World war Two: North Africa (2-8); Mehdia to Port-Lyautey, Landings

The basic task of Force GOALPOST in executing its mission was to gain possession of an airfield for the use of P-40’s (brought on the carrier Chenango) and other planes of the XII Air Support Command (to be Hown from Gibraltar).The airfield was to be available by nightfall of D Day for support thereafter of the main American attack on Casablanca. Although the northern force might well accomplish other missions, capture of the airport near Port-Lyautey was primary and overriding. The operations from Mehdia to Port-Lyautey were more complex than those of either of the other two landing forces.

 The Sebou river meandels in wide loops as it near the Atlantic coast at Mehdia. Parallel protective moles jut into the sea at its mouth. Nine miles upstream around a great northerly loop, although only five miles airline to the eastward, is Port-Lyautey, on the southern bank of the river. The area within the inverted U made by this loop contains, in its southern portion, the prominent northern nose of a ridge which extends southwestward, roughly parallel to the seacoast.

In the Hat northeastern part of the area is the Port-Lyautey airdrome, its concrete run-ways and hangars lying on low Hats next to the river. It is dominated by the high ground to the southwest and, across the river, directly to the north, by bluffs rising about 100 feet above the water.

It was not feasible for ships to bypass the defenses at the river’s mouth and navigate upstream to the vicinity of the airfield before debarking the troops who were to occupy it. A sandbar at the entrance limited access, even during the highest November tides, to vessels of not more than nineteen feet draft. About one mile from the mouth, a barrier across the channel prevented farther navigation except with the concur renee of guards. Machine guns and artillery were sited to sweep the river adjacent to the barrier. On the shoulder of a mesa south of the stream, the walled Kasba (fortress) in particular dominated the channel. Ships attempting to proceed past these defenses in daylight would be at too severe a disadvantage, while at night their chances of escaping the misfortune of running aground were slight.

If troops started inland from the ocean shore south of the Sebou river, their advance would be impeded by a narrow lagoon almost four miles in length, fringed by scrub pine woods and steep ridges, which paralleled the coast east of the dunes. Movement of vehicles would have to be funneled through a gap of less than one mile between the lagoon’s marshy northern end and the southern bank of the river. This gap, more over, narrowed abruptly to a terrace less than 200 yards wide between the river and a cliff. Troops drawn into this gap would be faced by the strongest concentration of fixed defenses in the area to be attacked. Among them, indeed, were the principal coastal defense guns, which would have to be neutralized or captured before the transports could operate in daylight from positions near the beaches. These batteries were believed to consist of one four-gun and an adjacent two-gun group, each of 138.6-mm. caliber, heavily protected by machine guns, antiaircraft weapons, and a system of trenches linking the area with the Kasba fortress. The older battery of four guns was understood to be mounted without the protection characteristic of newer emplacements, but all had a range of up to 18,000 meters and a traverse which enabled them to cover sea and beach approaches to the Sehou from any likely angle.

Another gap at the southern end of the long lagoon permitted access to the interior where a coastal road turned inland. This defile through the coastal ridges was not more than 200 yards wide and was a position of easy defense against any force approaching Mehdia. The bluffs extending south of this narrow gap for over four miles contained a few exits for roads or trails. Through these draws and across the inland ridges, infantry units could at least approach the airfield from the southwest, passing between Mehdia on the west and Port-Lyautey on the east.

The airfield could be attacked also by a force which landed north of the river mouth. These troops would have to advance for at least 1,500 yards through high sand dunes, over steep shale slopes and ridges, to reach a secondary road along the river’s northern bank. Part of such a force could occupy the bluffs directly north of the airdrome and the remainder could move down a tongue of land within the river’s second loop to the east. The airport could thus be denied to the enemy, but in order to make it available to the Americans, the high ground southwest of it would also have to be held. Supplies, moreover, would have to be brought upstream. Control of the river from its mouth to Port-Lyautey required landings south of the river and inland advance by the few routes permitted by the difficult natural barriers paralleling the coast.

General Truscott and his staff recognized the possibility of making the assault in either of two general ways. All landings could be made to the south away from effective opposition; the attacking force, including a considerable number of guns and tanks, could assemble there and advance northward to the airdrome and the port under cover of naval bombardment. Such a method involved two great risks: slowness in reaching the objective, and interruption by bad weather in landing tanks and guns after the assault infantry was ashore, thus preventing the force from moving northward in good order. It was rejected, therefore, in favor of a landing plan which would make maximum use of a short period when the surf was moderate, and which seemed to combine the advantages of speed, surprise, and flexibility. Landings were to be made at several places as close as possible to the objective and, during the inland advance, success was to be exploited wherever it might be achieved. Numerical superiority over the defenders would not be guaranteed at every point, nor could sufficient reinforcements be committed from one side of the river to the other if needed to turn the tide of battle. The separated units would have to operate with a high degree of initiative and efficiency. The risk that the attack might get out of control was great. But the prospects of speedy success and of insurance against swiftly deteriorating weather were deemed controlling.

Port-Lyautey and the Port-Lyautey airdrome would be defended on D Day, the planners concluded, by one infantry regiment (3,080 men) with supporting artillery. These troops could be reinforced, late on D Day, by 1,200 mechanized cavalry and elements of a tank battalion (forty-five tanks) from Rabat. During the night, about half an additional tank battalion could reach the area from Meknes. Finally, within five days, two regiments (about 6,200 men) could march to Port-Lyautey from Rabat and Meknes. These troops, while not as well equipped as the Americans, would include a substantial proportion of seasoned veterans. To meet the contingencies of D Day, the assaulting units would require antitank weapons and tanks, some of them landing south of the Sebou river to confront French armored units approaching from Rabat.

Limited by the capacities of available transports, and the necessity of conveying ground troops of the XII Air Support Command, the northern landing force would consist of only one regimental combat team, the 60th Regiment (reinforced), and an armored group, the 3rd Armored Landing Team of the 2nd Armored Division. Persistent hopes of having an airborne force dropped near the airfield were denied.

The Plan of Attack

Force GOALPOST was conveyed to the vicinity of Mehdia by the Northern Attack Group of the Western Naval Task Force. Its 525 officers and warrant officers and 8,554 enlisted men 2 (of whom 124 officers and 1,757 enlisted men were ground troops of the XII Air Support Command), with 65 light tanks and 881 vehicles, were loaded in eight transports. They were protected by the battleship Texas, the light cruiser Savannah, the escort carrier Sangamon, and nine destroyers. Two mine sweepers, an oiler, and a seaplane tender were part of the group, and the S.S. Contessa, the special cargo transport, pursued the others across the Atlantic in time to join them off Mehdia on D Day. The Chenango, on which the Army’s seventy-six P–40’s were carried, was prepared to catapult them for emergency strikes followed by landings in the open countryside, should such drastic action be required.

To insure at least a skeleton staff arriving at the destination, General Truscott had divided his staff, placing half abroad the USS Allen and half aboard the USS Clymer. The Staff of the 60th Combat Team was also billeted on the Clymer. The plan of attack provided for five simultaneous landings, two at beaches north of the Sebou’s mouth and three at beaches

south of it. Selection of these particular points for the landings was determined less by hydrographic conditions than by directness of access to separate inland objectives, for the shore offered similar opportunities at any points. About one mile up the river, adjacent to Mehdia, was a sixth beach planned for a later landing, while a seventh was indicated almost nine miles from the river’s mouth, directly east of the Port-Lyautey airdrome. The initial assault landings, however, were to be made through the pounding surf characteristic of the Atlantic shore of Africa. Two battalion landing teams were to use beaches south of the river, a third was to land in two sections on beaches north of the river, and the armored group was to come ashore south of the river at daylight, using whichever beach was then considered most available. The planners hoped that the inside beach (BROWN) on the river’s bank near Mehdia would quickly be made accessible to the tank lighters.


9th Infantry Division; 1st BLT 60th Infantry; 2nd BLT, 60th Infantry; 3rd BLT, 60th Infantry

Other 60th Infantry Troops; Armored Landing Team; 1st Battalion (reinforced) , 66th Armored Regiment

Other Force “Z” Personnel

Detachments, XII Air Support Command; 692nd697th Coast Artillery (AA) Batteries

Detachment of: 66th Engineer Company (Topographic); 1st Armored Signal Battalion; 9th Signal Company; 122nd Signal Company (Radio Intelligence); 163rd Signal Company (Photographic); 239th Signal Company (Operational); 56th Medical Battalion; 2nd Broadcasting Station Operation Detachmenl; Counterintelligence Group; Prisoner Interrogation Group

The most northerly landing was to be made by about one third of the 3rd Battalion Landing Team, 60th Regimental Combat Team (approximately 550 men), on Beach RED, situated four and a half miles north of the river’s mouth. This detachment was expected to hasten to the bluffs north of the Port-Lyautey airfield before daylight. From that point, it was to neutralize the field, reconnoiter to the north and east about five miles, and send a detail to block or gain possession of the bridge over the Sebou near Port-Lyautey. Eventually the detachment would cross the river in rubber boats brought from the beach and participate in a co-ordinated attack on the airfield planned for 1100.

While this operation proceeded, the larger section of the 3rd BLT would land at Beach RED 2, less than 1,000 yards north of the river’s mouth. In two hours’ time, this force was to occupy positions on the northern bank of the Sebou opposite Mehdia from which to furnish supporting artillery and mortar fire for the attack on the Kasba. It was then on order to continue along the northern bank to join the other part of the 3rd BL T in the river crossing operation and the attack on the airfield.

The most critical mission was that of the 2nd BLT, 60th Regimental Combat Team, whose 1,268 men would land on GREEN Beach, just south of the river’s mouth and about one mile from Beach RED 2. Picked units equivalent to two rifle companies would attempt to capture the coastal defenses at Mehdia before daylight, that is, before 0600. If the first effort to seize the batteries by bayonet assault should fail, naval and air bombardment was to be delivered on call by General Truscott after 0615, followed by a second ground assault. The 2nd BLT was to establish its beachhead at Mehdia and continue over the ridges to the hill southwest of the airfield for participation in the co-ordinated attack at 1100.

With the 2nd BLT was to be a joint demolition party of Army engineers and Navy personnel, whose objective would be to find and remove the barrier across the Sebou. The channel was thus to be opened for movement upstream by the destroyer-transport, Dallas, carrying a special raider detachment of seventy-five men to a landing at Beach BROWN 2 near the airport, and on the way supporting the advance of the 2nd BL T with gunfire on targets of opportunity.

In somewhat the same manner that the 3rd BLT utilized Beaches RED and RED 2 north of the river, the 1st BLT was to land simultaneously on two beaches, BLUE and YELLOW, from four to five miles south of the Sebou’s mouth. One rifle company was to touch down originally at each beach, and when the defenses and terrain features had been tested the remainder of the BLT would follow to that beach which could be most readily occupied. The mission of the 1st BLT required rapid overland march to block the western exits of Port-Lyautey and to participate at 1100 in the attack on the airdrome. At the same time, detachments were to reconnoiter five miles to the south and southeast and to protect the southwest flank of the sub-task force. Beyond a line which limited this reconnaissance, the supporting air elements would both observe and try to halt French troop movements from Rabat-Sale.

The preferred plan of attack of Mehdia Port-Lyautey was thus to begin with landings at five points along ten miles of Atlantic shore line. They would begin at an H Hour set at 0400 in order to have two hours of darkness for establishing beachheads and capturing by storm coastal defenses and key positions. Then, while four separate groups advanced overland and a fifth progressed by ship up the Sebou, parleys would be sought with the French commander at Port-Lyautey. If the response proved unfriendly, the airfield was to be taken by a co-ordinated attack from three or four sides, from the air, and with the aid of naval gunfire whenever called. Naval aircraft from the Sangamon would assist the morning advance and the attack on the airdrome scheduled for 1100 hours. The armored landing team would also land during the day to protect and support the operations, particularly in the area southwest and south of Port-Lyautey. Before nightfall, if all went well, the airport would be in American hands, either by French consent or by capture, and, on D plus 1, it could be used by the Chenango’s P-40’s and by bombers to be flown in from Gibraltar.

The Enemy Is Alerted

The Northern Attack Group arrived off Mehdia just before midnight, 7-8 November. The lights ashore were shining brightly, and the shore was dearly visible from the transport area, between 15,000 and 16,000 yards out. While the Texas and Savannah took stations to the north and south, the transports sought designated stations in which to begin disembarkation of the assault troops. They began ship-to-shore operations almost an hour later than the time of arrival, which had been set at 2300, 7 November. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd BLT’s were on the transports Henry T. Allen, George Clymer, and Susan B. Anthony, respectively. The 3rd Armored Landing Team was on the John Penn, with thirty-seven of its light tanks on the Electra. Personnel of the XII Air Support Command were on the Florence Nightingale, the Anne Arundel, and the Algorab.

 The transports lost formation during the last stage of the approach and never regained it. Since landing craft from five of the ships were first to carry troops from the other three for one or more round trips, much confused searching by boat crews ensued with corresponding delay in forming waves for the actual landings. General Truscott was ferried from transport to transport and agreed to the necessity of postponing H Hour from 0400 to 0430. All the craft which could be dispatched for landings on the revised schedule were then sent in, the others being formed in improvised waves for the follow-up.

Several small French steamers were allowed to pass along the coast through the convoy not long after it came to anchor, and observers on the transport Henry T. Allen saw one of these steamers, the Lorraine, signal by blinker: “Be warned. Alert on shore for 5 A. M.” President Roosevelt’s and General Eisenhower’s messages had been broadcast from London much earlier, and in the Mediterranean the landings were well advanced before those at Mehdia commenced. Surprise seemed out of the question.

Even if the convoy were not visible to watchers ashore, the noise of the winches, the booms, and the motors of landing craft moving among the larger ships should have been audible. It remained to be discovered how (in the absence of fire control radar of later date) darkness might affect the relative strength of attack or defense. Arrangements to sabotage the coastal guns and other defenses had miscarried in consequence of the shift in leadership at Casablanca shortly before the arrival of the expedition:’ When General Truscott held a conference with his staff on the Allen at 0430, it not only seemed certain that surprise had been lost, but also, that the attack would be too late for the bayonet assault in darkness, which he would have preferred. Preparation for a daylight attack by heavy naval bombardment was precluded by Allied policy. The commanding general might have adopted an alternate plan prepared for daylight operations,

but the possibilities of success by following the main plan on a delayed schedule seemed equally good. He therefore made the critical decision to persevere along the lines originally laid down. The defenses at Mehdia were lightly garrisoned. No machine guns and artillery swept the beaches from pillboxes or other emplacements at its upper edge. Naval crews operated two 5-inch guns in protected positions on the tableland above Mehdia village and in the vicinity of the Kasba. Not more than seventy men occupied the fort when the attack started. Two 75-mm. guns were mounted on flat cars on the railroad running beside the river at the base of the bluff on which the Kasba lay.

A second battery of four 75’s was brought forward after the attack began to a position on the high ground along the road from Mehdia to Port-Lyautey. A battery of four 155-mm. rifles (Grandes Puissances Filloux) was emplaced on a hill west of Port-Lyautey and southwest of the airport. The airport was defended by a single antiaircraft battery. The infantry consisted of the 1st Regiment of Moroccan Infantry and the 8th Tabor (battalion) of native Goums.

One group of nine 25-mm. guns withdrawn from other infantry regiments and one battalion of engineers completed the defensive force. Reinforcements were sent to occupy the entrenchments and machine gun positions which covered approaches to the coastal guns and the fort and to occupy defensive positions on the ridges east of the lagoon. The guns were maned and ready for action as soon as targets could be discerned. The boom across the river, somewhat upstream from’ the Kasba, was guarded by machine gunners, riflemen, and artillery. Warning orders brought fighters and twin-engined bombers into the air for attacks at dawn. The Americans were to receive no friendly welcome.

The hostilities soon to begin not only ran counter to the hopes of the Americans, but persisted despite a courageous mission intended to bring them to an early conclusion. Plans had been adjusted while Force GOALPOST was crossing the Atlantic Ocean to include Colonel Demas F. Craw in Major Pierpont M. Hamilton’s mission to go by jeep from an early beach landing near Mehdia to Port-Lyautey to consult the French commander (Colonel Charles Petit). The emissaries were to give him a letter similar in purport to the President’s broadcast. At first light on 8 November, they went ashore as the fire of coastal batteries and warships and strafing French airplanes began. French troops near the Kasba directed them toward Port-Lyautey, but as they neared the town under a flag of truce, a French machine gunner at a road-fork outpost without warning stopped them with a burst of point-blank fire which killed Colonel Craw. Major Hamilton was then conducted to the headquarters of Colonel Petit, where his reception, though amicable, led to no conclusive reply. He was detained in protective custody, was eventually permitted to telephone General Maurice Mathenet at Meknes, and was encouraged to expect ultimately a favorable response. The pervading atmosphere at the French headquarters in Port-Lyautey was one of sympathy toward the Allied cause and distaste for the current fighting. What was lacking was an authorization from Colonel Petit’s superior to stop fighting. Pending receipt of such authorization, the French at Port-Lyautey continued to fight until they were defeated, but with diminishing zeal.

[NOTE K9-1J: (I) Ltr, Brigadier General Pierpont M. Hamilton (USAF) to author, 31 Jan 50. (2) See also the citations for awards of the Congressional Medal of Honor to Major Hamilton and posthumously to Colonel Craw in The Medal of Honor of the United States Army)” p. 232.]

The 2nd BLT Attacks in the Center

In spite of delays and confusion in debarkation, the 2nd BLT’s first three waves started toward GREEN Beach in time to land before 0600. The way in was marked by various beacon lights, one on a scout boat stationed 700 yards out from the river mouth, and others on the beaches themselves.

No resistance was received from shore until the first wave had touched down, possibly as early as 0540. But almost simultaneously with the arrival of this wave at the beach, a searchlight illuminated the scout boat, a red rocket soared from the southern jetty, and coastal guns fired toward the scout boat and toward the destroyers a little farther out. A few salvos from the destroyer Eberle darkened the searchlight and temporarily silenced the guns, but before the landings were far advanced two French airplanes passed up and down the beach strafing boats and personnel, and causing some casualties. The first boat teams (containing sections of the heavy weapons company with parts of rifle companies) hastened up the beach to cover, where with later arrivals they organized for the assault. At the same time, the attempt of the special demolition party to cut the river barrier was frustrated by heavy machine gun and rifle fire. The party left without achieving its mission.

Admiral Kelly signaled “Batter Up” for local offensive fire at 0615, and ordered the Eberle to reply to the French shelling of the landing craft approaching GREEN Beach. At 0710, orders to “Play Ball,” the signal for general naval attack by the whole task force, were received from Admiral Hewitt. The frustrating provisions of the TORCH Plan limited naval bombardment, except when needed by troops ashore, to replies to French fire on offshore targets. In the absence of calls from General Truscott’s troops ashore through the shore fire control parties which were assigned to each BLT, naval fire support therefore continued to be withheld.

The assault troops of the 2nd BLT, 60th Regimental Combat Team, formed on either side of the coastal road where it bent northeasterly through a band of scrub pine woods between the lagoon and the shore. The highway skirted the marshy northern extremities of the lagoon and the ends of two parallel ridges on either side of that water. The western ridge, covered with thick brush, was fairly steep and reached a height of 75 feet, but the slope just east of the lagoon rose abrupdy more than 200 feet to a plateau on which were the principal objectives of the assault. A lighthouse stood on its western shoulder. A thousand yards farther to the northeast was the fortified Kasba, and near the fort, the coastal battery.

About half a mile east of the Kasba, on the gradual downward slope, was a small collection of dwellings which the attackers called the “native village.” The coastal highway, after passing through Mehdia and running for more than 2,000 yards along the river, rose to join a second road, converging from the high ridge, about 1,000 yards northeast of the native village. It continued eastward about three miles farther to Port-Lyautey.

The mission of the 2nd BLT was first to make its way directly eastward from the beach for approximately one mile to the high ridge and next, turning north, to gain control of the batteries, of other prepared defenses, and of the Kasba itself. Then it was to reorganize and push northeasterly across the Mehdia-Port-Lyautey highway and out to the high ground just southwest of the airdrome.

After reorganizing, the BLT advanced toward the ridge for 600 yards or more without interruption, but upon emerging from the brush it suddenly had to reckon with naval shells that screamed overhead and crumped against the ridge a few hundred yards away. The warships, under orders to reply at once to coastal guns firing to seaward, had opened up without advance notice to troops ashore, although with regard for their possible presence in the target area.

The 2nd BL T was thus moving beneath counterbattery fire against the guns near the Kasba, which had attempted to hit the transports and supporting ships offshore, rather than naval gunfire requested by the shore fire control party. The troops, inexperienced in the actual effects of such fire and apparently uncertain of its control, melted back into cover in considerable disorder and waited for it to stop.

Major John H. Dilley, the 2nd Battalion commander, left his naval gunfire liaison officer at the beach and with his artillery officer went toward the forward line. In the vicinity of the lighthouse they could see a few French sailors but no other defenders. Naval bombardment, moreover, ceased. The BLT once more reorganized, again pushed toward the high ridge, and, after a fire fight, gained possession before 0900 of the area near the lighthouse and of trenches leading toward the Kasba. It was now ready to attack the batteries and the fort when naval gunfire again began to fall in the same area, this time causing a hasty retreat. A green flare, the signal to cease fire, was sent up, but although the flare was seen by the naval gunfire liaison officer at the beach and reported by radio to the fire support ship, the USS Roe, respite was brief. Other naval vessels did not receive the order and more shells fell, thwarting the attack for the second time. Although the rate of exchange between the coastal guns and the warships approximated two French shells for thirty American, the latter did not affect complete neutralization of the batteries. Furthermore, the naval gunfire held up the infantry attack at a time when Kasba’s defenders were fewest, and thus inadvertently helped prolong the whole operation.

Accordingly, after the attack was thus suspended, Colonel de Rohan, Commanding Officer, 60th Regimental Combat Team, appeared at the lighthouse and gave orders for its resumption. These orders were misunderstood by Major Dilley as requiring that his battalion bypass the Kasba and push on to the northeast. In spite of much straggling and confusion, of poor contact with the rear echelon of the battalion command post, and in spite of the fact that one company had to be left in trenches near the Kasba, the remainder of the 2nd BLT continued eastward into the native village. There, shortly after 1230, the badly shaken unit came under counterattack. Troops from Port-Lyautey had moved up to stop them. A small force of French infantry approached the village from the east and from the highway north of it, supported by 75’s firing from near the road.

Although the shore fire control party had a telephone line to the front by that time, and had succeeded in bringing naval gunfire and air bombardment on the French artillery, they did not stop the French from receiving reinforcements of several more truckloads of the 1st Regiment of Moroccan Infantry, in addition to two towed guns, at about 1400, and three old-style French tanks at 1530. The men of the 2nd BLT, already much reduced by casualties and considerable straggling, and lacking artillery support until late in the afternoon, fell back in groups.[NOTE N2-F1] The French took a substantial number of prisoners from a detachment covering the withdrawal. Even after two of the tanks were knocked out by grenades and the third withdrew, the BLT troops kept pulling back piecemeal, taking up positions along the ridge near the lighthouse, particularly in the cover south of it.[NOTE N8-F1] There they were at nightfall. The French counteroffensive threatened to continue during the night, and perhaps in greater strength. The situation near Mehdia was precarious.

[NOTE N2-F1: Battery B, 60th Field Artillery, landed about 0700, hauled its guns across the beach to cover while under shellfire, and eventually got into a position described as “about 1000 yards inland” to fire on coastal defense guns and defensive works outside the Kasba rather than against the counterattacking enemy. 1st Battalion 60th FA AAR, 8-11 Nov 42.]

 [NOTE N8-F1: The lighthouse was held by 2nd Lieutenant S. W. Sprindis, 60th Infantry antitank officer, by firing a bazooka from different positions along a wall to give the attacking force the impression of an entire battery of 75’s. For this exploit General Patton gave him a battlefield promotion. Patton Diary, 19 Nov 42]

The 1st BLT Attacks on the South Wing

Navigational errors brought most of the 1st Battalion Landing Team, 60th Regimental Combat Team (Major Percy DeW. McCarley, Jr.), to shore from the Henry T. Allen about 2,800 yards north of BLUE Beach instead of on BLUE and YELLOW Beaches, and its second wave landed ahead of the first. Fortunately, the BLT was able to reorganize without enemy interference.After touching down at 0535, its units assembled, made a three-mile detour around the southern end of the lagoon, and sent detachments to establish roadblocks at each of the road junctions for six miles to the south. About five hours after the landings began, it started northeastward along the high ground. Battery A, 60th Field Artillery, set up its 75-mm. pack howitzers in a valley southeast of the lagoon and prepared to support the advance.

Three detachments of Company A defended the roadblocks against enemy probing attacks, at first using machine guns, mortars, and bazookas, and later in the day, 37-mm. antitank guns from the Headquarters Company and the Regimental Antitank Company. The main body of McCarley’s BLT, leaving Company A in reserve and moving slowly toward Port-Lyautey, first met organized resistance about noon on the high ground almost due east of its landing place.

There, well-concealed French machine guns pinned the column down on a ridge until late in the afternoon. Shelling by Battery A, 60th Field Artillery Battalion, finally broke up the French resistance just before nightfall. While the BL T was preparing to continue the advance next morning, it was visited by General Truscott, who ordered Major McCarley to establish contact at once with Major Dilley’s BLT to the north and, at first light, to resume the attack toward the airfield. Responsibility for protecting the southern flank of the beachhead was transferred to Lieutenant Colonel Harry H. Semmes, CO, 3rd Armored Landing Team of the 66th Armored Regiment.

French motorcycle, armored car, and tank units of increasing strength-the advance elements of a substantial column from Rabat-tested the outposts on the southern flank on D Day and drove them back by evening. These blocking actions, however, including use of a bazooka which was mistaken by the enemy for heavy artillery, had delayed the northward march of the main French force long enough to permit the Americans to assemble a very small armored detachment during the night with which to meet the French in that area on D plus I.

The 3rd BLT’s Attack on the North Wing

The 3rd Battalion Landing Team, 60th Infantry (under command of Lieutenant Colonel John J. Toftey, Jr.), experienced perhaps the greatest difficulties of any unit off Mehdia in getting ashore on D Day. Its transport, the Susan B. Anthony, first had to transfer a raider detachment to the Dallas for the move up the Sebou river. Next, the landing craft had to be organized into waves near the control ship, Osprey, which was to guide them to Beaches RED and RED 2. Since none of the vessels was in its prearranged position, operations in the darkness became fumbling and uncertain. Debarkation from the transport was also slowed by other difficulties, and the whole process fell far behind schedule.

It was at least 0500 before the first three assault waves for each beach were in formation near the Osprey. The flotilla then went north for a few miles along the coast and at approximately 0600 turned right and headed eastward to the mist-covered shore. Since the boats had been brought far north of the Sebou and daylight had already arrived, Colonel Toffey, on his own responsibility, decided to follow the alternate plan for a consolidated landing by his entire unit on RED Beach only. As the turn to the beach was in progress, two French planes swept low over the boats, strafing and bombing, and causing the loss of two landing craft but without casualties among their occupants.

The first landings occurred about 0630, along a one-mile front well to the northeast of RED Beach. No fire was received from the desolate shore. The boat teams hurried up the sandy slopes seeking cover from attack by more strafing planes. Machine gun squads of the 692nd Coast Artillery (AA) and of Company M, 60th Infantry, among units in the first waves, swiftly set up their weapons and brought down two of the planes in offshore crashes. Four companies (I, K, M, and Headquarters Company) with their medical detachments, rather than stopping to reorganize, continued as boat teams until they had struggled up the steep escarpment east of the sand dunes to high ground, about 165 feet above the sea. Two hours after the first landings, they had completed the climb, carrying their equipment, and were ready to advance to the bluffs north of the airdrome.

Checking maps, the 3rd BLT discovered that it had not been brought to RED Beach, but instead to a point five miles farther north. What lay ahead therefore was an arduous cross-country march of approximately five miles with the necessity of hand carrying everything over ridges and through scrub growth. The BLT met no resistance and was in position (but without supporting artillery) on Hill 58 by noon. The naval gunfire control party set up rad105 on the bluff above the beach and on Hill 74, about 1,000 yards north-northeast of Hill 58, and strung telephone wire across the intervening area. Thus it could soon adjust fire for the Savannah on a French 155-mm. gun battery observed to be in action southwest of the airfield. Western Morocco’s largest ammunition dump, a collection of detached beehive structures on the eastern slope of the same ridge, was also bombarded by the main 14-inch battery of the Texas at a range of 12,000 yards. Reconnaissance parties found no enemy troops or installations to the northeast but ascertained that the Port-Lyautey bridge over the Sebou was mined and strongly defended. At the beach all available personnel labored to open exits through the dunes and up the escarpment, while along the route to Hill 58 others constructed a road. By 2230, the guns of Battery C, 60th Field Artillery Battalion, had been dragged to emplacements on Hill 74. Later, the rubber boats were sent forward from the beach in half-tracks. The first day’s operations left Colonel Toffey’s BLT with much to do before it could attack the airfield.

Summary of D Day

The attack at Mehdia-Port-Lyautey departed from the basic plan at the outset and never returned to it. In the hope of adhering to the original arrangements, the landing schedule was, as already indicated, delayed a half hour, but this proved insufficient. The delay was actually protracted for almost one and a half hours. Next, the arrangement for simultaneous landings at five coastal points was modified drastically. The 3rd BLT, seeing that its operations ashore were beginning in daylight, shifted to the alternate plan; its two separate landings were consolidated into one for RED Beach, well north of the Sebou river’s mouth: The larger section of the 3rd BL T was to have supported the 2nd BLT’s advance against Mehdia and the Kasba by parallel movement on the opposite side of the river but actually did not do so. And further to complicate the situation, the 3rd BLT was put ashore at a point some five miles north of RED Beach, greatly lengthening the amount of rough terrain over which it had to struggle to reach the bluffs north of the airdrome.

Major McCarley’s 1st BLT was brought to shore 2,800 yards north of BLUE Beach instead of at BLUE and YELLOW Beaches. The resulting situation not only interfered with the landings of Major Dilley’s 2nd BLT on GREEN Beach, but also necessitated a slow detour around the southern end of the coastal lagoon before the 1st BLT could reach the high ground east of it and start toward the airdrome. The 2nd BLT began its landings only twenty minutes before dawn, and its inland advance by daylight met with stronger resistance than its schedule allowed for. The 75-mm. battery attached to each BLT had been of but little use, either because of delays in emplacement and in establishing fire control, or because of doubts as to the location of forward troops. The naval gunfire which had served well on the southern flank and farther inland toward Port-Lyautey had not been well co-ordinated in the zone of attack near the coastal guns and the Kasba, although elsewhere it had been of the greatest value.

The delay and confusion attributable to departures from the plan were increased by French air strafing of the beaches at dawn, French bombardment of the transport area, and defective communications between ship and shore after 0700, when the transports withdrew to a point fifteen miles out to sea.

At 1100 on D Day, instead of being able to launch a co-ordinated attack on the Port-Lyautey airdrome, the main elements of Sub-Task Force GOALPOST were still striving to gain firm footholds and were under imperfect control. The French had not been dislodged from the vitally important Kasba. The barrier to navigation of the river remained in place. The French still controlled the south bank of the river and the nose of the ridge southwest of the airport. Enemy reinforcements from Port-Lyautey had strengthened the resistance to Dilley’s BLT in the Kasba area and had held McCarley’s BL T well south of positions which it was to have occupied before 1100. The 3rd BLT was most nearly in position, for its leading elements were digging in on the bluffs and ridges north of the airfield, waiting for artillery and rubber boats to arrive from the distant landing point, while other detachments were reconnoitering to the northeast and east.

The situation of General Truscott’s whole force at nightfall, 8 November, was insecure and even precarious. He himself had come ashore in the early afternoon after a morning during which, because of inadequate communications, he could gain little exact information and could exercise insufficient control. There he found his battalion and company commanders in similar difficulties with their subordinate units. In a half-track carrying a radio, (SCR-193) he ranged over the beachhead attempting to meet the most immediate problems and to improve co-ordination.

As the afternoon gave way to darkness, the unsatisfactory conditions at the beaches were deteriorating still further. Far fewer heavy weapons had been landed than were required for defense against prospective enemy action. The tank lighters had been too few, and when failure to capture the coastal guns forced the transports to move out of range of possible shelling, the round trip between ship and shore had been lengthened to more than thirty miles. The rare calm prevailing during most of the day disappeared with winds which sprang up at sunset. By night, the surf was rising and before daylight wave crests reached fifteen feet in height. Boats had more and more difficulty in landing and retracting. Stranded crews and misplaced troops roved along the beaches, contributing to the serious confusion. Inland, the enemy threatened to make strong counterattacks, either during the night or at daylight.

General Truscott had by then committed all of his slender reserve. Company L (less detachments), 60th Infantry, was sent forward late in the afternoon to reinforce Major Dilley’s 2nd BLT. During the night, all available men were taken from the shore party at Beach GREEN, organized into provisional units, and put in defense of the ridge line east of the beach. Colonel Semmes’s seven light tanks were held in outpost positions along the beach until well after midnight, when they left to reach positions on the south wing of the beachhead before dawn. Since naval gunfire from the Savannah, under its own air spotting, had proved effective on D Day, it was again requested, this time for support of the tanks at first light, placed under the command of Captain A. O. Chittenden, Coast Artillery Corps, and sent to reinforce the 1st BLT east of the lagoon The French column from Rabat which had driven the outposts of Company A (reinforced), 60th Infantry, back toward the beachhead during the afternoon was expected to attack in force at dawn. A Provisional Assault Group consisting of three rifle and two heavy weapons platoons was organized from shore party personnel. The units of this column were later identified as the staff, scout car troop, and two squadrons of light Renault tanks, of the 1st Regiment, African Chasseurs, 10me motorcycle troops of the Moroccan Guard, and truck-borne infantry believed to be the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 7th Moroccan Tirailleurs. The tanks had 37-mm. guns, light armor, and two man crews,.

The Second Day’s Operations

During the night, while General Mathenet carried out the orders from General Lascroux’s headquarters to shift from Meknes to Port-Lyautey as part of a revised scheme of French defensive operations, more reinforcements went toward Port-Lyautey from Fes and Meknes, though heavily attacked by planes after daylight. (The reinforcements were: Staff, Regimental Company, and 3rd Battalion, Foreign Legion; Staff and 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment of Moroccan Tirailleurs; 6th Motorcycle Troop, Moroccan Guard; 2nd Battalion, 64th Regiment of African Artillery (2 batteries)) Some reached the Kasba area, where a dawn counterattack in strength threatened to drive Major Dilley’s force back to the beach itself. But the impending counterattack on the southern flank by an armored French column and two battalions of infantry was General Truscott’s principal concern. If the French armor broke through the small defending force, it could disrupt the entire attack. The 1st BLT, 60th Regimental Combat Team, could be struck in the rear and scattered, and BLUE Beach might then be wrested from its occupants.

The swell and surf were running too high to unload additional tanks or heavy weapons during the night. General Truscott, obliged to use available armor to repel the counterattack, had to deny to Major McCarley’s BLT the armored support with which it might have succeeded in getting to the airfield that day. He sent Colonel Semmes with his seven light tanks to take up positions blocking the Rabat-Port-Lyautey highway before dawn. The tanks had to be controlled without radio, for this equipment had been put out of order by the long period of disuse while en route by sea. Furthermore, the tankmen had had no opportunity to reset the sights on their 37-mm. guns before contact with the French. Semmes’s tanks took positions astride the highway southeast of the lagoon as the first gray light of a cold morning appeared. What followed was the first tank engagement in Morocco.

As Colonel Semmes’s light tanks moved toward the main highway shortly after 0600, they first drove off with heavy casualties a company of French infantry in positions in the woods and near a farm across the road. About half an hour later, some fourteen to eighteen Renault tanks (armed with 37-mm. guns) and approximately two battalions of infantry came into view. Approaching along the road from Rabat. The American tanks thereupon withdrew behind a slight rise which offered some protection and opened fire on the column.

Frontal armor on Semmes’s seven tanks was too heavy for the answering French fire to pierce. Though most of the American firing was also rendered ineffective by the unadjusted sights of the tanks’ major weapons, it destroyed four French tanks, inflicted severe losses among the French infantry, and stopped the thrust into Force GOALPOST’S southern flank. While the French were held back, gunfire from the Savannah was directed by her spotting planes on the enemy’s tank assembly area in a little woods near the highway and on other French targets. This accurate fire forced the French to break off the attack and to withdraw temporarily.

General Truscott attached ten or more light tanks of Company C, 70th Tank Battalion, and one section of antitank guns from the 60th Regimental Cannon Company to Colonel Semmes’s force in time to help repulse a second French attack at about 0900. Throughout the day, the battle continued on a diminishing scale under a brilliant sky. By the latter part of the afternoon, the threat to the southern flank of the beachhead had so moderated that Company C, 70th Tank Battalion, was released to Major McCarley’s force in the hope that he could thereby push through to the airfield before nightfall. During the night, nine more tanks and the reconnaissance platoon came ashore in time to reinforce the 3rd Armored Landing Team for the third day’s operations.

The tank engagement on the southern flank had just begun on 9 November when the 1st BLT, 60th Regimental Combat Team, reinforced by Captain Chittenden’s Provisional Assault Group and supported by Battery A, 60th Field Artillery Battalion, resumed its advance toward the airfield, some seven miles away. The axis of advance ran diagonally over a series of partly wooded ridges. The first resistance came about 1030 in the form of light and ineffective fire from an unexpected direction-the areas of the lighthouse and the Kasba which had supposedly passed under control of the 2nd BLT, 60th Regimental Combat Team.

No other French opposition seriously impeded the progress of Major McCarley’s force until it arrived at the crest of Mhignat Touama (52) about 1500. By that time, the French had deployed along the highway to the northeast and on a wooded height to the east, and using mortar and heavy machine gun fire soon pinned down the leading American elements. While supporting American artillery, naval gunfire, and tanks were being brought into action, the French, including some cavalry, organized on the east flank for a counterattack. The 105-mm. howitzers of Battery A, 60th Field Artillery Battalion, stopped the flanking fire from the east. This feat, together with the timely arrival of ten light tanks of Company C, 70th Tank Battalion, forestalled the threatened counterattack. Highly effective naval gunfire on the highway area and bombing by seaplane of French machine gun positions ahead of the Ist BLT appeared to be clearing the way for a tank-infantry advance before dark. The BL T therefore organized to resume its push toward the airfield as soon as the naval gunfire should be lifted.

At that juncture, two accidents spoiled the prospects. The BLT’s front was not marked by identification panels during this pause, and a Navy plane dropped two bombs among the troops. Artillery fire from an unidentified source also fell in the area. The disorganization which ensued delayed the preparations until darkness was too near to warrant starting prolonged tank-infantry operations. The tankers prepared to lie up until morning while the infantry attacked alone.

Farther north, Major Dilley’s 2nd BLT, stopped late on D Day by a French counterattack east of the lagoon, was expected to reorganize during the night and to resume the advance against the Kasba. Company L (less detachments), 60th Infantry, which had reinforced the unit late on D Day, remained for the second day’s operation.

Morning arrived before all the scrambled units had been sorted out, and with morning the French attacked again. They had substantially reinforced the Kasba area during the night. Some French troops pushed along the shelf on the southern side of the river as far as Mehdia at the northern end of the beach, overwhelming American outposts on the ridge. Fire from American positions near the lighthouse drove the French from Mehdia temporarily, but they brought up some 75-mm. guns and mortars, in turn forcing the Americans to abandon the lighthouse area, after holding it for more than twenty-four hours. Artillery fire from the 155-mm. battery southwest of the airport pinned them down for the first part of that afternoon (9 November). The rest of the day passed in a sort of deadlock, with the 2nd BLT unable to arrange a successful coordinated attack despite the availability of artillery, naval gunfire, and air support. Thus the second day ended with the Kasba still in French possession.

North of the airfield on the morning of 9 November, the 10S-mm. howitzers of Battery C, 60th Field Artillery, were in position. They caused at least a temporary evacuation of the airdrome barracks and engaged in a counterbattery duel with French guns on the hills southwest of the field. In the early afternoon, rubber boats and assault guns arrived from RED Beach. Orders were issued for two related night operations.

Companies K and M, 60th Infantry, began an approach march at 1630 down the tongue of river flatlands toward the western end of the Port-Lyautey bridge, some three miles away. After dark, Company I crossed the river from the northern bank in the rubber boats, intending to create at least a diversion on the airfield which might aid the force attempting to seize the bridge. On signal, one heavy concentration of artillery was to be fired into the area near the bridge. Then the structure was to be rushed with a sudden assault. Company I’s venture on the airfield was to be assisted by neutralizing salvos from the Kearny on enemy troops in the hills southwest of the airfield.

The Night Attacks, 9-10 November

The two night operations by Colonel Toffey’s BLT were only partly successful. Company I crossed the river in the rubber boats but lost its bearings near the airfield and eventually dug in on the southern river bank near the point of crossing, where it awaited daylight. Companies K and M drove the French defenders from the western end of the Port-Lyautey bridge but were in turn repulsed by artillery fire. A machine gun platoon was left in position to block enemy use of the bridge while the rest of the detachment returned, with its casualties, to Hills.

These night operations in the vicinity of the airdrome had their counterpart in the attempts of Major McCarley’s BL T to move in from the southwest. Companies B, C, and D selected a route of approach before dark and started at 2300 from the Mhignat Touama in column of companies. The sky was deeply overcast and visibility was poor. The column, instead of continuing according to plan past Port-Lyautey, between a low white prison structure on the right and the high ground on the left, and on an axis approximately paralleling an old railroad embankment, swung unintentionally to the east toward Port-Lyautey. At 0100, the leading elements ran into a machine gun outpost. The force split into three parts, with further splintering ensuing as the men sought to evade the hostile fire.

The major part of the 1st BLT, 60th Regimental Combat Team, resumed its progress toward the airport until, at 0430, the men arrived at a blacked-out building which they believed to be the barracks. The structure was stealthily surrounded. Machine guns were placed to control all exit roads and paths. The occupants were then called upon to surrender. They surrendered at once, about seventy-five in all, after setting down their cups and wine glasses, for the building proved to be not a barracks but a cafe. Patrols took about 100 more prisoners in the vicinity.

The French saw no reason to pursue energetically a battle which they expected soon to terminate. When Colonel Petit, with a staff officer of the 1st Regiment of Moroccan Tirailleurs, was captured a little later, he ordered that whole unit to cease firing. The two officers were, at their own suggestion, paroled in the custody of Major Hamilton but at their own headquarters in Port-Lyautey. Since he was being detained there, they returned to him and thus created a novel situation not quite covered by the rules of war. As the morning advanced, the 7th Regiment of Moroccan Tirailleurs was also ordered to quit. The major portion of the 1st BL T then organized positions controlling the highways leading toward Mehdia and Rabat and waited for the cessation of some naval gunfire which temporarily barred their further progress to the airfield.

Major McCarley and part of Company B had moved from the point of dispersion through the darkness and rain, by error, all the way to the south edge of Port-Lyautey. At daylight they found the French troops there quite willing to avoid hostilities, but as they went to rejoin the rest of their unit they were stopped and captured by a more belligerent Foreign Legion infantry battalion.

The third part of the 1st BLT that had been separated during the night from the original column, consisting of a company commander and fifty-five enlisted men, returned from the French outpost to the original line of departure for the night’s march. At daylight, these men started again toward the airport, supported by tanks of Company C, 70th Tank Battalion. The advance persisted in spite of opposition, the tanks accounting for four French antitank guns and twenty-eight machine guns, and the whole force reaching the western edge of the airdrome at 1045 or a little later.

Pressure to gain the airfield was extremely urgent. At the end of operations on D plus 2, not only was it still in French hands but the barrier boom across the Sebou had not even been removed. The night of 9-10 November was stormy and starless and the sea rough. Nevertheless, about 2130 a joint demolition party set out to cut the barrier. The boat made its way from the transport Clymer to the river, and failing to find Colonel Henney, Commanding Officer, 15th Engineers (C), at an expected rendezvous, the group proceeded with its task under Lieutenant M. K. Starkweather (USNR). The cable was cut, and one man, lowered into the water, confirmed that nothing else remained.

The smaller signal wire then broke and the boom parted. As guards ashore opened heavy fire, the boat hurried away in the darkness with eight minor casualties. The men returned to the Clymer at 0430. They believed that they had opened the way for the raider detachment on the Dallas, although an extremely exacting bit of navigation remained if the passage to the airdrome was to be successful.

Closing on the Airdrome, 10 November

Daylight on 10 November, the third day of the attack, found the scattered 1st BLT with one part about 3,000 yards south of the airport, holding over 200 prisoners and determined to press on, and another part determined to advance over the high ground southwest of the airport with a group of light tanks. It found the 2nd BLT under urgent orders to take the Kasba, and strengthened by two self-propelled 105-mm. assault guns. The 3rd BL T at daybreak had put one rifle company in position to attack the airport from the north, supported by artillery. At the mouth of the river, the Dallas was about to attempt to force its way through the newly breached barrier and past the Kasba in order to carry the raider detachment to the airfield. Colonel Semmes’s armored landing team, with fifteen or sixteen light tanks and supporting guns and infantry, stood firmly across the path of whatever strength might be sent from Rabat to reinforce the Port-Lyautey defenders. A request to Western Task Force for reinforcements had been refused; after the 2nd Battalion, 20th Combat Engineers, had been committed at Fedala on D Day, there were no more to send. Offshore, the Texas, the Savannah, the Eberle, Roe, and Kearny cruised slowly into positions from which to furnish fire support, and, well out of sight of land, the Sangamon’s planes awaited an adequate wind for take-offs from the slow, converted tanker. Early air missions had to be refused, but by 0900 planes could be dispatched on reconnaissance as far as Meknes and Rabat, while others rose to circle on air alert, ready to respond when bombing missions were called for.

The destroyer-transport Dallas, carrying the raider detachment, at 0530 began working her way into the mouth of the Sebou against an ebb tide in very rough water, guided by a local river pilot whom the Office of Strategic Services had spirited out of Morocco with just such a mission as this in prospect. The vessel reached the boom in the gray light of dawn only to discover that the buoys were anchored, with the result that the boom had not swung all the way open and would have to be rammed. As the muddy bottom sucked at her hull, and shells from the Kasba began to smack the water near her, the ship steamed up to the boom, knifed through it, and continued up the river. She had survived the worst danger at the outset, but shells still narrowly missed her as long as she was visible from a tall building in Port-Lyautey. Heavy machine gun fire which raked her decks from the hills near the airfield had to be stopped by her own counter-fire, while the Kearny neutralized one 75-mm. battery by prearranged fire.

The persistent immunity of the ship and her passengers was little short of miraculous. At the sharp tum in the river, where the men of Company I had been dug in for several hours, they could hear the sounds of gunfire along the river to the west and, at 0720, could see the masts of the Dallas above the low river bank. A few minutes later, the ship was picking its way past the scuttled French vessel, St. Amiel, and starting southward. Two American seaplanes covered these last movements. At 0737, the Dallas stopped, stranded in shallow water but near the seaplane base on the eastern border of the airdrome. Artillery fire from about 4,000 yards to the east, beyond the bridge, suddenly opened up, only to be silenced with extraordinary speed and efficiency by the vessel’s 3-inch guns and by bombing from a seaplane. The raider detachment quickly debarked in rubber boats.

Attacking toward the west while I Company moved in from the north, the Americans cleared the enemy from the field and held possession by 0800. Soon the aircraft carrier Chenango was preparing to catapult its P–40’s for flight to the airfield. Colonel Toffey, with the forward observer of Battery C, 60th Field Artillery, and a party from Company I, reconnoitered the Port-Lyautey bridge. Observing enemy batteries along the Rabat-Tangier highway northeast of Port-Lyautey, they called fire from Battery C and from the Texas, Eberle, and Kearny on the targets. Dive bombers also participated in silencing these guns before they could deliver interdictory fire on the airdrome, once the airfield was in American use. By noon, although the French blew out three spans of the bridge, patrols with tanks had brought the city of Port-Lvautey and the high ground southwest of the airport under American control. The P–40’s from the Chenango began landing on the shell-pocked field and its slippery runways about 1030.

Taking the Kasba

On 10 November, shortly before the attack on the airdrome, the 2nd BLT, reinforced by self-propelled assault guns, moved out at first light from a line of departure south of the lighthouse against positions organized by the French from its vicinity to that of the Kasba .. The attack seemed to gather strength as it proceeded, and by 0930 had cleared all resistance from entrenchments and machine gun nests outside the walls of the Kasba. Colonel de Rohan himself took charge of the assaults against the gates of the fort. Two 105’s fired at point blank range, but without success. A provisional assault company of 125 engineer troops, consisting of detachments from three companies of the 540th Engineers (Combat), from the 15th Engineers (Combat), and from the 87lst Aviation Engineers, operating under Captain Verle McBride, a company commander of the 540th Engineers (Combat), reinforced the 2nd BLT in these attempts. Twice during the final stage of approach, attacks were thwarted by intense machine gun and rifle fire from within the fort. At this juncture, General Truscott transmitted a call by de Rohan to the carrier-based naval bombers to deliver a supporting strike. Lieutenant D. C. Dressendorfer (USN), the naval air liaison officer, by radio guided a flight of dive bombers to the Kasba, where smoke shells marked the particular target. Within four minutes of the request, the flight began to peel off one at a time to drop bombs in the vicinity of the gates. The assaulting troops waited between 100 and 200 yards from the target, recovered from the shock before the French, and rushed the fort while the smoke and dust were still thick. Surrender by about 250 troops followed quickly. The back of French defense at Mehdia-Port-Lyautey was clearly broken, for the coastal guns near the Kasba had been silenced earlier by bombardments from artillery, by naval gunfire, and by naval air; the 155-mm. battery and other French artillery near the airport had already been neutralized by naval gunfire.

What remained was to secure the area against counterattacks, sniping, and sabatage and thus to guarantee the effective use of the airfield and seaplane base. After the surrender of the Kasba, Major Dilley reorganized his BLT for the last phase of its advance to the nose of the ridge, looming above the airfield. On General Truscott’s orders, an improvised reserve force of headquarters and shore party troops was brought up from GREEN Beach to protect the BL T’s south flank. A French force had been observed there in the woods about two miles southeast of the fort, presumably after infiltrating behind McCarley’s scattered command. On an 800-yard front, with a self-propelled 105-mm. gun on the left wing and a single tank behind Company F on the right, the 2nd BLT moved through the native village, which it had held temporarily on D Day, and continued toward the main highway leading to Port-Lyautey. The artillery and naval gunfire liaison parties were in close touch with the forward situation and able to respond quickly to called fire. By 1430 a hill about 1,500 yards northeast of Mhignat Touama was wrested from French defenders by employing both the 105-mm. assault gun and the tank. The BLT, under renewed orders, completed the last mile of the advance to the nose. About 150 prisoners were taken during the afternoon. All resistance near the airport had ended by 1730.

The Final Phase

While the airfield was being cleared on 10 November, French reinforcements approached Port-Lyautey over the highway in a truck column from the direction of Meknes. Deep supporting naval fire against it was delivered on call by the main battery of the Texas. Between 0842 and 1131, 214 rounds of 14-inch high explosive shells struck intermittently at a range of 17,000 yards. The column halted, then reversed, and eventually dispersed in complete disorganization, its damaged trucks left beside the highway, which was cratered by at least five direct hits.

On the southern flank, near the coast French armored forces from the direction of Rabat made several attempts to counterattack successfully through the area of the preceding day’s failure, each thrust being stopped by American armor and then driven back with losses by naval gunfire and air bombing.

Unloading the transports had been badly hampered by the delay in obtaining access to the lower Sebou river and BROWN Beach. When the surf on GREEN and BLUE Beaches mounted during D plus 1, landing craft either foundered and broke apart at the beach or, once safely in, found retraction impossible. The urgent need for medical supplies, water, and ammunition, and for tanks, could not be met in spite of several attempts. The toll in damaged boats mounted sharply until all ship-to-shore movement was suspended. Salvage efforts proved fruitless until midday of 10 November. When unloading resumed, only a very small number of craft were found to be serviceable.

As soon on 10 November as the Kasba had been captured and BROWN Beach inside the jetties became accessible, the transports moved near the mouth of the river. Almost at once they were ordered back out to sea to escape a submarine which the Roe had detected at 1045. Some three hours later the ships returned to anchorage, and unloading then proceeded faster than the shore parties could handle it. Only 1,500 to 2,000 yards offshore, they were protected by a tight antisubmarine screen as well as by daylight air antisubmarine patrols. One crew of a landing craft, mechanized (LCM), from the Florence Nightingale made over fifty-one round trips.

The resulting congestion at BROWN Beach was relieved to some extent by sending cargoes up the river as far as the airport or even to Port-Lyautey. The Osprey and Raven were diverted from use as mine sweepers to serve as freight lighters. Captured French vessels were also pressed into service. The Contessa, which had been escorted to Mehdia by the destroyer USS Cowie after it overtook the Southern Attack Force on 7 November, started up the Sebou river at 1620 on 10 November. She ran aground soon after passing the Kasba and had to wait until high tide early next morning for enough depth to complete the passage.

The seaplane tender Barnegat made the trip up the river on 11 November with the supply and maintenance requirements of the Navy’s Patrol Squadron 73. The eleven long-range reconnaissance aircraft of this unit began arriving from the United Kingdom two days later. French resistance in Mehdia and Port-Lyautey had dwindled by evening of 10 November to sniping, a practice which the French later attributed to the theft of firearms by Arabs from unguarded American stocks. Dislocated groups and individual soldiers filtered back through Port-Lyautey all day. At 2230, 10 November, General Mathenet telephoned to the Army headquarters there and, in conversation with Major Hamilton, expressed the wish to meet General Truscott to discuss the cessation of hostilities. With Colonel Leon LeBeau, deputy commander, Port-Lyautey, and a French bugler repeatedly blowing the cease-fire call, Major Hamilton went in his jeep to a point on the airfield where troops and tanks of Company C, 70th Tank Battalion, had assembled.

Over the radio in a tank on the airfield, he was able to talk with Colonel Semmes at the southern edge of the beachhead. The latter took his tank along the beach to General Truscott’s command post, and the two officers then found a place at which radio contact with Hamilton could be renewed. While thus arranging for a meeting near the gates of the Kasba at 0800, Major Hamilton also communicated through Navy channels. A blinker on the airfield signaled to the Dallas, anchored off the airport: (Paraphrase) General Mathenet has received instructions approved by Marshal Petain to terminate resistance at once. He requests an interview with you as soon as possible at the time and place which you designate. From the Dallas this message was conveyed via Admiral Kelly. The prolonged and complicated battle of Mehdia-Port-Lyautey thus came to an end at 0400, 11 November 1942.

The formal meeting at the Kasba at 0800 was a brightly colored pageant of varied French and colonial uniforms, Arab costumes, and flags. General Mathenet agreed that the French troops in his sector should remain in barracks with the Americans in possession of what they had won, while ultimate terms were reached at higher levels.

General Mathenet’s readiness to yield the Sale airport without further delay made unnecessary a planned march along the coastal road to Rabat-Sale to seize the airport there, the force to be aided by the fire support of the Texas and the Savannah and some of the destroyers. Late that night Admiral Hewitt signaled to the Northern Attack Force that hostilities had ceased in French Morocco. “Be especially vigilant against Axis submarines,” he warned.

Salvage of the damaged landing craft and scuttled French vessels followed, as did the unloading of the transports, inspection of the French defenses, and analysis of the performance of American weapons. On 14 November the naval elements prepared to leave early next day, either for Casablanca or Safi, and thence for Hampton Roads. Battle damage to the airfield was repaired and all possible steps taken to produce a state of readiness for advance to the northeast to establish contact with General Fredendall’s Center Task Force.

At a cost of seventy-nine killed the capture of Port-Lyautey by Force GOALPOST had won for the Allies a vital airdrome, a seaplane base from which to engage in the critical battle of the Atlantic against Axis submarines, and a focal point of transportation routes through northeastern Morocco to Algeria and Tunisia.

SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: North Africa (2-9); End of Hostilities in Morocco, 11 November 1942

World War Two: North Africa (2-7B); French Reaction Ashore


World War Two: Papuan Campaign(19); Final Offensive / Victory

With the clearing of the area south of Musket, the fighting on the Sanananda front entered its last phase. The Japanese were about to be enveloped by the 18th Brigade, the 163rd Infantry, and the 127th Infantry from the west, the south, and the east. The end could not be far off.

The Three-Way Push; The Preparations in General Vasey’s Area

On the evening of 14 January the mop up in the track junction was turned over to the 2/7 Cavalry and the 39 and 49 Battalions, and the 18th Brigade began moving to Rankin, the 2/10 Battalion leading.

After spending the night in the area, the troops passed through Rankin and moved up to a coconut plantation a mile and a half north. One company of 2/12 Battalion thereupon moved to secure a track junction 500 yards east of the plantation, the 2/9 Battalion and the rest of the 2/12 Battalion went into bivouac in the plantation area, and the 2/10 Battalion and brigade headquarters moved a mile and a quarter farther north where they secured a track junction about 900 yards from the coast. Toward evening the 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, took over the junction east of the plantation secured earlier by the 2/12 Battalion, and Company B of the 2/10 Battalion began moving east to occupy Killerton Village, about 1,000 yards south of Cape Killerton.

No opposition had been met during the day, and the brigade was now poised to move on Cape Killerton, Wye Point, and Sanananda. It could attack south to the M.T. Road from Killerton Village, and north to the coast from the village and the junction secured by the 2/10 Battalion. The 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, was also in position and was preparing to attack eastward toward the M.T. Road as the rest of the 163rd Infantry attacked northward from Fisk.

The 163rd Infantry at Musket and Fisk also had progress to report at the end of the day. The alertness of Company A, which had been operating out of the captured perimeter between Musket and Fisk, was largely responsible for the day’s successes.

At 0730 that morning a platoon of the company crossed the M.T. Road and sneaked into the large Japanese perimeter on the other side from the north without being detected by its defenders. Under the company commander, 1st Lieutenant Howard McKinney, the rest of the company moved in at once and began to attack. The perimeter, about 300 yards long and 150 wide, consisted of a labyrinth of interconnected bunkers and fire trenches, and the enemy, though taken by surprise, resisted fiercely. Colonel Doe lost no time in ordering a platoon of Company C from Fisk to attack the perimeter from the east and Company B (which with Companies E, G, and K, had by this time completed its part in the mop-up south of Musket) to attack from the west. The encirclement was complete, but so strong was the Japanese bunker line and so desperate the Japanese defense that it quickly became apparent that the perimeter was not going to be reduced that day.

[NOTE 18-33DF: 163rd Inf, The Battle of Sanananda. During themorning’s fighting, Staff Sergeant Paul Ziegele of Company A crept up to a Japanese bunker containing a .50-caliber machine gun, and in the face of strong enemy fire killed four of the bunker’s five occupants with his Ml. He later received the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in Hq, USAFFE GO No. 41, 25 Jul 43.]

Just before noon that day, 15 January, General Vasey came up to Colonel Doe’s command post to give him his instructions for an all-out attack the following morning on the Japanese line north of Fisk. The 2nd Battalion was already committed to the attack eastward from the coconut plantation to the M.T. Road, and Colonel Doe chose the 1st Battalion, by this time his most experienced unit, for the northward attack.

The 3rd Battalion’s role would be to complete the reduction of the Japanese pocket between Musket and Fisk and to support the attack with its heavy weapons and those of the rest of the battalion massed in Musket.

The decision to use the 1st Battalion in the attack north of Fisk made it necessary for Colonel Doe to regroup. Company I took over from Company C at Moore and Fisk, and Companies K and L relieved Companies A and B and the platoon of Company C which had been working on the Japanese pocket between Musket and Fisk. For the first time since its arrival at the front, all of the 1st Battalion was under the direct control of Colonel Lindstrom, the battalion commander.

The plan of attack was carefully drawn. Fifteen 81-mm. mortars from Musket, and the 25-pounders of the Manning and Hall Troops from the other side of the river would give support. The 2/6 Armored Regiment’s remaining two tanks would stand by southwest of Fisk to be used at Colonel Lindstrom’s discretion. After harassing artillery fire during the night and a fifteen minute preparation in the morning, the battalion would attack from the woods west of Fisk. It would envelop the enemy’s right flank and rear west of the road, effect a junction with the 2nd Battalion as it came in from the west, and move forward with it to the M.T. Road.

The Situation on the Right

From its bridgehead on the west bank of Konombi Creek the 127th Infantry had meanwhile been patrolling toward Giruwa, which was now only a mile away. An advance under enemy fire along a track five or six feet wide over which the waves broke at high tide and inundated the mangrove swamp on the other side was no easy matter. But with the 18th Brigade and the 163rd Infantry in position for an all-out attack on 16 January the time had come for the 127th Infantry to begin moving forward again.

On 14 January General Eichelberger had put Colonel Howe, 32nd Division G-3, in command of Urbana Force. Colonel Grose returned to headquarters, and Boerem, now a lieutenant colonel, became Colonel Howe’s executive officer. The next day, General Eichelberger ordered Howe to begin moving on Giruwa in the morning.

On the 15th, the day he assumed command, Howe ordered Company B to try moving up the coast. The artillery and the mortars gave the known enemy positions in the area a complete going over before the troops moved forward, but when the company was a few hundred yards out the Japanese opened up with a machine gun at almost point-blank range, killing two and wounding five. The artillery and the mortars thereupon went over the area even more carefully than before, and the company again tried to advance, only to have a second machine gun open up on it from a new position. A squad moved into the swamp to find the enemy guns and outflank them but ran into the fire of another machine gun. Another squad ordered in from another point on the track ran into such dense swamp growth that it was unable to hack its way through.

Describing the situation for Colonel Bradley over the phone that evening, Colonel Howe had this to say: This damn swamp up here consists of big mangrove trees, not small ones like they have in Australia, but great big ones. Their knees stick up in the air … as much as six or eight feet above the ground, and where a big tree grows it is right on top of a clay knoll.

A man or possibly two men can . . . dig in a little bit, but in no place do they have an adequate dug-in position. The rest of this area is swamp that stinks like hell. You step into it and go up to your knees. That’s the whole damn area, except for the narrow strip on the beach. I waded over the whole thing myself to make sure I saw it all. . . . There is no place along that beach that would not be under water when the tide comes in. …To make matters worse, there seemed to be Japanese to the southward who could have got there from Sanananda only by a trail unknown to the 127th Infantry. Colonel Howe reported that one of his patrols (which the enemy tried unsuccessfully to ambush before it left the area) had discovered a whole series of Japanese defensive positions, a five-ton hoist, a small jetty, and a rubber boat along the bank of a branch stream running into Konombi Creek. In these circumstances, Howe wanted to know whether “the Old Man” still wanted “to go on with this thing.” “It will take a whole regiment,” he added, “if we do.”

Late that night Colonel Bradley telephoned Colonel Howe that General Eichelberger was releasing the entire regiment to him except for Companies D, H, and M, the heavy weapons units, which would be left in the Buna Mission-Giropa Point area for beach defense. He told him further that, except for the remnant of the 126th Infantry which was in no circumstances to be touched, he could in an emergency count on the support of Colonel Martin’s troops as well.

The forces for the envelopment of Sanananda were in place and the attack was ready to go. The weather, so long adverse, had finally turned favorable. The rains had stopped on the 13th, and for the first time in weeks the track was dry.

The Troops Jump Off

The many-pronged attack was launched early on the morning of 16 January. On the left, from the track junction near the coast where he had his headquarters, Brigadier Wootten ordered Companies C and D, 2/10 Battalion, to push to the coast and turn east toward Cape Killerton and Wye Point. Company A, 2/10 Battalion, was to move east and south to a track junction a mile southeast of Killerton Village. From there it was to attack eastward toward the M.T. Road. The 2/9 and 2/12 Battalions were left for the time being in reserve.

On Colonel Doe’s front the 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, pushed off toward the road from the junction east of the plantation and marched southeast to take the enemy troops north of Fisk in the rear. In the center the 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry, attacked the left flank of the enemy line immediately to its front. The 3rd Battalion, operating to the rear of the 1st Battalion, continued to work on the Japanese pocket between Musket and Fisk.

On Colonel Howe’s front the 127th Infantry moved south and west. Company I moved south to investigate the area where the chain hoist had been found the day before, and Companies A and B attacked west along the coastal track, Company A in the swamp covering Company B from the left.

The Japanese Line Falls Apart

Companies C and D, 2/10 Battalion, reached the coast on the morning of the 16th without encountering any enemy troops. They met strong opposition, however, at a bridge over an unnamed creek just west of Cape Killerton. Brigadier Wootten thereupon ordered Company B (which had just reached Killerton Village after losing its way during the night and bivouacking a mile to the south) to advance from the village northeast to the coast. It was then to turn east and move on Wye Point. As it came out on the coast, the company ran into light opposition and scattered it. Moving east, it hit a strong line of Japanese bunkers on the beach just west of Wye Point and was held up there for the rest of the day.

Company A, after a very difficult march through swamp, had meanwhile come out on the M.T. Road, about a mile south of Sanananda and a mile and a half north of the main Japanese defense line on the M.T. Road. Turning northeast toward Sanananda, it was stopped by a secondary Japanese defense line across the road.

Having now felt out the enemy, Brigadier Wootten knew what to do. The 39 Battalion was moving up from the south to cover his rearward communications, and he still had both the 2/9 and 2/12 Battalions in reserve in the plantation area. Leaving the three companies of the 2/10 Battalion on the coast to work on the opposition they had encountered near Cape Killerton and Wye Point, he ordered Colonel Arnold to move forward with his entire battalion to the M.T. Road. As soon as he reached it, he was to take Company A, 2/10 Battalion, under command and move directly on Sanananda.

The 2/12 Battalion joined Company A on the M.T. Road the following afternoon, 17 January. Colonel Arnold attacked at once to the northeastward, but was stopped by heavy enemy opposition. The 2/10 Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel C. J. Geard, took both Cape Killerton and Wye Point that day.

Past Wye Point it met strong opposition and was also stopped. To hasten a decision there and along the M.T. Road, Brigadier Wootten ordered the 2/9 Battalion to march cross-country from its bivouac in the plantation area to a large kunai strip about a mile and a half east. At one point this strip was only a few hundred yards from Sanananda Village. Brigadier Wootten reasoned that the Japanese, relying upon the unfavorable terrain which surrounded the strip, might not have taken the trouble to defend it. The 2/9 Battalion, under Colonel Cummings’ successor, Major W. N. Parry-Okeden, reached the strip that evening to find that Brigadier Wootten’s surmise had been correct. The strip was completely undefended, and all that separated the Australians from the village was a stretch of heavy swamp, no worse than others they had already crossed.

After a difficult advance through the swamp, the battalion launched a surprise attack on Sanananda the following morning and took it by 1300. Leaving a platoon to hold Sanananda, the battalion commander ordered one company south to meet the 2/12 Battalion and pushed on eastward along the beach with the rest of his battalion. By evening the 2/9th had overrun Sanananda Point and reached the approaches to Giruwa Village. There the Japanese resistance stiffened, and advance came to a halt Except for a 1,500-yard strip between Wye Point and Sanananda, the beach from Cape Killerton almost to the outskirts of Giruwa was in Australian hands.

The attack of the 163rd Infantry had also gone well. Early on 16 January, after an all-night artillery harassment of the Japanese main line north of Fisk, the 1st Battalion began forming up for the attack on the west side of the road along the edge of a woods west of Fisk. Companies A and C, Lieutenant McKinney and Captain Jack Van Duyn commanding, were abreast on an 800-yard front, and Company B (Captain Robert M. Hamilton commanding) was immediately to the rear in battalion reserve. Company A was on the right, and its right flank was anchored on the road. Company C, on the left, extended beyond the Japanese right flank in order to get around it and come in on the Japanese rear.

The attack was well prepared. The artillery opened fire at 0845. The .30-caliber machine guns of Company D started spraying the woods and underbrush on both flanks of the battalion, while those of Company M, in place east of Fisk, began searching out the area to the south and southeast. At 0857 the fifteen 81-mm. mortars of companies D, H, and M opened up from Musket, and at 0859 the 60-mm. mortars of the 3rd Battalion, in battery south of Fisk, opened fire on the Japanese line. At 0900 the artillery and 81-mm. mortars ceased firing, and the troops moved forward. The direction was northeast, roughly parallel to the track.

Fairly heavy fire came from the Japanese positions as the troops crawled out from the line of departure. A strongpoint on the right gave Company A a lot of trouble, especially when riflemen opened up from positions in the tall trees behind it. Light machine guns were brought up to clean out the snipers, and the crawling skirmishers advanced steadily. Company C on the left continued to move forward and around the enemy, but Company A ran into trouble as it neared the enemy strongpoint immediately to its front.

“The assault line [the company commander recalls] got within twenty yards of the Jap bunkers when it was definitely stopped by a combination of flat ground and at least four machine guns. The sun was blazing hot and the heat was terrific. The air in the small open space was dead still. The heat and nervous strain tore at everyone; two officers and eighteen men collapsed and were evacuated . . .”

Worse was in store. The troops used up all their machine gun ammunition. The Japanese tree snipers grew bolder, and it was impossible to use the mortars and artillery because the front line was too close to the Japanese positions. Colonel Lindstrom ordered in a platoon from Company B, but it too was pinned down. By noon the situation was clearly hopeless, and Lindstrom gave the order to withdraw. There had been nine killed and seventeen wounded in the attack.

Company C meanwhile had met only negligible opposition. Seeing that its attack was going through, Colonel Lindstrom had pushed in Company B. The two companies swept around the Japanese right flank and quickly established a perimeter 200 yards behind the Japanese line. The new position, to which the 1st Battalion moved as quickly as it could, was about 400 yards west of the road.

The 2nd Battalion was now reaching the area with Companies F and G in the lead. Part of Company H had been left behind at trail junction east of the plantation to cover the battalion’s rear. Although the battalion had to cut its way through on a compass course when all traces of the trail it was following disappeared, it came out just south of the 1st Battalion. A patrol of Company B met it and guided it into the 1st Battalion perimeter. After a meal and a short rest, Major Rankin’s troops chopped their way east to a point on the M.T. Road about 1,000 yards behind the Japanese line, and there they made contact with the 2/12 Battalion. Early that afternoon Companies K and L overcame the last enemy resistance in the pocket between Musket and Kano. The entire area south of Fisk was finally clear of the enemy.

The 1st and 2nd Battalions were now north of Fisk and behind the main Japanese line. As a result, Colonel Doe was in a position to envelop the remaining enemy troops in the area from the front, flanks, and rear. He first attached Company K to the 1st Battalion to chop a supply trail from a new battalion supply point to the southwest of Fisk. Then, after seeing to it that the troops of the battalion had some rest and food, he proceeded to his task.

On 17 January patrols of Company B located the Japanese stronghold which had balked Company A the day before. The company left the 1st Battalion bivouac, moved southwest, and spent the night about 100 yards from the enemy position. In the morning the men attacked across a fifteen-foot-wide, chest-high stream. In the face of heavy fire from a line of enemy bunkers on the other side of the stream, only one platoon was able to get across. The platoon knocked out one of the bunkers to its front, only to find itself up against a second line of bunkers immediately to the rear. Pinned down by heavy fire, it made no further progress that day. Patrols were sent to the left to look for an easier crossing. When they returned with a report that the double line of bunkers extended as far as the eye could see, Captain Hamilton, the company commander, ordered the company into bivouac for another try at the enemy position in the morning.

Companies A and K had moved out that morning to envelop the enemy position from the M.T. Road. While trying to reach the road, they ran into an enemy strongpoint in a road bend about 250 yards behind the Japanese line and were also halted. Company F, advancing southward along the M. T. Road from the 2nd Battalion bivouac, ran into Company K’s right flank as it began approaching the road bend, and moved off to the left to make contact with the enemy positions on the east side of the road. The company soon encountered very strong enemy resistance and began working on it. The 163rd Infantry had accounted for more than 250 of the enemy since the 16th and was now in contact with the remaining Japanese positions in its area. All that remained for Colonel Doe to do was to surround and destroy them.

On Colonel Howe’s front gains on the 16th, the opening day of the advance, had been negligible. The area of the chain hoist was investigated and found to be deserted, but an attempt to move forward on Giruwa along the coastal track had made virtually no progress. Although the attack on the coastal track had been preceded by a rolling barrage of both artillery and mortar fire, the 127th Infantry had gained only a few yards in a full day’s fighting. Toward evening Companies F and G relieved Companies A and B, and plans were drawn for a stronger and better-supported attack in the morning.

The next morning, 17 January, Companies I and K moved southward along the west bank of Konombi Creek to see whether there were Japanese beyond the place where the chain hoist had been found. Companies G and F, following the usual artillery and mortar barrage, attacked westward. Company G moved forward along the track, and Company F (as in the advance on Tarakena) covered it from the swamp on the left. The going was infinitely more difficult than on the other side of the river. The swamp was deeper and harder to cut through, and there was no spit from which enfilading fire could be put down on the enemy.

The advance did not go far that day. After Company G had gained a few yards and taken one machine gun, it was stopped by a second machine gun so cleverly sited that the troops were unable to flank it. Companies I and K, operating to the southward, had meanwhile run into an enemy outpost about fifty yards south of the chain hoist. They killed eleven ragged and horribly emaciated Japanese in the encounter.

The coastal attack was resumed on 18 January with Company G still on the right, and Company F, as before, on its left. Companies K and I were on Company F’s left rear, and an element of Company L was between K and F. The opposition had perceptibly weakened, and the two lead companies gained 300 yards that day. Although the fantastically difficult terrain in which the 127th Infantry was operating heavily favored the enemy, he was finally on the run on that flank too.

Finishing the Job; The Mop-up Begins

By 19 January operations had definitely entered the mop-up stage. The enemy was fighting to the death, and the opposition continued to be heavy, so heavy in fact, that the companies of the 2/10 Battalion on the coast west of Sanananda and of the 2/9 Battalion on the eastern outskirts of Giruwa were held up that day and the day following. The 2/12 Battalion and the company of the 2/9 Battalion that had been working from south and north on the enemy position immediately south of Sanananda were more fortunate. They managed to make contact west of the road on the afternoon on the 19th, although the job was accomplished, as the historian of the 18th Brigade notes, “under the most miserable conditions, the troops . . . never being out of the water and frequently remaining for hours in the water up to their waist.” There was still opposition in the area east of the road, and the next day was devoted to reducing it. At nightfall on 20 January the task was almost complete, and Brigadier Wootten had already ordered Colonel Arnold to move north as soon as the last organized enemy opposition in the area was overcome.

Colonel Doe’s efforts to reduce the three remaining enemy pockets in his area were intensified on 19 January. The pockets—remnants of the Japanese main line on the M.T. Road immediately northeast of Fisk—were heavily engaged during the day. Company C moved in on the left of Company B at daybreak, and the two companies attacked the westernmost Japanese strongpoint north of the road. Company F, after advancing 250 yards since the day before, attacked the larger perimeter south of the road from the northeast. From the northwest Companies A and K continued their attack on the roadbend perimeter, a few hundred yards to the northeast of the first two.

The plan for the reduction of the west perimeter called for Company B on the right to drive ahead from its shallow penetration of the day before and clear out the Japanese second line, while Company C on the left rolled up the first line. Preparations for the attack were thorough. The four rifle platoons and the 60-mm. mortars were linked up with sound-power telephones on a party line, and the two company commanders, Captain Hamilton of Company B and Captain Van Duyn of Company C, working closely together, took turns at the telephone and in the front lines.

As long as the stream still had to be crossed, the advantage was with the enemy. Enemy fire from the other side of the creek was again very heavy, and Company C, which attacked first, had a hard time crossing. At first, part of only one platoon, under the platoon leader, Staff Sergeant John L. Mohl, managed to get across. Mohl, who had only nine men with him, moved out on the enemy bunkers at once with another enlisted man, Corporal Wilbur H. Rummel. The two men, covered by fire from the other eight, knocked out six bunkers in quick succession, making it a comparatively easy matter for the rest of the company to cross. While the enemy was occupied with Company C, Company B was able to get across without undue trouble. It spent all afternoon working on the second bunker line. Just when its attack seemed on the point of going through, the Japanese pulled out of both the first and second lines into a third line immediately to the rear of the first two and once again blocked further advance. It had turned dark by this time. Taking up a defensive bivouac in the middle of the Japanese position, the troops had their evening meal and prepared for further action in the morning.

East of the road Company F had also met heavy opposition during the morning. Finding a double line of log and dirt bunkers in its way, it called for the artillery and the 81-mm. mortars. The company commander, Captain Conway M. Ellers, established an observation post about thirty yards from the Japanese bunker line and was joined there by Major Rankin and an Australian forward observer. The artillery and the 81-mm. mortars ranged in and at 1400 opened up on the bunkers. At 1530 the preparation ceased and the troops, who had been a short distance to the rear, attacked. They found that the artillery and mortars had done their work well. The bunkers, made of softwood logs and not so well constructed as at Buna, had been demolished, and most of the Japanese inside had been killed.

After advancing 150 yards past the Japanese bunker line, the company found itself wedged between two shoulder-deep streams with Japanese machine guns on front and flank. Five men were killed while trying to clear out one of the machine gun nests, and a flanking move by the support platoon along the bank of one of the streams failed. Because it was growing dark and the company had nearly expended its ammunition, Major Rankin ordered Company E, Captain James Buckland commanding, to relieve Company F. While the relief was in progress, the Japanese discovered what was going on and counterattacked, but fire from Buckland’s company drove them off.

The push of Companies A and K on the road-bend perimeter had been supported by a platoon of heavy machine guns on the right flank, and by their own light machine guns thrust out to the front. Everything went well until the advance masked the fire of the machine guns. Taking advantage of their opportunity, the Japanese counterattacked and halted the movement. From a wounded Japanese who crawled into the perimeter at dusk and gave himself up, the two company commanders, Lieutenant McKinney and 1st Lieutenant Allen Zimmerman, learned that they were approaching the main Japanese headquarters in the area, presumably that of Colonel Yokoyama.

The next day, 20 January, while Companies B and C continued working on the desperately resisting Japanese in the west perimeter, and Companies A and K on those in the road bend, Company I moved up from the south and launched a strong attack on the south perimeter. Preceded by 250 rounds from the 25-pounders and 750 from the 81-mm. mortars at Musket, the attack had also the support of the machine guns of Company M at Fisk. The heavy weapons crews swept the trees and underbrush in the area thoroughly before the troops jumped off. Just as the company was about to move forward, a mortar shot killed its commander, Captain Duncan V. Dupree, and its 1st Sergeant, James W. Boland. Seconds later, enemy rifle fire killed one of the platoon leaders. The company faltered just long enough for the Japanese to leave their bunkers, get into firing position, and repulse the attack.

The 163rd Infantry had taken heavy toll of the enemy during the preceding two days, but the latter, though encircled and cut off, were still holding their positions. It was obvious they would be unable to do so much longer.

The mop-up on the 127th Infantry’s front had gone well. At daybreak on 19 January Company E had started pushing up the beach with Company K on its left. To help Company K overcome continued heavy opposition in the swamp, a .50-caliber machine gun was brought up. It proved very effective against the hastily improvised enemy positions there. The 37-mm. gun which had played so notable a part in the taking of Tarakena was also brought up. Emplaced on the beach to cover Company E’s advance, it again proved extremely effective against the enemy.

The next morning Company F joined Company E along the beach, Company C moved in on the left, and Companies I and L began moving forward on the far left. There was little opposition now. Several enemy machine guns were captured, and a number of prisoners were taken, all of them suffering from dysentery and starvation. By 1630 in the afternoon the Americans were in sight of Giruwa and could see the Australians moving forward along the coastal track on the other side of the village.

General Yamagata Gets Out in Time

By the 18th General Yamagata, with the Sanananda front collapsing about his ears, [NOTE 29B] had seen enough to convince him that his troops could not wait until the 25th to abandon their positions and try to make their way westward through the Allied lines as General Adachi had ordered five days before. He therefore drew up orders at noon on the 18th which advanced the withdrawal five days: from 2000 hours, 25 January, to 2000 hours, 20 January. After slipping through the Allied lines, his troops were to assemble near Bakumbari, a point about seven miles north of Gona, where boats would be waiting to take them to safety.

 NOTE 29B: Yamagata had other troubles. The night before, three of the motor launches with which he was evacuating patients were sunk by a motor torpedo boat of Task Force 50.1 near Douglas Harbor, a few miles from Mambare Bay. To Yamagata, this was a major disaster, for it left him with only five launches with which to make last-minute evacuations of the area. Msg, 7th Div to 32nd Div, Ser 6372, 18 Jan 43, in 32nd Div G-3 Jnl; Bulkley, A History of Motor Torpedo Boats in the U. S. Navy, p. 236; 18th Army Opns I, 36, 38, 40.]

General Yamagata, his staff, and his headquarters would leave the area by motor launch on 19 January—X minus 1.[ NOTE 30B] Early on 19 January Yamagata handed the orders personally to General Oda, who was holding the western approaches to Giruwa, and one of his staff officers delivered them personally to Colonel Yazawa, who was in command of operations east of Giruwa. The orders were sealed, and the two commanders (apparently for morale reasons) were instructed not to open them until 1600. At 2130 Yamagata, his staff, a section of his headquarters, and 140 sick and wounded left for the mouth of the Kumusi in two large motor launches. Though bombed on the way, they arrived safely at their destination at 0230 the next morning. [NOTE 31B]

[NOTE 30B: Western Opns Orders No. A-65, Northern Giruwa, 1200, 18 Jan 43, quoted in 18th Army Opns I, 36, 37. A captured copy of these orders is to be found as an appendix to 163rd Inf, The Battle of Sanananda.] 

[NOTE 31B: Msg, 7th Div to 32nd Div, Ser 6442, 20 Jan 43, in 32nd Div G-3 Jnl; 18th Army Opns I, 36, 37, 38. Yamagata may have made an effort to try to inform the surrounded troops under Colonel Yokoyama of the impending withdrawal, but there is no evidence that such in fact was the case.] 

That night several Japanese motor boats tried to put in at Giruwa in order to take off all remaining communications equipment and as many as possible of the sick and wounded. Allied artillery drove them off. At the same time General Oda, Colonel Yazawa, and an unknown number of their troops abandoned their positions, east and west of Giruwa and took to the swamp, trying to escape toward Bakumbari as their order bade them. Some got through, but Oda and Yazawa did not. Both were killed the same night when they apparently ran into Australian outposts that stood in the way.

The End at Last

Along the M.T. Road immediately south of Sanananda, the 2/12 Battalion overcame the last vestiges of enemy opposition in the area. Relieved by the 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, early on 21 January, Colonel Arnold moved north to take over the Sanananda Point-Giruwa area from the 2/9 Battalion. The relief was completed that afternoon, and the 2/9 Battalion moved out against the Japanese pocket west of Sanananda which had so long held back the 2/10 Battalion.

There was to be a three-way envelopment of the pocket. Two companies of the 2/10 Battalion would attack from the northwest, the 2/9 Battalion would attack from the southeast, and Company C of the 2/10 Battalion would attack from the top of the large kunai strip west of Sanananda, and take the Japanese in the center. The Australians moved out that afternoon. They met surprisingly little opposition, and only one man was wounded in the day’s fighting. At the end of the day a single enemy pocket remained.

It was quickly reduced the next morning with the help of artillery fire from Hanson Troop. The three attacking forces made contact along the beach at 1315, a meeting that marked the end of organized resistance in the area. More than 200 Japanese had been killed in the two-day attack. The enemy position west of Sanananda had finally been reduced.

The reduction of Giruwa was also to prove an easy task. Companies E, C, and A, 127th Infantry, pushed forward along the coastal track early on 21 January with Company E leading. They found the terrain much better now; the track was broader, and there was less swamp. The enemy was no longer trying to hold, and only scattered rifle fire was met. At 1230 Company E, under Lieutenant Fraser, swept through Giruwa Village, meeting virtually no opposition.

Forty-five minutes later Fraser and his company joined the Australians on the east bank of the Giruwa lagoon. Soon after, a patrol of Company E, exploring the area just east of Giruwa, came upon what was left of the 67th Line of Communications Hospital. The scene was a grisly one. Sick and wounded were scattered through the area, a large number of them in the last stages of starvation. There were many unburied dead, and what the patrol described as “several skeletons walking around.” There was evidence too that some of the enemy had been practicing cannibalism.

Even in this extremity, the Japanese fought back. Twenty were killed in the hospital area resisting capture; sixty-nine others, too helpless to resist, were taken prisoner. The Japanese tried to land boats at Giruwa during the night and were again driven off by the artillery. The fighting came to an end early the next morning when the troops mopped up the last resisting Japanese in the area. Giruwa, the main Japanese headquarters west of the river, had fallen after only token resistance.[NOTE 34B]

[NOTE 34B: Tel Msg, Colonel Howe to Colonel Bradley, Ser 6488, 21 Jan 43; Tel Msg, Captain Hewitt to Colonel Bradley, Ser 6498, 21 Jan 43; Tel Msg, Colonel Bradley to Captain Haag, Ser 6520, 22 Jan 43; 18th Army Opns I, 39. Interrogation of the prisoners revealed that most of the able-bodied troops had pulled out of the area a short time before and that Giruwa’s last defenders consisted principally of sick and wounded still able to bear arms. 127th Inf Tact Hist, 21 Jan 43.]

The heaviest fighting of all developed on the 163rd Infantry front where the bulk of the enemy troops still left at the beachhead were penned in. As at Giruwa and the pocket west of Sanananda, the climactic day was the 21st. Colonel Doe was in at the kill, personally directing operations from an exposed position in the front line.35 The attacks that morning went off well. At 1015, after Companies A and K pulled back 150 yards, the sudden feebleness of the defense seems to indicate that here, as at Giruwa, a portion of the enemy had pulled out on the night of the 20th and tried to escape westward, artillery began firing on the last Japanese bunker line in the road-bend perimeter.

When the artillery barrage ceased at 1030, the massed 81-mm. mortars at Musket supplemented by the machine guns, began firing on the position. Five minutes later, just as the last mortar salvo was fired, Companies A and K attacked. Covered by their own assault fire, they caught most of the Japanese still in their shelters or trying to get out of them. The Japanese were killed in droves, and the perimeter was quickly overrun. Company A on the right fanned out and lent some of its fire power to Companies B and C, which were still working on the west perimeter. Feeling the pressure ease, Companies B and C surged forward and quickly cleaned out the enemy position.

All four companies thereupon moved south to the M.T. Road, where Companies B and K, the one wheeling right and the other left, joined forces and completed the mop-up. More than 500 enemy dead were counted at the end of the day, the largest single day’s destruction of the enemy since Gorari. The 163rd Infantry lost one killed and six wounded.

That same day, 1st Lieutenant John R. Jacobucci, S-2 of the 3rd Battalion, personally located the main enemy strongpoint in the east perimeter after several patrols failed to do so. The next morning at 1047, Companies I and L, 1st Lieutenant Loren E. O’Dell and Captain Edward L. Reams commanding, attacked the perimeter from the south, concentrating on the strongpoint that Jacobucci had discovered. As before, the troops went in on the run behind the last mortar salvo and again caught the Japanese still in their holes or trying to leave them. The position was overrun by 1152, and the mop-up was completed by 1300 with the help of Company E, which had been at the northeast end of the perimeter supporting the attack by fire. This attack marked the end of all organized resistance on the M.T. Road. By evening the mop-up on either side of the road was complete.

Giruwa and the Japanese pocket west of Sanananda had already been reduced some hours before. The 18th Brigade and the 127th and 163rd Infantry Regiments had suffered 828 casualties since being committed to the Sanananda front,[NOTE 37B] but they had finished the job. The Papuan Campaign was over, six months to the day after it had begun.

 [NOTE 37B: 32nd Div Sitrep No. 184, 24 Jan 43; Rpt on Opns 18th Bde Gp at Sanananda; 163rd Inf, The Battle of Sanananda, The 18th Brigade sustained 426 casualties—155 killed or died of wounds, 269 wounded, and 2 missing. The 127th and 163rd Infantry Regiments had 402 casualties—110 killed or died of wounds, 287 wounded, and 5 missing. Of these casualties, 86 were sustained by the 127th Infantry, and 316 by the 163rd Infantry.]

The Victory at Sanananda; The Cost to the Enemy

The 18th Brigade, the 127th Infantry, and the 163rd Infantry at Sanananda, and the 14th Brigade at Gona, captured a great deal of enemy matériel, including rifles, machine guns, mortars, antitank guns, land mines, radio transmitters, signal equipment, medical supplies, tools of all kinds, and a dozen motor vehicles, some with U.S. Army markings. They buried 1,993 of the enemy, and took more than 200 prisoners, including 159 Japanese.[NOTE 38B]

[NOTE 38B: Tel Msg, Captain Hewitt to Colonel Bradley, Ser 6498, 21 Jan 43; Ltr, General Eichelberger to General MacArthur, 24 Jan 43, copy in OCMH files; 127th Inf Tact Hist; Rpt on Opns 18th Bde Inf Gp at Sanananda; 163rd Inf, The Battle of Sanananda; G-2 Daily Summaries Enemy Intel Nos. 306, 307, 23 Jan 43, 24 Jan 43, in G-3 Jnl, GHQ SWPA; 32nd Div. Sitrep No. 184, 24 Jan 43. According to 32nd Division figures, the 127th Infantry buried 415 enemy dead and the units under General Vasey’s command buried 1,578—1,216 at Sanananda and 362 at Gona. There was apparently a great deal of duplicate counting of enemy killed at the lower levels, for the 18th Brigade and the 163rd Infantry in their after action reports claim either to have killed or to have found dead more than 2,000 of the enemy—almost twice the number of enemy dead that the 7th Division gave them credit for. A careful examination of the sources leaves no doubt that the correct figure was that kept by the 7th Division, the responsible headquarters in the area.]



By: Lieutenant-General E. F. HERRING,

C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., E.D


Headquarters, New Guinea Force,

22 January, 1943.

THE campaign we have been engaged in for the recapture of the BUNA-GONA area is now virtually at a close. I desire to express to all Australians and Americans alike who have taken part in this long and tedious campaign my heartfelt congratulations and my appreciation of all you have done. First to the Infantry I would like to pay a special tribute. Seldom have Infantry been called on to endure greater hardships or discomfort than those provided by the mountains, the swamps, the floods, of tropical NEW GUINEA. And this you have endured with cheerfulness and meantime have outfought a dour and determined enemy on ground of his own choosing in well prepared defences. Your achievements have been such as to earn the admiration and appreciation of all your countrymen.

Secondly, I would thank the Air Forces for their magnificent work, for the shattering blows they have delivered to the air forces of the enemy and his ships, which have tried so often and so vainly to reinforce and supply him. To the air transport service which made this campaign a feasible operation, for your untiring efforts in all weathers, I thank you.

Thirdly, there are all those who have supported so splendidly the Infantry in their fighting, the Armoured Regiment, the Artillery, the Engineers and the Army Co-operation Squadron, and the Medical services who have cared for sick and wounded in most difficult circumstances. You have all done magnificently. Fourthly, I want to thank all those in the Services who have kept supplies of all kinds going to the forward troops, and also COSC and all its personnel and particularly its small boat section that has braved hazardous waters and enemy action in getting supplies up the coast.

And finally my thanks to the Navy for its assistance in protecting sea routes and clearing the waters round the battle area and further NORTH. We have won a striking victory but a long and hard road lies ahead. All I ask is that all of you maintain the standard you have set. I know you will.


GOC New Guinea Force.

The final count of enemy dead in General Vasey’s area since the beginning of operations was 2,537—959 of them killed at Gona and in the area west of Gona. The victory however, was not as complete as could be desired, for a great many of the enemy’s able bodied troops escaped, leaving mostly sick and wounded behind. General Willoughby may have suspected as much when he wrote that the count of enemy dead at Sanananda could not be considered “a true count of effective enemy strength” since it included many ”sick and wounded who were killed.”

The Australians on the ground, especially at Gona, realized that Japanese troops in considerable numbers were slipping past them. Because of the thick and tangled jungle terrain, they were able to intercept only a portion of them. The Australians estimated at the time that about 700 Japanese had succeeded in getting through their lines,41 but the actual figure was far higher. A total of 1,190 enemy sick and wounded were evacuated by sea between 13 and 20 January, and by the end of the month about 1,000 able-bodied Japanese succeeded in filtering through the Allied lines and reaching safety on the other side of Gona.

The Allied Cost

The cost of the victory had not been light. The Australian troops who fought on the Sanananda side of the river—the 2/7 Cavalry, and the 14th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 25th, and 30th Brigades—sustained some 2,700 casualties. The American units on this front—the 127th Infantry, the 163rd Infantry, and the detachment of the 126th Infantry—suffered 798. The casualties incurred in clearing the 7th Division area were thus about 3,500, roughly 700 more than at Buna.

The 41st Division Takes Over

With the campaign at an end, the time had come to relieve the worn-out troops of the 7th and 32nd Divisions, some of whom had been in the area since early November. The 41st Division, whose remaining regiments had by this time begun reaching the front, was designated for the task, and the reliefs were effected as quickly as possible.

General Fuller took over operational control of all Allied troops in the Oro Bay-Gona area on 25 January, and General Eichelberger and the I Corps staff returned to Port Moresby the same day. Eichelberger was followed there a few days later by General Berryman and a nucleus of Advance New Guinea Force which had remained behind to assist General Fuller with the reliefs.

By prior arrangement the hard-hit 126th Infantry left the combat zone on the 22nd, and relief of the remaining troops was completed by the end of the month. As air space became available, the men were flown to Port Moresby and, after a short stay, were returned to Australia by sea.

The victory in Papua had been crushing and decisive. By the end of January all that was left of the enemy troops who had fought there were broken remnants at the mouths of the Kumusi and Mambare Rivers, whom the air force had under constant attack and against whom the 41st Division was already moving. [NOTE 46B]

It was not the only victory. On 7 February, the Japanese finished evacuating Guadalcanal. Two days later the fighting on the island came to an end, as in Papua, exactly six months after it began. The Japanese had been defeated all along the line. The initiative both in New Guinea and in the Solomons was finally in Allied hands.

[NOTE:46B: Allied Air Forces Opns Rpt, 21 through 24 Jan 43; GHQ SWPA G-3 Opns Rpt No. 291, 22-23 Jan 43; ALF Daily Opns Rpt, Nos. 290 through 295, 29 Jan-4 Feb 43. All in G-3 Jnl, GHQ SWPA. 47 17th Army Opns II, 49, 50; Miller, Guadalcanal: The First Offensive, 349, 350.]

The Victory

For the student of military history, the Papuan Campaign is most noteworthy for the tactical aspects of its final or beachhead phase, for it was at the Buna-Gona beachhead that the Allies, for the first time in World War II, encountered and reduced an area fortified and defended in depth by the Japanese. Although the attack was from the landward, and succeeding campaigns generally from the sea, the basic tactical situation was the same—the Allies were attacking and the Japanese were defending an elaborately fortified area. The essential difference was thus not that Buna was a land operation while the succeeding operations were amphibious; it was rather that in later campaigns the attacking troops hit the beachhead better prepared and supported, with a variety of tactics and weapons for the speedy reduction of the Japanese positions.

In the Buna area, on the other hand, poorly supported Allied infantry attacked again and again in vain; the action took on the aspect of a siege, and starvation was a significant factor in the enemy’s final collapse. American conduct of operations was to profit from Buna as from few other campaigns, and the profit was to accrue not only in the negative sense, but in the positive sense as well.

The Campaign in Review; The Time Element

Contrary to the final headquarters press release on the subject, the Papuan Campaign had been neither cheaply won nor conducted on the supposition that there was “no necessity of a hurry attack.” [Note 101KN] In the perspective of succeeding Pacific campaigns, the picture, especially in the final beachhead phase of operations, had been rather one in which the troops suffered heavy casualties while being hastily pressed forward in repeated attacks on prepared enemy positions with little more in the way of weapons than their rifles, machine guns, mortars, and hand grenades.

[NOTE 101KN: In this press release General MacArthur’s headquarters announced that the losses had been low, less than half those of the enemy, battle casualties and sick included. It gave as the reason for this favorable result that there had been no need to hurry the attack because “the time element was in this case of little importance.” Communique, United Nations Headquarters, Australia, 28 Jan 43, in The New York Times, 29 Jan 1943. General Eichelberger has written: “The statement to the correspondents in Brisbane after Buna that ‘losses were small because there was no hurry’ was one of the great surprises of my life. As you know, our Allied losses were heavy and as commander in the field, I had been told many times of the necessity for speed.” Ltr, Geneal Eichelberger to author, 8 Mar 54, OCMH files.]

Throughout the fighting, General Eichelberger had been a man under pressure. Told by General MacArthur on 30 November that “time was of the essence,” on 13 December that “time is working desperately against us,” and on 25 December that “if results were not achieved shortly the whole picture [might] radically change,” General Eichelberger had pushed the attack in every way he could. On 18 December, though able to report progress, he nevertheless made it a point to assure General MacArthur that he “never forgot for a moment that we have not much time. . . .” On 30 December, when General Herring asked him why he did not let his troops “take it easy since the Australians were not going to do anything today or tomorrow,” Eichelberger had replied that he had no intention of doing so, for he had always considered that “time was the essential element of the attack.” Whether GHQ realized it or not, hurrying the attack had become the leitmotiv of the campaign.

The Losses

During the six months that the Australian ground forces had been in action, they had committed seven infantry brigades and one dismounted cavalry unit of battalion strength. [NOTE 4A] Though there were times when elements of as many as four brigades were in the line, the Australians usually had no more than three brigades (roughly 7,000 to 7,500 men) in contact with the enemy at any one time. Sometimes they had as few as two and, during the opening weeks of the campaign, less than two.

The American ground commitment, dating from mid-November 1942, was four infantry regiments—the 126th, 127th, 128th, and the 163rd Infantry Regiments, a total of just under 15,000 men. During most of the period that the Americans were in action, they had at least three regiments at the front, though until the arrival of the 127th Infantry in early December there had been only two. There were almost no replacements, and the strength of the units fell steadily until, in a few instances, they were near the extinction point when relieved.[NOTE 5A]

The campaign cost the Australian ground forces, 5,698 battle casualties—1,731 killed in action, 306 dead of wounds, 128 dead from other causes, and 3,533 wounded in action.6 American ground casualties were 2,848—687 killed in action, 160 dead of wounds, 17 dead from other causes, 66 missing in action, and 1,918 wounded in action. Of the 66 Americans missing, the 32nd Division lost 62 and the 163rd Infantry lost [NOTE 4A]. Other losses sustained by the 32nd Division but not included as among the killed, wounded, or missing were 211 from shell shock and concussion, and 287 from battlefield injuries.

[NOTE 4A: The 7th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 25th, and 30th Infantry Brigades, and the 2/7 Cavalry Regiment, a total of between 18,000 and 20,000 men.]

[NOTE 5A: Average and total American and Australian front-line strengths by unit for the periods indicated can be obtained from the applicable ALF Opns Rpts and G-3 Opns Rpts, both in G-3 Jnl, GHQ SWPA. For the Australians, the figure given is an approximation since no precise figures on actual Australian front-line strength are available. Ltr, John Balfour to author, 21 Dec 51.]

All together 3,095 Australians and Americans lost their lives in the campaign, and 5,451 were wounded. Total battle casualties were 8,546.

Australian losses had been so heavy that brigade after brigade had seen its battalions reduced to company strength and less before it was relieved. But if the Australian units had suffered severe attrition, so had the 32nd Division. General Eichelberger put the situation to General MacArthur in a sentence. “Regiments here,” he wrote in mid-January, “soon have the strength of battalions and a little later are not much more than companies.” The casualty reports bear out General Eichelberger’s observation.

Out of their total strength in the combat zone of 10,825, the three combat teams of the 32nd Division had suffered 9,688 casualties, including 7,125 sick, a casualty rate of almost 90 percent. The 126th Infantry, hardest-hit of the three, had 131 officers and 3,040 enlisted men when it entered the combat zone in mid-November. When it was evacuated to Port Moresby on 22 January, 32 officers and 579 enlisted men were left—less than a full battalion. The regiment as such had ceased to exist. [NOTE 12A]

A detailed strength report of the 126th Infantry Regiment as of 20 January 1943, two days before it was returned to Port Moresby, was as follows: The figures given are for the entire Papuan Campaign, including the period 22 July through 16 November, in which the Australians lost 2,127 killed, wounded, and missing. Combined Australian-American casualties for the fighting at the beachhead, the last phase of operations, were 6,419 killed, wounded, and missing. There were 2,701 more casualties in the Papuan Campaign than on Guadalcanal, where 1,600 were killed, and 4,245 were wounded, but there, during much of the fighting, the positions were reversed: the Japanese were attacking, and the Americans were holding a fortified position.

[NOTE 12A: Ltr, CG 32nd Div to GOC NGF, 14 Nov 42, sub: Strength Rpt, copy in OCMH files; 32nd Div Strength Rpt, Ser 6450, 20 Jan 43; Memo, Colonel Tomlinson for CG 32nd Div, Ser 6455, 20 Jan 43; Msg, G-4, 32nd Div to G-3 32nd Div, Ser 6515, 22 Jan 43. Last three in 32nd Div G-3 Jnl. Attached divisional troops flown out on 22 January with the 126th Infantry numbered 20 officer and 141 enlisted men. Thus, as moved that day, the entire regiment with all attachments totaled 52 officers and 720 enlisted men.]

The amount of sickness during the campaign had been crushingly heavy. With only a few thousand more troops in action, the Australians had 15,575 cases of infectious disease to the end of 1942 alone, including 9,249 cases of malaria, 3,643 cases of dysentery, 1,186 cases of dengue fever, and 186 cases of scrub typhus. The Americans, out of the 14,646 troops committed in the combat area, had a total of 8,659 during the course of the campaign. There were 5,358 cases of malaria among the almost 11,000 troops of the 32nd Division who served in New Guinea—4,000 first attacks, and the rest recurrences. In addition, the medical record showed 17 deaths from scrub typhus, and 2,147 cases of “miscellaneous disease,” including dysentery and dengue fever.

When the troops reached Australia, a check of their physical condition revealed that each man had suffered a sharp loss in weight, that 563 were still suffering from diarrhea and dysentery, and that 1,200 had hookworm. Anemia, exhaustion, and malnutrition had taken heavy toll: one out of every five had a low blood count, and one out of every eight had poor hemoglobin.

The diarrheas, the anemias, and the hookworms yielded to treatment, but much of the malaria did not. Neither rest, suppressive drugs, nor special care proved of avail in more than half of the cases treated. The patients got worse instead of better. Relapse followed relapse until finally the men had to be dropped from the division in September as unfit for combat. The total number dropped at the time was 2,334 officers and men, all of them casualties of the campaign just as surely as if they had been wounded in battle.

With the story presumably the same in the case of the Australians, the conclusion is inescapable that the fighting in Papua had been even costlier than had at first been thought, and that the victory there, proportionate to the forces engaged, had been one of the costliest of the Pacific war. The enemy had suffered much heavier losses. The Japanese committed between 16,000 and 17,000 troops to the campaign.

They successfully evacuated 1,300 men from Milne Bay and 300 from Goodenough Island. An estimated 1,000 sick and wounded were returned to Rabaul from Basabua during the period that Japanese ships were still making the run there, and about 2,000 men, including sick and wounded, managed to get out by sea and on foot during the closing days of the campaign. The Japanese had thus successfully evacuated about 4,500 men, and lost approximately 12,000.[NOTE 17A] Of the latter number, the Allies buried 7,000 and took 350 prisoners. The Japanese apparently buried the remaining 4,500 or 5,000.

[NOTE 17A: No final figure can be found covering the total Japanese commitment in Papua. The figure given, the total of all known Japanese movements to Papua since 22 July, as developed in the narrative above, agrees closely with contemporary estimates, notably with those contained in AMF, The Battle of the Beaches, p. 116, and Buggy, Pacific Victory, p. 213.]

Starvation As a Factor in Operations

Starvation had worn down the enemy troops and had contributed directly to their final defeat. The evidences of cannibalism that the Australians and the 163rd Infantry encountered on the Soputa-Sanananda track, and the emaciated enemy remains the 127th Infantry found scattered about in the Giruwa hospital area were indicative of the level to which the Japanese had been reduced during the closing weeks of the campaign. How greatly their resistance was undermined by starvation during the weeks immediately preceding was another matter not so easily determined.

When Gona fell on 9 December, the Australians found some moldy rice and a little ammunition left—enough for only a few more days of fighting. There had still been a little food and ammunition on hand when Buna Village was overrun on 14 December, but very little food and virtually no ammunition was taken when Buna Mission fell on 2 January. The Japanese had received their last two ounces of rice on 12 January, two days after the 163rd Infantry had found indisputable evidence that some of them had already been reduced to cannibalism. As each successive position on the front fell, it became evident from the horrible emaciation of the corpses of those who had defended it that they could not have held their positions much longer even had there been no attack.

Major Mitsuo Koiwai, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 41st Infantry, the only field grade officer of the South Seas Detachment known to have gone all through the campaign and survived it, [NOTE 19A] when interrogated at the end of the war, said, “We lost at Buna because we could not retain air superiority, because we could not supply our troops, and because our navy and air force could not disrupt the enemy supply line.”

[NOTE 19A: Major Koiwai arrived at Basabua with his battalion on 16 August 1942. He led it across the Owen Stanleys to Ioribaiwa and back. On 28 January 1943, after filtering through the Australian lines, he reached Bakumbari with 150 others of the 41st Infantry. An aggravated case of malaria, picked up at Buna, caused him to be invalided out of the service, and was probably the main reason why he was available for questioning at the end of the war. 18th Army Opns I, p. 39; GHQ FEC G-2 Hist Sec, Interv of Maj Mitsuo Koiwai, Tokyo, 11 Aug 47, copy in OCMH files.]

When he was asked about the effectiveness of the Allied attack, he agreed that it had been skillfully conducted and then added an observation which had apparently been in the minds of most of the Japanese at the beachhead: “Tactically the Allied co-ordination of fire power and advance was very skillful. However we were in such a position at Buna that we wondered whether the Americans would by-pass us and leave us to starve.” It was clear that starvation had been a potent factor in the final reduction of the beachhead and that, had the Allies not been so determined to reduce it by direct attack, hunger would in due course have accomplished the same thing for them.

Artillery, Air, and Naval Support

The artillery had not played the part of which it was capable in the campaign, mostly because not enough pieces of the right type for the task in hand had been sent forward. Though more artillery was American commanders on the scene, only one artillery piece at the front had been capable of knocking out a Japanese bunker with a single direct hit. This was the 105-mm. howitzer of the 129th Field Artillery Battalion, commanded by Captain Kobs, but even this piece had had too few shells for more than intermittent firing. Had there been more 105’s at the front with enough shells and delay fuses (or, as General Waldron suggests, a few 155’s similarly provided), there might have been no need to bring in tanks; countless lives might have been saved, and the campaign might have been appreciably shortened.

The air force had played many roles in the campaign, most of them well. Its transports had moved whole regiments and brigades to the front. In addition to evacuating some 6,000 Australians and American sick and wounded, it had flown out other regiments and brigades that were returning to Port Moresby for rest and rehabilitation.

It had delivered 2,450 tons of rations, equipment, and ammunition to the troops at the front. It had carried out some seventy-two support missions, using 568 aircraft, 121 of them in close support of attacking ground troops. Ceaselessly reconnoitering the coasts and searching the sea, it had disrupted repeated attempts by the enemy to reinforce and supply his beleaguered beachhead garrison.

The logistical accomplishment of the air force had been superb. The luggers and the freighters (including the K.P.M, ships) had, it is true, brought in by sea more than three times the tonnage that had come in by air. [NOTE 23A] It was nevertheless a fact that the attack could not have been sustained without the airlift, especially during the critical days in November and early December when seaborne supply had been reduced to the merest trickle because of the destruction of the luggers.

[NOTE 23A: Interv with Col Moffatt, 30 Oct 49; Hist Port Det E, CO SC Buna; 32nd Div AAR, Papuan Campaign; 32nd Div QM Section, Rpt on Activities, Papuan Campaign. It will be recalled that by the end of December, the freighters alone had brought in more than 3,000 tons of cargo, exclusive of vehicles and tanks. Between 19 November 1942, the date of the first contact with the enemy, and the end of the campaign, the total tonnage delivered by sea (exclusive of tanks, vehicles, and road building equipment of whose weight no record was kept) was 8,560 tons.]

The reconnaissance of the coasts and of the sea, the sustained attacks on enemy convoys seeking to reinforce the beachhead, and the frustration of the enemy’s efforts to establish supply bases at the mouth of the Kumusi and Mambare Rivers showed the Fifth Air Force and the Australian air units brigaded with it at their best. Nor was there anything to criticize in the way the air force spotted for the artillery, or intercepted enemy aircraft over the combat zone. Both tasks were done admirably.

The quality of its direct support of ground troops was something else again. Even the statistics of this activity are unimpressive—121 sorties flown, 40 tons of bombs dropped, and 97,000 rounds of .30-caliber and .50-caliber ammunition fired. Though this was light support at best, it brought in its train another difficulty. In far too many instances the pilots bombed and shot up Allied troops instead of the enemy, with grievous repercussions on troop morale.

There were good reasons for these frequent mishaps. The Fifth Air Force had at the time too few planes for all its multifarious activities; many of its pilots were inexperienced; and the only planes available for air-ground co-operation were in general not suited to do the kind of precision bombing required. Not only were the pilots unable to recognize the Allied front lines from the air, but air-ground liaison was virtually nonexistent. It was indeed so bad that there had not been a single instance during the fighting of a pilot’s having successful radio contact with the troops on the ground.

As the fighting went on, and it came to be realized that the available aircraft, while excellent for area bombing and the interception of enemy aircraft, could not be relied on for the pinpoint bombing of enemy positions under attack by the frontline troops, the air force was called upon less and less for direct air support. The decision not to use air for the direct support of the ground troops because of the close quarters at which the battle came to be waged was a source of regret to the ground commanders who could have used the air arm to excellent advantage had it been capable at the time of greater discrimination in its bombing and strafing. “I wish,” General Eichelberger wrote in late December, “we had some precision dive bombers that could lay the bombs in a barrel. The greatest weapon we have is our air force and I do not like to see it used so little. I realize we should be willing to take a certain number of losses. If I could be sure nineteen bombs out of twenty would drop on the Japanese I would be willing to have the twentieth come in on our own troops, rather than not use air.”

The fact that between 22 December, the date of General Eichelberger’s letter, and the end of the campaign not a single request was made by American forces in the field for direct air support was an indication of how much the air force had yet to learn about its direct-support responsibility.

The role of the Allied Naval Forces in support of the beachhead fighting had been small. Admiral Carpender’s reluctance to send his ships into the waters around Buna had from the first ruled out the possibility of a more active role. In the end, except for the activity of the motor torpedo boats, the actual naval support of the fighting at the beachhead was restricted to a single mission—the transfer there by corvette of the successive echelons of the 18th Brigade.

What the Campaign Taught

On the tactical level, the most important lesson taught was that existing tactics and techniques would have to be developed to a high point of perfection to reduce the kind of strongpoints planted in jungle terrain with which the Japanese had so long held up the Allied advance. By the end of the campaign, a beginning had been made in developing tactics and techniques which, with good artillery support, usually proved effective. The first step was to have patrols “fix” the position of the bunker.

Next, the artillery would drive all the enemy troops in the immediate area into the bunker and perhaps stun them. Just before the artillery fire lifted, the infantry would attack under cover of its own fire so as to catch the enemy troops in the bunker before they could get into firing position. The enemy could then be finished off by grenades or the ammonal blast bomb devised by the Australians, flipped into the bunker. Such devices as satchel charges, effective flame throwers, jellied gasoline (napalm), all used in later Pacific operations, were not available at Buna, but the experience there helped to establish the need for them and undoubtedly hastened their development for use in subsequent operations.

The campaign emphasized other lessons, some as old as warfare itself. It drove home the point that troops should be trained in the kind of warfare they are called upon to fight; that they should be habituated to overhead fire during the training period; that they should enter combat “as hard as nails.” Although the amount of artillery that general headquarters provided was always far less than the U.S. commanders on the scene regarded as necessary, the campaign demonstrated the soundness of General Harding’s and General Waldron’s representations to that headquarters that the artillery could go into the jungle with the infantry and, what was more, could be used effectively in jungle terrain. The campaign established that artillery, provided it was of the right kind, was one of the best weapons a commander could have when faced with bunkers of the type that the Japanese had built in the Buna-Gona area.

The campaign made clear that there would have to be better communication between ground and air, and that to be useful in the jungle walkie-talkie radios would have to be greatly improved. It established the effectiveness of the sound-power telephone at ranges of up to two miles. It demonstrated that the .37-mm. antitank gun with canister was an excellent antipersonnel weapon and that rifle grenades were highly effective against enemy troops in trenches or dugouts.

The campaign also established the need of a lighter and simpler weapon than the M-1 rifle in jungle warfare—a need that the carbine, had it been available to the troops at Buna, would have met.

On the medical side, the campaign underlined the need for better distribution to the troops of such items as chlorination pellets, vitamin pills, salt tablets, and the like. It suggested the wisdom (following the successful experience with it on Guadalcanal) of thenceforward using atabrine as a malaria suppressive. But even more important, the campaign instilled in the troops and their commanders an awareness of the necessity for the most thoroughgoing malaria discipline. The rigid malaria control measures, so much a feature of subsequent operations in the Southwest Pacific, were in large measure the fruit of the Papuan experience.

The campaign also drove home the lesson that, as a general rule, field kitchens and sterilizing equipment should go with the troops and that failure to bring them forward might jeopardize the health of the entire command. It reaffirmed the age-old lessons that to be effective in combat the troops could not be allowed to go hungry and that they needed such minimum amenities as occasional hot meals, a little variety in the ration, and a chance to rest and clean up after being too long in action.Conclusion

On the strategic level, the victory in Papua had been a bitter anticlimax, partaking more of tragedy than of triumph. The Japanese had seized the Buna-Gona beachhead on the night of 21-22 July 1942 before Allied troops could fortify it. A bloody and long drawn out campaign had ensued. When it finally ended on 22 January 1943, the only result, strategically speaking, was that after six months of bitter fighting and some 8,500 casualties, including 3,000 dead, the Southwest Pacific Area was exactly where it would have been the previous July had it been able to secure the beachhead before the Japanese got there.

But whatever the cost, the Southwest Pacific Area had finally broken the Japanese toe hold in Papua; it had added the airfields at Dobodura and the port of Oro Bay to its other bases and could now embark upon a more aggressive phase of operations. The hour of the Japanese garrisons in the Huon Peninsula and in western New Britain had struck.

SOURCE: Victory in Papua, BY: Samuel Milner (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Hollandia-Aitape Operation (2A): Planning and Preparation

World War Two: Papuan Campaign (18); Clearing the Track Junction

World War Two: New Guinea;Markham Valley and the Huon Peninsula

World War Two: Papuan Campaign (18); Clearing the Track Junction

The offensive on the Sanananda front had indeed bogged down. By the end of December the Allies had established roadblocks at Huggins and Kano, and made the first breaches in the formidable enemy perimeter which covered the track junction south of Huggins. These, however, were only interim victories. The Japanese were still fighting desperately in the track junction area south of Huggins; they were well entrenched in the area between Huggins and Kano; and they were holding strong positions north of Kano. The tactical situation, especially on the Motor Transport or M. T. Road, as the Soputa-Sanananda track was sometimes known, was to say the least unusual. As one observer, in describing it, remarked, “At first glance, the situation map was simply startling. Along the M. T. Road Red and Blue alternated like beads on a string.” The task was to squeeze out the Red—a supremely difficult task in the existing terrain.

General Herring Calls a Conference; The Arrival of the 163rd Infantry

There were actually three fronts on the western side of the river at this time. The first was south of the track junction; the second was in the roadblock area at Huggins and Kano; the third was in the Napapo-Amboga River area north of Gona. Brigadier Porter of the 30th Brigade, in charge of track junction operations, had under his command the 36 and 55/53 Battalions and what was left of the 126th Infantry troops fighting west of the river, then about 200 men. Brigadier Dougherty with his 21st Brigade headquarters was operating from the two roadblocks and had under his command the 39 and 49 Battalions and the 2/7 Cavalry Regiment. His battalions, the 2/14th, 2/16th, and 2/27th, normally a part of the 21st Brigade, were mopping up in the Amboga River area.

These battalions of the 21st Brigade had suffered extremely heavy casualties in this, their second tour of duty during the campaign. By late December they were down to less than company strength. The 2/27 Battalion, for instance, numbered 55 men and the 2/16 Battalion was down to 89. It was clear that if the brigade was to fight again it would have to be relieved quickly. Relief was already on the way. As planned by General Herring, a fresh headquarters, that of the 14th Brigade at Port Moresby, was to take over in the Gona area, and the 163rd Infantry Regiment of the 41st Infantry Division in the roadblock area.

The arrival at the front of the 163rd Infantry would release troops for action in the Gona area, make possible the immediate relief of the 21st Brigade’s battalions, and permit intensification of the attack both north and south of Huggins.

The 163rd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, consisting of the 163rd Infantry Regiment and 550 attached divisional troops, less artillery, arrived at Port Moresby on 27 December, 3,820 strong, under Colonel Jens A. Doe.4 Though it looked for a time as if the regiment might be sent to the Urbana front, the final decision was to have it proceed, as General Herring had planned, to Sanananda rather than Buna.

On 27 December, the very day the 163rd Infantry reached Port Moresby, General MacArthur had conveyed orders to General Blarney (through General Sutherland who was then visiting the front) that the regiment was to be sent to Buna to help in the reduction of Buna Mission, rather than as previously planned to the Sanananda front.

General Blarney immediately protested this change of plan. He pointed out that General Eichelberger had sufficient troops to take Buna. He insisted that it was imperative that the 21st Brigade be relieved immediately, if it was to continue as a fighting force, and expressed his regret that General MacArthur had taken it upon himself to interfere in the matter. Blarney wrote that while he did not “for one moment question the right of the Commander-in-chief to give such orders as he may think fit,” he nevertheless gave it as his belief that nothing could be “more contrary to sound principles of command than that the Commander-in-chief . . . should [personally] take over the direction of a portion of the battle.” General MacArthur apparently saw the point, and General Herring’s decision to use the 163rd Infantry on the Sanananda front was permitted to stand.

[HISTOTICAL NOTE: The history of the 163rd Infantry goes back to 1887 when the unit was first organized as the 1st Battalion, Montana National Guard. In 1898 and 1899, it served in the Philippine Islands as the 1st Montana Volunteer Infantry. In 1916 it saw service on the Mexican border as the 2nd Infantry, Montana National Guard. It was mustered into the federal service in March 1917 as the 163rd Infantry, 41st Division. In December 1917 it arrived in France where it was used as a replacement and training organization. In 1924 the 2nd Infantry, Montana National Guard, was reorganized as the 163rd Infantry. In September 1940 the regiment was inducted into the federal service with other National Guard elements from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, as part of the 41st Infantry Division. It reached Australia on 6 April 1942, one of the first American infantry units to do so. The following divisional units were attached to the regiment: Company E, 116th Engineer Battalion; Company E, 116th Medical Battalion; one platoon of the Clearing Company, 116th Medical Battalion; the 7th, 11th, and 12th Portable Hospitals; detachments of the 41st Signal Company, the 41st Ordnance Company, and the 116th Quartermaster Company. There was also a detachment of military police. Ten units of fire for all weapons, thirty days’ supply of all classes, and complete organizational equipment, except for motor transport, arrived at Port Moresby with the troops.]

The 163rd Infantry, the unit which had engendered this high-level contention, was by this time well-trained, and the men, fresh, ably led, and in superb physical condition, were ready for combat. It was at once arranged that they would be flown to the front, the 1st Battalion leading. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, which were to come in later, would follow in that order.

Early on 30 December the 1st Battalion and regimental headquarters were flown over the mountains, part to Dobodura and the rest to Popondetta. Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Dawley, Colonel Doe’s executive officer, who was with the echelon that landed at Dobodura, immediately reported to Advance New Guinea Force, General Herring’s headquarters, at Dobodura. Shortly thereafter Colonel Doe flew in from Popondetta, and he and Dawley had a conference with General Herring, Major General F. H. Berryman, General Blamey’s chief of staff, and General Vasey, who had meanwhile come in from Soputa. During the course of the conference, Doe and Dawley were told that the 163rd Infantry would fight west of the Girua—the first direct intimation they had had of what the regiment’s role would be. They then went with Berryman and Vasey to see General Eichelberger.

The four officers reached Eichelberger’s headquarters about 1030, and were offered tea. General Eichelberger seemed to be under the impression that he was to get the 163rd Infantry for action on his side of the river, and this, as General Doe recalls, is what followed: “While tea was being prepared, General Eichelberger explained the situation to us and told me he would take me up front after lunch to show me where the 163rd Infantry was to go. Generals Vasey and Berryman sat silent, and when they did not speak up, I told General Eichelberger I had been informed the 163rd was to go to the Sanananda front.” “Plainly surprised,” it was now General Eichelberger’s turn to remain silent.

When tea was over, Doe and Dawley went on to 7th Division headquarters at Soputa with General Vasey. Vasey went over the situation with them and told them that they were to take over in the roadblock area as soon as possible. On 31 December, while the 1st Battalion assembled at Soputa, General Vasey, Colonel Doe, and the regimental staff went forward to Huggins and reconnoitered the area. On 1 January, while Doe and Dawley were busy establishing a supply base for the regiment, the commander of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Harold M. Lindstrom, and his staff went forward to Huggins and made arrangements to relieve Brigadier Dougherty’s forces. On 2 January, the day that Buna Mission fell, the 1st Battalion took over at Huggins and Kano, and Colonel Doe took command of the area from Brigadier Dougherty the next day.

 General Vasey at once reshuffled his command. He ordered the 39 Battalion, which had been holding the roadblock, the 49 Battalion, which had been guarding the supply trail, and the 2/7 Cavalry Regiment, which had been operating from Kano, to replace the 36 and 55/53 Battalions south of the track junction. Upon their relief, the latter two battalions would move to Gona, where they would relieve the depleted battalions of the 21st Brigade, and come under command of 14th Brigade headquarters which had then just reached the Gona area. The relief of what was left of the 126th Infantry would be accomplished as soon as the 18th Brigade could be redeployed from Buna to the Sanananda side of the river.

General Herring had ordered on 29 December that, when Buna fell, the 18th Brigade and the bulk of the guns and tanks in use east of the river be redeployed to the Sanananda front. On 2 January, with all organized resistance at Buna at an end, he ordered that two troops of 25-pounder artillery previously in use at Buna be assigned to the Sanananda front. The next day he ordered a portion of the tanks to Soputa. On 4 January Herring met at his headquarters with General Eichelberger, General Berryman, General Vasey, and Brigadier Wootten, to work out a final, comprehensive plan for the reduction of the enemy positions west of the river.

Although the conferees had met to devise a plan to destroy the enemy, they discovered that they had very little knowledge of his strength and dispositions, especially those north of Kano. It was supposed that he had plenty of weapons and ammunition but was short of food; his strength, however, was anyone’s guess. In describing the conference several days later General Eichelberger wrote, “We decided that we did not know whether there were one thousand Japs at Sanananda or five thousand.”

Despite the lack of any definite knowledge about the enemy’s strength, the Allied commanders, acting on the assumption that there were still several thousand Japanese effectives in the area, quickly agreed upon a basic plan of action. As soon as the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 163rd Infantry, and 800 replacements for the 18th Brigade reached the front, the 18th Brigade, the 163rd Infantry, and the 127th Infantry would launch a double envelopment of the enemy’s Sanananda- Giruwa position. The first two units, under command of General Vasey, would move on Sanananda by way of the Cape Killerton trail and the M.T. Road respectively. The 127th Infantry would complete the envelopment by moving on Sanananda by way of Tarakena and Giruwa.

The main attack was to follow a number of essential preliminary operations. These would begin with the capture of Tarakena by the 127th Infantry and the clearing of the area between Huggins and Kano by the 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, meanwhile, would capture a position astride the Cape Killerton trail, just west of Huggins. Then the 18th Brigade would clear out all enemy opposition south of Huggins. As soon as these preliminaries were completed, the general advance would begin, with the 127th Infantry attacking westward along the coastal track, and the 163rd Infantry and the 18th Brigade, northward, along the M.T. Road and the Cape Killerton trail.

The 18th Brigade Reaches Soputa

The first elements of the 18th Brigade— brigade headquarters and the 2/9 Battalion—reached Soputa on 5 January, as did one troop (four tanks) of B Squadron, 2/6 Australian Armored Regiment. The tanks left Buna just in time, for extremely heavy rains had made the road net between the Old Strip, Dobodura, and Soputa impassable to vehicular traffic, and no more tanks or artillery were able to get through for days. The 2/10 Battalion arrived at Soputa on the 6th, and the 2/12 Battalion joined it a day later. The rest of the tanks and the two 25-pounder troops, which had been assigned to General Vasey upon the fall of Buna, had to remain where they were on the eastern side of the river because of the wretched state of the roads.

The weather had not only cost General Vasey the use of most of the tanks allotted to his front, but it had also made it impossible for him to make the best use of the additional artillery he had gained as a result of the fall of Buna. Because of the close quarters at which the battle was being fought, the two batteries in question, the Manning and Hall Troops, had no choice but to fire obliquely across the front, and to take special precautions not to hit friendly troops. The guns were useful, but they would have been much more useful had it been possible to get them across the river.

The weather had done General Vasey another disservice by temporarily dislocating the flow of supply. The rains were so heavy and the tracks so muddy that even jeeps could not use them. To compound the difficulties, the “all-weather” airstrips at Dobodura and Popondetta became so mired that they remained unserviceable for days. Fortunately for the Allied offensive effort, there was already enough matériel stockpiled at the front to tide the troops over until the weather changed.

By 7 January the 18th Brigade troops from the other side of the river were all at Soputa. General Vasey ordered Brigadier Wootten to take command of the 2/7 Cavalry and to relieve Brigadier Porter’s remaining troops—the 39 and 49 Battalions and the remnants of the 126th Infantry.

The orders provided that the 39 and 49 Battalions would go into divisional reserve near Soputa; that the 21st Brigade, whose shrunken battalions had by this time come in from Gona, would be returned forthwith to Port Moresby; and that the remaining 126th Infantry troops, under command of Major Irwin, would be returned to their regiment at Buna as quickly as possible.

The Relief of the 126th Infantry

The relief of the 126th Infantry troops was completed by the early afternoon of 9 January, and Major Boerem, who had been acting as Major Irwin’s executive officer, returned to Buna the same day to prepare for their reception. The Australians were not unmindful of the gallantry with which the American troops had fought, and of the heavy losses that they had sustained. On the 8th, Brigadier Porter issued orders adjuring them and his other troops to “march out in as soldierly a manner as possible, … in keeping with the pride and quality of their past service.” In a letter which he gave to Major Boerem to deliver to General Eichelberger, Porter wrote: I am taking the opportunity offered by Major Boerem’s return to you to express my appreciation of what the men of your division who have been under my command have done to assist our efforts on the Sanananda Road.

By now it is realized that greater difficulties presented themselves here than were foreseen, and the men of your division probably bore most of them. . . . Your men are worthy comrades and stout hearts. I trust that they will have the opportunity to rebuild their depleted ranks in the very near future. With their present fund of experience they will rebuild into a formidable force. . . .When the troops had gone into action during the third week of November, they were 1,400 strong. Sixty-five men of regimental headquarters had transferred to Buna in early December, and there had been no other transfers. On 9 January, the day of their relief, the troops numbered only 165 men, nearly all of them in such poor physical shape as to be scarcely able to walk.

[NOTE 2121MI: Ltr, General Eichelberger to General MacArthur, 14 Jan 43; 3rd Bn, 126th Inf, Jnl, Ser 59, 8 Jan 43, Ser 60, 61, 9 Jan 43; Jnl, Major Boerem’s Det, 9 Jan 43; Memo, Maj Dal Fonte for author, 12 Jul 50. The casualties as of 9 January were: KIA, 91, WIA, 237, MIA, 70; evacuated sick, 711. The bodies of most of the missing were later recovered and their number was added to the list of those killed in action. The total number of casualties, including the evacuated sick, but excluding 88 men on the sick list who had not yet been evacuated, amounted to 1,109.]

Three days later, with the fighting strength of the unit down to 158 men, the troops began marching to Buna. Major Irwin was at their head, with Captain Dal Fonte, as he now was, as his second-in-command. After reaching their bivouac at Simemi in the afternoon, the men shaved and cleaned up as best they could and were issued some sorely needed shelter halves and mosquito nets. Two days later, 14 January, General Eichelberger had a little ceremony of welcome for them. “I received the troops,” he recalls, “with band music, and with what might well be described as a martial welcome. Actually, it was, whatever face could be put upon it, a melancholy homecoming. Sickness, death, and wounds had taken an appalling toll. . . . [The men] were so ragged and so pitiful when I greeted them my eyes were wet.”

The Preliminary Operations; Tarakena and Konombi Creek

The general plan of operations formulated on 4 January at General Herring’s headquarters provided that, until the 163rd Infantry and the 18th Brigade were completely in place and ready to move on Sanananda, the enemy was to be deceived into thinking that the coastal drive on Tarakena and across Konombi Creek was “the main push.” General Eichelberger laid his plans accordingly. Urbana Force, now principally the 127th Infantry (with elements of the 126th and 128th Infantries in reserve), would mount the push westward; Warren Force, principally the 128th Infantry, would remain in place and occupy itself with the beach defense.

Colonel Yazawa’s scattering of the Chagnon patrol from its position near Tarakena on the evening of 4 January made it necessary for Colonel Grose to order forward a fresh force to retrieve the lost beachhead on the other side of Siwori Creek. Artillery fire was laid down on the area during the night to make it untenable for the Japanese until the troops got there. Early on the 5th, Company G, 127th Infantry, under command of Lieutenant McCampbell, crossed Siwori Creek, followed shortly afterward by Company F, under 1st Lieutenant James T. Coker. The crossing was slow, for the creek was broad and Colonel Grose had only two small boats (one a black rubber affair captured from the Japanese) with which to ferry the troops and their supplies across. The troops finished crossing by 0900 and began moving westward—Company G along the narrow, exposed coastal track and Company F, in the swamp, covering it from the left.

Colonel Yazawa’s troops, principally elements of the 1st Battalion, 170th Infantry, the so-called Nojiri Battalion, were still in the area. During the 5th and 6th they made several stubborn stands, retreating only when the Americans were on the point of overrunning their positions. By the 7th the two companies were within 500 yards of the village, and there the enemy again made a stand. Company E, under 1st Lieutenant Powell A. Fraser, meanwhile moved onto the sand-spit with a 37-mm. gun, and began to enfilade the Japanese with canister. With this support the two companies again pushed the enemy back on the evening of the 7th. They captured five machine guns, including two lost by the Chagnon patrol.

The next day Company G again moved forward. As before Company E was on the right supporting its advance by fire, and Company F in the swamp covered it from the left. The numerous enemy troops in the swamp and the swamp itself made it difficult for Company F to keep up.[NOTE 2626FA] Spurred on by Lieutenant Coker, the company commander, and Staff Sergeant Herman T. Shaw, in command of the leading platoon, the company drew abreast of Company G and kept its position there for the rest of the day.

[NOTE 2626FA: Tel Msg, Captain Hewitt to Colonel Howe, Ser 5256, 8 Jan 43; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 8 Jan 43; Ltr, General Eichelberger to General Sutherland, 9 Jan 43, copy in OCMH files. Company E by this time also had a .50-caliber machine gun which it was using with excellent effect on the Japanese in the village. Coker and Shaw were both later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The award in the case of Shaw, who was killed late in the day, was posthumous. The citations are in Hq USAFFE GO No. 29, 30 Mar 43.]

At 1600 Company G attacked again. It reached the outskirts of Tarakena village within the hour and captured three enemy machine guns, an enemy mortar, and the remaining machine gun lost by the Chagnon patrol. Two fresh companies of the 1st Battalion, Companies C and A, ordered forward earlier in the day by Colonel Grose, had just come up, and reduction of the village was left to them. The two companies passed through Company G, Company C leading, and launched the attack that evening. The attack gained its objective quickly. Company C was inside the village by 1830 and the fighting was over by 2130. Forty-two Japanese were killed, and a quantity of Japanese ordnance was captured. The 127th Infantry sustained nineteen casualties in the day’s fighting—two killed, sixteen wounded, and one missing.

By this time the three companies that had launched the attack were much below strength. Company F had only 72 men left; Company A, 81; Company C, 89. Morale, however, was good. As General Eichelberger, who had gone forward to the sand-spit that morning to see how things were going, reported to General MacArthur the next day, “Now that the men are living where the Japanese lived, they look entirely different. The swamp rats who lived in the water now have their place in the sun and I even heard some singing yesterday for the first time.”

The village in hand, the next step was to cross Konombi Creek, a tidal stream about forty feet across. A suspension bridge over the creek was badly damaged, and attempts on 9 January to cross it were met by fire from hidden enemy emplacements on the opposite shore. Colonel Grose’s plan was therefore to flank the enemy positions by sending an element of Company C across the creek that night in the two available boats. The company commander, 1st Lieutenant Tally D. Fulmer, was put in charge of the crossing.

The troops embarked at 0240 on the 10th. The swift current started taking the boats out to sea, but the danger was perceived in time, and the men reached shore before any harm was done. There was only one thing left to do: secure a guy wire to the opposite shore.

Two volunteers, Staff Sergeant Robert Thompson of Company C and Private First Class Jack K. Cunningham of Company E, swam across the creek in the dark and, just before daylight, had a wire in place on the other side. It broke when the leading boat caught on a sand bar, and the crossing had to be made in daylight.

In late afternoon Sergeant Thompson again swam the creek, followed this time by four volunteers from Company C—Private First Class Raymond Milby and Privates Raymond R. Judd, Marvin M. Petersen, and Lawrence F. Sprague. To cover the crossing, Lieutenant Fraser of Company E emplaced his mortars and his 37-mm. gun on the east bank of the creek. As the men began swimming across, armed only with pistols and hand grenades, Fraser and his weapons crews engaged the enemy on the opposite shore with fire. The enemy replied in kind, but Fraser and his men held their position along the river bank, and all five men got safely across the creek.

[NOTE AK-31: Msg, Adv NGF to NGF, Ser 6098, 11 Jan 43; Tel Msg, Captain Hewitt to Colonel Rogers, Ser 6101, 11 Jan 43, in 32nd Div G-3 Jnl; 32nd Div Sitrep, No. 158, 11 Jan 43; 32nd Div G-3 Periodic Rpt, 11 Jan 43; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 11, 12 Jan 43; Interv with Col Grose, 15 Nov 50. Lieutenants Fraser and Fulmer, Sergeant Thompson and Privates Milby, Judd, Petersen, and Sprague were all later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citations are in Hq USAFFE GO No. 34, 21 Jun 43.]

By 1740 the wire was in place, and Lieutenant Fulmer and a platoon of Company C began crossing. The boat made the trip safely, covered by fire from Lieutenant Fraser’s mortars and 37-mm. gun, which quickly reduced the enemy emplacements commanding the bridge. Thereafter the crossing went swiftly. Company C was across by 1755, followed closely by Company A. By evening the two companies, disposed in depth, held a 200-yard bridgehead on the other side of the creek.

On the other side of the creek the advancing troops ran into terrain difficulties. No trails could be found branching southward from the coast, and the coast line, a narrow strip of sand bounded by a tidal swamp which came almost to the shore, was frequently under water at high tide. Since the enemy was present in the area in strength, it seemed to be the better part of wisdom to hold up the 127th Infantry advance until the concerted offensive on the Sanananda front got under way and eased the enemy pressure.

General Eichelberger explained the situation to General MacArthur on the 12th. “On their side of the Girua,” he wrote, “we have a fine bridgehead established across [Konombi] Creek, but now comes a section where the mangrove swamp comes down to the sea. At high tide the ocean is right in the swamp. . . .”It would not be wise, he thought, for Grose to extend too far until there had been “developments across the Girua.” The coastal advance, in short, would mark time until the 163rd Infantry and the 18th Brigade began driving directly on Sanananda.

The Attacks Between Musket and Kano

The scheduled operations on the M. T. Road preliminary to the concerted advance on Sanananda had meanwhile been proceeding. The 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry, and regimental headquarters took over complete responsibility for the roadblock area on 3 January. Colonel Doe, who had immediately given Huggins the regimental code name, Musket, had deployed Company C and a platoon of Company D at Kano. Regimental headquarters, battalion headquarters, Company B, and Company D, less the platoon at Kano, were in place at Musket. Company A (less one platoon at Moore, a perimeter about 400 yards east of Musket) covered the supply trail east of the M. T. Road.

By this time Musket (or Old Huggins as it was also known) was a well-developed position. It consisted essentially of an inner and outer perimeter, with rifle and automatic weapons squads in square or circular formation on the periphery of each perimeter, and field kitchens (which had finally come up) in the center. The squads, each with its own straddle trench and water seep, were spaced about fifteen yards apart.

Within the inner perimeter were regimental and battalion headquarters, switchboard, aid station, ammunition dump, and the 81-mm. mortars. Between the two perimeters were company headquarters and forward dumps. The entire area was crisscrossed with trenches, and the scene, when newly arrived troops were moving into or through the position, put one observer in mind of “a crowded seal rock.”

Upon taking over from the Australians, the troops had been troubled by fire from riflemen in the tall jungle trees that overlooked the perimeter. Though experienced intermittently throughout the entire twenty-four hours, the fire was particularly intense at mealtimes. The troops were also bothered at night by individual enemy riflemen or small patrols. These would harass the flanks and the southern end or rear of the perimeter with short bursts of rifle or automatic weapons fire. Colonel Doe lost no time in devising means to abate these nuisances. He established two-man sniper-observer posts in slit trenches along the forward edge of the perimeter, and in trees on the flanks and rear. Using ladders made of telephone wire with stout wooden rungs, the troops in the trees made it their business to fire systematically on all trees thought to harbor snipers, and were particularly active during such times as the Japanese were firing. As soon as the posts in the trees were established, small counter sniping patrols of two or three men, covered by the troops in the trees, began to pick off the Japanese tree marksmen from the ground. To stop Japanese sniping at night from the flanks and rear, the counter-sniping patrols set out booby traps, consisting usually of two grenades tied to adjoining trees with the pins connected by a cord.

These measures got results quickly. The enemy marksmen were thinned out and forced back. Soon the only reminder that there were still tree snipers in the area was distant, ineffective fire, delivered as a rule only at mealtimes.

With the perimeter more or less secure, Musket’s role became principally that of a regimental bivouac area, and stringent security measures were observed in the area, especially at night. The men took to their slit trenches at dusk and stayed in them till daylight. Movement through the area during the night was strictly forbidden, and front-line troops on the outer perimeter were under orders to use only hand grenades against suspicious noises or movements in order to avoid disclosing weapons positions to the enemy.

The delivery of supplies, haphazard in Captain Huggins’ and Lieutenant Dal Ponte’s time, had by now become a routine operation. Natives working in shifts brought the supplies forward to specified points behind the firing line and carried back the wounded. A water purification unit was installed, and the individual water seeps were filled in. Additional mortars and two 37-mm. guns, firing canister, were emplaced to advantage within the perimeter.

Pending the arrival of the rest of the regiment, the 1st Battalion gave the enemy line a thorough probing. It did not take long to find that the Japanese had two strong perimeters between Musket and Kano, about 200 yards north of Musket and roughly the same distance south of Kano. The perimeters were abreast on either side of the road, with the one on the west about twice the size of the one on the east. Since the two positions were on relatively dry ground in a swampy jungle area, dominated like Musket by tall trees, they could be reached only from the track or through the swamp.

The 2nd Battalion, led by Major Walter R. Rankin, reached the front on the 7th. Colonel Doe disposed the battalion along the supply trail east of the M.T. Road and ordered the 1st Battalion to reduce the two enemy perimeters between Musket and Kano the next day. If the attack proved successful, the battalion would move into Kano, and Major Rankin’s battalion would take over at Musket.

The plan of attack called for Companies B and C to attack from either flank—Company B, the larger perimeter west of the road, and Company C, the smaller perimeter east of it. Company B would move out of Musket and, after circling west and north, hit the larger perimeter from the west; Company C, advancing from a position between Moore and Kano, was to hit the smaller perimeter east of the track from the northeast. The 25-pounders of Hanson Troop and the machine guns and mortars of the rest of the battalion would be available to support the attack.

Just before noon on 8 January, the Hanson Troop put down a fifteen-minute concentration on both perimeters. The troop now had only shells with delayed fuse, and these, as General Doe recalls, “simply buried themselves in the muck or exploded under the ground surface.” Although the two companies were covered by all the mortars and machine guns the battalion could muster, neither attack was successful. Hanson Troop, firing from the southeast, could not lay down supporting fire for Company B’s flank attack. The result was that the company, forced to attack frontally, not only ran into fire from both perimeters, but also hit the larger perimeter at its strongest point. The company recoiled and was finally forced to dig in that night about thirty yards short of its objective.

Company C had even worse luck. It had rained heavily the day before, and the company, attacking in a southwesterly direction, ran into what had become, since the previous day, a waist-deep swamp. The troops tried to cut through the swamp under heavy fire, but the swamp was too deep and the fire too heavy. After losing one of its officers, 1st Lieutenant Harold R. Fisk, whose body could not immediately be recovered, the company returned to its original position at Kano, which it renamed Fisk a day or two later.

Company B, in slit trenches forward of Musket which were waist-deep in water, was relieved that night by Company E. The next morning, after Company B’s troops had had some sleep and some hot food, they took over their former positions, and Company E rejoined its battalion, still in place along the supply trail.

[NOTE PA-37: 163rd Inf Jnl, 0830, 0840, 9 Jan 43. Ltr, General Doe to General Ward, 3 Mar 51; 163rd Inf, The Battle of Sanananda. Lieutenant Fisk was later posthumously awarded the Silver Star. The citation is in Hq 41st Div GO No. 5, 7 Feb 43.]

The Establishment of Rankin

On 7 January, with the 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, and Brigadier Wootten’s first 400 replacements at hand, General Vasey issued the divisional plan of attack. The attack would be in four stages. In Stage I, the 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, would cut off the enemy in the track junction by getting astride the Killerton trail; in Stage II, the 18th Brigade, the 2/7 Cavalry, and the tanks would destroy the Japanese in the track junction, and clear out the area south of Musket; in Stage III, the 163rd Infantry would move on Sanananda Point by way of the M.T. Road, and the 18th Brigade would do so by first moving north along the Killerton trail and then turning east to complete the envelopment. Stage IV would be the mop-up.

Stage I, the blocking of the Killerton trail, would secure two main advantages. It would prevent the rapidly failing Japanese in the track junction from using it as an escape route, and would provide the 18th Brigade with a jumping-off point for its advance on Sanananda when it had completed clearing out the track junction.

Early on 9 January, after being briefed on its role by Colonel Doe, the 2nd Battalion, under its commander, Major Rankin, moved out from its position along the supply trail, passed through Musket, and began marching on the Killerton trail a half mile away. The march was in a southwesterly direction, and during its course telephone wire was payed out to maintain communications.

The first enemy opposition was encountered at 1030, just as the battalion was approaching a narrow, corridor like, north-south clearing through which the Killerton trail ran. Major Rankin ordered a platoon of Company G to the edge of the jungle at the southern end of the corridor to act as cover for the battalion’s left flank. The platoon began receiving heavy rifle and mortar fire from a cluster of enemy positions enfilading the corridor from the south. Company headquarters, a second platoon, and half of the company’s weapons platoon crossed the clearing before heavy machine gun and rifle fire stopped further crossing.

Under Captain William C. Benson, the rest of the company finally advanced through the clearing and across the trail via a sap dug through the clearing. The main body of the company set up a perimeter on the west side of the trail, and the covering platoon remained in place to the east of it. There it was strongly engaged by the Japanese who were in position only a few yards away.

The rest of the battalion, under Captain Paul G. Hollister, the battalion S-3, had meanwhile turned north. After following the edge of the jungle for about 250 yards, the troops crossed over and, against only light opposition, established themselves astride the trail. The new perimeter, which was almost due west of Musket, was named Rankin after the battalion commander.

The day’s operations had cost the 2nd Battalion four killed and seven wounded, and the battalion was to suffer other losses during the succeeding few days in maintaining its position, but the first stages of the divisional plan for the advance on Sanananda had been completed. The last possible escape route of Colonel Tsukamoto’s troops in the track junction was closed.

The 1st Battalion had meanwhile continued to attack the area between Musket and Fisk (Kano). On 10 January the 3rd Battalion, under Major Leonard A. Wing, reached the front with Brigadier Wootten’s last 400 replacements. Corporal Paul H. Knight, a member of the regimental Antitank Company, noticed that the enemy was not firing from the smaller perimeter east of the track.

Reconnoitering the position on his own initiative, he discovered that the enemy had for some unaccountable reason abandoned it. Colonel Doe lost no time in exploiting the windfall. A platoon of Company A took over the position immediately, and it was joined there the next morning by the rest of the company. Company K took Company A’s place on the supply trail, and Companies I, L, and M moved forward to Musket to relieve Company B, which went into reserve. The Japanese left behind considerable matériel when they evacuated the perimeter.

Included were a water-cooled, .50-caliber machine gun, two mortars, some hand grenades, a quantity of small arms ammunition, and a cache of rifles. The enemy troops had obviously been very hungry when they abandoned the perimeter, and there was gruesome evidence that some of them had been reduced to cannibalism.

[NOTE D-3MA9: 163rd Inf Jnl, 1700, 1737, 1750, 10 Jan 43; Colonel Doe, The Battle of Sanananda; Ltr, Colonel Dawley to author, 13 Nov 50. The extremity to which the Japanese had been reduced by this time is well evidenced by an enemy diary captured in the Sanananda- Giruwa area. Under the date 10 January it contains the following entry: “No medicine for malaria, no food for the company for a week. . . . Went to collect the bodies of enemy dead. Ate human flesh for the first time. It tastes comparatively good.” Diary, member 3rd Bn, 144th Inf, in ATIS CT 25, Bul Notes No. 183.]

The Attack on the Track Junction

Satisfied by this time that the tactical situation no longer required his presence, General MacArthur returned to Brisbane on 8 January, and General Blarney followed him there several days later. Upon General Blamey’s return to Australia, General Herring again became commander of New Guinea Force and returned to Port Moresby on 11 January. Two days later, General Eichelberger took command of all Australian and American troops at the front as Commander, Advance New Guinea Force, and General Berryman became his chief of staff.

On the 11th, two days after the establishment of Rankin, Brigadier Wootten called a conference of his subordinate commanders to discuss his plan for the reduction next day of the area south of Musket. The discussion revealed that artillery would be of only limited usefulness because the Australian front line was by this time within fifty yards of the enemy. The main reliance therefore would have to be on armor even though, because of the marshy nature of the terrain, the tanks would have to attack straight up the M.T. Road.

[NOTE CSO40: The next day, the 9th, General MacArthur issued a special order of the day in which he announced the award of the Distinguished Service Cross (among others) to the following—General Blarney, General Kenney, General Eichelberger, General Sutherland, General Casey, General Willoughby, General Whitehead, Brigadier Eather, and Brigadier Wootten. The order, in apparent anticipation of an early end to the campaign, ended with these words: “To Almighty God I give thanks for that guidance which has brought us this success in our great crusade. His is the honor, the power and the glory forever, Amen.” Msg, General MacArthur to General Marshall, No. G-128, 9 Jan 43. The orders are to be found also in The New York Times, 9 Jan 43.]

As finally put down on paper the same day, the plan of attack called for the 2/9 Battalion to attack on the right and the 2/12 Battalion, its left flank anchored on the M.T. Road, to attack on the left. They were to be supported by the mortars of both battalions, brigaded together. Supported by a company of the 2/10 Battalion, the 2/9th would move off to the northeast, circle the enemy’s left flank, and try to come in behind the track junction. The main attack would be generally to the right of the M.T. Road. It would be launched by the 2/12 Battalion, a company of the 2/10 Battalion, and three of the four available tanks. The 2/7 Cavalry and the remaining two companies of the 2/10 Battalion would be in reserve to the left and rear of the 2/12 Battalion, ready to go in at a moment’s notice. The troops at Musket would lend direct support to the operations of the 2/9 Battalion on the right, and those at Rankin would aid operations generally by exerting pressure to the south on the enemy’s right rear.

At 0800 the next morning, while the 163rd Infantry executed feints from Musket and Rankin, the two battalions of the 18th Brigade attacked the Japanese positions covering the junction. After a heavy artillery concentration from south and east, principally on the; enemy’s rear areas, the 2/9 Battalion moved off to the northeast on a two-company front, with Company K, 163rd Infantry, covering its right flank. The 2/12 Battalion, with one company and three tanks on the road, and two companies to the right of the road, moved off on the left. Preceded by the tanks, the company on the road attacked straight up the track, and the companies on the right, which were a short distance forward, attacked obliquely toward the road.

The tank attack miscarried. It had been assumed in drawing up the plan that the tanks would receive no antitank fire, since the Japanese had fired neither field guns nor antitank guns on this front since 23 December. The assumption was a mistake.

Colonel Tsukamoto had not only mined the road but he also had some antitank shells that he apparently had been hoarding for just such an emergency. As the tanks advanced up the narrow road in column, a 3-inch antitank shell pierced the leading tank and destroyed its radio set. The troop commander, who was inside, got the tank off the road but was unable to warn the tanks behind him that they were facing short-range antitank fire. As a result, each of the other two tanks was hit as it came forward. The first tank bogged down when it left the road but managed finally to withdraw. The second tank went out of control when hit and, after careening wildly along the track, was finally knocked out by the Japanese. The third tank, though disabled by both antitank shells and land mines, was subsequently recovered.

Left without tank support, the 2/12 Battalion nonetheless fought on doggedly, killing a great many Japanese and reducing a number of enemy positions. The little ground that it gained, however, was mostly on the right side of the road. The 2/9 Battalion on the right flank met less opposition and gained more ground, but it still faced a number of unreduced enemy positions at the end of the day.

Though the 18th Brigade had lost 142 men in the day’s fighting—34 killed, 66 wounded, and 51 missing (some of whom were later recovered)—the Japanese line, as far as could be ascertained, was intact. General Eichelberger reported the prevailing feeling to General MacArthur that night when he wrote: “The attack on that darned area was not successful. The advance went through where there were no Japanese and bogged down where the Japanese were.”

The next morning, at General Vasey’s request, General Eichelberger flew across the river to see what could be done. He reported the situation to General Herring that night as follows: It had been my intention to move down to your old headquarters today but General Vasey after an attack yesterday wanted to discuss his plans so I decided to go over there instead. General Vasey, General Berryman and Brigadier Wootten are all agreed that any more all-out attacks on that Japanese area will be abortive. The best plan would seem to be to surround the area and cut off all supplies, accompanied by plenty of mortar fire and constant harassing. This seemed to me very slow work, but I realize that any other decision may result in tremendous loss of personnel without commensurate gains. For the immediate present, I have asked General Vasey to have a survey made to see if it is possible for troops to live in these swamps. The Japanese naturally have settled on the only high sandy ground.

The Allies had misread the situation. The attack of 12 January had succeeded better than they realized. There were still plenty of unreduced bunkers standing which appeared to be even stronger and better camouflaged than those at Buna, but the enemy had had enough. Surrounded, his supply line completely cut, Colonel Tsukamoto had already ordered his troops to begin evacuating the track junction area.

Tokyo Decides To Withdraw; General Yamagata’s Position

Despite the fact that they were still fighting hard, and had up to this point succeeded in imposing a stalemate on the Sanananda front, the situation of the Japanese there was hopeless. They had worked hard to establish a base at the mouth of the Mambare to supply Giruwa, using submarines and high-speed launches, but the vigilance of the coast watchers and the air force had defeated the plan. The result for the Japanese was catastrophic. General Yamagata had some 5,000 troops at the beachhead (including the sick and wounded), but the men had almost nothing to eat and every Japanese in the area faced death by starvation.

The food situation could not have been more critical. The standard daily issue of rice to Japanese troops at this time was about twenty-eight ounces. At the end of December the ration on the Sanananda front was ten ounces. It was down to two ounces by the first week in January. By 12 January there was no rice left for issue to the troops. The Japanese were not only starving, they were critically short of medicine and medical supplies. At the hospital at Giruwa there had been no medicine for over a month, the wards were under water, and nearly all the medical personnel were either dead or themselves patients. The troops were short of rifles, hand grenades, and rifle grenades, and mortar shells and rifle ammunition were being strictly rationed, since stocks of both had already begun to run out.

Upon his arrival at Giruwa on 22 December General Oda had professed great optimism about the future. He told the troops that they would be reinforced in good time and assured them that, whatever else happened, the homeland would never let Giruwa fall. General Yamagata had been under no such illusions about the situation. In an operations order which he issued while still at the Amboga River, he wrote, “It appears we are now in the final stages.” He was right, and Tokyo by that time was of the same opinion.

The Orders of 4 and 13 January

Things had gone as badly for the Japanese on Guadalcanal. The main difficulty there as on the New Guinea front was supply. After preliminary discussion of the matter in late December, Imperial General Headquarters decided on 4 January that, because of a critical lack of shipping and the virtual impossibility of supplying either Guadalcanal or Buna effectively, all thoughts of recapturing the one or holding the other would have to be abandoned. It gave orders therefore that the forces on Guadalcanal would evacuate the island gradually by night and take up defensive positions in the northern Solomons. The troops at Sanananda and Giruwa, in turn, would be evacuated to Lae and Salamaua after fresh troops from Rabaul reinforced the latter two points.

The orders of 4 January were immediately transmitted to the 8th Area Army at Rabaul. Its commander, General Imamura, left the timing and the manner of withdrawal at Buna to General Adachi. A 51st Division unit, the 102nd Infantry, Reinforced, was already on board ship waiting to move to Lae, and General Adachi ordered it forward at once. The ships left Rabaul the next day and, despite determined attempts by the air force to stop them, reached Lae safely on the 7th.

General Adachi Finally Orders the Withdrawal

Five days went by without orders from General Adachi. On 12 January, the day that the broken remnants of Colonel Tsukamoto’s troops began evacuating the track junction, General Oda, from his headquarters at Sanananda Village, sent the chief of staff of the 18th Army an urgent message.

Most of the men [Oda wrote] are stricken with dysentery. Those not … in bed with illness are without food and too weak for hand-to-hand fighting. . . . Starvation is taking many lives, and it is weakening our already extended lines. We are doomed. In several days, we are bound to meet the same fate that overtook Basabua and Buna. . . .Our duty will have been accomplished if we fight and lay down our lives here on the field. However, [since] this would mean that our foothold in [eastern] New Guinea would be lost and the sacrifices of our fellow soldiers during the past six months will have been in vain . . . [I] urge that reinforcements be landed near Gona at once.

The next day General Adachi finally gave General Yamagata permission to begin evacuating Sanananda and Giruwa. According to a plan drawn by Adachi himself, the troops would withdraw to the mouths of the Kumusi and Mambare Rivers, and from there they would either march or be taken by sea to Lae and Salamaua. As many of the troops as possible would be evacuated in motor launches, but the rest would have to make their way westward to the Japanese-held area on the other side of Gona by slipping through the Allied lines. Evacuation by launch of the sick and wounded would begin at once and would continue nightly until those not in condition to fight were completely evacuated. Because of the favorable moon, the attempt to reach the area west of Gona overland would begin on 25 January and be completed by the 29th. How Sanananda and Giruwa were to be held until the 25th in the desperate circumstances outlined by General Oda in his message of the 12th was not made clear.

The Clean-up South of Musket

After the supposed failure of the attack on 12 January, General Vasey, on General Eichelberger’s suggestion, ordered intensive patrolling of the entire track junction area. The 2/9 and 2/12 Battalions kept the Japanese positions to their front under steady pressure, and the 163rd Infantry at Musket sent patrols south to find out how far north the enemy positions in the junction extended, an endeavor which was to be richly rewarded.

On the 14th, shortly after daybreak, a 163rd Infantry patrol came upon a sick Japanese lying in some bushes just south of Musket. Taken prisoner and interrogated, the Japanese revealed that the orders of the 12th had called for the withdrawal of all able-bodied troops from the junction area. He had left with the rest, he told his captors, but had been too sick to keep up and had collapsed on the trail.

That was all General Vasey needed to know. He immediately ordered the 18th Brigade to launch a general offensive and the 163rd Infantry to send all available troops southward to block off all possible escape routes along the M.T. Road and the Killerton trail. Company K, 163rd Infantry, which had been operating to the east of the road on the right flank of the 2/9 Battalion, was joined by Company B from Musket, and the two companies moved southward along the M.T. Road to meet the oncoming Australians.

On the Killerton trail Companies E and G moved out of Rankin. Aided by Hanson Troop and the battalion’s mortars, the units led by Major Rankin, the battalion commander, reduced the three enemy perimeters on their southern flank. At least a hundred Japanese were killed in the attack, many of them apparently escapees from the track junction. Machine guns, rifles, and ammunition were the principal booty taken.

[NOTE 58PA58: Rpt on Opns, 18th Inf Bde Gp at Sanananda; 163rd Inf, the Battle of Sanananda. During the attack, Major Rankin himself reconnoitered the area ahead of his troops and personally directed the fire of the mortars and the artillery from an exposed position within a few yards of the enemy. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in USAFFE GO No. 37, 7 Jul 43.]

The 18th Brigade, with the 2/7 Cavalry under its command, made short work of the Japanese who were still to be found in the track junction area. By early afternoon the Australian troops had swept completely through the area and had joined hands with the 163rd Infantry units on both the M.T. Road and the Killerton track. Enemy equipment taken by the Australians included a 3-inch antiaircraft gun, six grenade launchers, forty machine guns (including thirteen Brens), 120 rifles (thirty of them Australian 303’s), and a quantity of hand grenades, but their bag of the enemy was small—152 Japanese killed and six prisoners of war.

It was clear by this time that the Australians had really won the victory two days before. The dramatic way in which the situation had changed on the 14th did not escape General Eichelberger. He wrote to General Sutherland the next day: The day before yesterday I went over to Sanananda at General Vasey’s request, accompanied by Berryman. Wootten and all were certain it was impossible to take out the Japanese pocket by direct attack and recommended that we surround the area and hammer it to pieces as well as starve the Japanese out. The only decision I made was that the whole area be patrolled with a view to finding out the condition of the swamps, etc. These patrols ran into signs the Japanese were evacuating the pocket and an attack was ordered. As a result a lot of Japanese were killed and a lot of valuable matériel captured.

Today, all is optimism. Vasey, from pessimism, has changed 100% and he now feels the Japanese have gotten out. Berryman and I are not at all sure. . . . Nevertheless the elimination of the pocket has improved the situation immeasurably. It had indeed. The way was clear at last for the general advance on Sanananda.

SOURCE: Victory in Papua, BY: Samuel Milner (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Papuan Campaign(19); Final Offensive / Victory

World War Two: Papuan Campaign(17); Fall of Buna

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During Cold Weather

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During Cold Weather

Are the cold temperatures starting to make you cringe when you go outside? Your pets are likely cringing too. Winter is a time to give your animal friends some extra care and attention to keep the cold at bay. The following tips can help everyone stay safe and warm during the cold season.


This is vital if your pet has particularly short hair. Many breeds and species of pets are from warmer parts of the globe, and they’re simply not equipped to handle the cold. Freezing temperatures can be fatal. Consider pet sweaters, jackets or booties to keep your loved one warm during trips outside.

However, if your pet has long fur or is clearly tolerant of cold temperatures, such as huskies, it may be fine to leave them undressed. Watch them closely for any signs of being too cold, such as reddened skin, shivering or cracked paws. If you see any of these, cover them up next time they go out.


Bring a towel with you on walks to periodically dry your pet’s feet, legs and tummy as you go. Also make sure to give them a good rub-down to dry them off when you’re back home. This serves a few purposes. Being wet will physically rob heat from your pet. In addition, their fur can pick up road salt and de-icing chemicals that need to be removed before they lick them off.


Never shave your pet down to their skin during cold times. You can trim especially long-haired pets to keep them tidy and prevent clinging ice balls, but having a good fur coat will help protect them against frigid temperatures.

It’s also helpful to trim any hair between the toes of long-haired pets. This will prevent snow and ice from building up on their paws.


Staying warm takes energy, and it’s normal for animals to burn more calories during winter. If your pet doesn’t spend much time outside, this likely won’t be an issue for them. But, if they really enjoy long runs outside during winter, pay attention to how much food they’re eating. If they wolf down their usual serving of food and ask for more, it’s very likely they need it.


Don’t bathe your pets as often during the winter. Wet fur takes longer to dry in the cold, which can chill your pet even more. And bathing can deplete their natural oils and cause dry, flaky skin, which is also made worse by cold temperatures. If they do need a bath, get a moisturizing shampoo recommended by your vet.


Use booties or rub petroleum jelly onto your pet’s paws before heading outside. Not only will these help against the cold, they will also provide an extra layer against salt and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Remember winter can be hard on your car, too. Keep an eye out for new spots or leaks underneath your vehicle and clean them up as soon as possible. Spilled antifreeze, oil, or other fluids can be toxic to pets if they lick them or get them on their paws or fur.


Many pets still love time outside during cold spells, but stay aware of how long they’ve been out. Whether they’re with you or alone, keep their outings short unless you know they’re alright staying out for a while. And don’t ever leave your pet alone in a cold car. A car can act like a refrigerator and hold in the cold, which puts your pet in serious danger.

Try to spend some extra time indoors with your companions and find activities to keep them moving so they still get their needed exercise. If they live outside permanently, make sure they have good shelter to sleep in for the night, and add an extra blanket to their sleeping space. And, of course, give them lots of extra snuggles. This has the added benefit of keeping you warm, too.



Snowstorms & Extreme Cold

Snowstorms & Extreme Cold

Winter storms create a higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion. Winter storms and blizzards can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds. A winter storm can:

  • Last a few hours or several days;
  • Knock out heat, power, and communication services; and
  • Place older adults, young children, and sick individuals at greater risk.


  • Stay off roads.
  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
  • Prepare for power outages.
  • Use generators outside only and away from windows.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Look for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Check on neighbors.


Prepare NOW

  • Know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities or other services for long periods of time.
  • Prepare your home to keep out the cold with insulation, caulking, and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms. Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind each person’s specific needs, including medication. Do not forget the needs of pets. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
  • Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.
  • Learn the signs of, and basic treatments for, frostbite and hypothermia.

Survive DURING

  • Stay off roads if at all possible. If trapped in your car, then stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.
  • Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.


  • Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers, and toes.
    • Signs: Numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 degrees is an emergency.
    • Signs: Shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, or drowsiness
    • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head, and groin. Keep dry and wrapped up in warm blankets, including the head and neck.

Associated Content




But first, let me dispense with the caveats: There’s a lot to love, if you don’t have to travel by car or plane, you have a safe, secure home with emergency provisions for water, heat, light, food, and means of communicating with the rest of the world in case of a power outage.

We’re in the final hours of the appropriately named storm, Hercules, which dropped more than a foot of snow in a 24-hour period, during which the temperature didn’t rise much above zero, and often dipped way below. We’d half-filled the bathtub, readied the rechargeable flashlights, positioned the kerosene lamps, brought in the shovels, and filled the wood boxes.

So now, a few blizzard joys:

Around my place, a blizzard demands exercise (aka physical labor), and a lot of it. We all need exercise for physical and psychological well-being. Why not do it simultaneously with productive work?

First, there’s hauling armloads of firewood in and buckets of ashes out from the two stoves that keep us warm and cook our food.

Then there’s the shoveling and roof-raking. We hire a guy to plow the driveway, but we have a lot of hand-shoveling to clear pathways to and from the chicken coop, the woodshed, and the tool shed/garage. We have to rake the greenhouse roof, then shovel around the base to prevent the snow that slides off our pitched roof from building up above the greenhouse glazing and blocking the sun. During a big snowstorm, we typically gear up to shovel every couple of hours to keep from having to handle the entire load when the storm is over.

Then there’s the snowshoeing, which has been called floating on snow and walking on water. Breaking trail and trekking uphill to the compost pile carrying a 5-gallon bucket of kitchen scraps counts as one short bout of hard work. But snowshoeing lets you play outside during and after a blizzard, when walking or running aren’t possible. An hour of it can burn more than 1000 calories (especially breaking trail while going uphill in deep, fluffy powder). Add trekking poles to the jaunt, and you have full-body muscle work at its finest. Best of all for me: it’s so exhilarating, it never really feels like “exercise.”

Silence & Sound
Blizzard conditions keep most people off the roads and muffle the sounds of vehicles that do pass by. Deep snow keeps the sounds of the industrial world at a distance. When I walk around outside, the natural world feels deeper, more peaceful.

And yet, blizzards compose their own orchestral works from the falls and crescendos of wind, the creaks and groans of frozen trees, the crash and crackle of ice formations on trees and buildings. In the white world on snowshoes, my own sounds embrace me: the crunch, thud and crackle of my shoes and poles, my heavy breathing.

Wildlife signs
Ascending the hill behind my house or tromping through the adjacent woods in fresh snow after a blizzard, I discover all sorts of mammal tracks. Over the years, I’ve seen the tracks of rodents (squirrels, mice, rats, and porcupines) to hares, weasels, fishers, white-tailed deer, coyotes, foxes, bears, turkeys, and moose. It’s thrilling to share these landscapes with so many fellow creatures, most of which I rarely see during the winter.

Fertilizer “Poor man’s fertilizer”? Not really. (Snow may deliver a little nitrogen and not much else that’s beneficial to the garden beds, although it does efficiently scavenge and concentrate environmental pollutants. Not much joy in that fact.)

But deep snow does provide insulating cover for many susceptible woody plants. Below-zero temperatures kill many overwintering insect pests (though probably not disease-causing ticks). And of course, the spring snowmelt recharges our underground aquifers and provides essential moisture for our crops.

Indoor Many blizzards bring power outages, which can last hours or even days. We’re always fairly well-prepared: woodboxes filled, bathtub half-filled with water for toilet flushing, stockpots filled with drinking water, plenty of food (including canned and dried emergency rations), kerosene lamps and battery-powered flashlights at the ready.

An outage forces us to go dark. It not only shuts off the lights and the water pump, but keeps us from watching TV and doing all the things we do on electronic media.

During the last outage, we played Bananagrams for several hours by the light of three kerosene lamps, until our brains tired of the exertion of making words. It was fun, and it kept our minds occupied with something other than anxiety.

Carl Sandburg wrote, Let a joy keep you. I think he’d have embraced the idea of blizzard joy.


“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.




What should you do in case of a power outage? Having survived many power outages, here are some of our best survival tips—before, during, and after a power outage.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, flooding, and extreme weather events can easily knock out power in your home. But even an animal or too many A/C units on the power grid can cause a power outage.

Deal first with the biggest safety issues: bringing light to the dark, staying warm and dry, and providing food to yourself and your family.


  • It’s best to use flashlights or battery-powered (LED) lanterns to use in case of a power outage rather than candles to prevent accidental fires. Attach a strip of glow-in-the-dark tape to your flashlights to make them easy to find.
  • Headlamps are very helpful for every family member. These enable you to have both hands free to do tasks, and family members can be more independent. You can even read a book in bed while wearing one. Stock up on straps, too, to strap the headlamp to a gallon of water. By strapping the headlamp onto the jug with the lamp’s front facing the inside, the light reflects off of the water and can illuminate more of the room.
  • Avoid using candles or an open flame as a light source, as it could be a fire hazard, particularly if there are children or pets in the home. While romantic, they can tip over too easily in an emergency situation. However, if this is all you have on hand, just be careful not to leave candles or fuel-lit lamps unattended. Use secure candle holders. Empty food cans half-filled with sand work great. Be sure to also have a supply of lighters or matches to light your candles with.
  • Your cell phone could be used for light—for as long as the battery lasts. Drastically increase your battery life by plugging your phone into a portable USB battery pack.



  • Select one room in which people—and pets—can spend most of their time together. Pick a room with few or no windows on the south side for maximum heat during the day and layer up with warm clothing.
  • Drape all windows with blankets, comforters, or quilts. Uncover south-facing windows during the day to let in the Sun’s warmth.
  • Never burn charcoal for heating or cooking indoors. Never use your oven as a source of heat.
  • Make a list (in advance) of shelters and hotels that allow pets, in case you need to evacuate with yours.


  • Open your refrigerator or freezer door only when absolutely necessary. Plan ahead to minimize the time the door is open.
  • If the door stays closed, a refrigerator without power will keep food safe for four hours. A full freezer will keep its temperature for 48 hours (or 24 hours if half full). Store food outside if the temperature is cold enough (40 degrees or less). Monitor temperatures with a thermometer.
  • Keep ice packs in your freezer for use in coolers or your refrigerator in case of an outage.
  • Eat foods you are know are safe from spoiling. Good examples are canned foods, such as vegetables, beans, and soups.
  • If you have one, cook on your woodstove. Heat canned soup and boil water for tea and instant coffee.
  • Have potluck dinners with your neighbors and take turns hosting. You’ll be eating better and getting to know your neighbors at the same time.
  • If the weather allows, cook on your outdoor grill—but only outdoors. Due to the possibility of fumes and fire, never use an outdoor grill indoors. Here are a few great recipes and tips for the grill.
  • If it’s cold enough outside, fill clean plastic milk jugs with water and put them outside to freeze solid. Put these jugs into coolers, which can serve as temporary refrigerators for food supplies.



  • When extreme weather threatens, fill up your bathtub with water (for washing and flushing). Note: If you expect temperatures to drop below freezing in your house, avoid filling up the tub, as you could end up with a frozen (and cracked) bathtub.
  • In cold climates, pack fresh snow in buckets and bring indoors to melt.
  • In winter, keep pipes from freezing by turning on a slow trickle of water. Protect water pipes from freezing by wrapping them with layers of newspapers and then plastic wrap. See more tips for preventing frozen pipes.


  • Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full! Gas stations rely on electricity to power their pumps.
  • Never drive across power lines outside. Never!
  • To avoid damage from falling branches, plan ahead and don’t park your cars under trees. If possible, remove any potentially hazardous or weak-looking branches well ahead of storms.


  • The best way to get through a power outage is to avoid it altogether. Investing in a home generator can save you a lot of time and stress during emergency outages, as it can keep your heat and light running when you really need it.
  • However, NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.


  • Today, we also rely on technology for communication and safety. Keep cell phones charged.
  • If the power is out, dim the brightness of your phone and turn off wifi to save battery life. Also switch your battery to low power mode under settings.
  • Turn off or disconnect appliances and other equipment in case of a momentary power “surge” that can damage computers and other devices.
  • We also recommend a surge protector to safeguards electronics from the harmful effects of power surges and voltage spikes. A power surge is a spike in the electrical current flowing through the wires of your house. They can damage common appliances, sensitive AV electronics, and computer equipment.


  • When in doubt, throw it out! Throw out any perishable foods that have been exposed to temperatures above 40°F for more than two hours. If you’re unsure whether something is still good, it’s better to just throw the item out and not risk becoming ill.
  • Make sure you’ve put out any candles and kerosene lamps you used during the outage. These can be a fire hazard when left unattended.



Your Old Farmer’s Almanac editors occasionally share our reflections, advice, and musings—and welcome your comments.





Frozen pipes are one of the most distressing problems a homeowner can encounter. Here’s how to prevent pipes from freezing and how to thaw frozen pipes.

Freezing can create leaks as the frozen water expands and cracks the copper tubing. When this happens, not only will you have little to no water supply, but when the pipes do thaw out, you can have some serious leaks to repair—or worse.


Prevention is key! Here are some tips:

  • Keep all water-supply piping away from outside walls, where it could be exposed to cold winter weather.
  • If it is imperative to have pipes located on an outside wall, they must be well-insulated. Piping insulation is sold in both rubber and fiberglass.
  • Insulate pipes in all other unheated areas as well, such as crawl spaces, basement, attic, and garage. Fix the source of any drafts (such as near cables, dryer vents, bathroom fan vents, windows) and insulate pipes at risk.
  • Before winter, close the water shut-off valve inside your home that provides water to outside spigots, and then drain each line by opening its spigot until it no longer drips. Close the spigot.


When subfreezing temperatures hit, it’s good to be prepared.

  • Keep garage doors and outside doors closed, and plug up drafts.
  • Open all faucets, both hot and cold water, to just a trickle, to keep water moving in the pipes to help to prevent icing.
  • Set the thermostat to at least 55ºF (13°C) both day and night—no lower. Higher is even better, especially if your home is not well-insulated.
  • Keep doors to all rooms open to allow heat to flow to all areas, which helps to warm the pipes in the walls.
  • Open the cabinets under the kitchen and bathroom sinks so that the warmer air temperature of each room can flow around the plumbing. (Be sure to keep cleaners and other hazardous chemicals away from children and pets.)
  • Check your local forecast to see if you’ll be having subfreezing temperatures sometime soon.


If worst comes to worst and your pipes do freeze, here’s what to do:

  • If no water comes out of a faucet, or it comes out slowly, suspect a frozen pipe. Check all faucets in the house to determine if the situation is widespread. If it is, open all faucets, turn off the main water to the house, and call a plumber.
  • If only one pipe is frozen, turn on the appropriate faucet to help get the water moving in the pipe once it thaws. Locate your nearest water shut-off valve to the break. Don’t turn the water off at this point, unless you find that the pipe has actually burst.
  • Try the hair-dryer trick. Locate the area where the pipe has frozen. Then, starting at the faucet and working backward along the pipe line until you reach the frozen section, work the dryer up and down the pipe. Continue warming the pipe until full water pressure returns to the open faucet. Then reduce the faucet flow to a trickle until the cold snap has ended. Caution: When using a hair dryer, be sure that it and its cord will not be near any water that might start to flow through a crack in a burst pipe.
  • If water starts to gush out of the pipe while you are warming it, unplug the hair dryer and close the nearest water shut-off valve immediately. Keep the faucet open. Call a plumber to fix the burst pipe.
  • If you can not reach a frozen pipe to warm it, call a plumber and shut off the water supply to the pipe. Keep the faucet open.



Parts of this article were originally published in The Home Owner’s Companion, 1997.




Everyone wants to save on their heating bill, so find out how to cut heating costs and keep your home warmer in the cold season!

During the chilly months of late fall and winter, no matter what heat source you use—oil, gas, electricity, or wood—you can cut costs by adopting temporary measures to keep the thermostat turned down. Here are some money-saving tips for cutting the cost of cold snaps.

Note: Some of these tips are only appropriate for above-freezing cold snaps and are not advised for subfreezing temperatures.


  • Temporarily close off heat to some rooms by shutting doors. (This requires a heating system that can be controlled room by room.) Shut the doors to unheated closets, the pantry, and the basement and attic.
  • Hang blankets over the windows at night. Tape or thumbtack the sides and bottom of blankets to the walls or windowsills to maximize the insulation value. (Press the tacks or tape under the bottom of the sill and over the top of the frame to hide any damage to the finish.) Remove the coverings on the south side of the house during the day to let in the warming sunlight.
  • Cover cracks around doors and windowsills with rugs, newspaper, towels, or other insulation. Window-sealing kits can be bought at hardware stores, too.
  • Use electric space heaters in living or work areas. These are more efficient than the furnace for localized heating, and they will allow you to set the thermostat lower for the whole house. Always be sure to use space heaters in open areas only.
  • Put on layers. The real trick to staying warm is to dress in layers, so get a few pairs of long underwear and long-sleeve undershirts that you can wear in addition to your regular lounge clothes. Don’t underestimate the heating power of a wool sweater!
  • Drink a warm drink. Though consuming the hot liquid will only warm you marginally, holding a warm mug in your hands can really help!
  • See more tips from our readers in the comments below!


–Old Farmer’s Almanac

Review on how to stay warm with super cold weather coming in




Where I live, winter temperatures are often in the single digits, but no matter where you live, keeping warm is a basic need that we all share.

Here are some tips—from both Almanac editors and readers—about how to stay warm. These aren’t “big” projects like buying a new heating system—just inexpensive, resourceful ways to help you warm up now!


1. Dress in layers

Bundle up. Wear long underwear, sweaters, and even hats indoors. Remember the days of “sleeping caps”? They make sense! Yes, wear a cap or hat to keep your head warm. If you’re headed outside, cover your face with a scarf.

To avoid getting overheated inside, wear layers. I recommend a “wicking” polyester (or silk) undershirt next to your skin versus cotton. I gave a polyester t-shirt to my father and he keeps talking about the amazing difference as if I had invented sliced bread! Just don’t layer yourself so much that you’re pouring sweat.  The idea is to keep your body warm AND dry.

One reader adds, “I can’t imagine surviving cold weather, inside or out, without a stretchy fleece neck warmer. I have several and I put one on when watching television or reading to avoid turning up the thermostat. Just think about summertime when you are feeling too hot—if you can, you try to cool down by opening your collar. We are using the reverse of that principle here.”

Another idea: Try flannel-lined pants.

2. Keep Your Feet Warm

I highly recommend “house slippers” indoors. I know that it sounds a bit old-fashioned, but having the rubber sole really makes a difference.

And warm socks! One reader says, “I’m from Florida. But when it’s cold, like when we got down to 23 last week, socks are my best friends. A soft, cozy pair worn to bed keeps my feet toasty warm, and as long as my feet are warm, I’m comfortable with the thermostat turned down.”

“Keep changing your socks! Everybody forgets that your feet sweat, and THAT can make you cold even though you are layered up.” Wool socks or “smartwool” keeps your feet from sweating.

For the outdoors, it really helps to insert foam liners in your boots or hiking shoes to give your toes an extra layer of insulation again the cold earth.

3. Heat Up Your Bed

Don’t turn up the heat for the entire house. Use an electric blanket. An even cheaper and safer option may be a hot water bottle with a wool or fleece cover. Here’s what other readers say:

  • “Fill your bottle with hot water from the faucet before going to bed and slip it into the foot of the bed between the sheets. By the time you’re ready for bed it’s all nice and toasty at your feet. Believe it or not the water bottle stays warm all night long.”
  • “Use rice! Put the rice in a fleece cover, then warm in the microwave. It will stay warm half the night and keep your toes comfortable.”
  • “I have a water bottle, but better and quicker is to use a large heating pad with an automatic shut-off. Mine shuts off after 30 minutes. I lay the heating pad in the bed and turn it on about 15 minutes before retiring. I turn it off and then on again if I still need a little more heat, but it is usually adequate just turning it on once.”


4. Harness the Sun

During the day, open the blinds and curtains on the south-facing windows—and let the Sun warm you. At night, close the blinds and curtains to better insulate your home.

One reader adds, “We use roller blinds every night for all windows. Saves a lot of energy in a cheap and easy way.”

5. Keep the Kitchen Cozy

Many readers keep the kitchen humming!

  • “I put a cast iron pot of water with liquid potpourri on the top of our cast iron stove. This increases the humidity in the room and puts a lovely smell in the air.”
  • “Drink lots of yummy hot chocolate!!!!”
  • “Bake something in the oven, either dinner or a dessert (doesn’t have to be fattening but even better if it is).”
  • “A hot cup of tea is great… If you are sick, a hot toddy works wonders. Also, I always have a crock pot of soup going during the cold months.”
  • “Use matches not lighters. It seems silly but if your pilot goes out, your lighter will not work.”

6. Block Drafts

Beyond weather-stripping, which is difficult with old houses, consider these reader tips:

  • “I hang blankets to close off the open stair well going to the second floor, since heat raises it keeps the warm air down stairs when we spend most of our time. I noticed it saves a lot of heating dollars.”
  • “Don’t forget to put something at the bottom of outside doors—you can just feel the cold air pour in. You can buy a fancy roll or just use a blanket or towel.”
  • “I made long round pillows to place against my doors and window sills. I found some scrap pieces of upholstery fabric that are nice and heavy and help keep the drafts out.”
  • “Just like layers of clothing, I put layers at the windows. Between the window and the thermal-backed drapes are the closed venetian blinds and a flannel-backed table cloth. And we hang a blanket over the entire exterior door cause air doesn’t just come in at the bottom.”

7. Stay Active

Get your body moving. At the Almanac, we joke that “one log can heat a house.” Just run up the stairs with the log, throw it out the top window, and repeat three times. You’ll be warm!

Our readers add:

  • “Keep active, this is a good time to clean out closets, garages, etc. Anything to keep active.”
  • “If I get a chill just sitting, I get up and stir around, the movement not only warms me up but also stirs the heat in the house. Children are great when playing, they stir the air around.”
  • “Don’t just sit around. Stay active to keep your blood from ‘thickinin.’ Exercise is good for ya.”

8. Humidify Your Home

Not only does a humidifier keep your house warmer, it also eliminates drying indoor air. As our readers say:

  • “I discovered that when I run my vaporizer (humidifier) in the bedroom, I can turn the heat down a couple extra degrees overnight. In the morning, I raise the heat by about 2 degrees at a time instead of making the furnace work hard to raise it all at once.”
  • “I keep coffee cans lined with large baggies with water in them, around the vents to add humidity to the house, and this works great. I lined the coffee cans so they would not rust.”
  • “I put a waterbath canner full of water on the stove (lasts all night).”

If you don’t have a humidifier, here’s another idea: When you take a bath in winter, leave the water in the tub after you get out. If you let it sit until it reaches room temperature, it will add a little warmth to the house and help humidify it, too!

9. More Ideas

Here’s a new one! “I live five miles from the Canadian border in the St Lawrence region—icebox country! To stay warm INEXPENSIVELY, recycle old panty hose that have runs or snags. This layer next to the bottom, legs, and toes—with slacks over top—keeps me toasty. For guys like Joe Namath too!!”



Your Old Farmer’s Almanac editors occasionally share our reflections, advice, and musings—and welcome your comments.