SWEDE’S 6X6 – A TRUCK WITH THE 32ND DIVISION IN THE PACIFIC

No. 435907 went from Camp Livingston, La., to Luzon and is still going strong.

By Sgt. Ozzie St. George

YANK Staff Correspondent

WITH THE 32nd INFANTRY DIVISION ON LUZON—CWO Ernest (Swede) Larsen of Alma Center, Wis., hoisted one foot to the hub of the six-by-six with the numerals T-11 S-11 painted on its bumper. “These GMCs,” he said, “are a damn good truck.”



32nd infantry division luzonIn mid-December of 1941 Pfc. Ernest Larsen of Service Company, 128th Infantry, was in Camp Livingston, La., with the rest of the 32nd Division. In the first flush of war, the 32nd was on a semi-alert basis restricted to six-hour passes. (“And leave a telephone number where you can be reached”), pulling guard duty in New Orleans. There was scuttlebutt, of course, in the division about a POE.

With 13 months reasonably active service behind it, the 32nd Division did have a certain priority on equipment. And among other items the division received during these flurried days, the service company of the 128th got 18 trucks, cargo, two and one-half ton, six-by-six, GMC; among them USA No. 435907.

Over Christmas and the New Year and through January of 1942, Pfc. Larsen rolled No. 435907 to and from New Orleans in guard convoys. “New Orleans,” he remembers, “was a good town.” In February, when the 32nd Division shuttled North to Fort Devens, Mass., Pfc. Larsen and No. 435907, carrying the service company kitchen, rolled up through the Deep South across Maryland, the Delaware and New Jersey, in convoy—“a good lick.”

Larsen made corporal at Devens. No. 435907 hauled GIs to and from the rifle range; GIs on pass to and from Boston; rations, garbage, miscellaneous. It was impounded once, overnight, by Boston MPs, when a guy named Finney leaned it against a lamp post and left it there.

32nd division insignia

Insignia of the 32nd Infantry Division

In early April there were more rumors of a POE. Twenty-four hours a day no. 435907 hauled organizational equipment to Fort Devens sidings. Then, loaded up with the company kitchen, No, 435907 was braced and chained to a flatcar. Cpl. Larsen, now a dispatcher, didn’t see No. 435907 again until late May.

The 32nd Division went to a POE all right, and it was San Francisco, No. 435907 crossed the U.S. to Frisco chained to its flatcar then crossed the Pacific in a forward hold. The 32nd debarked at Adelaide, South Australia, in mid-May, and went into camp about 32 miles northeast of the city. About the 20th of the month Cpl. Larsen and a detail of drivers went into Port Adelaide and picked up their trucks.

No. 435907 saw a lot of Adelaide for two and a half months. Adelaide laid down its welcome mat for the 32nd, and on a couple of occasions 435907 was AWOL. Larsen, who had made sergeant, used to sweat out his GMCs in those days like a B-24’s ground crew sweated out the return of their Big Lib from a mission. The highway to Adelaide—a twisting bituminous affair—wound over a 4,000-foot mountain hump. “Why we didn’t lose a dozen trucks over the side I’ll never know,” Larsen admits, “what with guys coming home plotzed and forgetting to drive on the left.”

No. 435907 survived, however, and in late July it hauled organizational equipment back to Port Adelaide for coastal transport to Brisbane, Queensland. Then, packed with tentage, No, 435907 was chained to another flatcar. The rail trip to Brisbane was a long, dirty, cold affair, with a change of railway gauge that meant two days of unloading and reloading. A few bottles of Scotch (you could still buy Scotch in July 1942) helped ease the discomfort to some extent.



32nd infantry division

The highway to Adelaide was a rough run. A twisting, bituminous affair, it would over a 4,000 foot hump.

Larsen was a staff sergeant on the trip. In Brisbane he mothered No. 435907, hauled lumber, logs, gasoline, rations, Coca-Cola, and Allied Works Council laborers for two months.

The 128th Infantry left Brisbane the day before their camp’s showers were ready for New Guinea and what was to become the battle for Buna. No. 435907 was left behind with the division ordnance company. The regiment did take six of its GMCs to Guinea; three were lost in a Milne Bay bombing; two weren’t worth the bother of bringing back when the regiment returned to Australia in February 1943. The one they did bring back slipped its sling and disappeared into Brisbane harbor as it was being unloaded.

Ordnance reissued No. 435907 to the service company. Larsen became a master sergeant. No. 435907’s speedometer collapsed somewhere between 16,900 and 17,000 miles.

In October of 1943 the 32nd Division embarked again, this time for Goodenough Island off Guinea’s northeast coast. There were no more plush runs for No, 435907 for a long time. On Goodenough the 32nd Division built another camp. Larsen made WO. No. 435907 ground over coral, forded streams, bounced through Goodenough’s potholes, wallowed in sand, and added Boongs, bamboo and grass thatch to its list of freight carried. No. 435907 was on the road, or what passed for a road, 24 hours a day for a period of about two months, except when deadlined for flats and engine change.



32nd division saidor

Soldiers of the 32nd Division wade through a stream in Saidor.

In late December, about the time the 32nd Division was firmly and comfortably established on Goodenough, the 128th Infantry packed up and sailed for Finschhafen, across the Huon Gulf. No. 435907 groaned in and out of LSTs—loading the regiment at Goodenough, unloading a part of it at Finsch, loading it again two weeks later. The next-time No, 435907 lurched off the ramp of an LST it was at Saidor, in early January 1944. Saidor secured, No, 435907 caught another three months of the 24-hour business, over Saidor’s wretched trails, loaded mostly with gasoline.

The wet season was in full swing; No. 435907 ground through most of those days and nights in low range. Sometimes, hitching its winch rope to a battered palm some distance ahead, it pulled itself along, hand-over-hand, so to speak.

No. 43507 went into the surf again in May, loading the regiment for its hope to Aitape. At Aitape, No. 435907 splashed in and out of the surf and growled up and down the beach for three hard months. The salt water and the sand raised hell with the transmission, bearings, brakes and under-belly generally. When the 128th left Aitape in September for a brief staging at Hollandia, it was a pretty battered, creaking no, 435907 that loaded and unloaded regimental service company equipment. The truck got a brief overhaul and a second engine change in Hollandia, and thus rehabilitated, as was the 128th, shoved off for Leyte.

Leyte was a repetition of Saidor and Aitape with a few added refinements thrown in. In the Ormoc corridor shrapnel sprinkled the roads and in one brutal week, No, 435907 had 23 flats. The Service Company motor pool on Leyte was a rutted quagmire, so deep in mud that No 435907 and the rest of the company’s trucks had to be winched in and out of their gas dump. When the 128th was relieved in mid-January, after two months service, No. 435907 was again somewhat the worse for wear.

The truck, Larsen guesses, had about 43,000 speedometer miles behind it at that time. Its temperature gauge had long ceased functioning; its cushions were torn and splattered with mud and thick with grease. On the driver’s side the bare springs stuck out like a compound fracture. The glove-compartment door flapped in the breeze. The windshield wiper was a thing of the past; neither window rolled up or down. But as the regiment left Leyte, in late January, and was flung into the Luzon fighting on the Ville Verde Trail six weeks later, No. 435907 was still plugging along, hailing ammunition, water, rations, Filipino carriers.

The 128th came off the trail late in April 1945, and No. 435907, ineligible for rotation, was kicked upstairs to a soft supply job. No. 435907, one of the two GMCs left of the original 18, is now the service company water truck. Something of a letdown, CWO Larsen thinks, for a faithful truck, cargo two and a half ton, six-by-six GMC, going into its fourth year overseas.

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