Cpl. George Morton MCCarthy Jr.
George M. McCarthy Jr. was born on April 24, 1923, to George M. McCarthy
Sr. and Gertrude Elizabeth
McCarthy in Janesville, Wisconsin. As a child, he grew up at 600 St. Mary's
Avenue and 801 Thomas Street. He attended grade school and high school in Janesville.
When George was a child, he wanted to be a soldier. This led him to joining the 32nd Tank Company of the Wisconsin National Guard in Janesville. He was seventeen when he enlisted.
In the autumn of 1940, the 32nd Tank Company was called to federal service as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. After nearly a year of training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and participating in maneuvers in Louisiana, George and other members of the battalion were sent to the Philippine Islands.
Shortly after arriving in the Philippines, George was reassigned to the Provost Marshal's Office. He would remain with this unit during the Battle of Bataan. While with the Provost Marshall, he rose in rank to corporal.
George recalled that on December 8, 1941, he was at the Provost Marshall's Office at Clark Field when someone said, "Come outside and see the Navy, they're here to help us." Someone pointed out that the planes were navy planes; unfortunately, they belonged to the wrong navy. George watched as the Japanese planes came in and did their job. He remembered thinking to himself that they were good at what they were doing.
Major Claude A. Thorp received permission from General MacArthur to take a group of Americans to slip through Japanese lines and organize resistance against the Japanese. Having met Thorp at Clark Airfield, George volunteered to go with him. George entered the jungle with 24 other Americans to organize guerilla resistance against the Japanese. The soldiers made their way into the Zambales Mountains of western Luzon. It took the men over a month to reach Mt. Pinatubo which was near Ft. Stotsenburg. The mountain became the guerillas headquarters.
As a guerilla, George was assigned to the staff of Lt. H. O. Conner, Jr. His immediate supervisor was Sgt. Alfred D. Bruce. This guerilla group worked in the area of Mount Pinatubo.
Their primary job was to gather information on the Japanese; not to engage the enemy. How the information they gathered got back to the allies was something he never could figure out. It is known that right after the surrender of Bataan, his guerrilla group were successful at recovering large amounts of guns and ammunition from Bataan.
Not too long after becoming a guerilla, George lost all of his clothing. While he was bathing someone stole his entire uniform. This resulted in him dressing like the natives.
The guerillas also benefited from the help of the Filipino people. When the Japanese approached, the Filipinos would blow horns that made a deep "pooh" sound. When they heard this, George and the other guerillas took off into the jungle.
The Japanese at first sent small patrols into the jungle to catch the guerillas. They quickly learned that this was unwise. Whenever they did this, the patrol would disappear and never be heard from again.
Next, the Japanese sent out large groups of soldiers that the guerillas referred to as manhunts. These large groups of soldiers had one purpose and that was to hunt down the guerillas. Since there were more soldiers than guerillas, all the guerillas could do was hide. When it began to get dark, the Japanese would withdraw to a safer area so that they would not be attacked.
The Japanese also would use their air force to attack known guerilla areas. The planes would dive and strafe the guerillas hoping that they would wound them.
To protect themselves against the Japanese attempting to surprise them, the guerillas would rig bamboo as alarms. When the Japanese tripped the traps, the bamboo plants would bang against each other giving the guerillas enough time to escape.
While he was a guerilla, George was wounded five times. Having suffered leg wounds from shrapnel George used iodine to prevent infection. When that ran out the men would clean the wounds with red peppers. The pepper would keep flies from landing on the wounds and laying maggots in them.
George spent the next three years of the war fighting the Japanese as a guerilla. The guerillas worked in teams of three. One man had an automatic weapon and the two others had rifles.
During this struggle the guerillas blew up Japanese ammunition dumps, attacked truck convoys traveling through the jungle, and harassed the Japanese in any manner possible. The guerillas re-supplied themselves with materials they stole from the Japanese. But, according to George, there also was a great deal of ammunition just lying around on Bataan. To keep it dry, the men placed the ammunition in water tight gin bottles.
At one point, George was captured by Communist Filipino guerillas. The communists allowed George to keep his weapons because their commander had heard of his deeds against the Japanese. In a gunfight, George managed to escape and return to his guerilla organization. During the fight, he shot the communist commander and believed he had killed him. He would learn 18 years later that he had not killed the man.
As guerillas, George and the other Americans lived with a Filipino tribe. The chief of the tribe took a liking to George and treated him extremely well. George even lived in the chief's hut. It was during this time that another of the Americans violated a tribal law. The chief had the man beheaded. This was one of the worse things that George witnessed during the war.
George and the other guerillas slept during the day and attacked the Japanese at night. One of their favorite targets were Japanese convoys.
On a couple of occasions, George came close to being captured. He once was in a hut in a town when a Japanese patrol appeared. Behind the hut was a river so George was trapped. When the Japanese entered a town, they would open fire. Anyone who ran was shot. Somehow, he was never discovered by the Japanese.
In another incident, George had to hide in a chicken coop while the Japanese were on the road in front of it. As he hid, George was eaten alive by mites. They were a bigger bother to him than the Japanese.
The diet of the guerillas was better than that of the Americans who became Prisoners Of War. George grew his own food and became a expert on 22 types of bananas and plantains. He and the other guerillas also ate fish, papaya, mangoes, corn and rice. In spite of this, he always felt hungry. His weight fell from 179 pounds to 136. He also grew from six feet to six feet three inches.
George would spend the entire war as a guerilla until American forces landed on Luzon in late 1944. He then came out of the jungle wearing a pair of pants made from a gunny sack. Of the 24 men that George entered the jungle with in March of 1942, only three came out alive with him. The rest had been killed or executed by the Japanese during the war.
On February 1, 1945, George wrote his first letter home in three years. When it arrived in Janesville, it was forwarded to his parents who had moved to Evansville. George's parents received their first news that he had survived the war. Up to that time, his family believed he was dead. In the letter he wrote:
Dear Mom and Dad:
I am writing a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and safe. I reported to our troops yesterday and I think it was one of the greatest times in my life. I wish I was there to tell you about it.
It was three years of hell and I got a lot to tell. Hope to be home soon. I am now in the hospital and all the fellows here are sure swell but that's America.
George returned home to his parents new home. One of the most difficult parts of his returning home was that his dog, Rags, did not know him.
George married Myrtle Alberta Hatfield, and together they would become the parents of five children. He remained in the military serving until 1963. He retired from the army as a Master Sergeant. After he retired, he returned to Janesville.
George never talked in great detail about his experiences as a guerilla. But, for his actions while a guerilla, George received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star.
George McCarthy passed away on February 1, 2003, a few months after the death of his wife. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Janesville.