Prewar Life and Entrance to Service

Overseas Deployment

Initiation to Combat

War's End

Segment stub for 72295

Going Home


Emmanuel Nazarro Damonte [Annotator's Note: phonetic spelling on middle name] was born in San Francisco [Annotator's Note: San Francisco, California] in 1926. He grew up in the cemetery area of San Francisco, during an easygoing time. He went to school near his home and lived a normal life for an Italian family. He had six siblings and can't recall anything that was difficult. He and his older brother sold magazines on Saturdays, until the family moved to south San Francisco, where he continued his education. He graduated from high school in 1943. On the Sunday morning that Pearl Harbor was attacked [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941], Damonte was helping his father and uncle put shingles on the roof of a house. A person driving by told them what had happened. Damonte was too young to even think about it to any extent, but his brother went into the Air Corps. Damonte wanted to enlist after high school, but he was only 17 years old. After his family got notice that his brother had been shot down, his parents wouldn't sign for him to join early. His brother's loss affected him greatly. He received the telegram with the news while he was having a beverage with friends at a local drug store counter. He presented the telegram to his mother. Once he was of age [Annotator's Note: in 1942], he got a draft notice and went to San Francisco for processing. He went to Camp Roberts, near Paso Robles, California for training. Boot camp was tough, but he was young, had a lot of energy, and was in very good shape. He got through it easily enough, and feels he was well trained. Damonte was a cut up and did a lot of push-ups. He was trained on an M1 Garand [Annotator's Note: .30 caliber M1 semi-automatic rifle, also known as the M1 Garand]. It was a good weapon.


Emmanuel Nazarro Damonte trained as a replacement. His division was already overseas. When he shipped over, he landed in Manila [Annotator's Note: Manila, Luzon, Philippines] and went to a replacement camp. After a few days, he was assigned to the 32nd Infantry Division. Damonte had traveled overseas on the Navy troop ship USS General S. D. Sturgis (AP-137) that contained about 5,000 soldiers and its crew. There was a constant odor of vomit, because people were getting sick all the time. The bunks were stacked four high, and the stacks were close together, so Damonte spent a lot of time on the deck. He corresponded constantly with his family through V-mail [Annotator's Note: Victory Mail; postal system put into place during the war to drastically reduce the space needed to transport mail]. The food wasn't too bad, but there was a constant line, and the men stood up to eat. The ship stopped at Finschhafen, New Guinea and at Hollandia [Annotator's Note: Hollandia, New Guinea]. On the first leg, the ship traveled solo, and zig-zagged [Annotator's Note: a naval anti-submarine maneuver]; it took almost three weeks. On the remainder of the voyage, they picked up many other ships. When he arrived in Manila, Damonte noticed a lot of damage, and saw the masts of a number of ships that had been sunk there. Damonte's ship couldn't dock, so he had to climb down rope ladders, with full gear, onto landing craft that took him to shore.


The replacement center was just outside of Manila [Annotator's Note: Manila, Luzon, Philippines], and once he was assigned, Emmanuel Damonte was taken by truck to join his division [Annotator's Note: 32nd Infantry Division]. They traveled north along a range of mountains on the Villa Verde Trail, and ended up in the Cagayan Valley, on the northeast side of the Philippines. The Japanese occupied that area, and Damonte joined his division while the biggest part of the battle was going on. When the 25th Division [Annotator's Note: 25th Infantry Division] broke through, and occupied the valley, the action stopped for Damonte's division. This was where he experienced his baptism by fire. On his way up there, the sergeant-in-charge said, "Gentlemen, you are now in combat." The mountain cannons would fire three or four rounds and stop; the Japanese had caves in the mountains where the guns were concealed. The enemy forces had been in the valley for three or four years, and a lot of their old shells turned out to be duds. After they pulled back from the Villa Verde Trail, they went to Baguio [Annotator's Note: Baguio, Luzon, Philippines] for R&R [Annotator's Note: rest and recuperation]. They were there for a couple of weeks when his company [Annotator's Note: Company C, 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division] went on a mission on the Agno River. To reach the area, they went by truck to the top of a mountain range, then had to "drop down" two or three thousand feet. Damonte was "packing a radio" at the time, and had to carry an extra battery as well. He slid down most of the way, crossed the river, and his forward party established a site. The next day the rest of their company joined them, and Damonte had his first experience with seeing somebody shattered. One soldier came down with the head of his grenades tied to his strap and to his belt. As he slid down, a grenade went off and threw him off the cliff and into the river. The company proceeded up through the Agno River valley, and had very little contact with the enemy, except for stragglers who couldn't keep up with their units. They were captured and sent back to prison camps.


They were pushing north, without much resistance, when Emmanual Damonte's radio reported, on 6 August [Annotator's Note: 6 August 1945], that a big bomb was dropped on Japan. On the 9th [Annotator's Note: 9 August 1945], the second message came through that another big bomb was dropped. About six days later, he heard that negotiations had resulted in a cease fire. Damonte's company [Annotator's Note: Company C, 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division] was in an area where the enemy didn't know anything about what was going on. Yamashita [Annotator's Note: Imperial Japanese Army General Tomoyuki Yamashita], the "Tiger of Malaya," and many of his troops were up in the mountains. Some of the natives came to the American troops for refuge, because they said the Japanese were so cruel to them. To Damonte, they looked almost primitive. They were short, and wore different attire from all the other Philippine natives. For almost all of the next month, Damonte's company went out on "white flag patrol"; a squad would go out with a white flag, trying to let everybody know the war was over. Most of the Japanese they reached said they would have to radio back to Tokyo [Annotator's Note: Tokyo, Japan; in this case, the Japanese government] to verify what was happening. When they knew that the war was over, the Japanese started coming down the hills, single file. The line went on for a day and a half. As they came through the American troops, they surrendered their weapons, and proceeded to the highway. When Yamashita came down with his troops, he went to the 27th Division [Annotator's Note: 27th Infantry Division] on the other side of the ridge, and the 27th got a lot of publicity for that. It was quite an experience, seeing Japanese coming down in the thousands, he said. Damonte had no personal feelings about the Japanese. [Annotator's Note: The interviewer asks Damonte to talk about the terrain.] When he first started out, they had to go up a mountain. During the ascent, the troops were dropping supplies along the way. Fortunately, the company had a number of Philippine carriers who picked up the refuse and took it up the mountain to their camp. The company was situated in a perimeter on top of a knoll, and had to dig in. Two men shared each foxhole, and the headquarters were in the center. The bush was dense, and there were a lot of imaginary things creeping up on you in the night. The men alternated two hour watches, and were there for a couple of weeks, with patrols going out every day. Most of their engagements were on the patrols, rather than on a line pushing forward. For Damonte, that was the most scary situation. Damonte felt fortunate to be with a very good friend. The men on his team worked very well together. For the short while he was with them, he has never forgotten them.


When the 32nd Division [Annotator's Note: 32nd Infantry Division] was called back, Emmanuel Damonte was transferred to the 25th Division [Annotator's Note: 25th Infantry Division], which was on Honshu [Annotator's Note: Honshu, Japan] at the time. His group was split further when many of the soldiers who had enough points [Annotator's Note: a point system was devised based on a number of factors that determined when American servicemen serving overseas could return home] went home. At that time, Damonte was assigned to a motor repair unit, and all he did there was work on wheels, jeeps and trucks but he did learn a little there. One day, out of a clear blue sky, he learned that his orders were cut and he was going home. He packed up, went to Yokohama [Annotator's Note: Yokohama, Japan], got on a ship, and went to Seattle [Annotator's Note: Seattle, Washington]. There, he was reassigned to the 2nd Division [Annotator's Note: 2nd Infantry Division], situated at Fort Lewis, Washington. After a very short while, they cut his orders short and sent him home. He believes his mother had something to do with this because he had lost a brother in the war. It was a joyful affair when he saw his mother again. There was no big celebration or anything, only the family and friends, but all were happy he got home. Stepping back, Damonte said he saw no evidence that Japan was preparing for an American invasion. A number of Japanese came in to help straighten up where the Americans were going to live, and they were very efficient. He believes it definitely important that future generations learn about World War 2, because it was the last declared war that America had, and it was a big one. He feels it important to have museums like The National WWII Museum, and that we have to encourage the young people to go and see what it was like. His message to future generations is that he is hopeful they learn that many of these episodes can be avoided if they are aware of what is going on in this world.

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