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Douglas Munro, Coast Guard Hero – Intermission Story (24)

Painting of Doug Munro providing support from his LCP, by Bernard D’Andrea

The United States Coast Guard was founded on a tradition of taking small boats into dangerous conditions to save lives. This skill made Coast Guard coxswains an indispensable part of the Pacific Theater  and Smitty would whole-heartedly agree.  Coast Guardsmen proved their worth time and time again as they expertly handled small landing craft in and out of almost any situation. No man better exemplifies this prowess than Douglas A. Munro.

Signalman 1st Class, Douglas Munro

Born in Vancouver in 1919, Douglas Munro attended Cle Elum High School in Washington state.  He attended the Central Washington College of Education for a year before enlisting in the Coast Guard in 1939. He spent his first two years on board the Cutter Spencer,  a 327-foot Treasury-class cutter which patrolled out of New York, and later Boston.

While on the Spencer, Munro advanced quickly, making Signalman 2nd Class by the end of 1941. After the Spencer, he transferred to the Hunter Ligget, a Coast Guard-crewed landing craft patrolling in the Pacific. In 1942 he was made a part of Transport Division 17, helping to coordinate, direct, and train other troops for amphibious assaults.

The United States’ first taste of this warfare was at Guadalcanal.  After the initial Marine landings, a base was established at Lunga Point. Munro was assigned here along with other Coast Guard and Navy personnel to operate the small boats and assist with communications.  This base served as a staging point for further troop movements, consisted of little more than a house, a signal tower and a number of small craft and supplies

Lunga Point, Guadalcanal

After the Marines had moved west of Lunga point, they encountered an entrenched Japanese position on the far side of the Manatikau river. It was clear that an attack across the river would be fruitless, and a plan was devised to bring men down the coast, to land west of the Japanese position, allowing it to be attacked from both sides. To achieve this goal Marine Lieutenant Colonel Lewis “Chesty” Puller placed men from the 7th Marine Division onto landing craft and began an assault on September 27th.

These landing craft were led by Douglas Munro, who took the men into a small bay just west of Point Cruz and delivered the entire 500 man force unopposed. Meanwhile, the destroyer USS Monssen laid down supporting fire and protected the Marines’ advance.

Meanwhile, Munro and his crews returned to Lunga point to refit and refuel, leaving a single LCP(L) (a 36-foot landing craft, lightly armed and made mostly of plywood) to provide evacuation for any immediate casualties.

Marines landing on the beach from their LCP’s.

But less than an hour after the initial landing the operation began to deteriorate. First, a flight of Japanese bombers attacked the Monssen, forcing her to leave the Marines without fire support.   Then the Japanese launched an infantry attack on the Marines. The Japanese had stayed to the north of the Marine landing force, near a rocky cliff known as Point Cruz. Their attack to the southwest was designed to cut the Marines off from their escape route.

There the single LCP(L) still sat, manned by Navy Coxswain Samuel Roberts and Coast Guard Petty Officer Ray Evans. The men had gotten close into shore for a speedy evacuation. A sudden burst of Japanese machine gun fire  damaged their controls.  Roberts managed to jury rig the rudder but was fatally wounded in the process, Evans jammed the throttle forward, speeding back to Lunga Point.

The trapped Marines hadn’t brought their cumbersome radios with them, and couldn’t signal back to their support. In desperation, they spelled out “HELP” by laying out their undershirts on a hillside. Luckily this was noticed by a Navy dive bomber pilot who reported it back to the sailors at Lunga. Because of this, by the time Evans’ LCP(L) made it back Munro and his men were already aware that something wasn’t going right.

Marines on Guadalcanal

Thanks to Evans they now had the detailed information needed to make a plan of action. It was determined that a group of small boats and troop transports would have to return, under fire, to get the men out of the combat zone. Munro immediately volunteered to lead the operation and got ten boats readied and underway as soon as possible.

This small flotilla came into the bay under fire.  USS Monssen, which had returned , gave support.  Munro directed his landing craft to begin ferrying the men back to the Monssen, while he and the other LCP(L)s provided fire support.

USS Monssen

By this time the Japanese had taken up positions on all three sides of the bay, and were able to coordinate a devastating barrage of fire on the retreating men. Seeing this, Munro positioned his own craft between the enemy and the landing crafts to provide support by fire.

After the last men were coming off the beach, a landing craft became grounded.  Munro ordered another craft to tow it free while he provided support, again putting his own boat in harm’s way to help save as many men as possible. While Munro’s boat was taking position to do this, a Japanese machine gun crew was setting up on the beach.

Petty Officer Evans, saw this and called out for him to get down, but Munro couldn’t hear him and he was fatally wounded.  Evans pulled away, and along with the rest of landing craft, headed back to Lunga Point; with all of the Marines saved.

Marines crossing Matanikau River.

Thanks to Munro’s heroism, 500 Marines made it off the beach that day, and for this, Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor.  The 500 men he saved went on to help capture the Matanikau River early in October, which meant the beginning of the end for Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

The engraving on the back of Munro’s medal.

Munro’s body is interred in his hometown of Cle Elum, Washington, and his Medal of Honor is on display at United States Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, New Jersey, where it serves an everlasting example to new recruits about what it means to truly be a United States Coast Guardsmen.

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 Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Donald Bender – Machesney Park, IL; US Navy, WWII

Catherine Brown – San Diego, CA; US Coast Guard SPARS, WWII

Edward Delaney – Boston, MA; US Coast Guard, WWII, LST 170

Raymond Edinger – Liberty, NJ; US Coast Guard/Navy, WWII, Meteorology officer

James Evans Jr. – Seattle, WA; US Coast Guard, WWII, Korea

Daniel Fite – Fort Worth, TX; US Coast Guard, WWII

Arthur Janov – Los Angeles, CA; US Navy, WWII

Arthur Peeples – Springhill, MS; US Navy, WWII, PTO

Alexander Strachan – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 4210193, WWII, Sgt.

Robert Unzueta – Avalon, CA; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

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February 1943 (1)

Tulagi PT base

Tulagi PT base

PT Report:

1/2 February – This was the last fight between the Tokyo Express and the PT’s at Guadalcanal and it was the most violent.  Three boats were sunk – the 37, 111 and 123, with a total of 6 enlisted men killed, 3 officers killed, 6 enlisted missing and 6 others wounded.  Five PTs fired 19 torpedoes, claiming 2 destroyers sunk and 2 damaged.

The Makigumo was either damaged by the PTs or by one of the 300 mines laid that day.  Two more Japanese evacuation trips were made on 4/5 and 7/8, but the boats did not attempt to intercept.  During this time, Japanese Gen. Hyakutake and his remaining troops were ferried off Guadalcanal 6 months after the US troops arrived on the island.

IJN Makigumo

IJN Makigumo

In the Bismark Sea, the 5th Air Force spotted a convoy and performed the first “skip-bombing” technique.  Mitchell bombers went at the enemy transports mast-high and the bombs skimmed like stones on a pond with the accuracy of torpedoes.  Eight transports and 4 destroyers were sunk.  During aerial combat, 60 Japanese aircraft were downed at the cost of 4 US fighters.  As the sun set, the enemy lifeboats were attacked by PT boats.  Gen. Hatazo Aidichi and only 2,000 of his men made it to shore on New Guinea.

example of skip-bombing

example of skip-bombing

MacArthur used the Bismark victory to request 5 more divisions; 1,800 aircraft and more naval forces including carriers for his “Elkton” plan.  But due to the decisions made at Casablanca, Gen. Marshall could not comply.  Rather than cable his response, Gen. Wedemeyer was sent to the Pacific to render an explanation to Mac.

A furious MacArthur cabled Washington D.C. that the New Guinea campaign would be cancelled due to the lack of resources.  In turn, Mac, Nimitz and Halsey were ordered to send representatives to Washington for a “Pacific Military Conference” to be held in March.

Two weary Chindits with their mule

Two weary Chindits with their mule

1-15 February – the British offensive in the Arakan peninsula in Burma ended without success.  The Japanese continued to hold on to their strong defensive positions.  Gen. Orde Wingate and his newly formed 3,000-man 77th Indian Brigade (aka “Chindits”) entered Burma to go behind enemy lines.  Their mission was to disrupt the Japanese communications and tactical deployments.

6 February – the Allies began to show their superiority in the skies of New Guinea when 37 fighters shot down 26 Japanese aircraft out of their raiding party of 70 planes.

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Military Humor – the Navy’s answer to Sad Sack…..2162288699_642f660297_o

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Merchant Navy Day – New Zealand – 3 September

Capt. Inkster

The men and boys of the New Zealand Merchant Navy had one of the most perilous wartime occupations as they carried supplies to the troops and wounded to safety.  Their virtually unarmed ships were sitting ducks for the enemy.  Hundreds of mines were laid by German raiders in the early years of the war and several vessels were sunk, including the minesweeper, Puriri, May 1941 off Whangarei, NZ.

Around 130 New Zealand seafarers lost their lives and around 140 were taken prisoner.  Captain Inkster, pictured above, served for 60 years, including all six years of WWII.  Let’s join them this today in honoring these civilians who put their lives on the line for the Allied troops!

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Bradley Jr. – Fairfield, AL; USMC, WWII

Graham Carkeek – NZ; RNZ Navy # NZ6315, WWII

Ernest Fox – CAN & TX; RC Air Force, WWII228685_214560631902034_100000442955388_742352_2701778_n

Roy Griffin – Sacramento, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 20th Army Air Force

Charles Hill – Stanley, NC; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

Martin Johnson – Boise, ID; US Army, Vietnam

Matthew Leggett – Ruskin, FL; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt.

Franklin Slack – Seattle, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO,b CO/188th/11th Airborne

Peter Veltmeijer – Caloundra, AUS; RA Army, Vietnam

Richard Votava – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII

R. Eugen Wolford – US Army, WWII, 10th Mountain Division

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January 1943 (2)

"Action in The Slot" by Tom Freeman

“Action in The Slot” by Tom Freeman

PT boat report for 10/11 January – The Slot action at Guadalcanal:  The Japanese ships came in under the cover of a rain squall and the 2 US scout groups missed them.  The first contact was made by strike group-1, spotting 3 destroyers off the Guadalcanal coast.  The 3 boats attacked the enemy ships but the enemy sank PT-112 and damaged PT-43 so badly, it was abandoned.  IJN destroyer Hatasukaze was hit by a torpedo, killing 8 and wounding 23, and retired to Shortland Island.  PT-43 was later sighted on the Japanese-held portion of the island and was destroyed by gunfire from a New Zealand corvette.

P-38 Lightning in Alaska

P-38 Lightning in Alaska

12-19 January – 2,000 American troops, in an amphibious landing on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians, started their operations to take back the enemy held areas in Alaska.  The USS Worden was sunk and 14 men were killed.  Six US warships began bombardment of Attu Island.

14 January – the Japanese Special Navy Landing Force went ashore at Cape Esperance on Guadalcanal to act as a rear guard for the evacuation of troops.  US radio intelligence failed to pick up the reason for Tanaka’s 19 destroyers speeding down The Slot.  Halsey feared a new offensive was about to begin.  The US motor torpedo boats went up against a supply convoy, fired 17 torpedoes and hit 3 destroyers and then withdrew.  The admiral ordered aircraft from 3 escort carriers to support the Cactus Air Force.

Cactus Air Force, Guadalcanal

Cactus Air Force, Guadalcanal

The Symbol Conference at Anfa, overlooking Casablanca, began with all sides in conflict.  Churchill worked on FDR to maintain the “Europe First” plans while the US Joint Chiefs of Staff reminded the Imperial General Staff that the Allies “could not give the Japanese any pause.”  Over cigars and cognac both sides reached an “agreement in principle.”  The British would allow an extension of the Pacific offensive if in return America accepted the invasion of Sicily.  The Casablanca Conference left many of the key strategic issues unresolved.

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A look at how we saw them and they saw us…..

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Navy Humor – military-humor-funny-joke-navy-submarine-ships-designed-to-sink-others-require-assistance

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Farewell Salutes – 

Stanley Asksamit Jr. – Goodyear, AZ; US Army, Korea, 1st Cavalry

Robert Conquest – UK & US; British Foreign Office, WWII, Intelligence

Phillip Goedeke – Harriman, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO,  152nd Infantry/11th A/Bplaying-taps

James Kelly – Piedmont, AL; US Merchant Marines, WWII

Ray Lindner – Winfield, IL; USMC, WWII & Korea

Arnold Messacar – Pointe-Claire, CAN; RCL Br66, WWII

Merritt ‘Bill’ Sheldon – Granville, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, ocean tug

Peter Tanswell – New Plymouth, NZ; RNZ Navy # 8438, WWII, PTO

James Tinnel – Seattle, WA; US Navy, WWII, salvage diver

Lee Wintersteen – Sioux Falls, SD; US Army, WWII

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United States Navy – Naval Construction Battalion 26 – Guadalcanal 1942-3

Jed has an excellent video of the creation of the SeaBees – to – Guadalcanal – and ending with the photo album put together by the men themselves.

Foxhole Fashion

Here is my rendition of the US Navy’s “SeaBee’s” working uniform while working on the Henderson Field airstrip on Guadalcanal in December 1942 and on into 1943. It was based off of original home footage shot by the men themselves.

2Background:

The US Navy did not have construction men in its’ ranks at the start of the war. Later on after enlisting a number of veteran construction men, the Navy formed CB’s or Construction Battalions. These men were to military trained to build, and fight. Prior to this, the government was forced to use contractors, or civilians, for their construction needs. After the creation the NCB units, the nickname “SeaBee’s” came from the initials, and thus a legend was born. Made famous by John Wayne in the movie “The Fighting Seabees”, the unit became well known.
DSC_2028Equipment

Here I am wearing the US Army “1st Pattern” coveralls, USN issued white underwear…

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December 1942 (3)

"Extraordinary Incident" by Roy Hodgkins, 1943

“Extraordinary Incident” by Roy Hodgkins, 1943

NEW GUINEA

The Wirraway, an Aboriginal word meaning ‘challenge’, was a trainer designed aircraft classified as ‘general purpose’ and was equipped with machine guns and bomb racks.  The Commonwealth Aircraft Corp.’s plant at Fisherman’s Bend in Victoria produced 755 of these planes.  They were most successful as army cooperation aircraft during the Papua New Guinea campaign.

Archer and Coulston

Archer and Coulston

On 26 December 1942, Pilot Officer John Archer, 4 Squadron RAAF, shot down a Japanese fighter, believed at the time to be a Mitsubishi ‘Zero’  from his Wirraway.  As soon as he landed at Popondetta airstrip in Papua on 12 December, Archer jumped from his Wirraway A20-103 to tell the Control Officer that he had shot down an enemy plane.

Archer and Coulston

Archer and Coulston

Despite the Control Officer’s disbelief, Archer described the incident and soon phone calls from observers all around the Gona area confirmed that story.  He and his observer, Sgt. J.F. Coulston, had been flying a tactical reconnaissance mission over a Japanese ship which had been wrecked in the sea off Gona.  When they sighted the ‘Zero’ 1,000 feet below, Archer dove on the Japanese aircraft and fired a long burst from the Wirraway’s 2 Vickers .303 machine-guns.  The Zero crashed into the sea.

PO John Archer receives US Silver Star from Gen. Whitehead, 1943

PO John Archer receives US Silver Star from Gen. Whitehead, 1943

For his actions, John Archer received the US Silver Star from BGen. Ennis C. Whitehead, the Commanding General of Allied Air Forces in New Guinea in a ceremony performed at Buna in 1943.  Archer’s Wirraway is now in the Bradbury Aircraft Hall at the Australian War Memorial.

Information taken from WW2 Australia.gov.au

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MTB RON 3, 1942

MTB RON 3, 1942

GUADALCANAL

PT Boat activity report for the evening of 11/12 December 1942 –

Radio intelligence issued a warning that detailed the composition, timing and destination of tonight’s Express, along with a possible submarine off Kamimbo Bay.  As Tanaka’s Reinforcement Unit completed dropping 1,200 drums of supplies into the sea, PTs 40,45 & 59 attacked the Japanese ships.  One torpedo from Lt. Gamble’s PT-45 ripped into flagship Teruzuki, killing 9 men, crippling the ship, wounding Tanaka and forcing the enemy to abandon and scuttle the destroyer 3 hours later.

IJN Teruzuki

IJN Teruzuki

 PT-44 & 109 both attempted torpedo runs on a group of Japanese ships, but shells from the Kawakaze and Suzukaze destroyed the 44 boat and forced PT-109 to run behind a smoke screen.  Two officers and seven enlisted men were KIA in 44’s destruction; one officer and 1 other crewman survived.  Of the 1,200 drums of supplies, only 220 reached Japanese hands.  When this fact was reported to VAdm. Matome Ugaki, Chief of Staff of the Combined Fleet, the admiral privately questioned whether or not the 17th Army was hoarding supplies.

Resouce: PT King. gdine.com

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Military Humor – 

talent-bikini-flight-school

army-of-one

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Bligh – Oneonta, NY & FL; US Navy, USS Forestal

Abraham Bookman – Ottawa, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Glenn Crockett – Ft. Worth, TX; US Army, Korea, 187th RCTEagles with bowed heads

Martin Hambright – Denver, CO; US Navy, WWII

Joseph Kalivoda – Freeport, IL; US Army, WWII, Signal Corps

Patricia Lukin – W.AUS; AWAS, WWII, gunner

Alan Murray – Christchurch, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 439935, WWII

Pierre Simon – Gibson, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, HQS/675th Artillery

Ronald Spicer – Havertown, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 1th A/B Band

Gordon Torgerson – Maddock, ND; US Army, WWII, Military Police

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Personal Note – For the following few weeks we will be having posts that I call Intermission Stories.  It is to give the reader a break from the month-by-month war report and spotlight on other issues, such as the home front.  When we return to enter 1943, there will be more about Everett “Smitty” Smith and the 11th Airborne Division that is honored here at this website.

11th A/B Div. 1943 Yearbook

11th A/B Div. 1943 Yearbook

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December 1942 (2)

Soputa, New Guinea officer's mess

Soputa, New Guinea officer’s mess

8-19 December – after Buna and Gona, on New Guinea, were finally taken, the Allies knew that at least 7,000 Japanese might be defending Sanananda.  So, it came as quite a surprise to generals Vassey and Eichelberger when MacArthur released his communiqué, “The Papuan Campaign is in its closing phase.”  It would be another 2 weeks before the last enemy soldier left his bunker [where evidence of cannibalism was found].  The close quarter battles killed about 630 of the enemy, but the 530 Australian casualties were a heavy price to pay.

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Replacements and supplies arrive.

On Guadalcanal, the Japanese had suffered, at this point, about 23,000 casualties; more from disease and starvation than combat, out of 40,000 men.  They lost 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 12 destroyers, 16 transports and many hundreds of planes.  Adm. Tanaka would later say, “There is no question that Japan’s doom was sealed with the closing struggle for Guadalcanal.”  He went on to conclude that Japan’s lack of planning spelled her defeat.

Americal force cmdr. MGen. Alexander Patch

Americal force cmdr. MGen. Alexander Patch

9 December – MGen. Alexander M. Patch replaced Vandergrift as the commander of the Guadalcanal forces.  The 1st Marine Division left the island as their replacements arrived.  During December, as many as 58,000 US troops were on the island verses 20,000 poorly equipped Japanese.

Transport ship 'President Coolidge'

Transport ship ‘President Coolidge’

12 December – the President Coolidge had hit a mine while bearing troops from New Caledonia to Espiritu Santo Island in the New Hebrides.  Capt. Henry Nelson rammed the sinking ship onto a coral reef.  She slid off that reef, turned turtle and sank, but as a result of the captain’s swift action, only 5 lives were lost out of the 5,050 on board.  The picture above shows the troops scrambling down the cargo nets.

17-31 December – the 14th Indian Division began to work their way back into Burma.  They crossed the border of India and advanced 150 miles (241 km) to positions just north of the Maungdau-Butnidaung line.  Their goal was to reach Akyab, 60 miles (96 km) south.  They were initially halted by the Japanese 55th Division.  Then, Allied forces continued southward and by the end of the month, they took Rathedaung.

Burma combat map from 1942

Burma combat map from 1942

During the closing hours of 1942, Adm. Yamamoto wrote, “How splendid the first stage of our operation was!  But how unsuccessfully we have fought since the defeat of Midway.”  (The Admiral had predicted in 1940 that Japan would have her way for 6 months, but after that would be a hostage to the fortune that haunted her leaders.)

26-31 December, on Guadalcanal, the US XIV Corps battled a desperate Japanese force.  Although they were half-starved and so many stricken with malaria, the enemy proved to be tenacious.  However the Imperial General Staff would order an abandonment of the island and for their troops on New Guinea to retreat to Giruwa, disguised publicly as a “strategic withdrawal.”

During December, 700,000 tons of US shipping was supplied to Guadalcanal.  This proved to be beyond the Japanese capacity to compete with.

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Military Humor – from Bill Mauldin – 002 (629x800)

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Farewell Salutes – 

Donald Austin – Benton, AR; US Army, WWII

Henry Benvenuti – Boynton Bch., FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Personnel Sgt. Major

James Davis – Oso, WA; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea, Purple HeartKXAC000A

John HIggins – Boise, ID; US Navy (Ret.), Vietnam, fighter pilot, Purple Heart, Bronze Star

Christopher Lee – Chelsea, UK; RAF, WWII, ETO, No. 269 Sq. & w/ Gurkhas/8th Indian Inf. Reg, (beloved actor)

Colin Maultsby Jr. – Raleigh, NC; US Army, Korea

Stanley Ribee – UK & CAN; British Merchant Service, WWII

Ed Simolo – Merrill, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 457th Artillery

William Spornitz – Sioux City, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 188th/11th A/B Div.

Merlin Twogood – Woonsocket, SD; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 511th/11th Airborne

Walter Wilke – Taranaki, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 4211605/ RNZ Army # 631267, WWII

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December 1942 (1)

US Marine engineers repair the bridge over Lunga River

US Marine engineers repair the bridge over Lunga River, Guadalcanal

Having the Australians out-fight the poorly trained American troops on New Guinea did not sit well with MacArthur.  He summoned Lt.Gen. Robert Eichelberger, recently promoted as I Corps commander, and ordered him to fire any officer who did not show a fighting spirit.  The general’s parting words were: “Go out there, Bob and take Buna – or don’t come back alive.”

Gen. Sir Thomas Blamey & LtGen. Robert Eichelberger in front of a captured enemy bunker in New Guinea

Gen. Sir Thomas Blamey & LtGen. Robert Eichelberger in front of a captured enemy bunker in New Guinea

1 December – Eichelberger flew to the 32nd Division HQ at the Dunropa Plantation, 2 miles north of Buna.  He discovered that the collapsing morale was NOT an exaggeration: “… it was obvious the Japanese would win, for they were living among coconut palms on the coast… while our men lived in swamps… There was no front line discipline of any kind.”  The men had not eaten since the previous day and had no hot meals in 10 days.  He stopped all fighting and began to reorganize.  A supply convoy’s arrival with Bren gun carriers and howitzers seemed a welcome sight, but they proved unsuccessful due to the muddy terrain.

2 December – the US Marines ambushed a Japanese patrol around the Lunga River on Guadalcanal.  They had killed 35 of the enemy out the 60 men in the patrol.

3-13 December – an intelligence expert spotted an airfield being built on New Georgia under the palms on a coconut plantation.  This was confirmed when Henderson Field aircraft flew over the island and strafed the area in question.  On the 9th, the first major attack was made on Munda Field and by the 13th, the fly-overs were down to occasional nighttime bombings by PBY Catalinas.

 

32nd Infantry Div. at Buna, New Guinea

32nd Infantry Div. at Buna, New Guinea

5 December – on New Guinea, after a week of bloody close fighting, the American troops had very little progress to show for their effort.  The Australians, 10 miles north, were encountering similar problems.  One Australian private reported: “It was the maddest, bloodiest fighting I have ever seen.  Grenades were bursting among the Japanese as we stabbed down at them with our bayonets from the parapets above.  Some of our fellows were actually rolling on the sand with Japs locked against them in wrestling grips.  A few of the Japs had escaped, but the bodies of 30 were tangled among their captured guns.  The enemy could only be described as a fanatical opposition.”

32nd Infantry Div. on Buna River

32nd Infantry Div. on Buna River

7 December – the USS New Jersey was launched.  At this point, it was the largest battleship built, with a displacement of 54,889 tons and main armament of nine 16″ guns set in 3 turrets.

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Military Humor –  Old SNAFU – 

Put together by Frank Capra, the US Army Air Corps  First Motion Picture Unit and shown for new recruits was patterned after Elmer Fudd.  He is the US Army’s worst soldier, partially written by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) and voiced by Mel Blanc.

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Anderson – Hurst, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO,  187th RHQ

Elizabeth Anstey – Rakaia, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 5993, WWII, Princess Mary Royal A.F.

Robert Gardner – Rooyal Palm Bch, FL; US Navy, WWII6MCl-1qX-1

Adam Greenwald – Hoonah, AK; US Army, WWII, Aleutians, tug boat engineer

Chuck Hutton – Lake Worth, FL; US Army, WWII & Korea

Lee Jamison – Durango, CO; US Navy, WWII

Ramon Morris – New York, NY; US Army, Afghanistan, 2nd Sq/3rd Cavalry Reg/1st Cavalry Div.

Clarence Padgett – Spindale, NC; US Army, WWII, ETO, MSgt., howitzer platoon

L. Medland Tessier – CAN; RC Army, WWII, Royal Montreal Regiment

Jack Wood – Muncie, IN; US Navy, Korea, USS New Jersey

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November 1942 (2)

One of the US battleships  destroyed off Guadalcanal

One of the US battleships destroyed off Guadalcanal

 

14 November – the Japanese convoy enroute to Guadalcanal was hit by a strike from the USS Enterprise and sank the IJN Kinugasa and set the Isuzi ablaze.  The Maya was then damaged as well as the flagship Chokai.  IJN Admiral Mikawa ordered a retreat and the US aircraft went after the fleeing vessels.  Flying Fortresses alternated their attacks with the carrier aircraft.  Upon hearing these reports, Yamamoto ordered Adm. Kondo to go in with his last battleships and 5 cruisers to destroy Henderson Field.

RAdm. Willis A. Lee

RAdm. Willis A. Lee

15 November – Halsey determined that his only hope was Adm. Willis “Ching” Lee and his battleships.  As an expert with radar, Lee chose Cape Esperance as the confrontation site.  The cruiser Sendai, 9 miles away was the first vessel spotted ahead of KOndo’s battleships.  Lee’s 16″ shells were fired and the battle began.  Two US battleships sunk and another was damaged.  The South Dakota’s turrets were disabled, but her guns were not.  Her masts were swept away and fires broke out, and the Washington went on to continue fighting.  The radar operators located the Kirishima and bombed her into a shambles; with her rudders jammed, she circled helplessly.

IJN Adm. Kondo

IJN Adm. Kondo

The Atago signaled for a withdrawal.  Kondo had lost, but Tanaka’s 4 transports were ordered to run aground and unload the troops.  As approximately 10,000 men of the 38th Japanese Division began to climb down the ropes, the Cactus Air Force Avengers arrived to strafe and bomb them.  Only about 2,000 men made it to shore as their ships, laden with supplies and equipment, burned.  The enemy soldiers nicknamed Guadalcanal “Island of Doom.”

IJN Adm. Tanaka

IJN Adm. Tanaka

From Adm. Tanaka’s view aboard ship: “…the general effect is indelible in my mind, of bombs wobbling down from high-flying B-17s, of carrier bombers roaring towards targets as though to plunge full in the water, releasing bombs and pulling out barely in time; each miss sending up towering columns of mist and spray; every hit raising clouds of smoke and fire as transports burst into flame and take the sickening list that spells their doom.  Attackers depart, smoke screen lift and reveal the tragic scene of men jumping overboard from sinking ships…”  [IMO – could anyone describe a naval battle more accurately or with such sorrow?]

Admiral Halsey

Admiral Halsey

20 November – in Halsey’s native state of New Jersey, the church bells rang out in honor of his victory.  With the ground forces on Guadalcanal, the 7th Marines and units of the 164th Infantry Division, continued to attack and fend off offenses.  The Japanese discontinued their 2-point strategy, as the US kept receiving reinforcements from the 182th Infantry, 8th Marines and 2nd Raider Battalion.

 

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Military Humor – 

Sniper sense of humor

Sniper sense of humor

 

Oops - it's a toll road!

Oops – it’s a toll road!

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joshua Barron – Spokane, WA; USMC, LCpl., 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Jonathan Falaniko – Pago Pago, Samoa; US Army, Iraqi Freedom, Pvt.blog_eagle_globe_anchor2

Jacob Hug – AZ; USMC, Nepal, Cpl., combat videographer

Ward Johnson IV – FL; USMC, Sgt., Nepal, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Dustin Lukasiewicz – NE; USMC, Nepal, Capt., 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Sara Medina – IL; USMC, Nepal, Cpl, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Eric Seaman – CA; USMC, Nepal, Sgt., 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Tapendra Rawal & Basanta Titara – Nepalese Army

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October 1942 (2)

Guadalcanal, courtesy of History.com

Guadalcanal, courtesy of History.com

11-25 October – [continued from October 1942 (1) post] – Henderson Field, on Guadalcanal, received heavy bombardment from two Japanese battleships, the Kongo and Haruna.  The US gun batteries damaged 2 of the enemy battleships in the area.

Aviation Engineers on Guadalcanal, 1942

Aviation Engineers on Guadalcanal, 1942

On the 12th, the US Army’s Americal troops arrived and received their baptism under fire rather quickly that night.  The SeaBees went into round-the-clock action to fill the airstrip’s craters created by the enemy’s mortars, that the Marines called “Pistol Petes.”  The barrage seemed endless with man-sized projectiles flying through the air causing the sound of screeching railroad cars.  Gen. Geiger’s pilots began taking fuel from damaged planes as the Cactus Air Force became shred to pieces with the constant action.

destroyed Japanese ship

destroyed Japanese ship

18 October – Adm. Halsey, having recovered from his illness, arrived at Noumea to take over command from Ghormley.  His orders were waiting for him: “You will take command of the South Pacific area and South Pacific Forces immediately.”  Halsey’s first reaction was, “Jesus Christ and Gen. Jackson!  This is the hottest potato they ever handed me.”  He knew the situation in that vast area of ocean and also that he lacked ships, men and supplies.  After his request for all of these were denied, he wrote: “Europe is Washington’s darling, the South Pacific is only a stepchild.”  But the news of the admiral’s return gave the men of Guadalcanal renewed hope.

Japanese soldiers after an initial battle.

Japanese soldiers after an initial battle.

By the 23rd, Henderson Field was attacked by 20,000 enemy troops, under Gen. Maruyama, in their usual wave strategy.  For 3 days along the southern positions, at the rivers, wave after wave was defeated until the Japanese had lost about 3,500 men and the offensive collapsed.

USS Hornet during the Battle of Santa Cruz

USS Hornet during the Battle of Santa Cruz

24 October – Gen. Marshall ordered MacArthur to get every bomber, in range, to the Solomons – even at the expense of New Guinea.  With a stunt learned from an old enemy, LtCol. Chesty Puller and his 1st Battalion hung a barbed-wire perimeter with shell fragments to warn themselves of Japanese infiltrators during the night.  Puller was wounded during one of the attacking waves, but remained at the front.

The USS Hornet while ablaze.

The USS Hornet while ablaze.

25-26 October – the Japanese Combined Fleet headed to Guadalcanal were met by US Task Forces 16 and 17 near Santa Cruz.  The US aircraft failed to find their targets the first day, but the next morning, the opposing aircraft were visible and battled for 4 hours.  The Enterprise suffered a smashed flight deck and the Hornet (CV-8) was destroyed by 2 torpedoes and 6 bomb strikes and had to be abandoned.  The enemy carriers, Zuiho and Shokaku were not badly damaged, but their loss of 100 pilots and aircraft left them inoperable.

American and Australian troops worked together to build a road in the jungle

American and Australian troops worked together to build a road in the jungle

In New Guinea, in an attempt to delay the Australian advance of Kokoda, Gen. Horii directed his retreating battalions to enter Eora Creek ravine in the heart of the Owen Stanley Mts.  They climbed to the heights and dug into an elaborate complex of concealed weapon pits; their last line of defense at Oivi on the road from Kokoda to Buna.

28 October – repeated attempts by the Australians to climb up the slopes were met with heavy artillery fire and were thwarted back.  Suddenly, the enemy began a fierce bombardment and under the cover of fire and dark of night, Horii withdrew his garrison to Oivi.  In 2 months time of the savage struggle at Buna, the Allies lost 3,095 KIZ and 5,451 WIA – an even bloodier struggle than the better-known Guadalcanal.

Aerial view of Japanese seaplanes at Attu, Alaska.

Aerial view of Japanese seaplanes at Attu, Alaska.

30 October – the Japanese landed a second invasion force on the island of Attu in the Alaskan Aleutian islands.  The naval battles have been on-going since August and would continue until May 1943.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – by Sad Sack – 

Yank magazine

Yank magazine

Click on images to enlarge.

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Adair Jr. – Jupiter, FL; US Army, Vietnam

A Thousand Winds

A Thousand Winds

Arthur Clarke – Santa Cruz, CA; US Navy, Corpsman (Ret. 29 yrs), WWII, Korea & Vietnam

William Deitz – DE & FL; US Navy, WWII, ETO, LST 656 helmsman

L. Vern Francis – NZ, RNZ Army, WWII, D Company

Jacob Kendall – Ontario & Oregon, US Navy, WWII, ETO

Donald John Nibert – Point Pleasant, WV; US Navy

John Roberts – AUS; RA Air Force # 135801, WWII, PTO, 41st Squadron

Ken Smith – Paeroa, NZ; NZ Army # 444787, WWII, 23rd Battalion, Pvt.

Arnold Stern Sr. – Anniston, AL; US Army (Ret. 23 yrs), WWII, Korea & Vietnam

George Thompson – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

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September 1942 (1)

SeaBees wade through a flood on Guadalcanal

SeaBees wade through a flood on Guadalcanal

1 September – the Naval Construction Battalion (CBs), better known as the “SeaBees” and famous for their swift and ingenious engineering work while under combat conditions, landed on Guadalcanal. [A coverage of the SeaBees will appear in the Intermission Stories between 1942 and 1943].

SeaBees building the airfield, Guadalcanal

SeaBees building the airfield, Guadalcanal

3 September – Gen. Roy Geiger arrived on the island to command the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing – nicknamed the Cactus Air Force, after the codename for the Guadalcanal operation.  When Hideki Tojo replaced Togo as Japan’s Foreign Minister, there was no longer any civilian personnel in the Japanese government – the military was in complete control of the country.

3-11 September – Japanese reinforcements landed at Bana, New Guinea.  But, the Special Navy Landing Force were compelled to withdraw from Milne Bay due to the heavy defense of the Australian 7th Brigade and the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division.  The defeat of the amphibious force cost Hyakutake’s force a loss of over 1,000 men [another source says 2,000 men], leaving only about 600 surviving.  The enemy rescue destroyer Yayoi was sunk by a US 5th Air Force B-17.  General Horii’s battalions did break through the Gap, but with RAAF support, the enemy was defeated.

map-of-kokoda-track

Kokoda Track, New Guinea

Despite the History Channel’s claim that the US poured ample power to the Pacific, the Allied generals and admirals needed, throughout the war, to fight and plead with Washington for everything they received. [Note – this is NOT my opinion, but that of every resource I’ve visited.]  At this point, Adm. King’s request for more planes was again refused.  The Joint Chiefs also refused to support the Burma plans because the Royal Marine Division was re-routed to Madagascar and the CBI was not in the US area of responsibility.  But – despite Madame Chiang’s admission of American funding being pocketed by corrupt officials, FDR sent even more money to Chiang, who proceeded to use it fighting Chinese Communists rather than Japan.  [How much more could have been done if used for King’s planes?].

USS Gregory, in finer days

USS Gregory, in finer days

5 September – As the USS Gregory and Little left Savo Island from delivering the 1st Raiders, they came upon 4 enemy ships, enroute to their home naval base at Tulagi.  A Navy pilot, believing he had seen flashes from a submarine, dropped 5 flares.  This silhouette the US ships against the black sky.  Immediately the Japanese opened fire and within 3 minutes, the Gregory began to sink.

8 September – Gen. Kawaguchi tried a 3-prong attack to capture Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.  Clemens’s scouts forewarned the Americans and Col. Edson’s Raider Battalion were sent out to establish advanced defenses on the high ground.

10 September – after extensive work by the engineers to block the marshes of Kuhlak, Alaska, the 73rd Bomb Squadron had an airfield to land on.  The 42nd Troop Carrier Squadron landed the following day.

Stringing barbed wire on Edson's Bloody Ridge, 1942

Stringing barbed wire on Edson’s Bloody Ridge, 1942

12-18 September – the first wave of the Japanese 25th Brigade (~ 6,000 men), attacked from the jungle, with support from their naval units, in an area of Guadalcanal that would become known as “Edson’s Bloody Ridge”.  At first the Raiders were cut off and the waves of the enemy kept coming. But, this was merely a prelude, nightfall brought the “Banzai”* attacks.  Chants of : “U.S. Marines be dead tomorrow.” repeatedly came up from the jungle.

To be continued…

Click on images to enlarge.

* – “Tenno Heika Banzai” (天皇陛下萬歲?, “Long live the Emperor”),

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Military Humor – army (1)

oldsalt

Look for these and others at Muscleheaded!

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernie Barndt – Eagle River, AL; US Army (Ret. 28 years), Vietnam, Bronze Star

Norman Cleaver – Calgary, CAN; Canadian Forces, Warrant Officer (Ret.)ANZAC-Day-wreath-1

John Durak – Bayonne, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO, Co.K/104th Inf. Reg./26th Division

James Gilman – Westfield, MA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 3rd Batt/26th Division

James Hoff – Saginaw, MI; US Army, Vietnam, Military Police

Edna Morgan – Rincon, GA; Civilian aircraft spotter, WWII

Clyde Orr Jr. – Florence, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, navigator, 94th Bomb Group

Herman Ponty – Madison, WI & CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, Lt., 100th Division, Bronze Star

Lloyd Sime – San Diego, CA; US Navy (Ret.), WWII, Korea, Vietnam & Pentagon

Adolph Alfred Taubman – Bloomfield Hills, MI, US Army, WWII

Robert Wilfling – Colorado Springs, CO; US Army, Military Police

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