Samuel J. Price

Branch: ARMY
Service Number: 32072982
Rank: Technician 5th Grade
Unit: 37th Infantry Division, 117th Combat Engineer Battalion, Co. “C” 

Samuel Joseph Price, “Sam” was born November 10, 1918 at 1710 Master Street in Camden, NJ to parents William K. Jr. and Anna (Haug) Price.  While he appears to have been named after his uncle, his birth certificate shows however, that his original birth name was in fact William Price.  Sam was the youngest of the Price siblings of which included a brother, William “Lester,” who was born in 1908 and a sister, Anna born in 1912.  The family was residing at 861 Vanhook Street in Camden, NJ according to the 1920 Census.

The Price Family had moved to 18 Valley Road in Mt. Ephraim, NJ prior to 1925.  
18 Valley Road, Mt. Ephraim
Sam attended school in Mt. Ephraim and a year later started at Audubon High School, where he graduated in June 1935.  By 1940, the Great Depression had taken a turn for the better, yet as late as April 1940, Sam was unemployed and looking for a job.  While both of his siblings had “left the nest,”  Sam was still living with his parents. 

On May 5, 1941, Sam enlisted in the U.S. Army at Trenton, NJ.  After induction at Fort Dix, he left for basic training which lasted for roughly 13 weeks.  Afterwards, he was transferred into the 112th Combat Engineer Battalion, an element of the 37th Infantry Division or “Buckeye” Division which was formed originally from the Ohio National Guard.  

Combat engineers are soldiers who are trained to perform construction, repair and demolition tasks in combat environments.  Typically, a combat engineer is also trained as an infantryman, and often have a secondary role fighting as infantry when needed.

The 37th Infantry Division had been training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi for the past 2 years and were now staged at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by February 1942.  They had been alerted for movement to England, and sent the First Battalion of the 112th Engineers overseas ahead of the rest of the Division.  Orders were changed and the 37th was diverted for service to the Pacific Theater.  There was no time to recall all of the 112th from Great Britain, or to create and train a new engineer battalion.  The War Department ordered all personnel and equipment of the 121st Engineers moved from Fort Meade, Maryland to Fort Indiantown Gap, and the unit was re-designated the 117th Engineer Combat Battalion.  Within this battalion, Companies A, B, C, HQ & Service plus a medical detachment were formed.
112th Engineer Bat. Emblem

On April 10, 1942 the personnel assigned to 117th Engineers from 112th and 121st Engineers arrived at Indiantown Gap.  Private First Class Sam Price was re-assigned from the 112th Engineer Battalion to Company “C” of this newly formed 117th Combat Engineering Battalion.  After about a month of additional training, the 117th departed on May 8th by rail to Oakland, California and arrived on the afternoon of May 12th.  Once in Oakland, the troops were quartered in the International Harvester building. They stayed there until getting orders on May 24th to report to the San Francisco Port for assignment overseas.  That evening, Company C boarded the SS President Monroe (APA-104) and set sail as part of Task Force 6429 for a 
destination unknown

While crossing the Pacific Ocean, it was revealed that the troops were steaming to New Zealand.  On June 12th, the SS President Monroe arrived at Hauraki Harbor, New Zealand.  Company C disembarked on the 13th at Auckland and traveled to Camp Hilldene. Here they held training exercises, conditioning marches, construction projects at the camp as well as build defensive positions.  The New Zealanders were overwhelmingly supportive and hospitable to these “Yanks” and welcomed them with open arms.  On June 23rd, the company returned to Auckland, boarded the SS President Coolidge and got under way two days later bound for the island of Fiji.

The Coolidge arrived at Suva Harbor, Fiji on June 28th.  Company C Engineers disembarked the following day and traveled 175 miles by truck to Lautoka.  The 37th Division was sent to Fiji to fortify the island against a possible Japanese invasion.  The 117th Engineers were tasked to repair and improve roadways and bridges, construct facilities for the division area and train in combat team situations.  While Sam was stationed in Fiji, his mother Anna joined the Mt. Ephraim Selectees’ Mothers Club on October 1, 1942.

The Selectees’ Mothers Club, Chapter XI, of Mount Ephraim was organized in 1942. This club hosted card parties to raise funds for cash gifts to send to each serviceman.  Any military member without a relative in this organization was given "adopted parents" to sponsor them.  The Selectees’ Mothers also planned and oversaw the construction of an honor roll which displayed the names of those residents of the borough who were serving in the military.  They would also be responsible for the World War II monument in which Price’s name is engraved.  On December 17th, Private Samuel Price was awarded a $5 gift from this club.

The 117th Engineers departed Fiji on April 17, 1943 and arrived 4 days later at their next destination, the now famed Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Higgins Boats transferred Company C and their equipment to the beach.  The 37th Infantry Division had arrived here after the brutal battle that the Marines fought here from August 7, 1942 until the beginning of February 1943.  The engineers went to work right away clearing dense brush, constructing roadways, improving infrastructure and later training on topics of carpentry, rigging, electricity, general mechanics and demolition.  

Company C received orders in late May to deploy to Banika, Russell Islands with the 148th Regiment Combat Team.  On May 31, they were transported by ship to the small island located 30 miles northwest of Guadalcanal.  The engineers constructed incinerators, tin can pits and worked to resolve the lack of sufficient potable water for the growing number of troops on the island.  Sam was awarded a $3 gift on June 3rd courtesy of the Mount Ephraim Selectees’ Mothers Club. 

117th Engineer Bulldozer
The 37th Infantry Division’s next move was on July 22nd to New Georgia, Solomon Islands.  This was part of “Operation Toenails.”  Here, the 37th assisted both the Marines and 43rd Infantry Division to seize control of this island, particularly an airfield in Munda from the Japanese.  A small group of 117th Engineers consisting of 2 water section men and 2 bulldozer operators from Company C arrived ahead of the rest of the division.  These engineers quickly set up water purification equipment and cut supply trails through the thick jungle.  Enemy snipers shot at these bulldozers as they were working to clear the trails, trying to disable the equipment and delay allied infantry advancement.  On this day, the 2 engineers from Company C were shot, killing one and wounded the other while operating the dozers.

On July 23rd, LST-339 (Landing Ship, Tank) arrived at Rendova, Solomon Islands from Banika with the remainder of Company C, 117th Engineers.  Rendova was a small island situated just south of New Georgia.  It was utilized as an allied staging point for the Battle of Munda Point which took place from July 21 to August 6, 1943.  On July 26th, Company C was transported from Rendova to mainland of New Georgia.  New orders came 4 days later for the 117th Engineers to assist in clearing enemy positions along the trail utilized by the 148th Infantry Regiment. Japanese soldiers ambushed American vehicles as they drove much needed supplies to forward positions.  By August 6th, the Munda Airfield was captured by allied forces and as enemy resistance throughout the island was eliminated, the 117th continued building new roadways and improving existing ones.  Later in the month, they constructed a kitchen and mess hall for the Corp Headquarters as well as an exchange building for the Corp Signal Company. 

By the evening of September 27, the 117th Engineers departed New Georgia and returned to Guadalcanal, arriving the next afternoon.  They moved to an area one mile west of the Matanikau River.  Up to October 9th, the 117th constructed camp here.  Each company cleared their own area, erected tent frames, mess halls, showers and volleyball courts.  A battalion drill field and amphitheater were also built.

On October 11th, training started in earnest for the 117th.  They trained for 5 hours daily on procedures of engineer working party protection, bivouac defense, laying of mine fields, booby traps, construction of floating bridges, demolition, individual, squad and platoon tactics, night operations and marching.  The engineers also performed the regular tasks such as construction of a trash dumps, a PX (Post Exchange-Store) building, pistol range, warehouses and maintenance of roadways.  Each man was required to participate in different competitive games each afternoon (like volleyball or baseball).  Frequent showdown inspections and inventories were taken to determine all shortages of equipment and supplies and were covered immediately by requisition.  A Battalion pass in review was held on October 30th before Major General Robert S. Beightler, Commander of the 37th Infantry Division.  On this day, Purple hearts awarded to 117th Engineers injured or killed.
117 Bat. area, Bougainville

The 37th Division embarked on their next mission, “Operation Cherryblossom” in early November 1943. Their destination was Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea. On November 5th, Company C boarded the USS Fuller (APA-7) and arrived at Empress Augusta Bay three days later.  The 117th Engineers joined with the I Marine Amphibious Corps establishing and expanding the beachhead sector at Empress Augusta Bay. The engineers constructed supply roads, water points, bridges and airstrips. They engaged in extensive patrol activity as well.  One such patrol was mentioned in the 117th Engineer History was as follows: A patrol consisting of Captain Thomas P. Love, Lt. Stanley B. Ledford, Corporals Stephen M. Marquardt, Samuel J. Price, and a Private Moore contacted an entrenched Japanese patrol, one soldier sitting in the open was shot by Captain Love. 

Many tales of rapid construction came from these parts, but the tale of Lt. Rainey’s Road tops them all. An infantry party early one morning surveyed the one mile stretch behind the 1st Battalion of the 148th Infantry Regiment over a poor “peep trail” for the purposes of establishing defensive positions.  The working parties appeared at noon to commence stringing barbed wire, but found the sketch to be lacking in one particular detail. The infantry lieutenant was severely reprimanded for not sketching the two-lane, all traffic road extending the full length of the sector. The lieutenant pleaded, “But there was no road there this morning!” He was right. Company C of the 117th Engineers were the responsible party who quickly created this roadway.

117th Engineer road construction
By December 15, 1943, the I Marines Amphibious Corps were relieved by XIV Corps, to which the 37th Infantry Division was assigned to.  The Division remained on Bougainville for the remainder of 1943 and just about all of 1944.  During the early months of the new year, the 117th Engineers performed usual engineering tasks as well as improve the Battalion area and trained extensively on flame thrower tactics, radio operations, military sketching, drafting, Spanish, shorthand and rifle marksmanship.  For recreation, movies were shown 3 time a week in the battalion movie theater and the occasional concert was held.  Volleyball games between companies and other units of the division were organized and a score of other games and books were made available.  Fishing trips were also arranged for the men. 

From March 9th to April 3rd, the 117th Engineers dropped their shovels and took up arms.  They were used as reserves for the infantry and on several occasions had occupied positions up at the front.  One such instance, a small group of members from the 117th had orders to demolish a pillbox on March 10th.  As the group was pushing sections of bangalore torpedoes towards the enemy position, the demolition prematurely exploded, killing 4 engineers and wounding 4 more.  After hostilities ceased, the 117th Engineers held a 2nd anniversary dinner on April 10, 1944.  General Beightler and the commanding officers of the 37th Infantry Division were in attendance.  The Battalion was later presented with a citation on June 10th for outstanding work accomplished in Northern Solomon Islands campaign.

Company C Engineers joined with the 145th Infantry Regiment for amphibious training from July 19th to August 24, 1944.  On August 17th, the troops reported to LCI(L)-955 (Landing Craft, Infantry) at Empress Augusta Bay where they rehearsed amphibious landings on the area beaches throughout the day.  Corporal Price would receive a $3 gift from the Mt. Ephraim Selectees’ Mothers on July 23rd and once again on October 5th. 

117th commanders received word in the fall that the 37th Infantry Division would be called upon for another operation in the near future.  Company C trained with 148th IR in laying and removing mine fields, demolition, chemical warfare, bridge construction and engineer-infantry assault tactics.  In this training, tanks flame throwers, bangalore torpedoes, and live ammunition was used to make a very realistic and instructive program.  Rifle marksmanship was practiced 1 hour each day for 2 weeks.

With all the intensive training going on, the men knew something was up.  There was much speculation about their next destination. China, Burma, Borneo, Sumatra, Malay, Java?  Realistically, the answer was anywhere and everywhere except for home.  Of course, Tokyo Rose helped with the rumor mill during a broadcast stating that “The 37th Division would soon be leaving Bougainville for the Philippine Islands and they would never reach their destination.”  Turns out she was right in one aspect.  They indeed were heading to the Philippines, but despite what she said, they would in fact arrive at their destination without being annihilated.

On December 2, 1944, Company C boarded a transport ship at Empress Augusta Bay and departed on December 15th.  The ship headed for the Huon Gulf, Papua New Guinea for additional training. Thee days later they arrived at Lae, Papua New Guinea where they practiced amphibious landings for 2 days.  The group then departed for Admiralty Islands on December 20.  A day later, the ships arrived at Manus, Papua New Guinea.  They stayed anchored here in Seeadler Harbor for almost a week.  The 117th Engineer Battalion celebrated Christmas dinner aboard the ships.  Personnel were given the opportunity to go ashore for an afternoon’s recreation, where each man was issued 4 bottles of beer.

The ships left Manus Harbor bound for Luzon, Philippines on December 27th.  The rest of the task group rendezvoused en route.  This massive armada included battleships, cruisers, escorts and carrier vessels.  Additionally, the ships received protection from above with fighter planes keeping a keen eye out for the Japanese Navy.   The 117th Engineer History noted, “Nothing looked so good nor helped morale as much as seeing American planes overhead covering the convoy.  It gave one a feeling of security.”  The other thing the fly boys were looking out for were the Japanese suicide planes, known as Kamikaze. They would deliberately crash their bomb laden aircraft into allied ships.  While en route to the Philippines, the convoy would have their first experience with the Kamikaze. 

117th Engineers land at Lingayen Gulf
The 117th landed on beaches at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon on January 9, 1945.  Company C Engineers were attached to 148th Infantry Regiment.  The battalion landed on “Crimson” and “Yellow” Beaches starting at 9:30am without meeting enemy resistance.  Filipino people greeted the troops at they came ashore waving American flags, yelling "Mabuhay!" (a Filipino greeting) and "You got a cigarette, Joe?" The locals flashed the “V” for victory signs knowing that their liberators had finally arrived.  

Immediately upon disembarkation, Sam’s company developed a road to bypass the damaged bridge at San Lupis. The next mission was to fix the Calmay River Bridge where they set up a “Bailey Bridge” (portable, pre-built truss bridge) across the damaged span to quickly get supplies moving into the area.  Next was to repair the 120 foot-long Toroyo River Bridge on San Carlos Road.  The company had this up and running by January 13th followed by construction of a timber bridge at Bilad on the 17th.  

Company C Engineers sent out a six jeep recon party to “peep” the enemy on January 25th. They were ambushed at a roadblock west of Malabacat but were able to escape without receiving any casualties.  They continued onto Santa Maria, where they were ambushed once again by Japanese tanks. This time, the men had to abandon their vehicles after the jeeps became bogged down and had to withdraw on foot, six miles back to the American line. Several men were injured from this attack. The more seriously wounded men were hidden in ditches and covered with grass and leaves until they could be evacuated later that day. 

The men would move on to Magalang two days later, to repair a secondary road with the 148th Infantry Regiment.  By February 3rd, they were ordered to pick up all available demolition and move out toward Manila for any demolition work needed.
Bilad Bridge
 Company C had traveled on foot, reconnoitering sites, improving crossings and doing everything possible to keep light vehicles up with forward elements of the infantry. 

In the advance from the Lingayen Gulf towards Manila thus far, 10 river crossings with demolished bridges were encountered.   They had built 5 timber trestle bridges, repaired 28 bridges, reconstructed 6 bridges and installed 12 pre-fabricated spans such as pontoon, Bailey, treadway bridges and infantry support rafts. The Battalion didn't just repair and build broken roadways and bridges. They had also successfully removed some 1,400 mines. 

On February 4th, the company arrived on the outskirts of Manila.  Three days later, General Beightler ordered the engineers to reconnoiter the Pasig River for all possible crossing sites, allowing the infantry to continue clearing the enemy from the southern part of the city. The plan was to have the 148th Infantry Regiment cross the river first, followed by the 129th and lastly, the First Battalion of the 145th as Division Reserve.  Parties made numerous attempts throughout the day to find suitable crossings but due to intense enemy fire, the reconnaissance could not be completed.  At 12pm, the engineers were instructed to support the 148th Infantry Regiment in the assault crossing set for 2pm.  The site of the crossing, selected by the infantry was to be in the vicinity of the MalacaƱan Presidential Palace in San Miguel.  The infantry would cross the Pasig to the MalacaƱan Gardens, a botanical park located on the opposite shore of the palace. By 2pm, thirty assault boats had been delivered to the crossing site and ready for launching.  

After an hour delay, in which two attempts were made to neutralize enemy fire power, the initial troops were ferried across the river in assault boats manned by men of  Company C at 3pm.  Five crossings were made by each of the 30 boats in order to get all infantry troops across the Pasig and clear the southern portion of the city.  Each crossing was made under heavy enemy machine gun and 20mm dual purpose gun fire. 

117th Eng & 37 Inf. Div. soldiers
crossing the Pasig River
The engineers continued ferry operations on the warm and clear morning of February 9th.  Their mission was to transport elements of the 129th Infantry Regiment, Company G utilizing only 2 assault boats across the mouth of  Estero de Tonque on the Pasig River to seize a Japanese strongpoint on Provisor Island.  This island, only was only 25 yards distance from their southern landing point and held a key electric generating facility for the city.  At 10am, eighteen men from the 129th Infantry Regiment and 4 from Company C, 117th Engineers boarded the assault boats and started paddling south across the river under the watchful eye of the enemy.  As the vessels got under way, the Japanese opened fire on the men with machine guns and mortars. 

The first boat, helmed by engineers Tec-5 Charles C. Talbott and PFC Ralph E. True, had successfully made it across the river -- although several of them would be injured.  The other boat, operated by Tec-5 Samuel J. Price and Pvt. Antonio H. Guevara was not so fortunate.  A mortar shell found its target, exploding bits of metal shrapnel into the craft. Fragments from the round struck both engineers in the head and chest, instantly killing them as well as two of the 129th soldiers aboard. The survivors had to swim to the island. The 117th Engineer commanders decided to cease crossing operations at 2pm due to continued intensive enemy mortar fire.  

Samuel was originally buried at U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery #1 in Manila on the afternoon of his death.  When the war was over, his remains were transferred to Crypt #27 at the American Graves Registration Services Mausoleum in Manila.  In 1948, the War Department sent a letter to the Price Family inquiring about the wishes of the burial location of their son.  The decision was made to bring Sam back home to New Jersey.  

Corporal Price was shipped back to San Francisco aboard an Army transit and then transported across country with a military escort.  The services were held on the morning of June 26, 1948 at Foster’s Funeral Home in Audubon, NJ.  A procession made its way from Audubon to Lakeview Memorial Park in Cinnaminson, NJ for interment where military rites were performed by the Mount Ephraim V.F.W. Post 6262.  Sam was posthumously awarded with the Purple Heart as well as a Distinguished Unit Citation received by the 117th Engineers for outstanding actions taken in Luzon from January 9 to March 3, 1945.

Samuel Price Grave Marker
Samuel J. Price was survived by both of his parents, brother William “Lester” and sister, Anna (Price) Faux.  The family posted a poem in memory for Sam in the Camden Courier-Post Newspaper each year on the anniversary of his death.  I leave you with this one...

“They say time heals all sorrow
And helps us to forget.
But time so far has only proved
How much we miss him yet. 
God gave us strength to fight it,
And courage to bear the blow.
But what it meant to lose our Sam,
No one will ever know.”

May their sacrifice never be forgotten.


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