The Last Photographs

During the final months of the Pacific War, MacArthur tasked the Eighth Army under Lt. General Robert Eichelberger with liberating the Central Philippines. The 40th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit from California, Nevada and Utah, played a key role in this all but forgotten campaign. In March 1945, the “Sunshine Division” landed on Panay, encountering stiff resistance in places during a ten day battle to clear the island.


On the first day of the landing, March 18th, two Signal Corps photographers followed an infantry company from the 185th Infantry Regiment ashore to photograph the fighting and their advance. A company of M4 Sherman tanks spearheaded the push into Panay’s jungle interior, and the men of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 185th Infantry followed cautiously behind. The photographers, Lt. Robert Fields and T/5 Howard Klawitter, ignored Japanese incoming machine gun and light artillery fire and stayed right with the GI’s of Alpha Company, snapping photos as they dashed forward with them.

As the combined force pushed up along a dirt road, they encountered heavy resistance and Alpha Company took cover behind the tanks. The Shermans blasted away at the Japanese defenders while Fields and Klawitter, standing a few yards apart, snapped pictures of the firefight.

Both photographers went down within minutes of each other. Fields was killed and Klawitter wounded. These two photos are the last ones they took.

40th inf div 185th inf regt m4 sherman and troops panay island philippines photographer kia 031845 (1 of 1)

Howard Klawitter’s final photo before he was wounded in action while attached to Alpha Company, 185 Infantry, 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard.


40th inf div 185th inf regt m4 sherman and troops panay island philippines  031845  (1 of 1)

This is the last photo taken by Signal Corps photographer Lt. Robert Fields. We was killed by incoming Japanese fire moments later. His camera was recovered and the film developed. He’d snapped four photos on the roll before his death while chronicling Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 185th Infantry.



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