December 1942 (1)

US Marine engineers repair the bridge over Lunga River

US Marine engineers repair the bridge over Lunga River, Guadalcanal

Having the Australians out-fight the poorly trained American troops on New Guinea did not sit well with MacArthur.  He summoned Lt.Gen. Robert Eichelberger, recently promoted as I Corps commander, and ordered him to fire any officer who did not show a fighting spirit.  The general’s parting words were: “Go out there, Bob and take Buna – or don’t come back alive.”

Gen. Sir Thomas Blamey & LtGen. Robert Eichelberger in front of a captured enemy bunker in New Guinea

Gen. Sir Thomas Blamey & LtGen. Robert Eichelberger in front of a captured enemy bunker in New Guinea

1 December – Eichelberger flew to the 32nd Division HQ at the Dunropa Plantation, 2 miles north of Buna.  He discovered that the collapsing morale was NOT an exaggeration: “… it was obvious the Japanese would win, for they were living among coconut palms on the coast… while our men lived in swamps… There was no front line discipline of any kind.”  The men had not eaten since the previous day and had no hot meals in 10 days.  He stopped all fighting and began to reorganize.  A supply convoy’s arrival with Bren gun carriers and howitzers seemed a welcome sight, but they proved unsuccessful due to the muddy terrain.

2 December – the US Marines ambushed a Japanese patrol around the Lunga River on Guadalcanal.  They had killed 35 of the enemy out the 60 men in the patrol.

3-13 December – an intelligence expert spotted an airfield being built on New Georgia under the palms on a coconut plantation.  This was confirmed when Henderson Field aircraft flew over the island and strafed the area in question.  On the 9th, the first major attack was made on Munda Field and by the 13th, the fly-overs were down to occasional nighttime bombings by PBY Catalinas.

 

32nd Infantry Div. at Buna, New Guinea

32nd Infantry Div. at Buna, New Guinea

5 December – on New Guinea, after a week of bloody close fighting, the American troops had very little progress to show for their effort.  The Australians, 10 miles north, were encountering similar problems.  One Australian private reported: “It was the maddest, bloodiest fighting I have ever seen.  Grenades were bursting among the Japanese as we stabbed down at them with our bayonets from the parapets above.  Some of our fellows were actually rolling on the sand with Japs locked against them in wrestling grips.  A few of the Japs had escaped, but the bodies of 30 were tangled among their captured guns.  The enemy could only be described as a fanatical opposition.”

32nd Infantry Div. on Buna River

32nd Infantry Div. on Buna River

7 December – the USS New Jersey was launched.  At this point, it was the largest battleship built, with a displacement of 54,889 tons and main armament of nine 16″ guns set in 3 turrets.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –  Old SNAFU – 

Put together by Frank Capra, the US Army Air Corps  First Motion Picture Unit and shown for new recruits was patterned after Elmer Fudd.  He is the US Army’s worst soldier, partially written by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) and voiced by Mel Blanc.

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Anderson – Hurst, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO,  187th RHQ

Elizabeth Anstey – Rakaia, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 5993, WWII, Princess Mary Royal A.F.

Robert Gardner – Rooyal Palm Bch, FL; US Navy, WWII6MCl-1qX-1

Adam Greenwald – Hoonah, AK; US Army, WWII, Aleutians, tug boat engineer

Chuck Hutton – Lake Worth, FL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Lee Jamison – Durango, CO; US Navy, WWII

Ramon Morris – New York, NY; US Army, Afghanistan, 2nd Sq/3rd Cavalry Reg/1st Cavalry Div.

Clarence Padgett – Spindale, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, MSgt., howitzer platoon

L. Medland Tessier – CAN; RC Army, WWII, Royal Montreal Regiment

Jack Wood – Muncie, IN; US Navy, Korea, USS New Jersey

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 4, 2015, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Wow!

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  2. Did I miss something here? Why were our troops so poorly cared for? Was that the fault of our government or circumstances beyond their control? I’m trying to learn!

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    • A number of events caused that, the main one being the terrain made it difficult to drive the trucks over; the depressed morale in both soldier and officer didn’t help with organization either. I’m very happy you’re trying to learn, ask any question you like – no problem. If I don’t know the answer – I’ll do my best to find it for you, Bev.

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  3. Just a tidbit… Jungle fighting was just as a surprise to the Japanese in general as well. Although both sides suffered at the onset of the Pacific War, the Japanese suffered perhaps more than our troops (Allied), in my opinion, in the long run. I base that upon the food and medical rations that were available to them, which dwindled as the war continued. Overall, it is estimated that about 60% of the deaths for the Japanese came from starvation or illness/disease.

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    • I completely agree about the poor food supply and total scarceness of medical attention for the Japanese. I know the jungle was unknown to many of the Japanese, but of what I know of their training, many were more qualified. The disease, humidity and heat were problematic for ALL.
      I really should have made it clearer about the enemy’s plight – I stand corrected.

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  4. The words by the unidentified Australian soldier, in the last paragraph of your post gp, are chilling, we rarely hear of hand to hand combat these days.
    Enjoyed the Snafu video, can recall a few of them in my time in the Army.
    Cheers.

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  5. Hi GP, as you know, life here has been flashing past faster than I can keep up with it, but I have been taking a quick look at these posts and thinking I should get on and add to the conversation. I would like to bring to your readers’ attention the Australian book The Ghost at the Wedding by Shirley Walker. There are some passages which describe Buna and Gona and I see they are digitised on Google. Long link, but here is an idea below. I recommend this book to all. It is a true story, following the lives of intersecting families who served in both WWI and WWII. One of the mothers had children over a long period of time. The first Joe was killed in WWI, she later had another child she named after him, who is the Joe killed in the swamp at Buna in WWII. You need to read the whole book of course… it almost looks as if the ENTIRE book is available through this Google link, which I consider a great shame, (writer’s copyright, etc), but for a quick look at the on the ground experience in the swamp . . . here it is . . .
    https://books.google.com.au/books?id=-on9Cg56K2gC&pg=PA243&lpg=PA243&dq=gona+in+the+ghost+at+the+wedding&source=bl&ots=zvZtxXFnXN&sig=BSSkET93b0CLPIt0RZE4AS4CRFM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=N4pxVZytO4bNmwWrsYCABg&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=gona%20in%20the%20ghost%20at%20the%20wedding&f=false

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    • Thank you very much for taking the time to bring all the readers and myself the link to this book. As you say, it is a shame the author doesn’t get compensated, but it must be in public domain for Google to have the complete book available. I’ll get into this story in short order. Thank you again, so many people know so little about this part of the war.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I finally got into the book you sent here and discovered Ms Walker’s gripping knowledge and voice of the jungle and troops to be very compelling. I thank you very much for supplying the link, Gwen. [I am always forgetting about google books – terrific reminder!!]

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That close-range fighting sounds terrible GP. Being English, I am perhaps more aware of the Australian involvement than some others. But whether American, Australian, or Japanese, it all took guts and determination, so your article salutes them all.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    • I’m glad I made that impression; that everyone had to have courage to keep going under those conditions – whether Allied or enemy. Thank you for letting me know, Pete.

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  7. Mr. GP Cox

    My name is Steven, Please contact me at steven@hcstx.org,

    I am starting a new non-profit blog dedicated to Military History, and a big part of it will be WW2. I have been studying and reading on World War 2 for several years now, I studied the European theater for 4 years and am now starting on the Pacific theater, I hoped you could help with any stories or advice.

    I myself served in the Navy for 6 years and was in Desert Storm and Shield, so I have a desire to also bring awareness to Veterans causes through my blog too.

    Thanks Again
    Steven

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid I don’t do personal emails, but I do research for people and answer any number of questions for people here in the comments. If I am unable to answer honestly, I have a great bunch of fellow researchers and historians that will be all too eager to assist.
      I think you have a wonderful idea going here and certainly sound as though you are doing your homework! I will be here for you whenever you wish.
      To start off with – watch out for getting caught up in an author’s own idea of what happened or how their book tends to slant in any one direction. Start with the facts, go into personal eye witness accounts, etc. For the Pacific you will locate any number of resources for the USMC, the next popular will be the US Navy. To learn exactly what all went on, you need to dig up the US Army [and NOT just about MacArthur), Australia, New Zealand, [Canada was in the Aleutians] countries involved with the CBI Theater, etc.
      Let me tell you, I am very proud to be talking to a veteran, I greatly appreciate all you have done. My family was: father – Army; son- USMC; uncle: USMC; and cousin: Navy. All are deceased now except my cousin.
      Come back here as often as you wish with questions or suggestions for me!! I am extremely proud to make your acquaintance, Steven.

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  8. I sure can understand the low morale. What they went through is horrible. Loved the Shafu 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Outfought by the Aussies–not something America likes to hear. But then again, I fear my spirit would sag in those conditions too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Seems they had extremely good reason for low morale, Then, one wonders what geniuses thought gun carriers would be of any use in that terrain.

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    • They were way too used to fighting in wars such as Europe. Jungle fighting was new, hence the US unprepared soldiers. It also explains one reason why “Europe First” was the preferred place to fight, they understood going from town to town – not beach to jungle to swamp….
      Thanks for coming by today!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Just awful. I still can’t fathom why this chapter is rarely discussed. Thanks for bringing Australia to light.

    Liked by 2 people

    • They were there, they fought hard – just like us. Why we aren’t taught more about the other nations, IMO, helps to cause misunderstandings and ignorance of other cultures and values. This whole internet business should be helping to alleviate that problem, but it some ways it hurts us too. I suppose all my ranting here just means – I have no answer for you, Cindy.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Pierre Lagacé

    Who would lack moral fiber after this?

    “Go out there, Bob and take Buna – or don’t come back alive.”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My dad was on New Guinea, but I don’t know the exact dates. The only information he ever shared indicated that he wanted to forget that chapter of his life.

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    • As you can see, Dan, your father had good reason to try and forget. An island out of the primitive past was suddenly thrown into the 20th Century, no one could ready themselves for such an experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Loved the cartoon!

    Liked by 1 person

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