Saturday, November 10, 2012

VETERAN'S DAY ~ Honoring the Service of JOHN MARKWARD BORHO, Sr. by Monica Borho Cox

John Borho on the right
In April of 1942 at the age of 25, the grandson of a German immigrant and farm boy from Leander, Texas was inducted into the United States Army to serve as a soldier in World War II.  He would go on to serve a total of two years and four months overseas in Asiatic-Pacific Campaigns.  Most of his tenure was spent with Company E, 33rd Division of the 136th Infantry, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion. This division was known as the "Golden Cross" or sometimes "Prairie Division". Later in the war he would be transferred to Headquarters company. This man, John Markward Borho, Sr. is my now 95 year old grandfather.
John Markward  Borho Jr. and Sr.

Battles that he participated in were nothing less than formidable, bloody, tragic and treacherous. His first battle was in New Guinea; the first battle to earn the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal for participation in efforts in the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign. This award was accompanied by his first of two bronze stars for a specific battle within this campaign. The second destination, Morotai, would challenge the troops stamina with terrain that was not easily navigated. It was thick with jungles that required extreme effort by way of slashing trails with machetes to push through to enemy lines. In the twenty day campaign in Morotai it is said that the 136th infantry "...fought virtually alone against fanatical Japanese resistance"  (Pike, et al).   Finally, the division arrived on the island of Luzon in the Philippines on February 10, 1945 to  aide in advancing toward and seizing Japanese General Yamashita's headquarters in Baguio (Derks, Tracy).  It is during this time that Tech Sergeant Borho was up for promotion and was given orders to lead his squad up a hill that, in his foresight, would most definitely lead to brutal tragedy. He refused to sacrifice the life of his men without air support and in disobeying direct orders was immediately busted in rank to Private First Class. No other members of the squad would comply with the orders either after his refusal and another company was brought in to complete the task.  As predicted by Tech Sergeant Borho, the outcome was no short of tragic as the squad suffered many casualties as they were, in the words of Tech Sergeant Borho, "sawed in half by machine gun fire" in a hail storm by the Japanese. It was then that the ordering officer realized his mistake.  It is probable that this was in the taking of Question Mark Hill which began on February 19, 1945 ( Derks, Tracy ).  Despite this tragedy, the United States was successful in their efforts to seize the island and this earned the soldiers yet another bronze star on their Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. Some years ago my grandfather told my father of an incident where his squad was taken into some tunnels once in Baguio. This mission should have taken two hours had they not gotten lost. Finally they approached an area under a wood floor where voices were heard coming from above. They silenced themselves and waited until dark, remaining under the floor. Once there were no longer voices or commotion coming from above, the men looked inside and found that they were under a movie theater and entered from below sneaking out and back to their lines. One of few stories he ever told.
After Luzon and being busted in rank, the newly ranked PFC Borho was transferred to Headquarters Company. During this time he was tasked with stringing wire for communications. It is likely, though unclear, that at this point he was in Honshu, Japan.  While  performing the task assigned to him and three other soldiers they had the misfortune of being closely encountered by Japanese patrol. As the four troops heard the patrol approaching they hastily tossed the wire to the ground while they took cover with the reel in tow. The Japanese patrol decided on this spot to set up camp, yet somehow never saw the wire that would have surely led to the discovery of the four soldiers. It was at that point that the men knew that it was a matter of time before the communication wire  was in fact noticed. In survival mode, the four U.S. soldiers  attacked the Japanese patrol in surprise and killed them all in order to escape and save their own lives. I'm sure these recollections are only an inkling of what was endured and witnessed; perhaps these were easiest stories to recount out of many that were probably too painful to bring back to life by speaking them aloud.
Decades later, a Japanese sword and a smaller dagger were brought out by my grandmother and placed on the fireplace where they were left for years at the begrudging acceptance of my grandfather. We knew they were battle reminders that our grandfather had commandeered from a fallen Japanese soldier, but it was never talked about more than that. How did he come about having possession of them? Had he taken this man's life along with many other lives I'm sure he had taken in desperation to salvage his own along with the lives of his brothers in arms? Had he just happened upon them? I would never ask, and it is likely he would never tell. He is 95 now and his mind is cloudy, his vision all but gone and his hearing vague. I'm sure, however, that these memories will never escape him. He managed however, after his honorable discharge in November of 1945 as a Private First Class and not the Tech Sergeant he had rightfully earned, to return from war and marry 6 years later and  to live a wonderful, fruitful life as a man of God and as the kindest, most honorable and tender-hearted man I will ever have the honor of knowing.  All of this despite the treacherous and death-ridden life he was inducted to live as a  25 year young man. Each time I see him now he is proudly wearing the hat that my father recently had made for him that represents his time spent and awards earned during World War II. Of those awards in addition to the ones already mentioned, he received the Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Army of Occupation Medal for Japan, Army Good Conduct Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal and Bronze Star Medal. His unit all received the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star. The wearing of this hat is the only acknowledgment that he has made in the 36 years that I have known him, of his participation in, arguably one of this country's greatest wars.

John Markward Borho with Granddaughter Monica, 
Great Grandson Kyler and Great Grandaughter Macy
Monica Borho Cox,  John Borho Sr,  Kyler Cox,  Macy Cox

Monica, I want to thank you for sharing this tribute to your Pepa, John Markward Borho, Sr. who was my one and only father-in-law.  He was and still is one of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.   I thank him, your dad John Jr. and Micheal for their service to our country.     John Jr. and my son-in-law Micheal McMullen both proudly served in the Marines. 
My father Henry Ford Kemp also served in the Navy during WWII . 
Love Mom,
Patricia Kemp Borho Blackmon

Micheal McMullen and Laura Borho McMullen

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