Ammo Mission to Bohol
During the last day of the Siege of Butuan (March 3-10, 1943) when it was evident that the guerrillas’
ammunition was running low, Captain William Knortz took the launch Rosalia and went to Bohol,
where a reliable source had reported that a certain individual had collected a large amount of ammunition
after the surrender, but was holding it in secret for the Bohol Force, because there was some kind of
agreement between the two parties.
Knortz contacted this person and was able to secured 8,000 rounds of ammunition and brought back the
individual who knew the source. This ammunition was taken back and distributed to the troops.
As Knortz was pressed for time, he was not able to get all the hidden ammunition from Bohol. Major
Clyde Childress and Knortz decided to return to Bohol to get the remainder.
In the meantime, the guerrillas had captured the Nara Maru a 60-foot Japanese-made diesel motor launch
which was converted to run on coconut oil. It was armed with a .50 caliber machine gun that was taken
from a damaged B-17 bomber from the 19th Bombardment Squadron and had an improvised recoil
mechanism made from rubber tubing.
Upon arriving in Jagna, Bohol, Childress in the launch Treasure Island and Knortz in the Nara, it was
discovered that the commanding officer of the Bohol Force had learned of the ammunition raid and was
furious about it, determined not to lose any more to the interlopers from Mindanao.
However, while a conference was held with the officers of the Bohol Force, men were sent up into the
hills and managed to get another 2,000 rounds. The decorum of the Bohol guerrillas was such as to
indicate that they could start shooting anytime, so the party from the 110 th Division boarded their launches
and departed post haste to Mindanao.
The party stopped over at Mambajao, Camiguin, and heard from civilians that a submarine had landed at
Misamis Occidental (actually in Benoni Point, off present day Bacolod, Lanao del Norte).
Sending the Treasure Island on to Mindanao, Knortz and Childress took the motor launch Nara to
Misamis Occidental where they met Commander Charles “Chick” Parsons, who had just arrived from
Australia at the headquarters of Col. Fertig in Oroquieta.
Parsons told them MacArthur had instructed the guerrillas to focus on intelligence gathering rather than
attacking the Japanese garrisons.
A machine shop was set up at Fort Lamon, Surigao, in the old Port Lamon Lumber Company’s yard,
which was destroyed by the 1942 typhoon. At this shop were 2 nd Lt. Richard B. Lang and Waldo
Neveling. The purpose of this shop was the construction and repair of launches and bancas.
The first launch to be constructed in this shop was the Albert McCarthy named after the brother of Lt. Joe
McCarthy, who was killed in an ambush near Surigao City while on patrol against the Japs.
Capt. Knortz sailed this launch to the Division Headquarters at Linogus, Misamis Oriental (now
Magsaysay), to get submarine supplies from Col. Fertig.
The supplies were received and the party returned, stopping at Balingasag, while Knortz in the launch,
continued on up the coast.
A telephone call informed the Japanese had just landed at Gingoog and had taken control of the town.
That same afternoon, Capt. Dobervich, USMC, arrived at Balingasag with a truck. A platoon of soldiers
from the 110 th Regiment Combat Company were sent immediately by truck to Gingoog to engage the
At Talisayan the M/L Albert McCarthy was found anchored and it was learned that Capt. Knortz and his
armed party had proceeded to Gingoog on foot. The launch was unloaded and hidden, and the supplies
loaded on the truck and sent to Medina where the Combat Co. troops unloaded and marched towards
It was learned that Knortz had entered Gingoog and killed eight Japanese at close range with his tommy
gun, and then had retired through the mountains. The troops arrived late and set up an outpost at Lunao
During the night a large Japanese patrol attacked the outpost and broke through it. Lt. Fritz was killed
when the truck with the supplies he was driving was ambushed by the Japanese.
Perhaps the most famous member of the guerrilla “navy” was the Athena, a two-masted Barco Dos
Velas with outriggers, commonly used as commercial traders by Visayan traders from Panay, Negros,
Siquijor and Bohol.
She was skippered by Major Vicente Zapanta, the legendary Butuanon of the Agusan River. Thought to
be a US. Navy veteran of World War 1, he volunteered not only his service, but also his large sailing
vessel (a Barco Dos Velas, as extent photos of the vessel show) with an auxiliary one cylinder diesel
engine to the 110th Division in November 1942, turning his vessel over to the army although he had been
making a huge profit from it in the commercial trade.
Zapanta was commissioned as a 2 nd Lieutenant but rapidly rose to the rank of Major in the USFIP and
proved to be a valuable man to the organization.
His Barco Dos Velas, christened Athena, was originally armed with a homemade muzzle loading cannon
fashioned from a four-inch pipe which fired balls cast from melted fishing weights, but was later
equipped with a 20mm cannon and .50-cal. machine guns, but never saw action on its many trips
distributing supplies about the Visayan Islands and other coastal points in Mindanao. In addition, its 20
men crew were armed with Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs).
Athena’s major role during the war was to transport rice and other supplies to the various guerrilla-
controlled towns, It also transported troops from one point of Mindanao to another. Zapanta was
particularly helpful in delivering radio equipment to some of the coast watcher stations, Another mission
was to bring evacuees to the next expected rendezvous with submarines such as the USS Narwhal.
On one of these trips on January 1943, it picked up a large amount of USAFFE supplies from a beach at
Manapa, Agusan, sequestered from Talacogon by Captain Knortz and Lt. Money left by Capt.
Chastaine at the time of the surrender. This included the radio transmitter of the Anakan Lumber
Company, which consisted of the transmitter itself, a steel cabinet two feet square and six feet high, a
generator and many other pieces of personal equipment such as packs, canteens, bayonets, etc.
On her seventh war patrol and ninth Spyron mission, Narwhal skippered by Lt. Cmdr. Frank D. Latta,
entered Butuan Bay submerged at 0508 hrs on November 15, 1943.
At 1605 hours, she sighted a launch flying the proper security signal. She surfaced and Colonel Wendell
W. Fertig, commander of the United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) and head of the organized
resistance in Mindanao, came aboard. Narwhal then proceeded to Nasipit Harbor. On her way in she ran
aground on hard sand in the channel’s west bank, but managed to free herself quickly.
At 1746 hours, Narwhal moored starboard side at the Nasipit dock as a Filipino band played “Anchors
Away.” At 2330 hours, she completed offloading 46 tons of supplies.
Early the next day, she embarked 32 evacuees, including POW escapees Shofner, Hawkins and
Dobervich, women, two children, and one baby, and got underway. As Spyron Operations Chief, Lt.
Cmdr. Chick Parsons left Narwhal with the harbor pilot.
Remarks the Narwhal’s patrol report: “The very real need for any kind of stores in guerrilla occupied
areas led us to transfer considerably more stores than were actually consigned as cargo. Additional arms
and ammunition as well as foodstuffs were transferred to Col. [Wendell] Fertig.
These supplies were distributed to the western portion of Mindanao and to others in the Visayan Islands
by Zapanta’s Athena.
(to be concluded next week)