World War Two: Japanese Imperial Navy; Fall of Singapore, Bangka, Palembang, Southeast Sumatra

The fall of Singapore, a city of more than 500,000, on 15 February 1942, to a Japanese force half the size of that defending Malaya, drove the British back to Burma and into Ceylon and the Indian Ocean. Singapore, an island connected to Johore, Malaya, by a short causeway, had been the symbol of British authority in Malaya and Malaya’s administrative, political, and economic center. Now, however, it was made part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Banka, an island 138 miles long and 62 miles wide, then supplied over ten percent of the world’s tin. Lying as it does a short distance northeast of the south tip of Sumatra, it’s occupation was essential both for ” the attack on Batavia and for an invasion of Palembang and southeast Sumatra.

Sumatra was a prize because of its rich oil fields. It is a long rather narrow island, covered with lush jungle and infested with disease-an inhospitable land. The Japanese made their initial assault on Palembang, the center of one of the world’s richest oil deposits, in order to obtain desperately needed oil and drive the Allied forces out of southeast Sumatra, from which the Japanese could invade west Java unimpeded. There was oil also in the northwest part of the island, but it was still relatively unexploited. Northeast Sumatra, separated from the west coast of Malaya by the Malacca Strait, would be a buffer to Malaya if the English ever tried to return, and it lay along most of the sea routes to Burma.

The four days 12-15 February saw as wild a scene of confusion as war can bring, in the area of Singapore through the Bangka Strait to Palembang, Sumatra. The orderly Japanese table of organization for the occupation of Bangka-Palembang went to pieces, as a variety of factors left every ship and squadron on its own. ABDA intelligence reported that the first convoy in anew Japanese occupation force left Camranh Bay on 9 February. Admiral Ozawa’s powerful Southern expeditionary Fleet followed the next day, and on the 11 February an even larger convoy of transports sailed under escort. Obviously the attack would be directed at Palembang, Sumatra, since it held over half of the Netherlands East Indies oil reserves.

General Wavell, as defender of Singapore and the ABDA region, was ina desperate plight, for Singapore was falling, and Sumatra was threatened. On 11 February, he ordered Admiral Doorman’s strike force to assemble west of Java. When these orders were received, the strike force was south of Bali, some 800 miles away. Doorman, however, at once ordered his ships to assemble north of Sundra Strait; he would try with his small force to save Palembang.

In Singapore, thousands of people finally realized that the impossible was going to happen-the city was about to fall to the Japanese. Fleeing civilians and high-ranking government officials (civil and military) all crowded onto almost anything that could float. If they could not go directly to Java and then Australia, they headed instead to Sumatra, hoping that by overland they could find unoccupied ports from which they could reach Australia. Bangka Strait, the main route to Sumatra or Java, became crowded with fleeing ships for the next three days. But Admiral Ozawa’s force was also in Bangka Strait, and the air was filled with Japanese planes. To add to the confusion, the Bangka-Palembang Occupation Force was coming through this melee. Thus most of the ships trying to escape Singapore were brutally massacred.

Admiral Doorman sailed into this confusion on 14 February, from a rendezvous north of Sunda Strait. His hastily gathered force contained the light cruiser De Ruyter (Flagship), his two other light cruisers, the Java and the Tromp; the British heavy cruiser Exeter, and the light cruiser Hobart; the Dutch destroyers Banckert, Kirtenaer, Van Nes, Van Ghent and the American destroyers Bulmer, Barker, Parrott, Stewart, Pope, and John D. Ford. Misfortune struck almost at once, when the Van Ghent hit an uncharted reef at Stolze Strait, off Bandka and sank. The Banckert was detached from the force to rescue the survivors.

Admiral Ozawa knew by dawn of 15 February that the ABDA force was approaching. He ordered his main convoys dispersed, and ordered continuous strikes by planes from the Ryujo and from the well-stocked Japanese airfields. He then prepared for an engagement with any remaining ABDA Command ships. Japanese high-level bombing of Doorman’s fleet was ineffective, with only slight damage inflicted on two American destroyers by near misses, despite continuous bombing, during the entire day.

Admiral Doorman however was realistic, and in the afternoon he ordered a retirement, preferring not to risk an encounter with Ozawa’s dangerous force in the Bangka Strait. However, the Van Nes, still in the area picking up surviving escapees, was sunk off Bangka Strait on 17 February by Japanese bombers. The retirement of Doorman’s strike force meant the loss of Bangka and Palembang, both fell 15 February, and the Dutch and British defenders retreated to Java, with out fully demolishing their oil fields and refineries. There was no opposition left in southeast Sumatra, thus Java was blocked in from the west.

SOURCE: Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1941-45; BY: Paul S. Dull

World War Two: Japanese Imperial Navy; Isolation of Java Completed


World War Two: North Africa (2); Strategic Planning; Operation TORCH

A period of uncertainty followed President Roosevelt’s decision that Operation TORCH should immediately be made a paramount undertaking to be launched at the earliest possible moment. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were not convinced of the finality of this decision until 30 July. Although they informed the British Chiefs of Staff of it the next day, an official communication to the Prime Minister was delayed for a week during Joint Chiefs’ studies to ascertain the actual earliest possible date for the attack.

Choice of a commander in chief was therefore retarded. The agreement reached by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in London on 25 July had provided for one American supreme commander over both ROUNDUP and TORCH, pending the decision to mount the latter, and for an American to be supreme commander of TORCH but a temporary vacancy to prevail in the supreme command of ROUNDUP, after such a decision. The British proposal that General Marshall be named supreme commander and that Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower be his deputy was never discussed with General Marshall by the President. Instead, the President approved the designation of General Eisenhower to be Allied supreme commander of TORCH. That he would do so was indicated on 31 July, but official action awaited an exchange of messages with the Prime Minister on 6 August. Both leaders then also agreed that the invasion should occur as early in October as might prove feasible, rather than on 30 October, as estimated by the military planners.

A directive from the Combined Chiefs of Staff to General Eisenhower was not approved until 13 August, almost three weeks after the decision to launch the invasion. Meanwhile, General Eisenhower assumed the leadership on a provisional basis in formulating an outline plan acceptable to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. But the organization of a staff, selection of major commanders, elaboration of operational plans and orders, arrangements for specialized training, and provision of materiel and transportation went forward rapidly only after the uncertainty surrounding the supreme command had been terminated.

General Eisenhower’s Directive

A strategic (or outline) plan for Operation TORCH was in preparation for six weeks before Allied agreement was reached on 5 September. Once again, the President and the Prime Minister had to intervene to resolve a wide divergence in the views of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. General Eisenhower’s directive of 13 August described his mission as gaining, in conjunction with Allied Forces in the Middle East, complete control of northern Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea.

The first stage would be to establish firm, mutually supported lodgments in the Oran-Algiers-Tunis area on the north coast, and in the Casablanca area on the northwest coast, in order to have readily available good bases for continued and intensified air, ground, and sea operations. A second stage was to extend control over the entire area of French Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and in case of hostile action by the Spanish, over Spanish Morocco also. The Allies would thus create conditions favorable for further offensive operations through Libya against the rear of the Axis forces in the Western Desert. The ultimate objective would be “complete annihilation of Axis forces now opposing the British forces in the Western Desert and intensification of air and sea operations against the Axis on the European Continent.”

The Objective

Northwest Africa’s three major political divisions-Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia-were all under European control. Most of the region was within the empire of France, but Morocco was divided into three separate sections of which only one was French. It was much the largest. About 5 percent of Morocco was dominated by Spain. The third section, a very small zone adjacent to the port of Tangier, was legally under international guardianship, but since June 1940 was in the military possession of Spain. Between Morocco and Tunisia lay Algeria. It was the most nearly French. Its maritime border section comprised three of the departments of the Third French Republic sending representatives to the prewar legislative assemblies in Paris. Native or naturalized French citizens formed over 10 percent of its population. A Governor General and a French military administration governed directly its southern provinces.

Morocco and Tunisia were nominally ruled by the absolute authority, civil and religious, of native rulers, the Sultan of Morocco and the Bey of Tunis. Actually, in the capital of each, the French maintained a Resident General who conducted all foreign relations and supervised, by means of a French staff, the civil administration by native officials.

The population of the three colonies totaled approximately 16,700,000, of which all but 1,500,000 were either Berber or Arabic Moslems. Only 175,000 of the 6,500,000 inhabitants of French Morocco were French by birth or naturalization; a mere 110,000 of the 2,700,000 in Tunisia could be so classified. Between the Moslems and the native Jews, relations were always discordant; anti-Semitism was not a Fascist importation. In addition to the numbers given here in round figures, military personnel and refugees from Europe added an increment of undeterminable size.

The ring of territories adjacent to the desert was kept at all times directly under military control, stemming from the headquarters of the Commander in Chief of all French Army forces in North Africa, at Algiers.

In November 1942 this officer was General Alphonse Juin. In 1940, beginning with the arrival of General Maxime Weygand as Commissioner-General under Marshal Petain, and again in 1942, at the instigation of Admiral Jean Francois Darlan, high officers of the Army or Navy replaced civilians in almost all the leading administrative positions. The Resident General for Morocco at Rabat was General Auguste Paul Nogucs, and for Tunisia at Tunis, Vice Admiral Jean-Pierre Esteva. While the Governor General of Algeria was a civilian, M. Yves Chatel, his cabinet was headed by Vice Admiral Raymond Fenard.

The Combined Planning Staff in London had to develop an outline plan for TORCH which was adapted to a large and complex area comprising more than 1,000,000 square miles (1,074,238). The distances were considerable. From Casablanca to Tunis, for example, is 1,274 miles by motor road and over 1,000 miles by airline. Safi, a south Moroccan port, lies near the thirty-second parallel, north latitude, corresponding to that of San Diego, California, while Algiers, Bizerte, and Tunis are near the thirty-seventh parallel, the latitude of San Francisco and St. Louis.

Because of unfavorable geographical conditions, the population is concentrated in a small part of the total area, principally at the ports. The coast of Morocco on the Atlantic side is fairly Rat and open, but on the Mediterranean side, from a point opposite Gibraltar to another about 150 miles to the east, the crescent-shaped mass of the lofty Er Rif mountains effectively bars access to the interior. Thence eastward as far as Tunisia, coastal ranges, occasionally interrupted by plains and narrow river valleys, drop sharply into the Mediterranean. In Algeria and Tunisia, this belt of rugged terrain forms the northern portion of the Region du Tell (maritime Atlas mountain area), a group of parallel bands of mountains and valleys between the sea and the region of high plateaus.

Rising near the ocean in southern Morocco and stretching northeastward for more than a thousand miles are the masses and high crests of the Atlas Mountains. At one point they approach so closely the Er Rif mountains of Spanish Morocco that only a limited defile, the Taza gap, permits access from the plains of French Morocco to the Algerian Region du Tell.

Northwest of the Atlas Mountains, within French Morocco, are two main regions. Along the coast is a level plain crossed by meandering streams, a plain which extends inland most irregularly and lies below Morocco’s rugged counterpart of Algeria’s high plateaus. This second region is severely eroded, with large areas of bare rock, of steep-sided valleys, and of thin-soiled hills. The terrain is so difficult that for centuries, travelers between northern and southern Morocco have skirted along its coastal rim.

The Atlantic coast of Morocco has few capes or headlands and no natural harbors. Strong winds and extremely heavy swell and surf prevail. Artificial ports, protected by breakwaters and dredged to suitable depths, were constructed by the French, especially during the regime of Marshal Louis Lyautey after World War I. Their location was determined not by coastal features but by the nature of the adjacent hinterland. Casablanca surpassed all other ports in area, depth, loading facilities, and storage capacity. It handled almost 90 percent of Morocco’s prewar traffic and served as the gateway for overseas shipments to all northwestern Africa. Lesser ports were Safi, Rabat Sale, Mehdia, and Port-Lyautey, the last of which was several miles up the shallow Sebou river from its mouth at Mehdia.

None of Morocco’s rivers are navigable for a substantial distance. The railroad system which linked these ports with the hinterland and with Algeria and Tunisia had as its main line a standard-gauge, partly electrified route which ran from Marrakech through Casablanca, Rabat-Sale, and Port-Lyautey to Oujda. One branch ran to Safi, a second to Tangier, and others to interior communities. Invading forces of any size would need to control the ports of Safi, Casablanca, and Port-Lyautey.

The Algerian coast faces the Mediterranean Sea with many headlands but no deep indentations. At the few points at which plains or valleys lead inland from the wide bays, artificial port<; have been constructed or natural harbors improved. The best unloading facilities and railroad connections, the planners recognized, were at Oran, AIgiers, Bougie, Philippeville, and Bone. The main line of railroad ran eastward from Oujda, near the Moroccan boundary, through Tlemcen to Oran, thence through interior valleys some twenty miles south of the coast to Algiers, Set if, and Souk Ahras, from which it crossed northern Tunisia through Bedja to Bizerte and through Medjez eI Bab to Tunis. Branch lines of one-meter gauge connected lesser ports, such as Nemours, Beni Saf, Anew, Mostaganem, and Cherchel with the main line.

In Tunisia almost all the railroads were narrow gauge. Such a line followed the coast from Tunis southward through Sousse and Sfax to Gabes, with branches westward from Sousse to Kasserine, from Sfax to Gafsa and Tozeur, and from Tunis by a great southerly loop to Tebessa and Constantine in Algeria. From this loop ran several short branches. Thus all the major ports, Bizerte, Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax, were linked with the main system from Morocco and with communities situated in the valleys of central and western Tunisia. For forces invading Tunisia overland from the west, they furnished meager assistance to any large-scale movement. It was clear to the planners that the sea approach must be used as far as possible and that the limited railroads would require supplementing by maximum use of the highways.

The main highways system consisted of one east-west coastal route and one interior and roughly parallel route, the two being linked by numerous interconnections. Surfaced with bitumen, with the bridges capable of at least twenty-five-ton traffic, these roads were used by an active autobus system and could support two-way traffic at most points. But they did have bottlenecks-one way bridges, tunnels just large enough for one bus, and sharp turns high on the sides of precipitous mountain gorges. From Souk et Tnine northeast to Djidjelli on the coastal route, the road ran in a notch excavated in the side of a cliff for nearly thirty miles.

High passes were subject to snow blockades in the winter months. Alternative stream crossings, in case of the failure of any highway bridges, involved steep-sided river beds which could be forded only in dry summer weather, or deep gorges which might best be spanned by adapting railroad bridges to motor traffic also.

In addition to these roads of the main system, a highway ran from Constantine to Tebessa in eastern Algeria, and thence to the Tunisian coast at Galles via Gafsa, or at Sfax or Sousse via Sbeitla. Much of this particular route was newly widened, graded, and surfaced as a military road. The secondary roads in general lacked surfacing or drainage which would keep them passable in wet weather under heavy motor transport; even in dry weather, they were incapable of relieving much of the pressure on the main system.

Northwest Africa’s highways therefore would be adequate only if favorable weather prevailed for the very heavy traffic to be expected in the drive eastward into Tunisia. But those facilities were further limited by the restriction to two main routes, and counterbalanced also by the great distances involved. From Algiers to Tunis the distance was over 540 miles, and from Philippeville to Tunis more than 240 miles. Oran was 270 miles west of Algiers, and Casablanca, 458 miles farther still. An occupying force seeking to bring Tunisia under control by moving overland from Algeria and Morocco must bring with it an impressive volume of vehicles and be well prepared for highway maintenance.

Of the airdromes in French Morocco five were considered to be first class, those at Marrakech and Meknes, about seventy to eighty miles inland, and at Cazes (near Casablanca), Rabat-Sale, and Port-Lyautey on the coast. The field at Port-Lyautey was the only installation with concrete runways, but all five were large enough for bombers and in dry weather would be usable.

The first-class airdromes were accessible by railroad and highway. Five other large fields in French Morocco were classed as secondary for lack of equipment, inaccessibility by land, or obstructions to ready approach by air. At most of the ports were seaplane anchorages, and at Port-Lyautey such a station had once been heavily used by the French.

The three primary airdromes in Algeria were at La Senia (near Oran), at Maison Blanche (near Algiers), and at Les Salines (near Bone). Somewhat less usable were the inland airfields at Blida (25 miles from Algiers) and Setif (about 30 miles from the Golfe de Bougie). Secondary fields capable of extension and development included those at Tafaraoui (16 miles southeast of Oran), Constantine, and Tebessa. Seaplane stations had been developed at Oran, Arzew, Algiers, and Bone.

Tunisia’s air facilities included primary airdromes at Sidi Ahmed (near Bizerte) and EI Aouina (near Tunis), secondary airdromes at Kairouan and Gabes, and seaplane stations at Bizerte. Tunis, and Sousse. On the flat coastal plain were many operational fields and landing grounds capable of extension and development.

French forces for the defense of North Africa had been restricted by the terms of the armistice with Germany in 1940 and were understood in 1942 to include an army of 120,000 men. Of these troops, 55,000 were believed to be in Morocco, 50,000 in Algeria, and 15,000 in Tunisia when the basic planning began in London. Twelve units of motorized field artillery had been allowed but almost no medium and no heavy artillery. Mechanized cavalry had at its disposal between 120 and 160 obsolete tanks and 80 armored cars in Morocco, about 110 such tanks and 60 armored cars in Algeria, and only 20 armored cars in Tunisia. In each of the three colonies, one regiment of antiaircraft artillery was dispersed, although at the ports supplementary batteries were maned by naval personnel.

Estimates of French air strength varies, but most of it was understood to be concentrated at the Moroccan airdromes. From 155 to 170 combat planes could be expected at the first contact, and within two hours after the alarm, from 166 to 207 additional aircraft from stations inland. Of these, almost half were thought to be Dewoitine 520 fighters, superior in maneuverability to carrier-borne Navy fighters. Approximately the same number were believed to be twin-engine bombers. All French combat planes would be maned by able pilots.

[NOTE: The Dewoitine fighter was a low wing, all-metal monoplane which had a reputed range of 500 miles, a speed of 340 miles per hour, and a ceiling 32,500 feet.]

If German planes should also respond to an early warning issued from an intercepting submarine or from a long-range air patrol a few days before the convoys completed the approach, and should the Germans use Spanish and Spanish Moroccan airdromes for their concentrations, their air superiority over Morocco could be overwhelming during the attack. The margin of that superiority would be limited only by the size of the stocks of aviation fuel and bombs available to several hundred aircraft.

Political Considerations

The nature of the Allied objective in Northwest Africa prescribed an expedition which had to operate initially at widely separated points located in three distinct political units, all subject to the authority of the French government at Vichy. All three had to be brought under control either by substituting Allied for French authority as a result of a victory in arms or by enlisting the French in the war against the Axis powers without disturbing their control over the restless native populations. To achieve control by a victory in arms would manifestly require a large force at the outset and then a rapid build-up.

Plans for French North Africa had to take into account political conditions throughout the whole French empire. The French people had not been unified by the disaster to their nation. Even before the defeat of 1940 factionalism arising from the revolutionary social currents of the times was rife, and a proud and patriotic people was tom by mutual distrust. These attitudes prevailed in defeat. The situation was aggravated after defeat by conflicting views over the best way to serve French interests while the country was partly occupied by an enemy still engaged in war against a former ally.

Differences over these issues engendered bitter hatreds. The Allies in planning for Operation TORCH sought to collaborate with friendly segments of the armed forces, of the public administration, and of various civilian organizations in French North Africa. Among the available French leaders through whom they might effect this collaboration, General Charles de Gaulle was bound to be considered.

Just before the Germans completed their conquest of France, General de Gaulle escaped to England, where he laid plans for the liberation of his country by organizing into a fighting force all Frenchmen willing and able to bear arms against the Germans. On 18 June 1940 he made a now-famous appeal to his countrymen by radio. As hostilities in France were being concluded, and while Petain, after the Franco-German armistice, was setting up a government at Vichy in that part of France not occupied by the Germans, de Gaulle’s group in England was also taking form. The General was recognized by the British Government as “Chief of all the Free French, wherever they may be, who may join you to defend the Allied cause” (7 August 1940). The Free French, however, considered themselves more than a voluntary association opposed to the Axis j they assumed that their leaders headed the true, legally constituted government of France.

The Vichy government they denounced as part of the Fascist-revolutionary movement in Europe and without legal foundation. Their own establishment, organized in September 1941 as the French National Committee and formally recognized by most of the Allied governments, was represented as the continuation of the legitimate government of which M. Paul Reynaud had been the Premier until his resignation. In the United Kingdom, the Fighting French, as they thereafter preferred to be termed, were supported by the British and, indirectly, through lend-lease channels by the United States. At various points in the French empire, colonial governors adhering to General de Gaulle made local resources available for the Allied effort to defeat the Axis powers.

The U.S. Government established channels of communication with General de Gaulle purely as a military leader for the discussion of matters having military significance. Responsibility for the liaison was placed upon Admiral Harold Stark, chief of the United States Naval Mission in the United Kingdom. Conversations with General de Gaulle and with members of his organization during the months preceding the invasion of French North Africa yielded information of considerable value to the Allies.

The Vichy government led by Marshal Petain was accepted by the United States as the successor in fact to Reynaud’s government under the Third Republic. Diplomatic representation was maintained at Vichy, both before and after Pearl Harbor. A settled purpose of American diplomacy was to maintain pressure upon Petain’s government to uphold the terms of the armistice, to deny the Axis powers any assistance and any privileges not pledged in that document, and to insist that the Axis powers confine themselves to only those concessions granted as a condition for laying down French arms.

The objective central to all American policy was to prevent Axis use of French colonial territories and of the French fleet. An important secondary consideration was to obtain through French governmental channels in Vichy all possible information concerning Axis plans and activities. The Marshal’s government countenanced the Economic Accord of March 1941, negotiated by Mr. Robert Murphy, U.S. envoy, and General Weygand, Vichy’s proconsul at Algiers. It arranged for the importation into French North Africa of limited quantities of consumption goods for local use.

Twelve economic vice-consuls, supervising the distribution of such imports to see that none passed into Axis possession, reinforced the regular consular establishment in providing a staff of propaganda and intelligence agents. With the secret operatives of Allied governments, they could participate in subversive operations as well as espionage. They established valuable ties with resistance organizations. They thus could supply data for planning and agents for executing the plans.

Devotion to the Marshal was particularly strong in the armed forces of Vichy France in both the unoccupied portion of Metropolitan France and in the colonies of French West Africa and French North Africa. According to the prevailing opinion, de Gaulle and his following were engaged in dividing and weakening France, undermining its proper leadership, and compromising its ability to contribute effectively to its own liberation. The anti-Fascist aims of the resistance organizations undoubtedly attracted recruits but at the expense of antagonizing French authoritarians. Yet the government of a country at war with the Axis was obliged, in calculating how to overcome the Axis, to retain every possible advantage, to enlist all possible allies. For the United Nations, in 1942, to renounce the aid obtainable through friendly relations with the government at Vichy and to espouse the cause of Fighting France alone seemed quixotic. To scorn the limited but substantial contribution by de Gaulle’s movement toward eventual victory would have been imprudent. In making war, what seemed fitting was to make use of what each side could contribute and to break with Vichy, if at all, only at the last possible moment.

The British Chiefs of Staff proposed and the Americans agreed that the Fighting French should not be apprised of the forthcoming operation until it had begun. This policy was adopted to avoid leakage of intelligence to the enemy, but it was further warranted by the complexion of French political opinion in French North Africa. There, as elsewhere in the French empire, anti-Axis Frenchmen were divided. The monarchists were there, for example. Their claimant to the throne of France, the Comte de Paris, kept a residence in Spanish Morocco. The left wing was there. Both factions furnished recruits to a movement to terminate Marshal Petain’s fascistic revolution.

Included in these two groups were some of de Gaulle’s adherents, but the bulk of the French in North Africa were opposed to him in 1942. De Gaulle’s followers had fought with the British against other Frenchmen at Dakar and in Syria, and that was held against him. If many opposed the Fighting French for their actions as renegades and rebels, much the greater number did so because of their profound faith in Petain. The old Marshal was admired on the one hand because of his authoritarian reforms and on the other because of his policies toward the Axis, policies which were regarded as very shrewd.

Petain, they believed, was only yielding to the storm of necessity, bending only as far as he was pressed; and he was expected to straighten up as the pressure relaxed. His supporters were convinced that he, Weygand, and Darlan had held the Germans rather closely to the armistice terms, that he was able to dissemble his anti-Nazi feelings, and that he had France’s best interests at heart. In the early autumn of 1942 the loyalty of most French inhabitants of the colonies in North Africa, including the most anti-German among them, was toward the government at Vichy.

During the planning for Operation SUPER-GYMNAST (one of the early plans for the invasion of North Africa) immediately after Pearl Harbor, the twelve economic vice-consuls in French North Africa were reinforced by agents of the American Office of Coordinator of Information, men who were sent to establish confidential relations with leaders among the natives and with resistance groups among the French. Coordination of secret intelligence and special operations by American and British agents was achieved through Lieutenant Colonel William A. Eddy (Marine Corps), American naval attaché at Tangier. He kept in steady communication with a British counterpart in Gibraltar.

The initial purpose of the resistance organizations had been to oppose occupation of French North Africa by Axis forces, particularly by airborne elements. This goal was revised during the first four months of 1942 when an Allied expedition was in prospect. Their new mission was to assist Allied landings and, during them, to control pro-Axis segments of the North African population.

Had the operation been undertaken in May 1942 the Allies might have found there a group of friendly French who were numerous, eager, and energetic. When the operation was postponed, Allied relations with these resistance groups and American operations under the Economic Accord both suffered a relapse. Connections remained; nonetheless, which could be revived after the planning of Allied Force Headquarters for TORCH began.

In French North Africa, the Allies hoped for weak French military resistance to TORCH which could be reduced further by ( 1) the intervention of friendly French resistance groups to sabotage the execution of French military defense plans, or (2) the enlistment of the French authorities in a common endeavor. The wide expanse of the area to be brought under control and the complex character of its non-European population made highly desirable the recruitment of the French North African territories as active allies.

Strategic Decisions

Allied strategic planning for TORCH began in London on 31 July, when a group of British and American officers constituting the Combined Planning Staff first met under the leadership of Brigadier General Alfred M. Gruenther. They prepared an exploratory plan which amounted to a modification of what the British planners had already sketched. It called for the seizure of two large and two small ports within the Mediterranean and a subsequent seizure of Casablanca.

Four divisions were to be employed in the assault. Later convoys were to bring from six to eight more divisions The planners were convinced that insufficient naval escort ships for simultaneous landings on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts made it necessary to postpone the Casablanca assault to a second phase. The Joint Chiefs of Staff immediately scrutinized the findings of the London planners, for they were obliged to find the earliest possible date for Operation TORCH consonant with a sound concept of the operation. The directive from the Combined Chiefs of Staff to the commander in chief had not yet been formulated, so that the mission was not yet firmly defined.

On 31 July, planners in Washington expressed serious doubt about abandoning simultaneous assault landings on the western coast as well as inside the Mediterranean, but at the same time noted that some plan was essential in case unfavorable weather forced all landings to be made inside the Mediterranean. In this very first exchange of ideas, the four interrelated key issues thus arose: (1) the date for D Day; (2) the desirability of making all landings inside the Mediterranean; (3) the feasibility of making any outside landings on the Atlantic coast of Morocco; and (4) the amount of available naval escort, carrier-borne aircraft, and fire support.

The earlier the operation could begin, the more likely that it would achieve some degree of surprise and, at the same time, benefit from the enemy’s involvement with operations on the Eastern Front. After the middle of October, German air units might be expected to transfer from the campaign in Russia to the Mediterranean basin. Unless the Allies struck in French North Africa by then, the Nazis’ pressure on the government of Spain would be stronger, and the inclination of the Soviet Union to drop out of the war might become greater. If some of the President’s associates wished the operation to begin in time to affect the American Congressional elections in November, he himself seems to have left the decision to be controlled by military considerations.

But he did not accept the advice of General Marshall and Admiral King that the earliest practicable date would be 7 November without careful analysis of the reasons offered for it. The governing factor in this estimate was the length of time required to convert ocean liners to combat loaders (assault transports). For several more weeks Allied strategists sought persistently to have an earlier D Day through plans which would not require the use of these particular ships.

The operation might have begun earlier if the landings near Casablanca could have been either entirely dispensed with or postponed to a second phase of the attack, when it could be executed with some of the same shipping used in the first landings. The pressure for such a solution was strong, particularly in an early phase of the planning.

The preliminary outline of 31 July proposed a deferred Casablanca landing, while the plan submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff with the date 21 August dropped the Casablanca landing altogether. The War Department planners insisted on including an attack to capture Casablanca, in order to insure a line of communications to the United States. They also insisted on its being simultaneous with the operations inside the Mediterranean, in order to make the maximum impression upon the French and Spanish authorities by such a show of force. In London, particularly among the British planners, the hazards to Allied control of the Strait of Gibraltar and of Gibraltar itself were deemed less substantial than they appeared to be in the thinking at Washington.

In London they were aware, moreover, that the landings near Casablanca might well be thwarted by the incidence of unfavorable weather with high swell and tumultuous surf, and that the attempt to safeguard the Gibraltar area by such an expedition might thus be frustrated.

The basic problem in this connection was to determine where the Axis powers would resist the Allied expedition. Would they appropriate airfields in Spain and neutralize Gibraltar by air attack? Would the Spanish assist them in a ground attack on Gibraltar, as Hitler had once expected, and perhaps by hostile action from Spanish Morocco as well? Or would the Germans and Italians focus their resistance in the Sicilian straits and northeastern Tunisia? The British concluded that the Spanish would do nothing and that the enemy’s main opposition would come in Tunisia. The Americans were far less confident that the Spanish Government would actually remain neutral if the Germans wished to use Spanish territory, and far less certain that the German Air Force would not interfere with the vital activities planned at Gibraltar.

The Allied planners also differed over the degree of haste necessary in entering Tunisia. In order to establish Allied military control over all North Africa, the Allied Force had to gain possession of Tunisia. British planners were convinced that if Axis occupation of Tunisia were not forestalled by elements of the Allied Force in the first assault, and with the support of the first follow-up convoys, the enemy would become too strong to dislodge without a protracted struggle. Landings as far to the east as Bone, near the border between Algeria and Tunisia, were therefore urged by them despite the likelihood of enemy air attacks. The Axis line of communication to Tunisia would be very short. The Axis rate of build-up could be much swifter. Time would be on the enemy’s side. Against this view, the President and his military advisers believed that the enemy could land nothing of consequence in Tunisia except by air for the first two weeks.

The first product of the Combined Planning Staff after the wholly tentative and incomplete sketch of 31 July was a Draft Outline Plan (Partial), Operation TORCH, of 9 August. It prescribed a D Day of 5 November in order to make possible simultaneous landings both inside and outside the Mediterranean, at Bone, Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca. Two weeks of critical analysis, counterproposals, and revision followed, after which the Combined Chiefs of Staff received the full Outline Plan of 21 August accompanied by General Eisenhower’s comments. These comments pointed out how tentative were some of the important provisions of the plan. They expressed his judgment that the forces provided by the two Allied governments were too small to carry out the mission stated in his directive. Landings near Casablanca had been abandoned in this plan in favor of but three attacks, all within the Mediterranean, at Oran, Algiers, and Bone.

D Day was set at 15 October, the latest date holding promise of any beneficial consequences for the Soviet forces fighting the Eastern Front. Another main factor affecting planning at this point was the grave shortage of naval components available for the Allied Force. When Eisenhower met in London with U.S. Navy representatives on 11 August, the Combined Planning Staff had not received an allocation of either Royal Navy or U.S. Navy units. The Commander in Chief, Allied Force, was then told that the difficulties facing the U.S. Navy in fulfilling existing missions and in furnishing a task force for the Casablanca attack would preclude its participation in any naval operations within the Mediterranean.

At most, the U.S. Navy contemplated enabling one or two battleships from the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow to see action in the Mediterranean with other elements of the Royal Navy by temporarily substituting American battleships for them at Scapa Flow. Apparently detecting an air of hesitation and of undue independence, Eisenhower emphasized that the U.S. Army and Navy were both under the President’s explicit orders making TORCH an operation of the highest priority, that the British armed services were in a parallel position, and that the Combined Chiefs of Staff would require that the navies of both countries overcome all obstacles in executing the operation.

Two days later, when a British aircraft carrier was sunk in the Mediterranean, the British Chiefs of Staff in London, with the American naval representatives concurring, concluded that escort vessels, fire support vessels, and aircraft carriers would not be available in sufficient strength for two major landings on the Mediterranean coast simultaneous with an attack outside on the Atlantic coast.

The inescapable choice confronting the planners lay between canceling any assault landings at Bone, or even Algiers, on the one hand, and omitting such landings near Casablanca, on the other. In the first formal complete Outline Plan (dated 21 August) the decision to seize Casablanca from the sea was abandoned, and the plan to land at Bone retained. An American task force was to sail for Oran from the United States, and the largest task force (American and British) was to sail for Algiers from the United Kingdom.

Planners also had to take into account one other consideration. Intelligence reports indicated that British forces would be vigorously resisted by the French. It was therefore deemed advisable to maintain, as far as possible, an American character for any Allied assault. General Eisenhower was so dissatisfied with the draft plan that he requested a revised directive reducing his mission to proportions consistent with the resources made available to him. His strictures produced different responses in London and in Washington.

The British Chiefs of Staff abandoned their insistence on an early D Day, accepted the simultaneous landings near Casablanca which General Eisenhower had declared so necessary, and proposed a fifth, small-scale landing at Philippeville, between Algiers and Bone. These recommendations were contingent on the contribution of additional American naval forces. The Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplated an all-American landing force attack at two points, Casablanca and Oran only. The American Chiefs were also prepared to adjust the commander in chief’s directive, for the U.S. Navy could not meet the expanded requirements of the changes proposed by the British. Discussion of the plan had reached an impasse, culminating in a long and perhaps at times acrimonious session of the Combined Chiefs of Staff on 28 August, when the President and the Prime Minister intervened.

The Prime Minister returned to London late on 24 August from a visit to Marshal Joseph Stalin in Moscow. He had borne the brunt of the Russian dictator’s invective over the Allied decision to occupy French North Africa rather than to open the promised “second front” in western France in 1942. He had enlisted Stalin’s approbation of Operation TORCH by putting it in the best possible light. He found in London that the planning had swung toward a date much later than he deemed wise and a concept of the operation which overtaxed the resources thus far made available. In the employment of the actual means at hand, the Allied planners were in disagreement. His discussions with General Eisenhower and Major General Mark Wayne Clark, and the impetus which he was able to give to the effort to find additional British naval resources accelerated the process of decision.

Soon he and the President were engaged in a daily exchange of cables which moved swiftly toward an Allied agreement. Mr. Churchill agreed that the British would accede to an American wish for an all-American assault, with British forces arriving after French acquiescence had been obtained, but at the same time he tried to make such a solution of the impasse among professional military chiefs unnecessary.

On 4 September, the U.S. Navy reported the naval units which it could furnish. At the same time, the President and Prime Minister were reaching an agreement upon three landing forces, mainly American, with a reduction of some 5,000 men each in those proposed for Casablanca and for Oran, thus providing the American element for the force to be landed near Algiers. Each would have an American commander. No landings would be made east of Algiers until it had capitulated, after which British troops would be carried to eastern Algerian ports and continue into Tunisia. The troops would be carried to the inside landings in British shipping, except for American vessels already in the United Kingdom and those in which one regimental combat team would be sent from the United States to Algiers via the United Kingdom. The outside landing would be made from an American convoy. The Royal Navy would furnish escort and support within the Mediterranean, as the U.S. Navy representatives had thought necessary since early August, while the outside landings would be escorted and protected by American warships. One major point remained to be determined-the date of D Day. The Combined Chiefs of Staff finally gave responsibility for that choice to the Commander in Chief, Allied Force. The culminating Anglo-American executive agreement was formulated in a provisional outline plan at once, and eventually submitted on 20 September for official action by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Some fundamental questions remained to be settled, but the decisions of 5 September enabled the agencies of the two governments to proceed with operational and logistical planning and preparations on a firm basis after six weeks of delay and shifting uncertainty.

The concept of the operation and a general allocation of ground, sea, and air elements to the expeditionary force were now determined. The planned pattern of the assault cut down to the narrowest of margins the possibility of occupying Tunisia within a brief period of Allied superiority over the Axis forces likely to be sent there. If the initial attempt should fail, the operation would be protracted in proportion to the strength which the Axis powers chose to commit.

Under the most favorable circumstances, advance forces would be established in northern Tunisia by mid-December, with a moderate number of aircraft operating against Axis supply lines into Tripoli and against Tripoli itself. These forces might consolidate the occupation of central and southern Tunisia as far as Gabes by the middle of January 1943. A corps of two British divisions could then be ready to move into Tripolitania at the beginning of March.

The British Eighth Army, attacking westward, might by the most hopeful estimate arrive at Tripoli in mid-January. Military control of northern Africa from the Atlantic to the Red Sea would by such a schedule be achieved at the earliest by March, and might take considerably longer, with a corresponding drain on Allied military resources.

Strategic decisions which remained for determination until near the end of the planning period included those governing relations with the French. The initial contacts between armed forces defending French North Africa and those of the Allies were bound to produce problems of a most delicate character. What would Allied policy be toward French airplanes or submarines met at sea? How should French merchant ships be treated? Should French warships be fired upon before they opened hostilities? If the Allied convoys were too passive, damaging blows might be struck before they could hit back; but if they acted aggressively, they might promote a battle which neither side desired.

[NOTE: (1) AFHQ G-3 Outline Plan C (Provisional) for Opn TORCH, 5 Sep 42. Copy in OPD ABC 381 (7-2;42), Sec 4-Aj (2) CCS 103/3, 26 Sep 42, sub: Outline Plan Opn TORCH. CCS 103/6,4 Oct 42, replacing CCS 103/5 on the same subject, was approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staffs and the President and forwarded to the British Chiefs of Staffs in London and the Prime Minister, 5 October 1942, to be transmitted by them to General Eisenhower if they approved. (2) Msg, AGW AR to USFOR, 5 Oct 42, CM-OUT 1578. ]

The directive covering the treatment of the French armed forces during initial contact was drafted finally on 5 October. No offensive action was to be taken against them by the Allies unless in reply to definitely hostile action. French warships, therefore, were to be allowed to pass undeterred through the Strait of Gibraltar and even north of the thirty-sixth parallel, north latitude, and to move past Allied convoys without interruption if they kept clear after being so warned. Should they fail to keep clear, they were then to be destroyed but Allied ships were to avoid, as far as possible, firing the first shot. Unescorted submarines outside territorial waters and darkened ships which withheld identification would be treated as hostile. French airplanes would be treated as hostile when approaching Allied ships or Gibraltar prior to the landings.

Once the landings began, airplanes, merchant ships, and naval vessels which were preparing to get under way, or which disregarded orders from an Allied commander; any ship which attempted to scuttle itself, or which failed to identify itself properly if encountered at night; and any shore battery or other defensive installation or moored vessel on which activity indicated hostile intentions-all were at once to be treated as hostile. No action against French air bases would be taken before the assault, but Gibraltar would be defended against air attack at all times.

Once it was deemed necessary to engage in offensive action in a certain area the action was to be opened with maximum intensity and pressed with the utmost vigor until all active resistance was terminated. Commanders were empowered to interpret the hostile action of one unit in an area as an indication of similar intent on the part of all other units in that area if attendant circumstances seemed to justify such an interpretation. When the resistance ceased, offensive action was also to be suspended until its resumption clearly became necessary. Unnecessary damage to ships and harbor installations was to be avoided by every possible precaution.

A rather detailed set of rules covering the treatment of Vichy French merchant shipping was drafted at Allied Force Headquarters, but later these were rejected by the Joint Chiefs as unnecessarily restrictive upon the commander in chief; the accepted principles of international law were to be followed by him, and need not be spelled out.

The ultimate status of the French colonies and of the government at Vichy was a question of high policy for decision by the President and the Prime Minister. Were the Allies going to bring into existence an independent French government in French North Africa, rivaling that of Vichy, or were they even to promote the disruption of the government at Vichy? The President, when faced with this issue, finally asserted that he had no policy to acknowledge other than that of defeating the Axis powers and of preserving French administration in the French colonies. The propaganda plans were adjusted to bring them into full conformity with this policy, submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, and the resulting directive was issued by Allied Force Headquarters as its General Order 4.

The occupation of French North Africa was, in accordance with the strategic decisions reached during the planning phase, to be executed by forces of both the United States and Great Britain, and directed by an Allied commander in chief aided by a combined staff of both nationalities. The three major objectives of the assault landings were Algiers, Oran, and Casablanca, each to be taken by a force under an American ground commander. The Eastern Assault Force attacking Algiers would contain British and American troops, landing from British and American transports, protected by British naval elements, and supported by British air units, initially carrier-borne and later land-based. The Center Task Force attacking Oran was to consist of American ground troops, conveyed and supported by the Royal Navy, and aided by British carrier-borne and American land-based aviation.

The Western Task Force attacking Casablanca was to be American in all three components. Allied leaders hoped that the French forces in North Africa would at first either welcome the invasion or at most furnish but nominal resistance, and that in the end they would join the Allies in military operations for the liberation of France. The Allies would therefore approach French North Africa prepared to fight but preferring an amicable association in arms.

SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe

World War Two: North Africa (1); Setting the Stage; The Axis 1940-42

World News Headlines: 01-22-2019


New France-Germany treaty aims to revive EU; A follow-up pact to the Elysee Treaty marks the latest gesture of friendship between France and Germany. The new bilateral pact pledges deeper cooperation between the two nations and paves the way for EU reforms. As they mark the 56th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty in the German city of Aachen on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel will sign a new friendship treaty that is designed to deepen the Franco-German friendship, bring ties to a “new level” and improve the lives of citizens in both countries.The idea isn’t new. Paris, in particular, has regularly suggested renewing the treaty in the decades since it was first signed, despite the fact that amendments have been added over the years.

Mexico sets new murder record with more than 33,000 killed in 2018; Mexico saw more murders in 2018 than any other year since nationwide records began some two decades ago, according to the country’s Interior Ministry. Mexico might soon get a national guard tasked with combating crime. ith drug-related crimes and gang violence rife across Mexico, investigators opened 33,341 murder probes in 2018, setting a new record, according to the latest data published by the nation’s authorities. Men make up the overwhelming majority of the victims, with 861 women losing their lives last year. The number of murders logged in 2018 is also the biggest since the national records began in 1997. The data showed a total increase of some 15.5 percent compared to all murders in 2017. Mexico logged 28,866 murders in 2017, far outpacing the much larger US where the FBI noted 17,284 instances of “murder and non-negligent manslaughter” during the same time. Mexico’s population is about 130 million, compared to the US population of about 326 million.

Germany deports record number of refugees to other EU states; Most of the asylum-seekers that were deported were sent to Italy. The deportations follow the EU’s Dublin III rule, which states that applications must be processed in the first country of arrival.In 2018, more refugees were transferred from Germany to other EU member states than ever before, according to an Interior Ministry report obtained by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. The report was a response to a parliamentary inquiry by the Left Party. Some 8,658 asylum-seekers who were required to leave Germany did so between January and the end of November 2018. The previous year, 7,102 were deported to other states. As such, the proportion of completed transfers from Germany to other EU countries saw a rise from 15.1 percent in 2017 to 24.5 percent in 2018. The deportations follow the EU’s Dublin III rule, which states that the country where a refugee first entered Europe is responsible for handling his or her application.

France fines Google €50 million for EU privacy breaches; The biggest penalty so far under new EU rules was justified by the severity of the infringements of transparency, information and consent, France’s regulator ruled. It is a challenge to Google’s business model. The €50 million ($57 million) fine on the US company whose revenues for 2017 were $109.65 billion was due to a lack of transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data. “The data-processing purposes, the data storage periods or the categories of personal data used for the ads’ personalization” were spread over a series of documents, pages and settings, the ruling’s text said. Google had also failed to properly obtain users’ consent for personalized adverts, according to the ruling.

Zimbabwe president pledges probe into protest crackdown; Unrest over a sharp increase in fuel prices had got so bad that Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut short an investment-seeking trip to Europe. He promised to investigate “unacceptable” violence by security forces. Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday defended the decision to raise fuel prices as the “right thing to do” to stabililze supply. A crackdown against the protests that followed, however, led to the deaths of at least 12 people. The events were “regrettable,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter and added that “violence or misconduct by security forces was unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe … and will be investigated.”

Venezuela captures troops rebelling in Caracas; Security forces in Venezuela have arrested 27 members of the National Guard who took part in a public mutiny against the regime of Nicolas Maduro. Previously, the guardsmen urged Venezuelans to take to the streets.Venezuela’s military put down an uprising by a group of soldiers in Caracas on Monday, after surrounding a command post claimed by the mutineers and arresting 25 soldiers. Another two were arrested at a different location, officials said. “They were neutralized, surrendered and captured in record time,” Diosdado Cabello, a close aide of President Nicolas Maduro, said of the rebelling troops. “They are already confessing details and the first thing they said is that they were offered villas and castles but were left alone, they were tricked,” he added, without providing details.

FRANCE (France24)

Hundreds killed in Yumbi, DR Congo: ‘People were finished off with machetes’; The massacre took place in Yumbi, a town on the banks of the Congo River, and in several surrounding villages. Most of the people in this area are from the Batende community. The largest minority group is the Banunu. According to Gentiny Ngobila, the governor of Mai-Ndombe province, an estimated 200,000 people live in and around Yumbi, with about 40,000 living in the town itself. In late December, several photos, seemingly taken in Yumbi during the massacre and in the days following, started circulating on social media. However, it was difficult to verify their origin, especially because there was an internet blackout in the country, which lasted from December 31 – the day after the presidential election – through January 19.

France summons Italian envoy after Di Maio’s ‘unacceptable’ Africa comments; he ambassador was summoned on Monday after the “unacceptable and groundless” comments by Di Maio on Sunday, a source in the cabinet of France’s Europe Minister Natalie Loiseau told AFP on condition of anonymity. Di Maio made a series of incendiary remarks while visiting the Abruzzo region in central Italy, the latest sign of serious tensions between the populist government in Rome and France’s centrist leader Emmanuel Macron. “The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” Di Maio said.“If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries,” added the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), which governs alongside the far-right League party. The International Organization for Migration said at the weekend that more than 100 people were feared missing after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Libya.

African Union delays DR Congo mission over disputed presidential vote; “All I can confirm at this time is that the trip has been postponed. We will release a statement shortly,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for the head of the AU Commission, Chadian Moussa Faki.This comment comes after an AU source earlier had said the pan-African organisation was cancelling its trip to Democratic Republic of Congo. At a summit on Thursday, AU leaders had cited “serious doubts” about the election figures and called for the announcement of the final results to be delayed.The European Union concurred with the AU assessment, a spokeswoman had said. But the 16-nation Southern African Development Community congratulated Felix Tshisekedi, a longtime opposition leader, on Sunday for being declared president-elect and called for a peaceful handover of power. The AU mission to Kinshasa, to be led by Faki and AU chairman Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, had originally been set for Monday.


Carlos Ghosn denied bail again; A Tokyo court has shot down another bail request by Nissan Motor’s former Chairman. Carlos Ghosn has been in custody for over 2 months. That period is likely to stretch even longer with little prospects he will be released any time soon. His lawyers are expected to appeal the decision. This is the second time his defense team had applied for bail, after Ghosn’s most recent indictment earlier this month. He was charged with aggravated breach of trust and for underreporting his compensation. In his first appeal, he asked to stay in France and travel to Tokyo for court appearances. It’s believed the request was denied to protect the ongoing investigation and reduce the risk of evidence tampering. This time, he promised to stay in Japan, wear a monitoring device and respect any other bail conditions. But the court once again rejected the request. In Japan, defendants under investigation by special prosecutors tend to be detained a long time when they deny the charges as Ghosn does.

Labor ministry probe focuses on possible cover-up; A committee investigating the faulty statistics survey of Japan’s labor ministry is focused on whether there was systematic involvement in misconduct or cover-ups.The labor ministry was supposed to cover all large businesses in Tokyo for its monthly statistics report on wages and hours, but was found to have been surveying only a fraction of them. A special panel of outside lawyers and statistics experts met behind closed doors on Tuesday and made adjustments to finalize a report. They examined a manual used at the section in charge of the survey in 2004. It said accuracy can be ensured even if the survey does not cover all businesses. Panel members say this phrase was deleted from the manual in 2015, but the substandard practice continued, indicating that officials recognized the wrongdoing and were trying to conceal their actions. The panel has already finished questioning relevant officials. The ministry plans to impose punishments based on the results of the panel’s probe.

Japan to resume Iranian oil imports; Japan is reportedly preparing to receive its first shipments of oil from Iran since an embargo was announced. Iran’s central bank governor, Abdolnaser Hemati, said on Monday that Japan has begun conducting operations so that the imports can resume, following similar moves by China and South Korea. The administration of Donald Trump rolled out the economic sanctions on Iran in November last year, covering crude oil. But Washington granted Japan and seven other countries an exemption. They can keep buying Iranian oil for 180 days, to May this year. Major Japanese oil wholesaler Showa Shell Sekiyu is already preparing to transport the crude. Japan’s largest oil wholesaler, JXTG Holdings, is expected soon to follow suit.
Japan plans to negotiate with the US over extending the temporary exemption, so that its Iranian oil imports can continue flowing.

US-N.Korea talks in Sweden likely ended; US and North Korean officials appear to have met in Sweden, following the announcement by the US of a second summit next month. The US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui spent three days at a facility near the capital Stockholm. The two left for their respective embassies in the country on Monday. It was the first time top working-level negotiators from the two countries were in contact since the White House announced plans for a second US-North Korea summit in late February. Neither of the officials took questions from reporters, but they are believed to have discussed the denuclearization process. The Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau chief, Kenji Kanasugi, later visited the US Embassy in Stockholm, apparently to get a briefing from Biegun on the US-North Korean negotiations. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held separate conference calls with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. They are reported to have discussed how to proceed with negotiations with Pyongyang.

World War Two: Papuan Campaign (11B); First Two Weeks at Buna (Attack on the left)

Things had gone no better on General Harding’s left flank. Colonel Smith’s 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, had begun moving from Ango toward Buna during the morning of 21 November. The battalion’s orders were to advance on Buna Mission by way of the Triangle, the jungle-covered track junction from which the Dobodura-Buna track forked to Buna Village and Buna Mission.

Captain Yasuda, whose Yokosuka 5th, Sasebo 5th, and supporting naval pioneer troops totaled more than double the strength of Smith’s battalion, was ready. He had a series of concealed machine gun positions south of the Triangle covering the track, and an elaborate system of bunkers in the Triangle itself. There was heavy swamp on either side of the Triangle, and the bunkers had the effect of turning it into a position of almost impregnable strength. Strong bunker positions in the Coconut Grove north of the Triangle, and in the Government Gardens northeast of it, lay astride the trails leading to the village and the mission, both of which were also honeycombed with bunkers.

Yasuda’s defensive position was excellent. His short, secure, interior lines of communication enabled him to concentrate almost his full strength at any threatened point and, when the threat passed, or he chose to withdraw, to use the same troops to beat off another attack elsewhere.

The 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, moving forward toward the Triangle along the Dobodura-Buna track, knew nothing of the Japanese defenses in the area and very little about the terrain. At 1330 Sergeant Irving W. Hall of Company F, leading the point, caught a swift glimpse of an enemy machine gun about fifty yards away. Coolly turning his back on the gun so as to give the impression that he had not seen it, Hall motioned his men off the track. Before the Japanese knew what he was up to he turned around and fired a burst at them from his submachine gun. In the heavy fire fight that ensued, the point suffered one casualty.

Stopped on the trail by apparently strong enemy positions, Colonel Smith at once began flanking operations. Company G was ordered to move out on the right and Company F on the left. Company H was given orders to engage the enemy frontally, and Company E went into reserve.

At 2130, Colonel Smith reported to General Harding that he had run into opposition at the junction and that, while he was moving forward slowly on either side of that position in an attempt to flank it, he was being delayed by heavy swamp which was causing him more trouble than the enemy. General Harding immediately asked New Guinea Force to reinforce Smith with a battalion of the 126th Infantry from the other side of the Girua. Harding pointed out that it could march directly to Buna via the Soputa-Buna track.

[NOTE: Msg, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert A. Smith to General Harding, Ser 1100, 1101, 21 Nov 42; Msg, General Harding to NGF, No. 1099 [sic], 21 Nov 42. Both in 32nd Div G-2, G-3 Jnl. The fact that the serial of General Harding’s message to New Guinea Force is lower than the serials on the messages from Colonel Smith to General Harding was apparently due to an error in filing, since the messages from Smith were received at 32nd Division headquarters at 2130, and Harding’s message to New Guinea Force did not go out until 2205—thirty-five minutes later.]

General Herring quickly acceded to General Harding’s request and ordered the 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry, across the river. Major Herbert M. Smith, commanding officer of that battalion, reached Colonel Smith’s command post at 0930, 23 November. The two 2nd Battalions thereupon took the name of Urbana Force, and Colonel Smith, as senior officer present, took command. To avoid confusion in radio messages, General Harding designated Colonel Smith as White Smith, and Major Smith as Red Smith.

The terrain Urbana Force had run into, especially on the right, was (as Colonel Smith had already intimated to General Harding) appalling. The main track was deep in mud, and Company G, 128th Infantry, attempting to advance on the right, hit stretches of swamp in which the troops sometimes found themselves up to their necks in water. Company F, 128th Infantry, met better terrain on the left but discovered that Entrance Creek, which paralleled the left-hand fork of the Triangle, not only was tidal and unfordable but seemed to be covered by enemy machine guns at every likely crossing.

Company G’s experience in the swamp had been particularly wearing. The men had moved out into the swamp to the right of the Triangle in the late afternoon of 21 November. As they made their way eastward, darkness fell. The acting company commander, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Florey, decided to go on, but the swamp kept getting deeper. Since there seemed to be little chance of reaching dry ground before morning, Florey finally called a halt at 2100. The company spent a miserable night. A few of the men were able to find perches on the roots of trees, but the rest waited in the mire for morning. Wet to the skin and in need of sleep, the men started moving again at daybreak.

After a slow and difficult march, they hit dry land at about noon. Taking their bearings, the troops discovered that they were on one of two kunai flats running southeast of the Triangle, and that only about 200 yards of sago swamp lay between them and the flat adjacent to their objective.

Though he now had a company in position to strike, Colonel Smith had grave doubts whether an attack from that quarter would be practicable. Reports from Company G, from the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, which was carrying rations forward to it, as well as from wire-laying parties of Headquarters Company, which were having a difficult time laying wire on the right, convinced him that it would be virtually out of the question to try to supply Company G in the terrain in which it found itself. Since the reports from Company F were much more favorable and indicated that the swamp on the left of the Triangle was never more than waist-deep, he decided to pull Company G back from its untenable position on the right and concentrate his entire force on the left where the going, though far from good, was obviously much better.

On 23 November Colonel Smith sent a message to division headquarters informing it of his plan. The supply route to Company G, he wrote, was “neck-deep in mud and water,” and he asked permission for the company’s withdrawal. After waiting until about 1400 for a reply and receiving none, Smith ordered the company to pull out of the swamp and report to him for further orders. So ordered, the company severed its wire connection with battalion headquarters and started for the rear. Division headquarters had received Smith’s message about 1400 and, because of an error on the part of the decoding clerk, understood it to say that the supply route to Company G was “knee-deep in mud and water,” and not, as Colonel Smith sent it, “neck-deep.” The headquarters replied at 1425 that Smith was under no circumstances to with- draw, but was instead to proceed with the attack.

Colonel Smith sent a messenger to intercept Company G and return it to its former position. Having only limited knowledge of the enemy positions he was supposed to attack, he asked division for a delay of a day or two in which to learn more about the enemy and the terrain, and perhaps find a better route of supply to Company G. Division would not give him the time. At 2045 it informed him that there would be an air strike on the Triangle at 0800 the next morning, 24 December, following which he and Major Smith were to attack.

At 2330 the two Smiths held a staff meeting at Colonel Smith’s command post, 1,200 yards south of the nearest Japanese positions below the Triangle. There they worked out a plan which envisaged simultaneous thrusts at the Triangle from left, front, and right. The three-way attack would be preceded by air bombardment and strafing scheduled for 0800, and the troops were to jump off as soon as the air attack was over. Four 25-pounders which had just reached Dobodura that day would fire from Ango in support of the attack as soon as they got the range.

The attack opened at 0800 the next morning with an attempt by the air force to strafe the Triangle. Twelve P-40’s made one pass over the objective and missed it altogether. No bombers followed the fighters, and there was no attempt by the P-40’s to try to hit the Triangle again, since they apparently thought they had executed their mission.

Because the air attack had been a complete failure, the ground attack was held up to give the air force a chance to try again. It was arranged that this time eight P-39’s and four P-40’s would attack at 1355. There was to be no bombardment, since no bombers were available.

At the appointed time only the four P-40’s showed up. Instead of strafing the Japanese in the Triangle, they strafed Colonel Smith’s command post. Fortunately only one man was wounded in the strafing, and he only slightly, but the Japanese positions in the Triangle were left completely untouched.

After the last of the P-40’s had finished strafing his command post, Colonel Smith waited a few moments to see if any more planes would follow. No more planes arrived; so he ordered the attack to begin without further support from the air force. Following a short mortar preparation, principally by the 60-mm. mortars (the two battalions then had only two 81-mm. mortars apiece and little ammunition for them), the troops jumped off at 1428. At 1437 the 25-pounders at Ango found the range, and joined in the attack.

On the left, Company E, 126th Infantry, began by swinging wide around Entrance Creek; then it moved north about 400 yards and turned northeast. Just as it had finished covering another 400 yards and was approaching a small bridge over the creek northwest of the Triangle, a strong Japanese force struck with accurate machine gun fire. The troops dug in at once in foxholes which immediately filled with water. They went no further that day.

Company F, 126th Infantry, though soon joined by Company H, Colonel Smith’s heavy weapons company, did little in its frontal attack on the Triangle. It moved forward about 300 yards, only to find heavy barbed wire entanglements strung across the track. The enemy covering the wire was laying down intense fire. Having neither wire cutters nor the materials with which to make Bangalore torpedoes, the Americans dug in and requested engineers with explosives to clear the way.

Companies E and G, 128th Infantry, on the right, fared worst of all. Using newly found short cuts through the deep swamp, Company E managed to reach the kunai flat in much less time than Company G had taken to reach it after its groping efforts of 21 November. The men of Company E therefore joined up with Company G in plenty of time for the attack.

Leaving its weapons platoon on the flat with Company E, Company G under Lieutenant Florey started moving northwest through the sago swamp to flank the Triangle. A little less than 200 yards out, the leading platoon came upon a small grassy area, just outside the Triangle, where it surprised a group of Japanese working on what appeared to be an antiaircraft position.

The Americans opened fire, but there were more Japanese about than they thought, and the company, after suffering several casualties, was forced back into the swamp. Attempts to maneuver around the grassy strip were unsuccessful because of intense automatic weapons fire which greeted the company at every turn. Darkness found the troops pinned down at the edge of the strip, where the slope of the ground leading into the swamp afforded them a little cover.

While the main body of Company G was held up just outside the right-hand fork of the Triangle, the Japanese from the Government Gardens moved forward to within firing distance of the kunai flat held by Company E and the weapons platoon of Company G. They attacked just as it was turning dark, killing one man and wounding five others and greatly disheartening the troops on the flat, most of whom were under enemy fire for the first time.

The weapons platoon of Company G had had two days to get its weapons in order after its march through the swamp, and Company E had been on the kunai flat five or six hours, long enough for it to do the same. But the Americans apparently lacked oil, and parts of the equipment were wet, and they may have been negligent. Whatever the reason, when they were caught in the open, with the sounds of Japanese yells coming from a short distance away, the men tried to hit back at the unseen enemy as best they could, only to find that their weapons would not function properly. “. . . Mortars fell short because increments [the propelling charges in the mortar ammunition] were wet. Machine guns jammed because web belts were wet and dirty and had shrunk. Tommy guns and BAR’s were full of muck and dirt, and even the M1’s fired well only for the first clip, and then jammed because clips taken from the belts were wet and full of muck from the swamp.” Low on ammunition, completely out of food, and fearing that they had been ambushed, the troops pulled back hastily into the swamp, leaving some of their crew-served weapons behind them.

Colonel Smith in the meantime had been in communication with Company E by telephone. Learning that the Japanese attack had driven the company off the flat and into the swamp, he ordered the troops to remain where they were until he could come up in the morning and give them further instructions. At that point the phone went dead, and Smith could make no further contact with the two companies.

Company E was at this time strung out in a single file all the way back from the kunai flat, with the weapons platoon of Company G somewhere in the middle of the line. At the far end of the line, nearest to battalion, was the executive officer of Company E, 1st Lieutenant Orin Rogers, and at the head of it, nearest to the flat and the dead telephone, was the commanding officer of Company E, Captain A. T. Bakken.

Shortly after darkness fell, an order passed along the line to Lieutenant Rogers to move back to the battalion command post. Rogers assumed at the time that the phone at Captain Bakken’s end of the line was working again and that there had been a change in orders. He nevertheless made it a point to ask if the order had come from the captain. The answer came back a few minutes later that it had. Thinking no more of the matter, Rogers started the lead troops back to the command post. At the other end of the line, Captain Bakken had also received an order to move to the rear. Knowing that the phone near him was out, he assumed that a messenger from battalion headquarters had delivered such a message to Lieutenant Rogers. Just to make sure, he asked whether the message had come from battalion headquarters. The answer came back (again via the chain method) that it had, and the entire column started moving to the rear, the weapons platoon of Company G with it.[NOTE 39C]

[NOTE 39C: Ltr, Colonel Herbert A. Smith to author, 20 Jan 50. Despite a thorough investigation of the matter, Colonel Smith was never able to find out who originated the message for the troops to return to the rear. As he put it in the letter cited above: “A number of men told of passing the messages back and forth, but no one could say definitely where they originated, and many of the men did not even know who stood next to them, especially where Company E and the Weapons Platoon of Company G were badly intermingled.”]

The rest of Company G, under Lieutenant Florey, still pinned down just outside the grassy strip leading to the Triangle, had sent a runner back with orders to the weapons platoon to bring up more mortars. The runner returned with the report that Company E and the weapons platoon were gone. An officer was sent back to the kunai flat to check. When he returned with confirmation of the report, Company G, after waiting for further orders and receiving none, also began to move to the rear.

Company E, 128th Infantry, and the weapons platoon of Company G reached Colonel Smith’s command post in the early morning hours of 25 November, and Company G, except for a few stragglers, arrived there by 1007. At 1020 Colonel Smith, who only the night before had informed General Harding that he had instructed the men to remain near the edge of the kunai flat until morning, gave “faulty communication” as the reason for their return to the rear in apparent contravention of his orders.

Because the men were exhausted and hungry, and also because he did not believe that an attack on the right would succeed, Smith decided against ordering the men back into the swamp. His decision, as he himself phrased it, was “to abandon for the time being any action on the right and concentrate on the left, and to continue patrolling on the right in the hope of finding a more suitable route forward.”

Though he now shared Colonel Smith’s views about the impracticality of an attack on the right and the need to make the main effort on the left, General Harding had gone one step further in his thinking. A study of the trail which led from the left hand fork of the Triangle to Buna Village and Buna Mission had convinced him that it would be possible to bypass the Triangle and at the same time take both the village and the mission, if troops could be gotten onto the large grassy area northwest of the Triangle through which, in his own phrase, “the left hand road to Buna” ran. He therefore ordered Smith to contain the Triangle with a portion of his troops and to deploy the rest in the swamp south of the grassy area in question, preparatory to seizing it and moving westward on Buna Village.

Smith began deploying his troops in accordance with this tactical plan early on 26 November. Company F, 128th Infantry, and Company G, 126th Infantry, moved into the area west of the bridge over Entrance Creek which had been occupied and patrolled by Company E, 126th Infantry, since 24 November.

The troops had scarcely begun moving when General Harding, who had for some time felt that the attack on the Urbana front was not being pressed with sufficient vigor, ordered his chief of staff, Colonel John W. Mott, to that front. Mott’s instructions were to take strong action when he got there and, if he thought the situation required it, to take command.

Colonel Mott reached Colonel Smith’s command post on the afternoon of the 27th. Surveying the situation quickly, he came to the conclusion that he would have to assume command and did so at once. He relieved the captains of Companies E and G, 128th Infantry, of their commands and ordered them to take patrols into the area forward of the kunai flat from which the Japanese had driven Company E and the weapons platoon of Company G two days before. In addition, he ordered Companies E and G under their new commanders to retrieve their abandoned weapons on the kunai flat. They did so by sundown, but Company E returned without one of its mortars and had to be sent back a second time to get it.

Mott at once prepared to attack. He adopted a suggestion made to him by Major Smith, that the attack on the grassy strip leading to the village be mounted initially from two smaller grass strips just south of the larger kunai patch, and made his dispositions accordingly. Major Smith’s battalion was ordered to assemble near the Girua River, directly below the two strips that Smith had proposed as the jump-off point for the attack. Company F, 128th Infantry, occupied the area west of the bridge over Entrance Creek. Companies G and H, under Colonel Smith, were ordered to take over the positions south of the Triangle in order to contain the enemy there. Company E, left in reserve, was deployed around task force headquarters.

Mott reported his dispositions to General Harding on the evening of 28 November, and the division commander approved them. Following a suggestion from General Herring that he try night attacks, Harding ordered an attack on Buna Village that night. Pleading that he was not ready to attack, Mott asked for a twenty-four-hour delay. Harding granted his request, and the attack was set for the last night of the month—29-30 November.

The Attacks of 30 November: Integrating the Attacks

On the Warren front, a two-day lull had followed the reverse of 26 November. On the 28th General Harding ordered Colonel Hale to prepare to attack the next day. A report that evening, subsequently found to be false, that the Japanese were making a ground attack on Dobodura caused General Harding to postpone the attack to the early morning of the 30th.

Both Urbana Force and Warren Force were now scheduled to attack on the 30th, Urbana Force a few hours before Warren Force. Each was still suffering from the most acute deficiencies of supply, all but one of the luggers that had come in on 21 November having by this time either gone aground or been destroyed by the enemy.

Colonel Mott’s Attack

Preparations for the attack on the Urbana front were complete by evening of the 29th. In a large coconut tree that overlooked the front, Colonel Mott had an observation post connected by telephone with the artillery at Ango and the mortars. Both artillery and mortars were registered on the objective—the large grassy area just north of the two clearings below which Urbana Force was preparing the attack. Mott’s command post was a hundred yards behind the most forward element of Company E, 126th Infantry. His aid station and part of a collecting company were in place near the Girua River.

The final details of the attack were worked out with Major Smith. The troops would move off toward the main strip as soon after midnight as possible. A thirty minute mortar and artillery preparation would be laid down on the strip. Immediately afterward the men would proceed to their objective in darkness. Lacking white material for armbands, even underwear, the men would have to keep in close contact with one another. Companies E and F, 126th Infantry, would attack in a northeasterly direction and occupy the main strip, making sure that they first secured that part of it which was nearest to the Coconut Grove, a small coconut plantation immediately north of the bridge over Entrance Creek. Company G, 126th Infantry, would attack along the track and take Buna Village. Company F, 128th Infantry, after being relieved in its present positions by Company E, 128th Infantry, would proceed to Siwori Creek, seize the crossing near its mouth, and outpost the area between the creek and the Girua River. Company H, 128th Infantry, would be immediately behind Companies E and F, 126th Infantry, and would support them with fire. Company E, 128th Infantry, operating immediately to the right of Company E, 126th Infantry, would clear the Japanese out of the Coconut Grove. Company G, 128th Infantry, under Colonel Smith, would operate south of the Triangle and thus cover the track, the artillery at Ango, and the rear of the forces attacking toward Buna Village.

The jump-off was delayed. Enemy fire from the strip, flares from enemy aircraft that flew over the area during the night, the rising tide in the swamp, and the confusion attendant upon moving so many men through the treacherous swamp terrain in the dark held up the attack for several hours.

Robert H. Odell, then a lieutenant and platoon leader in Company F, 126th Infantry, has this recollection of the matter: As soon as it was dark, preparations began. When these were completed, we each grasped the shoulder of the man in front, and slowly shuffled forward in the pitch black of the night. Our only guide was the telephone wire leading to the jump-off point, and the troops in the foxholes along the way who had been holding the ground recently captured. There was no trail and consequently several hours were required to travel as many hundreds of yards. We all had bayonets. Rifle fire was forbidden until after the attack was well under way. Japs encountered along the way were to be dealt with silently.

At 0400, Companies E, F, and G, 126th Infantry, finally attacked. It was still dark, and about one hundred yards out, they made their first enemy contact—a line of machine gun posts dead ahead. At that moment, Odell recalls: All hell broke loose. There was more lead flying through the air … than it’s possible to estimate. Machine gun tracers lit the entire area, and our own rifle fire made a solid sheet of flame. Everywhere men cursed, shouted, or screamed. Order followed on order. . . .Brave men led and others followed. Cowards crouched in the grass literally frightened out of their skins. . . .The attack gathered momentum. The two companies—E and F, 126th Infantry—overran the enemy outposts and gained their objective—the eastern end of the main strip. There they found and dispatched an indeterminate number of Japanese, and began to consolidate.

Company G, 126th Infantry, which was to have taken the track to Buna Village as soon as it gained the western end of the strip, accomplished only part of its mission. Led by its commander, 1st Lieutenant Cladie A. Bailey, it overran strong enemy opposition on its part of the strip but lost its way when it tried moving toward the village. When daylight came, the company found itself in the swamp along the northern edge of the strip. Finding Company G out of reach, Colonel Mott immediately assigned Company E, 126th Infantry, to the task of taking the village. Moving directly on Buna Village by way of the main track, the company attacked at 0600. About 300 yards out of the village, it ran into a well-manned enemy bunker line and found itself unable to advance because of enemy crossfire.

On Major Smith’s orders Captain Harold E. Hantlemann of Company H came up with Lieutenant Nummer, commanding officer of Company F, and some troops from Headquarters Company. Putting Hantlemann in charge of the mortars, and Nummer in command of front-line action, Smith made a determined effort to take the village. Preceded by the heaviest concentration of mortar fire yet seen on the Urbana front, the second attack met even fiercer resistance than before. Again the troops could make only slight advances. When the attack was finally called off that afternoon, they had taken considerable casualties but gained very little ground. [Note 51C]

[NOTE 51C: 2nd Bn, 126th Inf, Jnl, 30 Nov 42; Colonel Mott’s Memo; Gen Harding’s Diary, 30 Nov 42; Ltr, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert M. Smith to author, 16 Mar 50. Lieutenant Nummer was wounded in the course of the attack but continued in command in spite of his wounds. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The same award, though posthumous, went to Sergeant Boyd L. Lincoln, a squad leader of Company E, 126th Infantry, who was killed that afternoon after leading his squad with great distinction all day against the enemy outpost on the outskirts of the village. Nummer’s citation is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 3, 6 Jan 43; Lincoln’s, in GO No. 1, 1 Jan 43.]

Company F, 128th Infantry, which had been given the task of securing the left flank of Urbana Force from enemy attack and cutting the enemy’s land communications between Buna and Sanananda, succeeded in its mission. It secured the crossing over Siwori Creek and out-posted the trail between it and the bridge over the Girua River. The troops east of Siwori Village had already killed several Japanese from Buna who had tried to cross the bridge, presumably to get to Giruwa or Sanananda.

The other companies of the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, had been less successful. Company E, attacking from the southeast end of the strip, failed to take the Coconut Grove, and Company G had very little success in its attacks into the southern tip of the Triangle. Both were subsequently ordered by Colonel Mott to contain these ob jectives and to make no attacks upon them until otherwise ordered.

In the mop-up of the large grassy strip, the troops overran a Japanese headquarters area from which apparently a considerable number of troops had very recently fled. The place consisted of a headquarters building, an infirmary, and several huts containing weapons, ammunition, food, and medicine. The two main buildings had bunkers to the rear with which they connected by tunnels. The buildings were of canvas and frame construction and had wooden floors covered with floor mats. When overrun, the headquarters building was strewn with military documents, codes, and diaries, and contained a large radio set which took eight men to carry. After removing the papers, the radio, the food, and the medical supplies, the buildings were burned to the ground and the connecting bunkers blown up.

Colonel Hale’s Attack

The attack on the Warren front, though more heavily supported than that on the Urbana front, was even less successful. By this time General Waldron and his second-in-command, Colonel McCreary, had opened an artillery command post at Dobodura and had established firing data for all known targets in the area. The Australian artillery consisted of the eight 25-pounders and two 3.7-inch mountain howitzers of the Manning, Hall, and O’Hare Troops. The Manning Troop, four 25-pounders, was north of Ango; the Hall Troop, the remaining 25-pounders, and the O’Hare Troop, the two mountain howitzers, were at Boreo.

A flight of Australian Wirraways had just arrived from Port Moresby to aid the artillery in its spotting of enemy targets, and one 105-mm. howitzer of Battery A, the 129th U.S. Field Artillery Battalion (the only U.S. field piece to be used in the campaign) had reached Debodura by air the day before with its crew and 400 rounds of ammunition. The gun, under command of Captain Elmer D. Kobs, was emplaced at Ango on the 30th, too late however to take part in the attack.

General Harding, more than ever convinced that it would take tanks to clean out the enemy bunker defenses in the Duropa Plantation, had meanwhile continued to plead for armor. He radioed General Johns of the Combined Operational Service Command (COSC) on 27 November and asked him to do his best to get the tanks at Milne Bay to him. He suggested that Johns try to get some of the Japanese landing barges captured on Goodenough Island in the hope that they might prove big enough for the task. New Guinea Force replied for Johns that there were no barges anywhere in the area big enough to carry the tanks, and that they were sending him Bren carriers instead. Thirteen carriers, tracked, lightly armored reconnaissance vehicles mounting Bren machine guns, arrived with their crews at Porlock Harbor from Milne Bay the same day, 27 November. Advised that at least four of the carriers would reach him in the next couple of days, Harding immediately drew up plans for their use by Warren Force on the 30th.

The plan of attack on the Warren front called for Colonel McCoy’s battalion (reorganized into two rifle companies and one heavy weapons company) to move straight up the track in column of companies, with Company A leading. The advance would be on a 350-yard front, and two of the Bren carriers would spearhead the attack. Colonel Carrier’s troops with the two remaining Brens leading, and the 2/6 Independent Company on its left, were to strike westward in the area immediately below the New Strip preparatory to a break-through in that area. Besides the Australians and the Bren carriers, four 81-mm. mortars from Company M, 128th Infantry, would support Carrier’s force. Colonel Miller’s battalion, less Company I, would be in reserve, ready to assist either McCoy or Carrier, as required. Company I would remain in its blocking position astride the Dobodura-Simemi track, a few hundred yards south of the bridge between the strips.

H Hour was to be 0630. Between H minus 15 and H Hour, the 25-pounders would lay down fire on the southwest end of the New Strip. Thereafter they would fire on the woods northeast of the strip to knock out known Japanese mortar and artillery concentrations. The 3.7-inch mountain guns would first fire a preparation on Cape Endaiadere and then switch to local support of Colonel McCoy’s advance. The air force, then fighting off an enemy convoy bound for Buna, would bomb and strafe enemy positions whenever it could find the planes to do so.

Because of an acute shortage of shipping at Porlock Harbor, the Bren carriers failed to arrive as scheduled, and the attack was launched without them. The 105-mm. howitzer was not yet ready to fire and took no part in the attack. Nor was there the usual preliminary air bombardment, since the air force was still busy with the enemy convoy.

The 25-pounders, the mountain guns, and the mortars opened up at 0615, and the troops jumped off at the appointed time, 0630. Allied bombers, after successfully chasing the enemy convoy back to Rabaul, joined in the fray at 0900. At 0945 there was a further friendly artillery barrage, and at 1345 and 1448 Allied planes came over again, strafing and bombing.

Despite this support, Warren Force made very little progress that day. Pressed tightly against the Japanese defensive positions and without tanks or enough heavy artillery using projectiles with delayed fuse to demolish the enemy fortifications, the Americans could make little headway. The troops fought desperately, but could not get through the enemy’s protective fire.

Company A, 128th Infantry, leading the attack along the coast, advanced less than a hundred yards when it ran into a massive log barricade which Colonel Yamamoto’s troops had thrown across the trail. Automatic fire from behind the barricade and from concealed positions on its left soon brought the company’s advance to a complete halt The artillery at Boreo was unable to reduce the barricade, and sustained fire from 81-mm. mortars and from a 37-mm. gun brought up specifically for the purpose seemed to make no impression upon it. By noon Company A had been definitely stopped, and the men began to dig in, in the intense heat of the day. When Company A was relieved by Company B that night, it was about 900 yards south of the Cape. Its right flank was still in front of the barricade, and its left, which had not kept up, was curved almost all the way back to the line of departure.

Colonel Carrier, on McCoy’s left, facing west, had fared a little better. Ordered to infiltrate the eastern end of the New Strip with a view to striking along its northern edge, Company B tried to fight north into the fork but was stopped by enemy fire from a strongpoint dominating the spur and the strip. Company C, with the Independent Company on its left, was to flank the strip by advancing westward along its southern edge. It advanced to about the center of the strip before enemy fire became so heavy that it too had to dig in. Except for the slight progress on Colonel Carrier’s front, the attack had again failed.

The situation was serious. Despite repeated attacks on it, the Japanese line stood intact. In the two weeks since the 32nd Division had marched out so confidently on the enemy positions at Buna, it had sustained 492 battle casualties but had made not so much as a single penetration of the enemy line. It was obvious that something would have to be done to intensify the attack. The bodies of many of those listed as missing in action were later recovered and went to swell the number killed.

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

World War Two: Papuan Campaign (11A); First Two Weeks at Buna (Attack on the right)

World War Two: Guadalcanal (9); Situation in December-General Patch Takes Command

By the end of November, the higher commanders in the Pacific clearly recognized that the 1st Marine Division needed to be relieved and evacuated to a healthier climate. The division had begun the first offensive undertaken by American ground troops in World War IL Despite the lack of the powerful air and surface support that American infantrymen in later campaigns were to take almost for granted, and in spite of air raids, naval bombardments, inadequate diet, inadequate armament, and resolute Japanese infantry attacks, it had captured and successfully defended an airfield of great importance. Its achievements were rewarded by the Presidential Unit Citation.

Marine battle casualties had not been excessive. Over 600 men of the division were killed in action or died of wounds and other causes between 7 August and 10 December 1942. During the same period the dead of other American units on Guadalcanal totaled 691. Over 2,100 sick and wounded men of the 1st Division had already been evacuated.

In the Solomon’s battle casualties did not accurately reflect a unit’s losses. Hospital admissions resulting from sickness must also be taken into account. Up to 10 December 1942, of the 10,635 casualties in the division, only 1,472 resulted from gunshot wounds; 5,749 malaria cases had put men out of action. In November malaria alone sent 3,283 into the hospital. Gastro-enteritis, which had struck nearly 500 men during August and September, materially decreased during the following months and in December only 12 cases appeared. War neuroses afflicted 100 during October when enemy bombardments had been heaviest, but in November only 13 were affected. These figures are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Many malaria victims were hospitalized more than once; many of the same men were also later killed or wounded. Thus the number of men in the division who were not hospitalized may have been larger than the statistics indicate. Yet many other malaria victims did not report for treatment, and many milder cases were not hospitalized.

The men who had remained on duty were ready for relief. They had endured months of intermittent combat, air raids, and naval attacks. Inadequate diet had caused nearly every man to lose weight. Secondary anemia was common. Weakness resulting from malnutrition, heat, and disease was causing an excessive number of march casualties in all units. Merely living in the Lunga perimeter was an ordeal in itself. Water was insufficient for bathing and laundry, and fungi frequently infected those who bathed in the rivers. The old October perimeter had included less than thirty square miles, so there were no real rest areas, nor any recreational facilities. Flies, attracted by unburied enemy corpses lying beyond the perimeter, harassed the troops constantly. They clustered so thickly that men messing in the open had to brush flies off their food with one hand while eating with the other.

As early as 3 November Halsey had wished to relieve the worn-out division, but he was unable to do so until he could send more fresh troops to Guadalcanal. The 43rd Division was already on its way to the South Pacific; the first elements of the division had arrived in the area in early October. On 3 November Harmon repeated an earlier request that General Marshall send the 25th Division, then assisting in the defense of the Hawaiian Islands, to the South Pacific.

While General Marshall had alerted the 25th Division for movement as early as 19 October, it was not then definitely decided whether the division was to go to the South or to the Southwest Pacific Area. One combat team of the 25th Division was to have left Pearl Harbor in November, but it was delayed when the ship aboard which it was to sail, the President Coolidge, sank on 26 October when it struck two U. S. mines off Espiritu Santo. The Coolidge was carrying the 172nd Regimental Combat Team of the 43rd Division.

On 30 November the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided to send to the South Pacific the 25th Division, commanded by Major General J. Lawton Collins. The 1st Marine Division was to be relieved, with the first echelon leaving in early December. It was to go to the Southwest Pacific Area to be rehabilitated and to provide General MacArthur with a division having amphibious training.

On Guadalcanal staff officers of the Americal Division, who had arrived in November and been working closely with the Marine division staff, were preparing to take over. At the beginning of December they moved into the Marine staff sections to acquaint themselves with the problems peculiar to Guadalcanal. The Americal Division’s supply sections completed an inventory of the stocks on the island, and on 1 December they assumed responsibility for supply. By 8 December all Army staff officers had assumed complete responsibility.

The selection of a commander to succeed General Vandegrift was left to General Harmon. He chose Major General Alexander M. Patch, commanding general of the Americal Division, to direct tactical operations on Guadalcanal. On 9 December General Patch relieved General Vandegrift, who was to leave with his division. The evacuation of the 1st Division began on the same day, when three ships carrying the 5th Marines sailed out of Sealark Channel for Australia. By the end of the month the rest of the division had followed.

General Patch, the new commander, born in 1889, was graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in 1913. He saw active service in France during World War I, taught military science and tactics at Staunton Military Academy in Virginia during three separate tours of duty, and was graduated from the Command and General Staff School and from the Army War College. From 1936 to 1941, he served on the Infantry Board at Fort Benning, with the 47th Infantry, and commanded the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Croft in South Carolina. Early in 1942 he had been ordered, as a brigadier general, to command the American force which had been organized to defend New Caledonia.

On 10 December 1942 the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area assumed somewhat the same status as the other island commands in the South Pacific. General Harmon became responsible for providing supplies for the troops. Admiral Turner was relieved of responsibility for defending Guadalcanal but was to retain responsibility for transporting troops and supplies to the area. General Patch was responsible to Admiral Halsey. His command included the Guadalcanal airfields, the seaplane base at Tulagi, and the naval bases as well as the troops of all services. The troops were then occupying Tulagi, the adjacent islands, and Koli Point, Lunga Point, and the Matanikau River-Point Cruz area on Guadalcanal. The mission given him was clear and direct: “eliminate all Japanese forces” on Guadalcanal.

Troop Strength

For the Americans on Guadalcanal October and November had been primarily periods of stubborn defense interspersed with hard-fought local offensives. The first half of December was a period of transition, a time of organization for offensive action while reinforcements were on their way. Prior to the relief of the 1st Marine Division American forces had included almost 40,000 men. Although in December there were about 25,000 Japanese troops on Guadalcanal, the Americans were not sure of the 17th Army’s precise strength or dispositions, and there always remained the dangerous possibility that it might be reinforced by the nocturnal Tokyo Express.

Prior to his assumption of command General Patch had estimated that he would require at least two reinforced divisions to hold the airfields, and three to prevent the Japanese from making any more landings. But there were then no other divisions in the South Pacific which could be spared. The 37th Division, the only other complete U. S. Army division in the South Pacific except the Americal, was then holding the strategically important Fiji Islands and could not be moved. The departure of the 1st Marine Division reduced troop strength so much that no major offensives could be undertaken until the 25th Division arrived. The Americal Division, the 147th Infantry, the reinforced 2nd and 8th Marines of the 2nd Marine Division, and the Marine defense battalions were the only ground forces available to General Patch during most of December, and most of these were needed to hold the ground already gained.

Most of the remaining units of the Americal Division reached Guadalcanal in December. The 132nd Regimental Combat Team (less the 1st Battalion and A Battery of the 247th Field Artillery Battalion) landed on 8 December. The 2nd Marine Division Signal Company and the 18th Naval Construction Battalion landed on 12 December, followed on 13 December by the 3rd Battalion, 182nd Infantry, and C Company, 2nd (Marine) Engineer Battalion. The next day more Americal Division units landed—the Mobile Combat Reconnaissance Squadron, the 1st Battalion, 132nd Infantry, A Battery of the 247th Field Artillery Battalion, and a detachment of the 39th Military Police Company. The 221st Field Artillery Battalion did not arrive until January 1943. These units were inexperienced, but the 164th and 182nd Regiments had seen heavy fighting.

The Americal Division was a unique Army unit, for it bore a name instead of a number and had been activated in New Caledonia instead of on United States territory. The name “Americal” is a contraction of the words America and New Caledonia. The division, activated in May 1942, was composed of elements of the force sent to defend New Caledonia in the early months of the war. Composed of infantry, artillery, and supporting units and led by General Patch, this task force had left the United States on 23 January 1942. After a short stay at Melbourne, Australia, it had reached Noumea, New Caledonia, on 12 March, to occupy and defend that island. New Caledonia, valuable as a military base and source of nickel, was a French colony held by the Vichy government during the first years of World War II until a popular uprising overthrew the Vichy governor and installed a member of General Charles de Gaulle’s Fighting French Forces. In co-operation with the Fighting French authorities, General Patch’s force had organized the defense of New Caledonia.

The main units of the Americal Division were the 132nd, 164th, and 182nd Infantry Regiments; the 221st, 245th, 246th, and 247th Field Artillery Battalions; the 57th Engineer Combat Battalion; the 101st Quartermaster Regiment; the 101st Medical Regiment; the 26th Signal Company, and the Mobile Combat Reconnaissance Squadron. The division, which had been widely dispersed in New Caledonia, was to operate on Guadalcanal as a complete division for the first time.

The first element of the division to land on Guadalcanal was the 164th Infantry, a part of the North Dakota National Guard. It was followed by a Massachusetts National Guard regiment, the 182nd Infantry. The units of the Americal which served with the 1st Marine Division also received the Presidential Unit Citation. The 132nd Infantry, of the Illinois National Guard, arrived last. The division’s artillery battalions came from the old 72nd and 180th Field Artillery Regiments. The Mobile Combat Reconnaissance Squadron, equipped with jeeps, rifles, machine guns, automatic rifles, mortars, and 37-mm. antitank guns, was a special unit which had been organized in New Caledonia by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander M. George to provide a mobile striking force to strengthen the defense of the island. Guadalcanal’s terrain was too rough and densely jungled for motorized combat units, however, and the squadron fought on foot.

Brigadier General Edmund B. Sebree, then assistant division commander and soon to command the division, was by December a veteran of Guadalcanal. He had reached the island in early November, had conducted the closing phase of the Koli Point action, and had commanded part of the perimeter defense. On General Vandegrift’s order he had directed the offensive of 18 November which, though it bogged down short of the Poha River, succeeded in establishing the American lines west of the Matanikau River.

There were no experienced fresh troops on Guadalcanal in early December. The 132nd Infantry was fresh but untried, and the veteran Marine and Army units were in little better condition than the 1st Marine Division. All were suffering from general debility, battle weariness, and malaria, and most of the Americal Division units were understrength. On 11 December the Americal Division numbered 13,169 men—23 officers and 3,102 enlisted men below full strength. The 132nd, 164th, and 182nd Infantry Regiments, with an authorized strength of 3,325 men each, lacked 329, 864, and 869 men, respectively.

General Harmon resorted to emergency measures to increase the strength of the forces on Guadalcanal. With Admiral Halsey’s approval, he ordered the ships bearing the 25th Division from Hawaii to sail to Guadalcanal without reloading at New Caledonia. In doing so General Harmon knowingly took a risk, for, as General Marshall warned him on 7 December, shipping space had been too limited for combat-loading, or even unit-loading the ships before they left Pearl Harbor. Discharging these ships in the forward area would be dangerous.

But in view of General Patch’s urgent need for more troops, combat-loading the 25th Division’s ships at Noumea, where dockside congestion had caused a crisis, would delay the landing of the division on Guadalcanal by six weeks—until early February 1943. General Harmon therefore carried out his plan despite the dangers involved, and the 25th Division, protected by air and surface forces, went to Guadalcanal without taking time to reload at Noumea. The 35th Regimental Combat Team landed at Beach Red on 17 December; it was followed by the 27th Regimental Combat Team on 1 January 1943, and by the 161st Regimental Combat Team on 4 January. All units landed without loss. On 4 January 2nd Marine Division headquarters and the 6th Marines, Reinforced, having moved up from New Zealand, also landed, thereby bringing the 2nd Marine Division to nearly full strength. General Patch had now, in addition to miscellaneous units, three divisions.

The additional duties assumed by General Patch’s staff during December imposed heavy burdens upon it. Americal Division headquarters, the highest headquarters on Guadalcanal in December, had been acting as a full corps headquarters—acting simultaneously as island headquarters, Americal Division headquarters, and headquarters for part of the 2nd Marine Division. To remedy this situation, General Harmon recommended to General Marshall that a corps headquarters be designated for the Guadalcanal-Tulagi area. General Marshall, who on 5 December had informed General Harmon that all Army Air Force units in the South Pacific Area were to be designated the Thirteenth Air Force, acceded to this request, and on 2 January 1943 General Harmon activated the XIV Corps. The Corps consisted of the Americal and 25th Divisions, with the 2nd Marine Division and other Marine ground forces attached.

General Patch was given the command of the XIV Corps, and General Sebree succeeded to command of the Americal Division. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, VIII Corps, then in the United States, was re-designated and assigned to the XIV Corps, and in late December Brigadier General Robert L. Spragins arrived to assume his duties as XIV Corps chief of staff. The XIV Corps’ staff section chiefs assumed their duties on 5 January 1943, but most of the posts at XIV Corps headquarters were manned by Americal Division staff officers. The Americal Division staff section chiefs acted simultaneously for their division and as assistant staff section chiefs for the Corps. As late as 1 February 1943 XIV Corps headquarters proper consisted of only eleven officers and two enlisted men. The Corps was not only insufficiently staffed, but also lacked service troops and organic corps artillery. It used the 155-mm. guns of the defense battalions and the Army coast artillery battery as corps artillery.

The arrival of reinforcements in late December and early January increased American strength on Guadalcanal sufficiently to make possible the opening of large-scale offensive operations. By 7 January 1943 Allied air, ground, and naval forces in the Guadalcanal area totaled about 50,000 men. The Americal Division numbered about 16,000; the 25th Division, 12,629; the 2nd Marine Division, 14,733.25

Air Power

By December the difficulties and shortages which had limited the campaigns in the South and Southwest Pacific were partially overcome. In the Solomon’s, Allied air strength was on the increase. Control of the air and the sea in the southern Solomon’s enabled Halsey and Turner to send troops and supplies to Guadalcanal regularly. The number of heavy Army bombers in the South Pacific had increased. The veteran 11th Heavy Bombardment Group had been operating in the theater since July, and in November it was reinforced by the 5th Heavy Bombardment Group and the 12th and 44th Fighter Squadrons, which arrived at Espiritu Santo from Hawaii.

By November forty B-17’s of the two groups were operating in the Solomon’s, and General Harmon released heavy bombers of the 90th Bombardment Group which he had been authorized to divert en route to the Southwest Pacific. On 20 October twin-engined Army fighter planes (P-38’s) had arrived in the South Pacific, but not until November, when Henderson Field was safe from shell fire, could they be based at Guadalcanal. When heavy bombers from Henderson Field raided Buin on 18 November, P-38’s escorted the B-17’s all the way for the first time.

Unfortunately the B-17’s frequently had to be diverted from bombardment to patrol missions. The Navy’s twin-engined flying boats (PBY’s) were too vulnerable to enemy attack. The B-17’s, on the other hand, could patrol over long stretches of water, locate enemy convoys, and beat off attacking Japanese fighter planes. The effectiveness of heavy bombers was also diminished by the fact that most fixed enemy objectives lay beyond the range of bombers based at spiritu Santo. The heavy bombers when not flying patrol missions were usually limited to the bombardment of shipping and thus did not meet with conspicuous success as compared with the dive bombers and torpedo bombers which the Navy had designed for just such work. A sustained air offensive against the enemy in the northern Solomon’s could not be mounted until a strong bomber force was permanently based at Henderson Field.

[NOTE-25XK: XIV Corps Strength Rpt, 7 Jan 43, in Amer Div Strength Rpt. Figures in the Corps report, incorrectly totaled, have been corrected. The Corps’ report does not show the 221st Field Artillery Battalion, which landed on 4 January 1943. As strength figures for this battalion for 7 January 1943 have not yet been found, those for 1 February 1943 have been used to reach the approximately correct figure.]

Allied air power on Guadalcanal had greatly increased since the grim days in October. On 23 November General Vandegrift reported that eighty-four U. S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Royal New Zealand Air Force planes were operating from Guadalcanal. By 29 November there were 188 aircraft of all types. By December the 1st Marine Air Wing included Marine Air Group 14, with elements of the 12th, 68th, and 339th Fighter Squadrons and of the 70th Medium Bombardment Squadron (equipped with B-26’s) of the Army Air Forces attached. The advance elements of Brigadier General Francis P. Mulcahy’s 2nd Marine Air Wing, which was to relieve the 1st Wing, arrived on 26 December.

By December, in spite of all difficulties, air and naval power had almost, but not completely, isolated the Japanese on Guadalcanal. The Tokyo Express could slip through on occasion, but the island’s air forces limited its trips. Allied air power was also able to prevent Japanese aircraft from successfully attacking ground installations in force during daylight and from using aircraft for daylight reconnaissance.

Henderson Field was in fair condition by December. Although its operational facilities were still crude, it could support the efficient operation of eighty planes. On returning to the United States after his tour of duty as commander of land-based aircraft in the South Pacific, Admiral McCain had recommended building gasoline storage tanks with a minimum capacity of half a million gallons. He had recommended storage tanks with a million-gallon capacity if Guadalcanal was to be used as a base for further advances, and by December construction of storage tanks with that capacity had begun. Henderson Field could be used in all weathers. By 10 January steel mats had been laid over 320,750 square feet of runway but 600,000 square feet remained without mats.

Fighter Strip No.1, east of Henderson, was being regraded in December but 1,800,000 square feet of matting were required. It was later to serve Navy and Marine Corps aircraft. The coral-surfaced Fighter Strip No. 2 southwest of Kukum was nearly complete by the end of December. It was to furnish U. S. Army and Royal New Zealand Air Force pilots with an excellent runway. At Koli Point naval construction forces, unhindered by enemy ground forces, had nearly completed the bomber strip, Carney Field.

The daylight air attacks, naval shellings, and artillery fire that had pounded Henderson Field so heavily in October were over, although harassing air raids continued to take place at night. Antiaircraft guns of the Marine Corps defense battalions and, until its relief, of the 1st Special Weapons Battalion defended the airstrips. Automatic weapons ranging in size from .30-caliber water-cooled antiaircraft machine guns to 20-mm. and 37-mm. antiaircraft guns beat off strafers and dive bombers, and 90-mm. guns and searchlights defended the field against high-level bombers.

One of the features of the campaign was the nightly nuisance attacks by the Japanese planes, which the troops called “Louie the Louse,” or from the engines’ sound, “Washing-machine Charley” and “Maytag Charley.” Charley bombed at random and caused little damage, but the bombs forced the troops to take cover in dugouts and foxholes, losing sleep and exposing themselves to malarial mosquitoes. Charley was a difficult target for the antiaircraft guns since he usually flew high and maneuvered violently when searchlights and guns went into action. Night fighting, radar-equipped planes, which would have been effective against him, were not to reach the South Pacific until late in February 1943. On several occasions air forces and antiaircraft batteries successfully coordinated fighter attacks with searchlight illumination.

The long-range radar used on Guadalcanal, the SCR 270, functioned fairly well, although the antiaircraft batteries’ fire control radar, the SCR 268, was too primitive for accurate fire control. The coast-watching stations supplemented radar to warn the Lunga area of approaching enemy planes, for the enemy occasionally attacked Lunga Point from the south and southwest over the mountains which screened the planes from radar beams.

The American Situation on Guadalcanal

The area of Guadalcanal which was held by American troops in December was not much greater than that captured in the assault landing. The Lunga perimeter had been enlarged in the November offensive to include the Matanikau River and the area west to Point Cruz. By December the American lines extended from Point Cruz south to Hill 66, from there were refused east across the Matanikau River, and joined the old Lunga perimeter line east of the river. At Koli Point Colonel Tuttle’s 147th Infantry, the 9th (Marine) Defense Battalion, and the naval construction battalion had established a perimeter defense.

Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tanambogo, successfully stormed on 7-8 August, were in American hands. The Japanese had shelled and bombed these islands but had directed all their ground assaults against Henderson Field. Tulagi Harbor provided a good anchorage for warships and transports. American patrols from Tulagi regularly visited Florida Island across the channel from Guadalcanal, to check on possible enemy forces.

The fundamental importance of health and supply in the American situation on Guadalcanal had not diminished. But by December supply had greatly improved over that of the early days, and a major crisis at Noumea had been surmounted. In November, a break-down in the handling of incoming ships at Noumea threatened to cut off supplies for the Army troops on Guadalcanal.

The South Pacific Amphibious Force was already short of ships, and with the torpedoing of the Alchiba off Guadalcanal in November Admiral Halsey reported that only four undamaged cargo ships were left in the South Pacific Force. At Noumea the increased flow of supplies and troops from the United States had resulted in a serious congestion of the harbor, where 91 vessels carrying 180,000 tons of cargo were waiting to be unloaded. Eighty-three of the vessels carried supplies and equipment which Were to be trans-shipped to the New Hebrides and to Guadalcanal. Noumea, like the few other partially developed ports in the South Pacific, lacked enough men, equipment, and storage and berthing space to unload the ships. Army, Navy, and Marine Corp units had formerly each handled their own supplies, but in late November Admiral Halsey suggested that the Army assume responsibility for loading and unloading ships at Noumea. The Army took over the task immediately. In November 34,327 long tons of cargo had been discharged at Noumea, and in December the amount rose to 126,216 long tons. Cargo shipments to Guadalcanal, which had totaled 5,259 long tons in November, increased to 7,271 long tons in December.

Once supplies reached Guadalcanal, however, further difficulties arose. In the absence of docks, all supplies had to be unloaded from ships standing off-shore, lightered to the beaches, unloaded, reloaded on trucks and hauled inland to the dispersed dumps. Since the shortage of shipping space stripped units traveling to Guadalcanal of much of their motor transport, there were never enough trucks. As the number of service troops was also inadequate, combat troops as well as native laborers were forced to handle cargo, a duty for which the combat soldiers showed a marked lack of enthusiasm. As General Patch wrote, combat troops were “apathetic toward labor.”

Moreover, poor roads hindered the movement of supplies inland. Engineers and pioneers of the 1st Marine Division had built roads and some bridges, and the 57th Engineer Battalion was continuing the work. Known before the war as Government Track, the coast road served as the main route between the Ilu River and Point Cruz. An additional road net served Henderson Field and the infantry positions to the south. The marines had begun a jeep trail southwest from the perimeter toward Mount Austen; the 57th Engineers were to complete this trail, over which supplies for the forthcoming attack on Mount Austen were to be carried. A permanent motor bridge enabled heavy vehicles using the coast road to cross the Matanikau. The coast road supplied the troops near Point Cruz, while jeeps carried supplies to Hill 66 on a trail leading over Hills 73 and 72.

These roads, which rain turned into mudholes, were never completely adequate even in dry weather for the supply of front-line units. Before the American invasion no real motor roads had existed. The Japanese had hacked trails through the jungle but many had been obliterated by the trees and undergrowth. When American troops advanced, the engineers would build supply roads behind them, but since they were muddy and narrow, small supply dumps, widely dispersed as a protection against bombing and shell fire, were situated well forward. Jeeps and hand-carriers usually brought supplies to the units in the front lines. Despite these efforts, American troops in January were frequently to outrun their supplies and in some instances were even to fight for considerable periods without water.

Malaria, too, affected operations. By December 1942 the problem of malaria control had not been solved, nor was it to be solved until after the campaign. Malaria, the greatest single factor reducing the effectiveness of South Pacific troops, caused five times as many casualties as enemy action in the South Pacific. No malaria control personnel had been permitted on Guadalcanal until mid-November. The island had been occupied almost a year before sufficient aerosol dispensers and insect repellent were available. Quinine was scarce; suppressive atabrine treatment had been inaugurated but had not halted the spread of the disease. Many men swallowed atabrine tablets reluctantly if at all. Many falsely believed that it was poisonous, that it caused sexual impotence, or that it stained the skin permanently. Little had been done to check the breeding of mosquitoes. The natives were all heavily infected, as were the Japanese. Each rain filled the numerous swamps, streams, lagoons, craters, and foxholes, and provided ideal breeding areas for mosquitoes. Malaria discipline had been lax in all units.

Of the ineffective troops in the Army units on Guadalcanal, nearly 65 percent were put out of action by disease as compared with about 25 percent wounded in action. The rate of malaria per 1,000 men per year for units of all services on Guadalcanal was high. It rose from 14 cases per 1,000 in August to 1,664 per 1,000 in October, 1,781 in November, 972 in December, and 1,169 in January 1943. The hospital admission rate from malaria in Army units alone on Guadalcanal from 1 November 1942 to 13 February 1943 averaged 420 admissions per 1,000 men per year.

The Japanese Situation

As the American situation on Guadalcanal improved, the enemy’s situation correspondingly deteriorated. By piecemeal commitment the Japanese had dissipated their air, surface, and troop strength. Hard fighting with Americans of all services had cost the enemy dearly, as had his own lack of perception, demonstrated by repeated attacks, without sufficient artillery support, against superior forces. Malnutrition and disease exacted a heavy toll from the enemy on Guadalcanal.

The Japanese Army command in the South Pacific was altered in December when a higher headquarters than that of the 17th Army moved into Rabaul. On the orders of Imperial General Headquarters, General Hitoshi Imamura, commanding the 8th Area Army, left Java for Rabaul to assume command of army operations. General Imamura reached Rabaul on 2 December 1942 and was followed later by his army. On Guadalcanal the forward echelon of 17th Army Headquarters continued to direct operations. General Hyakutake, the army commander, and his staff remained on the island until February 1943. In December, the 17th Army kept the bulk of its combat forces between Point Cruz and Cape Esperance, while patrols covered the south coast. The Japanese front lines extended from the Point Cruz area to the high ground about 4,500 yards inland, curving east about 3,000 yards to include Mount Austen. The only Japanese troops east of the Lunga in December were stragglers.

[NOTE-40ZL: USSBS, Allied Campaign Against Rabaul, p. 9. This source occasionally calls Imamura’s command the 8th Group Army, 17th Army Opns, I, states that Headquarters, 8th Area Army reached Rabaul on 22 November. 17th Army Opns, I, II. Many Allied sources affirm that Hyakutake left the island well before February. According to the XIV Corps and Americal Division’s intelligence reports, Maruyama directed operations in Hyakutake’s absence.]

On the island were the remnants of General Maruyama’s 2nd Division, General Sano’s 38th Division, and the Kawaguchi and Ichiki Forces. Major General Takeo Ito, Infantry Group commander of the 38th Division, commanded about 1,000 troops of the 124th and 228th Infantry Regiments and supporting units on an inland line extending from Mount Austen to a point about 3,000 yards west. Of this force, Major Takeyosho Inagaki with the 2nd Battalion, 228th Infantry, occupied the northeast slopes of Mount Austen. Colonel Oka, with part of the 124th Infantry and other units, held the center of the line between Mount Austen and the Matanikau, while Colonel Masaichi Suemura commanded the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 228th Infantry on the high ground west of the Matanikau. In the coastal area, part of the 2nd Division, operating occasionally under 38th Division command, and units of the latter division faced the Americans along the Point Cruz-Hill 66 line, while the rest of the 2nd Division was concentrated farther west. In early December the Americans were not completely aware of Japanese strength and dispositions on Guadalcanal, especially on Mount Austen and the hills to the west.

Japanese troop strength had declined from the peak of 30,000 men, reached briefly in November, to average about 25,000 in December. Almost no reinforcements had arrived since the 38th Division survivors had come ashore from their blazing transports on 15 November. During the entire campaign about 33,600 troops of the 17th Army and 3,100 of the Special Naval Landing Forces saw action on the island at various times. In December the Americans underestimated the total strength of the Japanese on Guadalcanal; their estimates varied from 9,100 to 16,000. But all Japanese units were understrength, and many soldiers were unfit for duty.

In all sectors the enemy, incapable of offensive action, had dug in for defense. The front-line troops especially were in poor physical condition. The increasing shortage of supplies had reduced rations to a bare minimum, to less than one-third the regular daily allowance. Stealing of food was common. As the few supplies which were brought in were usually landed near Cape Esperance and carried by hand to the front, rear-area troops fared best. Front-line troops were often reduced to eating coconuts, grass, roots, ferns, bamboo sprouts, and what wild potatoes they could find. There are even a few apparent instances of cannibalism on Mount Austen.

[NOTE-47ZL: Interv with Colonel Stanley R. Larsen, 19 Aug 46. Colonel Larsen commanded the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, on Mount Austen and saw butchered corpses. See also statements by Colonel R. B. McClure (CO, 35th Inf), 20 Jan 43; Lieutenant Colonel James L. Dalton, II, 31 Jan 43; Major Lome S. Ward, 29 Jan 43; and Lieutenant Colonel Stuart F. Crawford, (G-2, 25th Div), in 25th Div FO’s, in misc USAFISPA docs in files of Hist Div, SSUSA.]

But hunger was not the only serious problem. If malaria decimated the American ranks, it caused havoc among the enemy. Among the Japanese probably every man was a victim. They had no systematic malaria control, few mosquito nets, and inadequate field hospitals. While American troops operated and bivouacked on high open ground whenever possible, the enemy’s need for security from air attack made him travel, bivouac, and fight in the jungles, where the Anopheles mosquito breeds in the sluggish streams and swamps. According to enemy figures, of 21,500 casualties, 9,000 died of disease—malaria, malnutrition, beri-beri, and dysentery. [NOTE-48KL] Illness and malnutrition weakened the troops so much that late in the campaign one Japanese officer is reported to have classified his men in three groups: those who could move and fight, those who could fight only from emplacements, and those who could not fight at all. In several instances when hospitals moved west during the retreats in January and February the medical personnel apparently evacuated only ambulatory patients. That the others were left behind to die or be captured was indicated by the fact that American troops, during the January offensives, were to find numbers of unwounded enemy corpses in abandoned hospital sites.

[Note-48KL: 1st Demob Bureau table, attached to Interrog of Hyakutake, et al. 17th Army Opns, II, gives figures which substantially agree, but shows the total dead as 21,600. Amer Div Int Rpt, Tab B, gives 27,000 enemy dead; Japanese Medical Problems, p. 11, estimates that 2/3 of enemy deaths were caused by illness; XIV Corps, Enemy Opns, gives larger figures—42,554 committed; 24,330 killed; 3,000 evacuated; 14,724 died of wounds or sickness.]

The Japanese troops lacked food because air and naval power had almost completely isolated them from their bases. They could not use transports for supply and reinforcements. The nocturnal Tokyo Express was able to bring in only a scattering of supplies and reinforcements. The Express made about eleven trips to Guadalcanal between 16 November 1942 and 9 February 1943, and lost ten destroyers sunk and nineteen damaged in the process. To deliver food to Guadalcanal, the Japanese at Rabaul packed rice in empty gasoline drums, roped fifty together, and loaded four of these 50-drum bundles on the deck of each destroyer. The destroyers would then sail down the Slot, arrive at Cape Esperance at night, and throw the drums overboard to float in with the morning tide. Destroyers transported over 20,000 drums, but the troops ashore recovered less than 30 percent. Some were destroyed on the coral reefs, the ropes often broke, and Allied fliers on dawn patrol strafed them whenever possible. When the drum method failed the Japanese tried supply by submarine, but with little success. According to former 17th Army officers, the Japanese on Guadalcanal not only failed to receive the greater part of their heavy equipment, but also lost all but 10 percent of their ammunition.

Thus it was impossible for the Japanese to undertake offensive operations. Not only were the soldiers too weak, but ammunition stocks were too low. Enemy artillery lacked shells to hit Henderson Field, and Allied aircraft and counterbattery artillery made the extensive use of artillery dangerous. Farther north, however, enemy activity was increasing. After their failure to retake the Lunga airfields in November, the Japanese had begun to build an airfield at Munda Point on New Georgia, just 207 miles from Henderson Field. It was so well camouflaged that it was not discovered by the Americans until 3 December. Despite almost daily attacks by aircraft, the field was completed by 29 December. Thereafter Guadalcanal-based aircraft struck it regularly to prevent its fighters escorting the Tokyo Express or intercepting Allied bombing formations bound for the Shortlands and Bougainville, and to discourage its bombers from attacking the Lunga airfields.

An Allied victory on Guadalcanal seemed to be assured by December, but only at the cost of more hard righting. Though weak from hunger and disease, the Japanese were not disposed to surrender and were to continue to fight with bravery and skill.

Source: Guadalcanal: The First Offensive ; BY: John Miller, Jr. (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Guadalcanal (8); Advances Toward Kokumbona

Today’s Extra for Jan. 21: Release Stress with One Simple Technique

Release Stress with One Simple Technique

Ever wondered what the biggest problem in life is? Yes, it’s the inability to relax! This is a true story: I met John at a stress-release workshop I was teaching in Scotland. He was a schoolteacher in a run down area of Glasgow. As if that wasn’t hard enough, he was a history teacher, a subject that most of his pupils were completely uninterested in.

Teaching had become a source of immense stress; John would regularly lose his temper and was planning to quit. I saw him again a year later at a follow-up workshop. John looked refreshed and radiant, so I fully expected to hear that he’d got a different job. Instead, he told me that he’d become head of the department. The difference? John had done nothing other than Yoga Nidra, an ancient yogic relaxation practice that I had taught him, every morning before going to school. This had led to a state of deep calm. As a result, both his attitude and approach at work had radically improved. Being mindfully relaxed is the ultimate life-changing gift we can give ourselves.

Stress is nothing new. Ever since the beginning of time we have encountered stressful situations, such as the cavemen who had to hunt for food and the resulting fight-or-flight dilemma when confronted with wild animals. The stress-producing factors may be different now but they have the same effect. It’s quite amazing to me that after thousands of years we still haven’t figured out how we need to relax! And in our current world situation, relaxation is vital.

Unless we can look at stressful difficulties with mindful awareness then all we really do is create more stress: a tense mind creates greater tension, while a calm and clear mind creates clarity and positivity. When we are stressed then everything becomes an irritation, no matter how well intended. Friendships are lost and families broken as achievements and possessions become more important than kindness and caring.

We can’t hide from stress, but we do take being stressed for granted without doing anything about it until it becomes unmanageable. We think relaxation can be accomplished by indulging in mindless and distracting activities. At times this is true. But more often they become an escape from our inability to cope in a world of conflicting pressures and prejudices. Stress throws us into regrets of the past and fears of the future and we lose the ability to be in the present moment. Meantime guilt, shame and blame create unimaginable scenarios. As the anxiety becomes too much to handle we begin to look outside ourselves for help, such as to alcohol, drugs, or therapy. Such is our ‘normal’ state of being!

Do you get upset or angry when matters don’t go as planned? Do you need to be in control, or can you allow events to take their natural course? Do you believe you are right and so others are wrong? Are you able to see things as they are without prejudice or bias? Do you bear grudges and hold on to things or can you let go and move on? These are important questions to ask ourselves in order to become more tolerant, kind, and relaxed.

Confusion and misunderstanding make us desperate for change, but we don’t know how to bring about the transformation we yearn for. So we change the superficial things, like our hairstyle or clothes, we even have a facelift or hair transplant. All we want is to be wanted! But if we change our lives from within then the outer will also transform. Being mindfully relaxed has a hugely positive effect on our looks, health, on others, and the world we live in. What more could we want?


Ed Shapiro is the author of The Art Of Mindful Relaxation, The Heart of Yoga Nidra. Award-winning Authors Ed and Deb are mindfulness, meditation and yoga experts. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have six meditation downloads. See more at





Snowshoes have come a long way since their origins some 7,000 years ago. Back then, it’s safe to guess that snowshoeing was not considered a leisure winter sport.

In fact, without even researching it much, I can safely wager that snowshoes were made so that people could survive winter. You know: head out, forage for food, return home with a dead animal—also known as “dinner for the family.”


Times have changed. And so have snowshoes.

Originally, snowshoes were made from wood and rawhide. Current-day versions using those materials are still available to buy, as are authentic antique versions that are often found adorning the walls of vacation ski homes. However, the rapid growth of snowshoeing as a sport in the 1990s was due to modern versions of snowshoes made with aluminum or stainless steel frames and nylon, plastic, or polypropylene decking. They are light and relatively inexpensive.


Old versus new snowshoes!

I bought a pair of Tubbs snowshoes in the late 1990s. Except for adjusting the straps or bindings to fit whichever pair of boots (waterproof and insulated work best) I am wearing, they are quite simple to use. Newer versions have even easier to adjust bindings and straps. In fact, if you are reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking, then you should have an easy time learning to snowshoe!


• One pair of snowshoes (many outdoor shops rent equipment and offer lessons)

• Proper outdoor clothing

• Sturdy winter boots (or specialty snowshoe boots)

• One pair of ski poles or trekking poles (optional)

• Gaiters (optional)

• Headlamp (for nighttime snowshoeing)

The best way to learn a new sport is from a professional instructor, and many places that rent or sell snowshoes offer short lessons.


Here’s what to keep in mind on your first day out:

• Practice on a flat snowy surface without ice. Most modern snowshoes have crampons on the bottom. These crampons work best in fluffy snow and aren’t as easy to use on icy steep slopes, especially going downhill. That’s just something to keep in mind as you are experimenting with this new sport.

• “Put one foot in front of the other.” The movement pattern is the same as walking. Lift your left foot, bending at the knee so that the snowshoe comes off the snowy surface, and take a step. Repeat this with your right foot. That’s it—just like walking, except that you have much larger “shoes” that hinge away from your foot as you lift your foot. Gaiters are also optional for snowshoeing. If the snow is very light and not packed down, and very deep, gaiters will help to protect your boots and the bottom of your snow pants from snow getting inside. In most instances, snowshoes do a great job of keeping you above the snow, and you will not need gaiters.

• Use poles. Though poles are optional, they give you two more points of balance while snowshoeing. I prefer trekking poles that are adjustable so I that can dial in the perfect pole length. The arm motions using poles are the same as when you walk and should feel natural. Simultaneously, step with your left leg and swing your right pole forward with a light flick of the wrist to put the pole basket in front of you, then plant the pole. In this case, your balance is moving from your right foot to your left foot and right pole, as your momentum moves forward. That’s as much physics as I can share with you. Just remember: It feels like walking.

• Look ahead, not straight down at your shiny new snowshoes. There are two reasons you should look ahead. The first: You are outside and it’s a beautiful winter wonderland. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. The second: Looking ahead improves your balance.

Snowshoeing is a great sport for all ages. You can head out on wooded adventures or across a frozen lake.

And that optional headlamp I mentioned in the equipment list above? If you ever venture out for a nighttime snowshoe under a full Moon, you might get hooked on snowshoeing just like I did.


During the winter months, Heather Atwell blogs about outdoor activities for The offspring of parents who met in the lift line at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain, Heather has skied since she could walk. She’s a fully certified PSIA instructor who knows New England ski areas from her four years working for Ski Vermont and from her lifelong love of the sport. Heather’s recipe for winter happiness: Mix fresh snow and a little outdoor adventure.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 21: WINTER EXERCISE: NO EXCUSES



Motivation flagging? Live too far from a gym? No room in the house for exercise equipment? Not enough light before or after work? Feeling sluggish?

A lot of people abandon regular exercise during the winter. If that describes you, I know you have a slew of excuses, because I’ve used most of ‘em myself.

But even the best excuses ignore the cardinal law of physical fitness: Use it or lose it. You only get the fitness you earn today. You can’t store it up until the weather improves and the days get longer.

Don’t stop!
By the time the forsythia blooms, your sedentary body will have lost a lot of ground. It will take weeks or months of diligent work to get back to the fitness level (and its corresponding physical and psychological health benefits) you had when you laid off around Thanksgiving.

Just get going.

To improve traction, balance, and the quality of winter walking, invest in some good quality trekking poles. Get the adjustable kind with spring-loaded shock absorption, and you can use them for snowshoeing and summer hiking, too.

Yaktrax or other pull-on “grippers” can improve your confidence when conditions are icy. Not enough light after work? Take to a well-lit parking lot, streets with streetlights. Turn on the outside light and walk up and down your own driveway. If you have a mall nearby, walk there. Better yet, walk outdoors around the entire mall a few times.

Walk (or run) the stairs

If you have stairs in your home and the knees for it, pump up the volume on your MP3player or radio and hit the stairs. Don’t overdo these workouts; work up by going slowly and starting with only a few repetitions.

I keep my freezer and refrigerator in the basement and my computer workstation in a third-story attic. Besides keeping my leg muscle strong, this arrangement allows me to burn 11 pounds’ worth of calories each year just going about my daily activities.

Jump rope
Jumping rope isn’t just for kids. If you can work up to it, 15 minutes a day will give you the fitness benefits of half an hour of running or a 1000-yard swim. All you need is a rop[e and comfortable shoes. If your home has high ceilings, you can jump indoors. Other locations: a porch, garage, driveway, parking lot or other paved surface.

Strap on the snowshoes
I consider the snowshoes and poles we bought 12 years ago a major health investment. We’ve used them often all winter long ever since.

Snowshoes allow you to walk on water (or at least float on snow). If you can walk, you can snowshoe, especially in today’s lightweight, easy-on-easy-off models. This is the best time of year to buy new and used snowshoes. If you can, invest in a pair of trekking poles, too. They improve balance and stability, offer work for your upper body, and increase the workout intensity (building muscle, burning more calories).

Find a partner
Nothing  helps maintain your motivation to exercise like finding a partner as committed to his/her health and well being as you. A good walking/running/indoor biking partner makes the time fly and helps you forget your discomfort.

You don’t have to share the same political views or travel in the same social circles.The only requirements for a training partner/fitness buddy: 1. someone about the same fitness level as you, and 2. someone who’ll always shows up.

One to remember
But sometimes you have no choice but to go it alone.

My most memorable winter workout took place early one evening during a blizzard—a total whiteout with fierce winds. More than a foot of snow had already fallen, and it was accumulating a couple of inches per hour.

I pulled on my heaviest winter duds, turned on the outside light, and tramped around and around our circular driveway.

Whiteout conditions, where the snow seems to fall and swirl from all directions, confuse spatial perception to the point where it becomes difficult to tell up from down. To orient myself, I followed my footsteps, finding them almost totally obscured by the time I came around again.

I lost track of time in that other-worldly environment, stopping only when the power went out and I lost my light. Though I wouldn’t be able to recreate this event, I won’t forget it or the utter rapture of it.

My point? When it comes to exercise, seize the moment!



“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.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 21: 10-MINUTE WORKOUTS: ESPECIALLY GOOD IN WINTER



A growing body of research suggests that sneaking in one or several 10-minute bouts of exercise can deliver impressive health and fitness benefits.

That’s good to know, especially in winter, when ice, snow, cold, lack of light, and—face it—low or no motivation encourage us to move less, sit more, and eat holiday goodies for comfort.

Consider also

  • Brief workouts help beginning exercisers ease into a more active life. Begin with one 10-minute block and work up to three or more a day. Of course, you could gradually stretch any of these to 12, 15, or 20 minutes if the situation permits.

Veteran exercisers and athletes can use a 10- or 15-minute workout as a motivational tool on those days when they lose their oomph and can’t work up the get up and go. When that happens to you, negotiate with your lower angels. Say, “Okay, we don’t have to bike for an hour. We’ll only go for 10 minutes.” I’ve found this trick effective. After a few minutes, I almost always find myself willing to stretch it to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even longer.

A few favorites

So, what constitutes a 10-minute workout? Simple: keep that body in motion for 10 minutes.

Most exercise specialists say intensity—getting your heart rate up to the point of discomfort, and keeping it up for several minutes—works best for maintaining or increasing overall fitness. Warm up slowly for a couple of minutes before you pump up the intensity; slow down for a couple of minutes toward the end.

If you’re pregnant, sedentary, severely overweight, suffering from a chronic disease or injury, talk to your doctor before beginning any high-intensity exercise, even short bouts of it.

Jump for joy

Jumping rope for 10 minutes will give you a rip-roarin’ workout. It burns more calories than running. It boosts your mood. It improves your balance and your body’s natural rhythm. You can jump indoors or out. You can pack your rope and jump on vacation. You don’t need fancy clothes. You don’t even need a rope. Twirling your wrists as if you had one works about as well.

Start by marching or running in place for a minute or two, then begin jumping slowly. Beginners can try alternating 30 jumps with 30 steps of marching in place. (Even after years of hard-core triathlon training, it took me two months to work up to a few minutes of glitch-free jumping.)

Parking-lot trot

Having trouble concentrating at work (even at home)? Pull out that pair of shoes you keep under your desk and substitute a snack break for a brisk 10-minute walk or trot around the perimeter of the parking lot, grounds, or driveway

During the winter months, parking lots and driveways are nearly always plowed and sanded or salted for safety.

Physical exercise helps break the abstraction of “knowledge work” and the fatigue of repetitive-motion physical work. I’ll testify that it works wonders for breaking writer’s block.

Why wait?

Most of us spend a lot of time waiting: for a child to have his teeth cleaned or finish her swimming lesson, for the doctor after you’re told she’s running 30 minutes late, for a car repair, for the casserole to bake. Just keep a pair of comfortable shoes at the ready, check your watch, and head out.

Step it up

Stuck indoors at home with a small child? Dinner in the oven? Turn on some tunes and work those stairs! Warm up with a slow half-dozen flights up and down. Then charge up, walk down, charge up again, walk down, and repeat. Note: This workout requires stairways, strong knees, good balance, and good concentration, especially going down, to avoid falls. Add more work to this effort by swinging light hand weights as you go up.

If you work in an office building with several floors and well-lit stairwells, or have an appointment in one, walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes. Hold the handrail going down in case you feel dizzy.

Deep-snow after-dark shuffle

I discovered this one many years ago while homebound with a sick child during a three-day blizzard. I bundled up and pulled on my insulated boots after dinner, turned on the outside light, and began tramping around the unplowed circular driveway. The deep snow and my clunky boots cushioned the impact and offered muscle-building resistance. The heavy snow muffled noise from the street and falling snow transformed the night. I’ve continued this magical practice every year during big snowstorms, running, walking, skipping, jumping, or shuffling, often for much longer than 10 minutes.

Load-that-woodbox workout

Remember the old saw about necessity, the mother of invention? In our wood-burning household, we have to cart firewood from the woodshed into the house every day to stay warm. When it’s my turn to load the living-room woodbox, I begin with few shoulder raises with a couple of heavy chunks, perform half-squats with a heavy armload, push the big-wheeled wood carrier around the driveway four or five times before I bring the wood indoors.

You get the idea here, stretch almost any necessary job into an energetic 10-minute workout.

Airport aerobics

You have a flight ahead, during which you’ll probably sit most of the time. Your flight doesn’t leave for an hour or two or more. Although large airports offer plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, shop, and sit, why not walk the concourse? Many large airports offer special walking paths or fitness spaces. I’ve never used one of these, but I’ve logged as many as three miles of brisk walking throughout the concourses before boarding a flight.

What do you do with your carry-on luggage? Well, you could roll it or carry it, rent a locker and stash it, or do what I do, carry it all in a backpack and hike along with it.

Supermarket sashay

You’ve arrived at the supermarket with a two-page grocery list and found the parking lot full. You have to park a football field away from the door. Time for action!

Pull on your action-ready shoes and make at least two full trips around the outside perimeter of the parking lot before you go into the store. Wend your way up and down the center aisles, collecting items on your list as you go. Then walk back along the same route in reverse, picking up anything you might have missed. Now push the cart twice around the interior perimeter of the store, collecting the fresh stuff: fruit and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, poultry, and meat the second time around.

After you’ve checked out, make another brisk turn or two around the parking lot perimeter with your full cart. Watch for traffic!

A final note: Poke around in the activities of your ordinary days for opportunities like these to boost your activity level. Don’t forget to fidget!



“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.

Holidays Around The World for Jan. 21: Babin Den

Babin Den

January 21

In Bulgaria the old women who helped deliver babies—much like the modern midwife—were called baba, or grandmother. It was widely believed that the baby received some of the baba’s wisdom, and it was customary for the baby’s parents to bring the baba flowers on a particular day each year, called Grandmother’s Day or Day of the Midwives . Eventually the children grew up, but they would continue to visit their baba each year.

Most babies in Bulgaria today are born in hospitals, so the children bring flowers to the doctors and nurses who assisted at their birth. Another traditional activity on this day involves boys dunking girls in the icy waters of rivers and lakes, supposedly to bring them good health in the coming year.

See also Grandparents’ Day
BkFest-1937, p. 66
BkHolWrld-1986, Jan 20