1st Lt. Andy Carrico’s D-Company platoon, part of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, trained for five months on New Guinea in preparation for their assault on the Japanese-held island of Leyte. When his regiment landed on the beach at Leyte the enemy was nowhere to be found. But Carrico and the rest of his airborne regiment didn’t go far from the beach before they ran head-on into the Japanese in the mountainous jungle terrain.
“It was Nov. 22, 1944 when our division commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Swing took the 11th Airborne Division into the mountains at Leyte. Our mission was to follow the Japanese who were waiting for us in the jungle,” the 96-year-old resident who lives in Plantation, south of Venice, Fla. said.
“Our westward march across steep hills covered with thick, wet jungle growth was painfully slow. The Japs were everywhere in the bushes,” he said. “In addition to continuously fighting the Japs, another one of our big problems was the lack of resupply. Our C-47 transports had trouble dropping food to us.
“This meant we ate anything we could find–dogs, roots, potatoes,” Carrico recalled 65-years later. “When you’re hungry you’ll eat anything.
“It was a miserable existence. We carried our wounded with us as we fought the Japanese further and further back into the jungle. We finally came out onto the beach on the other side of Leyte on Christmas day 1944.
“Gen. Swing promised us the best Christmas dinner we had ever eaten if we ran the Japs off Leyte. He kept his word. We had turkey with all the trimmings. Problem was everybody got sick because we weren’t used to eating so much good food all at once,” Carrico said with a smile.
“Official reports said we killed 5,700 Japanese on Leyte by actual count. I estimate my platoon killed 300 on Dec. 22 alone. Altogether our platoon probably killed 500 between Nov. 22, when we went into the mountains, and Dec. 24, when we came out,” he said.
Shortly after reaching the far shore of Leyte, Carrico and his airborne troopers were taken by ship to Mindoro Island in the Philippines. It took the unit three days to reach its destination.
“We flew off in C-47 transports from Mindoro and headed for the drop zone at Tagaytay Ridge near Lake Taal on the island of Luzon. The weather was beautiful when we jumped into a farmer’s field at 8:30 a.m.
“We jumped at 600 feet. It was a nice soft landing. We encountered no Japanese.
“Once we got on the ground we headed for Manila about 30 miles away. We walked along a concrete road for miles until we reached the town of Imus where the Japanese were waiting for us,” he said. “We ran into a hornet’s nest of Japanese Imperial Marines who were holding a warehouse. After fighting to capture the warehouse all day we finally decided it was too strongly defended by the enemy and bypass what was left of the badly damaged building.
“The 11th’s new mission was to pierce the Genko Line, a strong belt of Japanese fortifications encircling the southern side of Manila. There was an extensive network of concrete pillboxes beginning at the Paranaque River four miles outside the city.
“Company D, our unit, finally crossed the Paranaque River fighting the Japanese all the way, at times it was hand-to-hand combat,” he said. “We finally reached the Polo Field in Manila, our destination.”
It was at this point the 11th Airborne made a side expedition to rescue 2,000 civilian prisoners of war being held at the Los Banos POW camp–men, women and children.
“These prisoners had been living in wooden shacks in this camp for three years before we arrived,” Carrico recalled.
“They weren’t too sure about leaving their homes with us. We had to burn their shacks to get them to leave.
“We took them into downtown Manila to another prison compound where American troops provided them with medical attention and food,” he said. “Things were looking up for them after that.”
On March 1, Company-D went back into action. It attacked Mt. Bijang, a minor hill held by the Japanese south of Manila. All day long the soldiers in D-Company came under heavy enemy fire. Nineteen of the company’s men were killed or wounded in the attack on the hill. Four in Corrico’s platoon were hit, including himself.
“I got shot in the shoulder and the right hand and I lost a finger,” the old soldier said. “I had been firing at the enemy when a Jap bullet hit my finger, ricocheted off my rifle stock and hit me in the shoulder.
“I was taken to a MASH unit and operated on. From there I was flown by Piper Cub to the docks on the beach, put aboard a boat and taken to a hospital ship off shore,” he said. “I ended up in a hospital somewhere in the Pacific where I spent several months recuperating. It took us three weeks to reach California by ship — the food was good and the nurses were pretty.”
Carrico took a train across country to Fort Meade, Md. where he was discharged from the Army in Dec. 1945.
“I went back to work for Western Electric as a phone installer. This was the company I was working for before I went in the service in 1941,” he said. I spent the next 30-plus years working for Western before retiring in the late 1970s.”
He and his second wife, Jane, retired to Venice in 2000. They have five children between them from previous marriages. Carrico’s children include: Andrew IV, Michael and Shelley. Jane has a son and daughter, Richard and Candace.
Name: Andrew Carrico, III
D.O.B: 31 Oct. 1917
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Currently: Venice, Fla.
Entered Service: Feb. 1941
Discharged: Dec. 1945
Rank: 1st Lt.
Unit: 1st Parachute Infantry Regiment
Commendations: Two Purple Hearts, Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and World War II Victory Medal.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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