At the War Department's meeting in the Fall of 1942 a 76th Tank Battalion was selected to be re-designated as the 727th Amphibian Tractor Battalion, with activation at that hour being scheduled for sometime in January 1944 at Fort Ord, California.
In November 1943, the matter was turned over for implementation to the War Department's Adjutant General R. S. Kissiner. On January 4, 1944, there was issued from that Adjutant General's Office and Order designated as AG-322- (1 Jan 44)-OB-I-ONGCT-M. with the title, "Reorganization, Re-designation, Constitution and Activation of Amphibious Tank and Tractor Battalions."
That Order directed Lt. General William H. Simpson, Commanding Officer of the U.S. 4th Army located at the Presidio of San Francisco, CA, to begin the activation of the 726th and 727th Amphibian Tractor Battalions, along with the re-designation of the 536th Armored Infantry Battalion into the 536th Amphibian Tractor Battalion; the 773rd Amphibian Tank Battalion into the 773rd Amphibian Tractor Battalion. The Order also called for the reorganization of the 534th Amphibian Tractor Battalion.
So on January 26, 1944, at the wooden remains of an old Civilian Conservation Corps' Camp in the East Garrison of Fort Ord, CA, and under the direction authority of General Order No. 6 dated January 10th, 1944, Colonel William S. Triplet, Commanding Officer of the 18th Armored Forces Group, directed that the 727th Amphibian Tractor Battalion be activated ASAP. It was by that action that our battalion was finally brought into the world with Major Francis R. McLavy as its Commanding Officer.
Over the next four month, our battalion saw inflow and outflow of officers and enlisted men. Soon three companies were formed. Training in the operation and maintenance of the Landing Vehicle, Tracked, or LVT, as well as in military tactics of amphibious assaults on hostile shores was a daily occurrence. Later in April 1944, Ft. Ord was visited by Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Marshall, who was quite impressed with what he saw.
In May, our orders for overseas operations were received and all ready themselves for the movement. The entire battalion moved to Camp Stoneman for final departure. Here, we received our inoculations. Then on 15 June 1944, we moved from Camp Stoneman to Oakland Pier #21 via the USS Catalina via the Sacramento River. Then we boarded the USS Willard A. Holbrook. The next day, we departed under the Golden Gate Bridge.
After a month’s transport using a zig zag pattern to avoid enemy submarines, our ship came to New Guinea. We arrived at our final destination on 16 July 1944, Tjeweri Beach, Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. Over the ensuing weeks, we received our LVT-4s and prepared them for the upcoming assaults.
OPERATION KING-TWO (LEYTE)
For Operation King-Two, Headquarters Company and Company A of our Battalion were attached to the 24th Infantry Division with 1st Platoon, Co. A ordered to support the 19th Infantry Regiment and 3rd Platoon, Co. A ordered to support the 34th Infantry Regiment with 2nd Platoon, Co. A and Headquarters Company would be employed as the situation warranted.
Thirty years after the Leyte invasion, Major Gen. Aubrey S. Newman (Colonel in command of the 34th Infantry Regiment in October 1944) wrote an article for the Taro Leaf, the official Newsletter for the 24th Infantry Division Association. In Volume XXVIII, Number 2 (1974-1975) on Page 3 is Maj. Gen. Newman's story entitled "Unforgettable Is The Word For Him." He recounts the events the day after the initial invasion (21 October 1944) including when Col. Newman commandeered one of our Battalion's LVTs and used it to survey the aftermath.
On 22 October 1944, Major Henry Gocio of the 34th Infantry Regiment approached T/5 Andrew Sapp, driver for Cpl. Rade Allen's LVT, and asked if the machine guns of this craft could be used to take out a machine gun nest that had pinned down the advance of their infantry unit for the previous 24 hours. Cpl. Allen navigated his LVT along the T/5 Sapp and T/5 Monnick over 500 yards down Highway #1 with their machine guns hitting every obvious target. When they turned around, a Jap soldier made a suicide run at the LVT, laid a land mine under the track and disabled this LVT while injuring Allen and Sapp. Sgt. Beach with T/5 Ashcroft and T/5 Copeland immediately pushed their LVT forward to come to the aid of the disabled LVT. Cpl. Allen's LVT was credited with over 60 enemy kills and their mission was a great success. Meanwhile, 1st Platoon was supporting the 19th Infantry Regiment in its attacks of enemy forces in and around Hill #522 and in Palo.
Then on 2 November 1944, our Battalion moved 33 miles overnight to Carigara where the 24th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division were merging to battle the entrenched enemy. We completed our move in two and one-half hours and took up a defensive position for the night. The next day a reinforced company of the 34th Infantry used 3rd Platoon LVTs to make an amphibious assault behind enemy lines at a point four miles from Capoocan. Unbenounced to the landing force, the enemy had been able to press into northern Leyte the vaunted 1st Japanese Infantry Division and was concentrating its forces near the landing area. Within 30 minutes, the 3rd Platoon LVTs were called to return to the landing area and get the men of the 34th Infantry out of harms way. Lt. Corbin lead his Platoon back to the shore and successfully retrieved the infantry.
Due to the heavy rains, the roads became unpassable to anything but our LVTs. The Japs were also using delaying tactics by destroying the bridges, which pressed some of our LVTs into ferrying service until the Engineers could build pontoon bridges.
On 10 November 1944, a force of our LVTs were used to make another amphibious landing with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry at a point three miles north of Pinamopoan. The 727th's bivouac was moved to Capoocan this day also. The next day, a group of our LVTs made an overwater advance through the Biliran Strait to Calubian, down the Naga River to Consuegra then overland to Agahang. Casualties were returned from the front lines in our LVTs following the same route in reverse. This was a six-hour round trip. Since this was such a long mission, we established a forward Battalion post at Calubian on 12 November 1944. We continued this resupply every day until the 34th Infantry was pulled off the line on 7 December 1944. This would become known as the Battle of Kilay Ridge. During this period, Sgt. Harry Williams of Company A received a chest would on a mission near Pinamopoan.
One week before being relieved, members of the Battalion witnessed the enemy landing at San Isidro on 7 December 1944. They made the initial report of enemy counter-offensive. Lt. Col. Clifford of the 34th Infantry placed all of the LVT crews based in Calubian under his direct control and prepared to defense the entire Calubian Peninsula. The radios on the LVTs were the only line of communications between the 34th Infantry and X Corps Headquarters.
We also were supporting the 19th Infantry Regiment and then the 127th and 128th Infantry Regiments (aka 32nd Infantry Division) when they relieved the 24th Infantry Division (excluding the 1st Battalion of the 34th Infantry) on 17 November 1944. Other units aided by our Battalion during this period included the 39th Quartermaster War Dog Platoon and the 7th Portable Hospital. Our LVTs also transported a party of eight local dignitaries, including Mr. Minusa, Mayor of barrio of Leyte, and Raphael Martines, Senator-at-large, to a meeting in Carigara with Philippines Pres. Osmena and Gen. MacArthur. We evacuated two liaison flyers of XXIV Corps and their damaged artillery liaison plane from the town of Leyte to Capoocan. One LVT was used by the Air Corps Technical Intelligence unit to salvage a downed enemy Naval plane submerged in the Biliran Strait at Villalon. On 4 December, our tractors based in Calubian picked of three survivors of a B-25 shot down by the enemy near Daha. Our efforts continued until the entire Battalion was pulled off the line on 14 December 1944.
OPERATION MIKE-ONE (LUZON)
Company B from our Battalion landed the 1st and 19th Infantry Regiments on 9 January 1945, comprising the first five waves that landed on Blue Beach in the vicinity of Dagupan. 1st Platoon carried 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry to the Binlac River area, where they were met with a Jap air attack near the Bued River. 2nd Platoon carried the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry to the beach and then inland to the town of Dagupan. 3rd Platoon landed the assault troops of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry inland 2,000 yards. The landing was highly successful but our Battalion had one wounded (Hansen). Company B continued to provide direct support to these infantry units during the Battle of Cabaruan Hills until relieved on 4 February 1945. Company B also provided support for the Engineers hauling bridging supplies and pontoons to sites along the Agno River near Mangaldan, Villasis, Urdaneta, Rosales, Binalonan, Manaoag and Santa Barbara and later was assigned to protect and defend 22 area bridges from enemy action to destroy these structures.
Company A of the 727th landed on 11 January 1945 and was immediately pressed into service (12 hours on, 12 hours off) unloading the supply ships in Lingayen Gulf. Due to a severe tropical storm during the first few days of the invasion, the surf conditions could only be navigated by our LVTs. On 14 January 1945, forty-five LVTs and crew were dispatched to Green Beach near the town of Lingayen where Col. Faulkner, C.O. of Sub-Base No. 3, was going to use our tractors to unload matting for the airstrip at Lingayen Airstrip. However surf conditions would not allow for such unloading to occur at scheduled. The LVTs are instead used to unload gasoline hold landing craft in position on the beach then these LVTs returned to Base M the main un loading efforts continued until early March 1945.
In February 1945, a detachment of 12 LVTs from 3rd Platoon, Company A, were placed under the command of XI Corps and shipped to Subic Bay in preparation for the retaking of the Bataan Peninsula. On 15 February 1945, they made a landing at Mariveles Bay, providing covering fire for the initial waves of the invasion. Over the next few weeks, the unit was employed in apprehension of Jap soldiers that were attempting to escape from the island of Corregidor by swimming to the mainland. Those who surrendered peacefully were taken prisoner, while others were dispatched when their actions indicated a mortal threat to the LVT crews. Other LVTs were used to reconnoiter caves along the shores of Corregidor Island to locate enemy soldiers.
On 19 March 1945, four LVTs were loaded with infantry and departed Corregidor for the nearby island of Cabrillo. Shortly after landing, the LVTs and infantry began to reconnaissance the island and soon had to withdraw because of intense enemy resistance. Battalion Hq received a warning order from Sixth U.S. Army to prepare for overwater movement. 3rd Platoon was recalled from Corregidor and returned to Dagupan on 23 March 1945. However, the timing was too late to make the transports that were loaded with the rest of the Battalion, which departed from Luzon on 27 March 1945.
OPERATION OBOE ONE (TARAKAN)
On 30 April 1945, ten LVTs of the Special Platoon (comprised of individual crews from Co. A and Co. B) were used to transport and support the 2/13 Australian Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, during the pre-invasion mission to destroy the four layers of beach obstacles protecting Lingkas Beach on Tarakan Island. The initial operation was to commence at 1100 hours, but owing to heavy tidal activity that pushed the LVTs more than one mile out of position before the order to attack was given. This phase finally came on station at 1115 hours. They encountered sniper fire and mortar fire. The Aussies from the 2/3 Australian Pioneer Battalion who manned the .50 cal machine guns on our LVTs for this mission took out the sniper housed in a metal building along the beach. At 1500 hours, a second run was made to complete the breaching operation. A total of eleven 60' gaps were made.
The following day, the Provisional Company (from Co. A and Co. B) landed the 2/23 Australian Infantry Battalion on Green Beach. They continued to provide support of this operation, transporting Med Supplies to shore and returning with wounded, retrieved small craft and wheeled vehicles strained in the receding tide, held floating pontoon docks in place, unloaded LCMs, and aided a salvage mission in Lingkas Harbour, until their departure on 7 May 1945.
OPERATION OBOE SIX (BRUNEI BAY/LABUAN)
Company A LVTs were used to land the 2/15 Australian Infantry Battalion (a unit of the 20th Australian Infantry Brigade) at White Beach, Muara Island on 10 June 1945. The landing was unopposed that they drove their craft across the entire island to Red Beach. Their LVTs were used to haul supplies, crossed bay in a diversionary landing, unloaded LCMs, laid communication wire to reconnaissance and demolition teams, and pulled vehicles from the swamps. The following day, their LVTs were used to haul supplies and evacuate the wounded. On 12 June 1945, an LST picked up Company A and returned them to Morotai to begin preparation for the next mission (Operation Oboe Two). One Battalion member, T/4 Donald E. Westwood, was injured during the landing due to errant fire by the Aussies.
The following is excerpted from the Report of Operation OBOE SIX from Headquarters, 20th Australian Infantry Brigade dated 16 August 1945 (page 27, AWM 52-8-2-20-106):
"Relations with 727 US Amphibious Tractor Bn were especially good, due largely to constant and direct personal liaison between this unit and the battalion it was to support."
On 10 June 1945, forty-six LVTs of Company B were used to land the 2/28 and 2/43 Australian Infantry Battalions (aka 24th Australian Infantry Brigade) on Brown Beach One and Brown Beach Two, Labuan Island under light resistance. The guns of a cruiser were used to take out an enemy machine gun nest in Victoria Harbour that was harassing the landing craft. After the landing, the LVTs were used to haul supplies, evacuated wounded and laid signal wire across Victoria Harbour to Horel Point while one Platoon of LVTs were used to make a diversionary landing on Hamilton Peninsula.
Then on 15 June 1945, twenty-seven LVTs of Company B were loaded on to LSTs in Brunei Bay. They were transported the next day to Padas Bay were the LVTs made an unopposed combat landing with the 2/32 Australian Infantry Battalion at Weston. They returned the same day to Victoria Harbour.
Two days later on 18 June 1945, thirty LVTs of Company B were loaded on LSTs for another secret mission. On 20 June 1945, these LVTs were disembarked off Lutong, Borneo where another combat landing against light resistance was made with the 2/13 Australian Infantry Battalion. These LVT and crew were reembarked onto the LSTs the same day as the landing. The next day they departed from Lutong and arrived at Victoria Harbour on 22 June 1945.
On 21 June 1945, the Japanese soldiers made their last organized resistance on Labuan. Bennie Torrez from Company B made the first alert of the infiltration in the early hours of this day. The entire account is contained in the Battalion report above dated 21 June 1945. Casualties from the 727th were one man killed in action, Tec/4 John D. Casey, and one man wounded in both legs by small arms fire, Tec/5 Frank J. Miller. Tec/4 Casey was buried in the Labuan War Cemetery later that day.
Company B continued to provide direct support until relieved on 28 June 1945. They loaded on LSTs and departed for Luzon two days later.
OPERATION OBOE TWO (BALIKPAPAN)
On 1 July 1945, thirty-one LVTs of Company A were used to land the 2/27 Australian Infantry Battalion in the first three waves. Operation Orders stated that these waves were to hit Green Beach at Klandasan, near Balikpapan, Borneo. However, the underwater obstacles were not fully destroyed and our LVTs landed on Yellow Beach to the left of their intended landing. This caused some initial confusion and congestion on the beaches. Owing to the massive naval and aerial bombardment, resistance was light during the highly successful landing, but an enemy sniper killed T/4 Robert P. Ullman. Four other LVTs from Company A comprised the left flank of the second wave that landed onRed Beach (was supposed to be Yellow Beach) with elements of the 2/12 Australian Infantry Battalion aboard. Then in the 18th Wave, sixteen LVTs were each loaded with a 25-Pounder Mark II (field artillery piece) along with members of the 2/4 Australian Field Regiment on Green Beach. After the landing, a platoon of LVTs were assigned to the 2/14 Australian Infantry Battalion in support Phase 5 of the initial landing program, which was to exploit the Stalkedo feature.
During the following day, some battalion members decided to make a fire on the beach to prepare some coffee. Unknowingly, an unexploded enemy artillery shell was buried under the sand where the fire was made. A short while later, the shell exploded and sent shrapnel flying that hit T/5 Clayton F. Davis. Company A reverted to the control of 7th Australian Division per operational orders. Our Command Post was harassed with 10 rounds enemy artillery fire on 3 July 1945.
Company A continued to support the Balikpapan invasion force by transporting artillery pieces, ammunition and supplies by land and by sea to the front lines near Sepinggang Airstrip, Manggar Airstrip and on to Manggar-Ketjil. Each day we would haul thousands of rounds of artillery shells to the front until relieved from duty on 12 July 1945.
The following is excerpted from the Report of Operation OBOE TWO from Headquarters, 7th Australian Infantry Division dated 28 September 1945 (page 34, AWM 52-1-5-14-087):
"AMPHIBIOUS TRACTOR BATTALION (U.S. ARMY)"
"During the operations from FOX to FOX plus 2 Day, LVT proved invaluable in landing the assault waves and in transporting heavy weapons, ammunition, consolidation stores, water, etc to forward troops. Apart from their vulnerability, jeeps and trailers in the early stages would have had a limited value due to the steep and sandy terrain behind the beaches."
FINAL MONTHS OF THE WAR
Company B departed from Borneo on 30 June 1945 and arrived at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon on 5 July 1945, the same day our Headquarter and Service Company departed Morotai. The next day, Company B departed San Fabian. On 7 July, Company A received a message from 1st Australian Corps that our Battalion rear echelon had departed for Luzon. From 17 July to 20 July, Company A LVTs were loaded onto LSTs numbered 666, 753, and 673. The 20th of July also marked the date that the Headquarters and Service Company arrived at San Fernando, Luzon. We also received a radiogram from the Commanding General of the Eighth U.S. Army informing our Battalion at it was being attached to the XIV Corps and was to proceed to Aparri on the northern coast of Luzon to prepare for future operations.
On 21 July, Company A departed from Balikpapan. The next day Headquarters and Service Company arrived at Aparri and made camp at Linao Point near the Linao Lighthouse. On 23 July Company B departed from San Fabian and arrived at Aparri the following day. Finally, Company A arrived at Linao Point, Aparri, Luzon*** on 30 July 1945. This marked the first time that our entire Battalion had been in one place since it was stationed in New Guinea.
We were being staged for the invasion of Japan's mainland. The initial campaign in the southern islands as scheduled for November 1945. Our Battalion was going to be used in the main assault on Tokyo Bay on the Island of Honshu with at target date of 1 March 1946. Shortly after our arrival at Aparri, two atomic bombs were detonated at two key Japanese military and industrial cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This action finally brought the Japanese government to accept the unconditional surrender that was demanded by the Allied Nations. The use of atomic bombs undoubtedly saves the lives of many of Battalion members as well as countless other lives, including civilian and military, for both the Allies and the Japanese.
After the surrender was announced, our Battalion was assigned to AFWESPAC via Field Operation Order #21, Hq XIV Corps dated 20 August 1945. The following day the Battalion received verbal orders from the Commanding General of AFWESPAC to assume responsibility for the operation of the Port of Aparri and Port Command. Thirteen LCM were assigned the the Battalion and instruction in their operation was provided by the 544th Engineer Special Brigade. On 27 August 1945, the Battalion assumed command of the Port of Aparri from the 276 Port Company. Many Japanese POWs in various US Naval transported were processed through this Port. It was also used to process units returning to the States and by many ships that needed safe harbour from the frequent typhoons that came through this area.
Gradually (from late July 1945), the men of our Battalion received their orders to return to the States for discharge from the Army. Those that remained continued to operation the Port and take care of the day-to-day routines. On 9 February 1946, the inactivation of our Battalion was completed.