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Borneo – a world forgotten / Lt. Gen. E.M. Flanagan Jr.

Australians landing on Borneo

Part of the wider Borneo campaign of the Pacific War, was fought between 10 June and 15 August 1945 in North Borneo (later known as Sabah). The battle involved a series of amphibious landings by Australian forces on various points on the mainland around Brunei Bay and upon islands situated around the bay. Japanese opposition to the landings was sporadic initially, although as the campaign progressed a number of considerable clashes occurred and both sides suffered relatively significant casualties. Ultimately, however, the Australians were successful in seizing control of the region.

Codenamed Operation Oboe Six, the battle was part of the second phase of the Allied operations to capture the island of Borneo. Previously in May a brigade-sized force had been put ashore on Tarakan. A total of 29,000–30,000 men were committed to the operation by the Allies, with the majority of the ground forces being provided by the Australian 9th Division, under the command of Major General George Wootten and consisting of the 20th and 24th Brigades, along with naval support from the United States Navy and Royal Australian Navy and aerial support from the United States Army Air Forces, the United States Marine Corps and elements of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 1st Tactical Air Force.

Borneo

Two United States Army units, the 727th Amphibian Tractor Battalion who manned the LVTs and the 593rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment’s Boat Battalion, were also attached to the Australians. Having been planned by General Douglas MacArthur to take place in three stages—preparatory bombardment, forced landings, advance—the objective of the operation was to enable the Allies to establish “an advanced fleet base” in order to enable subsequent naval operations, to capture the vast oil and rubber supplies available in the area and to re-establish British civil administration.  Intelligence estimated that there were approximately 31,000 Japanese troops on Borneo.

Borneo map

Despite the progress that had been made on the southern mainland,  the fighting intensified as the Japanese defenders retreated inland to a heavily fortified position known as “the Pocket.” After the battle 180 Japanese dead were counted, bringing the total killed during the fighting on Labuan to 389. Against this the Australians suffered 34 killed and 93 wounded.

The second main landing came on 16 June on the mainland at Weston, in the north-eastern part of Brunei Bay. Many times the fighting came down to hand-to-hand combat.

In early August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on 15 August the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, effectively announced an end to hostilities, with the formal surrender being signed on 2 September 1945. As a result of the ceasefire, the planned Allied invasion of Japan was no longer required and as a result, the strategic gains provided by the capture of North Borneo were arguably negated.

Combat in Borneo

Throughout the course of the fighting on North Borneo, the Australians lost 114 men killed or died of wounds while another 221 men were wounded. Against this, the Japanese lost at least 1,234 men, while 130 had been captured. On top of this, a further 1,800 Japanese were estimated to have been killed by guerrilla forces operating as part of the clandestine Services Reconnaissance Department.

Borneo

After the fighting was over, the Australians began the task for establishing British civil administration, rebuilding the infrastructure that had been damaged and providing for the civilians that had been displaced in the fighting. Following the ceasefire, there were still a large number of Japanese troops in North Borneo—by October 1945 it was estimated that there was over 21,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians still in North Borneo—and the 9th Division was made responsible for organizing the surrender, provisioning and protection of these personnel.

Lt. Gen. Masao Baba at Borneo surrender

They were also tasked with liberating the Allied civilian internees and prisoners of war that were being held at Batu Lintang camp in Kuching, Sarawak. As civil administration was slowly restored, in October 1945, the Australian demobilization process began. Initially this process was slow as there were few troops able to relieve the Australian forces in Borneo and as such only long service personnel were released for return to Australia. The 9th Division remained in North Borneo performing garrison duties until January 1946, when it was relieved by the 32nd Indian Brigade, and subsequently disbanded.

This situation remained until 1963, when the region was subsumed by the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

“Did you hear about the cruise ship that got stranded for 5 days? Must have been tough.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salute to Lt. General Edward M. Flanagan Jr. –

Lt.General E.M. Flanagan

 

Edward Flanagan Jr. Beaufort, SC – Lt. General (retired) Edward M. (Fly) Flanagan, 98, made his final jump on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at his home on Lady’s Island. He spent his life in daily acts of adoration of his wife and devotion to God. A three-star Army General, accomplished author and military historian.

Born and raised in Saugerties, NY, the son of Edward and Marie (Sinnot) Flanagan, he was a career military officer stationed at home and abroad including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Germany. After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1943 he became a paratrooper and fought in the Pacific during World War II. He had a combat jump into the Philippines with the 11th Airborne Division and participated in the occupation of Japan at the end of the war.

He met his wife, Marguerite Farrell while on leave from West Point and they were married in 1945 when he returned from the war. He had a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of Lt. General and his commands included the 25th Infantry Division (Assistant Division Commander), 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Army center for Special Warfare and U.S. Army Special Warfare School (Green Berets), Eighth United States Army and Sixth United States Army. He retired from active duty in 1978.

11th Airborne Division patch

During his retirement he did extensive research and wrote a number of military history books including Angels at Dawn; The History of the 11th Airborne Division; Rakkasans; The Los Banos Raid; Airborne A Combat History of American Airborne Forces; and Lighting: The 101st in the Gulf War.

The General was kind enough to call me twice when he heard my father had served with the 11th Airborne and that I was using many of his well-researched books as a resource of my information.  He was only too eager to help.

The General will be buried with fellow graduates at the West Point Military Academy.

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11th Airborne Division and 187th Regiment

colors

As many of you know, this site is dedicated to my father Everett “Smitty” Smith, the 187th Regiment and the 11th Airborne Division as a whole. It is with this in mind that I am continuing the posts into the Korean War era and will then return to the very beginning of WWII, Pacific Theater.

1943 Camp MacKall Yearbook

1943 Camp MacKall Yearbook

The entire 11th A/B wrapped up their obligations in Japan for the occupation as of January 1949 with most of the 187th Regiment boarding the General Hersey for transport on 19 February. They docked in New Orleans, LA on 17 March and began heading to their new home at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. General Swing had remained their commander until January 1948 and in May 1949 they were under Brigadier General Lemel Mathewson and the 188th Regiment was deactivated. The 187th was reorganized and designated as the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, with Col. Harvey Jablonsky in command.

Letter from Gen. Swing to his men

Letter from Gen. Swing to his men

The flimsy gliders that they had developed and used in the war were sent to the museums at Forts Bragg and Bennington and the 11th A/B spent their fall of 1949 honing their airborne and physical fitness programs. In the spring of 1950, they returned to Camp MacKall, NC were Smitty and the division were first formed into a top unit and stunned the ‘brass’ with their outstanding performance in the famous Knollwood Maneuvers. I covered the Knollwood Maneuvers at https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/camp-mackall-the-knollwood-maneuvers/ . The new 11th then participated in Exercise Swarmer over that same terrain.

Division HQ's Officers

Division HQ’s Officers

1 August 1950, Col. Frank Bowen Jr. faced the his men of the 187th Regiment in Theater Number Three and announced that the troops were slated for movement overseas. On 27 August, they became the 187th Regimental Combat Team along with the 674th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, A Company of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, Battery A of the 88th Airborne Antiaircraft Battalion and units of MPs, quartermasters, parachute maintenance riggers and medics. 1 September they were separated from the 11th Airborne Division. The 187th RCT “Rakkasans” were being sent to Korea and we will follow them in future posts.

7 (800x587)

In December 1950, Major General Lyman Lemnitzer took command of the 11th A/B Division and were transferred to the 3rd Army to consolidate the airborne units. Between 1950 and 1956, the commanders would change six times as they became situated in Germany. They were deactivated 1 July 1958, but reactivated in February 1963 as the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 30 June 1965, when they were once again deactivated; the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was formed.

patches of the 11th A/B

patches of the 11th A/B

I wish to convey a special Thank You to Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr. USA (Ret.). Not only as the author of The Angels:A History of the 11th Airborne Division and Rakkasans, but as the commander of the 11th A/B’s B Battery of the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and a columnist for Army Magazine. Being that Smitty’s records were lost in the St. Louis fire of 1973, his knowledge and memory were of great assistance to me.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

Lt. General E.M. Flanagan, Jr.

I have had the honor of receiving two phone calls from the general, during my initial research, in which he thanked me for my letters to him. Both of those occasions will remain highlighted memories for me which I shall never forget.

Click on images to enlarge and read. Thank you.

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Farewell Salute –

Joe Zack Thompson – Dallas & Humble, TX; U.S. Naval Air Corps, WWII

Dr. Douglas MacInnis – Wisconsin & Laguna Beach, CA; Surgical Army Captain, Korean War

Murray Michael Rothberg – Agoura Hills, CA; U.S. Army, WWII

Harry Daily McCament – Plano & Houston, TX; U.S. Navy, Korean War aboard the USS Randolph CVA-15

Salvatore Cintorino – Rochester, NY; U.S. Army, WWII ETO, Purple Heart

James Wallis – Dallas, TX; U.S. Navy, WWII

John B. Boy – Johnson City, TN & LaBelle, FL; U.S. Navy, WWII, captain of the USS C350 (subchaser), USS PC613 (patrolcraft) & the USS Holton, DE-703 (destroyer escort).

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