Dragons Headed to Pikit, 75 years ago today
An LCI landing craft carries troops of Company I, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry “Victory” Division up the Mindanao River for the assault on Fort Pikit, Philippines, 30 April 1945.
An old Spanish provincial post established in 1893 overlooking the Pulangi River, the small bastioned stone masonry fort was occupied by U.S. troops in 1898, relieving a 65-man Spanish garrison, then handed the site over to the Philippine Constabulary in the 1920s.
As for the 34th Inf Rgt, they were a standing regular Army unit since 1916 and on the eve of the Japanese attack on the Philipines, they were ordered to reinforce the archipelago. Still waiting to embark for the PI on 7 December 1941 at San Francisco, they were instead diverted to Hawaii where they were assigned to defend Oahu until 1943 when made a backbone unit of the reforming 24th Inf Div.
Landing at Hollandia and Biak in New Guinea in 1944, they were in the thick of things in the liberation of the Philipines from October 1944 onward, hitting Red Beach with the first wave and earning the nickname, “Leyte Dragons.” Three of the regiment’s soldiers would receive the MoH (posthumously) for their actions on Leyte. The unit would continue mopping up operations against Japanese holdouts from the central Mindanao jungles into October 1945. The unit would receive the Presidential Unit Citation.
After Occupation Duty in Japan, men of the 34th were one of the first units rushed to South Korea when the balloon went up there and the first U.S. casualty in that forgotten conflict is often thought to be the 34th’s Pvt. Kenneth R. Shadrick, killed in action 5 July 1950, south of Osan.