ArthurFulte
Arthur Fulte

'We look like prisoners of war, we lost so much weight'

BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK

Know how a paratrooper prepares for a tree landing?

Arthur Fulte will tell you.

"You cross your legs," the 87-year-old said, then fell apart laughing. "You don't want to get a limb between your legs."

For 17 months, Fulte jumped out of planes over the South Pacific for the Army. If his cousin could jump out of airplanes, Fulte reasoned, so could he.

As a paratrooper for the 511 Parachute Regiment, 11th Airborne Division, Fulte did 13 jumps by day and two by night during his deployment to the Pacific theater, mostly in the jungle. He went home with awards he doesn't talk about: three bronze stars.

That wasn't the worst of it. Try starvation.

Fulte's outfit got ordered to take back one of the Philippine Islands from the Japanese.

They crossed 25 miles of mountain range to do it.

For seven days, they had no food they didn't scavenge themselves.

"I got pictures of my platoon and we look like prisoners of war, we lost so much weight. We ate roots and everything to get by," said Fulte, of Burbank.

A troopmate from Louisiana found a garden abandoned by Filipino farmers who fled when the fighting started. He knew what to do with the sweet potatoes he dug up.

They cut up the roots, put them in somebody's steel helmet liner, sprinkled them with bouillon powder and cooked the heck out of them.

"Then our lieutenant stood in line when that was cooked, you got one tablespoon full. You had to open your mouth and the next guy walked up and you got back in the line. If you got two tablespoons or three tablespoons, you were lucky."

Some tried eating rations taken off Japanese casualties but it proved more trouble than it was worth. The rice had been raised in human manure.

For all his troubles as a jumper, Fulte earned an extra $50 a month.

"That was a big push, too," he said. "But I'd never understood why an officer got $100 for jumping out that door when he was already getting paid to be a leader.

"We jumped out the same door."