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The Generals, Australians and Borneo (2)

The Borneo Campaign Map

From: “General Kenney Reports”

[continued from the previous post where the Generals were on the island of Labaun after the Australian troops had landed to take it back from the Japanese.]

We got to the USS Boise and the next morning we all went over to the beach near Brooketon.  Gen. Wooten joined us.  We waded through a half mile of swamp to a road where 6 jeeps picked us up and drove into the town of Brooketon itself.  The place was completely wrecked by bombing.

Australian soldiers firing artillery, Borneo

Wooten said they encountered very little opposition until they got about 10 miles inland, where they were in contact with about 500 Japs who were dug in on a hill commanding the road.  He had radioed for some airplanes from Palawan to blast their artillery out of the hills so he could use the road.

MacArthur, of course, wanted to see what as going on, so we climbed in the jeeps and headed off for more trouble.  About 5 miles down the road we came to an overturned Jap truck.  It seemed that about 2 hours before, the truck with 12 Nips on board, had dashed along the road with the lights turned on, the horns blowing, and the fools all yelling “Banzai”, heading for the Aussies who were marching toward them.  The Aussie machine-gunners had taken care of the truck and all the Japs.

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MacArthur on Labaun, Borneo 10 June 1945

From: “The Australian Experience”

The decision to bring forward the OBOE VI operation, on the western side of Borneo, was a strategic surprise to the Japanese. The area around Brunei Bay facilitated rapid deployments and operational maneuver from the sea. General MacArthur set Z-Day as 10 June 1945. Naval and landing force command for the Brunei Bay amphibious assault, landing 33,500 personnel and 49,500 tons of supplies and equipment was delegated to Rear Admiral Royal, and Major General George Wootten, commander of the Australian 9th Division.

The Brunei Bay operation was, according to MacArthur, ‘flawlessly executed’. Between 10 June 1945 and the end of the war, the fighting at Brunei Bay and Labuan led to the loss of 119 Australians killed and a further 221 wounded. At least eight Americans lost their lives and 55 were wounded. The Japanese lost 1,375 and 130 captured during this operation, although guerillas probably killed another 1,800 throughout British Borneo.

Borneo, 1945

The order of battle for the ground forces for the OBOE II is indicative of the Australian Army’s approach. Australians made up 94 per cent of the invasion force. It was built around the Australian 7th Infantry Division. The major Australian contribution, its nine infantry battalions (in three brigades) were central to the activities of the ground force. The Australian artillery and armored units were allocated an infantry support role, and were not well versed in the application of combined arms teams.

The US Army provided the specialist amphibious ship-to-shore units for the Australian division. While the Australian Army was responsible for beach operations, the Navy provided a Beachmaster and the RAN Beach Commandos. The NEI troops did fight but were also employed as interpreters and as security for the Netherland Indies civil affairs organization. The RAAF airfield construction squadrons, which were attached to the ground force commander, were to land early and have an airbase ready for Allied aircraft in just four days.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Atilano ‘Al’ David – Angeles, P.I. & NM; WWII, PTO, Sgt. 31st Regiment Philippine Division, (Bataan Death March survivor)

Harold P. DeMoss – Nashville, TN; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Ensign, Fighting Squadron 100, KIA

Hubert Fuller – Huntington, WV; US Army, WWII, PTO, 147th Signal/7th Armored/3rd Army

Frank Guerrieri Sr. – Garfield, NJ; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS St. Louis

John Hickman – Auckland, NZ; RNZ Navy # 14321

Kathy Meinsen – Bastrop, TX; US Army

Gerald Nehring – Hinckley, IL; US Army, WWII, CBI

Thomas Reilly – Scituate, MA; US Coast Guard, Chief Boatswain’s Mate (Ret. 24 y.)

Norman Summers – Auckland, NZ; Royal Navy # MX801257 / RNZ Navy # 12177

Julian Waldman – Oceanside, NY; US Army, WWII

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Personal Note – I have having a little computer trouble.  If I do not answer comments or visit your site, I will do so as soon as possible.   Thank you for your patience.

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May > June for Smitty and the 11th Airborne

117th Engineer Battalion, Luzon

The 11th Airborne continued their patrols, mopping up details and training at Lipa, Luzon, P.I.  General Swing had another jump school built that created 1,000 newly qualified paratroopers out of their latest replacements.

The new glider school concentrated on the “snatch pickup” method, whereby a CG-4A Glider on the ground with a towrope and a C-47 with a hook. As the plane goes overhead at an altitude of 15 feet, it snatches up the glider and brings it to 120 mph in a matter of a few seconds. (The noise from the plane, shock and whiplash must have been overwhelming.)

With May drawing to a close and the Japanese Army being pushed to the northeast, the 11th Airborne knew something was brewing, but then Smitty got a surprise.

Brisbane 1945

8 June 1945, Cpl. Everett Smith found himself and four others from the division on leave in Australia and Smitty was determined to have a good time! Those that went to Brisbane on the same orders for TDY were:
Lt. Col. Francis W. Regnier MC HQ 11th A/B Div.
Major George K. Oliver INF HQ 11th A/B Div.
T Sgt. Manuel C. DeBeon Jr. 187th Glider Infantry
Tec 4 Beverly A. Ferreira HQ 11th A/B Div.
The orders were signed by Major E.W. Wyman Jr., Adjutant General of Luzon

Townsville, Queensland, WWII

My father never told me very much about his R&R and probably for a good reason. (For one, my mother was always around listening.) He did say that when he first arrived in Australia, he wanted a haircut and a shave. While the barber was working on him, he remarked that the pores in Smitty’s nose appeared enlarged. My father answered, “You spend five months in the jungles of New Guinea and see what your nose looks like.” Dad said after that, his money was no good. Everyone in the barbershop made such a fuss over him that he never got a word in edgewise. They were so extremely grateful to anyone who served in New Guinea. Smitty did always tell me he wished he could make a trip back there; he thought Australia and her people were great, but sadly, he never did.

Perhaps this young lady, Joan, was the reason Smitty wouldn’t talk about his time on leave.

“Happy Landing, Joan”

In another part of the war….

The Sixth Australian Division attacked and occupied Wewak, New Guinea. This is relevant because it housed the headquarters of the Japanese Eighteenth Army. A major boon for the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations).

23 May, at least 65 square miles of Tokyo had been incinerated by bombs and napalm. Later, the same action was taken over Yokohama, Osaka and Kobe. This left over 100 square miles of the principle Japanese cities devastated and one-third of the country’s construction destroyed. Japan’s factories were demolished.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Current News – U.S. Coast Guard – 228 years old this 4 August 2018

 

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Charles Burnett – Lexington, KY; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Duane Caitlin – Waverly, NY; US Coast Guard

Walter Geer – New Oxford, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Thomas Horn – Broad Channel, NY; US Navy, WWII

Alfred Johnson Jr. – Washington D.C.; US Coast Guard, WWII

Roy Meyer – Tucson, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 449th Bombardment Group, B-24 waist-gunner

Edward Patapanian – Boston, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII

Brady Spillane – Great Falls, MT; US Army, 82 Airborne Division

William Thomure – Columbus, OH; US Coast Guard, WWII

James Watt – Whangamata, NZ; RNZ Army # 811867, WWII, PTO, 22nd/9th Brigade

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Australian Troops: Wewak,New Guinea

Painting of Aussies in New Guinea, artist unknown

I hope many of you remember the battles that were started for liberating New Guinea back at the original stage of the Pacific War – at this point – they were still going on.

The operations were characterized by prolonged small-scale patrolling with small-scale company attacks. Progress was slowed by the difficulties of transporting supplies overland or by barge and the flash flooding of a number of the rivers the Australians had to cross. In one incident, seven men from the 2/3rd Battalion drowned in the swollen waters of the Danmap River which had risen suddenly after a torrential downpour. After Dogreto Bay was occupied, the supply problems eased somewhat.

Wewak, New Guinea map

On 16 March 1945, the airfields at But and Dagua on the coast were occupied, although fighting continued further inland from there over the course of the following fortnight. On 25 March, Lieutenant Albert Chowne, a platoon commander from the Australian 2/2nd Battalion led an attack on a Japanese position that was holding up the advance on Wewak. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Albert Chowne

In the Torricelli Mountains the 17th Brigade continued its advance against stubborn Japanese defense. Nevertheless, by 23 April 1945 they had secured Maprik. The fall of Maprik allowed the Australians to begin constructing an airfield 8 miles (13 km) away at Hayfield, and this was completed on 14 May allowing reinforcements and supplies to be flown in.

Elsewhere the 19th Brigade had begun its assault on Wewak in early May. HMAS Hobart, Arunta, Warramunga, Swan and HMS Newfoundland (of the British Pacific Fleet) as well as the RAAF bombarded the Wewak defenses. On 11 May, a landing at Dove Bay by Farida Force was undertaken to encircle Wewak and prevent the escape of its garrison. Wewak fell on the same day, as the 19th Brigade occupied its airfield.

HMAS Warramunga

The fighting around Wewak airfield continued until 15 May, however, when men from the 2/4th Battalion, with armoured support, attacked Japanese positions overlooking the airstrip. It was during this attack that Private Edward Kenna carried out the deeds that led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Edward Kenna

Following this, the remaining Japanese in the area withdrew into the Prince Alexander Mountains to the south of Wewak. To counter this, the 16th Brigade was dispatched to follow them up, and push them towards the 17th Brigade which advanced towards the east towards Maprik.

Australian 2/3 Battalion at memorial for fallen comrades, New Guinea 1945

These operations continued until 11 August, by which time the 16th Brigade had reached Numoikum, about 23 kilometres (14 mi) from Wewak, while the 17th Brigade had captured Kairivu, 24 kilometres (15 mi) from Wewak. At this stage, word was received that the Japanese government had begun discussing terms for a possible surrender and so offensive operations were brought to a halt.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

‘Psst. It’s okay in here, but don’t go around calling $690 billion ‘chump change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Philip Barbary – Murray Valley, AUS; Australian Army # 45018, Vietnam, 104 Signal Squadron

Robert Costello – Newcastle, AUS; Australian Army, Vietnam

Robert Forstburg – Upper Darby, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 101st Airborne Division

Ralph Regis Giles – Lowell, MA; US Army, Korea, KIA

Gordon Herrick – Rochester, NY; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Glen McGraw – Centerville, IN; US Army, WWII

Eric Rapps – ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, 8th Army

Doris Sherman (101) – Como, AUS; Royal Navy, WWII, ETO & PTO, Chief Petty Officer, nurse

Betty Tallarico – Dorothy, WV; Civilian, US Navy draftsman

Geoffrey ‘Boy’ Wellum – Cornwall, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, 65th Squadron, Distinguished Flying Cross

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PTO & CBI reactions to V-E Day

US Army 77th Division hears the news on Okinawa

Victory in Europe was welcome news to Allied troops in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India theaters of war. They greeted it with thanksgiving but there was little celebration. As a London Times special correspondent in Burma wrote, “The war is over. Let us get on with the war.” Now that Europe would no longer be receiving the bulk of troops and materiel, officers and enlisted personnel in the war against Japan hoped they would be given more men and equipment quickly, in order to end their war sooner.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in New Guinea, the Philippines, Okinawa, the CBI and elsewhere. Kamikazes still made suicide dives to sink Allied ships. The lights may have gone on over Europe and America, but a funeral pall still darkened the Pacific and Asia.

SMITTY _ New Guinea 10/24/44

Smitty, my father, when asked how he had felt, merely shrugged. “I was happy for my fellow soldiers over there, but we had work to do, so we didn’t think about it very long.”

From The May 7, 1945 Edition of Stars and Stripes

OKINAWA, May 6 (ANS)—The reported death of Adolf Hitler and the word of surrender of the German armies in Italy was good news to soldiers, sailors and marines here but there was no celebrating.Most of the fighting men figured it wouldn’t mean a thing to them “until we can see some help coming and see a chance of ending the war out here.”

They termed Hitler’s death “good riddance” and said it was a good thing he went that way because there probably would have been lots of bickering around if we had taken him alive.”

Gen. Daniel I. Sultan

Gen. Dan I. Sultan, commander of the India-Burma Theater, on V-E Day, paid tribute to the fighting men who won the European war in a short statement to the troops of the India-Burma Theater broadcast over the American Army radio stations in the Theater. The text of Gen. Sultan’s statement:
“Today in Europe, German military might has been broken. After almost six years, organized hostilities have ceased. The great work of reconstruction of the shattered continent can now begin.
“We recognize the tremendous achievements of the Allied Armies in Europe who won this victory, for we too have been fighting. We know the cost of driving back a tenacious enemy – we know the necessity for close co-operation of all branches of our forces, the close union with our allies in the common cause. We know the heartbreaking conditions of combat under adverse weather and over difficult terrain – the back-breaking work of construction and supply in support of combat operations. So, as fighting men, we pay tribute to the fighting men in Europe.
“Their victory is in part our victory. We have done with less man and supplies, so that they might have more. Their victory brings our victory nearer. The men who broke the German ground defenses in the west, who destroyed her essential industries from the air, can now turn their attention to the war with Japan. The industrial strength of the United States, until now producing for the war both in Europe and in Asia, can turn its full productive force to the Far East.
“This is the day of Germany’s defeat and Europe’s liberation, but we must not forget that there is still a tough battle to be fought before the Japs are licked. Every one of us knows his part in that fight; and if every one of us will do his part to the utmost, Japan’s defeat and the liberation of Asia will come surely and swiftly.”

The Pacific War

 

The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia greeted V-E Day with the question, “Since when has it been customary to celebrate victory halfway through a contest?” The war with Japan had been the great threat to Australia itself, and the country’s sons were still fighting and dying in that war. Accordingly, the mood was more somber than in Europe. On May 9, some 100,000 people attended a service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

For the most part New Zealanders observed V-E Day on May 9, although there was some spontaneous dancing in the streets. Preparations had been underway for weeks, in part to keep celebrations from getting out of control. Events included speeches, thanksgiving services, and the singing of the national anthems of New Zealand, America and the Soviet Union. A People’s Victory March in Christchurch drew 25,000.

In the U.S., many communities attempted to subdue celebrations, wanting to give the occasion the solemnity they felt it deserved and reminding Americans that, as Truman said, “Our victory is only half over.” Across the country, however, joyous celebrations broke out. Thousands gathered in New York’s Times Square. New Orleans took on the appearance of Mardi Gras, with people dancing in the streets. Church bells rang out the glorious news in small towns and major cities.

In the Soviet Union, Stalin himself seemed less than enthusiastic. His deputy Nikita Khrushchev telephoned to congratulate the Soviet leader on his victory, and Stalin reportedly snapped at him, “Why are you bothering me? I am working.” The USSR’s official victory parade took place in a downpour over a month later, on June 24.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

‘Bring back rationing!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Harold Bishop – Sacramento, CA; US Navy, WWII, submarine service

Christopher A. Celiz – Summerville, SC; US Army, Afghanistan (7th deployment), Sgt. 1st Class, KIA

Dallas ‘Chris’ Christenson – Pensecola, FL, US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, MSgt. (Ret.)

John Hart – Keesville, NY; US Army / US Navy

Melvin Hilscher – Kulm, ND; US Army, WWII

James McLean – AUS; RA Air Force # 428761, WWII, Flight Sgt., 83rd Squadron

George Meyer – Bristol, CT; US Navy, WWII, Medical Corps

Ruskin Reddoch – Troy, AL; USMC, WWII, 1st Lt., Silver Star, Purple Heart

Elliot Seidman – Delray Beach, FL; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman

Maria Swafford – Boydton, VA; Civilian, US Map Service, D.C., WWII

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HMAS Australia

HMAS Australia, imagery scanned from Navy Historic Archive

Possibly the ship with the most colorful World War II history was HMAS Australia, fondly known as “The Aussie”. The Aussie fought for almost the entire duration of the war. A county class cruiser commissioned in 1928 she was the second ship to bear the name of her country.

With the outbreak of WWII Aussie sailed for the Atlantic to begin her long wartime career that she was to fight on all fronts and against all enemies.  In September, 1940, she was in Operation Menace off Dakar, French West Africa.  Bombers of the Luftwaffe tried in vain to sink her whilst she was berthed alongside in Liverpool during the period when the city suffered its worst blitz. During her war service Aussie went everywhere.

n December 1941 when Japan entered the war Aussie became the flagship or Rear Admiral Crace, followed by Admiral Crutchley and then Commodore Collins.  In January 1942 the cruiser assisted in escorting the first US troops to Australia. Operating in the Coral Sea it pursued and attacked the Japanese from Guadalcanal to Hollandia, surviving everything its enemies could throw at her, until…

HMAS Australia funnel damage

Out of the blue skies of Leyte came the ‘Divine Wind” or the Kamikaze. The first Kamikaze hit against Aussie was by a A6M5 Zero-Sen Fighter fitted with a 200 kilogram bomb, the impact of this snapped one leg of the ship’s tripod mast, causing a huge shower of wreckage to rain down upon the compass platform.  Underneath it lay Captain Dechaineaux mortally wounded along with many others, amongst them Commodore J. Collins, hero of the HMAS Sydney.  Four days later, after the initial Kamikaze attack, Aussie again suffered the brunt of another, her sleek hull and distinctive row of three funnels drawing the suicidal pilots to her.

more HMAS Australia damage

HMAS Australia was needed badly by the R.A.N for she was the last surviving seaworthy member of the country’s heavy cruiser fleet the rest having been sunk and Hobart badly damaged. So she was quickly returned to active service.

She headed straight back to Philippine waters and on the afternoon of 5th January 1945 at Lingayen Gulf,  The Kamikazes targeted her again.  Her new Captain Armstrong flung the ship about wildly, but another bomb laden aircraft slammed into to her. The casualties were high – 25 men killed and 30 seriously wounded, most were badly needed guns crews.

Despite extensive damage she joined HMAS Shropshire and other US units to aid in the bombardment of San Fernando and Poro Point.  A new wave of Kamikazes then attacked, a Aichi ‘Val’ Dive Bomber surviving the murderous fire thrown up by all ships collided headlong into her upper deck exploding in an enormous fireball.  Several guns crews died instantly and a severe shock wave shuddered throughout the ship. This hit accounted for another 14 dead and 26 seriously wounded. by now Aussie’s AA defenses were all but eliminated.

HMAS Australia damage to the twin 4-inch mount

At dawn on 8th January the allied fleet resumed its bombardment and the Kamikazes renewed their suicidal attacks.  Aussie was the last ship in the line and was once again singled out.   The Aussie’s gunners throwing up withering fire at a Mitsubishi “Dinah” Bomber until at last shooting it down, but not before it released its bomb which exploded close to the waterline, punching a large hole in the hull.

Taking a dangerous list to port another ‘Dinah’ roared in.  Those guns still in operation tore the bomber to bits and it showered down aviation fuel upon the sailors whilst its massive engine smashed through the bulkhead of the Captain’s Day Cabin. Within seconds another ‘Dinah’ roared in, the Aussie gunners frantically trying to shoot it down, succeeding, within just 15 metres, the propeller blades embedding themselves in a life-raft.  The aircraft skidded into the hull ripping another large hole and damaging yet another fuel tank, whilst two mess decks were completely destroyed. Aussie by now was in bad shape, her speed reduced to fifteen knots to avoid causing more damage,  still hung in and managed to continue the fight with what was left of her.

The following day the Japs decided to finish the Flagship off knowing she was almost dead in the water. As another plane raced in heading for her bridge its pilot misjudged his attack line and slammed into the yardarm slewing the aircraft around so as to miss the bridge area and taking out the top of the foremost funnel. Sliced off cleanly it crashed to the deck. There were no casualties from this hit but it spelled the end for Aussie. Two boilers had to be shut down because of insufficient updraft.  Aussie’s war had come to an end.

The war for HMAS Australia was over.

Information from the Royal Australian Navy Gun Plot; Australian Navy and Joey’s Walkabout

The Australian Navy link includes some fantastic photographs!

Click on images to enlarge.

 

Current News – Doris “Dorie” Miller

Dorie Miller statue in progress

A 9-foot stature sculptured by Eddie Dixon will be unveiled today, Thursday, 7 December 2017, in honor of Doris “Dorie” Miller – Hero of Pearl Harbor!  On the banks of the Brazos River, Miller relatives and former crew of the USS Doris Miller will attend the ceremony for the Waco, Texas born seaman.

For a full story of Mr. Miller please click HERE!

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Military Humor –

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Margaret Abbott Hanson – CAN; RC Army, WWII, Regina Rifle Regiment

Deane Brees – Creston, IA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Gallatin, signalman

Paul Ciccarelli – Monessen, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co A/188/11th Airborne Division

Walter Eacott – Melbourne, AUS; RAF, WWII, night fighter pilot / RAAF, Squadron Leader

Charles Greene – Middleboro, KY; US Army, WWII, ETO, 916 Medical Ambulance, Bronze Star

James Lane – Wannambool, AUS; RA Navy # 57966, CPO

Francis Mitchell – Walkanae, NZ; RNZ Navy # 13840. Korea

David Nesbitt – Sidney, AUS; RA Air Force # 420355, WWII

Joseph Pisano – Queens, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, F/367/101st Airborne Division

Michael Vertucci – Maspeth, NY; US Army, KOrea

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Current News – WWII Chapel in Australia + Purple Heart Day

St. Christopher’s

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia — As 33,000 troops take part in Talisman Saber war games near Rockhampton along the central Queensland coast, a small chapel overlooking a pasture serves as a reminder of when about 70,000 U.S. soldiers called the city home.

The nondenominational Saint Christophers Chapel, built in 1943 by the Army’s 542nd Engineer Battalion, is the only structure remaining from when Rockhampton served as a springboard and training location for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s World War II island-hopping campaign. The city hosted the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th, 32nd and 41st infantry divisions on a half-dozen camps between 1942-44.

Along with the open-air, pavilion-style chapel, the grounds include a band rotunda dedicated to a servicemember who helped maintain the chapel decades ago. A concrete pillar from an artillery declination station used by 41st Infantry Division howitzers stands at the chapel’s foot, a

Cliff Hudson, 79, of Sawtell, New South Wales, first visited the chapel about 30 years ago because it shares its name with his son.  “My wife always wanted our daughter to get married here because of the Christopher name,” he said.

Hudson said he is drawn by the chapel’s interior boards listing names, sporting events and results of competitions from the 1940s. The boards were taken from a nearby war-era sports field and placed inside and U.S. and Australian flags and seals adorn the gates and interior.

Saint Christopher’s nearly deteriorated in the years after WWII. Vandals destroyed parts of the chapel in 1959, prompting locals and the 41st Infantry Division Association to start caring for the site. Today, the chapel and its grounds are immaculately maintained, and church services are held each year on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July.

Julie Henderson, 77, of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, said she’s glad the chapel still stands.  “It’s nice to come and remember the soldiers who served in the war because we weren’t there,” she said.

 

 

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For further information about the chapel please click HERE!

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Military Humor – from the Prisoners themselves – 

Air Activity in Java

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Farewell Salutes –

William Andrews Jr. – Palm Springs, FL; US Air Force, Korea, Bronze Star

Lowell Bailey – Thomaston, GA; US Army, Korea, POW

Bruce D’Agostino – Natick, MA; US Air Force, photographer (Founder of Humanitaian International)

John Ekenbarger – Nashua, NH; US Army, Korea, POW

Richard Ford – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

George Franklin – Pensacola, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 127th Engineers/11th Airborne Division, demolition

Quentin Gifford – Mankato, MN; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Thomas Madison – Austin, TX; US Air Force, Vietnam, Col. (Ret. 20 yrs.), pilot, POW

Warren Glenn Ranscht – Racine, WI; US Army, WWII, ETO, WIA

Albert Zuidema – Falls Church, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, pilot, WIA

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Personal Note – for Purple Heart Day posts click HERE!

Please remember that today 7 August is the U.S. observation of Purple Heart Day.  Shake the hand of a veteran!

And say a prayer for our 3 Marines missing in the waters off Australia.  Thank You.

Lt. Benjamin R. Cross of Bethel, Maine; Cpl. Nathan Ordway of Wichita, Kansas; and Pfc Reuben Velasco of California.

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Dowsett’s War, Part 6 – Changi Prisoner

In leading up to Purple Heart Day on Monday, 7 August 2017, we honor another POW for his sacrifices.

The Rant Foundry

Three prisoners at Shimo Songkurai in 1943. The effects of malnutrition can be seen in their skeletal frames and the stomach of the man on the right, distended by beri beri. The photograph was one of the last to be taken by George Aspinall on the camera he smuggled up to the Thai–Burma railway from Changi. [By courtesy Tim Bowden] Three Australian prisoners at Shimo Songkurai in 1943. The effects of malnutrition can be seen in their skeletal frames and the stomach of the man on the right, distended by beri beri. The photograph was one of the last to be taken by George Aspinall on the camera he smuggled up to the Thai–Burma railway from Changi. [Photo by G. Aspinall]

“The place earned the title of Hellfire Pass, for it looked, and was, like a living image of hell itself.”
Jack Chalker, Burma Railway: Images of War, London, Mercer Books, 2007, 59

For the other chapters of Dowsetts War, click here.

Douglas France Dowsett, a driver with the 22nd Infantry Brigade Australian Army Service Corps Supply (AASC) Section was held along with roughly 15,000 other servicemen of the Australian Army’s 8th Division in the British Army’s Selarang Barracks, Changi. It was a prisoner of war camp holding some…

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Sandakan POW Camp & Australian Soldiers

Billy Young decided to enlist at age 15.

Billy Young decided to enlist at age 15.

It remains the single-worst atrocity against Australians at war. Yet many Australians have probably never heard of Sandakan. So few men returned from the Japanese prisoner of war camp on the island of Borneo after World War II it has become a neglected chapter in Australia’s wartime history.

In fact 2,000 Australians spent time as POWs at Sandakan. And of the nearly 1,800 still captive there at the end of the war, only six men survived.

All of which makes Sydney man Billy Young rare indeed. He spent three years as a POW under the Japanese.

He is the only surviving rank and file Australian soldier who spent time at Sandakan.  And he is the only POW still alive who was imprisoned at Outram Road Jail in Singapore.

Now aged 90, he has written a book about his inspiring story. “Billy: My Life as a Teenage POW”, co-written with historian Lynette Silver.

Mr Young would never have gone to war if his mother had not abandoned him as a baby.  Adora Shaw walked out on Billy and his father William in Hobart in about 1927 and returned to Sydney with another son Kevin, from an earlier relationship.

Billy never saw her again. One of his earliest memories is of his father taking him to Sydney to search for her, and later showing him her grave.  She had apparently died of tuberculosis.

William "Big Billy" young and son Billy, aged 6.

William “Big Billy” Young w/ his son Billy, age six. in Sydney. photo courtesy of: Lynette Silver

A decade later his father also died. He had joined the Australian Communist Party and gone to Spain to fight in the civil war, but was caught and shot by forces loyal to dictator General Franco.

“When he was gone, I was like a wild animal,” Mr Young says from his home near Hurstville.  “I was a rebel. I wanted my dad.  He was the only person of authority I could listen to.”

At 15, a fellow student told him he wanted to enlist in the army. It was 1941. Australian troops were fighting overseas. Billy decided to join him.  “The fella said to us ‘what mob do you want to join?’ And we said the one that goes overseas. He said ‘that’s the AIF’, and I said ‘that’s us’. He said ‘how old are you?’ And we said ‘how old have you gotta be?’ He said 19. We said ‘well, we’re 19’.”

See Billy Young, only a short 1:41

With no parents to give consent, the boys took the enlistment forms and signed each other’s paper. At 15 they were soldiers.

Hoping for a boys’ own adventure, they joined the 100,000 allied troops in Singapore. Mr Young says initially there was no fear of the Japanese.  “Intelligence officers used to say to us: ‘Those Japanese — they’re nothing. They’re blind. They all wear glasses, they’re short-sighted’,” he says.

“But when they came down it was no laughing matter. They knew what they were doing.”

Soon after Billy’s 16th birthday the allied forces crumbled under the Japanese. Billy was suddenly a prisoner of war at Changi.

Then, with hundreds more soldiers he was shipped to Borneo to build a Japanese airstrip at Sandakan in the Malaysian jungle. It was stinking hot, humid and overrun by mosquitoes. But it was nothing against the brutal treatment of the Japanese.

The lack of food and water, torture and beatings were all common.  “Sandakan was tremendously brutal towards the end of the war. Food was cut back to below starvations rations,” co-author Ms Silver says.

“And as Japan was losing the war, the punishment handed out was far more brutal than in the beginning. People were placed in a cage for 40 days and 40 nights. And some of them actually died in the cage.”  Mr Young survived the Japanese brutality. But he watched other POWs suffer from starvation and the worst violence.

Mr. Young's depiction of Jimmy Darlington's punishment

Mr. Young’s depiction of Jimmy Darlington’s punishment

One such victim was a young Aboriginal soldier Jimmy Darlington, who had dared to strike a Japanese soldier for washing his clothes in the prisoners’ cooking pot. He was bound and tied to sharp stakes of wood and left to suffer.

“One of the Japs grabbed a bucket of water,” Mr Young says.

“Another was grabbing ropes and he put it in the water, and knelt him on the platform and tied him down with ropes, or wet ropes.  The sun started to shine and dried the ropes.  And the ropes tightened up, and cut right into his wrists and his legs.”

Only after Mr Young and his mates created a diversion to distract the Japanese could another Australian soldier — an ambulance officer — move in to cut the ropes. Without it, Mr Young says Darlington would have died.

Black and white painting of a prisoner collecting his luchtime rice ration.

Prisoners line up for rice.

But far worse was in store for Mr Young. After a failed escape he was tried and sent to the hellhole that was Outram Road jail back in Singapore. He spent six months in solitary confinement — forced to sit cross legged for hours at a time.

Food rations were so pitiful prisoners, including Mr Young, became skeletal. He sat by while one of his fellow prisoners, a Dutch man, died of Beri-Beri in his arms.

“I put his head on my lap. I chatted to him and I pushed his chest and felt it. And you could feel it going up and down as he was panting for breath,” Mr Young says.  “But death must have had slippers because he died and I didn’t know. So I waited.

“I put him down and I didn’t tell the guard, and I waited till his box of rice came and I put Peter’s bowl by him. And I got mine, I ate mine, and then I ate Peter’s. And that’s the only banquet we ever had between us you know.”

The bombing of Hiroshima signaled freedom for Mr. Young.  Returning to Sydney, he couldn’t wait to reunite with his old mates from Sandakan.

But he couldn’t find them.  “I waited and waited and waited. It took me ages to find out,” he says.

Only six men of the nearly 1,800 Australians in Sandakan at the end of the war survived.  Many had died in the so-called Death Marches, when the Japanese forced them to walk as near-skeletons, 250 kilometres across Borneo.

Hundreds more starved to death. Still others were executed even after the war ended.

“The death rate at Sandakan for the Australians, 1,787 died, was 99.75 per cent,” Ms Silver says.

Some of Mr Young’s mates from Outram Rd also didn’t last long.

A black and white photo of the Outram Rd Jail building in Singapore.

Outram Road Jail, Singapore.

“One of my dear friends got home in Tasmania and not home long and he went into his mum and dad’s orchard and blew his brains out with a rifle,” he sobs.

Mr Young was only 19 when he returned to Sydney. He had his own demons to confront.  “We had no one who understood the trauma.  Not the.  Even now… at 91 almost, there are still stories I cannot tell.  I bawl like a little baby,” he said.

But 70 years on, the wounds have finally healed.  Mr Young today is an avid painter. His home is filled with paintings of his time at Sandakan and Outram Rd Jail.

“He very rarely has a down moment. He is just so positive, and I think that his positive attitude has gotten him this far,” his daughter says.

Mr Young’s paintings — and now the book he has written with Ms Silver — will remain a lasting record of the mates he lost at Sandakan.  “For Billy and me they are frozen in time,” she says.  “We know them as they were – as 18-year-old men.  And that’s probably the great thing about the ode that we say – they shall grow not old as we that are left grow old…”

“For the two of us they are still the people that left Australia as young people, young men with hope for the empire and their country. Taking on the Japanese, and who never came home.”

Click on images to enlarge.

Article contributed by Beari

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Military Humor – from Lt. Ronald Williams, POW Java

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Farewell Salutes –

Ila Albert – Belmont, MA; US Army WAC; WWII, ETO

Robert Anderson – Omaha, NE; US Army Air Corps, WWII, radar operator

Eric Boyd – Bathurst, AUS; British Navy, WWII

Charles Carlson – Queens, NY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Lt., P-47 pilot, KIA

Gennis ‘Pete’ Elks – Farmville, NC; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Sr. Chief Petty Officer (Ret. 32 yrs.)

James Garner – Bridgeville, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Dick Helf – Wichita, KS; US Navy, WWII/ US Air Force, Korea

Effie (Robertson) Morton – NZ; RNZ Army WAAC, WWII # 813367, gunner

Ara Parseghian – Akron, OH; US Navy, WWII, (Hall of Fame coach of Notre Dame Univ.)

Amory Shields – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy & Dept. of National Defense

Garnet Winfrey – Bramwell, WV; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 11th Airborne Division Honor Guard

Intermission Story (5) – HMAS Patricia Cam

HMAS Patricia Cam

A bombing, a beheading, and an incredible escape from drowning using a pocket knife.

It sounds like the plot to a Hollywood film, but this is a piece of history about a World War II bombing off the East Arnhem Land coast that has been discovered accidentally after 74 years.

Reverend Len Kentish

One morning in 1943, coastwatcher and missionary Reverend Len Kentish and five Yolngu men from Arnhem Land communities jumped on board the HMAS Patricia Cam to go to Yirrkala.

The ship was then bombed and machine gunned by a Japanese sea plane.

“It blew the bottom out of the ship and she started to go down immediately,” historian Mike Owen said.

Mandaka Marika lives in Yirrkala, and his uncle Milirrma Marika died in the attack along with Djimanbuy, Djinipula Yunupingu and six other seamen.

“It’s a very sad feeling just like losing someone, a loved one … In our heart we remember our brave uncle,” Mr Marika said.

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Reverend Kentish was taken as a prisoner of war, the only Australian to be captured from home waters.

“The pilot got out with a pistol and beckoned to one of the men, and it happened to be the Reverend Kentish, and he swam over and got on board and was given a drink and they took off,” Mr Owen said.  “He was held captive for a couple of months … he was taken out and beheaded by his captors.”

Narritjin Maymuru and Paddy Babawun survived the bombing after an incredible fight.

They were underwater from the force of the bomb and drowning under a tarp, but they managed to free themselves by cutting through it with a pocket knife and their teeth.

“When they shot the boat, [Narritjin Maymuru] was underneath the water with a tarp … he had a pocket knife, he cut it and came up through that one,” Mr Maymuru’s nephew Danadana Gundara said.

But this story was lost in history for 74 years.

Mr Owen discovered it while looking for African coins in East Arnhem Land.

“On our last day we found a large piece of timber from a ship, and while I was investigating the find I realized it was in the right place for a Patricia Cam … So I started chasing the story down,” he said.

HMAS Patricia Cam Memorial in Yirrkala

A ceremony to commemorate those who died was held in Yirrkala this year for the first time, and a plaque in the community is the only memento for those who died in the attack.

“Every year we should remember these brave men working for the Australian Army that were killed there,” Mr Marika said.

The Yolngu men’s descendants are now calling for them to be commemorated at the Australian War Memorial.

“They offered their life, they sacrificed their lives for family and the land. That’s an excellent job,” Mr Gundara said.  “We are Australians and we have to do the same things for all, for black and white, we’re all working together.”

The additional survivors after reaching Darwin.

Click on images to enlarge.

This story is from ABC News Australia, 17 May 2017.

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Military Humour –

There’d better be some beer in THIS drop!

Smart Move!!

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Farewell Salutes –

Mavis Amon – Wellington, NZ; WA Air Force # 420507, WWII

Nichael Bond – Reading, ENG; RAF & Army; WWII, ETO, Middlesex Regiment

Harold Brown – Hunter’s Hill, AUS; RA Air Force # 74174

Patrick Crowe – Warrnabool, AUS; RA Air Force # 13544, WWII

George Davidson – Newtown, NZ; RNZ Navy # 8832 / RNZ Army # 620738, J Force & # 206028, K Force, WWII

Frank Hirst – Adelaide, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII

Hansen Kirkpatrick – Wasilla, AK; US Army, Afghanistan, Pfc, 1st Armored Division, KIA

Raymond Parris – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B/187/11th Airborne Division

Robert ‘Bobby’ Temple – Shiloh, IL; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma, Seaman 1st Class, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Robert Towns – Canberra, AUS; RA Navy, HMAS Barcoo

In honor of the Australian veterans that we have lost, please listen to “The Last Post” given to us by Paol Soren!!

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A Memorial for Australia’s Z Force

Jack Tredrea w/ several Z-Force members and local fighters

Jack Tredrea w/ several Z-Force members and local fighters

Members of a secret Australian military unit that conducted more than 80 operations into enemy territory during World War II have been recognized at the Australian War Memorial.

The Z Special Unit conducted missions in the Pacific and South East Asia, but their achievements were classified for decades.  Senior historian at the memorial Dr Karl James said members of the unit conducted some of the most courageous and extraordinary acts of World War II.

“It is only given the passage of time say from the 1980’s onward, the wartime records relating to Z Special Unit have been cleared and opened, that we are now able to talk about some of these pretty remarkable exploits.”

Jack Tredrea

Jack Tredrea

Dr James said the unit was comprised of about 1,700 members who were sometimes deployed in two-man teams working alongside a wide range of other allied services.

“They worked much more closely with local people, like villagers and they were also given some language training,” he said.

There were also women members of the unit supporting missions from Australia as professional ciphers.

Jack Tredrea, 96, of Adelaide, unveiled a plaque commemorating Z Special Unit at a service at the War Memorial, which he lobbied for alongside ANU anthropologist Christine Helliwell.

pic-4-plateform-in-bario-640x480

One of the few surviving members, Mr Tredrea, was deployed with Z Special Unit as part of the stealth Operation Semut in Malaysian Borneo, that involved parachuting into the jungle with weapons and cyanide pills.

“We didn’t know whether the Japanese had arrived up in the highlands, we were jumping in blind,” he said.  “But luckily they hadn’t got into the highlands and we were welcomed that day by the villagers. Semut consisted of Semut 1, 2, 3, and 4, and each one had eight personnel … at the end of the war we [had made] over 2,900 kills and taken over 300 prisoners.”

Mr Tredrea and his comrades were sworn to secrecy for 30 years after the war.  He said the new Canberra plaque and the public recognition it brought meant a lot to him and other surviving veterans and families.

Z-unit, Borneo

Z-unit, Borneo

“For all these years no-one knew anything about Z which I think was a great pity because even the SAS today tell us that they are still working on what we started,” he said.

“I was always so proud of the work that Z Special did and when Dr. Christine Helliwell approached me with this idea [for the plaque and service] I was absolutely chuffed.  There are a lot of fellows looking down on us from upstairs with big smiles too.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ANU anthropologist Dr Helliwell came across witnesses to some of the units’ secret missions during her field work with indigenous Diak people in the highlands of Malaysian Borneo, near the Indonesian border, in 2014.

“I was expecting that the locals might not have been flattering about Australian soldiers as a lot of people were resistant to colonialism,” she said.

“But in fact the Japanese did not have a good reputation through Borneo and they really liked the Australian Z Specials who really worked hard to get along with the local people.  That’s why they were so successful in Borneo and they actually formed guerrilla armies and fought with the locals.”

Z-Force Borneo

Z-Force Borneo

She described the members of Z Special Unit as national war heroes.

“There were groups that went into rescue American airmen that went down, coming in at night on a submarine and then these little canoes,” she said.  “Those are really brave and risky things to do.”

Hundreds of people including veterans, widows, families and dignitaries attended the plaque unveiling, which Dr Helliwell worked with veterans and the ACT SAS Association to have installed.

Among them were about 20 surviving veterans of the Z Special Unit and 10 families of veterans from New Zealand who also served with the unit.

It was the first time a national commemoration has been held to recognize the service of the members of Z Special Unit.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Australian Military Humor – 005-478x640

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Farewell Salutes – 

Virgil Boyd Atkins – W.VA; US Army, Korea, 65th/3rd Infantry Div., Pvt., POW, Silver Star

Joe Hosteen Kellwood – Sunnyslope, AZ; USMC, WWII, PTO, Navajo Code Talker128075867

Roy Kellwood – Sunnyslope, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Dabney Montgomery – Selma, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Tuskegee ground crewman

Allen Kenji Ono – Honolulu, HI; US Army, Lt.General (Ret.)

George Saxton – Worcester, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt., Infantry

Gordon Eugene Thompson – MT; USMC, WWII, PTO, Captain, pilot

Charles Trout – Hernando, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

John Whalen – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, Korea

Byres Wylie – Burnie, Tas., AUS; RA Navy # H2890 & RA Air Force # A22496

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