Eye Witness Account – Bougainville

Steve Cibik

Steve Cibik

Lt. Steve Cibik, 21st Marines

“We were a veteran company with Guadalcanal behind us and we thought we knew the jungle.  But here on Bougainville we were battling a jungle such as we had never dreamed of.  For 19 days we struggled in miasmal swamps, fought vines that wrapped themselves bout our neck like whips, birds that dived at us like screaming Stukas, bats whose wings whirred like falling artillery shells, snakes, lizards and insects without name or number.  For 19 days we attacked this natural enemy with our machetes and knives, hacking our way through almost solid barricades of vegetation run riot.

Stuka

Stuka

“It rained daily from noon to dusk – fierce sounding tropical rains.  If we had been lucky to hit fairly dry ground, we slept in foxholes, 6 or 8 inches deep.  During the night, water seeped through the earth.  We invariably woke drenched.”

[On the 19th day in the jungle, Cibik’s company stumbled on a ridge that rose almost invisibly concealed in the dense undergrowth.  Crawling up vines for ladders, they came upon a Japanese observation position:]

200px-21st_Marines

“I walked the edge of the ridge and almost gasped.  What a view of Bougainville!  We were on a thumb of earth 500 feet high, an oasis in a sea of mist-covered jungle, the only high ground for miles around.  From here we could spot Japanese positions and direct our artillery fire; from here, we could drive down into the valley, engaging the enemy while our main forces fought their way across the river.  On the other hand, were the Japanese in control of the ridge, the tables would be turned.  This ridge could be the key to success or failure in this phase of the Battle of Bougainville.”

[With determination, Cibik and his 51-man patrol held the ridge against every enemy attempt to gain it.  They lived on K rations and with only 11 belts of machine-gun ammo and 3 hand grenades apiece, they fought off the Japanese until 23 November.  The rest of the troops got safely across the river and the company was relieved.

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Steve Cibik passed away in 2007, 87 years of age, a Colonel who went on to serve in the Korean War and Vietnam.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Daniel Aguayo – Gilbert, AZ; US Army, WWII

William Cox – Rockford, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Col. (Ret. 30 yrs.), D.F.C.

Alfred Drew – Manawatu, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 46992, WWII, 14th Squadron, Aircraftsman 1st Class0083f165f66161f63454e92890403bcd

Nick Farina – Utica, NY; US Army, Korea, 187th Regiment

Harold King – Low Head, AUS; RA Navy # 22975, WWII

F. David Labshere – Rutland, VT; US Army, Korea

Ross Mowry – Ft. Lauderdale, FL; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Wallace Spitt – Eau Claire, WI; US Navy, WWII, Korea, pilot, Lt.Commander

Dorothy Taylor – brn: Surrey, ENG/Red Deer, CAN; Royal Air Force, WWII, Barrage Balloon Operator

Wallace Wydra – PeEll, WA; US Navy, WWII, Korea

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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 February 22, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 90 Comments.

  1. Wow!

    Like

    • Right ?! And this [1943] is the year that historians treat as though nothing happened in the Pacific! All they prefer to mention is Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima & Okinawa (only USMC battles). I’ve known people, who due to history texts, school and news media, never knew that the US Army, Coast Guard, RAAF & RNZAF, etc. were involved!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good web site, sent along to some old sweats from WW 2, they loved it. Thank you, and thank you for dropping in on my site, Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thank you for dropping in and for sharing it. If you or your friends happen to have a story you care to share – feel free to add them into the comments!! My readers and friends are always contributing additional information, links and family stories.

      Like

  3. Fantastic post gp, I can imagine the vegetation those men faced, having been in Papua New Guinea, that must have been one great position that they had to defend.
    Steve Cibik epitomizes the name Marine, to go on to serve in Korea and Vietnam demonstrates that mans dedication to serving the Military.
    Cheers.

    Like

  4. GP, I know you don’t want this blog to be about your son, but may I ask if the photo in the flowers is a tribute to your son or your father? I would like to think it is one of these men who are so dear to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Finding and holding that key position was an exemplary feat!
    (Love the drilled pigeons!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have a small photography book about the US air campaign in Desert Storm. Do you have any pictures and stories about it; US or otherwise?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The valiant….against all odds. My father and naval PT boat bases suffered with malaria and the elements but not to the extent for marines entrenched further inland.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful eye witness account. Also, It is great to know Col Cibik lived to have a full and productive life.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an amazing story, and an amazing group of men. I love his descriptions of the “natural enemy”. His vivid depictions really give you an idea of the difficult conditions these men faced even before they had to face their human enemies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many know so little about the Pacific, as everyone related more closely with Europe and that became the headlines of the era – and so little has changed since then. Thank you for recognizing their trials.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. “For 19 days we struggled in miasmal swamps, fought vines that wrapped themselves bout our neck like whips, birds that dived at us like screaming Stukas, bats whose wings whirred like falling artillery shells, snakes, lizards and insects without name or number. For 19 days we attacked this natural enemy with our machetes and knives, hacking our way through almost solid barricades of vegetation run riot.”

    What a great account of bravery told in such great prose. It is easy to forget (for us) that in the Pacific theater our troops not only had to fight the enemy but also the weather, the terrain, the flora and the fauna. Thank you for finding such great golden nugget of history!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. What amazing guys – such courage and fortitude. The writing is brilliant, full of suspense, imagery and captures the jungle so well.. …’fought vines that wrapped themselves bout our neck like whips, birds that dived at us like screaming Stukas, bats whose wings whirred like falling artillery shells, snakes…’ Thank you for sharing. You are creating a huge archive here – fantastic work.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. sue marquis bishop

    Wow!

    Like

  13. The snakes, lizards and insects didn’t surprise me; but the vines, and birds being that aggressive? No joke, what are the odds that stories like that inspired Alfred Hitchcock to produce his movie “The Birds”?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m really dumb on world war 2 terms.. i just knew today the difference between c-ration and k-ration. Hahaha! It is really fun knowing all of these… But seriously, I hope the world will no longer have a world war. The news on what’s happening in the middle east specially between Iran and Saudi Arabia, including Syria are quite bleak!

    Like

  15. Amazing story…true grit!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great story. I’m glad he lived to tell it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Such grit and determination, a terrific post!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you for this first hand account.

    Like

  19. I just love it when you read a story like that and then you realise that the hero died at home only five years or so ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Amazing first hand account! Bravery & fortitude beyond belief. Thanks, Everett. Happy Week! Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Such courage & fortitude…always humbling

    Like

  22. “with only 11 belts of machine-gun ammo and 3 hand grenades apiece:” not much to withstand an army it seems to me. On another note, love the cartoon with the officer lining up his pigeons. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I love these eye-witness accounts

    Like

  24. It is testimony to the courage, determination and sheer grit of those marines that they had to contend with two tenacious enemies – that of the Japanese and the jungle. Thanks for sharing GP.

    Like

  25. I understand that disease can be the biggest killer in a war. I wonder how many of our troops caught tropical diseases, living and fighting in such wet, miserable conditions.

    Like

  26. Usually, I just read these posts and spend a few minutes in awe of what the troops were able to accomplish. But something unrelated caught my attention here, and I had to go exploring. I wondered if there was a connection between the island (which I didn’t know) and one of my favorite flowers: the bougainvillea.

    Indeed, there is. From the wiki entry on the flower: “The first European to describe these plants was Philibert Commerçon, a botanist accompanying French Navy admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville during his voyage of circumnavigation of the Earth, and first published for him by Antoine Laurent de Jussieu in 1789.” As it turns out, de Bougainville also was the person who gave the island its name.

    I’ll never look at my flowers in quite the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being as the plant “flowers” best in a drought, I always it thought it strange that it was nature to a jungle island. I’m glad to hear I sparked some curiosity.

      Like


  27. Wünsche eine gute neue Woche liebe Grüße von mir Gislinde

    Like

  28. Amazing account. Thanks for posting.

    Like

  29. Thank you for sharing these stories. I don’t thunk us civilians truly understand the rigors of these military operations.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. A riveting personal story of courage and determination. Against the odds, and enduring appalling conditions, they held out, and lived to fight another day, in different wars. Brave men indeed, and humbling to contemplate.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Awesome Post GP! Thanks for giving a Marines POV!! Semper Fi!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thank you for helping me to honor these men.

    Like

  1. Pingback: My Article Read (2-23-2016) – My Daily Musing

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