoperative. The interior had three levels, bunkers and galleries. Ventilator shafts from the top connected with ducts that lead through the interior.

 This was Fort Drum. It was about 350 feet long and 150 feet wide.  Colonel J. R. Burns, Sixty Army Chemical Warfare Officer, was well informed on the layout of Fort Drum. He had been there in 1941 to plan for gas proofing and air conditioning. Now he was helping plan its destruction.

 Again, the oil treatment seemed appropriate, but new problems were presented. The sides were high and vertical, but sloped off near the top. Profiting from war implements of medieval warriors, it was decided to build a drawbridge from the tower-like bridge of an LSM, run the LSM alongside the fort, hold it in place ( the water was rough )with LCVP's used as tugs, lower the drawbridge to the fort's deck and move the troops across this assault tower. The Navy representative was enthusiastic; the 113th Engineers built the drawbridge at Subic; plans were made to cover every possible firing point the enemy might use. There was a rehearsal on Corregidor and on April 13th the operation was launched by a reinforced platoon from Company F, 151st Infantry.

 Except for some minor drawbacks, plans worked out very well. The resulting explosion sent steel plates into the air hundreds of feet. On the fifth day smoke had cleared and the fort was cool enough to enter. Found were 60 Japs burned and suffocated. Casualties were limited to a few minor injuries.