The U.S. drive into the Cagayan Valley ended the last offensive on Luzon in June 1945, but enemy pockets of resistance were not cleared out until August 15, when hostilities officially ended. The US. forces had officially reported 40,565 casualties including 7,933 killed in the Philippine campaign. The Japanese lost over 192,000 killed and approximately 9,700 captured. An untold number of Japanese soldiers escaped into the jungles of Mindanao in the south and refused to surrender for years to come … HS
At last we boarded USS Monterey, a converted luxury liner turned troop transport, that would take us home, with a stopover in New Guinea. I found it too good to believe. After all the humiliation, pain, suffering, and death, we were alive. What a relief just to be treated like human beings, and to be with fellow Americans again.
We were assigned our bunks and shown the showers. These simple pleasures were ultimate luxuries to us. A hot shower, without the need to dip water with a canteen cup, and bars of soap. And a regulation ship’s bunk, with mattress and sheets. After showers and clean clothes, we were led to the ship’s mess hall where we were allowed to order anything we wanted to eat. My first order was a steak.
We were permitted to go ashore at Hollandia, General MacArthur’s headquarters. The port had been the staging area for the offensive war against the Japanese. Everywhere we turned there were troops, equipment, and the knowledge that the Japanese were on the run. Morale was high among the troops.
Once the Monterey was back at sea, we headed homeward. The captain pointed the ship’s bow straight for San Francisco. Not one man complained as we sailed past Hawaii without stopping. This time we didn’t grumble about not having shore leave. We were headed home as quickly as our ship. could take us.
We entered the Golden Gate thirteen days after leaving New Guinea. Factory whistles, boat and fog horns, sirens-all announced our arrival and welcomed us home. What a beautiful sight that bridge was, in spite of the fog and drizzle! As the tugs gently pushed Monterey toward the pier, I climbed to the upper deck where I could be by myself. I looked anxiously down at the crowd gathered around on the dock to see if I could recognize some of my family. I then saw them, standing on the dock, waving, calling my name. I couldn’t hold back the flood of tears.
I quote here from an article written by Bonnie Percival. It appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, March 16, 1945, the day after our arrival, under the title “Reunion on the Dock.” It read:
“The Machi family (ten Strong) cried ‘Mario’ as the transport came in.
“A giant grey one-time luxury liner crept slowly through the drizzle to a crowded pier on the Embarcadero yesterday morning.
“It was raining … Nobody cared .. .It was cold … The crowd ignored it. Instead of shivers, there were cries of excitement, anticipation, and happiness from the waiting families of men and women who were captives no longer.
‘The delirium was infectious. As the ship grew closer, the row of faces along each deck became recognizable, and waiting relatives began to shout for their returning loved ones.
“The Machi family of 540 second Avenue began it. They had arrived ten strong to greet their brother, son, uncle and nephew … Private first class Mario Machi, thirty year-old infantryman. He’d spent three years in Camp Number One and Bilibid. “Mario” shouted his exuberant sister, Catherine Machi. “Mario” echoed another sister, Antonette Machi. “Mario” chorused little Anna Maria and John Papagni, watching for the uncle whose face they could not quite remember.
“The chant for Mario was taken up by the family, by members of British Red Cross, by others of the crowd until a dark lean soldier climbed up on a netted life raft and waved eagerly back.”
I was home again. Thank God I was back. I was alive. Who could ever possibly understand this more than the men who had endured those dreadful three years in prison with me? Yet we could not speak of it, not then.
We were driven by bus to Letterman General Hospital, the site of my enlistment, and the next day the city of San Francisco held a grand parade down Market Street in our honor. That evening it was my father’s turn. He prepared a gala spaghetti dinner at our home, and twenty-one of my buddies from prison camp attended. It was moments like this we had dreamed about for the past three years. And my father was the proudest man in San Francisco.
From Letterman I was transferred as a patient to Dibble General Hospital in Menlo Park, followed by a stay at Mitchell Convalescent Hospital in San Diego. World War II officially came to an end at 9:04 a.m. on September 2, 1945 when the Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and military leaders signed the formal surrender documents on board the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay. A few weeks later on September 15, 1945, I received my honorable discharge at Mitchell. I rode the night train from Los Angeles to San Francisco. A new life was about to begin.