September 1943 (2)

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The Australian 7th Division had already seen service in the Middle East but were thrust back into the action on New Guinea. Here they joined the US forces in the drive for the major Japanese base at Lae.

The U.S. forces had parachuted in, followed by a large part of the Australian 7th Division who were airlifted to front line airfields. The operation began badly when over a bomber crashed into one of the transport planes killing the 11 man crew and 60 men in the transport, more died amongst 90 injured men during the following days. The remainder of the shocked airborne force had to carry on with the operation.

One man who landed in the remote jungle that day was Private Richard Kelliher, a man determined to prove himself. He had been arrested earlier in the campaign for running away from the front lines. In fact his section leader had sent him back for information – but the man had been killed. Without any witnesses to his version of events, Kelliher had to face a Court Martial. He managed to convince them, but was now determined that he would ‘show them’.

Kelliher probably should not have been in the ranks at all, he suffered from very poor health before joining up, the result of Typhoid and Meningitis. In June he had been hospitalized with Malaria contracted on the campaign.

It was only a matter of days later that he got his opportunity to ‘show them’, although it seems his motivation was largely to save a friend rather than any personal heroics. A concealed machine gun post killed five of his section and wounded three more, pinning down the remainder:

I wanted to bring [wounded] Cpl Richards back, because he was my cobber, so I jumped out from the stump where I was sheltering and threw a few grenades over into the position where the Japanese were dug in. I did not kill them all, so went back, got a Bren gun and emptied the magazine in the post. That settled the Japanese. Another position opened up when I went on to get Cpl Richards, but we got a bit of covering fire and I brought him back to our lines.

Richard Kelliher, 1946

Richard Kelliher, 1946

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to:—

No. QX 20656 Private Richard Kelliher, Australian Military Forces.

During an attack by this soldier’s platoon on an enemy position at Nadzab, New Guinea, on the morning of 13th September, 1943, the platoon came under heavy fire from a concealed enemy machine-gun post, approximately 50 yards away. Five off the platoon were killed and three wounded and it was found impossible to advance without further losses.

In the face of these casualties Private Kelliher suddenly, on his own initiative, and without orders, dashed towards the post and hurled two grenades at it, killing some of the enemy but not all.

Noting this, he then returned to his section, seized a Bren gun, again dashed forward to within 30 yards of the post, and with accurate fire completely silenced it.

Returning from his already gallant action Private Kelliher next requested permission to go forward again and rescue his wounded section leader. This he successfully accomplished, though under heavy rifle fire from another position.

Private Kelliher, by these actions, acted as an inspiration to everyone in his platoon, and not only enabled the advance to continue but also saved his section leader’s life.

His most conspicuous bravery and extreme devotion to duty in the face of heavy enemy’ fire resulted in the capture of this strong enemy position.

Story retrieved from WW2 Today.

Click on images to enlarge.  I apologize that the print so small, couldn’t seem to enlarge it.

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Military Humor –article-1357224-0D3319E3000005DC-554_634x675

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Farewell Salutes –

Ernest Yazhe – Naschitti, NM; USMC, WWII, PTO, Navajo Code Talker

For the 12 U.S. Marines still missing off Oahu, Hawaii – 

Major Shaun Campbell, 41, College Station, Texas

Captain Brian Kennedy, 31, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaU-S--Marine-Corps-Celebrates-234th-Birthday---22429167

Captain Kevin Roche, 30, St. Louis, Missouri

Captain Steven Torbert, 29, Florence, Alabama

Sgt. Dillon Semolina, 24, Chaska, Minnesota

Sgt. Adam Schoeller, 25, Gardners, Pennsylvania

Sgt. Jeffrey Sempler, 22, Woodruff, South Carolina

Sgt. William Turner, 25, Florala, Alabama

Cpl. Matthew Drown, 23, Spring, Texas

Cpl. Thomas Jardas, 22, Fort Myers, Florida

Cpl. Christopher Orlando, 23, Hingham, Massachusetts

Lance Cpl. Ty Hart, 21, Aumsville, Oregon

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Try to keep in your thoughts that this year is the 25th Anniversary of the Gulf War.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War

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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 January 18, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. Another episode of fevered bravery (albeit mixed with a dash of Aussie bravado) from the 7th Div. in PNG. My great-uncle Doug was also court-martialed not long before becoming POW with the 8th Div. in Malaya, although his particular offense was falling asleep on guard duty…

    Bloody good yarn, cobber 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Truly amazing. To come out from under the cloud of a court martial (the mud tends to stick even if the subject is exonerated) and get the highest possible award for gallantry.
    Sadly, his health continued to be a problem and apart from some trips to UK for the Coronation and for Victoria Cross events, not enough recognition attached to him and he found difficulty in getting a good job. He died in his early fifties.

    Like

  3. Hi GP
    I think you might like my latest offering ‘God bless them’. Do you know who Mr Zambreda might have been?
    All best
    R

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I’m afraid I don’t know a Mr. Zaremba or a Zambreda… any clue? I like the cancellation mark about the bread – good reminder!

      Like

    • Found your post via GP; Feeling that much older. This digital age has made letters -no pun intended- virtually non-existent, the youth are no longer being taught cursive writing (script to the Greatest generation). We now type e-mail, and I uneasily expect the demise of all printed news in the near future. Welcome to the Orwellian world!
      PS. I edited your typo – no big deal – I’ve been called worse!

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      • I will always write in script – printing takes too long and my typing is slow too. In fact my posts are normally written out long-hand before I type them in – but then again – I’m old-school!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank goodness he lived

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  5. What an amazingly modest account by Private Kelliher. You’d have thought he was just going down to the shops to get a newspaper .And what a friend to have on your side!

    Liked by 1 person

    • A true hero doesn’t boast and puff his chest out for doing his job. I believe having that sort of fortitude comes from deep down and arises when needed. Don’t know If I’m making myself clear, but I think you’ve got the drift.

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  6. Casualties – especially from accidents and “friendly fire” are the most heart wrenching. Some how, even in death these men are robbed of the tiniest reward all combat deaths receive – to be able to claim that he died a glorious death for his country. My words could be better coached but I hope the intent/meaning came through.

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    • Yes, i do understand what you’re saying, Eric. Even that term ‘friendly-fire’ makes me cringe; as though his life was lost for no reason at all. (I could use with some coaching myself.)

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  7. Unfortunately you don’t hear the word cobber anymore, it is rarely if ever used by the Australian men nowadays, the American ‘buddy’ seems to have taken over. Blame it on the TV& movies I suppose.
    When I went into the army in ’53 we mostly used the word mate for our cobbers and this gradually took over,although I must admit to occasionally reverting back to the old cobber, it always seems to have a special connotation at certain times that no other word can replicate for old blokes like me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, guess he showed them, even though he was being heroic for another reason. Laughed at the map coordinates joke. I’ve been there a few times out in the wilderness. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an incredibly brave and courageous man he was. To do that and go back for more, that’s heroic.

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  10. ‘Cobber’, a term my grandfather used all the time…I haven’t heard it for years ….made me smile 😄

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  11. Great story and love the humor section especially the map reading. Prayers also for the Marines!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. They tell these tales of extreme heroism in such a matter-of-fact way. It makes you humble to hear them.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  13. This goes to show that our soldiers are fighting for the guy next to them.

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    • I suppose that’s what “watching your 6 (back)” is all about. If everyone looks out for everyone else – you just might all get home! Thanks for the pop-in, Jacqui!

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  14. Wünsche dir eine gute und glückliche Woche lieber Gruß und Umarmung Gislinde

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  15. My father lost the sight in one eye and both his sense of taste and smell in New Guinea from a tropical disease. I didn’t know about this until I was ten and he handed me an official looking government check in the form of an IBM card and told me to use it to pick up milk at the little store on the corner. The check was for $1.

    When I questioned why he got so little for losing so much, he laughed and said, “I came back and that is payment enough.”

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I learned a new word today, “cobber”, an Australian colloquial term for “male friend”. 🙂

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  17. Great story.

    Like

  18. Prayers to the families of the missing Marines.

    Liked by 2 people

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