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Harold Bruschwein, World War II

These are the memories of Capt. Harold Bruschwein, born April 2, 1916, from Driscoll, North Dakota. 

I attended North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo, North Dakota in the field of Civil Engineering and joined the Army July 5, 1939 at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota via the Thomason Act Program in ROTC.

In the fall of 1939, Hitler went into Poland and World War II began. We were all shipped out to Fort Lewis, Washington in December 1939 so we could train together as a division unit. At that time it was the 3d Division and the Battalion Commander was Col. Dwight Eisenhower. I was being trained in the Executive Branch of the Army so I was Battalion Adjutant to Col. Eisenhower. In 1940 I received orders to report to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Due to the Thomason Act I was supposed to serve one year but on July 15 I was discharged and one week later I was recalled to active duty. I arrived at Schofield Barracks in August 1940. I was to serve for two years at Schofield Barracks. Of course World War II interrupted my service. I was assigned to the 27th Wolfhounds Infantry Regiment. I stayed with the Wolfhounds until I was evacuated out of Guadalcanal. The Wolfhounds were part of the Hawaiian Brigade until it became part of the 25th Infantry Division. I was first assigned to D Company as a platoon lieutenant and also assigned to Battalion Headquarters as an Adjutant. In November I was assigned as the A Company Commander. When Pearl Harbor occurred, A Company was assigned to sabotage patrol between the Diamondhead and the Pearl River Bridge. We started that assignment on November 27 and we were camped out of Ft DeRussy. On the morning of December 7, the First Sgt. and I were doing the morning inspection as usual and heard these loud explosions in the area of Pearl Harbor and commented they were doing practice firing. Then, we saw this low-flying plane come in right over the bay. He went off to one side and when we saw the antiaircraft guns going off we commented that was very realistic and then it made a right-hand turn and saw the wings and we saw the insignia we knew it wasn't our plane. That was the end of our inspection that morning. Later we found a mini sub had washed up on the North Shore of Oahu and a Japanese soldier was in the brig. That was the closest I came to a Japanese soldier until later on in the war.

A Company, of which I was Company Commander, had guards posted at the entrance to Pearl Harbor. One day I got a call from one of the guards at the station and he said if I wanted to see a big ship and to see what the Navy looked like I should come down there. So, I went down to the post and it was the Yorktown and it had gotten hit and was coming in for repairs. I looked at her and she was a huge ship. One side of her was so big you could have run a truck through her where she had been hit. They had her out of port in a couple of days and the crew was still on her making repairs as she was pulling out of port.

Our T. O. & E. was built as we trained. A Company went from 100 to about 200 men. We trained on boarding ships, jungle training etc. and in December 1942 we were shipped overseas to Guadalcanal. After leaving Hawaii, we traveled for about three weeks and then suddenly the rhythm of the engines changed. We sat there for aboutthree days and then moved again for about two days. The conditions on the ship were really crowded and hot. You are really sweating all the time and you would tie your clothes in a knot and drop them overboard, leave them for half an hour or an hour, then pull them up, and that's how you washed your clothes. We did stop in the Fiji Islands on the way over and that was interesting to me to see some different cultures that I had never seen before. We got ashore and did some walking. The dress customs were different from the Plains of North Dakota. The MPs were directing traffic and were wearing kilts. A detachment of Australians came by in kilts.

The conditions on Guadalcanal were hot, humid, not fit for humans. In December 1942, Janurary1943, the 25th Infantry Division landed on Guadalcanal in numbers. They did not all land at once. There was a lot of harassment by in my area by Japanese bombers each night. We call them Washing Machine Charlies. They had a peculiar sound. Washing Machine Charlie soon met his doom. We brought in some new planes called Night Fighters so we had some protection. They had radar on them. It was like watching a football game. We had the searchlights turned on the Japanese plane. The first plane came over the area my company was in and the spotlight was on him and you could see the tracers from the plane behind him. The Japanese plane just exploded and the whole island just cheered. One of Night Fighter graduates was from the Agricultural College in Fargo. One of my classmates.

New troops came in one day with a supply ship that was anchored offshore and it so happened that A Company was called upon to be stevedores and all the men and officers of my company had to go down to help unload that supply boat and bring it ashore. Of course they had to be picked up and hauled out to the supply dump or wherever you kept your supplies. It so happened that we got notice that the Division truck had loaded up a load of Marine beer. The beer went missing. We got word that they wanted to know what had happened to the beer. We had to make an inspection of the whole battalion area to find out what happened to that beer. Of course we were not too diligent in our inspection. The Marines and Navy had a beer issue, the Army did not.

 

The day before the big attack on Guadalcanal was to begin, Company A sent out a platoon of men on a scouting patrol to find out where the Japanese were located and soon got into trouble and got trapped. Battalion decided that I would have one platoon to hold the line, take my reserve platoon and one of platoon assigned to me from Bravo Company and attempt to rescue the trapped platoon. This little ridge ran out into the jungle. We only help part of that ridge. I took a platoon and put them on part of that ridge and they were to hold at all costs. I took two platoons to find the trapped platoon. We could hear the gunfire but we could not link up with them even though we knew where they were located. We called in mortars but they were ineffective. The Japanese machine guns were really heavy. We then called in artillery. I told them I wanted it on point so and so. The artillery commander said according to his map that's where our lines were. I told him that's where we are now and we can't move so we have to take a chance. I told him to bring it in 50 yards closer. They had 105s, 155's and everything. The fire was effective and some of my men started coming back after the barrage andstarted getting organized. One or two of them were dazed and one was killed. It didn't take long for the Japanese to clear out. For this action I was awarded the Silver Star.

The next day began our action on Hill 90. It did not take as long to take Hill 90 and from there you can see Coco Bono. Also, there was a geophysical feature called the Galloping Horse. We moved up to the area on the horse's tail which was forward. They were having trouble attacking a point. The Japanese were holding the high point with devastating fire. We were observing another battalion as they were attempting to take an area at the head of the horse. A couple lieutenants had been killed trying to crawl up and take this point. The Japanese would push our soldiers down the hill; we would push back up the hill. It was like watching a movie. At that point Capt. Davis, he was on the Battalion Staff and he was a football player out of Minot, North Dakota, took a couple of men and he said that he had was a good duck hunter and he could crawl up close. Anyway, he crawled up really close and raised his rifle; started shooting then started throwing grenades and used his pistol at the Japanese machine gunners. They were so surprised they didn't even get a chance to return fire. Capt. Davis exterminated the machine guns. For this action he received the Medal of Honor.

Another memory during this operation was when A Company was operating in a narrow gorge at a river crossing and captured a rather beautiful and expensive looking samurai sword. The company presented me with the sword but anything that was captured was directed to be turned over to Division as booty of war and was the property of the U.S. Anyway, we turned it in but not before the company engraver had engraved CPT. HF Bruschwein, 27th Infantry, on the base of the sword. We have a letter from Gen. Arnold thanking the Infantry of company A. I don’t know what happened to the sword but it could be in the museum at the Air Force Academy. They have some of his things I think.

From Guadalcanal we were sent to Tulagi for defense of a naval base. On March 8, 1943, I met John Kennedy on Tulagi. I remember that day because the date of a large attack by the Japanese. The Japanese attacked with over 300 airplanes. They lost over 150 planes that day. Later on Tulagi I developed really bad sunburn so the medical officers sent me back to the hospital at Guadalcanal, then on the New Hebrides, to New Zealand and then Hawaii. After a short visit in Hawaii I was sent back to the states by air. From San Francisco I was sent to a hospital in Memphis. After 15 months in the hospital I received a medical discharge on December 11, 1944 due to malaria, dermatitis and lupus. Malaria lasted several months after I returned home to North Dakota.

You are given travel funds from point of discharge to your home. I was given money for a train from Memphis to Bismarck but I managed to catch a supply plane to Bismarck, North Dakota. I had been gone 5 1/2 years.

After returning home I went into the field of education and teaching. After service I worked in teaching for 33 years before I retired. I taught in the State School of Science for 23 years before that I taught in elementary and high school. I'm currently amember of the American Legion, VFW, DAV, 25th Infantry Division Association, 27th infantry Regiment Historical Society and the Guadalcanal Campaign Vets. My military service has affected me in my entire life. It helps you in the way you live. Being involved in veteran and community organizations is a way of giving back to the community and others.

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