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

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

In November, General Vandegrift had been able to resume the attempt to extend the western line beyond Kokumbona. The 17th Army had been decisively defeated in October, and was unable to mount another counteroffensive until it could receive strong reinforcements. More American troops and planes were soon to be sent to Guadalcanal, and the offensive could be resumed with good prospects of ultimate success.

Operations 1-11 November: Kokumbona Offensive, 1-4 November

The first offensive move was begun before the mid-November naval battle. The objectives were about the same as those of the Marine offensive which opened on 7 October—first, the trail junction and landing beaches at Kokumbona, over 8,000 yards west of the Matanikau, and second, the Poha River, about 2,600 yards beyond Kokumbona. Once the Poha River line had been gained, theLunga airfields would be safe from enemy artillery fire.

The infantry forces selected for the attack were the 5th Marines, the 2nd Marines (less the 3rd Battalion), and the Whaling Group, which now consisted of the Scout-Sniper Detachment and the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. Supporting the offensive were to be the 11th Marines and attached Army artillery battalions, aircraft, engineers, and a boat detachment from the Kukum naval base.

The infantry forces were to attack west in column of regiments on a 1,500-yard front from the Matanikau River, the line of departure. The 5th Marines, closely followed by the 2nd Marines in reserve, would make the assault The Whaling Group would move out along the high grassy ridges on the left (south) of the assault forces to protect the left flank. Colonel Edson was to command the attacking force. The time for the attack was set for 0630, 1 November.

Full use was to be made of supporting artillery and mortar fire. The 11th Marines and attached battalions were to mass fire first in front of the 5th Marines. Artillery and mortar fire were to be placed on each objective and on each ravine and stream approached by the infantry. At least two battalions of artillery were to fire at targets as far west as the Poha, displacing their howitzers forward as the need arose. Aircraft were to strike enemy troop concentrations and artillery positions. Spotting planes for the division artillery would be furnished by the 1st Marine Air Wing.

On the night before the assault, the 1st Engineer Battalion was to construct footbridges across the Matanikau, and an additional bridge suitable for vehicles on the day of the attack. The naval boat detachment was to provide boats for amphibious supply and evacuation as the troops advanced up the coast.

In preparation for the attack, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 2nd Marines were brought to Guadalcanal from Tulagi. The 3rd Battalion, which had served as division mobile reserve for six weeks, was sent to Tulagi to rest. The 5th Marines moved to the forward Matanikau position to relieve the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, and the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines; responsibility for the 5th Marines’ old sector in the perimeter defense was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marines. Detachments from the heavy weapons companies of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, and from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, remained in position along the Matanikau to cover the attacking forces as they made the crossing on 1 November. The 2nd Marines (less the 3rd Battalion) meanwhile moved into bivouac east of the Matanikau River.

The engineers salvaged and prepared material for the bridges between 25 and 31 October. On the afternoon of 31 October they hauled the material to the east bank of the river. Early on the morning of 1 November E Company of the 5th Marines crossed the river to outpost the west bank in order to cover the troops constructing the bridges. Between 0100 and 0600, 1 November, A, C, and D Companies of the 1st Engineer Battalion laid three footbridges over the river. Each bridge had a 40-inch-wide treadway which was supported by 2-by-4-inch stringers lashed to a light framework which in turn was lashed to floating fuel drums.

At daybreak on 1 November the 11th Marines, assisted by the 3rd Defense Battalion’s 5-inch guns, fired the preliminary bombardment. The cruisers San Francisco and Helena and the destroyer Sterrett had been sent up by Admiral Halsey, and they shelled the areas west of Point Cruz. P-39’s and SBD’s from Henderson Field struck Japanese artillery positions, while nineteen B-17’s from Espiritu Santo dropped 335 100-pound bombs on Kokumbona.

When the artillery fire lifted, the three battalions of the 5th Marines started across the Matanikau bridges. (Map 9) By 0700 the move had been completed successfully, and the 1st and 2nd Battalions, on the right and left respectively, deployed to the attack. Their left was covered by the Whaling Group, which had crossed the river farther upstream. The 1st Battalion of the 5th, advancing over the flat ground along the beach, met the heaviest opposition as the Japanese, yielding ground slowly and reluctantly, fought a delaying action. The 2nd Battalion, moving over higher ground, pushed ahead rapidly and lost contact with the 1st shortly after 1230. The advancing forces halted for the night short of Point Cruz, having gained slightly more than 1,000 yards in the day’s action. During the day the engineers, using a 10-ton temporary pier, had put a vehicular bridge across the Matanikau about 500 yards from the mouth. Although completed that day the bridge could not be used until the following afternoon, when a new road from the coast road to the bridge was completed.

The next morning Colonel Edson committed the reserve 3rd Battalion to assist the 1st Battalion on the right, while the 2nd Battalion, having advanced beyond Point Cruz, turned to the right to envelop the enemy by attacking northward. By 1042 the 2nd Battalion had reached the beach west of the Point and trapped the Japanese who were still opposing the 1st and 3rd Battalions.

During the afternoon of 2 November the two battalions of the 2nd Marines passed by on the left of the 5th Marines to continue the westward push the next day. On 3 November the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, and the Whaling Group, which had continued its advance inland, led the assault The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and the 1st Battalion, 164th Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Frank C. Richards commanding), which had been ordered forward from its positions on the Ilu River, were in reserve. Meanwhile the 5th Marines successfully reduced the pocket at Point Cruz; the regiment killed about 350 Japanese and captured twelve 37-mm. guns, one field piece, and thirty-four machine guns. In the final phases of the mop-up the 5th Marines delivered three successful bayonet assaults,5 and drove the surviving Japanese into the sea. After the reduction of the pocket the 5th Marines and the Whaling Group were ordered back to the Lunga area, and Colonel Arthur, commanding the 2nd Marines, took over tactical direction of the offensive from Colonel Edson.

The next day the 1st Battalion of the 164th Infantry and the 2nd Marines (less the 3rd Battalion) resumed the advance. By afternoon they had moved forward against the retreating Japanese to a point about 2,000 yards west of Point Cruz, or about 4,000 yards short of Kokumbona. At that point division headquarters halted the advance. Enemy troops had landed east of the perimeter defense, and there could be no further westward movement until the threat had been removed. At 1500 the three battalions dug in at Point Cruz to hold part of the ground they had gained.

Koli Point

Division headquarters had been expecting a Japanese landing in early November at Koli Point east of the Lunga perimeter. To forestall the attempt, the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marines, Lieutenant Colonel H. H. Hanneken commanding, had been ordered out of the Lunga perimeter to make a forced march to the Metapona River, about thirteen miles east of the Lunga. By nightfall of 2 November, when the 5th Marines had reduced the Point Cruz pocket, the battalion had established defensive positions east of the Metapona’s mouth near the village of Tetere. About 2200 on 2 November the silhouettes of one Japanese cruiser, one transport, and three destroyers appeared offshore in the rainy darkness to land supplies and about 1,500 soldiers from the 230th Infantry at Gavaga Creek, about one mile east of Colonel Hanneken’s position. Hyakutake had ordered these troops, with ammunition and provisions for 2,000 men, to land, join Shoji’s force in the vicinity of Koli Point, and build an airfield.

[NOTE: 17th Army Opns, I; Amer Div Int Rpt, Tab A; XIV Corps, Enemy Opns, which states that landing craft brought the Japanese from the western beaches of Guadalcanal, asserts that two battalions landed. Brigadier General E. B. Sebree, when Military Attache to Australia, interrogated the prisoner of war Major General Takeo Ito (former CG, 38th Div Inf Gp) at Rabaul in 1947. Ito stated that the only troops at Koli Point then were the 230th infantry survivors who had come there in October; the ships landed only supplies on the night of 2-3 November 1942. Interv with Gen Sebree, 19-20 Jun 43, who lent his notes of the interrogation of Ito to the author.]


By the time the Japanese were landing, Colonel Hanneken’s radio communication had failed, and he was unable to inform division headquarters of his situation. The next morning the Japanese force moved west. The Marine battalion engaged the enemy, and was hit by artillery and mortar fire. When one Japanese unit pushed southwest to outflank the marines, the battalion, fighting as it went, withdrew slowly westward along the coast, crossed the Nalimbiu, and took a stronger position on the west bank. Colonel Hanneken, whose troops were running short of food, attempted to radio information about his situation to division headquarters but was not able to get his message through until 1445.

When headquarters received Hanneken’s message, arrangements for support and reinforcement were quickly completed. Aircraft from the Lunga airfields bombed and strafed enemy positions, but as no targets were visible from the air results were probably insignificant. The cruisers San Francisco and Helena and the destroyers Sterrett and Lansdowne, which had been supporting the Kokumbona attack, sailed eastward to shell Koli Point. The 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, with the regimental commander Colonel Amor L. Sims, immediately embarked on landing craft to reinforce the 2nd Battalion at Koli Point. The 164th Infantry (less the 1st Battalion) was ordered out of its positions along the Ilu to march east to a point about 4,000 yards south of the 7th Marines at Koli Point to be in position to envelop the Japanese left (south) flank.

General Rupertus, assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division, took command of the Koli Point operation, his first tactical experience on Guadalcanal. On 4 November, the day on which the Kokumbona attack was halted, the Lunga perimeter command was reorganized. General Rupertus was transferred from the relative quiet of Tulagi to Guadalcanal. The Lunga area was divided into two separate sectors, one east of the Lunga and one west of the river. General Rupertus took the east sector. Brigadier General Edmund B. Sebree, assistant commander of the Americal Division, who had just landed on the island to prepare for the arrival of the remainder of his division, took the west sector. Both generals reported directly to division headquarters, which thus operated as a small corps headquarters.

On 4 November General Rupertus, and regimental headquarters and the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines reached Koli Point. The 164th Infantry (less the 1st Battalion) and B Company of the 8th Marines left the Ilu River line at 0600 to march to their objective about seven miles to the east. General Sebree accompanied the 164th to gain close experience with jungle warfare. At the same time, 1st Marine Division headquarters issued orders to the 2nd Raider Battalion, which had just landed at Aola Bay with the 147th Infantry, to advance overland toward Koli Point to intercept any Japanese detachments moving eastward.

The 164th Infantry progressed slowly on its inland march through swampy jungles and hot stretches of high kunai grass. As there were no inland roads, trucks carried some supplies along the coast to Koli Point, but inland the soldiers of the 164th Infantry, wearing full combat equipment, had to hand-carry all their weapons and ammunition. It was noon before the regiment reached the first assembly area on the west bank of the Nalimbiu River. While regimental headquarters and the 3rd Battalion bivouacked for the night, the 2nd Battalion advanced northward in column of companies along the west bank of the Nalimbiu. After advancing about 2,000 yards, the 2nd Battalion bivouacked. It had not established contact with the 7th Marines. Patrols had met only a few small Japanese units.

On the following morning, 5 November, General Rupertus ordered the 164th Infantry (less the 1st Battalion) to cross to the east bank of the Nalimbiu, and then to advance north to Koli Point to destroy the Japanese facing the 7th Marines at Koli Point. The 3rd Battalion crossed the flooded Nalimbiu about 3,500 yards south of Koli Point, then swung north to advance along the east bank. Again no large organized enemy force appeared. The battalion advanced against occasional rifle and machine-gun fire. Machine-gun fire halted two platoons of G Company for a time until American artillery and mortar fire silenced the enemy guns. The 2nd Battalion of the 164th Infantry, which had withdrawn to the south from its bivouac positions, followed on the right and rear of the 3rd Battalion.

Action on 6 November was indecisive. The 7th Marines crossed the flooded Nalimbiu with difficulty, while the 164th Infantry’s battalions moved slowly through the jungle. The 3rd Battalion found an abandoned Japanese bivouac about 1,000 yards south of Koli Point, but the enemy had escaped to the east. The 3rd Battalion reached Koli Point at night on 6 November and was followed by the 2nd Battalion the next morning. During the night of 5-6 November the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, mistaking each other for the enemy, exchanged shots. Regimental headquarters and the Antitank and E Companies of the 164th Infantry, together with B Company of the 8th Marines, followed a more circuitous route, and reached Koli Point later in the morning.

The combined force then advanced eastward to a point about one mile west of the wide mouth of the Metapona River. Again there was no enemy resistance, possibly because the Japanese were preparing defenses east of the Metapona to permit the main body to escape. The Americans dug in to defend the beach west of the Metapona against an expected landing on the night of 7-8 November, but it failed to materialize. On 8 November the 2nd Battalion of the 164th Infantry was attached to the 7th Marines and placed in reserve. To surround the Japanese, who had dug in along Gavaga Creek at Tetere about one mile east of the Metapona, the three battalions left their positions west of the wide, swampy mouth of the Metapona and advanced to the east and west of Gavaga Creek. The 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, occupied the west bank and took positions running inland from the beach. The 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, was posted on the east to hold a shorter line between the east bank of Gavaga Creek and the beach. When dengue fever put General Rupertus out of action on 8 November, General Sebree took command on orders from Vandegrift.

With the Japanese force located and surrounded, the size of the American force at Koli Point could be safely reduced. Since General Vandegrift desired to commit a large part of the 164th Infantry to the attack against Kokumbona, regimental headquarters, the Antitank Company, and the 3rd Battalion of the 164th Infantry and B Company of the 8th Marines were brought back to the Lunga perimeter by boat and truck on 9 November.

On that day, at Koli Point, the 2nd Battalion (less E Company) of the 164th Infantry took positions on the right of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. During the night E Company was committed to the left flank of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Marines. The Americans now held a curved line from the beach around a horseshoe bend in Gavaga Creek. The Japanese, blocked on the east and west, repeatedly attempted to break out of the trap. They used machine guns, mortars, and hand grenades in their attempts to drive the Americans back. One gap in the American lines remained open in the south, for F and E Companies of the 164th, which were separated by the swampy creek, had failed to make contact. Although wounded seven times by mortar shell fragments, Colonel Puller remained in command of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Marines.

The marines and soldiers, supported by 155-mm. gun batteries, two 75-mm. pack howitzer batteries, and aircraft, began to reduce the pocket. The Japanese resisted vigorously with grenades, mortars, automatic weapons, and small arms. On 10 November F Company of the 164th Infantry attempted to close the gap and join flanks with E Company. The attempt failed, and the commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 164th was relieved.16 On the next day G Company drove east to close the gap. As the Marine battalions closed in from the east and west, the 2nd Battalion of the 164th Infantry pushed north to reach the beaches in the late afternoon of 11 November. By 12 November the pocket had been entirely cleared. About forty Americans had been killed, 120 wounded; 450 Japanese had been killed. The captured materiel included, besides stores of rations and fifty collapsible landing boats, General Kawaguchi’s personal effects.

Hyakutake apparently abandoned the idea of building an airfield near Koli Point, for he ordered Shoji’s troops to return via the inland route to Kokumbona. Some of the Japanese had escaped through the gap between the two companies, and some others had apparently withdrawn inland about 7 November. These forces, retreating south and west toward Mount Austen, were harried by Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson’s 2nd Raider Battalion which had marched west from Aola Bay. The raiders, in a remarkable 30-day march outside the American lines, covered 150 miles, fought 12 separate actions, and killed over 400 enemy soldiers at a cost of only 17 raiders killed before they finally entered the Lunga perimeter on 4 December.19 Of the estimated 1,500 Japanese soldiers who may have landed at Koli Point, probably less than half survived to rejoin the main forces at Mount Austen and the hills to the west.

Resumption of the Kokumbona Offensive

On 10 November, with the trapping of the Japanese at Koli Point, it became possible to renew the westward offensive toward Kokumbona. Under Colonel Arthur’s command, the 1st Battalion of the 164th Infantry, the newly arrived 8th Marines, and the 2nd Marines (less the 3rd Battalion) moved west from Point Cruz on 10 November. Supported by fire from the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Battalions of the 11th Marines, the composite force executed a frontal attack on a three-battalion front. The 1st Battalion, 164th Infantry, advanced on the right along the beach; the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, advanced in the center, and the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, was echeloned to the left and rear in the attack. On 11 November the advance was resumed against rifle, machine-gun, and mortar fire. By noon the troops had fought their way to a point slightly beyond that which they had reached on 4 November.

The Japanese were grimly determined to prevent the Americans from taking Kokumbona. This village was the site of the 17th Army command post, and also the terminus of the main supply trail to the positions which the Japanese were secretly preparing on Mount Austen. Accordingly Hyakutake assigned the mission of halting the American attack to a new general, Major General Takeo Ito, Infantry Group commander of the 38th Division and a veteran of the fighting in China. Ito had landed at Tassafaronga from a destroyer on 5 November to take command of a reserve force of 5,000 men. Believing that the American front west of Point Cruz was so narrow that he could easily outflank it, he moved his force to a concealed position in the jungled hills on the left flank of the Americans, about 5,000 yards south of the beach. From this point he planned to strike the American left flank and rear.

Before Ito could attack, and before the Americans were even aware that their left was in danger, Vandegrift was once more forced to halt the offensive when he received word that the Japanese were preparing to bring large troop convoys to Guadalcanal in mid-November. To meet the threat of another counteroffensive, all troops were needed within the Lunga perimeter.

The battalions disengaged; the 2nd and 8th Marines retired toward the Matanikau, covered by the 1st Battalion of the 164th Infantry. The marines re-crossed the Matanikau on 11 November, followed next day by the Army battalion. The entire 164th Infantry, having returned from its operations across the Matanikau and Metapona Rivers, went into division reserve. Once safely across the Matanikau, the Americans destroyed the bridges and held their lines while the air and naval forces fought desperately to keep the Japanese away.

Push Toward the Poha

As a result of the naval victory in mid-November and the arrival of the 182nd Infantry, commanded by Colonel Daniel W. Hogan, the offensive toward Kokumbona and the Poha Rivers was resumed. The 1st Marine Division headquarters, which ordered the attack, placed General Sebree, commander of the western sector, in tactical command. Available troops in the west sector included the 164th Infantry, the 8th Marines, and the two battalions of the 182nd Infantry. To support operations in any direction, all artillery battalions remained grouped within the perimeter under del Valle’s command.

General Sebree planned first to gain a line of departure far enough west of the Matanikau and far enough south of the beach to provide sufficient room for the regiments to maneuver. Once the line of departure had been gained, a full-scale offensive could be opened. The line which General Sebree planned to capture first ran about 2,500 yards inland from Point Cruz to the southernmost point (Hill 66) of a 1,700-yard-long ridge (Hills 66-81-80).

It was thought that the west bank of the Matanikau was not occupied by the Japanese during the second week of November. This belief was confirmed by infantry and aerial reconnaissance patrols, and General Sebree and Colonel Whaling of the Marines personally patrolled the ground as far west as Point Cruz without meeting any Japanese.

Once the line of departure had been gained, the assault units were to move west, followed by the 1st Marines on the inland flank. The latter regiment was to turn northward to envelop any Japanese pockets as the 5th Marines had done so successfully earlier in the month, while the assault units continued to advance westward. This part of the plan was canceled when the 1st Marine Division was alerted for departure from Guadalcanal.

The 2nd Battalion of the 182nd Infantry was to cross the Matanikau on 18 November to seize Hill 66, the highest ground north of the northwest Matanikau fork, and the 1st Battalion of the 182nd Infantry would advance across the river and west to Point Cruz the next day. As the American forces which had withdrawn on 11-12 November had destroyed all the Matanikau bridges, engineers were to bridge the river, improve the coast road, and build a trail over the ridges to Hill 66.

The terrain west of the Matanikau differs from the deep jungles of the inland areas. The coast is flat and sandy. South of the beach rocky ridges, covered with brush and coarse grass, thrust upward to heights of several hundred feet. These ridges, running from north to south, rise near the beach and increase in height toward the south. Between these steep ridges are deep, jungled ravines which the Japanese could exploit to good advantage. The ridge line formed by Hills 80, 81, and 66 faces northwest and turns sharply eastward at Hill 66 toward the Matanikau River’s main stream. It is separated from the high hills on the south by the valley cut by the northwest Matanikau fork.

Unknown to the Americans, the 17th Army had also been planning for local offensive action. While the shattered 2nd Division assembled near Kokumbona, the 38th Division had been ordered to advance east from Kokumbona, cross the Matanikau, and seize the high ground on the east bank for artillery positions and as a line of departure for another assault against the Lunga airfields. At the same time troops under Ito’s command had been ordered to occupy Mount Austen.

On 18 November the 2nd Battalion of the 182nd Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel Bernard B. Twombley commanding), covered by the 8th Marines on the east bank of the Matanikau, crossed a footbridge about 700 yards from the Matanikau’s mouth to seize Hill 66. (Map IX) The battalion climbed to the top of the first ridge on the west bank (Hill 75) and advanced southwest behind the ridge crest toward Hill 66, about 2,000 yards from Hill 75. There were no Japanese on the ridges, but the inexperienced battalion made slow progress. The men, having landed only six days before, were not yet accustomed to the moist heat.

Since landing, most of them had been unloading ships and moving their supplies. They carried full loads of ammunition, water, and food. Many who had not swallowed salt tablets collapsed, exhausted from the hard climb. The 2nd Battalion did not reach Hill 66 until noon. Having taken the objective, the men dug foxholes and gun emplacements on the west and south military crests of Hill 66. On the left was G Company, and F on the right. Battalion reserve consisted of E Company, and H Company put its mortars in a gully behind the battalion command post.

In the afternoon a detail of two officers and thirty enlisted men from G Company went into the valley on the south to fill canteens at a water hole. They reached the spring safely, but failed to post sentries as they filled the clanking canteens. As one man in the group glanced up, he saw a Japanese officer and about twenty soldiers deploying in the jungle nearby. The Japanese promptly opened fire. The water detail scattered, each man taking cover as best he could. When a rescue party from the 2nd Battalion later made its way to the spring, the enemy patrol withdrew and the water party straggled back to the crest of Hill 66. One officer and one enlisted man had been killed. There were no more encounters with the Japanese that day.

The 1st Battalion of the 182nd Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Francis F. MacGowan, crossed the Matanikau the next morning (19 November). The battalion advanced along the flat ground between the northernmost hills and the beach, while B Company of the 8th Marines, acting on Sebree’s orders, advanced over the most northerly hill (Hill 78) to cover the battalion’s left flank. About 400 yards west of the river the battalion met fire from small enemy groups, but there was no heavy fighting. The battalion moved slowly and cautiously, fighting a series of skirmishes as it moved toward Point Cruz.

B Company of the 8th Marines also met enemy fire west of Point Cruz and withdrew to the vicinity of Hill 78 to take cover. The company again attempted to advance, but could not gain ground. About noon Colonel MacGowan’s battalion halted just east of Point Cruz; it dug in along a 700-yard line from the beach east of the point to the west tip of Hill 78, refusing the left flank eastward a short distance along the south slopes of the hill. The Marine company then withdrew across the Matanikau to rejoin its regiment. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 182nd Infantry were then separated by a gap of over 1,000 yards.

Japanese troops had been secretly moving east from Kokumbona. These forces took positions west of the 1st Battalion during the night of 19-20 November, while artillery and mortars fired on the American lines. About dawn on 20 November part of this force struck suddenly at the 1st Battalion’s left flank. The troops holding high ground on the battalion’s left held their line, but as the attack developed along the 1st Battalion’s line the troops on the low ground fell back about 400 yards. General Sebree, Lieutenant Colonel Paul A. Gavan, the operations officer, and Lieutenant Colonel Paul Daly, the assistant intelligence officer, of the Americal Division, came forward and found the battalion “somewhat shaken.” They halted the withdrawal and reorganized the companies.

Planes and artillery then struck at the Japanese, who had not exploited their advantage by advancing east of Point Cruz, and the 1st Battalion again moved west and by 0900 had regained its position. C and A Companies of the 182nd attacked west after the recapture of the initial line and advanced to the beach just west of Point Cruz. There the attack stalled after the companies had been hit hard by Japanese artillery and mortar fire. There was “considerable confusion and some straggling” in the 182nd Infantry, and it was only after order had been restored that the 1st Battalion organized a disciplined firing line. The Japanese retained Point Cruz itself.

By afternoon on 20 November it had become obvious that more American troops were needed west of the Matanikau. The Japanese were known to be moving more troops forward into the engagement. General Sebree therefore ordered the more experienced 164th Infantry out of reserve to fill the gap between the two battalions of the 182nd Infantry. The 164th Infantry was to enter the line under cover of darkness and attack the next morning. The 1st Battalion of the 164th Infantry entered the line on the left of the 1st Battalion of the 182nd Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion of the 164th moved in between the 2nd Battalion, 182nd Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 164th. Each battalion of the 164th took over about 500 yards of the line, and the 182nd Infantry battalions, on either side of the 164th Infantry, extended their flanks to join with those of the 164th.

During the first three days of the operation supplies for the units west of the Matanikau had been carried forward by hand from the river line. The engineers finally succeeded in building a footbridge over the flooded Matanikau, but the bridge for heavy vehicles was not completed until 21 November. The 1st Battalion of the 182nd attacked west from the Point Cruz area on 21 November. It met heavy artillery and mortar fire, as well as small-arms fire from some Japanese entrenched on Point Cruz itself, the beach on the west, and the near-by hills and ravines. The battalion reduced Point Cruz, but failed to advance west.

The battalions of the 164th Infantry also attacked to the west on 21 November from the Hill 80-81 ridge line. A ravine about 200 feet deep, varying in width from 150 to 300 feet, lay directly in front of Hills 80 and 81. A series of steep ridges (Hills 83 and 82) lay west of the ravine. To get through the ravine and gain the ridges on the west, it would be necessary for the 164th Infantry to cross about fifty yards of open ground on the ridge. Between 11 and 18 November the Japanese had built strong positions, containing a large number of automatic weapons, in the hills and ravines and on the flat ground west of Point Cruz. The hill positions, well dug in on the reverse slopes, were defiladed from American artillery and mortar fire. Machine guns sited at the head of each ravine could put flanking fire into advancing troops. The ravine in front of Hills 81-80 was especially well defended. On the flat ground in places where a thin layer of earth covered a coral shelf, the Japanese had dug shallow pits with overhead cover, as well as foxholes under logs and behind trees. These positions, organized in depth, were mutually supporting. Small arms supported the automatic weapons, and artillery and mortars could cover the entire American front.

Japanese fire quickly halted the 164th Infantry after it had made an average gain of less than forty yards. The 182nd and 164th Regiments attacked again on 22 November but failed to make progress. In the afternoon the 8th Marines was notified that it was to pass through the 164th Infantry the next day to attack toward Hill 83.

After the infantry had withdrawn 300 yards behind the front lines early on 23 November, the 245th Field Artillery Battalion and L Battery and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 11th Marines fired a 30-minute concentration on the Japanese lines. The 8th Marines then passed through the 164th Infantry and delivered successive attacks against the Japanese throughout the day. The regiment was supported by the artillery which fired 2,628 rounds of all calibers. During the bombardment, Hyakutake and the 17th Army chief of staff were slightly injured at their command post near Kokumbona. The American forces failed to gain. The Japanese, defending vigorously, put fire all along the entire American lines. The 3rd Battalion of the 164th Infantry was hit by accurate fire. In the afternoon of 23 November mortar fire struck the command posts of L, I, and K Companies, and killed the battalion surgeon, four lieutenants, and one 1st sergeant.

American headquarters concluded that “further advance would not be possible without accepting casualties in numbers to preclude the advisability of [continuing] this action.” The troops were ordered to dig in to hold the Hill 66-80-81-Point Cruz line. The attack had ended in a stalemate.

Operations up to 23 November had demonstrated that frontal assault would be costly. By 25 November less than 2,000 men of the 164th Infantry were fit for combat. Between 19 and 25 November 117 of the 164th had been killed, and 208 had been wounded. Three hundred and twenty-five had been evacuated from the island because of wounds or illness, and 300 more men, rendered ineffective by wounds, malaria, dysentery, or neuroses, were kept in the rear areas. The 1st Marine Division was soon to be relieved, and its impending departure would reduce American troop strength too greatly to permit the execution of any flanking movements over the hills south of Hill 66. Until reinforcements could be brought in, the westward offensive had to be suspended.

The attacks on 18-23 November had, however, achieved some success. Hyakutake’s plan to recapture the Matanikau’s east bank had been thwarted, although in November he secretly began to increase his strength on Mount Austen.[NOTE 41-41] American troops had finally established permanent positions west of the Matanikau. The Americans and the Japanese now faced one another at close ranges, the Americans on high ground, the Japanese on reverse slopes and in ravines. Each side could cover the opponent’s lines with rifle, automatic, mortar, and artillery fire, and put mortar and artillery fire on the trails and rear areas. Americans and Japanese were to hold these static but dangerous lines until the beginning of the XIV Corps’ general offensive in January.

[NOTE 41-41: On 30 November 1942, 8 enemy destroyers attempted to land reinforcements and supplies. Intercepted by 5 U.S. cruisers and 6 destroyers off Tassafaronga, they failed, but sank 1 and damaged 3 American cruisers, suffering 1 destroyer sunk and 1 damaged. See USSBS, Campaigns of Pacific War, pp. 139-40, and ONI, USN, Combat Narratives: Solomon Islands Campaign, VII, Battle of Tassafaronga, 30 November 1042 (Washington, 1944).

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

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

World War Two: Guadalcanal (7); Decision at Sea

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

On 16 November the troops east of the Girua River started for the positions from which they were to attack the enemy in the Cape Endaiadere-New Strip area. The 128th Infantry moved out to the attack in early morning. Colonel McCoy’s 1st Battalion (less Company A which was still at Pongani) advanced up the coast from Embogo, crossed the Samboga River, and by nightfall was in position at Boreo, a creek mouth about a mile north of Hariko where General MacNider now had his headquarters. Colonel Miller’s 3rd Battalion, with Colonel Smith’s 2nd Battalion marching immediately behind it, moved up from Warisota Plantation—three miles west of Embogo—and Embi, scattered a small Japanese patrol at Dobodura that afternoon, and started for Simemi, its jump-off point for the attack on the bridge between the strips. The troops still at Pongani—Company A, 128th Infantry, Company A, 114th Engineer Battalion, Colonel Carrier’s 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, and Major Harcourt’s 2/6 Australian Independent Company—were to leave for the front the next day, in the same luggers which were bringing forward the supplies. Artillery was already in place.

Using a Japanese barge captured at Milne Bay, General Waldron, the division artillery officer, had come in during the night with the two Australian 3.7-inch mountain howitzers allotted to the operation, their crews, and 200 rounds of ammunition. Waldron had left before daybreak for Oro Bay to pick up the 25-pounders that were waiting there. His executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Melvin McCreary, who had been put ashore at Hariko with the two mountain guns, had them assembled and ready to fire from an advanced position at Boreo that evening.

General Harding Readjusts His Plans; The Disruption of the Supply Line

It was clear as the advance got under way that the 32nd Division’s weakest point was its supply line. Until an airfield was completed at Dobodura the division’s supply, except for emergency dropping from the air, would be entirely dependent upon the six remaining luggers or trawlers with which Colonel McKenny was carrying supplies up the coast from Porlock Harbor, as well as upon the Japanese barge General Waldron was using to bring in the 25-pounders from Oro Bay. The boats had thus far not been interfered with by the enemy, but Japanese naval aviation at Lae had marked the Allied coastal movements well, and struck the very day the advance began.

In the late afternoon of 16 November three of Colonel McKenny’s luggers—the Alacrity, the Bonwin, and the Minnemura—joined by the Japanese landing barge, which had just come in from Oro Bay, left Embogo for Hariko. The Alacrity was carrying ammunition, and the equipment and personnel of the 22nd Portable Hospital. The Bonwin was loaded with rations and ammunition, and the Minnemura, largest of the three luggers, held ammunition, rations, radio supplies, 81-mm. mortars, .50-caliber machine guns, and other heavy equipment not easily carried by the troops.

The Japanese barge, also heavily laden, carried two 25-pounders, their crews, and all the 25-pounder ammunition for which space could be found. General Waldron and Colonel H. F. Handy, an Army Ground Forces observer, were on the barge. General Harding, who was on his way to the front, was on the Minnemura, as was another AGF observer, Colonel Herbert B. Laux.

The luggers and barge, protected only by machine guns mounted on their decks, were proceeding without air cover. Though it was still light, Allied fighter aircraft patrolling the coast had left for Port Moresby sometime before in order to get back to their bases before dark. While the boats were rounding Cape Sudest, and a small lighter from the shore was off-loading ammunition from the Alacrity, which had stopped momentarily for that purpose, the flotilla was attacked by eighteen Japanese Zero-type fighters that appeared without warning from the northwest. The enemy planes gave the ships a thorough strafing. The troops aboard replied with machine guns and rifles but their fire was entirely without effect.

In a few moments the barge and all three luggers were ablaze. The ammunition began to explode and all aboard had to take to the water. General Harding, General Waldron, and Colonel Handy swam ashore. Colonel Laux, who was no swimmer, got there safely in a dinghy which had been riding behind the Minnemura.

 The luggers, the Japanese barge, and virtually all of the cargo they were carrying were a total loss. The lighter that had been loading ammunition from the Alacrity reached shore under fire. At great personal risk 1st Lieutenant John E. Harbert, a divisional ordnance officer, went aboard and took off the ammunition. Casualties were heavy. Colonel McKenny and twenty-three others were killed, and there were many wounded.

The loss of life would have been even greater but for a number of daring rescues from the shore. Braving the enemy fire, the exploding ammunition, and the flaming debris, rescue parties under Colonel Carew, commanding officer of the 114th Engineer Battalion, and 1st Lieutenant Herbert G. Peabody, of Division Headquarters Company, saved the lives of many who might otherwise have drowned or burned to death. [NOTE 2D]

The next morning, in attacks which took place before the air force could intervene, four Zeros hit two of the remaining three luggers, one at Embogo, and the other at Mendaropu. The first lugger, the Two Freddies, was badly smashed up and had to limp back to Milne Bay for repairs; the second lugger, the Willyama suffered even greater damage and had to be beached, a total loss. Only one small lugger, the Kelton, was left to supply the troops east of the river.

[NOTE 2D: Major Parker’s Buna Rpt; Colonel Handy’s Buna Rpt: General Harding’s Diary, 16 Nov 42. Colonel Carew and Lieutenants Harbert and Peabody were later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, as were the following enlisted men who participated in the rescues: Staff Sergeant John R. MacGowan, Sergeant Howard J. Weiss, Corporal Gordon C. Snyder, Private First Class Donald R. Price, Private Maro P. Johnson, Private Homer McAllister, and Private Cloyd G. Myers. Price, Johnson and McAllister were from the 107th QM Battalion; the others were from Headquarters Company and Companies I and H, 128th Infantry. The citations are in GHQ SWPA GO No. 64, 28 Dec]

The loss of the boats was a catastrophe of the first magnitude. There were no replacement vessels immediately in sight, and artillery pieces, mortars, machine guns, and other essential matériel, which could not be replaced for days, had been lost on the very eve of the attack. The whole supply plan for the operation had been disrupted. Since the stores of rations and ammunition actually at the front where the troops could use them were in dangerously short supply, and the one small remaining lugger could not possibly handle more than a small fraction of the division’s immediate requirements, Major Ralph T. Birkness, Colonel McKenny’s successor, then at Port Moresby, at once arranged with the air force to have the most critically needed items dropped from the air.

The dislocation caused by the loss of boats and cargo on 16 and 17 November forced General Harding to make some last-minute changes in plan. General MacNider was ordered to hold up his advance until the Kelton could come in and make up at least part of his supply deficiencies, and the troops at Pongani who were to have been moved to Embogo by boat were ordered instead to proceed to the front on foot. Except for the engineer company which was sent to Dobodura, the troops were ordered to Boreo where they were to join with Colonel McCoy’s battalion in the attack toward Cape Endaiadere.

Colonel Smith Is Ordered to the Left

On 18 November, with the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 128th Infantry, in position at Boreo and Simemi respectively, General Harding set H Hour as 0700 the following morning, 19 November. Three companies of the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, which were to be in division reserve, were ordered from Dobodura to Ango in order to cover the junction of the Soputa-Buna and Ango-Dobodura tracks until such time as the 126th Infantry could come in and take over the left-flank attack on Buna Village and Buna Mission. The remaining company, joined by the engineer company when it came in from Pongani, was to remain at Dobodura to help prepare an airfield there.

The diversion next day to General Vasey’s command of the 126th Infantry, even as it was marching from Inonda toward Buna to attack on Harding’s left, upset these plans. Robbed at the last minute of his left-flank force, General Harding had to commit his reserve, the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry. In ordering Colonel Smith to take Buna, General Harding was well aware that he was sending a battalion to do a job to which a full regiment had previously been assigned. He had no other force available, however, and sent Smith forward anyway, hoping apparently that he might, with luck, do the job. The company at Dobodura was immediately ordered to Ango, and the battalion moved out on the 20th with orders to attack Buna Mission.

The Battle Opens; The Attacks on the Right

Torrential rains that lasted all day began early on 19 November, the day of the attack. The troops were drenched to the skin, and all aircraft were grounded. At 0700, after the two mountain guns fired a few unobserved rounds, the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, under Colonel McCoy, moved forward from Boreo, and the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, under Colonel Miller, marched out from Simemi. Because of the supply dislocation, the men had only one day’s rations with them, and only as much ammunition as was immediately available—little more than a day’s supply. Colonel McCoy’s troops, in column of companies, with Company C leading, crossed the creek mouth near Boreo, and began moving along a narrow, muddy path in the jungle about twenty yards inland. Their objective was Cape Endaiadere, two miles away.

Colonel Yamamoto was ready. He had had two full days to get his fresh, well-armed 144th and 229th Infantry troops into position. His main line of resistance, between 750 and 800 yards south of Cape Endaiadere, ran from the sea through the Duropa Plantation to the eastern end of the New Strip and past it to the bridge between the strips. At the immediate approaches to this well-built and strongly held defense system he had an outpost line of emplacements. Although not continuous like the main line, it was very strong because of its cleared fields of fire. It was covered by troops who manned concealed and cleverly disposed machine gun nests along the track at the lower (southern) end of the Duropa Plantation, and in the plantation itself.

The 1st Battalion made its first enemy contact halfway between Boreo and the plantation. It was met by heavy machine gun and rifle fire from hidden enemy machine gun positions west of the track. The troops deployed and attacked, but the heavy overhead jungle growth made it difficult for them to use their mortars effectively and their grenades were of little use because they did not know where the enemy was or where the fire was coming from. The Japanese weapons gave off no flash, and the reverberation of their fire in the jungle made it impossible to ascertain their whereabouts by sound. To complicate matters, the Japanese made it a practice to rotate their weapons among several hidden positions, causing the inexperienced Americans, until they saw through the trick, to imagine themselves covered by automatic weapons from all sides.

Major David B. Parker, an engineer observer who was present wrote: The first opposition from the enemy here was a surprise and shock to our green troops. The enemy positions were amazingly well camouflaged, and seemed to have excellent fields of fire even in the close quarters of the jungle. . . . Snipers were everywhere, . . .and they were so well camouflaged that it was nearly impossible to discern them. The enemy habitually allowed our troops to advance to very close range—sometimes four or five feet from a machine gun post—before opening fire; often they allowed troops to by-pass them completely, opening fire then on our rear elements, and on our front elements from the rear.

Major Parker was particularly impressed by “the deadly accuracy and strength of the enemy machine gun and rifle fire from their camouflaged positions.” He added: . . . Our troops were pinned down everywhere by extremely effective fire. It was dangerous to show even a finger from behind one’s cover, as it would immediately draw a burst of fire. It was impossible to see where the enemy fire was coming from; consequently our own rifle and machine gun [fire] was ineffective during the early stages. . . . Grenades and mortars . . . were difficult to use because, first, it was difficult to pick out a nest position to advance upon with grenades, second, the thick jungle growth, and high grass, made throwing and firing difficult, and, third, because it was nearly impossible to observe our fire.[Note 7D]

[NOTE 7D: Major Parker’s Buna Rpt. During this attack, T/5 Edwin C. De Rosier, a medical aid man from the 107th Medical Detachment, moved out into the open in the face of intense enemy fire and repeatedly went to the aid of the wounded, saving the lives of several. Killed in action two weeks later, De Rosier was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 14, 30 Jan 43.]

Yielding a dozen or so yards at a time when strongly pressed, the Japanese covering troops gradually fell back. Out of rations, and with the greater part of its ammunition used up, the 1st Battalion ended the day a badly shaken outfit. The troops had entered the battle joking and laughing, and sure of an easy victory. Now they were dazed and taken aback by the mauling they had received at the hands of the Japanese.

Nor did it escape them that the bodies of the few Japanese left on the field were those of fresh, well-fed, well-armed troops—not, as they had been led to expect, the tired, emaciated, and disease-ridden survivors of the fighting in the Owen Stanleys. It was to be some time before they and their fellows recovered from the shock of finding that the battle was to be no pushover and that, instead of a short and easy mop-up, a long cruel fight lay ahead of them. Colonel Miller’s troops had an even ruder awakening. As the 3rd Battalion approached the trail junction between the Old and New Strips, the Simemi trail degenerated into a narrow causeway with swamp on either side. Attempts to get the troops through an open area about 300 yards south of the junction were met by such intense fire from the western end of the New Strip, from behind the bridge between the strips, and from machine guns forward of the junction itself that no further advance was possible that day.

Nor could Miller do much to blast out the enemy with fire. He had no 81-mm. mortars; a large percentage of his grenades failed to go off; his .30-caliber ammunition ran dangerously low, and he had to call for a fresh supply to be dropped to him from the air. A member of the regimental staff recalled the situation in the following words: Miller had to attack through swamps which were sometimes waist and chest deep, and through which it was impossible to carry any but light weapons. Here too, grenades (Mills bombs obtained from the Australians) became ineffective when wet. One of Miller’s patrols threw seven grenades into a group of ten or twelve Japs whom they stalked only to have all the grenades fail to explode and to suffer about 30 percent casualties from return grenade fire.

At the end of the day, Miller’s troops were still at the edge of the clearing south of the junction. The battalion had suffered heavy casualties, and made no further gain. As Colonel Miller himself put the matter late that afternoon, it had been “stopped cold.” Pinned down on a narrow front, out of rations, and with nearly all the ammunition expended, Miller’s troops made no progress whatever the next day. They were fortunate that Colonel Yamamoto did not counterattack.

McCoy, better supplied with ammunition, resumed his attack on the 20th. After a sketchy preparation which included some unobserved fire from the mountain guns and a brief bombardment of the Cape Endaiadere area by a few B-25’s and A-20’s, the battalion attacked from a point about 1,800 yards south of the cape. Company C was on the right, along the coast; Company B was on the left, a short distance inland.

The enemy was as well-hidden and as well prepared as before, but the Americans had a better idea by this time what they were about. Led by 1st Lieutenant John W. Crow, who was reported missing in action that afternoon, Company C succeeded in infiltrating and knocking out several enemy machine gun nests. The line moved forward several hundred yards—as far as it was to go that day. [NOTE 12D]

[NOTE 12D: 1st Bn, 128th Inf, Jnl, Sers 1, 7, 11, 20 Nov 42; Ltr, Colonel MacNab to author, 15 Nov 49. Lieutenant Crow, last seen charging an enemy machine gun post, submachine gun in hand, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 14, 30 Jan 43.]

Rations and ammunition had been dropped at Hariko and Simemi that morning and by late afternoon had been distributed to both McCoy and Miller. In the evening, Colonel Carrier’s battalion and Major Harcourt’s Independent Company reached the 1st Battalion’s front and went into bivouac immediately to McCoy’s rear. The incoming troops, who arrived at the front exhausted after a twenty-five mile march from Pongani with full pack, were to join McCoy’s battalion in a further attack on Cape Endaiadere in the morning.

The attack of 21 November was to be in greater strength, better supported, and better supplied than the efforts of 19 and 20 November. The plan of attack called for McCoy’s and Carrier’s battalions (the 128th Infantry troops on the right, and those of the 126th Infantry on the left) to move north on Cape Endaiadere on a 300-yard front. While the attack was proceeding along the coast, the 2/6 Independent Company would infiltrate the eastern end of the New Strip, and the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, from its position astride the Dobodura-Simemi track, would attempt to seize the bridge between the strips. The attack would be preceded by a heavy air bombardment, following which the troops would attack. The time of the attack would be communicated to the battalion commanders as soon as it was definitely learned from the air force when the bombers would come over.

The air attack, executed by A-20’s and B-25’s, took place at the appointed time, and a few enemy machine gun nests were knocked out from the air. However, no ground attack followed the bombardment. Because of faulty co-ordination—apparently an oversight on the part of regimental headquarters—neither Colonel McCoy nor Colonel Miller received prior notice of the bombardment or, for that matter, orders telling them when to attack. Worse still, one of the planes, instead of dropping its bombs on the Japanese, dropped them on some of Colonel Miller’s forward troops, killing four and wounded two others.

Orders from regiment calling for an attack at 0800 were finally received by Colonel Miller at 0840, and by Colonel McCoy at 0850—forty and fifty minutes, respectively, after the air bombardment had ceased. General Harding arranged to have the air force attack again at 1245. The air attack was to be followed by an artillery and mortar barrage, and the troops would jump off at 1300.

This time, no planes showed up for the attack. Fearing that it would not be able to complete the attack within the appointed time the air force had held its planes back rather than run the risk of again hitting friendly troops.

Determined that there would be an attack that day, General Harding got the air force to try again. The air bombardment, as before by A-20’s and B-25’s, began at 1557 and was over by 1603. It was not a success. Most of the planes were unable to find the target area, and a flight of A-20’s that did overshot the beachhead and dropped its bombs into the sea. One B-25 unloaded its bomb load squarely in the midst of Colonel McCoy’s two lead companies—Companies B and C—killing six, wounding twelve, and almost burying seventy others. This accident had a most disheartening effect on the 1st Battalion. Some of the men withdrew from the line of departure, and their commanders had to order them to return.

The attack finally got under way at 1630, after a short unobserved artillery preparation by the mountain guns and a brief barrage by the mortars. As soon as the advance began, it was discovered that the preparation had done the well dug in enemy little or no harm. Once again the troops had to attack an enemy who was virtually untouched by Allied fire.

The attackers had few heavy weapons. Most of their 81-mm. mortars and heavy machine guns either had been lost or had not arrived. All the mortar shells reaching the front—including the light 81-mm. mortar shell, the only shell available at the time for the mortars—were fused super-quick so that the shells went off on contact and had little effect against the Japanese bunkers. Forward observers were handicapped by the heavy jungle growth, Japanese camouflage discipline, and communications failures. The SCR 536, the small handset radio with which the mortar platoons were equipped, refused to work in the jungle.

The troops along the coastal track fought desperately with rifles, Thompson submachine guns, light machine guns, and hand grenades. They knocked out a few machine gun nests during the day, as did the Australian Independent Company which was operating near the eastern end of the strip. Otherwise there was little progress. Casualties were heavy. In three days of combat, Company C lost sixty-three men, including all four of its officers. Two sergeants, killed within a few hours of each other, commanded it on the 21st. [NOTE 15D]

[NOTE 15D: 1st Bn, 126th Inf, Jnl, Sers 339 through 350, 21 Nov 42; 1st Bn, 128th Inf, Jnl, Sers 21 through 25, 21 Nov 42; 3rd Bn, 128th Inf, Jnl, Sers 8, 11, 21 Nov 42; Allied Air Forces Opns Rpt, 21 Nov 42; Ltr, Col MacNab to author, 15 Nov 49. The two sergeants, 1st Sergeant Reuben J. Steger, and Staff Sergeant Carl Cherney, both from Marshfield, Wisconsin, were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Steger’s citation is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 1, 1 Jan 43; Cherney’s is in GO No. 14, 30 Jan 43.]

Colonel Miller’s battalion failed even to reach the bridge between the strips. A twenty-round barrage by the 60-mm. mortars, fired without observation and with the aid only of a photomap, had followed the air bombardment. The troops had jumped off at 1628 and at first had made good progress. They moved through the clearing where they had been held up on the 19th and 20th, swept past the junction, and several of the lead platoons actually advanced to within a short distance of the bridge.

At its approaches a withering crossfire completely pinned them down. The battalion lost forty-two killed, wounded, and missing in the attack and, try as it would, could not advance. At 1750, Colonel Miller ordered the troops to pull back to a less-exposed position south of the track junction. It was clear by this time that the 3rd Battalion was not going to take the bridge.

At 2015 that night Colonel Miller was ordered to leave one company suitably provided with ammunition and supplies to hold the existing position. The rest of the battalion was to march to the coast, where it was to operate thenceforward on the right flank, against Cape Endaiadere. The march was to be accomplished as swiftly as possible and in such a way that the Japanese would be unaware of the transfer. Company I, under 1st Lieutenant Carl K. Fryday, was chosen to stay behind, and the rest of the battalion was moved back to Simemi early the following morning. By 1800 that evening the troops were bivouacked to the rear of the position held by Colonel McCoy’s battalion.

The supply picture had brightened slightly. The airstrip at Dobodura opened for limited traffic on 21 November, and five additional luggers arrived on the scene from Milne Bay the same day. One of them broke up on a reef immediately upon arrival, but the remaining four brought in their cargo safely. With the Kelton, Major Birkness now had five luggers for the coastwise operation. There was still a chance that the division’s supply, disrupted though it was, could be put on an even keel.

The artillery picture had also improved. On 21 November General Waldron brought in the two remaining 25-pounders, their Australian crews, and 200 rounds of ammunition. Japanese Zeros came over just as the guns were ready to be emplaced and knocked the sights off one of them, putting it out of action for several days. This left only three guns—the two mountain guns and a 25-pounder—immediately available for the attack on the powerful Japanese positions in the Duropa Plantation.

It had not taken General Harding long to realize that he was up against a strong enemy bunker line, and that the only way to reduce it in a hurry was with tanks. Judging correctly that the Duropa Plantation was suitable for tank action, he asked Milne Force (which then had some light General Stuart tanks on hand) to send three of them to Oro Bay by barge. General Clowes did his best to comply with the request, but when the first of the tanks were loaded on some captured Japanese barges-—the only craft available for the purpose—the barges sank, taking the tanks with them. Advised that there was no way to get the tanks to him, Harding was left with the task of trying to reduce the formidable Japanese positions without armor.

Dissatisfied with the co-ordination between the various units of Warren Force, Harding ordered Lieutenant Colonel Alexander J. MacNab, executive officer of the 128th Infantry, an experienced and aggressive soldier in whom he had great confidence, to report to General MacNider, under whom he was to co-ordinate the coastal drive. MacNab reached the front on 22 November and at once began laying plans for a stepped-up attack.

One of the first things that MacNab did was to place all the available mortars at the front in battery, connecting them by field telephone with a central observation post in a tall coconut tree overlooking the front. It was not a very good observation post—a much better one was to be found later—but it gave the mortars and the artillery infinitely better observation than was obtainable before. Next morning the artillery pieces registered on the enemy positions along the coastal track and in the New Strip area. The fire was to such good effect that, when Colonel McCoy’s and Colonel Carrier’s lead companies attacked that day, they were able to push the Japanese back against their main line of resistance. The 2/6 Independent Company, operating off the eastern end of the strip, also made a little progress that day. Ordered to hold tight, Lieutenant Fryday’s unit, Company I, 128th Infantry, still in position off the southwest end of the New Strip, remained where it was.

General MacNider had come up during the afternoon from his headquarters at Hariko to observe the fighting. He was wounded at 1830 by an enemy rifle grenade while inspecting the front lines and was immediately evacuated. On General Harding’s instructions, Colonel Hale succeeded him as commander of Warren Force.

The next two days, 24 and 25 November, were quiet. Colonel Miller’s troops relieved Colonel McCoy’s in the front lines, but no advance was attempted either day. The lull was being used to prepare for a co-ordinated attack on Cape Endaiadere and both ends of the New Strip, on the 26th, Thanksgiving Day.

This was to be a strong effort. Eight artillery pieces—six 25-pounders and the two 3.7-inch howitzers—would be in support, four more 25-pounders having been brought in by air on the 25th and emplaced near Ango. A dozen 81-mm. mortars and several more heavy machine guns would be available, as well as thirty-five planes—the largest concentration of aircraft for an attack to date. The action would open with a thorough bombing and strafing of enemy positions in the Cape Endaiadere-New Strip area.

When the air attack was over, the mountain guns would fire on Cape Endaiadere and the 25-pounders would let loose on the bridge between the strips and on the western end of the New Strip. The troops would start from a line of departure about 900 yards south of the cape. Colonel Miller’s 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry (less Company I), would thrust directly north along the coastal track and Cape Endaiadere.

Colonel Carrier’s battalion would move out on Miller’s left. Colonel McCoy’s troops were to follow Colonel Carrier’s at an interval of 1,000 yards, prepared to push through them if necessary. The 2/6 Independent Company would continue attacking on the eastern end of the New Strip, and Company I, 128th Infantry, from its position below the track junction, would attempt to establish itself on the western end of the strip.

High hopes were held for the success of the attack. General Harding left his headquarters at Embogo the night before to observe it personally. Having no motor boat for command use, he caught a ride on the lugger Helen Dawn, which was carrying ammunition to the forward dump at Hariko. About seven miles out the lugger ran onto a sand bar, and General Harding had to complete the remaining three miles of his journey in a row boat, with which, fortunately, the Helen Dawn had come equipped. Harding arrived at Colonel Hale’s command post at Hariko at 0445. After visiting Colonel McCoy and Colonel Carrier in their command posts, he moved on to Colonel Miller’s CP.

The attack went off as scheduled. It opened with strafing by Beaufighters and P-40’s, and bombing by A-20’s and B-25’s. At 0930, after a short preparation by artillery, mortars, and heavy machine guns, Colonel Miller’s battalion moved forward on the right. Fifteen minutes later Colonel Carrier’s troops jumped off on the left. Allied preparatory fire had hit the target area but had done the enemy troops little harm. Retiring into their bunkers, the Japanese waited until it was over, and then emerged unscathed to meet the American infantry attack from hidden firing positions that commanded every approach.

Colonel Miller’s troops, coming up against the strongest section of the Japanese line, were stopped almost at once. They suffered fifty casualties by noon and could not move forward. Company K, which had sustained the bulk of the casualties, was pinned down completely, and Company L, out of contact with Carrier’s battalion, was immobilized.

Japanese fighter planes from Lae (which destroyed the Helen Dawn when they found it still caught on the sand bar succeeded in bombing and strafing Miller’s battalion despite Allied attempts at interception.

Carrier’s attack was also a disappointment, and narrowly missed being a fiasco. Moving through waist-deep swamp, Carrier’s lead troops, though following a compass course, seem to have misjudged both their direction and their distances. Turning apparently too sharply to the west, and then cutting too soon to the east, they managed to get themselves completely turned around.

At 1400 Carrier reported that his troops were nearing the sea, and at 1503 he found to his embarrassment that they were coming out on the coast on Miller’s rear. Realizing his error, Carrier resumed the attack, this time striking toward the Duropa Plantation. He made some minor gains against strong enemy opposition, and by morning the two battalions presented a continuous front to the enemy.

Nor did the Australian Independent Company and Company I, 128th Infantry, to the east and west respectively of the New Strip, make any gains that day. Both were stopped in their tracks almost as soon as they tried to move forward. The attack on which so much hope had been placed had been a complete failure.[Note 23D]

[Note 23D: 1st Bn, 126th Inf, Jnl, Sers 392, 393, 396, 26 Nov 42; 3rd Bn, 128th Inf, Jnl, Sers 1 through 12, 15, 17, 26 Nov 42; Msgs, 32nd Div to NGF, Sers 1476, 1477, 26 Nov 42; Allied Air Forces Opns Rpt, 26 Nov 42; Gen Harding’s Diary, 26 Nov 42; Ltr, Colonel Miller to General Ward, 27 Mar 51. During the heavy fighting on Colonel Carrier’s front that afternoon, Private Howard M. Eastwood of Company C, 126th Infantry, single-handedly attacked a ten-man party of the enemy whom he had discovered to his front on a scouting mission. Standing upright in the tall grass, he engaged the Japanese with fire from his submachine gun, killing several and dispersing the others. Killed by an enemy sniper in the area, Eastwood was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.]

The next day, Allied aircraft in the course of bombing Japanese positions along the New Strip dropped a string of demolition bombs on Lieutenant Fryday’s position southwest of the strip. Three men were seriously wounded, and Fryday temporarily pulled his company back into the jungle, south of the position from which the first attack of the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, had been launched on 19 November.

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

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

World War Two: Papuan Campaign (10);Opening Blows in General Vasey’s Area

World News Headlines: 01-21-2019


Israel admits strikes against Iranian Quds in Syria; In a rare acknowledgement of military action in Syria, Israel says it fired rockets at Iranian Quds sites in Damascus. Syrian state media said it had shot down the missiles. Israel’s military said on Monday that it had struck Iranian military targets inside Syria, an unusual admission by a country that rarely comments on its military actions in Syria. “We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” Israel’s military wrote on Twitter. “We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory,” Syria said it had shot down several “hostile targets” without elaborating.

Greek police and protesters clash at rally over Macedonia name deal; Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Athens to voice their disapproval of a name deal with neighboring Macedonia. Greece’s parliament is due to vote this week on whether or not to ratify the deal. Clashes broke out between riot police and protesters in Athens on Sunday as thousands of people took part in a rally against the Greek government’s name change deal with Macedonia, which is currently officially referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “We cannot stomach this deal, to give away our Macedonia, our history,” Amalia Savrami, a 67-year-old pensioner, told Reuters news agency. “Macedonia is Greek, period,” she added, waving a large blue and white Greek flag. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside of parliament after a group of protesters threw rocks, paint, flares, fireworks and other objects. One man wearing a Greek flag attacked police with a large stick while others also struck officers by swinging large flags on wooden poles.

Colombia’s shattered hopes of peace; Fear has returned to Colombia, two years after the government signed a peace deal with FARC rebels. Real peace remains an illusion, as this week’s bomb attack has shown. Ofelia Harms Arruti reports from Bogota. Weeping mothers, wives and children: the scenes outside the General Santander police academy in the Colombian capital were heartbreaking. At least 21 young people died and another 68 were injured in the car bombing in Bogota on Thursday. Most of the victims were aged between 17 and 23. The bomber is assumed to have been a member of the ELN guerrilla group. The police cadets had just participated in a promotion ceremony when he drove his explosive-laden car into the academy compound and blew it up. The attacker died in the blast, and his motive remains unclear.

10 UN peacekeepers killed in Al Qaida-linked attack in Mali; An attack on the UN mission in Mali has left 10 peacekeepers dead and at least 25 injured. Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an Islamist group with al Qaida ties, has claimed responsibility.An al Qaida-linked Islamist group has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 10 UN peacekeepers from Chad in the north of Mali on Sunday. In a statement posted on messaging platform Telegram, the Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said the attack was a response to Chadian President Idriss Deby’s revival of diplomatic relations with Israel.At least 25 others were injured in the attack on the UN camp, which was one of the deadliest attacks against MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali. The gunmen struck early Sunday at the Aguelhok base 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kidal and toward the border with Algeria, according to a source close to the MINUSMA mission. “MINUSMA forces responded robustly and a number of assailants were killed,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said without specifying the toll.

Zimbabwe warns brutal crackdown is ‘just a foretaste’ of things to come; Zimbabwean authorities will hold opponents “fully accountable” for the unrest, and a spokesman described the deadly crackdown as “just a foretaste” of the future. President Mnangagwa has cut short a foreign trip. The government of Zimbabwe is set to drastically ramp up its response to protests over fuel prices, a spokesman for President Emmerson Mnangagwa told The Sunday News newspaper. Authorities claim three people have lost their lives in the unrest, but activists say some 12 people were killed and scores of others suffered gunshot wounds in the brutal crackdown. Talking to the pro-government paper, spokesman George Charamba said the opposition MDC party and the trade unions had “unleashed” violence. Zimbabwe’s government “will not stand by while such narrow interests play out so violently,” Charamba told The Sunday News from Azerbaijan, where he was following the president on an official trip.
“The response so far is just a foretaste of things to come,” he added

Opinion: Europe caught in a dangerous nuclear trap; The treaty banning intermediate- and shorter-range missiles is beyond saving. The Cold War is back with a vengeance, and for Europe it’s even colder and more dangerous than 30 years ago, writes Christian F. Trippe. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is not one to envy right now: He wants to try to save a treaty between the US and Russia that is beyond saving. The INF treaty is dead. Signed in 1987, the agreement oversaw the elimination and banning of short- and medium-range missiles. These are weapons first developed by the USSR and then later by the United States. Given their limited range and nuclear capability, it would have been Europe, not the US, to suffer the radioactive consequences. That’s why such a ban has always been a matter of life or death for Europeans. It led to a two-tiered NATO policy towards the Soviet Union: Get rid of these weapons or have the same ones pointed at you. A negotiated disarmament was always on the table.

FRANCE (France24)

Israel and Chad renew diplomatic ties decades after rupture; Netanyahu and Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno have “announced the renewal of diplomatic relations between Chad and Israel”, a statement from the Israeli premier’s office said. Ties between Israel and the Muslim majority nation were broken in 1972. “The two sides view the resumption of relations as the key to future cooperation for the benefit of both countries,” the statement said.

Deadly explosion in Syrian capital Damascus; The head of the city’s civil defence, Asef Hababe, told Reuters the blast came from military technicians detonating a bomb. State TV had said earlier that initial reports pointed to a terrorist attack, and that a number of people were injured. The state outlet did not provide any more details on the incident.

Qatar’s emir in Beirut for Arab economic summit; Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has arrived in Beirut to attend an Arab economic summit marred by divisions over readmitting Syria into the Arab League. Qatar’s government has been one of the main backers of Syrian insurgents who have tried, since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. So the visit by its main representative is widely seen as a first step to restoring relations with Syria.

Ex-Nissan boss Ghosn vows to stay in Japan if granted bail; The Tokyo District Court will later Monday consider the 64-year-old’s latest petition for bail but has already rejected previous applications, judging Ghosn a flight risk who might seek to destroy evidence. “As the court considers my bail application, I want to emphasise that I will reside in Japan and respect any and all bail conditions the Court concludes are warranted,” Ghosn said in a statement released by his US-based representatives. He vowed to attend any subsequent trial “not only because I am legally obligated to do so, but because I am eager to finally have the opportunity to defend myself”.


China growth slows amid trade dispute; China says its economy grew 6.6 percent in 2018. That’s 0.2 percentage point less than the previous year, marking the first dip in two years. The figure marked the weakest annual growth in 28 years. The National Bureau of Statistics released the data on Monday.Economists point to the country’s trade dispute with the US as a big factor for the downturn.

Mindanao votes on new autonomy law; People on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao have been voting on a new law that would grant the local government substantially more autonomy. If they vote “yes”, it could pave the way for lasting peace after decades of fighting between government forces and Muslim militants. The first part of the election took place Monday, with people from two key cities and five provinces having their say. Other cities will vote on February 6th. A win would allow the autonomous government in the Muslim-majority region to change the educational and judicial systems and develop natural resources. The autonomy was part of the terms of a 2014 peace treaty between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the region’s largest militant group. President Rodrigo Duterte has been calling for a “yes” vote, saying the country must stand together against violence.
The government hopes the autonomy will stimulate development in the resource-rich region. Even if law comes into effect, it is no guarantee of peace in the region. Other militant groups there are recruiting members under the name of the Islamic State militant group. The final result of the vote is expected late next month.

Fierce presidential race expected in Afghanistan; The registration of candidates was closed on Sunday for Afghanistan’s presidential election. A fierce race is expected between the incumbent and his power-sharing partner. A presidential election is held every five years in Afghanistan. This year’s poll will be held on July 20th. President Ashraf Ghani announced his candidacy for a second term. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who is the number-two in the Ghani administration, and former National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar are also running. Ghani and Abdullah had staged a fierce battle in the previous race in 2014. A run-off was held after neither one of them gained a majority of ballots in the first round. Vote-recounting was also held due to vote-rigging allegations. It took more than five months before the election results were finally announced. The race this time is also expected to be fierce, centering on how to improve security in the country as well as on ways to rebuild its economy which has been strained by civil war. Anti-government Taliban militants have regained power in Afghanistan since most of the multi-national troops withdrew from the country in 2014. The security situation continues to worsen.

Abe to leave for Russia to meet Putin; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to leave for Russia on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin. Abe is determined to promote discussions on signing a peace treaty that would include a solution to the issue of four Russian-held islands. Russia controls the four islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two. During his two-day stay in Russia, Abe is expected to meet Putin on Tuesday. It will be the 25th summit between the two leaders. They met in Argentina last month. Abe and Putin agreed in November to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on a 1956 joint declaration stating that two of the four islands would be handed over to Japan after the conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty. But last week’s meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov highlighted differences over the territorial issue. The Russian side has urged Japan to recognize Russian sovereignty over the islands as a result of World War Two. It has also expressed concern and frustration over the Japan-US alliance and Japan’s joining Western nations in imposing sanctions on Russia. The Russians have nonetheless shown a willingness to continue negotiations with Japan.

Kono, Pompeo to meet over N.Korea; apanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have agreed to meet in mid-February to discuss the second US-North Korea summit. Kono talked with Pompeo over the phone for about 20 minutes on Monday morning. Kono was briefed on the negotiations between the United States and North Korea. The White House said last Friday that US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold their second summit late next month. Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to the North Korean leader, met Trump on Friday. Kono and Pompeo confirmed that Japan and the US will maintain close cooperation with South Korea. They also agreed to work together to resolve the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

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

American soldiers began striding through the surf to the beaches of Northwest Africa before dawn on 8 November 1942. They were the first of more than one million Americans to see service in the Mediterranean area during World War II-men of the II Army Corps in Tunisia, the Seventh Army in Sicily, the Fifth Army in Italy from Salerno to the Alps, and an elaborate theater organization.[N-1] The stream of American military strength which was to pour into that part of the world during the next two and one half years would include the Twelfth, Ninth, and Fifteenth Air Forces; the U.S. Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters; the Eighth Fleet; and a considerable American contribution to Allied Force Headquarters.

[N-1: At the time of the attack, French North Africa was within the boundaries of the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army. On 4 February 1943, a separate North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army was established. On 1 November 1944, this area (with modified boundaries) was renamed the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, U.S. Army.]

These first Americans to arrive in Northwest Africa were part of an Allied expeditionary force which linked ground, sea, and air units from both the United States and the British Commonwealth. They were participants in the first large-scale offensive in which the Allies engaged as partners in a common enterprise, an operation which transformed the Mediterranean from a British to an Allied theater of war. Occupying French North Africa was actually to be the first of a considerable series of undertakings adopted, planned, mounted, and executed under the authority of the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff. [N-2] Succeeding operations in the Mediterranean area proved far more extensive than intended. One undertaking was to lead to the next, each based upon reasons deemed compelling at the time, until at the end of hostilities Allied forces dominated the Mediterranean Sea and controlled most of its coastal region.

[N-2: The Combined Chiefs of Staff was an agency created in response to decisions reached at the ARCADIA Conference of American and British leaders in Washington in January 1942. The agency’s headquarters was in Washington, where the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with the British Joint Staff Mission (representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee), but a large number of its sessions took place at special conferences attended by the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The Combined Chiefs of Staff acquired a structure of subordinate planners and a secretariat.]

After liberating French North Africa and clearing the enemy from the Italian colonies, the Allies sought to bring the entire French empire effectively into the war against the Axis powers. They reopened the Mediterranean route to the Middle East. They went on from Africa to liberate Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. They caused Mussolini to topple from power, and they brought his successors to abject surrender.

They drew more and more German military resources into a stubborn defense of the Italian peninsula, and helped the Yugoslavs to pin down within their spirited country thousands of Axis troops. Eventually, the Allies delivered a solid blow from southern France against the German forces which were opposing the Allied drive from the beaches of Normandy! They made Marseilles available for Allied use and they occupied northern Italy and Greece. In Italy they forced the first unconditional surrender by a large German force in Europe. The events following the invasion of French North Africa thus made of the Mediterranean a major theater in World War II’s titanic struggle. The momentous first step though not timorous, was hesitant, and somewhat reluctant; like the first step of a child it was more a response to an urge for action than a decision to reach some specific destination. The responsibility for this beginning rested more with the civilian than with the professional military leaders of the two countries. Whether the decision was wise or not, the critical factors affecting success, like those inviting the attempt, were largely political rather than military.

Axis involvement in the Mediterranean theater of war likewise mounted from small beginnings and after periodic inventories of the general military situation. Since the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, had precipitated the war much earlier than the Duce Benito Mussolini, had agreed to be ready; Italy remained a nonbelligerent until June 1940, and participated then very briefly in the attacks which led to French surrender.

The Mediterranean escaped major hostilities during this period of Italian preparations. Italian forces were assembled in eastern Cyrenaica for an eventual attack on Egypt in conjunction with an attack from the south to be launched from Ethiopia, while British forces were gathered to defend Egypt. But actual conflict was deferred.

After France’s capitulation in June 1940, and after the British Government refused to make peace by negotiation, Hitler reluctantly concluded that the war must be carried to British soil. His project for invading the United Kingdom was frustrated at an early stage by the failure of Reichsmarschall Hermann Gӧring’s Luftwaffe to eliminate the Royal Air Force and by the irreconcilable discrepancies between what the German Army required and what the German Navy could furnish for transport and escort shipping. He repeatedly postponed a decision to attack across the English Channel and eventually abandoned the idea. If he could not strike his enemy at home, he proposed instead to inflict a vital injury by seizing Gibraltar in co-operation with Spain and Italy and by supporting the Italians in their drive toward Egypt and the Suez Canal. He tried, mainly in this connection, to construct an anti-British alliance of Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, thus gaining for the Axis the French fleet along with French and Spanish strategic areas. His efforts failed.

Marshal Henri Petain engaged in an endless, elastic contest with the Nazis to hold fast to all things that were French. His government, ever under threat of military occupation of all of France at the Führer’s signal, served Hitler’s purpose by preventing the creation in the French colonies of an independent anti-Nazi French government.

Whatever concessions beyond the armistice agreements Petain might make at Nazi insistence and in return for the release of German held French prisoners, for example, the old Marshal would never commit French forces to fight beside the Germans. The French Navy, bitter as it was toward the British, would have scuttled its warships before allowing them to be used to advance Hitler’s aspirations. France, therefore, was not available for an alliance against the British and was left in control of its Northwest African colonies under pledge to defend them against attack from whatever side.

Francisco Franco set such an exorbitant territorial price upon a partnership with Germany as to make impossible an alliance which included Spain and France, and he engaged in such elaborate and effective procrastination as to render any genuine military contribution to the seizure of Gibraltar a matter for Nazi despair. When Hitler went to meet the Caudillo at Hendaye, France, on 29 October 1940, the Spanish dictator subjected him to the unusual experience of being a listener for hours. Rather than undergo such pain again, Hitler told Mussolini he would prefer to have several teeth pulled.

The fact that a new alliance of the four governments could not be attained became evident at a time when even the existing arrangement between Germany and Italy was somewhat strained. Although the two dictators had a friendly personal relationship, the Italians intended to wage a separate and parallel war in the Mediterranean. Hitler had always accepted the principle that the Mediterranean was an area of paramount Italian interest just as, farther north, German interests were exclusive.

He received in the autumn of 1940 clear indication that the Italians wished to proceed independently. Initially the Italians refused a German offer of an armored unit for use in the planned Italian campaign from Libya against Egypt. It was only after the campaign, begun on 12 September under the command of Maresciallo d’Italia Rudolfo Graziani, had bogged down that the Italians reluctantly accepted the German offer. On 28 October, moreover, although knowing Hitler’s opposition, and therefore dissembling their intentions, the Italians attacked Greece from Albania.

Hitler’s disgust at the opening of this new front in the Balkans by the Italians led him to withdraw temporarily his offer of German armored support for the Italian forces in Libya. This decision was confirmed during the Innsbruck conference of 4 and 5 November between Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht-OKW) and Maresciallo d’Italia Pietro Badoglio, the Chief of the Supreme General Staff (Stato Maggiore Generale). When both these adventures became engulfed in failure, the Italians on 19 December abandoned their reluctance to accept German reinforcements which Hitler, despite his irritation with Italian behavior, had again offered to supply for reasons of high military policy.

Hitler was already planning a Blitzkrieg against Russia to be executed during the summer of 1941. For that attack his Balkan flank had to be secure. He believed that the free use of the Mediterranean route by the British was equivalent to a large extra tonnage of transport shipping and the release of naval warships for other operations, an advantage to his major enemy which might make a complete Axis victory unattainable. He also wished to prevent the detrimental effect upon Italian morale and the severe loss of prestige for the Axis which would result from the loss of Libya and the related possibility of a separate Italian peace.

One large aviation unit (X. Fliegerkorps) received orders to shift to southern Italy in December 1940 and a small armored force began crossing from Naples to Tripoli in February, There it was to be combined with Italian mobile units under the command of Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel in an aggressive rather than a static defense. Rommel was subordinated to the Italian Commander in Chief Libya (Commandante del Comando Superiore Forze Armate Libia), Generale d’Armata Italo Gariboldi, who replaced Graziani in early February 1941. Rommel’s command, the German Africa Corps (Deutsches Afrika Korps), shortly reinforced by the addition of an armored division, received general directives from Hitler only after Mussolini had approved them, for the German forces were considered as agents of Italian military policy within the Axis partnership.[N-3]

[N-3: Hitler’s Order, 10 Dec 40, and Dir, 11 Jan 41 OKW/WFSt/Abt L, Nr. 33400/40 and OKW/ WFSt/Abt L, Nr. 44018/41; Orders signed by Keitel, 13 Jan and 3 Apr 41, OKW/WFSt/Abt L, Nr. 00 94/41; Order signed by Col Walter Warlimont, deputy chief of OKW/WFSt, 19 Feb 41, OKW/WFSt/Abt L (I Op), Nr. 44189/41. All in ONI, Führer Directives, 1939–1941.]

The German Africa Corps prepared for its eastward thrust toward Egypt while other German troops extended their hold over the Balkans and prepared to subjugate Greece. Some of the limited British forces in northern Africa were diverted to Greece to aid its defenders, but not enough to prevent the Peloponnesus from being swiftly overrun in April 1941, while almost simultaneously Rommel’s force swept across Libya with surprising speed to the Egyptian border. Only the port of Tobruk remained in British possession in the rear of the Axis units, where it was a continual threat to their long line of supply. The British Eighth Army, which was formed during the next few months of 1941, was not ready for another offensive to the westward before November, but Rommel also was obliged to pause. If these Axis thrusts in the Balkans and northern Africa were, on the one hand, followed by the dramatically successful airborne assault on Crete in May, they were, on the other hand, somewhat offset shortly afterward by the British and Gaullist-French seizure of Syria and by the British military occupation of Iraq. Turkey remained resolutely neutral.

All Axis operations in 1941 were overshadowed by the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June. The requirements and preparations for this colossal effort precluded any extensive German commitments in the Mediterranean. Franco’s delays dragged out negotiations over German seizure of Gibraltar beyond the time when anything could be done about it without detriment to the impending attack against Russia. Throughout most of the year; therefore, the principal feature of the war in the Mediterranean was the battle over supply lines. German naval units were drawn into this struggle, like the ground troops, in a role at least nominally subordinate to the Italian Supreme Command.[N-4]

 [N-4: (1) The Italian Supreme General Staff was reorganized in June 1941. Its powers were greatly increased and it became the most important organ of command. Thereafter it was known as the Comando Supremo (Supreme Command). See Howard McGaw Smyth, “The Command of the Italian Armed Forces in World War II,” Military Affairs, XV, No. 1 (Spring, 1951), 38. (2) Hitler’s Order, 29 Oct 41, WFSt/Abt L (I Op), Nr. 441794/41, in ONI, Führer Directives, 1939–1941. (3) Vice Admiral. Eberhard Weichold (German Admiral, Rome), The War at Sea in the Mediterranean. U.S. Navy Press Release 26 Feb 47.]

German aviation harassed British shipping. German submarines joined Italian naval units in policing the waters of the Sicilian straits. The occupation of Crete, costly as it was, improved the Axis position greatly in the violent effort to strangle the connection between Malta and the eastern Mediterranean. The British island of Malta, between the Sicilian straits and Crete, was a base for aircraft, destroyers, and submarines which severely curtailed the flow of supplies and reinforcements from Italy to Tripoli. The fortunes of Rommel’s command seemed almost directly proportional to Axis success in neutralizing Malta.

If the Soviet Union had succumbed to the gigantic attack which began in June 1941, Hitler would presumably have undertaken in November an elaborate attack upon the Near East and have forced Spain to allow an attack against Gibraltar. Concentric drives by Rommel through Egypt, by a second force from Bulgaria through Turkey, and, if necessary, by a third element from Transcaucasia through Iran were also contemplated.

Success in these operations would have broken the British hold on the Middle East. But when, despite the heightened German need for petroleum from the Middle East for operations in 1942, the attack against the Russians fell short of success, the program scheduled for November was necessarily delayed. The British began a counteroffensive in northern Africa at that point which relieved the garrison cut off in Tobruk and drove Rommel’s forces back on EI Agheila. This advantage was abruptly canceled in January 1942, when Rommel made a second advance to the east which regained much of the lost ground. His command was renamed Panzerarmee Afrika, and received reinforcements and additional equipment to resume the attack against the British Eighth Army. From the EI Gazala Line he was expected to gain Tobruk and the coast directly east of it. [N-5]

[N-5: A panzer group headquarters (Panzergruppe Afrika) was created for Rommel in August 1941 with command over the German Africa Corps, Italian XXX Corps, and some small miscellaneous units. Rommel was promoted to General der Panzertruppen 1 July 1941 and to Generaloberst on 1 February 1942. (1) OKW, Kriegstagebuch (hereafter cited as OKW, KTB), I.IV.-3/’VI.42, Entries 21, 30 Apr, and 1, 7 May 42. Great Britain, Exhibit 227, USC, Rg 238. This document appears to be the only one of those comprising the text of the OKW war diary that was not destroyed. The OKW war diary, prepared by Hitler’s Plenipotentiary for Military History, Oberst Walter Scherff, was to be the basis for a history of the war as seen from the highest German level. (2) Rommel, Krieg ohne Hass, pp. 111-26. (3) MS # T- 3-PI (Kesselring), Pt. I.]]

Rommel’s success and the capture of Malta [The planned operation for Malta was Operation HERKULES] were interdependent, a fact which produced a decision to undertake seizure of the island. Heavy air attacks would be made upon it in April 1942 to cover the shipment to Tripoli, Bengasi, and Derna of the means required for the first phase of Rommel’s offensive. After he had seized Tobruk and pushed to Marsa Matriih, thus holding the area from which Malta might be helped by British land-based airplanes, he was to pause while mixed German and Italian forces, partly airborne and partly seaborne, gained possession of the island.

Supplies to Rommel could thereafter go forward from Italy to the African ports in sufficient volume and his offensive would be resumed. While these plans were maturing, more German forces reached the Mediterranean basin.

The German X. Fliegerkorps was replaced, beginning late in 1941, by the Second Air Force (Luftflotte 2) over which Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring exercised command as Commander in Chief South (Oberbefehlshaber Sued) from a new headquarters at Frascati, near Rome.

Kesselring, subordinated to the Duce, was expected to employ his aviation in conformity with directives issued or approved by Mussolini, and to have a relationship as air commander to the Italian Supreme Command similar to that of Rommel as ground commander to the Italian Commander in Chief in Libya. Kesselring as senior German officer also assisted Generalleutnant Enno von Rintelen, Commanding General, Headquarters, German General at the Headquarters of the Italian Armed Forces (Deutscher General bei dem Hauptquartier der italienischen WehrmachtGerman General, Rome) in conveying German views to the Italians. If the action of the Italian Supreme Command was influenced by a spirit of deference to German military enlightenment, the Italians nonetheless insisted that the Germans at all times adhere strictly to the form of Italian control, and Hitler supported this arrangement.

Axis operations in 1942 began with marked successes and brought the coalition to the zenith of its fortunes in World War II. Rommel’s late May attack went much more rapidly than had been expected and succeeded in taking Tobruk in June almost immediately instead of being delayed by the kind of stubborn defense which had kept that port from the Germans in early 1941.

British losses of men and materiel were great, but the loss of Tobruk’s port was equally serious. Rommel believed he could continue to Cairo before meeting effective resistance. At that juncture, Hitler was lured into a serious blunder. He had been unable to quiet his misgivings over the projected seizure of Malta, for he felt that the assault was inadequately planned and subsequent support perilously undependable. He therefore proposed to Mussolini that Operation HERKULES, the seizure of Malta, be postponed in favor of a continued drive into Egypt, and Mussolini, despite the demurrer of some of his military advisers, consented.

A new line of supply to Rommel was to run via Crete to Tobruk. Malta was allowed to recover. In July 1942, Rommel’s army got as far inside Egypt as the El Alamein position, some sixty miles southwest of Alexandria, before being held up by lack of supplies and the opposition of the British Eighth Army. On the Eastern Front, the German attacks on the southern sector pressed speedily toward the Don River, heading beyond it toward Stalingrad and the Caucasus.

The Allied Decision To Occupy French North Africa

The Allies were drawn to the Mediterranean by the fact that the British Eighth Army was arrayed against Panzer Army Africa near Egypt and by the military potentialities of the French colonies in northwestern Africa either as friend or foe. These potentialities had been considered well before the United States became a belligerent. American military planners studied the requirements of operations designed to prevent enemy use of air or naval bases on the Atlantic African coast as far south as Dakar.

At the end of 1940, when the British had defeated Graziani’s army, they held six divisions in readiness to join the French in defending Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in case Petain agreed to resume the war against the Axis. After that opportunity failed to materialize, the British planned in October 1941, in case of a success against Rommel in Cyrenaica, to capture Tripoli and, subsequently, to support French North Africa in a renewal of hostilities. Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill brought to the ARCADIA Conference in Washington in December, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, his own strategic analysis for 1942 and 1943 containing strong arguments for giving the liberation of French North Africa the highest priority in the Atlantic area. President Franklin D. Roosevelt showed marked interest in the project.

The guiding principle of Allied strategy in 1942 in the Atlantic and European areas was to close and tighten the ring around Germany, while achieving readiness for an invasion to destroy her military power. Anglo-American leaders hoped that by 1943 the way would be clear for an Allied return to the Continent, either across the Mediterranean, or via the Aegean and the Balkans, or by landings in western Europe. A friendly occupation in 1942 of French North Africa was recognized to be “of the first strategical importance in the Atlantic area,” and plans to achieve this were in preparation for several weeks following the conference. Influences attracting the Allies toward the Mediterranean, strong as they were in January 1942, were for a time counterbalanced by other factors of greater strength. The competing claims upon Allied resources were numerous and very powerful.

The line of communications through the Hawaiian Islands to Australia had to be maintained, and in the face of continued Japanese successes in their drive southward, various points along the line had to be reinforced. China could not be abandoned while it absorbed so large a number of Japanese troops and persevered in the war which it had waged since 1931. Russia was engaging by far the largest proportion of the German strength for the second year, and required the shipment of munitions over long and expensive routes. Iceland and the British Isles were to receive American garrison forces in order to release British units for service elsewhere. The Battle of the Atlantic ran in favor of the German U-boats, which achieved appalling successes close to the eastern coast of the United States.

The Americas had to be defended. A large portion of the munitions and men prepared for combat in the United States had to be devoted to the expansion program of all the armed services. Lack of shipping precluded any operation in French North Africa until still more pressing demands elsewhere were met.

Before the shipping situation eased, the Allies in April revised the program outlined at the ARCADIA Conference, adopting as the new major objective the concentration of forces in the British Isles for a cross-Channel attack in 1943 against the heart of Germany through France and the Low Countries.

Frequent Commando raids against the French coast would be made during the period of preparations; the heavy bombers of the U. S. Eighth Air Force being organized in the United Kingdom were to supplement those of the Royal Air Force in striking German industrial targets with increasing severity; but the main effort of the American forces in the Atlantic area in 1942 would be to transfer units and materiel from the United States to the United Kingdom, there to complete training for the ultimate assault during the following year. Measured by the reasoning underlying these plans, an expedition to French North Africa would be a diversionary undertaking, inevitably weakening the projected main effort.

Militating against the program of concentration which the Allies adopted in April were several strong influences. The main attack in 1943 could not succeed unless the Soviet Union were still engaging on the Eastern Front much of the German strength. The ability and the determination of the Russians to maintain resistance to the Axis forces might not survive the German offensive of 1942. A preliminary attack across the English Channel in 1942, had to gain a continental bridgehead for subsequent expansion in 1943 was contemplated by the Allies as a means of aiding the Russians without forfeiting the ability to make the main attack on schedule. If the Germans should fall suddenly into internal political convulsion, the same plan could be used to grasp that advantageous opportunity. But the measure of relief for the hard-pressed Russians would be determined by the size of the German forces diverted to western France from the Eastern Front to oppose the Anglo-American landings, so that genuine assistance to Russia was tantamount to inviting defeat.

The forces available would be preponderantly British. The British were unwilling to make a sacrifice attack for such a purpose. In view of the President’s encouragement to Molotov in May 1942 to expect a “second front” before too long, some Anglo-American offensive in 1942 seemed imperative in order to sustain Russian faith in the western Allies. The President was determined that American units go into combat against the Germans before the end of the year, presumably for the effect such a situation would have on American morale. The Prime Minister was ready for an Anglo-American operation in Norway in conjunction with the Russians, and eager for an invasion of northwestern Africa, but on 8 July notified the President that the British saw no possibility of making a preliminary attack in 1942 to gain a beachhead across the Channel. The British decision against Operation SLEDGEHAMMER was based not only on the undue risk of defeat in such an undertaking, but also on doubt whether there were enough resources, particularly the craft and crews required for the amphibious phase of the attack.

It may also have found some support in the Prime Minister’s determination, as he has written in his memoirs, to bring about an Allied occupation of French North Africa and perhaps of Norway. After the British refusal to proceed with Operation SLEDGEHAMMER was received, the Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplated adherence to the principle of concentration of force against a major adversary by switching the main American effort to that in the Pacific against Japan: The President rejected this proposal, particularly because no large-scale beginnings could be made there before 1943, but also because of his conviction that Allied strategy was sound and should not be abandoned.


He did, however, make a final effort to reconcile the British authorities to the course of action urged upon him by his own military advisers. On 18 July he sent Mr. Harry Hopkins, George C. Marshall, and Admiral Ernest J. King to London with instructions to make certain that every means would be considered for a small-scale attack on the Continent in 1942. If convinced that such an operation could not be mounted with any reasonable chance of “diverting German air forces from the annihilation of Russia,” they were to proceed with the consideration of other projects involving combat with German ground forces in 1942, either in North Africa or the Middle East. It was understood that preparations for ROUNDUP (a full-scale continental attack) in 1943 were to continue without interruption.

The President Commits the United States to Operation TORCH

The Allied military chiefs in London failed to reconcile their disagreement over the feasibility of SLEDGEHAMMER in 1942, a fact which was then reported to the President.

The operation could not be undertaken without agreement and was therefore abandoned, except that, mainly for appearance’s sake, planning operations and some preparations were continued.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff had been unable to agree and had divided along national lines. Here then was a critical test of the Anglo-American capacity to function as a military coalition. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt broke the deadlock. The President, as Mr. Churchill had discovered, was more favorably inclined toward an operation in Northwest Africa than his military advisers, especially General Marshall. The President on 23 July sent supplementary instructions to the American members of the Combined Chiefs directing them to arrive at an agreement on some operation to be launched in 1942, and listing possibilities among which the occupation of French North Africa was given the top priority.

Bound by these instructions, the American chiefs agreed that using American forces in Northwest Africa was preferable to sending them to the Middle East. Thereupon, on 25 July, the Combined Chiefs reached a compromise. The U. S. members agreed to accept Operation TORCH on condition that a final decision by the Combined Chiefs be postponed.

According to this agreement, planning would start at once in London, but final decision to mount the invasion would be reserved until 15 September. If it then appeared likely that the Russians could actively resist German military power in the spring of 1943, the ROUNDUP operation would retain its priority over any other undertaking. If the Russians, on 15 September, seemed about to collapse, the invasion of North Africa would be mounted in time for landings before 1 December. Some of the heavy bomber groups and other air units previously destined for action in 1942-1943 over Europe would be shifted to North Africa, and others, to the Pacific where they were greatly needed.

On 25 July the Combined Chiefs of Staff named the prospective operation TORCH and agreed to a system of command to be in effect in one phase during the planning, and in another, “after the decision to mount.” But the President disregarded the conditional nature of the Combined Chiefs’ decision, and on the same day informed Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Admiral William D. Leahy, Lieutenant General Henry H. Arnold, and Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, when they met him at the White House, that he had already committed the United States unconditionally to the North African operation.

After General Marshall and Admiral King returned from London, the former apparently still believing that the final decision to mount the North African invasion was to be reached on 15 September, the President repeated “very definitely” to a special conference of representatives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House “that he, as Commander-in-Chief, had made the decision that TORCH should be undertaken at the earliest possible date, He considered that this operation was now our principal objective, and the assembling of means to carry it out should take precedence over other operations. . . .”

President Roosevelt’s action amounted to a modification of the Combined Chiefs of Staff’s recommendation so drastic as to be almost a rejection. He did not then realize, as he came to appreciate later, that a campaign to seize French North Africa would preclude an attack across the English Channel toward the heart of Germany in 1943, and that he had made a choice in favor of the strategy of encirclement rather than that of a direct and central thrust. But he could indeed have pointed out that the decision to penetrate the Mediterranean conformed to the grand strategy formulated in January at the ARCADIA Conference if not to the modification of April. The Allies would be closing the ring around Germany, tightening it, and achieving readiness for an invasion to destroy her military power.

Such was the situation in the Mediterranean when the Allies faced the question where to attack in 1942.

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

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

Timor, the largest and Most southeasterly of the Lesser Sunda Islands, belonged partly to Portugal and partly to the Dutch. The Portuguese capital was Dili, and the Dutch capital was Kupang. Most of the population was primitive, and Timor contained little in the way of needed resources; but, just as Bali had been a staging area for large ABDA plane reinforcements to Java, Timor was the only staging area for short range ANDA fighter planes. Although a flight from Timor to Java was longer than one from Bali, Timor was the only place in the Lesser Sunda Islands within fighter-plane range of Australia. That marked it for invasion by the Japanese, because it’s possession would destroy the fighter-plane support for Java’s defenders.

The troops carried in fourteen transports, one carrying paratroopers, landed on 20 February. The paratroopers were landed, and after the airfield was captured, they were picked up by landing planes and dropped over Kupand. Both jurisdictions of the island were fully under Japanese control by 24 February, despite fierce resistance by ABDA forces. The Portuguese had some troops en route to defend Dili, but the Japanese arrived before them. Cut off effectively from Australia at all points, Java was about to be forced to fight alone for it’s existence–the eastern pincer on Java had been established.

Dutch Borneo

Simultaneously with the Eastern Force’s southward sweep Admiral Takahashi sent his Central Invasion Force from Davao to capture Dutch Borneo, to assist his Eastern Force if necessary, and then to wait to invade east Java–the invasion timed to take place when Admiral Ozawa would be able to cover the invasion of west Java.

Tarakan Island is isolated on the east coast of Borneo, just south of what was British Borneo. The Japanese wanted it because of it’s rich oil fields, and because its capture would provide a base and airfield from which Japanese forces could be covered in their next advance. Tarakan was defended by a Dutch garrison of 1,300 men.

The Tarakan Invasion Force sailed from Davao on 7 January 1942. En route, it was bombed without result by three of Air ANDA’s B-17’s based in Java. The speed of Japanese operations had made it impossible for ANDA Command to position intercepting submarines. By the after noon of 10 January the convoy, with fourteen transports carring Army and Marine troops, was just off Tarakan Island. The Dutch garrison commander, on his on initiative, immediately set fire to the Tarakan’s oil fields and sabotaged it’s airfield. At 2400, the landing troops began a double envelopment, and on the morning of 12 January the small Dutch garrison at Tarakan surrendered, facing overwhelming odds, without any hope of reinforcements. Dutch planes attacked the invaders on 13 and 14 January, further damaging Tarakan’s airfield. But by 17 January, Japanese Navy’s 23rd Air Flotilla was using a repaired Tarakan airfield as its headquarters.


The next targets, which would put all of Borneo in Japanese hands, were the port of Balikpapan and the island settlement of Banjarmasin, both of which had oil fields. The Japanese had begun gathering a Balikpapan Occupation Force at Tarakan, and had ordered the Balikpapan authorities to surrender their oil fields, and installations un-sabotaged. The invasion ships had only intermittent air cover because foul weather; however, because of the weather, and scarcity of ABDA planes, they were not attacked until they arrived off Balipapan. As fifteen transports prepared to anchor 23 January, great columns of fire and smoke covered the Balikpapan oil fields. The local Dutch commander had not heeded the Japanese order.

Admiral Shoji Nishimura, the escort commander, was to have a busy afternoon and night. First, beginning at 5125, the convoy was attacked by three B-17’s flying from Surabaja; the transports Tatsugami Maru and Nana Maru were hit and damaged. Nevertheless, anchorage was made at 1945 on 23 January, and the troops were landed, screened by the light cruiser Naka and he squadron of destroyer’s. Despite Nishimura’s screen, the Dutch submarine K-XVIII torpedoed and sank the transport Tsuruga Maru, around 2400. The night was dark with thunderclouds, and Nishimura’s primary concern was additional submarine attacks; he certainly was not expecting an attack by ABDA surface ships.

Naval Battle off Balikpapan 

The threat to Balikpapan, however, had caused considerable anxiety at ABDA Command. The American naval force at Timor under Vice Admiral W. A. Glassford, was available to contest the landings. It consisted of the light cruisers Boise, Marblehead, and the destroyers Pope (flagship), Parrott, John D. Ford, and Paul Jones. When ABDA Command first heard of the convoy headed south 20January, it ordered the American ships to sail at once to intercept and destroy the transports. But on the next day, Boise hit an uncharted reef and had to retire, while the Marblehead developed engine trouble and could only make 15 knots; she continued north, however in order to provide a rendezvous point for the returning destroyers. The four destroyers making 27 knots, headed for Balikpapan on a course which would bring them into the area at about 0000hrs, on a north-northwesterly course. The burning oil fields would silhouette a relatively unguarded transport force.

The American force, holding course in column, mad a parallel attacking run. In the first attack, from 0316 to 0325, three destroyers fired ten torpedoes at close range. None found a mark, or did not explode. The Americans had attacked quickly and boldly, and a more stealthy and calculated approach would probably have yielded better results. They were unaware, however of the precise location of Nishimura’s protecting force.

The destroyers reversed course to the south in a second more deliberate attack. At 0330, the Pope torpedoed the Sumanoura Maru, which immediately exploded and sank. The John D. Ford used main batteries at close range on the transports, and at 0345 she torpedoed and sank the Kuretake Maru. The last two destroyers in column, torpedoed and sank the Tatsugami Maru at 0335, and continuing south, they exchanged fire with two patrol boats. The Battle of Balikapapan was over at 0350.

With the first intimation of enemy action, Admiral Nishimura in the Naka had taken his destroyers even father away from the transports, to the east in an antisubmarine sweep. Such amove was understandable, for it must have seemed inconceivable to him that a hard-pressed ABDA navy would attack his large force with surface ships. His transports had already been attacked by at least two submarines, and he knew that ABDA had about forty, so his movement to the east was a proper antisubmarine tactic. This course, however, allowed the American force to slip in between Nishimura’s force and the transports. Such are the gambles of war.

The Japanese landed at Balikpapan in the early morning of 24 January. They were resisted by the Dutch garrison until the Dutch commanding officer received permission to withdraw his 200 men to an airfield at Ulin, 120 miles west of Samarinda. Realizing the Japanese would soon discover the new Dutch position, the Dutch commanding officer had already destroyed the nearby oil fields on 20 January, with drawn his troops, this time to Muaranmuntai. The Balikapan garrison was finally trapped there by the Japanese Army, and it surrendered 8 March.

The Japanese Troops, taken by barges from Balikpapan, disembarked 50 miles south-southeast of Bandjarmasin. From this point they marched overland to Bandjarmasin. Another column marched 160 miles overland, directly from Balikpapan. Bandjarmasin was captured on 16 February; by 28 January Air Flotilla 23 was operating from the Balikpapan airfield and by 23 February also from the Bandjarmasin airfield. The arc of air protection available to the Japanese Navy had been expanded by occupation of Borneo. The sea lanes for the Japanese attack on Singapore, Sumatra, and west Java were now protected by the occupation of Borneo and Malaya. The line of advance for the attack on east Java was secured by the seizure of the Celebes and the key islands in the Molucca Sea and Flores Sea.

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

World War Two: Japanese Imperial Navy: Battle of Badung Strait 19-20 February 1942

World War Two: Guadalcanal (7); Decision at Sea

On 18 October Admiral Ghormley was relieved and the South Pacific Area received a new commander—Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr. Admiral Halsey, then fifty-nine years of age, was one of the most experienced officers of the U. S. Navy. Graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1904 as a passed midshipman, Halsey was commissioned as an ensign in 1906. During World War I he commanded destroyers in British waters. He attended the Navy and Army War Colleges in 1933 and 1934, and then successfully completed the naval aviator’s course at Pensacola.

His career thereafter had been chiefly concerned with aircraft and aircraft carriers. From 1935 to 1937 he commanded the carrier Saratoga. After serving for a year as commanding officer at Pensacola, he took command, as a rear admiral, of Carrier Division 2 (Yorktown and Enterprise) in 1938. The next year he led Carrier Division 1 (Saratoga and Lexington), and in 1940, a vice admiral, he led the Aircraft Battle Force of the Pacific Fleet. Halsey had been on the high seas with a carrier task force at the time the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and his undamaged task force was fortunately available for a series of raids against the Gilbert, Marshall, Wake, and Marcus Islands in the spring of 1942. He also commanded the task force which took Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle’s medium bombers to within striking distance of Tokyo in April 1942. Illness had kept him out of the Battle of Midway. But the aggressive admiral had now returned to active service, and his audacious spirit was to have a dynamic effect upon the South Pacific.

Although he was unable to visit Guadalcanal until 8 November, Admiral Halsey was well aware of the difficulties which faced him. He had at once to decide whether Guadalcanal should be evacuated or held. On 20 October, following the heavy bombardments and the landings of Hyakutake’s troops, General Vandegrift had reported in person to Admiral Halsey aboard the flagship Argonne in Noumea Harbor. Present at the meeting were Lieutenant General Thomas H. Holcomb, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who was on a tour of inspection, General Harmon, Admiral Turner, and Major General Alexander M. Patch, who commanded the Americal Division. Vandegrift informed Halsey that he could hold Guadalcanal if he was given stronger support. The Admiral knew that Guadalcanal must be held, and promised the support of all his available forces. One of his first orders sent Kinkaid’s force to the Santa Cruz Islands where it engaged the Japanese on 26 October.

The South Pacific Area was soon to receive additional means by which the aggressive spirit could be transformed into action. President Roosevelt and the Joint Chiefs of Staff recognized that the situation on Guadalcanal was extremely serious. On 21 October Admiral King, after an urgent request from the South Pacific for more forces, notified Admiral Nimitz that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved a much stronger air establishment for the South Pacific, to be based there by 1 January 1943. On 24 October President Roosevelt, in a memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed a desire that the Joint Chiefs send every possible weapon to Guadalcanal and North Africa even if additional shipments meant reducing commitments elsewhere. In reply, Admiral King stated that a considerable force would be diverted, including one battleship, six cruisers, two destroyers, and twenty-four submarines., plus torpedo boats, seventy-five fighter aircraft, forty-one dive and fifteen torpedo bombers. Thirty transports had been allocated to the South Pacific for November, and twenty additional 7,000-ton ships would be diverted later.

In his reply to the President, General Marshall stated that the situation in the South Pacific depended upon the outcome of the battle then in progress for Guadalcanal. The ground forces in the South Pacific were sufficient for security against the Japanese, he felt, and he pointed out that the effectiveness of ground troops depended upon the ability to transport them to and maintain them in the combat areas. Total Army air strength in the South Pacific then consisted of 46 heavy bombers, 27 medium bombers, and 133 fighters; 23 heavy bombers were being flown and 53 fighters shipped from Hawaii to meet the emergency. MacArthur had been directed to furnish bomber reinforcements and P-38 replacement parts to the South Pacific. General Marshall had taken the only additional measures which, besides the possible diversion of the 25th Division from MacArthur’s area to the South Pacific, were possible—the temporary diversion of three heavy bombardment squadrons from Australia to New Caledonia, and the release of P-40’s and P-39’s from Hawaii and Christmas Island.

Reinforcements; Air Power

In October the Japanese had come perilously close to destroying American air strength on Guadalcanal. Despite their utmost efforts the airfield remained in American hands and recovered from the heavy blows, although Guadalcanal’s air strength, impaired by operational losses and Japanese bombardment, remained low during the rest of October. Only thirty-four aircraft were fit to fly on 16 October, but were reinforced on that date by the arrival of twenty F4F’s and twelve SBD’s. By 26 October, after a series of bombing raids and shelling’s, there were but twenty-nine operational aircraft at Henderson Field—twelve F4F’s, eleven SBD’s, three P-400’s, and three P-39’s.

By the end of November, with the lessening of Japanese attacks against the Lunga area and the increase of Allied strength in the South Pacific, the Guadalcanal air force had increased in size although as late as 10 November the shortage of fuel prevented heavy bombers from using Henderson Field. General MacArthur on 14 November promised to send eight P-38’s to the South Pacific.

By the middle of November a total of 1,748 men in the aviation units were operating at the Lunga airfields—1,261 of Marine Air Group 14; 294 of Marine Air Group 14; 33 naval pilots; 144 of the 347th (Army) Fighter Group, and 16 of the 37th (Army) Fighter Squadron.9 By 21 November the entire 5th (Army) Heavy Bombardment Group, which like the 11th had participated in the Battle of Midway, had reached the South Pacific to operate from Espiritu Santo. P-38’s had reached Guadalcanal to be based there permanently, and B-17’s were using the field regularly although the fuel shortage still limited operations. On 24 November 94 aircraft on Guadalcanal were operational, including 15 P-39’s, 1 P-40, 8 B-17’s, 11 P-38’s, 9 TBF’s, 6 New Zealand Hudsons, 29 F4F’s, and 15 SBD’s, and by 30 November additional reinforcements had increased the total to 188 planes of all types.

Aola Bay

By November plans for building an additional airfield on Guadalcanal were ready to be put into effect. Prior to Admiral Halsey’s assumption of command, the 1st Battalion of the 147th Infantry, a separate regiment, had sailed from Tongatabu with the mission of occupying Ndeni. General Harmon had not changed his conviction that the occupation of Ndeni would be a needless waste of effort. He presented his opinions to Halsey, who, after conferring with his subordinates, accepted Harmon’s views. On 20 October he directed the 147th Infantry to Guadalcanal. The Ndeni operation was never carried out.

Halsey decided to send the 147th Infantry to Guadalcanal to cover the construction of an air strip at a point far enough east of the Lunga to give fighter planes at Lunga Point enough time to rise to the attack if the Japanese attacked the eastern field. Aola Bay, lying about thirty-three miles east-southeast of Lunga Point, was selected by Admiral Turner as the landing and airfield site. The Aola Bay landing force, as finally constituted, was under command of Colonel W. B. Tuttle and included 1,700 men of the 1st Battalion, 147th Infantry; two companies of the 2nd (Marine) Raider Battalion; a detachment of the 5th Defense Battalion; Provisional Battery K of the 246th Field Artillery Battalion of the Americal Division, which was equipped with British 25-pounders; and 500 naval construction troops.

While the practicality of taking Ndeni was being considered, Halsey’s headquarters had completed plans for moving strong reinforcements to Lunga Point. On 29 October Admiral Turner informed General Vandegrift that his requests for more ammunition, materiel, and support were being seriously considered.

The admiral planned to have two ships land stores, ammunition, and two batteries of 155-mm. guns on 2 November. Provision for the movement of the 8th Marines of the 2nd Marine Division to Guadalcanal was being given the highest priority, and that regiment was to land on 3 November. Turner expressed the desire, somewhat gratuitously, that Vandegrift take the offensive after the arrival of the 8th Marines. Another Army regiment and the 1st (Marine) Aviation Engineer Battalion, Turner announced, were to arrive about 10 November, and the 2nd Raider Battalion might possibly land at Beaufort Bay on the south coast about the same time. A task force commanded by Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan was constituted to transport the 8th Marines and the Aola Force to Guadalcanal.

The Aola Force, carried on three transports and two destroyer-transports, landed unopposed at Aola Bay on 4 November. It established a 600-yard-long beachhead a short distance east of the Aola River. When the beachhead had been established, command of Colonel Tuttle’s landing force passed from Admiral Callaghan to General Vandegrift. The transports unloaded continuously until 0200, 6 November, and then withdrew. Admiral Halsey directed the raider companies to remain at Aola Bay, instead of leaving with the transports as originally planned.

The troops established a perimeter defense, and on 29 November four transports landed the 3rd Battalion of the 147th Infantry, additional elements of the 246th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 9th (Marine) Defense Battalion, and more Seabees.

The Seabees had begun work on an airfield immediately after the landing on 4 November, but the entire area proved to be unsatisfactory. The earth was swampy, and tree stumps with deep, tangled roots slowed the process of clearing the ground. On 22 November Vandegrift, who from the first had opposed the selection of Aola Bay, recommended to Turner that the area be abandoned. Admiral Fitch, the commander of South Pacific land-based aircraft, also disapproved of the Aola Bay site; Halsey assented to its abandonment, and the Aola Force, less the 2nd Raider Battalion, was later removed to Volinavua at Koli Point to build an airfield on a grassy plain. The movement to Koli Point was completed by 3 December, and there the force was joined by the 18th Naval Construction Battalion and the rest of the 9th Defense Battalion.

Reinforcement of the Lunga Garrison, 2-4 November

While the initial landings at Aola Bay were being effected on 4 November, more American troops and weapons were strengthening Lunga Point. The Alchiba and the Fuller landed stores and ammunition, together with one Army and one Marine Corps 155-mm. gun battery at Lunga Point on 2 November. These batteries—F Battery of the 244th Coast Artillery Battalion, and another battery of the 5th Defense Battalion—brought in the heaviest American artillery which had been sent to Guadalcanal up to that time, the first suitable for effective counterbattery fire.

After the landing of a Japanese force east of Koli Point on the night of 2-3 November, Vandegrift asked Halsey to hurry the arrival of the 8th Marines. Callaghan’s task force, which had been delayed by the proximity of enemy forces, sailed into Sealark Channel on 4 November to debark the reinforced 8th Marines, including the 75-mm. pack howitzers of the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines, and the Aola Force as shown above. The regular noon Japanese air attack forced the transports to disperse, and the Lunga Point section of Callaghan’s task force withdrew to the southeast for the night. It returned the next morning to complete the unloading before sailing for Noumea.

The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal; Japanese Plans

Following their defeat in the night battles of 23-26 October, the Japanese began preparing for a second major counteroffensive. Staff representatives from the Combined Fleet hurried to Guadalcanal by destroyer to help complete the plans. On 26 October General Hyakutake decided to send the 38th Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Tadayoshi Sano, and its heavy equipment from Rabaul to Guadalcanal on transports instead of aboard the Tokyo Express. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commanding the Combined Fleet, approved of these plans.

The Japanese organized four naval task forces for the November operation. Two bombardment forces were to neutralize Henderson Field; a third was to transport the 38th Division and heavy equipment from Rabaul to Guadalcanal, while a fourth force from the Combined Fleet gave general support. The 17th Army had first decided to land the 38th Division at Koli Point, whereupon the entire 17th Army was to attack the Lunga area from the east and west. But Imperial General Headquarters, disapproving of the dispersion of forces, directed that the 38th Division deliver its attack from the Matanikau area, where it could receive the maximum support from 17th Army artillery.

The 17th Army, however, did land a small force at Koli Point in early November to deliver supplies to some of Shoji’s troops who had retreated there after the October disaster. Orders directing these forces to build an airfield on the flat plain south of Koli Point were also issued. A part of the 230th Infantry of the 38th Division had already landed on Guadalcanal in October and on 2-3 November, and the Tokyo Express landed elements of the 228th Infantry along the beaches from Kokumbona to Cape Esperance between 28 October and 8 November.

Japanese naval units assembled in the harbors between Buin and Rabaul during the first days of November. By 12 November Allied reconnaissance planes reported that two aircraft carriers, four battleships., five heavy cruisers, and thirty destroyers, besides transports and cargo ships, had been assembled. There were sixty vessels in the Buin-Faisi-Tonolei anchorages alone. But there was to be one vital difference between the October and November Counteroffensives. The Japanese, who had previously been using their aircraft carriers with some success, did not commit them to action in November.

American Plans

American naval forces, though still inferior in number to those of the Japanese, were again to prove their effectiveness. Twenty-four submarines had been patrolling the Tokyo Express routes, and had destroyed or damaged a number of Japanese ships. Besides the submarines, the naval forces under Halsey’s command included the aircraft carrier Enterprise, two battleships, three heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, one light antiaircraft cruiser, twenty-two destroyers, and seven transports and cargo ships, organized into two task forces.

Because the lack of gasoline at Henderson Field was limiting the operations of B-17’s, Admiral Halsey requested the Southwest Pacific Air Forces to bomb shipping around Buin, Tonolei, and Faisi between 11 and 14 November, as well as to reconnoiter the approaches to Guadalcanal. Beginning on 10 November, South Pacific land-based aircraft, including those at Henderson Field, were to cover the northern and western approaches and to protect the Lunga area. The plans for the land-based aircraft of the South Pacific did not assign to them new missions, but restated their continuing missions in specific terms. On Guadalcanal the situation was more hopeful than it had been in October.

Pistol Pete could no longer shell the airfields with impunity. The arrival on 2 November of the 155-mm. guns of F Battery, 244th Coast Artillery Battalion, and the battery of the 5th Defense Battalion had provided effective counterbattery artillery. Less than four hours after it had begun debarkation at Lunga Point, F Battery of the 244th was in action against Pistol Pete. Troop strength had increased with the addition of the 8th Marines on 4 November, and still more reinforcements were expected soon.

The addition of more New Zealand troops and of the first elements of the 43rd (U. S.) Division to the South Pacific force had made it possible to relieve the Americal Division of its mission of defending New Caledonia. The complete division was to be committed to Guadalcanal, where one of its regiments, the 164th Infantry, was already engaged.

Reinforcement by the 182nd Infantry

The next Americal Division unit to be shipped to Guadalcanal was the 182nd Regimental Combat Team, less the 3rd Battalion which was still in the New Hebrides. The movement of this unit to Guadalcanal by Turner’s task force was to be a larger operation than the dispatch of the Aola Bay Force and the 8th Marines.

One of the two South Pacific naval task forces, under command of Admiral Turner, was charged with the dual responsibility of defending Guadalcanal and of transporting troops and supplies to the island. Admiral Kinkaid’s carrier task force at Noumea was available to support Turner’s force. These forces, though limited in numbers, had to stop the Japanese unless the U. S. Navy was to be driven out of the Solomon’s.

Turner’s task force was organized into three groups. Three transports, one cruiser, and four destroyers under Admiral Scott constituted one group. Scott’s ships were to carry marines, ammunition, and rations from Espiritu Santo to Guadalcanal. Admiral Callaghan commanded the second group of five cruisers and ten destroyers which were to operate out of Espiritu Santo and cover the movement of the third group from Noumea to Guadalcanal. Admiral Turner assumed direct command of the third group, consisting of four transports which were to transfer the 182nd Regimental Combat Team (less the 3rd Battalion), Marine replacements, naval personnel, and ammunition from Noumea to Guadalcanal.

Admiral Kinkaid’s force at Noumea, consisting of the carrier Enterprise, two battleships, two cruisers, and eight destroyers, was to support Turner’s force. In addition all aircraft in the South Pacific were to cover the movement of Turner’s ships and to strike at any approaching Japanese vessels. Turner expected that a Japanese invasion fleet would soon be approaching Guadalcanal.

He planned to land the 182nd Infantry at Lunga Point and move the transports out of danger before the enemy could arrive. The ships under his direct command sailed from Noumea at 1500, 8 November. The next day Scott’s group left Espiritu Santo; Callaghan’s warships followed on 10 November. Callaghan’s and Turner’s groups rendezvoused off San Cristobal the next morning.

Scott’s group arrived off Guadalcanal at 0530 on 11 November. The Zeilin, Libra, and Betelgeuse began unloading but were interrupted twice during the day by enemy bombers which damaged all three ships. At 1800 the group withdrew to Indispensable Strait. Damage to the Zeilin was found to be serious, and with one destroyer as escort she returned to Espiritu Santo. Scott’s warships, at 2200, joined Callaghan’s group, which had been preceding the advance of Turner’s transports. The Libra and Betelgeuse later joined Turner’s group. The warships, under Callaghan’s command, then swept the waters around Savo Island, and remained in Sealark Channel for the rest of the night of 11-12 November.

The transports anchored off Lunga Point at 0530,12 November. Covered by the warships, they began discharging troops and cargo. A Japanese shore battery in the vicinity of Kokumbona opened fire on the Betelgeuse and Libra at 0718 but missed; it ceased firing when one cruiser, two destroyers, and counterbattery artillery on shore replied. About twenty-five enemy torpedo bombers attacked in the afternoon, and forced the ships to cease unloading and get under way. The cruiser San Francisco, which was Callaghan’s flagship, and the destroyer Buchanan were damaged but the transports were not hit, and all but one bomber were shot down. The transports re-anchored at 1525, having been forced to halt unloading for two hours.

At 1035 on the same morning American planes patrolling north of Malaita sighted a Japanese force, including two battleships, sailing south toward Guadalcanal. A convoy of transports carrying the 38th Division troops, replacements, and naval troops followed farther to the north. By late afternoon Admiral Turner had concluded that 90 percent of the supplies carried by the ships under his direct command could be unloaded that day, but that several more days would be required to unload the Betelgeuse and Libra. To avoid destruction by the enemy battleships, he decided to withdraw all the cargo ships and transports. The warships were to remain to engage the approaching enemy.

The cargo ships and transports, escorted by destroyers, withdrew at 1815, 12 November. Callaghan’s and Scott’s warships preceded them to Indispensable Strait, then reversed their course and returned to protect Guadalcanal. The McCawley and the President Jackson had been completely unloaded; percent of the President Adams’ cargo had been landed, 50 percent of the Crescent City’s, 40 percent of the Betelgeuse’s. and 20 percent of the Libra’s. All the troops, numbering about 6,000 men, had debarked.31 The forces which had been landed by Scott’s group consisted of the 1st (Marine) Aviation Engineer Battalion, ground crews of the 1st Marine Air Wing, and marine replacements.

Turner’s ships had landed 1,300 marine replacements, 372 naval personnel, L Battery, 11th Marines (155-mm. howitzers), some 164th Infantry casuals, and the 182nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team. The combat team was made up of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 182nd Infantry; the 245th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. howitzers), plus engineer, medical, quartermaster, and ordnance personnel—3,358 men.

Cruisers Versus Battleships, 12-13 November

The Japanese force which had been sighted consisted of the battleships Hiei and Kirishima, one light cruiser, and fifteen destroyers. This force had orders to enter Sealark Channel and neutralize the airfields on Guadalcanal by bombardment. Once enough aircraft and supplies had been destroyed, and the airfield pitted, Japanese troops could be transported to Guadalcanal in safety. The fact that the battleships carried high explosive ammunition for bombarding the airfield instead of armor-piercing shells reduced the margin of superiority of their 14-inch guns in the ensuing battle, for the battleships’ shells did not always penetrate the cruisers’ armor plate. This was fortunate, for to withstand the enemy force Admiral Callaghan had only two 8-inch gun cruisers, one 6-inch gun cruiser, two light antiaircraft cruisers, and eight destroyers. Callaghan led his light forces toward Savo after dark to engage the battleships.

At 0124 on 13 November Helenas radar located Japanese ships 27,000 yards away, between Savo and Cape Esperance. A warning was immediately transmitted to the flagship San Francisco, but the cruiser’s search radar was inadequate. As a result Admiral Callaghan, like Admiral Scott at Cape Esperance one month earlier, did not know the exact location of either his own or the enemy ships.

The American destroyers closed to short range to fire torpedoes. The vans of the opposing forces intermingled, and the American column penetrated the Japanese formation. The Japanese illuminated the American cruisers, then opened fire at 0148. The outnumbered Americans replied, firing to port and starboard. The American column became disorganized as destroyers maneuvered to fire torpedoes, and both cruisers and destroyers swerved off their courses to avoid collisions. The engagement became a melee in which the desperate American ships engaged the enemy individually. In the confusion both sides occasionally fired on their own vessels. As far as they could, the American ships concentrated their fire on the battleship Hiei.

 Admiral Scott, aboard the Atlanta, was killed by fire from a cruiser. Later a salvo from the Hiei struck the San Francisco and killed, among others, Admiral Callaghan, and mortally wounded her commanding officer, Capt. Cassin Young. The San Francisco continued to engage the Hiei as long as her main battery would bear. The Hiei fired several salvos, then ceased. The San Francisco, having received fifteen major hits from heavy guns, withdrew. The Atlanta caught fire, and several American destroyers blew up, but about 0300 the Japanese abandoned their attempt to break through the tenacious American force, and retired northward. Two Japanese destroyers had been sunk, and four were damaged.

The gallantry of the light American forces in this desperate action had saved Henderson Field from a battleship bombardment, but the cost was heavy. Of the thirteen American ships, twelve had been either sunk or damaged. The antiaircraft cruisers Atlanta and Juneau, and the destroyers Barton, Gushing, Laffey, and Monssen sank in the channel. The heavy cruisers San Francisco and Portland and the destroyers Aaron Ward, O’Bannon, and Sterrett, which all had suffered serious damage, retired with the two other surviving ships toward Espiritu Santo during the morning of 13 November.

The battleship Kirishima had escaped, but at daylight on 13 November American air forces located the battleship Hiei near Savo. Crippled and on fire, she was cruising slowly in circles. The Hiei, the principal American target, had been struck eighty-five times in the battle, and was out of control. Planes from Henderson Field attacked her steadily all day, and on the night of 14 November she was scuttled by her crew.

Bombing the Japanese Transports, 14 November

Meanwhile Admiral Kinkaid had led his carrier task force from Noumea toward Guadalcanal. At daylight on 14 November search planes from the Enterprise sighted a group of Japanese cruisers near New Georgia. These ships belonged to a second Japanese force which, consisting of three heavy and two light cruisers and four destroyers from the Outer South Seas Supporting Unit of the 8th Fleet, had entered Sealark Channel early on the morning of 14 November.

When American motor torpedo boats sortied from Tulagi, the Japanese retired without having inflicted much damage to Henderson Field. Later, when the search planes found this force, aircraft from Guadalcanal and from the carrier attacked it and sank one heavy cruiser and damaged one heavy and one light cruiser and a destroyer.

After these attacks the planes from the Enterprise flew to Guadalcanal to operate temporarily from Henderson Field. This permitted the Enterprise, the only remaining carrier in the South Pacific, to withdraw to the south out of range of hostile aircraft.

Disregarding the fact that the American airfields on Guadalcanal were still in operation, the Japanese determined to bring the troop convoy to Guadalcanal. On 14 November it left the waters near northern New Georgia, where it had been standing by since 13 November, to sail southward down the Slot. Consisting of eleven transports and cargo ships and twelve escorting destroyers, this convoy was the largest the Japanese had yet employed in the Solomon’s. The ships carried about 10,000 troops of the 229th and 230th Regiments of the 38th Division, artillerymen, engineers, replacement units, a naval force of between 1,000 and 3,500 men, weapons, and 10,000 tons of supplies. The Japanese had not committed aircraft carriers to close support of operations, and the convoy’s air cover was weak.

A Southwest Pacific patrol plane, lending support to the South Pacific, discovered the convoy at 0830, 14 November, about 150 miles from Guadalcanal. Guadalcanal aircraft and the Enterprise air group made ready to attack with torpedoes, bombs, and machine guns. Ground crews servicing the planes rolled bombs across the muddy runways, lifted them into the bays, and fueled the planes entirely by hand. The planes took off and struck the transports continuously throughout the day with outstanding success. They hit nine transports. Seven sank at sea, and the four remaining afloat sailed on toward Guadalcanal under cover of darkness.

Night Battleship Action, 14-15 November

Strengthened and reorganized, the heavy bombardment force which had fought the American cruisers on the night of 12-13 November turned back toward Guadalcanal to cover the approach of the transports. It consisted of the battleship Kirishima, two heavy and two light cruisers, and nine destroyers. To combat this force and to attack any surviving transports, Admiral Halsey sent the battleships Washington and South Dakota and four destroyers from Kinkaid’s force to the north. Under the command of Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee, Jr., the two battleships and four destroyers passed the southeastern tip of Guadalcanal about noon on 14 November. Shortly before midnight, they entered the channel. As the Washington neared Savo in the darkness at 0001, 15 November, her radar located an enemy ship. The Washington opened fire at 0016, at a range of 18,500 yards, and the South Dakota and the destroyers entered the action immediately thereafter. The Japanese fought back vigorously, but by 0142 the long-range gun fight in the narrow waters had ended. It was one of the few engagements between battleships of the entire war. The Japanese retired northward, having again failed to hit the airfields. The badly damaged Kirishima was scuttled by her crew; one Japanese destroyer sank. Three of the American destroyers sank, and the South Dakota and the other destroyer suffered damage.

When day broke on 15 November the Americans saw, lying at Tassafaronga in plain view, the four surviving transports of the force which had been hit the day before. The transports had no air cover. Three were beached and unloading, while the fourth was slowly pulling northward toward Doma Reef. F Battery of the 244th Coast Artillery Battalion had moved two of its guns from their field artillery positions on the west bank of the Lunga to the beach. These guns opened fire at 0500 and hit one beached transport 19,500 yards away; the ship began to burn. The 3rd Defense Battalion’s 5-inch batteries opened fire forty-five minutes later on a second ship 15,800 yards away and hit her repeatedly.

The beached target burned and listed to port. The destroyer Meade sailed over from Tulagi to shell both the ships and the landing areas, while aircraft from Henderson Field and bombers from Espiritu Santo attacked the remaining ships. By noon all four had been turned into burning, useless hulks which were abandoned to rust in the shallow water. The planes then turned their attention to the Japanese supplies which had been landed, and started tremendous fires among the piles of materiel. One blaze was 1,000 yards long.

Cost and Results

Of the ill-fated convoy’s 10,000 or more troops, about 4,000 had landed safely on Guadalcanal, but without sufficient supplies and rations. Only five tons of the 10,000 tons of supplies aboard the ships were landed safely. Of the rest of the troops, some had drowned at sea, but a large number were rescued by the Japanese.

The destruction of the convoy brought the November counteroffensive to a quick end. For the Japanese the failure had been expensive. Besides the troops and supplies lost at sea, they had lost two battleships, one heavy cruiser, and three destroyers sunk. Equally serious had been the destruction of the eleven ships in the convoy, a total loss of 77,609 shipping tons. Two heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, and six destroyers had been damaged. The U. S. Navy had lost one light cruiser, two light antiaircraft cruisers, and seven destroyers sunk, and one battleship, two heavy cruisers, and four destroyers damaged.

This was the last major effort by the Japanese Army and Navy to recapture the Lunga area by a co-ordinated attack. The November battle had made the task of reinforcing Guadalcanal much less dangerous. The movement of the 182nd Infantry was the last shipment of troops to Guadalcanal in the face of enemy forces. Thereafter American troops were to be landed on Guadalcanal fairly regularly, and although enemy air attacks continued, and the Alchiba was torpedoed by a submarine on 28 November, the danger of attack by enemy warships lessened. The Lunga area was now securely held, for by the end of November Vandegrift’s force totaled 39,416 men.

The November battle had been the most decisive engagement of the Guadalcanal campaign. It had almost “sealed off” the Japanese on the Guadalcanal battlefields from their rear bases. After November, the most important factor of the campaign was to be the long hard ground fighting on the island itself.

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

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

World War Two: Guadalcanal (6); October Counteroffensive

World News Headlines: 01-20-2019

Germany (DW)

Congo’s Martin Fayulu declares himself president, top court sides with Felix Tshisekedi; The runner-up in the presidential election in DR Congo, Martin Fayulu, had said he was the real winner in the contest and called for protests. But a high court ruling said the challenge was “unfounded.” The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo rejected a challenge to last month’s presidential election results. The high court said early Sunday that runner-up Martin Fayulu’s challenge to Felix Tshisekedi’s win was “inadmissible.” In the verdict, the court also rejected a request to carry out a recount and declared Tshisekedi “President of the Democratic Republic of Congo by simple majority.”The ruling comes shortly after the African Union had asked Congo to delay announcing the final election results, casting “serious doubts” about the vote. On January 10, DR Congo’s Electoral Commission said Tshisekedi had provisionally won with 38.57 percent of the vote against Fayulu’s 34.8 percent.

Northern Ireland: Suspected car bomb explodes in Londonderry; Northern Irish police posted a picture of what appeared to be a burning car in front of a courthouse. Irish politicians have condemned what they called a terrorist attack. No one was injured by the explosion. A suspected car bomb exploded in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry late on Saturday, police have said. “As far as we know no one injured,” police wrote on Facebook. A photo posted by the police’s Twitter account showed what appeared to be a car in flames outside of a courthouse near the city center.

Angela Merkel sees Germany-France as drivers of European unity; With Brexit looming on the horizon and populist parties calling for further EU exits, European unity has been shaken. In a video message, Merkel explained why she thinks a new friendship treaty with Paris will help. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance and significance of German-French ties in a video message posted on Saturday. After centuries of war between the two countries, the friendship that now exists between Berlin and Paris was “anything but self-evident,” she said. Her remarks come just days before she and French President Emmanuel Macron are due to sign a new friendship treaty in the city of Aachen.

FRANCE (France24)

US airstrike in Somalia kills 52 Al Shabaab extremists, military says; According to the statement, the airstrike was “in response to an attack by a large group of Al Shabaab militants against Somali National Army Forces” near Jilib, 370 km southwest of Somalian capital Mogadishu. “We currently assess this airstrike killed fifty-two militants,” read the statement. Military officials from this East-African country and local elders said heavily-armed Al Shabaab militants had launched a dawn raid on a military camp on Saturday morning, followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire which lasted hours. “The terrorists attacked Bulogagdud military base using heavy weaponry and explosives. The Somali military and Jubaland forces resisted the enemy before later retreating back from the base,” Mohamed Abdikarin, a Somali military official told AFP by phone.

Lebanon urges Arab League to readmit Syria ahead of regional summit; The Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, or AESD, is being held in Lebanon for the first time amid sharp divisions in the country and among Arab countries.
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Ministers speak after TPP meeting; Ministers of the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement held a news conference after their first meeting in Tokyo. Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification, Jim Carr, said his country has become the first G7 nation to sign free trade agreements with all the other members. He said free trade agreements build bridges that are “crossed by investment, goods and services” which “produce growth, wealth and jobs.” Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, said he was encouraged that all the members were united, despite many facing protectionist pressure. He said the members are committed to seeing the rules evolve to suit the times, and that it is in their common interest to embrace more countries within the agreement. Of the 4 countries that have yet to ratify the deal, the representatives from Peru and Chile said they hope to complete the process within a few months while the representative from Brunei said it would be as soon as possible. Malaysia’s administration led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who took office last May is showing caution toward the TPP. The country’s representative said in the news conference that the country is still evaluating the trade pact.