Bits 'n' Pieces: Memories of WWII Jungleers

Published:

 
photoWorld War II veteran Ed Bartlien

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

PARADE INFO

The 26th annual Veterans Parade at Fort Vancouver presented by Lough Legacy begins at 11 a.m. today at the Marshall House, 1301 Officers Row.

"Sunset Division" conjures up a nice image of an outfit that wound up in such a grueling campaign.

The National Guard unit earned another nickname that's part of a film title -- "The Jungleers in Battle: A Documentary of the 41st Infantry in WWII."

A lot of Jungleers had Clark County links, including Ed Bartlien, a longtime Vancouver resident who lives in Hood River, Ore.

In 1939, the 17-year-old Portland high-schooler and four friends enlisted in the National Guard to earn some spending money.

"We lied about our ages," he said. "The lieutenant took all our driver's licenses and had the ages changed."

In 1940, the National Guard division was called into federal service. When the war started, the 41st was the first American division sent overseas.

Floyd D. Taylor, a Skamania County native, told interviewer Alisha Hamel how bunks were stacked high atop each other in their transport ship. The guys in the top bunks had to climb, but occupants of the lower bunks had other issues.

"If somebody got sick, look out below. And we did get sick," he said in an interview taped before his death.

"We were overseas longer than any other American soldiers -- almost four years," said Bartlien, who organized a 2009 Jungleer reunion in Vancouver.

During the Pacific campaign, "We made more landings than any other group of soldiers," he said.

Even after taking an island, they weren't out of the enemy's range. Bartlien recalled an air raid on his camp. When he emerged from a shelter, "I went back to my hammock and there was a hole right through it.

"I was ticked off that my hammock was ruined," Bartlien said. And then he looked at the bright side. "Thank God I wasn't in it."

Taylor said he joined an artillery regiment because it had trucks, which would mean less marching. But most of the trucks were destroyed in a bombing raid, and the mountains of New Guinea were no place for trucks anyway.

When pack horses refused to haul their disassembled artillery pieces, they became infantrymen.

"I joined the artillery to ride," Taylor said, "and we walked 1,700 miles."

Hamel, the film's director, is a lieutenant colonel in the Oregon National Guard and executive director of the Historical Outreach Foundation. The film is available at www.historicaloutreach.com/.-- Tom Vogt

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. Email bits@columbian.com.