Verbatim: Robert B. Heer

Verbatim: Robert B. Heer

Sequim's Robert Heer joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. By 1942 he was serving as a carpenter in the 19th Bomb Group in the Philippines. This is his retelling of the events of March 13, 1942:

_First Sgt. Phillip LaVine's whistle shattered the stillness. I quickly vacated my bedroll and while half-standing grabbed my two constant companions: a Springfield 30-caliber rifle and a World War I helmet.

I could vaguely make out three figures moving back and forth between an Army jeep and two GI six-by trucks. One was Lt. Col. John P. Woodbridge, commander of the 81st Field Artillery.

The hooded headlights of Col. Woodbridge's jeep flashed on ... my wristwatch showed 2 a.m.

Minutes later Woodbridge gave the order, 'Stand at ease.' He walked slowly down each rank, hand-picked 20 men and dismissed the others. I was one of the 20. He then informed us, in an almost inaudible voice, that we had been chosen for a very important mission. 'Remain very quiet and do not fire your weapon during this mission ... even if attacked by the enemy.'

We boarded two six-by Army trucks parked behind the colonel's jeep.

The trucks rumbled down the dirt road leading toward Cagayan dock.

A small party of Army field grade officers were already there. (An) officer quickly posted each one of us for guard duty. Near my post I recognized Major Gen. William F. Sharp, commander of the Visayan-Mindanao Forces.

As the first burst of sunlight pushed over the horizon, the roar of engines could be heard. The general shifted a large pair of high-powered binoculars to his eyes and began to scan the horizon far to the north. Suddenly he froze. 'I've got 'em dead in sight!' he declared.

There on the horizon's edge I could make out a small, gray object bobbing up and down in the sea. It was soon close enough to recognize as a U.S. Navy PT boat.

A few hundred yards out the boat's engines were throttled back and the bow of PT-41 settled down. Two of her crew quickly secured the PT-41 to the dock.

I'll never forget the events that unfolded. Exiting the cabin door of PT-41 was Gen. Douglas MacArthur followed by his wife, Jean, his son Arthur, his Chinese nurse auCheu and Gen. Richard Sutherland. All were visibly wet and seasick.

It seemed that I was hallucinating.

Two days later MacArthur and most of his group from Corregidor were transported by B-17 Flying Fortresses to Australia.

A strong feeling of being left behind crept over me.

Although Gen. MacArthur said, 'I shall return,' most of us left behind in the Philippines now referred to him as 'Dug-out Doug.'_

Heer was correct. MacArthur was able to escape, first from Corregidor, then Mindanao, but within three months Heer and his fellow soldiers on Mindanao were taken prisoner. Heer spent the next three years in Japanese POW camps.

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