Eye Witness Account – Driniumor River

New Guinea natives evacuate wounded Allies across the Driniumor River near Afua.

New Guinea natives evacuate wounded Allies across the Driniumor River near Afua.

By: James D. West, 124th Reg/31st Infantry Division @ Indiana Military, org

After about three weeks of nightly Jap attacks along the Driniumor the situation eased somewhat. The 124th plus one battalion from the 169th was ordered to cross the River and go after the Japs that remained in the area. This group had the code name “Ted Force” after Col. Edward Starr, Commanding Officer of the 124th as well as C.O. of this endeavor. Much has been written about this “Ted Force” but I’ll just touch on it briefly. These four battalions moved in different directions while eventually meeting at a given point. They had to move by use of a compass as maps were not of much use in the jungle. About all you could recognize was the ocean, the river, the mountains and perhaps a stream. It was very slow going, as they had to hack their way through the dense jungle growth with machetes.

 

This was an extremely difficult endeavor in enemy held territory which lasted from 31 July 1944 to 10 August 1944. It was difficult not only because of enemy soldiers but also from the rough marshy jungle terrain. Torrential rains came every day making footing almost impossible at times, with soldiers slipping and falling everywhere. Under such extreme conditions there was still an enemy out there fighting at every occasion that seemed to offer him an advantage.

Sketch by: William Garbo Sr., Dog Platoon, July 1944

Sketch by: William Garbo Sr., Dog Platoon, July 1944

Unfortunately this is war and we had casualties and being so deep in the jungle it’s impossible to get them out at that time. Our litter cases had to be carried along and under these extreme conditions this was not an easy matter. Not having enough litters, some were improvised by using two saplings, with a poncho stretched between them. With such adverse conditions it was extremely tiring on men to carry litters. They would have to trade off and rest awhile which often made it a job for ten men to carry one litter case.

 

The dead were buried along the trail and when the battle situation permitted details were sent in to bring the bodies out. I often had to send trucks out for the purpose of hauling these bodies. Naturally the odor was unpleasant and the truck drivers hated this detail, even though all they had to do was drive the truck. In spite of such difficult conditions the mission was a success with the destruction of the Japs from the ocean to the mountains while others fled back toward their base at Wewak.

 

Along the Driniumor River was a totally different environment than these soldiers were accustomed to and this took almost all of their energy just to exist. Yet in spite of this hostile environment, enemy soldiers, dense jungle, torrential rains, terrible heat of the day, cold wet nights, diseases and jungle rot, our foot soldiers prevailed. Being in transportation, I did not have to endure the trials of the foot soldier but the conditions made it a terrible experience for anyone who was there.

 

As we think about our conditions and the 440 (87 from the 124th) American Soldiers killed in action in this battle; the conditions for the Japanese soldiers were much worse. With little food, hardly any medicine, plus a shortage of arms and ammunition and no hope of any more supplies. The 124th’s first contact with the Japs along the Driniumor River found these soldiers in good physical condition with many being much larger in stature than the typical Japanese man. As time passed the shortage of food and medicine began to take its toll and their physical condition deteriorated rapidly. I have seen estimates that they suffered anywhere from 10,000 to 18,000 killed here at Aitape. Don’t know if this includes those who died from disease and starvation but I suspect that it doesn’t. I read in one publication that in all of New Guinea 148,000 Japanese soldiers perished in these jungles. It is my opinion that most of these died of starvation and disease. Many fell dead while attempting to move through the harsh jungle to some hopeless perception of a better condition for them in western New Guinea. In any event the end result of this battle along the Driniumor river here at Aitape was the destruction of the Japanese 18th Army as an effective fighting force.

 

As we began to prepare for the invasion of Morotai the 43rd Division relieved the troops on the line. Then a few weeks later Australian troops took over and sporadic fighting continued, with casualties on both sides, until the Japanese surrender at the War’s end.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Allan E. Brown – Takoma Park, DC; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class, 1st Special Troops Batt./1st Cavalry Div.

John Glenn – Cambridge, OH; USMC, WWII, PTO, Korea, Colonel, pilot, Astronaut, Senator11986973_1183822258300441_3544440820007753006_n-jpgfrom-falling-with-hale

Andrew ‘Holly’ Hollingsworth – SC; US Navy (Ret. 20 years)

Michael Kinneary, Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, Korea

Parker Mosley Jr. – Humble, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 1th Airborne Division

Janice Olson – Victor Valley, CA; VV College Foundation President, instrumental in locating lost B-17’s of WWII, PTO

Peter Pergunas – Ballina, AUS; RA Navy

Steve Reese – Bartlesville, OK; USMC, Vietnam

William Schaefer – Chicago, IL; US Navy

William Wyatt – Tauranga, NZ; RNZ Navy # 2056, 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 December 9, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 77 Comments.

  1. Such a moving account…. It seems it all happened too long ago… but it wasn´t that long ago, if you stop to think it… The World Wards were a huge tragedy for Humankind. Thanks for sharing, as always ❤

    Like

  2. A very interesting (and harrowing) version of events. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Told firsthand this story becomes even more gripping.. It is sad.. but also important to know the history..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this great description of fighting in the jungle. It’s hard to imagine all the problems they encountered. Trying to survive in the jungle would be bad enough, without having to defend yourself from the enemy. What brave men.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi GP, I just wanted to relay that my daughter, son and I met a WWII vet in a restaurant a month ago.
    He was a 90 something years old!
    We all went over to shake his hand because it is just so rare to see a WWII vet these days.
    It was a real honor for us! Can you believe he said it was an honor for him too?
    He was a real class act!
    We were humbled!
    He allowed us to take a pic of him with my daughter.
    She’s only 10!
    We all sort of looked at each other and thought, “Wow we just experienced something so very special that we will treasure for years to come.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is a wonderful story, Lady G! And I thank you for sharing it with us! The few people remaining from that generation have become so rare and you you did experience a part of history, and you left a man knowing that what he went through so long ago will not be forgotten or dismissed! I thank you for doing that and please cherish that photo of the veteran and your daughter! Have an outstanding day!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you!
        And thank you for your service too!
        My daughter’s Grandfather was a WWII vet.
        He passed away long before she was born.

        This chance meeting seemed like a wink from God to allow her to have a beautiful brush with a man like the one she never got to know.
        May you have an outstanding day as well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad to see John Glenn in your list of Farewell Salutes!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Years ago….really before my time but I cry and applaud the astounding. ~~dru~~

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A most evocative description

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Excellent first hand narrative gp, describes the topography of Papua New Guinea perfectly.
    Your first picture is rather sad for me, as during the war New Guinea natives, called the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, also played a big role in carrying and evacuating Australian wounded, it is sad now to see Indonesia is committing atrocities in West Papua and the world, including Australia and UN turns a blind eye, how quickly we forget. All because we don’t want to upset bilateral agreements with Indonesia.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a great account. I am touched by the care given to the dead and dying.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Such courage and great post. Was picturing them with the machetes and slipping and sliding as they work their way through the jungle not knowing where the enemy could be.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Red I correct?so much missing soldiers?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I always enjoy the firsthand accounts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So heart rending. Just horrifying. So much loss. I have been learning about the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. The Japanese soldiers killed all the patients and nurses at the hospital in Fort Stanley. I visited there when I was in my 20s. Such terrible cruelty. I hope lessons will be learned from records from the past.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. A real ‘war of attrition’ was necessary at this time. I don’t envy the truck drivers having to recover bodies. But I am glad that they did, so that they got a decent burial, and their relatives knew what had happened, sad though it was.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Intense, GP. It sounds so hard and is heartbreaking to hear. Also important to remember. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. The lives lost were mammoth! These days it looks unlikely though to have wars on such a scale.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I wish they had, he was an awful little man, but Jonathan got a very good start there, the School “Camrose” was like a Victorian school – all bleak, freezing in the winter, he would shout and even hit some of them, I didn’t want my Son there but his Father insisted. Luckily it closed by the time my second Son was 5 and ready to go there.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Its remarkable how those drawings survived. My late Uncle was captured by the Japanese and was a POW in notorious “Changi. He came back and had a book of drawings that he and others had made as POWs, some with their own blood. Many years later he gave it to me, my late Husband had been in the RAF “The Burma Campaign”. Then some years before David, my Husband, died he lent the book without asking me, to my eldest Son’s prep Headmaster who never gave it back, he denied when I asked for it after David died that he had been given it. I was so annoyed and upset. He just refused point blank, I wondered if he had sold it and I rang “The Imperial British War Museum”, it transpired they had been sold a book of drawings made by POWs in “Changi” by an ex POW and it was the Headmaster. Number 1 he never went to War, he was a pacifist and secondly lied as to the ownership. There was nothing that could be done, they British Imperial War Museum had purchased it in good faith, I was happy they had it, I intended to leave it to them anyway. I never told my Uncle he would have been so annoyed, rightly so, and so upset, he died not knowing. I always angry with my late Husband, he was 30 years older than me, yet he could not understand why I was so upset about it, he fought a War I was not even born?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. 148,000 Japanese lost. That is an almost unbelievable figure. Who among us has ever seen that number of people?

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I appreciate your interest in the history.

    Like

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