Fiji Guerrillas

The first Fiji Commandos.

The first Fiji Commandos.

 

The first Fijian force to undertake service in the Solomons was a special party of 23 guerrillas, commanded by Capt. D.E. Williams, which was drawn from commando units formed as part of the New Zealand 3rd Division and retained in Fiji after the division’s departure.  Williams had Lt. D. Chambers as his second-in-command and sergeants S.I. Heckler, L.V. Jackson, F.E. Williams, R.H. Morrison and M.V. Kells as section leaders.

They reached Guadalcanal via the New Hebrides and disembarked at Lunga Beach on 23 December 1942.  The Japanese garrison was then still fighting desperately along the Matanikau River/Koli Point line and the American command employed the Fijians to probe the wooded country behind the enemy garrison.

Fiji Commandos with their New Zealand commander.

Fiji Commandos with their New Zealand commander.

The first patrol, led by Heckler on Christmas Day, was uneventful, but on the 28th, a small patrol led by Sgt. Williams, acting as scouts for the 182nd US Infantry Regiment, wiped out a Japanese patrol at short range – without loss or injury – on the left bank of the Lunga River.  This action was fought with grenades, rifles and revolvers on sloping ground round the massive, tangled roots of a banyan tree.  This was a characteristic of swift individual action which spelled victory in a type of warfare these men were fighting for the first time.

The Ol' Officer's Mess

The Ol’ Officer’s Mess

The guerrillas wore camouflaged American jungle suits, the green and blotched material to make it difficult to spot the soldier among the tangled growth of the jungle.  New Zealand Army boots were preferred to the soft rubber-soled jungle boot and had a longer life span.  Arms were varied and consisted of Owen guns, rifles, revolvers and hand grenades.  The men carried sufficient rations to last them for at least 5 days.

To remain mobile, these men carried as little personal gear as possible, consequently suffering from the unmerciful attention of the mosquitoes.  Patrols sometimes worked only 100 yards apart but were unaware of the existence of each other.  Malaria played havoc with these parties, especially during a period of heavy activity.

FJ_WW2

As the Japanese force fall back in January and February of 1943, we will once again pick up the information on brave men, who continue to produce vital intelligence while they create havoc among the enemy.  Their contributions become so valuable, MGen. Alexander Patch, commander of Guadalcanal,  would request additional Fiji troops.

I thank Gallivanta (Ann) at Silkannthreades for sending the link of NZETC.victoria.ac.nz so that we could acquire the information.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – when all else fails – 

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military_humor47_Military_Humor-s570x402-218297

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Paul Bobitz – Lake Worth, FL; US Army, 82nd A/B, Army Band

Donald Connett – Mulalla, OR; US Navy, WWII, Admiral, USS Columbia; Shangri La

Benjamin Fisher – Vancouver, CAN; RC Army, WWII, ETOanimated_changing_military_seals-1 (1)

Mae Glassbrenner – Pittsburgh, PA; US Army WAC/USMC Medical Corps, WWII, ETO

Wyatt Martin – Mesa, AZ; US Army, Afghanistan

Henry Myles – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Army # 48702, WWII, Sgt.

George Poulos – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII

Robert Shiffner – Warton, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Med.Co./221st Reg.

Edward Slaga – Flint, MI; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

Robert Wilkinson – Andover, MA; US Air Force

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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 18, 2015, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Tribalmystic stories and commented:
    Read about the bravery of the Fiji Guerrillas on Pacific Paratrooper.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your posts are always captivating. I had never known of these soldiers before, I was very much caught up in your post and was sorry that you didn’t write more

    Like

  3. What I appreciate with your posts gp, is that you actually bring the men alive, you quote names and places, often history is written detailing the actual incidents but sometimes the actual participants are overlooked.

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    • I try, Ian, because as I started researching the Pacific years ago, THAT is exactly what bothered me about the textbooks and historians. Statistics flying everywhere and only generals and admirals being named. So.. like so many other Veteran’s Projects, I began looking for eye witness accounts to bring it to the younger generation on a more personal level. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know that the Fijians were even involved in the war! Thank you for sharing. What awful conditions these poor men served in – jungle, malaria and mosquitos. Those in the Egypt, flies, extreme heat and sand. Those in Europe freezing…

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  5. I;m constantly amazed at the role played by the people from New Zealand and Australia during WWII. Thanks for adding the description of their uniforms as well as the mosquitoes they had to contend with. It gave me a mental picture of their fighting around the banyan trees. Thanks for a continuing education.

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    • I am so glad you are getting something out of this site, Bev – you and I have followed each other for a very long time now and I am very impressed with your continued interest. I wish there were more who held your enthusiasm.

      Like

  6. Spent some time on Fiji. Beautiful islands. –Curt

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  7. Poor little donkey and poor little daughter.

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  8. Wayne wrote about Fijian troops in his journal entry on 06 May 1944: http://waynes-journal.com/2014/05/05/may-6-1944/.

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  9. Thank you for teaching me and, I’m sure, many others about this fascinating piece of important though little-known history. I’m very glad that you are letting the world know about the heroism of these men.

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    • I do my best to locate little known facts as we traverse through the resources of history here. So many things occurred that historians felt did not warrant consideration in their books. As I read one tome after another, each begins to sound like a copy of the one before it; so I stay on the look out of that story or two that sounds different. [and of course technology has helped out greatly]

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  10. Many Americans – me included – cannot possibly imagine nor truly appreciate the horrid tropical environment these men fought and tried to stay alive in. I lived in Japan on and off and just the mosquitoes drove me to scratch and made me look like a pin cushion. However, I lived in a partially air conditioned home and was able to bathe everyday… And nobody was trying to kill me. I tip my hat to these brave souls.

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    • Thank you for helping to put the environmental conditions in perspective for us, Koji. I imagine the Fijians were more accustomed to the tropical smothering heat, but the New Zealanders, Americans and Japanese had to have it really rough!

      Liked by 1 person

      • In a way… Our boys (and to a lesser extent, theirs) were bogged down with gear. Huge strain on them. Natives usually wouldn’t if the just lived there. Take Afghanistan or Iraq for example. Our boys carry at least 70 pounds (? I forget) on patrol in 120F heat. Yes, the enemy is accustomed to it but then again, go into ambushing with only their sandals, robes and some ammo…unless you’re one of the sick suicide bombers.

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  11. Fascinating background.

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  12. What a interesting story about the Fijians. I also didn’t know about this piece of history. That’s why I enjoy your blog so much, Everett!

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  13. Appreciate you posting this little known piece of history from the Pacific Theater GP..Awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Reblogged this on Hammerhead Combat Systems and commented:
    Awesome piece of history…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for helping me to give credit to these fighters. So many people knew nothing about these men. [as I am hearing from the readers].

      Like

  15. Thanks for this interesting blog post. I had no idea that Fijians fought in the Pacific Theatre. They would have been very fierce, because nowadays, as rugby players, they are, to say the very least, formidable.

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    • Good to know, John. Rugby is not a game I am too familiar with, but it has recently started to be aired on TV – so maybe I’ll learn more. Glad you learned a tidbit on this post!!

      Like

  16. Once again, you bring us the stories we’ve never heard from a war that so much has been written about. Thanks!

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  17. High time that the local units were given suitable acknowledgement, so nice to see this post GP. As well as these brave men, there was also a significant contribution by Kachin fighters during the Burma campaigns.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  18. My Great Uncle fought behind enemy lines in Burma with the Chindits. Unfortunately, I know very little about his exploits. He rarely spoke about it and I was too young to ask. After the war, he emigrated to New Zealand. I have a lovely old photo of him in uniform on a white horse.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks for mentioning these brave men.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you for posting this. Here in NZ we are beginning to acknowledge the huge contribution our Pacifica neighbours and brothers made during world war. I learned recently that Tongan and Samoan troops trained on the site where the sculpture exhibition I’m involved with is now held. That makes it more special for many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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