To the left of the road stood a Jeep: a soldier was slumped forward in the front seat and another lay crumpled in the rear, apparently the victims of an ambush. I called for the driver to stop, but he traveled about fifty yards before he could. There, opposite us on the right side, lay two more men, apparently dead. However, as we ground to a stop one man raised himself on his elbow and feebly waved his hand. I thought it was a signal of distress. But then I heard him call, "Japs!! Keep going!" I called out, "Where?" and he pointed over his shoulder and replied, "Eight or ten, that way."
By now one of my men, a German named Herman who used to be in the Nazi Army, called "I'm going to get him. Who's going with me?" I said, "Wait a minute, and we'll all go." I wanted to size up the situation first, although it was pretty obvious and not very encouraging. We could see that the Japs had already destroyed a force equal to ours, and by the warning of the wounded man there were still eight or ten Japs, double our number, in the vicinity. Frankly, I was plenty frightened. It seemed like certain death to stop. My head said, "Let's get out of here." But somehow my heart wouldn't let me. I will confess that it was far from easy to get out of the cab and into the open where the wounded man was. In that terrible moment I tested myself. I had often wondered what I would do, and now I had to decide.
Of course, there was only one decision, and once I had made it and gotten out of that lovely protected cab, I never again felt the slightest hesitation or for that matter, oddly enough, the slightest fear. I ordered three of the men with guns to stand ready facing the direction we thought the Japs were in, and another man to follow me. All of this took less time than it does for me to tell it. We reached the wounded man and lifted him up and carried him back to the truck, where we placed him on the litter from which we removed the body that had been there. When we reached him he had said, "Don't stay for me. Get the h..l out of here. I'm finished anyhow." He was willing to stay there and die rather than put is in peril. In fact he seemed quite annoyed that we wouldn't do what he said.
After we had gotten him to safety, I went back to the man he had been lying near, to see if he were alive. He wasn't. Then, although I felt certain that the men in the Jeep were dead, I had two of my men stay by the truck while two went with me the long, long 150 feet or so to the Jeep. There I made certain they had died, and then wasted no time getting back to the truck and on our way.
In the truck I sat holding the wounded man because he wanted to sit up and I thought he would be comfortable leaning against me. I then began to worry about the ambulance and also the officers, coming after us---fearing that they would receive no warning. We drove fast because we wanted to get the wounded man to the hospital, because we wanted to warn the Regimental Headquarters to phone back and stop all vehicles, and because we were just plumb anxious to get out of there ourselves.
We had gone about two miles when we met a patrol, with an ambulance, coming out to the scene of the ambuscade. We learned that two vehicles, unknown to us, had passed by the ambush scene, refused to face the peril of stopping, but reached the Regiment to warn them and get a patrol on the way. We transferred the wounded man to the ambulance and went on to Headquarters. The patrol continued to the scene of the ambush where they encountered the Japs. They killed two Japanese, but the rest escaped. Why---since clearly they were still there---the Japs didn't fire on us, I will never know. Perhaps it was the Providential care of which I am constantly conscious. Obviously it wasn't because of the pitiful force we had.
The courage of my men was superb. Even if I had ordered them not to stop, I think they would have insisted on it, although they knew the odds against them. As for the wounded man, his anxiety for our safety was beyond praise. They had been ambushed, two of his companions were killed at once, he and the third had run for the cover they never reached as the Japs dropped them with fire on the way. He had then seen the Japs shoot again, bayonet the three dead men, and then start for him. He played dead, so they shot him and passed on. That he could be willing, after such a terrifying experience, to stay there and die so we might be safe, that was as brave a thing as I have ever heard of. At my recommendation the Command is considering awarding him a medal---posthumously, as the poor lad died the next day. He had seven wounds.
As a matter of fact we might all be awarded one---the General commended me verbally---if it were not for the technicality that we were not under fire! That, I think, detracts nothing from the courage of the men since they had every reason to believe that they were walking into a dangerous situation. However, we are not interested in medals. I know we receive the Order of the Good Samaritan since we refused to pass by on the other side as two other groups had done, but stopped and brought in the man from the Jerico road.
I told you I wouldn't walk into danger and I won't, but sometimes danger comes to you and there is nothing you can do but face it and see it through. I wonder if the original good Samaritan was as scared as I was before I went over to give aid. That is something the Bible commentaries have missed. Sometime I might write a book on biblical experiences in war time. ...