Vincent, who enlisted two days before Christmas, 1942, at the age of
19, was with the 37th Infantry Division in Manila at the time – a proud outfit that saw a lot of fighting in the Pacific War. It was first sent to the Fiji Islands in June 1942 and helped out in the final days of the Guadalcanal campaign in April 1943. He participated in the amphibious landing at Bougainville in November 1943, defending the airfield from heavy attacks in March. This was the last Japanese offensive action in the Solomons.
The division landed with the Sixth Army on the beaches of Lingayen
Gulf in the Philippines in January 1945, driving from there to Manila. It was during that excursion that Vincent and his buddies “fought … with our bare fists for what seemed like an hour to me,” he told a reporter for the Associated Press. Sgt. William Miller, a Texan who was also in the melee, said, “It wasn’t really an hour. It was about five minutes. But it was a hot five minutes.”
The sergeants and PFC Michael Agwa, a Californian, were making a dash from one building to another during street fighting in Manila. Sgt. Vincent was under fire from a Japanese machine gun when he dropped his Browning automatic rifle in the middle of the street. He said “it was no time to stop and pick it up,” so he and his buddies kept running to what they thought was the protection of a five-foot-high stone wall.
“We were crouched close to the wall, getting our breath, and figuring out what to do next,” Vincent said, “when right out of nowhere, right smack over the wall, come six enemy soldiers. They weren’t ten feet away, and they landed with fixed bayonets. There was no time for shooting, by us or by them.”
The leading Japanese soldier made a rush at Vincent with his bayonet. Vincent, who still had no weapon, dodged to the side, “and then started fighting with my fists,” he said. “Brother, it was every man for himself.”
After about five minutes of fighting, Vincent decided to make a break to get his weapon, which was still in the middle of the street.
He raced into the street, grabbed the BAR and came running back toward the wall. The Japanese saw him coming with an automatic weapon and took off.
Vincent lived to see the end of the war and after a few more skirmishes, came back with the 37th in November 1945 for demobilization. He died in November 2002 and is buried in St. Martinville.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.