World War Two: Italy; Beyond Salerno (ISC-2-10)

Problems and Plans: With the Fifth Army in firm possession of lodgment, Operation AVALANCHE moved into its second phase: the capture of Naples. Once captured and transformed into a logistical base, Naples would have to be made secure. This the Fifth Army would do by advancing twenty-five miles beyond Naples to the Volturno River, which was far enough beyond the city to provide protection against hostile attack, infiltration, artillery fire, and raids.! Before the invasion, Allied planners had given some thought to the idea of capturing Naples by driving across the Italian peninsula from the heel, a maneuver the road net would have facilitated. But now the Fifth and Eighth Armies, co-ordinated by the 15th Army Group, would move up the boot of Italy abreast, their first objectives, respectively, Naples and the airfields around Foggia.

As early as 17 September, when General Alexander suspected the impending German withdrawal from the Salerno beachhead, he passed along some thoughts to guide his subordinate commanders on future operations. His ideas differed from those advanced by Allied planners a month before the invasion.

Then, the Allies had expected the Germans to hold tenaciously to Naples and Foggia. But now Alexander guessed that they would be unable to retain Naples for long because of their need to withdraw to the north to shorten their lines of communication. Nor would they, he estimated, be able to preserve control over Foggia because of their lack of strength in Apulia. Thus, General Clark and General Montgomery could start immediately toward their objectives, even though a pause would probably occur somewhere in the process to allow bringing up additional supplies and troops necessary to complete the advances.

While Fifth Army was bringing the battle of Salerno to a close, Eighth Army was consolidating its forces along the eastern shore of the peninsula. When the 1st British Airborne Division, ashore at Taranto on 9 September and beyond Bari two days later, made contact on its left with the 1st Canadian Division coming up from Calabria, the meeting represented the first step in bringing together the SLAPSTICK and BAYTOWN troops. The 5 Corps headquarters came ashore at Taranto on 18 September and made ready to receive at Bari both the 78th British Division, expected from Sicily in the next few days, and the 8th Indian Division, due to arrive from Egypt in the next few weeks. By 19 September, the 13 Corps had the 1st Canadian and 5th Divisions moving into the Auletta and Potenza areas and coming abreast of the Fifth U.S. Army.

Although only about 8,000 men of the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) opposed Eighth Army on the approaches to Foggia, Montgomery was unable to advance rapidly. The distance of his units from the Calabrian ports of Reggio and Crotone caused him serious logistical problems, and the tasks of switching his logistical base from Calabria to the Adriatic ports and of regrouping his forces required time.

General Montgomery organized his immediate operations into two parts. He would capture the Foggia airfields, then cover them by seizing ground about forty miles beyond-the hills north and west of the Foggia plain and the lateral Vinchiaturo-Termoli road running along the Biferno River. These operations would get under way in the last days of September. The Germans, for their part, were reexamining their original strategy of delaying the Allies in southern and central Italy until they could construct a strong defensive line in the Northern Apennines.

In consonance with the original concept, Kesselring, on the day after the Salerno landings, had drawn on a map a series of successive lines across the Italian peninsula suitable as delaying positions. A few days later, having mastered his temporary difficulties with the Italians around Rome, he began to consider the possibility of going over to the defensive altogether somewhere south of Rome. One of the lines he had drawn was through Mignano, about fifty miles north of Naples and ninety miles south of Rome; this line, sometimes called the Reinhard Line, more often referred to as the Bernhard Line, offered excellent ground for defensive works. A dozen miles north of Mignano, the terrain around Cassino, to be known as the Gustav Line, provided an even better prospect for prolonged defense. If Tenth Army could gain enough time for Kesselring to construct fortifications along these lines, Kesselring might be able to halt the Allies far below the Northern Apennine position. Fighting the Allied forces below Rome had certain obvious strategic and tactical advantages. In addition, it would preserve the integrity and independence of Kesselring’s command, for otherwise his forces would go under Rommel. The final decision on whether to defend below Rome rested, of course. with Hitler. Until he made his decision, the original plan of withdrawal remained in effect. Instructing Vietinghoff to retire slowly to the Volturno River, Kesselring directed him to hold there until at least 15 October in order to allow time to construct defensive positions on the next line farther to the north.

Withdrawing to any defensive line across the entire Italian mainland meant that Vietinghoff had to bring the 1st (Fallschirmjäger) Parachute Division north to align it with the troops on the west coast. Since OKW refused to release troops from northern Italy to reinforce the paratroopers in the Foggia area, he instructed Heidrich, the division commander, to fight a nominal delaying action as he withdrew. The first good line on which to anchor a withdrawal even temporarily was the Biferno River, just north of Foggia.

More ticklish was the job of withdrawing from close contact with the Allied divisions in the Salerno beachhead. Not only did Vietinghoff have to break off operations without exposing himself to immediate pursuit, but in accordance with Kesselring’s order he had to withdraw very slowly. At the same time, he had to extend his front across the Italian mainland to link up with the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division. Vietinghoff settled the conduct of these operations on 17 September. Estimating that the dispersal of the Eighth Army had left Montgomery incapable of exerting strong pressure for several days, he decided to retain the bulk of his strength on the right (west) opposite the Fifth Army. These right flank forces, holding the Sorrento peninsula as pivot for a wheeling withdrawal, would enable him to evacuate the large supply dumps in and around Naples and to destroy the harbor and supply installations useful to the Allies.

As Vietinghoff planned to deploy his units under the XIV Panzer Corps to the west and the LXXVI Panzer Corps to the east, the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division began to disengage on 17 September for withdrawal northeast and north behind strong rear guards. The 26th Panzer Division broke contact with the Allies two days later and fell back to the north from the Battipaglia area, also leaving strong rear guard forces. By the end of September, these two divisions, along with the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division, would be under the LXXVI Panzer Corps in the eastern part of the Italian peninsula.

The task of defending the pivot area devolved upon the XIV Panzer Corps, more specifically on the Hermann Gӧring Division, which controlled units of the 3rd and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions and two battalions of the 1st Parachute (Fallschirmjäger) Division. Vietinghoff transferred

the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to the western portion of the Volturno line, not only to start constructing defensive positions but also to guard against Allied amphibious operations along the coast. He assembled the 16th Panzer Division, whose units were mixed with all the other divisions in the Salerno area, and sent it to the Volturno to prepare defenses in the difficult hill terrain near Capua.

For the conduct of operations between the Salerno beachhead and the Volturno River, Vietinghoff designated intermediate defensive lines and dates to denote the minimum time they were to be held by rear guard forces. Since the major task was to begin building field fortifications along the Volturno, he ordered that the Allied advance be delayed by a methodical destruction of all the lines of communication leading to the river. Kesselring was more than specific on the destruction he wanted. He directed Tenth Army to evacuate all rolling stock, trucks, buses, automobiles, and cables, and to dismantle and evacuate the war industry installations, including those manufacturing tools, typewriters, and accounting machines. The troops were to spare historic buildings, museums, churches, monasteries, and hospitals.

They were to demolish railroad sections, power plants, bridges, switch points, and water lines; to mine bridge approaches and roads; to destroy all transportation and communications facilities that could not be moved-harbor installations, docks and moles, radio and meteorological stations-water supplies and reservoirs, food supplies and storage centers, canning plants, breweries, and distilleries. Kesselring promised to send some demolition experts to help in the destruction, but if there were not enough to do the entire job, the army was to do the best it could.

The German intention to withdraw was apparent to Fifth Army intelligence officers, who noted the enemy “entrenching north of River Volturno and west of Capua.” The Allies expected the Germans to withdraw by pivoting on Salerno; to hold firm in the areas north of Salerno and Vietri; and to be well dug in near Nocera in order to block the road to Avellino and Foggia. Although strong opposition had been anticipated on the direct approaches to Naples, air reconnaissance reports indicated extremely heavy traffic going north into the interior. Of the different courses the enemy might adopt, it seemed most likely that he would choose to delay the Allied advance by what was termed “offensive-defensive tactics” at various locations. The pattern of motor movements, the German dislike of giving up ground, and a critical need for troops in other areas, which made reinforcement of southern Italy seem impractical, bolstered the Allied estimate.

Hoping for an opportunity to seize Naples quickly-for example, should the enemy front collapse suddenly, or the Allies make a decisive breakthrough General Clark had held a regimental task force of the 36th Division in readiness for a swift thrust on the right flank to Benevento, thirty miles north of Salerno. This giant step was designed to outflank Naples and cut the communications east of the city while avoiding a fight through the narrow, readily defended passes of the Sorrento ridge. But almost from the first it became all too apparent that the Fifth Army drive north from Salerno was destined to be slow.

General Clark called a conference of major commanders and key staff officers on 18 September to discuss future plans. All were soon agreed that the few available roads dictated in large measure what Fifth Army could do. The 10 Corps would have to fight through the two major mountain passes to the Naples plain, where General McCreery might commit armor to capture Naples and drive north to the Volturno. The VI Corps would have to make a flanking movement through the mountains on the right, use the two roads in its zone to cut the east-west highway, Route 7, from Naples through Avellino to Teora, and keep contact with Eighth Army on the right.

This was what General Clark ordered. Placing the 82nd Airborne and 36th Divisions in army reserve, the 36th prepared for commitment, if necessary, against Naples, he instructed the 10 Corps to make the main effort to secure the Vietri-Nocera and Salerno-San Severino passes and push on to the plain for a drive on Naples, while the VI Corps plunged into the interior with two divisions to seize the Ave Uino-Montemarano-Teora line. General Alexander imposed one restriction: Fifth Army was to keep its right flank in close touch with the Eighth Army. The rate of the British army advance would thus determine in part the speed of American progress.

The Flanking March

The new VI Corps operation started on 20 September, when General Middleton’s 45th Division on the right, already through Eboli , moved toward Oliveto, ten miles away, and General Truscott’s 3rd Division began to move through Battipaglia toward Acerno, a dozen miles distant. On that day Major General John P. Lucas took command of the VI Corps. He had commanded the 3rd Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, had been a War Department observer in North Africa early in 1943, and had commanded III Corps at fort McPherson, Georgia. In May 1943, sent by General Marshall to North Africa again , this time to help General Eisenhower keep in touch with the com bat troops, General Lucas became in Eisenhower’s words, his “American Deputy.” Characterized by Marshall as having “military stature, prestige, and experience,” Lucas in early September replaced General Bradley as commander of II Corps in Sicily. From there he went to the Salerno beachhead.

General Lucas was a firm believer in making maximum use of artillery to speed his advance and reduce American casualties. But artillery could not solve his problems north of Salerno. The German delaying forces proved elusive in the mountainous terrain of the VI Corps zone, ground penetrated only by secondary roads with steep grades, innumerable switchbacks, and bridges difficult to bypass. Although resistance was not always strong or stubborn, the German delaying action was exceptionally well organized. Machine guns and small artillery emplacements were cleverly concealed, and units in the rear and on higher ground protected them by small arms fire. To advance, American infantry had to work slowly up the slopes and outflank the rear guard detachments.

By then the Germans had usually broken contact and withdrawn to the next prepared delaying position. The 3rd and 40th Divisions on 21 September ran into opposition that held up their advance guards for a day. A destroyed bridge covered by riflemen and machine gunners stationed on the opposite side of a gorge stopped the 3rd Division just south of Acerno. and it took cross-country marches through the mountains for the leading regiment to disperse the enemy and occupy the town. Similarly, before the advance regiment of the 15th Division could take Oliveto, it had to outflank positions defending the town and mount an organized assault.

Relying heavily on demolitions to delay the Americans, the Germans destroyed more than twenty-five bridges between Paestum and Oliveto. To repair the bridges or construct bypasses was time consuming, even with the invaluable Bailey bridge-“a knock-down steel bridge Which is put together like a boy’s E rector Set and is then pushed out across the span to be bridged.” Any hope for a rapid advance soon faded, although the engineers, on whom a great part of the burden of the advance fell, performed epic feats. “There was no weapon more valuable than the engineer bulldozer,” 2nd Lieutenant Ernest Childers, though he had fractured his instep, led eight men up a hill near Oliveto toward two German machine gun positions; while his men covered his advance, he crawled to one and destroyed it with a grenade, then crawled to the other, where he threw rocks until the gunners raised their heads. whereupon he killed them with rifle fire. Corporal James D. Slaton, lead scout of an infantry squad. eliminated three machine gun positions with bayonet, rifle fire. and a grenade. There by making it possible for two assault platoons to advance to objectives near Oliveto. Both Childers and Slaton were awarded the “Medal of Honor.” General Truscott later wrote, “no soldiers more effective than the engineerswho moved us forward.”

The American mechanized forces for the most part fought the terrain rather than the enemy. The high, steep banks along the narrow roads prevented proper deployment of vehicles; canals, irrigation ditches, and streams hindered movement; thick foliage impeded visibility; and debris from shelled buildings blocked the narrow streets in the villages. As a result, the artillery, tank destroyers, and tanks were often a liability rather than an asset.

Battle became a matter of infantry maneuver by small units operating with a minimum of support. The normal method of advance was by regiment, along a road, with a small advance party on foot accompanied by a few vehicles transporting weapons, ammunition, and communications. The troops brushed aside light resistance. When halted by larger forces, usually defending at an obstruction, for example a demolished bridge, the regiment kept one battalion on the axis of advance to maintain contact and protect the deployment of artillery, while the other battalions took to the hills to outflank the enemy position.

When the enemy was dispersed and the site was clear of small arms fire, engineers removed any other obstacles and built a bypass or repaired the bridge. The advance then began again, generally with another regiment taking the lead.

It was difficult for some to understand why progress was so slow. Air force commanders, for example, were impatient because they wanted to establish air units on the fields in the Naples area. General Clark also showed impatience, for he looked to VI Corps to outflank Naples and loosen the German hold on the port area. “Absolutely essential,” he told General Lucas on 24 September, “that they [Middleton and Truscott] continue full speed ahead in order to influence decisively our attack on Naples.” Not much could be done. The same problems hampered progress beyond Ceerno and Oliveto on the roads, respectively, to Montemarano and Teora. The terrain channeled mechanized movements to the few narrow roads. Bridging material became critically short. The delaying actions of only a few German detachments slowed the advance out of all proportion to the number of German troops actually involved. The additional requirement imposed on the 45th Division, to keep contact on the right with the Eighth Army, also retarded the advance by making necessary extensive patrolling on the flank.

Keeping supplies flowing to the front became a nightmare. For example, in advancing beyond Acerno, the 3rd Division had two regiments in column, the leading one attacking along the road, while the men of the third regiment moved on foot across trackless mountains. To keep the third regiment supplied with food and ammunition, General Truscott had his engineers cut a trail for pack animals, no mean achievement. Fortunately, the division had formed a provisional pack train in Sicily and had brought its mules and drivers to the mainland.

When it was apparent that mules would be necessary to insure supply movements, General Clark began to look into the possibility of obtaining pack animals for the other Fifth Army divisions, which required a minimum of 1,000 animals. Only a few were available [rom local sources and from Sicily and North Africa. As divisions scoured the countryside for enough animals to organize pack train units of 300 to 500 beasts per division, corps and army headquarters requested overseas shipments from the United States. Equipment and feed for the animals were additional requirements hard to come by. Within a month, however, even though the Germans had slaughtered mules they could not take with them, each Fifth Army division had acquired a collection of nondescript beasts of burden, as well as gear of all descriptions-shoes, nails, halters, and saddles. Soldiers who knew how to take care of the animals became precious assets.

From the vantage point of the corps headquarters, General Lucas thought operations were going well-so well that he looked forward to fighting in more open country where he could use tanks. He found the dust on the roads a “terrible problem,” but probably, he philosophized, no worse than rain and mud.

Part of the 34th Division was becoming available for commitment between the 3rd and 45th Divisions, but Lucas was unable to see how he could possibly employ additional troops-how could he supply two divisions over one available road?

General Lucas’ outlook suddenly changed on 26 September-“everything has gone to hell,” he wrote in his diary. The road in front of the 3rd Division was blocked by three destroyed bridges, one go feet long, one 85 feet long, the third 125 feet long. Yet here too Lucas could see the silver lining-at least the infantry would get some rest while engineers repaired the damage.

General Clark visited General Lucas on the morning of 26 September to tell him he wanted Avellino. About twenty miles north of Salerno and twenty-five miles east of Naples, Avellino was on the main Foggia-Naples road. Seizure of Avellino, which Lucas called “the key to the situation,” would threaten to outflank the German defenders of Naples.

Since the 3rd Division would have to fight across roadless mountains to get to Avellino, Lucas tried to get part of the 34th Division forward. If the 133rd Infantry, which was ashore in its entirety, could reach the front that night, perhaps it could get within immediate striking distance of Avellino. And that, as Lucas understood the situation, would take the pressure off the British who were attacking through the Sorrento ridge and “seem rather badly stuck.”

The 34th Division commander, General Ryder, had lunch with General Lucas on the 26th and they discussed the complicated arrangements required to move the 133rd Infantry forward. The regiment, using only blackout lights, would have to travel over a narrow mountain road on a dark night, through thick dust, while supply trucks were using the same road to go in the opposite direction; it would then have to pass through the 45th Division. If the 133rd Infantry could reach Montemarano, the regiment could drive west along the main road toward Avellino and not only help the 3rd Division but also begin to threaten Naples from the east. What made the attempt particularly worthwhile was the fact that the 3rd and 45th Divisions had that day temporarily lost contact with the withdrawing Germans.

On the night of the 26th, despite a heavy rain that washed out several of the mountain bridges engineers had so laboriously constructed and also carried dirt and rocks down the mountains and across the roads in many places, the 133rd Infantry moved in seventy 2-1/2-ton trucks to an assembly area not far from Montemarano. One of the units in the regiment was the 100th Infantry Battalion, composed originally of Japanese Americans from Hawaii; it had replaced the 2nd Battalion of the 133rd Infantry, which remained in Algiers as AFHQ security guard.

While the regiment prepared on 27 September for commitment, the 45th and 3rd Divisions inched painfully forward over difficult ground to get into position for a converging attack on Avellino. To help the engineers, who were nearing exhaustion, General Lucas dispatched corps engineers to the division area. And to insure a flow of supply to the combat troops because he feared that more rain might wash out more bridges, he moved supply dumps well forward, far closer to the front than normal. On the immediate approaches to Avellino, the VI Corps re-established contact with the Germans on 28 September. The 3rd Division and 133rd Infantry prepared to assault the German defenses blocking entrance into the town. But when “it rained like hell all night,” the plans went awry. The roads became impassable. “Am running this thing on a shoestring,” General Lucas wrote in his diary, “and a thin little shoestring at that.”

When on 29 September General Alexander removed the restriction that had held the advance of the Fifth Army right flank to the progress of Montgomery’s Eighth Army, he gave General Clark another objective. “You should get Benevento early,” the army group commander directed. This objective, about fifteen miles north of Avellino, changed General Lucas’ plans. Sending the 3rd Division alone against Avellino, Lucas ordered the 133rd Infantry to cut the Avellino-Benevento highway and sent the 45th Division directly against Benevento itself.

While the 133rd Infantry and the 45th Division drove generally north, the 3rd Division on 30 September took Avellino, then turned westward toward 10 Corps. Truscott’s troops had just come through sixty miles of mountainous terrain and the men were tired, “but there can be no stopping to rest now.” German opposition was extremely light, sometimes nonexistent, evidence that the Germans were again retiring. Their hold on Naples had been loosened. and before they could dig in on new defenses, they had to be driven to the Volturno River.

The Main Effort

The main effort against Naples was carried by the British 10 Corps, which made a 2-day shift of forces to the left to mark the transition from the battle of the Salerno beachhead to the drive on Naples. By moving the 46th Division to Vietri and the 56th Division to Salerno, General McCreery relinquished the Battipaglia-Eboli area to the VI Corps and permitted the Americans to come abreast and start their flanking march through the mountains. He also placed his infantry divisions in position to attack through the two major passes of the Sorrento hill mass-the Vietri-Nocera and Salerno-San Severino roads. Once the infantry divisions were through the Sorrento barrier and on the Naples plain, he hoped to pass the 7th Armoured Division through the 46th at Nocera for the final strike toward NapIes. The U.S. Rangers on the left were to assist.

General McCreery had looked for a quick way of getting through the high ground of the Sorrento peninsula when the Germans retired from the Battipaglia area on 18 September and air reconnaissance showed definite German movement to the north. He thought he might be able to send the Rangers through a third and smaller pass, the Maiori-Pagani road through the Chiunzi pass. If the Rangers could secure Pagani, a suburb of Nocera, and could hold dominating ground nearby. they might open the Vietri pass for the 46th Division. With this in mind, McCreery attached to Darby’s command a mobile regimental force, the 2nd Armoured Brigade, which was to debouch on the plain of Naples for operations in conjunction with the troops emerging from the Nocera defile.

The Rangers had been considerably reinforced even before the attachment of the armored brigade. To the three Ranger battalions had been added a battalion of the 143rd Infantry, a battalion (less a company) of the 325th Glider Infantry, and tank, tank destroyer, artillery, and 4.2-inch mortar elements. On 20 September General Clark further attached to Darby’s command the rest of the glider regiment, a battalion (less a company) of the 504th Parachute Infantry, and additional artillery and signal troops. Darby thus had about 8,500 troops under his command.

Even with these reinforcements, Colonel Darby could only hold the ground he had already seized. Operating from positions over 4,000 feet high, where a good part of the command could do little more than carry rations and ammunition for the others, the Rangers were thinly spread over a large area on the precipitous slopes high above the Gulf of Salerno. Darby’s troops were less than three miles from Castellammare on the Gulf of Naples-on the northern shore of the Sorrento peninsula-but plans to attack and capture this port were shelved because of German strength.

Abandoning his hope for a quick penetration through the Chiunzi pass, General McCreery relied instead on power. The 46th Division would make the main effort on the Vietri-Nocera axis while the 56th Division launched a subsidiary attack along the Salerno-San Severino road and the reinforced Rangers engaged the Germans in the Nocera-Scafati area and reconnoitered river crossings near Scafati. The 7th Armoured Division was to pass through the 46th Division at Nocera and capture high ground near Pagani, earlier designated as a Ranger objective. When Clark talked to McCreery about continuing his advance to the Volturno even as he drove to Naples, he suggested that the Rangers, after helping to seize Naples, could police the city until relieved by the 82nd Airborne Division. which would then be responsible for restoring and maintaining order.

The 10 Corps attack jumped off at first light, 23 September. What happened in one pass had little effect on the action in the others. Only a few miles interposed between lines of departure and emergence onto the plain of Naples, but in the narrow defiles. flanked by steep hillsides. the Germans defended stubbornly. The 56th Division made hardly any progress. The 10th Division with very heavy artillery support. gained less than a mile. The Rangers moved forward very little.

After several days of attack, it became obvious that the 10 Corps would need reinforcement, and General Clark began to move units of the 82nd Airborne Division by truck and by landing craft to the Sorrento peninsula. Except for Company G, 325th Glider Infantry, which was occupying the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, the units of General Ridgway’s division in Italy were assembled on 26 September. Ridgway took control of the Rangers and all units attached to them; his forces totaled about 13,000 troops-including 600 Rangers, 1,700 men of the 23rd Armoured Brigade, and supporting personnel. He placed the forces in the eastern part of his division zone under Colonel Darby, the forces in the western part under Colonel James M. Gavin, who commanded the 505th Parachute Infantry. Ridgway’s first report indicated “no substantial contact” with the enemy.

With the mission of helping the 46th Division by seizing dominating ground in the Egidio-Sala area to permit the 23rd Armoured Brigade to debouch on the plain, Ridgway planned to attack on 27 September at dusk, This would give his troops all night to secure a bridgehead across a small mountain stream between Sala and Egidio, prepare bridges and fords, and get am on the plain around Pagani before daylight. If the attack started to move and needed additional impetus, a regiment of the 36th Division. which was being readied by General O’Daniel, was prepared to land at Torre Annunziata, a dozen miles south of Naples.

The amphibious hook proved unnecessary. Vietinghoff, who had established his first line across the Italian mainland, was pulling back to it according to schedule. On the night of 27 September, the 82nd Airborne Division jumped off, making its main effort through the Chiunzi pass. The troops met only light opposition and reached the Maples plain by morning. Their progress helped the 46th Division move three miles, Although the 46th was still several miles short of Nocera, the terrain was such that McCreery could commit the 7th Armoured Division through the infantry. With British tanks then approaching Nocera and American infantry of the VI Corps at this point threatening Vellino, the Germans fell back from San Severino and permitted the 56th Division to advance north from Salerno. On 28 September, the 23rd Armoured Brigade came through the Chiumi pass and made contact with the advance units of the armored division.

General McCreery directed the 7th Armoured Division to drive west and secure bridgeheads across the Sarno River at Scafati. Once across the river, the main body of the armored division, as to skirt Mount Vesuvius on the east and north and drive to the Volturno at Capua while the other elements and the 23rd Armoured Brigade took the coastal road to Naples. If the Germans had left Naples, the smaller force was to skirt the city on the east and drive north along the coast to the Volturno, leaving the occupation of Naples to the 82nd Airborne Division.

Opposition was scattered, but the westward drive toward Scafati and the Sarno River across the Naples plain, which was covered with fruit trees and had many villages, posed its problems. Confined to a single road, the 7th Armoured Division was extended over fifty-five miles. Unable to deploy satisfactorily, the tankers found it difficult to clear the villages and the thickly wooded country. When foliage covered tank turrets, the tankers became virtually blind. Concerned about traffic congestion, particularly at bridges. McCreery warned his commanders to keep their troops well in hand.

Early on 20 September the 7th Armoured Division seized the bridge at Scafati intact, although the other bridges across the Sarno had been destroyed. That day heavy rain and demolitions rather than active enemy opposition held back the armor. In order to bring up the tail of some 7,000 vehicles still in the Salerno area, the division constructed three bridges across the river. The roads, in the words of one report, became “literally packed” with traffic as the corps moved beyond the restricting barrier of the Sorrento hill mass. That evening patrols of the 23rd Armoured Brigade and American paratroopers swept past the ruins of Pompeii and entered Torre Annunziata.

General McCreery had planned to protect his right flank by holding back the 56th Division, once it was through the San Severino pass. But when the VI Corps took Avellino on 20 September and thereby cut the Salerno-Avellino highway, McCreery dispatched the entire division to the north.

A German rear guard held up the advance along the coastal road to Naples on the evening of 20 September but not for long. On the following clay, as opposition melted away, British troops went through the eastern outskirts of Naples and continued up the coastal road to the Volturno. The 82nd Airborne Division moved into Naples on 1 October, followed next day by the Rangers.

After meeting the U.S. 3rd Division on 2 October, the 56th Division swung northwest and together with the 7th Armoured Division, against decreasing resistance, marched through Caserta toward the Volturno River in the Capua area. Tanks and vehicles moved in closely packed columns. Three days later patrols were at the Volturno, and by 7 October the 10 Corps had closed to the river in strength.

By then the VI Corps was also at the Volturno. The 3rd Division had moved through Cancello and Maddaloni and patrols arrived at the river above Capua by 6 October. The 45th Division on 2 October had captured Benevento, which was by then no more than a mass of rubble smelling of the bodies buried under the masonry. Crossing the damaged but usable Benevento bridge that had been seized by the 133rd Infantry, the 45th moved during the next few days toward the river. The 36th Division, having arrived in Italy in entirety, marched to Montesarchio in the rear of the 3rd Division; Lucas hoped to keep its presence hidden for the moment from the Germans.

By the end of the first week of October, the Fifth Army stood at the Volturno, with Naples and its satellite ports captured, the airfields of Capodichino and Pomigliano in hand. Holding a firm base “for further offensive operations,” General Clark hoped to get across the Volturno at once and continue into the next phase of the Italian campaign. When he talked with General Lucas on 3 October about future operations, he expected the 10 Corps to be pulled out soon for assignment to the Eighth Army, while the U.S. II Corps headquarters came from Sicily to operate in the coastal area. Clark decided that the VI Corps would remain in the mountainous interior of Italy: “You know how to fight in the mountains,” he told Lucas. Maybe he did, Lucas observed, but he had had all of it he wanted already.

Naples

Like Garibaldi, the Allies had needed three weeks to get to Naples; one more week and they were at the Volturno, bringing Operation AVALANCHE to an end. The cost of establishing a beachhead at Salerno, which had taken eleven days, of capturing Naples, which had required ten more days, and of advancing to the Volturno was more than 12,000 British and American casualties, of whom approximately 2,000 were killed, 7,000 wounded, and 3,500 missing.

The prize of the operation, the city of Naples, was utterly destroyed. Allied bombing had flattened industrial Naples into a mass of rubble and twisted girders. More systematically, the Germans, too, had taken their toll. They had destroyed or removed all transportation facilities, blasted communications installations, knocked out water and power systems, and broken open sewer mains. They had demolished bridges, mined buildings, fired stockpiles of coal, burned hotels and university buildings, looted the city, ripped lip the port railroads, and choked the harbor with sunken ships and the wreckage of port installations.

It would be no easy task to establish a military base in a shattered city inhabited by hungry, unemployed people. German artillery continued to shell Naples for several days after its capture; half the population of 800,000 had fled into the countryside and those remaining had had little food for nearly ten days. The Allies would need three months to restore city life to conditions approaching normal, somewhat less time to set up a military base.

The task of restoration belonged to the Fifth Army Base Section, which was re-designated at the end of October as the Peninsular Base Section. A logistical command formed to support Fifth Army operations, the base section moved into Naples on 2 October and functioned as an advance communications zone. Although the headquarters had somewhat fewer than 600 men, it eventually directed the administration and operations of more than 33,000 assigned and attached personnel.

AFHQ had provided shipments of food for the civilian population, but in order to get the ships unloaded and the supplies distributed, the city and port had first to be cleaned up. Two engineer regiments, the 540th and 343rd, assisted by Italian laborers, cleared the streets of obstructions at more than two hundred separate locations, mended breaks in the sewers at some fifty places, and repaired the Napoleonic aqueduct, the major source of water for the city. In mid-October three Italian submarines put in and anchored at Naples to give power for pumping water in an ingenious scheme that used a trolley substation as another part of the improvised system.

In the midst of the work, a delayed fuze bomb exploded in the post office around noon, 7 October, killing and injuring about 35 soldiers and an equal number of civilians. Four days later an exploding bomb or mine in an Italian Army barracks occupied by members of the 82nd Airborne Division killed 18 men and injured 50. Beginning on 21 October, a series of German air raids struck the city. Although the air attacks were neither frequent nor particularly severe, they inflicted casualties on both troops and civilians.

By far the largest task was rehabilitating the port, which had sustained the worst destruction. Thirty major wrecks were visible in the Naples harbor, but beneath the surface the hulls of more than a hundred scuttled and sunken ships ranging in size from small harbor craft to large ocean-going liners blocked the wharfs-destroyers, tankers, tugs, sloops, corvettes, trawlers, floating cranes, tank barges. Most of the vessels had been reduced to junk before sinking. On top of them the Germans had piled lighters, cranes, locomotives, trucks, loads of ammunition, oxygen bottles, and small arms. Of seventy-three electric cranes at dockside, only one remained standing and that was badly damaged. Charges exploded under the pier cranes had blown them into the harbor and smashed the quay walls. The piers and wharves had been turned into a mass of twisted steel and debris. Harbor warehouses, grain elevators, office buildings, and railroad facilities had been dynamited into piles of ruin. Huge mountains of coal were burning.

It took three days just to extinguish the fires burning in the piles of coal. Meanwhile, Army engineers cleared passages from the city to the piers, bulldozing alleys to gain access to the port. They repaired railroads and opened truck routes. With dynamite, bulldozer, crane, and shovel, they filled craters, hacked roads through debris, cleared docks, and leveled buildings for storage space. On the fifth day of work, the first engine ran from the railroad yard along the main line of the port to Pier A.

During the same period of time, American and British naval groups were dragging mines and wreckage from the waterways and cleaning the piers to make them accessible from the ocean side. Divers, hampered by thick fuel oil covering the water, floating wreckage, and submerged cranes, worked on the underwater obstacles, while naval salvage crews removed the smaller sunken craft in order to open passageways to berthing spaces for ships waiting outside the harbor to be discharged. Larger vessels that had been scuttled adjacent to piers were left in place, and the piers were extended across the wrecks with steel and wooden bridging to provide eventual berthing for 26 Liberty ships, 0 coasters, and 11 LST’s.

While rehabilitation and restoration continued, a fleet of DUKW’s brought supplies from transports anchored offshore. As early as 3 October, landing craft were docking at berths scattered throughout the port. On 1 October a Liberty ship pulled bow-to against a pier and unloaded front hatches, then backed out, turned, and came in stern first to complete unloading. Not long afterward, berths for Liberty ships, 6 for coasters, and 8 holding berths were opened.

Two weeks after the capture of Naples, the Allies were unloading 3,500 tons of cargo daily at the port, not quite half of the average 8,000 tons discharged per day before the war. By the end of October, with about 600 DUKW’s being used in port operations, Naples was receiving 7,000 tons daily. All American and some British supplies were coming into Naples, while additional items for 10 Corps were being unloaded at the satellite ports of Salerno, Torre Annunziata, and Castellammare. Discharging operations across the Salerno beaches were also providing cargo tonnages. Between 9 September and 1 October, more than 190,000 troops came ashore, around 30,000 vehicles were landed, and about 120,000 tons of supplies were unloaded by an average daily employment of 60 LCT’s, 30 LCM’s, and 150 DUKW’S. This success was achieved despite a violent, 2-day wind and rain storm starting during the night of 27 September, which stopped all unloading. During the storm all the LCI’s and LCVP’s in use, a total of 56, plus 21 LGT’s, 3 LST’s, and a merchant ship were driven ashore; 1 British LST’s, seeking shelter in un-cleared offshore waters were badly damaged by mines; and all of the double pontoon bridge unloading ramps were swamped.

Despite the remarkable and somewhat surprising tonnages un loaded over the beaches, in the satellite pons, and in the restored harbor of Naples, supply levels in the army dumps diminished. Ships at Naples, for example, were bursting with rations, but on 6 October the Fifth Army had only four days’ supply. Millions of cigarettes were awaiting discharge, but troops received only an occasional issue of tobacco. By 12 October, gasoline levels had Sunk to three days’ supply on hand. This condition came about because of the difficulty of transporting supplies to the forward areas. Demolitions at bridges and culverts, an inadequate road network.

and the limited use fullness of the railroads clogged the roads with traffic and overworked the limited number of trucks ashore. Repairing the railroad from Naples to Caserta took longer than anticipated, and not until mid-November was the line opened for traffic along the entire road. The Germans had also destroyed at Naples the petroleum storage tanks that had a capacity of 1 million barrels. They had ripped lip pipelines and turned unloading machinery into a mass of scrap iron. Thus, it was the end of October, after storage tanks capable of holding 100,000 barrels had been repaired, before tankers could unload directly into the storage facilities. Only then could work start on a pipeline from the port to the front.

By the end of October the Peninsular Base Section had rehabilitated the facilities in the Naples area to the extent that Fifth Army could anticipate with confidence firm logistical support for further operations.

Foggia

On the other side of the Italian peninsula, Eighth Army had sent advance elements, with almost no enemy contact, to Foggia. which the Germans had abandoned on 27 September. By 1 October British troops were occupying Foggia and the nearby airfields.

To clear the Germans from the hills north and west of the Foggia plain and to reach the lateral Vinchiatnro-Termoli road near the Biferno River, General Montgomery sent 10 Corps beyond Foggia on a 2-division drive, the 78th Division moving on the coastal road to Termoli. the 1st Canadian Division striking inland through the mountains along the road to Vinchiattlro. The 5 Corps followed, protecting the west flank and the rear.

Since the 1st Parachute Division had withdrawn to the Birerno River. Where the paratroopers dug in, elements of the 78th Division had no trouble until they approached the river and reached the outskirts of Tennoli. There they met serious resistance. Launching a quick amphibious strike to secure the small port of Termoli, General Montgomery dispatched Commando forces, which were ferried by LCI (L) ‘s from Sicily, to the town. The Commandos gained surprise by landing during the night of 2 October and soon captured and cleared Termoli. However, their hold on the beachhead remained somewhat precarious until a brigade of the 78th Division came by water to Termoli on the following night.

The capture of Termoli invalidated the Biferno defensive line, and the enemy reaction was swift. The 16th Panzer Division rushed from the west coast, arrived at Termoli on 4 October, and counterattacked on the 4th, 5th, and 6th, striking not only the Termoli beachhead defenders but also the main British forces coming up the coastal road.

Flood waters of the river interfered with British bridging operations and prevented tanks and heavy supporting weapons from making firm contact with the beachhead. But on 7 October, when an additional brigade of the 78th Division was transported to Termoli by sea, the Germans disengaged and fell back to positions covering the Trigno River, the next natural line of defense. Logistical difficulties prevented an immediate British pursuit.

Meanwhile, after hard fighting in the mountains, the Canadians took Vinchiaturo. A paucity of supplies, particularly of gasoline. prevented further progress. Because the two divisions had advanced on divergent lines, General Montgomery reorganized his front on 9 October.

The 5 Corps took over the coastal area and assumed control not only of the 78th Division but also of the 8th Indian Division, which was assembling in the rear. The 13 Corps operated inland with the 1st Canadian Division and the 5th Division in column. The 2nd New Zealand Division, due to arrive in Taranto by mid-October, Montgomery decided to hold initially in army reserve.

By 11 October, with Eighth Army at Termoli and Vinchiaturo, the Foggia airfields were secure. As the air forces made ready to base heavy bombers on the fields for attacks against targets in Austria, southern Germany. and the Balkans, the invasion of southern Italy came to an end. With the Fifth Army standing at the Volturno River and the Eighth Army able to move beyond the Biferno toward the Trigno River, the Allies were on the Italian mainland to stay. The question of how far to go up the Italian peninsula was unclear debate.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Winter Campaign; The Strategy (ISC-3-11)

World War Two: Italy; Salerno; End of the Battle (ISC-2-9)

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World War Two: Biak: Frustration at Mokmer Drome (AP-14)

Reinforcements for the 186th Infantry – Japanese Reactions to the Westward Advance: During its advance west from the surveyed drome, the 186th Infantry had met little opposition after 2 June. While it is inconceivable that the Biak Detachment had not anticipated the possibility of an American flanking maneuver through the inland plateau, there are many possible explanations for the failure of the Japanese to oppose this movement strongly after the initial battle at the surveyed drome. Colonel Kuzume and General Numata had reason to believe that the Americans might make an amphibious attack at Mokmer Drome.

Small craft of engineer and artillery units attached to the HURRICANE Task Force continuously patrolled along the coast west of Bosnek to Sorido, and Seventh Fleet fire support vessels kept up harassing fires on all known and suspected enemy installations in the airfield area. Therefore, the Biak Detachment kept the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, and most of the armed service personnel immobilized on the low ridge and terraces north of Mokmer Drome and at the West Caves. Colonel Kuzume’s principal responsibility was the defense of the airfields. While the best defense is usually a good offense and while it is often more sensible to defend an area from a distance, the Biak Detachment had strength neither to launch a large-scale offensive nor to defend every approach to the airfields. The attacks against the 162nd Infantry on 28 and 29 May had resulted in the loss of most of the Biak Detachment’s armor and had cost the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, many casualties, including its commander. Colonel Kuzume could ill afford any more such Pyrrhic victories.

The 1st Battalion, 222nd Infantry, had made no serious attempt to stop the 186th Infantry’s progress westward because the inland plateau was nearly indefensible and because the battalion would have been decimated in battle with the superior strength of the reinforced American regiment. The 1st Battalion was withdrawn from the surveyed drome area on 2 June, initially in preparation for counterattack against the Bosnek beachhead. While no such counteroffensive was mounted, the withdrawal of the 1st Battalion at least had the advantage of keeping the unit intact.

Upon the arrival of the 186th Infantry at Mokmer Drome, the 1st Battalion, 222nd Infantry, began moving back to the West Caves area, after a long march through the jungle and rising ground north of the inland plateau. Colonel Kuzume and Headquarters, Biak Detachment, reached the West Caves during the night of 9-10 June, and the 1st Battalion began closing in the same area the next day. On the evening of 9 June, General Numata transferred the control of further operations on Biak to Colonel Kuzume. The general left next day for Korim Bay, whence he was evacuated by seaplane and returned to the 2nd Area Army’s command post at Manado, in the Celebes.

Colonel Kuzume knew that as long as he could hold the low ridge and terrace north of Mokmer Drome, he could prevent the HURRICANE Task Force from repairing and using that field or Borokoe and Sorido Dromes. To conduct his defense he had under his control north of Mokmer Drome by the evening of 10 June the remaining elements of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 222nd Infantry, totalling about 1,200 men; most of his armed service troops; the bulk of the 19th Naval Guard Unit; and most of the field and antiaircraft artillery pieces, mortars, and automatic weapons still serviceable. Some naval troops and a 222nd Infantry mortar unit manned the East Caves positions, while the 3rd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, remained isolated at the Ibdi Pocket. Even without the Ibdi Pocket and East Caves groups, the Biak Detachment was well disposed to conduct a stubborn defense of the airfields, as the HURRICANE Task Force was soon to learn.

The Decision to Reinforce the: 186th Infantry

On the morning of 8 June the 186th Infantry consolidated its positions around Mokmer Drome and cleared a number of small caves on a coral shelf located along the water line.2 At 0830 the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, started to move east to rejoin its parent regiment. The battalion had marched scarcely 800 yards east of Mokmer Drome when it was pinned down by Japanese automatic weapons and mortar fire from the East Caves. Finally, the 81-mm. mortars of Company D, 186th Infantry, from emplacements near Sboeria, stopped enough of the Japanese fire to permit the 2nd Battalion to push on. Company G, 186th Infantry, was sent northeast from Mokmer Drome to find the source of the Japanese fire and to protect the left of the 162nd Infantry’s Battalion. The latter dug in for the night only a few yards east of the point where it had first halted, while the 186th Infantry’s company set up defenses on the main ridge north of the East Caves.

Japanese mortar fire fell into the area held by the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, intermittently throughout the night. Many minor casualties occurred until, toward morning, the battalion’s 81-mm. mortars succeeded in silencing most of the enemy weapons. Japanese from the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, harassed the battalion rear all night, and small parties made abortive attacks from the north. All these Japanese groups were beaten back with mortar, machine gun, and rifle fire, and during the scattered firing the new commander of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, was killed.

[n14-3 Company H, 162nd Infantry (the heavy machine guns and 81-mm. mortars), had not gone over Young Man’s Trail with the 2nd Battalion on 2 June but had rejoined the battalion on the inland plateau]

On the west flank the 3rd Battalion, 186th Infantry, also had some trouble during the night. Shortly after dark, Japanese mortar fire began falling on the elements of the battalion dug in north of the coastal road, and later this fire shifted to the battalion positions south of the road. By either accident or design, a number of native dogs, running around and barking outside the battalion perimeter, helped the Japanese locate the unit’s lines and, about 2100, as the enemy mortar fire moved eastward, troops of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, attacked from the west and northwest. A few Japanese managed to infiltrate the battalion’s outposts and several American soldiers were bayoneted before the battalion’s 60-mm. mortars, together with machine gun and rifle fire, broke up the Japanese attack.

The Japanese continued to harass the perimeter until 0530. Japanese losses were 42 counted dead, while the 3rd Battalion, 186th Infantry, lost 8 killed and 20 wounded. Total casualties for the 186th Infantry and attached units during the night were 13 men killed and 38 wounded.

On the morning of 9 June Company B, 186th Infantry, was sent from the beachhead to a point on the low ridge directly north of the center of Mokmer Drome to clear that ridge westward 1,200 yards and secure the point at which a motor road ran northwestward over the ridge. It soon became evident that the company was trying to bite off more than it could chew. Hardly had the leading platoon arrived atop the low ridge than it was pinned down by Japanese machine gun fire and then almost surrounded by Japanese infantry.

When Japanese patrols threatened the rear of the company, all elements were withdrawn 400 yards south to set up a new base, from which patrols moved along the foot of the ridge in an attempt to determine the extent of the enemy’s defenses. Results were inconclusive, and at dusk the unit moved back to the beachhead. It could report only that the low ridge was strongly held. Meanwhile, another company patrolled northeast to the point at which the regiment had crossed the main ridge, and established contact there with units of the 163rd Infantry, which had pushed over the inland plateau behind the 186th. Tank-infantry patrols were sent west along the beach from Sboeria. A few bunkers and some small ammunition dumps were destroyed, but few Japanese troops were seen and there was no opposition. On the east flank, Japanese fire from the East Caves again kept the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, immobilized. Patrolling by elements of the 162nd, 163rd, and 186th Infantry Regiments in the East Caves area was productive of little information concerning the location of the principal Japanese positions.

[NOTE: on or about 5 June, after it had marched overland from Ibdi, through Opiaref, and west along the inland road the original commander of the Japanese unit had been killed in action on the coast at the end of May.]

On 10 June the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, sent two companies to the point on the low ridge where Company B had been halted the previous afternoon. Despite artillery support, the two units could make little progress and were themselves pinned down about 1030. Japanese rifle and mortar fire was silenced by the 1st Battalion’s 60-mm. mortars, but the Japanese continued to pour machine gun fire from a number of bunkers and pillboxes which proved impervious to bazooka and 75-mm. tank fire. The units withdrew while more artillery fire was placed along the low ridge. On the east flank, enemy fire from the East Caves had died down, and the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was able to move on eastward. But before that battalion had gone very far, and before the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, could mount another attack against the low ridge, Headquarters, HURRICANE Task Force, had evolved a new plan of operations. During the period 7-10 June little progress had been made in securing the Mokmer Drome area, and aviation engineers, brought forward by water from Bosnek on the 9th and 10th, had so far been unable to work on the strip because it was still exposed to Japanese fire from the low ridge and terrace north of the field. General Fuller had therefore decided to throw two infantry regiments against the enemy defenses north of the field. For this purpose the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was returned to regimental control, and the remainder of the 162nd Infantry started westward from the Parai area toward Mokmer Drome.

The 162nd Infantry Moves to Mokmer Drome

While the 186th Infantry had been driving to the airfield over the inland plateau, the 162nd Infantry, less the 2nd Battalion, and with Company A, 186th Infantry, attached, had been attempting to move westward in a co-ordinated drive along the coastal road. This attempt had not proved successful, for Japanese opposition at the Ibdi Pocket and the Parai Defile kept the 162nd Infantry tied up.

On 7 June, when the 186th Infantry reached Mokmer Drome, it became a matter of urgency to open an overland line of communications to the airfield area. The 186th Infantry could be supplied overwater with some difficulty, but overland movement was faster and more efficient. Therefore General Fuller initially decided to outflank the enemy’s positions in the Parai Defile by a drive from west to east along the cliffs above the road through the defile. For this purpose two companies of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, were to be transported overwater from Ibdi to the Parai Jetty, whence they were to drive east in conjunction with a westward push by the rest of the battalion.

On 7 June the proposed landing area at Parai Jetty (but not the jetty itself) was subjected to artillery and naval preparation fires. Three LVT (A)’s and eighteen LVT’s picked up Companies I and K (reinforced) at the 3rd Battalion position. They moved far out in the stream to avoid enemy mortar or artillery fire and, at 1315, started moving inshore toward the jetty. The first wave was delayed when two LVT’s stuck on the reef fronting Parai, and the first amphibian tractors did not reach the beach until 1420.

Fifteen minutes later, both the reinforced companies were ashore. As soon as the two companies landed they came under fire from Japanese weapons in the East Caves and along the ridge between that position and the Parai Defile. They then called for reinforcements. The Cannon Company arrived at the jetty about 1610 and six tanks of the 603rd Tank Company reached the area about 1730. Patrols were then sent into the Parai Defile, meeting opposition which steadily increased as they moved eastward.

A concerted drive could not be organized before dark, and plans had to be made to continue the attack on the morrow. Meanwhile, General Fuller had evolved his plan to move all the 162nd Infantry to the Mokmer Drome area. By this time it had become evident that the 1st Battalion had isolated the principal remaining enemy strong points in the Ibdi Pocket and the task force commander had decided to leave only one company as a holding force in that area to prevent the Japanese from cutting the coastal road. The remainder of the 1st and 3rd Battalions were to move to Parai and push west toward Mokmer Drome to establish contact with the 186th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry.

At 0900 on 8 June, Companies C, I, and K, supported by tanks, began moving west from Parai into the ground where the Japanese had counterattacked the 162nd Infantry on 28 and 29 May. Company C advanced along the coastal road, while Companies I and K pushed up the low cliff at the coast from Parai to Mokmer village and attacked along the terrace above Company C. By noon, when they stopped to lunch and rest, the three companies were within 500 yards of Mokmer village and in the coconut grove through which the Japanese had launched the 29 May tank attack. At 1330, just after the advance companies had resumed their attack, they were pinned down by heavy mortar fire from the East Caves. Another infantry company was requested, and Company B moved forward to the right of the units on the terrace.

There were indications that the enemy was preparing a counterattack similar to the one he had launched in the same area ten days earlier, but such an offensive did not develop.

Meanwhile, it had been discovered that the Japanese had mined the main road west from Parai. Tank progress was slowed as the mines (most of them actually 6-inch naval shells) were removed or the vehicles guided around them. As the tanks approached Mokmer village, they came under mortar and automatic weapons fire from the East Caves. Since these weapons were masked by trees, the tanks were unable to deliver counterbattery fire against the enemy positions and were finally forced to seek cover. Continuing mortar and small arms fire made the forward units of the 162nd Infantry seek shelter also and they dug in for the night along a curving perimeter which began on the beach 500 yards east of Mokmer and stretched northeastward some 800 yards almost to the base of the main ridge. A gap of about 1,800 yards remained between these forward companies and the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, west of Mokmer.

On the morning of 9 June the 1st and 3rd Battalions again began pushing westward. Despite heavy concentrations by the regiment’s 81-mm. mortars, the 4.2-inch mortars of Company D, 641st Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 105-mm. howitzers of the 205th Field Artillery Battalion, Japanese fire from the East Caves steadily increased. The infantry could move forward only in small groups and were forced to seek cover behind every slight rise in the ground. At 1330 Company C established patrol contact with the 2nd Battalion at a point 500 yards west of Mokmer village, and at 1700 the 2nd Battalion reverted to regimental control after a week’s operations under the 186th Infantry. More than 1,000 yards still separated the main body of the 2nd Battalion from the 1st, which dug in for the night at Mokmer village. The 3rd Battalion, in reserve during the day, had not moved far beyond its bivouac of the previous night.

On 10 June Company L and rear detachments of the 3rd Battalion were moved forward by small craft to Parai. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions then began moving west along the coastal road to Mokmer Drome while the 1st Battalion was left at Parai with the mission of defending that area and clearing the remaining enemy from the Parai Defile. West from Mokmer village the coastal road was still subjected to heavy interdictory fire from the Japanese in the East Caves. Therefore, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions had to move along the beach under the protection of a low coral shelf. The march was accomplished in column of files and most of the troops waded through the edge of the surf, which was waist deep much of the way. The movement therefore progressed very slowly, and it was not until 1600 that the two battalions reached an assembly area at the eastern end of Mokmer Drome. The next day there began a new offensive which was aimed at clearing the Japanese from the ridges and terraces north and west of the airfield.

Operations North of Mokmer Drome: The Plan of Attack

The new attack to secure the Mokmer Drome area was to start at 0930 on 11 June with two regiments abreast, the 162nd Infantry on the right, or north. The line of departure began on the beach at Menobaboe, whence it ran north-northeast through the western end of Mokmer Drome and over the low ridge. The boundary between regiments paralleled the coast and lay about 400 yards north of Mokmer Drome’s main runway. The first objective was a first phase line lying about 1,350 yards beyond the western end of the runway. A second phase line was roughly 1,000 yards farther west and included Borokoe village, on the beach some 2,300 yards west of Menobaboe. The inland end of the second phase line lay about 2,000 yards north of the coast. Occupation of the third phase line would bring the two attacking regiments into line with the eastern end of Borokoe Drome.

The 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was responsible for clearing the low ridge. The 1st Battalions of both regiments were to remain in reserve. Details of artillery support are not clear but it appears that at least initially the 121st Field Artillery Battalion was to give close support to the 186th Infantry while the 205th, from positions near Ibdi, was to support both regiments. The 205th’s fire would be directed from a floating observation post in an LCV furnished by the 542nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. The 947th Field Artillery Battalion was also assigned general support missions.

While the attacks in the Mokmer Drome area were under way, the 3rd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, would continue patrolling west and south along the main ridge. One company of that battalion and Company G, 186th Infantry, were to maintain pressure on the East Caves from the north and west. The 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry, was to patrol north, east, and west from the surveyed drome on the inland plateau behind Bosnek, while the 2nd Battalion cleared remaining Japanese from the Ibdi Pocket. Support for the operations of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 163rd Infantry, was the responsibility of the 146th Field Artillery Battalion, emplaced near Bosnek. The 3rd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, was apparently to be supported by those artillery units supporting the attacks in the Mokmer Drome area.

Meeting Resistance on the Low Ridge At 0830 on 11 June the two assault battalions of the 186th Infantry began moving out of their bivouacs up to the line of departure, which they reached by 0915. The 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, started moving forward from the eastern end of Mokmer Drome toward the line of departure about the same time that the 186th Infantry got underway. The 162nd Infantry met stiff resistance before it could get to the line of departure, and the 186th Infantry’s attack was therefore halted until the 162nd Infantry could move its two leading battalions up to the line. The principal Japanese forces along the low ridge were the 1st Battalion, 222nd Infantry, now reduced to about 120 effectives; a company or two of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry; elements of various engineer units, fighting as infantry; and some field and antiaircraft artillery weapons and crews. All in all, there were probably some 600-700 Japanese along the ridge.

The 162nd Infantry, employing close mortar support and steady rifle fire from the leading troops, appeared to be breaking through the resistance to its front about 1330, and the 186th Infantry was thereupon ordered to renew its attack. Accordingly, at 1345, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 186th Infantry, pushed across the line of departure. The 3rd Battalion, moving along the coastal road, encountered no enemy opposition and closed along the first phase line in its zone at 1530. The 2nd Battalion met little Japanese resistance on its front but was intermittently forced to seek cover from enemy fire which came from the low ridge on the battalion’s right. The unit therefore did not reach the first phase line until 1620.

The two 186th Infantry battalions dug in for the night about 600 yards apart, both on the east side of a trail marking the first phase line. The terrain there was solid coral with only a thin layer of topsoil covering it. In such ground three hours was the minimum time a man needed to prepare a satisfactory slit trench, and darkness arrived before all the units could dig in. Colonel Newman therefore recommended that on subsequent days forward movement cease at 1500 so that time would be available to prepare night defenses and to undertake essential evening reconnaissance. This recommendation was approved by Headquarters, HURRICANE Task Force.

For the night of 11-12 June, the headquarters of the 186th Infantry, the 1st Battalion, and an advanced command post of the HURRICANE Task Force dug in at Sboeria village, on the beach south of Mokmer Drome. Company G, 186th Infantry, came down off the ridges near the East Caves during the day and set up its bivouac at Sboeria. At the same location were the Cannon and Service Companies, 186th Infantry, and the 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, which was responsible for repairing Mokmer Drome.

In the 162nd Infantry’s zone of responsibility, the day’s action had been marked by stubborn Japanese resistance. The 3rd Battalion, trying to gain the top of the low ridge and to move west along that ridge to the line of departure, was halted and forced to seek cover almost the moment it started to move. Even with support from the 947th Field Artillery Battalion, it was midafternoon before the battalion’s attack really got under way. Then the unit found that the terrain along the top and southern slope of the low ridge was rough and covered by dense rain forest and thick scrub growth. Visibility and maneuver room were severely limited, and the Japanese defenders made excellent use of every advantage the terrain offered.

The 2nd Battalion had been halted about 600 yards short of the line of departure to await the outcome of the 3rd’s efforts, but about 1245 was ordered to push on. The 2nd Battalion reached the line of departure about 1320 and moved on to the first phase line, drawing abreast of the 2nd Battalion, 186th Infantry, at 1720. The 3rd Battalion fought doggedly forward during the afternoon, discovering an ever increasing number of Japanese pillboxes, bunkers, and hasty automatic weapons and rifle emplacements of all kinds. Dusk found the unit still some 100 yards short of the line of departure and about 1,300 yards east of the 2nd Battalion. The 1st Battalion, taking no part in the action during the day, moved forward to Mokmer Drome from Parai.

For 12 June, Colonel Haney planned to put his 2nd and 3rd Battalions on the low ridge, while the 1st took over the 3rd’s positions near the line of departure and patrolled west, north, and east. During the afternoon of the 11th, the 162nd Infantry had learned from Javanese slave laborers who had come into the lines that the Japanese headquarters installations were located in large caves approximately 1,000 yards northwest of the 3rd Battalion’s lines. This, apparently, was the first information obtained by the HURRICANE Task Force concerning the enemy’s West Caves stronghold. The significance of the information was not yet realized, but the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was ordered to patrol north on the 12th to attempt to confirm the Javanese reports.

In order to permit the 162nd Infantry to place more troops on the ridge, the 186th Infantry was instructed to assume responsibility for an additional 300 yards on its right flank. On the 12th that regiment was to advance as far as the second phase line, maintaining close contact with the 162nd Infantry. The latter was also expected to reach the second phase line, but no advance beyond that line was to be undertaken until Headquarters, HURRICANE Task Force, so ordered.

On the morning of the 12th, the 186th Infantry had already started moving toward the second phase line when, at 0830, it received orders to halt until the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, could reach the first phase line. Although no Japanese were to be found in the 186th Infantry’s sector, an advance by that regiment without concurrent progress by the 162nd Infantry would leave a large and dangerous gap in the lines. Through such a gap the enemy could move to outflank and cut off the 162nd Infantry. But the 162nd Infantry was able to make little progress during the day. As a result, the 186th Infantry remained on the first phase line and limited its operations to patrolling.

The 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, had started moving both toward the low ridge and westward about 0830, but it also had been halted until the 3rd Battalion could fight its way up to the first phase line. The 3rd Battalion sent Company L north of the ridge to outflank troublesome Japanese positions while the rest of the battalion continued a frontal assault. But Japanese resistance was even stronger than it had been the previous afternoon, and the battalion was again unable to make any progress. At 0940 it pulled back some 300 yards southeast of its previous night’s bivouac to allow Company M’s 81-mm. mortars to lay a concentration on enemy bunkers and foxholes at the point where the line of departure crossed the low ridge.

At 1035 the advance was resumed with Company I on the ridge, Company L on the terrace north of I, and Company K along the ridge slopes south of I. Company K moved forward 200 yards by 1100, having encountered little opposition, and then halted to wait for the other two companies to draw up. Company I, meanwhile, had found that the mortar fire had been effective but that new Japanese positions were located west of the mortar impact area. From 1100 to 1130 the company fought its way through these second defenses, but no sooner had it broken through when a third set of positions was discovered 50 yards farther west along the ridge. It was also learned that a fourth strong point was located beyond the third. Company L, north of the ridge, met few Japanese and by 1230 had passed through some minor opposition to a position north of but opposite Company K. Company L then cautiously probed southwestward and southward to locate the flanks and rear of the positions in front of Company I.

Meanwhile, Company L, 163rd Infantry, had established an observation post on Hill 320, a high point on the main ridge about 1,500 yards northwest of the lines of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry. At 1530 this observation post reported that Japanese were occupying a number of antiaircraft gun positions along the low ridge west of the 162nd Infantry unit. Fearing immediate enemy artillery fire, the 162nd Infantry withdrew all its troops from the low ridge into defilade positions.

After American artillery had fired a short concentration on the suspected enemy gun emplacements, the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, returned to the low ridge. By nightfall Company L was dug in on the ridge about 300 yards west of the line of departure, and Company I was almost 100 yards to the east. In order to prevent the Japanese from reoccupying their defensive position near the line of departure—positions which had been so laboriously cleaned out during the day—two platoons of Company K moved into the vacated enemy defenses. The rest of Company K, together with 3rd Battalion headquarters and Company M, remained south of the ridge about 400 yards east of the line of departure.

During the late afternoon the 2nd Battalion had sent a number of patrols north from its position on the first phase line to the low ridge, and Company F set up night defenses on the ridge at the point where the first phase line crossed. A gap of almost 900 yards, in which were many strong Japanese defenses, separated Company F from Company L. For the next day, plans were made for the 162nd Infantry to close this gap while the 186th Infantry remained in position along the first phase line.

The 162nd Infantry resumed its attack about 0730 on 13 June when Company L started pushing east and west along the low ridge in an attempt to establish contact with both the 2nd Battalion and Company I.

Contact was made with the latter unit about 1300, after a small Japanese pocket had been cleaned out. Company K, meanwhile, had been forced to mop up a few enemy stragglers near the line of departure and had sent one platoon westward to help Company I. Late in the morning, the 1st Battalion moved on to the low ridge east of the 3rd in order to protect the regiment’s right and rear and relieve 3rd Battalion troops from that duty. Though this realignment freed 3rd Battalion units for a new drive westward, by the end of the day little progress had been made in closing the 900-yard gap between that battalion and the 2nd. Not only had the 3rd Battalion been unable to move westward, but 2nd Battalion units had also been unable to make any progress eastward.

During the 13th, the 186th Infantry had limited its activities to patrolling while it again awaited the outcome of the 162nd’s attack. The regiment had also provided local security for engineers who were working hard to repair Mokmer Drome. The engineers had begun steady work about 1030 hours on 12 June, and by evening of that day they expected to get the strip into shape for fighter aircraft before noon on the 13th. But work on the latter day was thrice interrupted by Japanese artillery or mortar fire, most of which originated along the ridge between the lines of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry. Despite these interruptions, about 2,300 feet of the eastern end of the airfield had been repaired sufficiently for use by fighter planes by evening of 13 June. More of the strip had been cleared, filled in, and prepared for final grading by the same time. The first plane to land on the field was an artillery liaison aircraft, which came down about 1000 hours on the 13th. Because of Japanese harassing fire, the airstrip still could not safely be used by larger planes.

To the Rim of the West Caves

General Doe, assistant commander of the 41st Division, had inspected the forward combat area during the afternoon of 13 June. After his trip he advised the task force commander that the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was becoming worn out and had already lost much of its effectiveness. To relieve the 3rd Battalion, General Doe recommended sweeping changes in the attack plan which had been in effect since 10 June.

He proposed that the 1st Battalions of the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments move around the right flank of the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, to the terrace above the low ridge. Reports from friendly natives indicated that the Japanese were guarding a water hole—the last one remaining in the area—near a Japanese encampment about midway between the positions of Company L, 162nd Infantry, on the low ridge, and those of Company L, 163rd Infantry, on Hill 320 to the north. Although the HURRICANE Task Force had not yet located the West Caves, the reported existence of the water hole and other miscellaneous bits of information prompted General Doe to believe that a major enemy strong point existed near the Japanese encampment. He felt that if the new two-battalion attack succeeded in eliminating this strong point, the remaining enemy positions along the low ridge would be untenable and the Japanese might retire. Then the 3rd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, would not have to continue its attacks and, indeed, would be pinched out by the new advance and could revert to a reserve role.

The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was to move north over a trail which would take it through the rear of the 3rd Battalion. When the 1st Battalion had reached a point on the terrace about 500 yards north of the low ridge, it was to turn and attack to the west and southwest. The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, was to follow a trail leading north from the eastern end of Mokmer Drome and, making a wider envelopment, was to follow an azimuth taking it east of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. Then it was to draw up on the right of the latter, ready to attack westward.

For the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, operations on 14 June began about 0600 when Company B, at the base of the low ridge about 800 yards east of the 3rd Battalion’s lines, was attacked by about fifteen Japanese infantrymen. Within ten minutes nine Japanese were killed, but patrolling and reorganizing after the attack delayed the battalion’s movement to the line of departure for the new attack. Following the infantry assault, the Japanese began to throw antiaircraft, small arms, and mortar fire into the American unit’s positions, keeping it pinned down on the southern slopes of the low ridge until 1100. The battalion was further delayed when American artillery fire was placed on Japanese troops seen maneuvering on the terrace north of the 3rd Battalion. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, had also been delayed. The 162nd Infantry unit had to wait for the 186th’s battalion to come into line before the attack westward could begin.

With Company C leading, the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, had started its advance at 0800, crossing the low ridge at a point about 500 yards east of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. Then it moved northeast over the terrace along a rough trail leading toward the main ridge-crossing employed by the 186th Infantry on 7 June. First contact with the enemy came at 0930, when Company C killed two Japanese on the trail about 800 yards north of the low ridge. The march continued until 1030 when, as the units began to turn westward, Company C was pinned down by fire from rising ground 100 yards east of the trail. Company A patrols undertook to stop this fire, but it was two hours before the advance could be continued.

Only 400 more yards had been gained by 1300 when the advance was again held up by a small group of Japanese dug in across the trail. But this opposition was broken through within half an hour, and by 1430 Company C had moved another 800 yards west and was in line with Company B, 162nd Infantry, 300 yards to the south. Both 1st Battalions now resumed the advance abreast.

The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, continued to meet opposition on its right and front during the afternoon, and did not establish physical contact with the 186th Infantry’s battalion until 1735. The 162nd Infantry unit then dug in northeast of the West Caves and about 250 yards north of Company L, on the low ridge. The battalion’s perimeter was about 400 yards short of its objective for the day, as was that of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, now located on a slight rise 50-75 yards to the right rear of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry. Patrols sent out before dark brought back proof that the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was on the periphery of the West Caves, now recognized by the HURRICANE Task Force as a major Japanese strong point. The task force G-2 Section estimated that the West Caves held about 1,000 Japanese, including naval and army headquarters.

Colonel Kuzume, realizing full well the value of the West Caves position as a base for counterattacks, was determined to hold that area. At 1930 on the 14th, he sent available elements of the Biak Detachment against the two forward American battalions in an attempt to drive them southward and eastward away from the caves. A combined infantry-tank attack drove Company B of the 162nd Infantry out of its semi-isolated position at the northwestern end of the 1st Battalion’s perimeter. The company withdrew in an orderly fashion into the battalion lines. The Japanese now turned their attention to the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry. Small Japanese groups, moving along a road which entered the battalion’s perimeter from the west, harassed the unit all night. No attacks were pressed home, but the Japanese maneuvers were interpreted as presaging a more determined counterattack on the morrow.

At 0730 on the 15th the expected counterattack began, just in time to disrupt plans for the 1st Battalions of the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments to continue advances north and west. Three Japanese tanks started south down a road running below the western slope of Hill 320. Two tanks, each accompanied by an infantry platoon, swung onto an east-west road north of the West Caves and into the positions of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry. The tanks opened fire with their 37-mm. guns from a range of 250 yards, but before they could move closer were driven off by .50-caliber machine guns of the 1st Battalion’s Antitank Platoon. The third tank and more infantrymen charged the lines of Company B, 162nd Infantry, then attempting to close the gap between the two harassed battalions.

In the ensuing melee, Company B suffered heavy casualties, for it had no weapons with which it could easily drive off the tank and stop its 37-mm. and machine gun fire. However, when the accompanying infantrymen were scattered by Company B’s fire, the tank maneuvered out of range. At 1400 the same day, two more tanks advanced toward the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry. The tanks again moved along the east-west road north of the caves but did not press home their attack. Apparently, no Japanese infantry accompanied these tanks.

During the day three Japanese tanks were knocked out—two by bazookas of Company C, 186th Infantry, and the other by a combination of .50-caliber and small arms fire. The 121st Field Artillery Battalion, while it had hit no tanks, had proved a real aid during the battle. It prevented Japanese infantrymen from forming for the attack and neutralized a number of enemy machine guns by firing 600 rounds into the area northwest of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry.

In the time intervals between the various enemy attacks only local advances could be made, but the two forward battalions managed to establish one continuous line. Patrolling south was forestalled during the morning when artillery and automatic weapons fire was placed on enemy positions between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry, on the low ridge. When this fire was finished, the day’s plans were changed. The 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, was ordered to move south onto the low ridge west of the3rd Battalion. Once on the ridge, the 1st Battalion was to do an about-face and extend its left to the 2nd Battalion’s lines. The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, was to protect the rear of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, during the latter’s displacement southward.

The new plan proved impossible of execution. Fighting in the area between the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 162nd Infantry, on the low ridge continued unabated all afternoon. Steady fire from friendly artillery and mortars, combined with Japanese automatic weapons and mortar fire from positions between the West caves and the low ridge, kept the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry, pinned down much of the time and slowed its movement southward. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions continued to try to close the gap and managed to overrun or destroy a number of enemy defensive positions. They were unable to entirely clear the area, however, and by nightfall the gap was still some 500 yards wide and was apparently occupied by a strong enemy force which was well dug in.

The 15th of June, on which date forces of the Central Pacific Area landed in the Mariana Islands, had come and gone, and still no planes of the Allied Air Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, had been able to support the Central Pacific’s operations from an airfield on Biak Island. The 863rd Engineer Aviation Battalion, which had managed to repair about 2,300 feet of Mokmer Drome by evening of 13 June, had been forced to stop work on the morning of the 14th, when Japanese fire on the strip became so intense that the engineers could not stay on the field and Allied planes could not use it. The 15th had ended on a note of frustration in the Mokmer Drome area. The Japanese still held part of the low ridge, and from their positions there and on the terrace to the north, could continue to prevent the Allies from using the Biak fields.

Allied Command at Biak: Air and Naval Base Development to Mid-June

Almost from the outset of the Biak operation, delays in seizing and repairing the Biak Island airfields had worried Generals MacArthur and Krueger. After the initial reverse suffered by the 162nd Infantry, the tactical situation on Biak had made it appear to General Krueger that it might be some time before the HURRICANE Task Force would capture Mokmer Drome. Therefore, on 30 May, he instructed General Fuller to investigate the possibility of quickly constructing a fighter strip at the surveyed drome area on the inland plateau north of Bosnek. The task force completed an engineer reconnaissance of the surveyed drome the next day. General Fuller decided that an airfield could not be completed there in less than three weeks. He considered it undesirable to assign any of his few engineer units to such extended work at the surveyed drome, for he still expected that Mokmer Drome could be seized and repaired much sooner.

The attention of air force planners then turned to the Paidado Islands, off the southeast corner of Biak. Allied Naval Forces had already planned and secured approval from General MacArthur’s headquarters to establish a PT and seaplane base in a reef-fringed lagoon on the eastern side of Mios Woendi Island, which lies about twelve miles east- southeast of Bosnek. On 28 May ALAMO Force instructed the HURRICANE Task Force to secure not only Mios Woendi but also the entire Paidado group.

Reconnaissance was made of Mios Woendi, Aoeki, and Owi Islands in the Paidado group by naval and engineer personnel of the HURRICANE Task Force on 1 June. The next day Company A, 163rd Infantry, secured Owi and Mios Woendi, and a more detailed engineer reconnaissance of Aoeki and Owi was made a few days later. Aoeki proved unsuitable for an airfield, but Owi was found to be an excellent site. Beginning on 3 June, engineers, together with antiaircraft and radar units, were taken to Owi. Heavy artillery (155-mm. guns) was also set up on the island to support operations on Biak.

The 860th and 864th Engineer Aviation Battalions started constructing a strip on Owi on 9 June but it was not until the 17th that enough of the field was completed to allow some P-38’s, blocked by a front of bad weather from reaching their base on Wakde Island after a strike on Sorong, to land at Owi. On 21 June two P-38 squadrons of the 8th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force, started arriving at Owi to remain for future operations. Meanwhile, naval construction battalions (CB’s) had cleared the land and beach at Mios Woendi in time for Seventh Fleet PT boats to begin operating from that base on 8 June.

The Owi Island strip was not ready in time to support Central Pacific operations and, despite expectations to the contrary, neither was any other field at Biak. The Wakde Island airfield had to bear a larger share of such support than had been planned. Moreover, the delay in making ready the fields on Biak threatened the speed of subsequent operations within the Southwest Pacific. The HURRICANE Task Force had failed in its principal mission—rapid seizure and repair of airfields from which the Allied Air Forces could support the Mariana operation and further advances along the New Guinea axis.

Changes in Command

General Krueger had been dissatisfied with operations on Biak ever since the 162nd Infantry had been forced to withdraw from the Mokmer village area on 29 May. At first he was dissatisfied because he believed that the 162nd Infantry’s advance had been imprudently conducted without adequate reconnaissance. Later, he had expected that the reinforcement of the HURRICANE Task Force by the 163rd Regimental Combat Team would have permitted General Fuller to resume the offensive with renewed vigor and rapidly to seize the airfields. Events did not so transpire. On 5 June, five days after the two battalions of the 163rd Infantry had reached Biak, General MacArthur indicated that he, too, was concerned over the continued delay in securing the Biak airfields.

The theater commander asked General Krueger if he thought operations on Biak were being pushed with determination, and he requested General Krueger’s views on the situation.

As a result of these queries, General Krueger was again prompted to inform General Fuller that progress on Biak was disturbingly slow and to instruct the task force commander to make new efforts to seize the airfields quickly. At the same time, the ALAMO Force commander told General MacArthur that he had for some time felt that operations on Biak were not going well and that consideration had even been given to putting in a new commander. However, said General Krueger, he had been dissuaded by his observers on Biak, who had told him that replacement of the task force commander would be unwarranted. The terrain and stubborn Japanese defense had slowed the attack, General Krueger went on, and he had therefore decided to await more complete information before taking any further action.

On 6 June General Krueger received somewhat disturbing reports from new observers whom he had sent to Biak. These officers indicated that there had been some lack of determination in the execution of HURRICANE Task Force plans, especially at the battalion and company level. The troops striving to clear the Ibdi Pocket and the Parai Defile were reported to be “herd-bound.” The observers’ reports also indicated that reconnaissance had been ineffective; and that little definite information had been obtained concerning the Japanese strength and dispositions. Finally, the observers stated, General Fuller was not making full use of his assistant division commander (General Doe) and, moreover, so few members of the task force staff had visited the front lines that General Fuller could not possibly have obtained complete and accurate information concerning the fighting.

Despite these unfavorable reports General Krueger, probably influenced by the fact that the 186th Infantry had established a foothold on Mokmer Drome on 7 June, again decided to take no action for a few days. But by 10 June he had received new information telling of the strong resistance the Japanese were maintaining along the low ridge north of Mokmer Drome. Three days of fighting had failed to eliminate this resistance, and General Krueger again urged upon General Fuller the importance of rapid rehabilitation of the Biak airfields, impossible as long as the Japanese held their positions on the low ridge. Then, on 13 June, General Fuller, on the grounds that the HURRICANE Task Force troops were suffering from fatigue and that he suspected the Japanese had landed sizable reinforcements on the island, requested ALAMO Force to send a fresh infantry regiment to Biak.

While at this time General Krueger placed little credence on the reports of enemy reinforcements, he decided to approve the HURRICANE Task Force’s request for additional strength. Accordingly, on 13 June, he alerted the 34th Infantry, 24th Division, then at Hollandia, for shipment to Biak, where it was to arrive on 18 June.

By this time General Krueger had come to the conclusion that General Fuller was overburdened by his dual function of task force and division commander. He had thus far deferred taking any action, hoping that the airdromes would soon become available.

But by 14 June it had become obvious that this hope would not materialize. Moreover, General Krueger was himself under pressure from General MacArthur, who had indicated to the ALAMO Force commander that the delays on Biak were seriously interfering with the execution of strategic plans and who had already publicly announced that victory had been achieved on Biak. Finally, on 14 June, General Krueger decided to relieve General Fuller of the command of the HURRICANE Task Force, apparently with the idea that General Fuller would remain on Biak to devote his full time and attention to the operations of the 41st Division. General Krueger took this step, he asserted, because of slowness of operations on Biak and the failure to secure the Biak airdromes at an early date. Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger, commanding general of the U. S. I Corps (and of the RECKLESS Task Force, at Hollandia) was ordered to Biak to assume command of the HURRICANE Task Force.

General Eichelberger arrived at Biak late on the morning of 15 June and at 1230 assumed command of the HURRICANE Task Force.24 It was an angry and unhappy General Fuller who greeted General Eichelberger at Bosnek. The division commander felt that General Krueger had been unjustifiably critical of the operations on Biak, and he believed that his relief as task force commander indicated that his services had proved unsatisfactory to his superiors. General Fuller had already requested in a letter to General Krueger that he be relieved of the division command as well as that of the task force and he asked for reassignment outside the Southwest Pacific Area.

General Eichelberger was in an embarrassing position, for he had been a classmate of General Fuller at West Point, and the two had been life-long friends. Believing that the division commander still had a good chance to receive a corps command, he tried to persuade General Fuller to change his mind. But General Fuller was adamant, and followed his letter with a radio asking for quick action on his relief from the division command.

This tied General Eichelberger’s hands and left General Krueger no choice but to approve General Fuller’s request—step he was extremely reluctant to take—and forward it to General Headquarters, where it was also approved by General MacArthur. General Fuller left Biak on 18 June, and, after departing from the Southwest Pacific Area, became Deputy Chief of Staff at the headquarters of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Southeast Asia Command. At General Eichelberger’s suggestion, command of the 41st Division on Biak passed to General Doe.

Upon leaving Biak, General Fuller addressed the following letter to his former command: To the Officers and Men of the Forty-first Infantry Division.

  1. I am being relieved of command for my failure to achieve the results demanded by higher authority. This is in no way a reflection upon you or your work in this operation. I, and I alone, am to blame for this failure.
  2. I have commanded the Forty-First Division for better or worse for over two years and one-half. During that period I have learned to respect you, to admire you, and to love you, individually and collectively. You are the finest body of men that it has been my privilege to be associated with in thirty nine years of service.
  3. I part with you with many pangs of heart. I wish all of you the best of luck and God Bless You, for I love you all.

Whether General Fuller’s relief as commander of the HURRICANE Task Force was entirely justifiable is a question which cannot be answered categorically. At the time of his relief, the task force had seized Mokmer Drome. Patrols sent westward to Borokoe and Sorido Dromes had found no enemy at those two fields, and General Fuller knew they could be occupied with ease. But he had not sent more troops beyond Mokmer Drome because he believed it more important to secure an overland line of communications to that field and to clear the low ridge so that repair work could continue and at least one strip could be put in service.

By 14 June it was only a question of time before the West Caves area and the low ridge would be secured. Indeed, General Eichelberger, who took three and one-half days to acquaint himself with the situation at Biak, drew up new attack plans according to which the 162nd and 186th Infantry Regiments were to be employed in the same area and in much the same manner as General Fuller had been using them. General Eichelberger realized, as had General Fuller, that Borokoe and Sorido Dromes would be no safer than Mokmer Drome as long as the Japanese held the low ridge and West Caves positions. But, in the last analysis, the mission of the HURRICANE Task Force, quick seizure and rehabilitation of the Biak fields, had not been accomplished by 15 June. No airfield in the Biak area was yet available for use by the Allied Air Forces.

There can be no doubt that the two forward regiments were becoming fatigued—they had been in continuous combat for eighteen days in an enervating climate—but it is doubtful that this fatigue was the only trouble. There is some evidence that there was a lack of aggressiveness at the battalion and company levels of the command, and there are definite indications that General Fuller may not have put as much pressure on his regimental commanders as he might have. One regimental commander later stated: I was never informed that there had been a deadline set for the capture of the Biak Airfields, nor that there was any pressure being applied on General Fuller from higher headquarters. I only learned of this after his relief. As far as I knew the operation was proceeding with fairly satisfactory speed. Had I known of the need for speed in supporting the Marianas attack I might have acted differently on several occasions.

One of the reasons that the HURRICANE Task Force had had such difficulty in securing the Mokmer Drome area was that fresh Japanese troops had been arriving on Biak since 27 May and had been thrown into the action at the airfields. General Fuller, on the basis of aerial reconnaissance reports and intelligence received from ALAMO Force, had for some time suspected that Japanese reinforcements were reaching Biak. This suspicion, coupled with the growing fatigue of 41st Division troops on the island, had, on 13 June, prompted the HURRICANE Task Force commander to request ALAMO Force for an additional American regimental combat team. General Fuller’s suspicions concerning Japanese reinforcements were correct. Unknown to the HURRICANE Task Force, the Japanese had developed and partially executed ambitious plans for the reinforcement of Biak.

Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Robert Ross Smith (Ret.) (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Biak: Japanese Reinforce (AP-15)

World War Two: Biak: West to Mokmer Drome (AP-13)

World War Two: Italy; Salerno-The Preparations (ISC-3)

The weather was perfect, Mediterranean climate at its September best. The sea was calm. Despite crowded decks and congested quarters, the troops began to feel almost like passengers on a vacation cruise. Hardly anyone was sick. The food was good. The showers worked. There was lots of time to sleep. What a relief after months of training, C rations, grime, dust, and mud, scorching days and impossibly cold nights. The men preferred to remember the receding coast of North Africa and the nurses bathing in the surf. Ahead lay the beaches of Salerno, and the men learned about them at sea as they clustered about their platoon leaders to discuss missions and study newly issued maps.

But combat belonged to the future. For the moment the scene was reassuring. The convoys moved along in parallel lines, the ships several hundred yards apart. “All around the compass,” an officer later wrote, “as far as we could see in the clear sunlight, there were ships and more ships … ugly but comfortable LSTs, low slung LCTs, sharp, businesslike LCIs … so many ships…that we all had a feeling of security.” Barrage balloons floating above some of the vessels heightened the impression. Occasionally, escorting planes appeared.

(Above: Lieutenant Colonel Nonnan Hussa, “Action at Salerno,” Infantry Journal (December, 1943))

In an offhand remark President Roosevelt once characterized military planners as conservative. They saw all the difficulties. he said, yet more could usually be done than they were willing to admit. [n1-3-1] This conservatism of military commanders and planners grows out of the complexities of warfare and the burden of responsibility carried by those who plan and execute it. In World War II, no military operation was more hazardous and complicated than an amphibious assault landing, and none required more careful and painstaking preparation in every detail. Troops had to be selected, trained, rehearsed, placed aboard vessels, transported through hostile waters, landed on an enemy-held shore on the proper beach in the proper order at the proper time. then supported in the face of opposition.

Weapons, ammunition, equipment, vehicles, and supplies had to be collected, packed, crated, waterproofed, and marked for identification, moved to assembly areas, then to points of embarkation, and loaded and stowed on vessels. Space available had to be reconciled with room needed; pages of manifests, troop lists, and loading tables prepared. Key individuals and vital materiel had to be dispersed among several ships so that loss of anyone vessel would not imperil the entire expedition. Decisions had to be made on what to take, how soon it would be needed on the hostile shore, and where to put it aboard ship so that it could be unloaded in the desired order. Throughout all these activities, men had to be fed and housed, equipment serviced, information disseminated, missions assigned, security and morale maintained.

[n1-3-1 Memo, Marshall for Handy, 9 Aug 43, ABC 384.]

Once afloat, the ground troops were militarily powerless and needed naval and air support. Not until initial objectives were taken and the beachhead was secure, not until men, weapons, and supplies flowed to the front in adequate quantities and without interruption could an amphibious operation be considered successfully completed.

Meanwhile, more men, supplies, and equipment had to be brought across the water in the build-up. Planners had to count on ships allocated or promised, reckon the time needed to make turnaround voyages between rear area bases and the beach, try to employ suitable types of craft for a multitude of tasks; provide sufficient men to handle cargo on the beach and enough motor transport to carry supplies from beach to inland dumps; use the available road nets to assure the flow of adequate tonnages from dumps to combat areas without hindering the movements of troops and weapons.

The assault troops had to be able to meet and overcome any resistance that hostile forces could be expected to offer. Planners had to weigh the capabilities of their own forces against intelligence estimates of enemy strength derived from agents, air and naval reconnaissance, photographs, and the interrogation of prisoners. Over all these actions hovered the menace of inclement weather, fatigue, equipment breakdown, enemy reaction, and bad luck. [n1-3-2]

To organize and manage men and materiel in dispersed locations in Africa and Sicily for water movement to Italy so as to get them there at an appointed time and in condition to overcome hostile forces, and to arrange the details of an amphibious operation eventually involving 450 vessels of all types, hundreds of aircraft of various kinds, 100,000 British troops, almost 70,000 Americans, and 20,000 vehicles-this was the task of the AVALANCHE planners, who had their work further complicated by the uncertainty of units and resources to be allocated to the operation and by the short time available.[n1-3-3]

[n1-3-2 Lucas Diary, 7 Jun 13, photostat copy in OCMH; TOES.\ Ltr, Standing Instructions for Movements by Water, 30 Jan -44, and Captain R. A. J. English, USN, Navy Appreciation of Force 163 ANVIL Plans, 6 Feb 41, both in Force 163 .\G File 370.26.]

[n1-3-3 The best sources on the planning for AVALANCHE are: Fifth Army History, Part I, pp. 1511.; Eisenhower Dispatch, pp. 7111.; Alexander Dispatch, pp.287-911.; Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, “The Allied Navies it Salerno, Operation AVALANCHE -September 1943,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol 79, NO.9 (Sep)]

Forces

The American ground headquarters charged by General Eisenhower with planning AVALANCHE was the Fifth U.S. Army. Activated in North Africa early in January 1943 to counter possible enemy action launched from Spain and Spanish Morocco and to safeguard the integrity of French Morocco and Algeria, the Fifth Army, under Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, had opened and operated several training centers, among them one for amphibious operations, where American, French, and some British troops practiced amphibious techniques.

The Fifth Army commander was a graduate of West Point and had been wounded in action in World War I. He had been on the staff of Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair’s Army Ground Forces, becoming AGF chief of staff in May 1942. General Clark took command of II Corps in June 1942, was appointed commander of the American ground forces in the European theater in July, and in November became the deputy commander in chief of the forces executing the North African invasion. As General Eisenhower’s second in command, Clark performed the hazardous task of establishing contact with French officials before the landings, and did much afterward to ensure the success of the invasion of North Africa and the subsequent campaign.

When the question of setting up the Fifth Army was being considered, September, General Clark, Eisenhower noted, “was very anxious to have that command instead of his then title of Deputy Commander-in-Chief.” Although Eisenhower warned him that the Fifth Army would be a training organization for some months and nothing else, and although he assured Clark that he would probably get a front-line command of approximate corps strength soon, “the title of Army Commander was too attractive.” Within a month after Eisenhower placed him in command of Fifth Army, Clark and some of his staff began, as Eisenhower said, to “plague” him for action. Fearful that the war in the Mediterranean would be over before they had a chance to participate, they were “most unhappy” throughout the spring of 1943 as the Tunisia Campaign drew to a close. Eisenhower became concerned with the state of their morale.

Aggressive, hard-working, with a flair for public relations, General Clark impatiently awaited the opportunity to lead his Fifth Army in combat. In early June, as the possibility of Axis incursion through Spanish Morocco faded and the integrity of French Morocco and Algeria seemed assured, Clark became involved in post-Sicily planning as AFHQ sought flexibility in order to be ready to exploit, without recourse to the forces engaged in Sicily, a sudden breakdown of Italian resistance. While the British 10 and 5 Corps worked on their plans for landings on the Italian toe, the Fifth Army planned BRIMSTONE, the invasion of Sardinia. Later, the army drew plans for a landing at Taranto, on the heel of Italy, and for a variety of operations involving a swift descent on Naples in the event of sudden Italian collapse.

Near the end of July, when the Allies were seriously looking toward the Italian mainland and beginning to consider AVALANCHE, Fifth Army seemed the logical headquarters to conduct the operation. A campaign on the mainland, no matter how short, would probably require from six to twelve divisions-British, American, and French-and considerable administrative and logistical overhead. Only an army headquarters could properly manage both operational and logistical matters of such scope. The Seventh Army was engaged in the Sicily Campaign; the Fifth was relatively free. The choice was officially made on 27 July.

General Patton, who had planned two amphibious operations, or Major General Omar N. Bradley, commander of II Corps, would have been more obvious choices to direct AVALANCHE, but both were involved in Sicily. Because General Eisenhower wanted to make sure of getting an American army into Italy if operations developed on the mainland, he told General Marshall, “I had no recourse except to name Clark to command that expedition.” Bradley was kept familiar with the AVALANCHE planning so he could step in as Fifth Army commander if Clark became a casualty. The only possible disadvantage in using Clark was that he had not been at the front during the past few months and as a result had not become an intimate member of the Anglo-American team that was beginning to function so smoothly in combat. But he was, as Eisenhower informed Marshall, “the best organizer, planner and trainer of troops that I have met“; “the ablest and most experienced officer we have in planning amphibious operations …. In preparing the minute details of requisitions, landing craft, training of troops and so on, he has no equal in our Army. His staff is well trained in this regard.” A senior officer reinforced Eisenhower’s judgment. “Clark impresses men, as always, with his energy and intelligence,” he remarked. “You cannot help but like him. He certainly is not afraid to take rather desperate chances which, after all, is the only way to win a war.”

Given the mission of seizing the port of Naples and airfields nearby, General Clark was to assume that the British 10 Corps would not be used in the toe of Italy and that its forces-the 1st Airborne, 7th Armoured, and 46th and 56th Infantry Divisions-would be part of the AVALANCHE force. His American component was to be the VI Corps, with the 82nd Airborne, the 1st Armored, and the 34th and 36th Infantry Divisions.

The senior American ground commander under General Clark was Major General Ernest]. Dawley, commander of VI Corps. A graduate of the Military Academy, he had participated in the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916 and during World War I had been a staff officer assisting General Marshall in France.

As commander of the 40th Division in 1941 and of the VI Corps in 1942, Dawley had attracted favorable notice from Generals Marshall, McNair, and Clark, who judged him a vigorous and aggressive officer. In early 1943 General Dawley brought the VI Corps headquarters to North Africa, where it was placed under the Fifth Army. General Eisenhower, who knew Dawley only slightly, was skeptical of his ability, but Clark assured him that Dawley was performing his planning and training duties in a capable manner.

Of the four divisions immediately available to VI Corps for AVALANCHE, all but one had had battle experience. The 82nd Airborne Division had taken part in the invasion of Sicily and had operated effectively in the campaign under Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, who had been with the War Department’s War Plans Division before taking command of the division in 1942 and bringing it to North Africa in the spring of 1943.

The 1st Armored Division had fought in North Africa from the invasion to the end of the campaign. Its commander, Major General Ernest N. Harmon, had served in France during ‘World War I, had commanded the 2nd Armored Division, and had acted as deputy commander of II Corps before assuming the 1st Armored Division command in the spring of 1943. The 34th Division, a National Guard unit with troops originally from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota, entered federal service in 1941 and sailed for Northern Ireland early in 1942, the first Army division to go to the European theater. It participated in the North African landings and fought through the campaign under Major General Charles W. Ryder, who had had combat service in France during World War I.

The 36th Division, a Texas National Guard unit inducted into federal service in 1940, was the only unit without combat experience. Major General Fred L. Walker, an infantry battalion commander in France during World War I, had taken command of the division in 1941 and brought it to North Africa in the early months of 1943.

Draft plans, later discarded, for the invasion of Sicily had envisioned the VI Corps headquarters and the 36th Division as participants, but when they were removed from the troop list in favor of experienced troops, they became available for AVALANCHE. General Clark had no choice of a corps headquarters, for the VI was the only one in the theater that was free, but he could select either the 34th or the 36th Division to make the assault, for they were in about the same state of combat readiness. He preferred the 36th. General Dawley and General Walker, the corps and division commanders, had worked well together in North Africa. And perhaps Clark felt that a successful operation brought off by inexperienced troops would demonstrate how effective their training had been. [n1-13-12 Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 175; AFHQ Memo, Archibald for Rooks, 24 Jul 43.]

Two divisions in Sicily, in addition to the 82nd Airborne, would also take part in the Italian campaign. The 3rd Division, which had fought in North Africa and in Sicily, was commanded by Major General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., who had served as deputy chief of staff to General Eisenhower in North Africa and who had taken command of the division in March 1943. The 45th Division, a National Guard unit from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, had sailed from the United States combat loaded in June 1943 and after a short training interval in North Africa had taken part, under Major General Troy H. Middleton, in the Sicily landings and campaign.[n1-3-13]

Three Ranger battalions, joined into a Ranger Force under Lieutenant Colonel William O. Darby, were also available. The first Ranger battalion, patterned after the British Commandos, had been organized in June 1942 in Northern Ireland. Some members took part in the Dieppe raid, and the unit fought in North Africa. Near the close of the Tunisia Campaign, Darby organized and trained two more battalions, and the entire Ranger Force took part in the Sicilian landings and campaign.[n1-3-14]

[n1-3-13 The 45th Division was originally selected for movement to the United Kingdom, but it was replaced by the 9th, which-along with the 1st Infantry, 2nd Armored, and (later) 82nd Airborne Divisions, all participants in the Sicily Campaign-left the theater to become part of the build-up for the cross-Channel Attack.]

[n1-3-14 Lieutenant James J. Altieri, Darby’s Rangers (Durham, N.C.: The Seeman Printery, 1945), pp. 10,27. Darby was offered command of a regiment of the 45th Division but turned it down to stay with the Rangers. Lucas Diary, 13 Jul 43.]

The support and service units of the Fifth Army were to be drawn largely from the Seventh Army in Sicily-artillery battalions, for example, field hospitals; and Quartermaster truck companies. [n1-3-15] The cannibalization of the Seventh Army eventually reached such proportions that the army was reduced to a skeleton headquarters; its commander, General Patton, was depressed because there seemed no place for him or his staff in the current scheme of operations. [n1-3-16] A message from General Eisenhower early in September appeared to be confirmation-the Seventh Army would probably go out of existence. Until then, Patton was to maintain the efficiency of those units scheduled for assignment to the Fifth Army, [n1-3-17] General Patton had another duty. He appeared conspicuously in a variety of places throughout the Mediterranean theater, his movements deliberately planned by AFHQ to keep German intelligence guessing on the location of the next Seventh Army strike. Even as late as November, long after the AVALANCHE landings, Patton and his army were being used in the hope of deceiving German intelligence. [n1-3-18]

[n1-3-15: See 15th AGp Master Cable File, VI, 9-25 Aug 13. The Seventh Army also furnished support for air force maintenance in connection with the assault across the Strait of Messina.]

[n1-3-16 For Seventh Army cannibalization, see 15th AGp Master Cable File, VI, Aug, Sep 43, and Seventh Army Report of Operations, I, 1. For a description of Patton’s frame of mind, see Lucas Diary, 3 Sep 43.]

[n1-3-17 Eisenhower to Patton, 5 Sep 43, 15th AGp Master Cable File, VI.]

[n1-3-18 Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff . .. July 1, 19-11 to June 30, 1943 … , p. 20; Eisenhower to Marshall, 23 Nov 43, OPD Exec 3, Item 3]

The British contingent of AVALANCHE was 10 Corps. Lieutenant General Sir Brian G. Horrocks, its commander, was wounded during an air raid on the eve of sailing for Salerno and was replaced by Lieutenant General Sir Richard L. McCreery. Two infantry divisions scheduled to make the assault under the 10 Corps headquarters were the 46th, which had had much combat experience, and the 56th, which had fought in Tunisia for only a few days. Several Commando units augmented these forces. The 7th Armoured Division, which had fought in North Africa, was to come ashore as follow-up. [n1-3-19]

On the echelon immediately above the Fifth Army was the 15th Army Group, a combined Anglo-American headquarters organized along the lines of the British staff system. The commander was General Alexander, a man of great personal charm who was, in General Brooke’s words, always “completely composed and appeared never to have the slightest doubt that all would come out right in the end.” He had demonstrated his fitness for high command as a division commander early in the war in France, as theater commander in Egypt, and as the commander of the Allied ground forces in Tunisia and Sicily. [n1-3-20] Some Americans thought Alexander biased about American troops, with little confidence in their combat ability, but General Eisenhower thought him “broad-gauged,” a commander who worked on an Allied rather than on a national basis. [n1-3-21] Brigadier General Lyman L. Lemnitzer headed the U.S. contingent of the army group headquarters and was Alexander’s deputy chief of staff. General Alexander would direct not only Fifth Army in AVALANCHE but also the Eighth British Army in BAYTOWN, its assault across the Strait of Messina.

[n1-3-19 Alexander Despatch, p. 2895.]

[n1-3-20 Quote is from General Brooke’s diary in Arthur Bryant, The Turn of the Tide (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1951), p. 82. See also Turn of the Tide, p. 525, and History of AFHQ, Part 2, Sec. I, p. 146]

[n1-3-21 Eisenhower to Marshall, 24 Aug 43, Mathews File, OCMH; Lucas Diary, Jun, Jul 43; Garland and Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy, pp. 89–91, 210-11, 235-36.]

The Eighth Army was under General Montgomery, who, according to General Brooke’s characterization, was a “difficult … brilliant commander.” [n1-3-22] To Montgomery, Alexander delegated authority for determining the priority of his unit movements from Sicily and also the date of his invasion of the toe. To Clark he gave authority for determining the assault loading of his convoys. The 15th Army Group controlled the Fifth Army during the planning period, while AFHQ retained responsibility for mounting AVALANCHE. Once the operation got under way, the Fifth Army was to be, temporarily, under its own full operational command.

The naval forces that would carry the ground troops to the AVALANCHE beaches and support them were under the general control of Admiral Cunningham. When General Eisenhower asked him to name a commander for the operation, Cunningham designated Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, U.S. Navy. In command of the Western Naval Task Force, Hewitt would be responsible for planning the employment and directing the operations of a fleet of warships, assault transports, landing ships and craft, and other vessels that would perform such diverse tasks as gunfire support, escort duty, mine sweeping, air support, motor boat patrol, and diversionary or cover operations.

Subordinate commands of the Western Naval Task Force were: the Northern Attack Force (Commodore G. N. Oliver, Royal Navy) and the Southern Attack Force (Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr., U.S. Navy), which were the assault convoys; a Naval Air Support Force (Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian) , which was to provide air cover; and a separate Naval Covering Force (Vice Admiral Sir Algernon Willis), which was primarily to protect the assault convoys from the potentially dangerous Italian Fleet. Upon Eisenhower’s request for an air commander, Air Chief Marshal Tedder designated Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, commander of the ) Northwest African Strategic Air Force, as the officer responsible for the AVALANCHE plans and operations.

While the Northwest African Coastal Air Force, composed of British, French, and American units, was to protect the convoys for part of the voyage to the beaches, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham’s Northwest African Tactical Air Force, and more specifically Major General Edwin J. House’s U.S. XII Air Support Command, was to provide protection and cover during the latter part of the voyage and at the assault area. On the amount of available airlift-transport aircraft and gliders-would depend whether the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st British Airborne Division, or both would participate in the operation.

Presiding over the entire combined (American and British) and joint (land, sea, and air) venture designed to put Allied troops into southern Italy was General Eisenhower. His was the ultimate responsibility for planning in a very short time, then executing a risky and complicated operation. Immediately below Eisenhower were three British officers, who commanded combined forces: Alexander, Cunningham, and Tedder, for land, sea, and air, respectively. Just below them and on the working echelon of AVALANCHE were Clark, Hewitt, and House, three Americans in command respectively of combined land, sea, and air forces.

Since Admiral Hewitt’s mission was to land the ground troops and support them until a secure beachhead was established, he commanded the joint and combined forces executing the AVALANCHE operation. Once a beachhead was secured, General Clark would become the de facto commander of the combined and joint forces, and Hewitt would revert to a purely supporting role as commander of the combined naval forces. Hewitt would be responsible to Cunningham, Clark to Alexander. General House, commander of the U.S. XII Air Support Command, was charged with the mission of furnishing air cover over the assault area and was, in effect, the on-the-spot air coordinator.

He was to request assistance from two other air force headquarters, Northwest African Strategic Air Force and Northwest African Tactical Air Force. As far as Hewitt and Clark were concerned, House was an independent commander who could, at least theoretically, be asked but not required to furnish air support. This procedure for air support followed British practice rather than American doctrine. While American ground commanders were accustomed to having at least some air forces under their direct control, the British regarded the air forces as coequal with the land and sea forces. In the British system, air force commanders were expected to co-operate.

Although Eisenhower had accepted the British form to govern the air arrangements for AVALANCHE, some of the senior American commanders agreed among themselves that if they failed to obtain what they regarded as necessary results, they would apply the American doctrine. General House’s place in the AVALANCHE command structure guaranteed the feasibility of their informal decision.

General House would have no responsibility until D-day. The protection of the convoys en route to the beaches was in the hands of the Coastal Air Command, and since no representative of that command would accompany the assault elements to Salerno, House would lack not only the knowledge of whether adequate air cover would be provided for the convoys but also the power to obtain additional protection if needed. General Clark could only assume that adequate preparations were being made, but “such assumptions,” he remarked, were “far from satisfactory” to him.

The joint planning generally took place on three echelons: on the theater level by AFHQ and the staffs of the senior service commanders; on the operational command level by Western Naval Task Force, Fifth Army, and XII Air Support Command; and on the subordinate levels by corps, division, and naval task group staffs. No special air planning staffs worked at the subordinate levels with ground and naval planners, and as a consequence the air plans were not so closely integrated as were the ground and naval plans. Defects would later become apparent in the areas of communications and supply, particularly in the air effort over the beaches, for Navy fighter-director ships would control Army aircraft during the assault landings.

Commanders, staffs, and units were widely dispersed in four areas in North Africa-Oran, Algiers, Bizerte-Tunis, Tripoli-and in Sicily. The Fifth Army headquarters was at Mostaganem, near Oran, where the VI Corps and its American divisions, plus an American naval headquarters, were located. General Clark moved a small planning staff of his army to Algiers to be close to AFHQ and the theater naval and air staffs. British ground and naval headquarters and units were near Bizerte and Tripoli. The 15th Army Group and the British Eighth Army were in Sicily, as were three U.S. divisions eventually to be involved in AVALANCHE. Shortly after the end of the Sicily Campaign, General Alexander moved a small tactical headquarters of his army group to Bizerte, leaving the main 15th Army Group headquarters in Sicily. Air planners were in the vicinity of Algiers and Constantine.

Because the dispersed locations of headquarters placed a heavy load on communications, Eisenhower and Tedder moved from Algiers to the Tunis area during the first week in September to be near Alexander and Cunningham at Bizerte and make feasible the daily meetings, emergency conferences, and direct communications necessary among high commanders immediately before an invasion. In the case of AVALANCHE this was particularly necessary, for there was much uncertainty about the exact forces and resources to be committed, principally because of assault shipping problems.

Throughout the AVALANCHE planning period, no one knew exactly how much assault shipping was available. This lack of definite knowledge was bad enough, but, worse, all estimates of vessels and landing craft on hand seemed much too low for the number of troops deemed necessary for the initial assault and the immediate follow-up. “All our operations are strictly regulated by the availability of ships and landing craft,” Eisenhower reported, and he complained frequently about this “constantly annoying and limiting factor.”

Landing ships and craft deteriorate rapidly under normal conditions, and those in the Mediterranean were almost constantly in use. LCT’s (landing craft, tank), LCM’s (landing craft, mechanized), and DUKW’s (2 1/2-ton amphibious trucks) lightered cargo from freighters to the Sicilian shore. LST’s (landing ships, tank), LCI (L) ‘s (landing craft, infantry, large), and LCT’s ran a cargo shuttle between Sicily and Bizerte-Tunis, a round trip of five or six days. More LCI (L) ‘s and personnel craft were busy with harbor duties. Several impromptu amphibious landings on the northern and eastern shores of Sicily during the campaign had absorbed additional vessels. Consequently, the bulk of the assault shipping was engaged until well past the end of the Sicily Campaign instead of being released for refitting and repair by the beginning of August, as had been hoped, in order to prepare for AVALANCHE.

Another problem was the task of juggling the available vessels-the figure changed constantly-among the various operations being planned against southern Italy. During the early part of August in particular, difficulty arose from the fact that 10 Corps was preparing plans for two operations, one alternative to the other: its landing in the toe (BUTTRESS), and its participation in AVALANCHE. Because Eisenhower had assigned priority to AVALANCHE as late as 19 August, and because there was a distinct possibility that the landing in the toe might at the last moment still be chosen over the landings at Salerno, the Fifth Army had to accept for AVALANCHE the 10 Corps loading plan for BUTTRESS. Although commanders hoped to be able to switch the 10 Corps from one operation to the other without upsetting the detailed planning, they discovered the actual shift to be far less simple than they had imagined. The shipping requirements to get ashore in Calabria and at Salerno were quite different, and until the very end of the planning period, when the invasion of southern Italy got under way, the responsible commanders were uneasily compromising over the conflicting assault lift needs.

During the latter part of August planning for the Eighth Army crossing of the Strait of Messina interfered with the shipping allocations for AVALANCHE. General Montgomery viewed the problems of crossing the strait far more seriously than did General Eisenhower, who declared that rowboats would be enough. Montgomery’s initial request for landing craft far exceeded the number tentatively allotted him, and General Alexander whittled it down. After the first crossing, Alexander stripped Montgomery of virtually all landing craft and transferred them to the Fifth Army for AVALANCHE.

As late as the first few days of September, Alexander was increasing the AVALANCHE D-day lift at Montgomery’s expense-on 4 September, for example, he shifted four LST’s and three LCT’s. Since the Eighth Army and 10 Corps had priority over the Fifth Army, their calls on the available assault vessels in the theater left the Fifth Army very little.

There was a short time early in August when it appeared that no assault shipping, only transports, would be available for the American contingent participating in AVALANCHE -the army headquarters, the VI Corps headquarters, and the U.S. assault troops. For a while the absurd situation developed in which it seemed impossible to include the VI Corps headquarters in the invasion. As late as 20 August, landing craft assigned to carry the 36th Division to the beaches were too few to accommodate all the men, vehicles, and cargo of the assault regiments.

As a matter of fact, General Clark had wanted to have at least two American divisions is in the initial assault under VI Corps, the same number that 10 Corps was planning to put ashore. He continually pressed General Eisenhower for more shipping. Eisenhower requested additional craft from the Combined Chiefs of Staff on the basis that he needed to speed the follow-up. Alexander kept a sharp eye on British demands. And naval repair facilities performed an exceptional job of exceeding their normal maintenance and repair schedules.

Yet the result of scraping and scrimping and of rigorous controls exercised by senior commanders was merely enough craft for a single reinforced American division. Eventually, out of the stock of vessels in the theater, logisticians produced an unexpected bonus. In the early days of September-too late to augment the initial assault forces of VI Corps-they accumulated enough lift to provide AVALANCHE with a floating reserve, a flotilla of boats to be held immediately offshore at the invasion beaches carrying troops available for quick commitment. Some of these boats were craft to be released by General Montgomery after BAYTOWN, his initial assault crossing of the Strait of Messina. They could accommodate a regimental combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which, because of its relatively light weaponry, senior commanders hesitated to use as D-day follow up.

But as additional vessels somehow appeared, the commanders were able to substitute a standard and more heavily armed infantry regiment. Both the 3rd and 45th Divisions were in Sicily, and elements of either could be staged through the port of Palermo for transport to Salerno. General Eisenhower selected the 45th, or as much of it as could be carried in the vessels made available, and this eventually turned out to be two regimental combat teams.

AVALANCHE planners tried to assign the smaller landing craft-LCVP’s (landing craft, vehicle and personnel) , LCA’s (landing craft, assault), and LCP’s (landing craft, personnel)-in a way that would enable all infantry battalions to land in assault formation. They dispersed LCT’s throughout the assault convoys to facilitate direct landing of beach roadway equipment, to make it possible to get tanks and guns ashore regardless of LST discharge facilities, and to place LCT’s in positions to help unload LST’s if necessary. LST’s were similarly dispersed to land early priority vehicles.

Although planners could easily determine the best way to employ the various vessels, the shortage of lift as well as of time complicated the whole process. Eisenhower had directed Clark on 27 July to have ready by 7 August-in eleven days-an outline plan for a complex operation scheduled to begin a month later. As the planning progressed, orders were issued and changed, sometimes faster than they could be disseminated. To include last-minute changes of plans, amendments and addenda became commonplace. Allocations and reallocations of vessels continued to be made to the moment of loading, a situation that further plagued already harassed planners. As late as 5 September, four days before D-day, planners were still working on the amount of lift that was, or was expected to become, available.

This uncertainty affected the entire planning. Such matters as waterproofing assault vehicles, deciding the amounts of rations and individual equipment to be carried, and selecting the precise landing beaches had to await final decisions on the amount of shipping available. Amphibious training for the assault troops was thus less thorough than desired. A decision by Clark on 24 August to advance H-hour by thirty minutes involved considerable alterations in convoy sailing plans; and by then all operational orders were already being distributed.

Late receipt of orders from higher authorities and changes in unit compositions adversely affected an orderly development of the pre-invasion process. For example, General Walker, the 36th Division commander, was less worried about the comfort of his troops aboard ship than about getting his units on shore in the proper order and with proper equipment. Yet naval regulations, and probably safety measures, restricted the number of men and the amount of equipment he could load aboard specific vessels. Having settled his loading plans, he then received word from General Clark directing him to make place for additional noncombat equipment, visitors, and observers. He could comply only by removing a portion of the materiel he had deemed necessary to accompany the assault convoys. Reluctantly and rather uncomfortably, Walker left behind some Signal Corps equipment and some vehicles. Not long afterward, only a few days before sailing time, an air force request arrived for bombs to be carried on the decks of several ships.

Walker objected and found support among the naval authorities. The air force representative insisted. Together, Walker, a naval officer, and the air force officer brought the matter to General Eisenhower for resolution. Finding them unwilling or unable to compromise, Eisenhower sent them into the next room and ordered them to come back to him with a decision. The air force representative was quick to admit that he was outnumbered two to one.

“Men of calm dispositions after having rewritten their [loading] schedules several times,” General Walker later wrote, “became quite irritable. Men of sensitive natures became unapproachable…. I myself gave way to expressions of disgust.” During this difficult time of preparation, General Montgomery’s Eighth Army was making ready its crossing of the Strait of Messina. On the basis of intelligence reports that the Germans intended to withdraw from the toe of Italy. AFHQ expected the British to push up the Calabrian peninsula and along the west coast of Italy to the Naples area. But having never received a directive outlining the long-range course of BAYTOWN; Eighth Army planners had no clear idea of what was expected of the Eighth Army. The trouble was that Eighth Army was under 15th Army Group control, and AFHQ apparently never received the army’s detailed plans.

As a result of a lack of co-ordination, no one was entirely sure whether the army was simply to land in Calabria to open the Strait of Messina, whether after landing it was to prepare for a major advance, or whether it was to make an effort to contain the enemy in order to assist the Salerno invasion. As General Eisenhower’s chief of staff, General Smith, saw it: “‘We are confident here that the BAYTOWN attack will get ashore hut I think it will probably bog down and that some [amphibious] end runs may be required. Progress will certainly be slow because of the nature of the terrain, but the operation may attract [enemy] Divisions from the more critical area [Salerno].” How General Montgomery saw his course of action beyond the landings was unknown. The distance that separated the Eighth Army and Fifth Army assault areas prevented mutual support in the opening stages of the operations, and this fact may well have weighed heavily on General Montgomery’s mind.

A new development early in September affected the final invasion plans for southern Italy. During the surrender negotiations, the Italian Government offered to open to the Allies the ports of Taranto, in the heel, and Brindisi, on the east coast. Few Germans were in Apulia and they were expected to withdraw. To take advantage of this opportunity, General Eisenhower hastily planned an operation code-named SLAPSTICK to move the British 1st Airborne Division and a limited amount of equipment into Taranto on warships just as soon as the Italian capitulation took effect and the Italian Fleet surrendered. The troops were to open the port and set up minimum air defenses. Eventually, additional forces would be brought into the heel to seize ports on the east coast.

Unless an untoward event at the very last moment provoked cancellation of AVALANCHE and reinstatement of the 10 Corps descent on the toe, the invasion of the Italian mainland would be a three pronged affair-BAYTOWN in the toe, AVALANCHE at Salerno, and perhaps unopposed SLAPSTICK landings at Taranto. In all calculations, the surrender of Italy, promised for the eve of the Salerno invasion, loomed large.

SOURCE: SALERNO TO CASSINO; by Martin Blumenson (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Italy; Salerno-The Plans (ISC-4)

World War Two: Italy; The Second Capitulation (3-29)

World War Two: Aitape-Prelude to the Battle of the Driniumor (AP-5)

While operations at Hollandia were rapidly drawing to a successful conclusion, another action was just beginning at Aitape, 125 miles to the southeast. The PERSECUTION Task Force, with the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division as its combat nucleus, landed near Aitape on 22 April, D Day for Hollandia as well.

The principal objective of General Doe’s PERSECUTION Task Force was the seizure and rehabilitation of the Japanese-constructed Tadji airstrips, eight miles east-southeast of Aitape. These fields were to provide bases from which Allied aircraft could support ground operations at Hollandia after the Fifth Fleet’s carriers left the latter area. General Doe’s command was also to provide ground flank protection for Hollandia by preventing westward advance of the Japanese 18th Army, assembling some ninety miles southeast of Aitape at Wewak.[N5-1]

Securing the Airfield Area:The Tactical Plan

Knowledge of beach conditions in the Aitape area was obtained principally from aerial photographs, and the PERSECUTION Task Force landing beach was chosen with reference to beach exits and shore objectives as they appeared on these pictures. The shore line opposite the Tadji airfields, which lay only 1,000 yards inland, was uniform and sandy for long distances. There were clear approaches to the beach, which had a medium rise. The selected landing point was located at Korako, a native village on the coast at the northeast corner of the airfield area. From this point, which was designated Blue Beach, a track passable for wheeled vehicles ran directly inland to the Tadji strips.[N5-2]

The PERSECUTION Task Force was to begin landing at 0645, high tide time in the Aitape area. In charge of the amphibious phases of the operation was Captain Albert G. Noble (USN), whose command, the Eastern Attack Group (Task Group 77.3), was part of Admiral Barbey’s Task Force 77.

Close air support operations at Aitape were primarily the responsibility of planes aboard eight CVE’s and were similar to the air support activities carried out by Task Force 58 at Hollandia. Initially, last-minute beach strafing at Blue Beach was planned to continue until the leading wave of landing craft was within 300 yards of the shore. But General Doe believed that such close-in strafing would endanger the troops aboard the landing craft. It was therefore decided that strafing would begin when the leading boat wave was 4,500 yards from shore (expected to be at H minus 15 minutes) and would end when that wave approached to within 1,200 yards of the shore, timed for about H minus 4 minutes.[N5-3]

[N5-1 The decision to seize Aitape and the organization of the PERSECUTION Task Force are described in Chapter II, above.]

[N5-2 CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 29; CTG 77.3 [Eastern Attack Group] Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 1-2.]

The Allied Air Forces also had important air support missions at Aitape. A squadron of attack bombers (A-20’s or B-25’s) was to be in the air over the landing area from 0830 to 1030 on D Day. After 1030, if no earlier calls for bombardment had been made, these planes were to drop their bombs on targets on both flanks of Blue Beach. Two squadrons of attack bombers were to be maintained on daily alert at a field in eastern New Guinea for as long as the situation at Aitape required, and additional air support at Aitape would be provided upon request from ALAMO Force.[N5-4]

Naval fire support for the landings on Blue Beach was to be executed by 5 destroyers, 9 APD’s, and 1 AK. This was the first time that APD’s or AK’s had been assigned fire support missions in the Southwest Pacific. Targets for the destroyers were similar to those assigned naval fire support vessels at Tanahmerah and Humboldt Bays. Six APD’s were to fire on St. Anna and Tadji Plantation (west of the airstrips), on enemy defensive installations at or near Aitape town, and on the offshore islands—Tumleo, Ali, and Seleo. The AK was to aim its 5-inch fire at Tumleo and Ali Islands. Close-in support was to be provided for the leading landing waves from 0642 to 0645 by rocket and automatic weapons fire from two submarine chasers. All destroyers, submarine chasers, and the AK were to deliver fire upon call from forces ashore after H Hour. [N5-5]

[N5-3 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44, and Change 1, 10 Apr 44, thereto, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4-5 Apr 44; CTF 78 Opn Plan D2-44, 12 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 Apr 44. The CVE’s operated as TF 78, which was under the command of Admiral Davison. Although Admiral Davison was the senior officer present, Captain Noble retained command in the area during the amphibious phases. This was accomplished by personal agreement between the two officers. Tel conv, author with Vice Admiral Albert G. Noble, 3 Jan 51.]

[N5-4 AAF SWPA OI 49 (Rev), 28 Mar 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 28 Mar 44.]

At 0645 the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 163rd Infantry, were to land abreast on Blue Beach. As soon as a beachhead had been secured the 1st Battalion was to land and, aided by the 2nd, was to initiate a drive toward the Tadji strips. After the airfields had been captured, the 2nd Battalion was to defend the task force’s western flank, the 1st was to establish defenses along the southern edge of the airfield area, and the 3rd was to defend the eastern flank. On D plus 1 the 127th Regimental Combat Team, 32nd Division, was to reach Blue Beach. Then patrols west and east of the beachhead were to begin seeking out Japanese forces, and, as soon as possible, Aitape town was to be captured. Field and antiaircraft artillery going ashore on D Day were to protect and support the infantry’s operations and the engineers who were to start work on the airfields immediately after they were secured. Engineers and other service troops not assigned to airfield construction tasks were to unload ships, improve roads and tracks, build or repair bridges over streams in the beachhead area, and find and clear dump and bivouac sites.[N5-6]

The Capture of the Airfields

At 0500 on 22 April, after an uneventful trip from the Admiralties, the Eastern Attack Group convoy arrived in the transport area off Blue Beach.[N5-7] The assault troops of the 163rd Infantry, Colonel Francis W. Mason commanding, immediately began debarking into LCPR’s from the APD’s which had brought them to Aitape. Naval gunfire and aerial support was carried out almost exactly as planned, and the first wave of LCPR’s hit the shore on schedule at 0645. It would have been a model landing except for one thing—it didn’t take place on Blue Beach.

D Day had dawned dull and overcast, making for poor visibility in the landing area. Heavy smoke from fires set in Japanese supply dumps by pre-assault bombardments further obscured the coast line. With no landmarks to guide them, the coxswains of the leading boat wave missed Blue Beach and the landing took place at Wapil, a small coastal village about 1,200 yards east of Korako. The accident proved a happy one, for it was soon discovered that the Wapil area was much better suited to beaching LST’s and large landing craft than any other in the Aitape region.

For the assault troops the change in beaches created little difficulty, since the Wapil area had been adequately covered by support fires and there was no opposition from the Japanese. Tactical surprise was as complete as that achieved the same day by the RECKLESS Task Force at Hollandia. Leaving breakfasts cooking and bunks unmade, the Japanese at Aitape had fled in panic when the naval support fire began.

The 2nd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, had landed on the right, or west. The unit immediately swung west along the beach to find Korako and the trail leading inland to the Tadji strips. This task was accomplished by 0800 and the two battalions quickly expanded the beachhead to a depth of 500 yards and westward about 2,500 yards from Wapil to Waitanan Creek. This area, occupied by 1000, marked the limits of the task force’s first phase line. So far, opposition had consisted of only a few rifle shots. Three Japanese prisoners had been captured and over fifty Javanese laborers had willingly given themselves up. The two assault units now waited for the landing of the 1st Battalion and for an order from General Doe to move on the Tadji strips.

[N5-5 CTF 77 Opn Plan 3-44, 3 Apr 44; CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3.]

[N5-6 PTF FO 1, 6 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 5-6 Apr 44.]

[N5-7 Information in this subsection is based on: CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 4-5; CTF 77 Opns Rpt Tanahmerah Bay-Humboldt Bay-Aitape, p. 31; 163rd Inf Jnl, Aitape; 163rd Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 2; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 2-3; Ltr, General Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, no sub, in OCMH files.]

The 1st Battalion was assembled ashore by 1030 and, passing through the 3rd, started moving inland toward Tadji Bomber Strip at 1100. Simultaneously, the 2nd Battalion began advancing on Tadji Fighter Strip, north of the bomber field. The 3rd Battalion remained at the beach area. The advance inland was slow and cautious but by 1245 the 2nd Battalion had cleared its objective and the 1st soon secured Tadji Bomber Strip against no opposition. The 2nd Battalion then moved across Waitanan Creek to Pro and Pro Mission, which were found clear of Japanese. The battalion command post was set up at Pro before dark, while the rest of the unit bivouacked along trails leading inland to the fighter strip. The 1st Battalion settled down for the night at the west end of the bomber field. During the afternoon the 3rd Battalion sent patrols east from Wapil to the coastal villages of Nor, Rilia, and Lemieng, noting no enemy activity. Three miles east of Wapil, at the mouth of the Nigia River, an outpost was set up. The bulk of the battalion bivouacked along the eastern edges of the two captured strips.

By dark on D Day the principal objectives of the PERSECUTION Task Force had been secured. Work could be started on the airfields, needed to insure land-based air support for both the Aitape and Hollandia beachheads. The strips had been secured at an amazingly low cost—two men of the 163rd Infantry had been killed and thirteen wounded.

Airfield Construction and Supporting Arms

No. 62 Works Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, had come ashore at Blue Beach during the morning and had been able to start work on Tadji Fighter Strip at 1300. Repairs continued throughout the night under floodlights, the lack of Japanese opposition and the urgency of the task prompting General Doe to push the work. Although it had been hoped that the strip would be ready for use on D plus 1, terrain conditions were such that necessary repairs were not completed on schedule. Thus it was 0900 on 24 April before the Australian engineers, who had worked without break for almost forty-eight hours, could announce that the airstrip was ready. At 1630 twenty-five P-40’s of No. 78 Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, landed on the field, and the balance of the wing arrived the next day.[N5-8]

The ground on which the fighter strip was located was so poorly drained that it was not until 28 April, after steel matting had been placed on the field, that it could be used continuously.[N5-9] The works wing then moved to Tadji Bomber Strip to aid the 872nd and 875th Engineer Aviation Battalions. The latter two units passed to the operational control of Wing Commander William A. C. Dale (RAAF), who, besides commanding the works wing, was PERSECUTION Task Force Engineer. Extensive repairs were necessary at the bomber strip and that field was not ready for use by fighter and transport planes until 27 May and for bombers until early July.[N5-10]

[N5-8 Ltr, Flight/Lieutenant Arthur L. Davies [RAAF], Officer-in-Charge, War Hist Sec., Hq RAAF, to author, 8 Mar 48, in OCMH files.]

[N5-9 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 5; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. IV, p. 2, copy in files of OCE GHQ AFPAC. The strip was 4,000 by 100 feet. It was used until 12 July, when it was declared unserviceable and converted to an emergency field. Proper drainage could not be obtained at the site, but the strip had well served its intended purpose—quick provision of land-based air support for Hollandia and Aitape.]

Other engineer units ashore on D Day directed their energies to ship unloading, road and bridge construction, and dump and bivouac clearance. By 1930 the 593rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (the Shore Party) and the Naval Beach Party had unloaded all D-Day LST’s. The next day one AKA and seven more LST’s were discharged. Unloading of the two AK’s did not proceed as rapidly as expected, for neither ship had been properly combat loaded. The AK which arrived on D Day was only 65 percent discharged when, during the night of 27-28 April, it was hit by a bomb dropped from a lone Japanese plane flying in from an unknown base in western New Guinea. The other AK, undamaged, towed the first back to Finschhafen, returning then to Blue Beach to complete its own unloading. No other untoward incident marred the debarkation of troops and supplies. [N5-11]

[N5-10 ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p.50; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. VI, pp. 2-3; Ltr, Flight/Lieutenant Davies to author, 8 Mar 48.]

American engineers constructed roads inland from Blue Beach to the airstrips and improved the coastal roads. Light Japanese culverts and bridges in the area had collapsed under the weight of American and Australian heavy equipment or had been damaged by preassault bombardment, making repairs a pressing problem. Australian engineers bridged Waitanan Creek while American engineers threw a bridge across the Nigia River, on the east flank. Pending completion of other bridges, American engineers maintained ferry services across the main streams. On 2 May heavy rains flooded all streams in the area, wiping out much bridge construction already accomplished, damaging ferry stages, and making necessary extensive repairs or new construction. Continued rain during May made road maintenance so difficult that engineers working on airstrips or bridges had to devote much time to the roads. [N5-12]

Artillery moved ashore on D Day without difficulty. The 167th Field Artillery Battalion, supporting the 163rd Infantry, was in position and registered on check points by H plus 4 hours but fired no support mission while in the Aitape area. On D plus 1 the 190th Field Artillery Group assumed command of all field artillery, and on the same day the 126th Field Artillery Battalion of the 32nd Division arrived. Anti-airciaft artillery came ashore rapidly on D Day and set up positions along Blue Beach and around Tadji Fighter Strip.[N5-13]

Securing the Flanks

While engineers continued work through the night of 22-23 April, other elements of the task force made preparations to expand the perimeter.[N5-14] About 0800 on the 23rd, the 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry, started westward over inland trails to the Raihu River, six miles beyond Blue Beach.

A tank of the 603rd Tank Company, which was supporting the advance, broke through a Japanese bridge over Waitanan Creek, but the infantry continued westward and within an hour had secured incomplete Tadji West Strip. The 2nd Battalion pushed west along the coastal track and by noon reached the mouth of the Raihu. Both battalions bivouacked for the night on the east bank, the 1st at a point about 4,000 yards upstream. During the day the 3rd Battalion (which had been relieved on the east flank and at Blue Beach by elements of the 127th Infantry) moved forward with regimental headquarters to Tadji Plantation, 1,200 yards east of the Raihu and about 2,000 yards inland. So light had Japanese opposition been that the 163rd Infantry had suffered but two casualties—one man wounded and another missing.

[N5-11 CTG 77.3 Opns Rpt Aitape, p. 7; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 3. The loss of the AK Etamin was grim justification of Admiral Barbey’s reluctance to send AK’s forward in early convoys to a combat area. See Ch. II, above. According to Admiral Noble, the loss of the Etamin was “. . . very keenly felt for several months to come.” Ltr, Rear Adm Noble to General Ward, 18 Dec 50, in OCMH files.]

[N5-12 ALAMO Force Opns Rpt Hollandia-Aitape, p. 50; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 2-6; PTF Engr Rpt, Pt. IV, pp. 2-3.]

[N5-13 PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; 167th FA Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 3-6.]

[N5-14 Information on west flank operations is from: 163rd Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 2-3; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 3-6; 163rd Inf Jnl Aitape; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44.]

The next day the 1st and 2nd Battalions resumed the advance at 0730. The 1st crossed the Raihu and pushed northwest over ill-defined tracks to establish contact, about 0930, with the 2nd Battalion at the mouth of a small creek 1,800 yards west of the Raihu. Colonel Mason now halted the 1st Battalion and ordered it to patrol the trails radiating south and west from its new position. The 2nd Battalion moved on along the coast to Aitape, securing that town and the near-by dominating height at Rohm Point by 1100. The unit had met no Japanese and was preparing to push on when, early in the afternoon, Colonel Mason ordered it to stop. The 3rd Battalion was ready to pass through the 1st and move forward over inland trails, but the regimental commander suddenly ordered both it and the 1st to retire to the east bank of the Raihu for the night. It is not clear why this withdrawal was ordered. Japanese opposition had been almost nonexistent and the 163rd Infantry had lost only one man killed during the day.

General Doe was by now dissatisfied with the pace of the westward advance, and he therefore suggested to ALAMO Force that the 163rd’s commander be relieved. This step was approved by General Krueger, although the regimental commander remained in control of his unit until 9 May, only two days before the 163rd Infantry began loading for another operation.[N5-15]

For the next few days there were no major changes in the dispositions of the 163rd Infantry as patrolling inland and along the coast west of Aitape continued. Patrol bases were set up at inland and coastal villages to hunt down Japanese attempting to escape westward from the Aitape area. At the Kapoam villages, about twelve miles up the Raihu, elements of the 3rd Battalion encountered the only signs of organized Japanese resistance found in the Aitape area to 4 May. At one of these villages—Kamti—outpost troops of the 3rd Battalion were surrounded by an estimated 200 Japanese who made a number of harassing attacks on 28 and 29 April. These skirmishes cost the battalion 3 men killed and 2 wounded, while it was estimated that the Japanese lost about 90 killed. On 30 April the men at Kamti withdrew while Battery A, 126th Field Artillery Battalion, fired 240 rounds of 105-mm. ammunition into the village and its environs. The next morning Company L, 163rd Infantry, moved back to Kamti against no opposition. There were few further contacts with the Japanese on the west flank and all outposts of the 163rd Infantry were relieved by 32nd Division troops early in May.

The 127th Regimental Combat Team (less the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, and Companies F and G of the same regiment) had unloaded at Blue Beach on 23 April.[N5-16] About 0700 the same morning, after an air and naval bombardment, Companies F and G landed on Tumleo and Seleo Islands off Blue Beach, securing them against minor opposition by 1400. On 25 April Company G occupied the third large offshore island, Ali, without difficulty. The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, arrived at Blue Beach on 26 April and established its headquarters near Korako. The 2nd Battalion relieved the 3rd Battalion, 163rd Infantry, on the east flank, and the 3rd Battalion, 127th Infantry, established a defense line along the southern and eastern edges of Tadji Bomber and Fighter Strips.

[N5-15 The circumstances surrounding this relief are found in: Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-72, 24 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 25-26 Apr 44; Rad, ALAMO to RTF [I Corps], WF-4652, 29 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; Ltr, General Doe to Gen Ward, 4 Dec 50, in OCMH files. ]

[N5-16 Information on 127th Infantry activities is based on: 127th Inf Jnl, 23 Apr-4 May 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, pp. 3-6.]

Patrols of the 2nd Battalion moved east along the coastal track to the mouth of the Driniumor, about twelve miles beyond Blue Beach; up the banks of the Nigia River five miles to Chinapelli; and up the west bank of the Driniumor about six miles to Afua. From Afua a trail was found running westward through dense jungle to Chinapelli by way of a village called Palauru. From Chinapelli one track ran north to the mouth of the Nigia and others wandered off in a westerly direction toward the Kapoam villages. From the Driniumor two main trails were found leading eastward—one the principal coastal track to Wewak and the other a rough inland trace originating at Afua.

The latter trail paralleled the coast line and ran along the foothills of the Torricelli Mountains. North of the trail was a flat coastal plain, generally forested with dense jungle growth and containing numerous swampy areas and a multitude of small and large streams. The plain narrowed gradually from a depth of about ten miles at the Nigia River to less than a mile at the Danmap River, flowing into the Pacific about forty-five miles east-southeast of Aitape. Beyond the Danmap, toward Wewak, was more rolling terrain where hills descended from the Torricelli Mountains down to the sea. The trail east from Afua crossed the many streams between the Driniumor and the Danmap at points three to five miles south of the coast.

It was essential to the security of the newly won Tadji strips that any Japanese movements westward from Wewak along both inland and coastal trails be discovered and watched. Therefore, it was decided to send Company C, 127th Infantry, reinforced by part of Company D, by boat to Nyaparake, a coastal village about seventeen miles east of the Nigia River. There the reinforced company, known as the Nyaparake Force, was to set up a patrol base and report and delay Japanese movements in the vicinity.

On 28 April the unit boarded small boats at Blue Beach and sailed eastward along the coast, missing its objective and landing near the mouth of the Dandriwad River, about eight miles east of Nyaparake. This error was quickly discovered but the force remained at its position for three days, sending out patrols in all directions. Few signs of enemy activity were observed, and the five Japanese killed in the area appeared to be stragglers rather than representatives of any organized unit of the 18th Army. On 1 May the unit moved by water back to Nyaparake.

Outposts were established about four miles inland at Charov and Jalup, where the principal inland trail crossed the Drindaria River, and patrols were sent to the east and west over the inland trail and in both directions along the coastal track. The Nyaparake Force noticed no signs of organized enemy activity in the areas patrolled during the next few days.

Meanwhile, patrols of the 2nd Battalion had moved along the coast from the Driniumor River to Yakamul, four miles west of Nyaparake. Elements of the 1st Battalion maintained a patrol base at Afua for four days, and 3rd Battalion patrols scouted trails from Chinapelli to the Tadji strips and the Kapoam villages. No signs of organized enemy movements were discovered, and only weary Japanese stragglers attempting to make their way inland and westward were encountered. This complete lack of organized Japanese operations in the area patrolled by the 127th Infantry to 4 May, together with the surprisingly easy seizure of the Tadji strips by the 163rd Infantry, contradicted preassault estimates of the enemy situation in the Aitape area.

The Enemy Situation to 4 May

Prior to 22 April the Allies had estimated that 3,500 Japanese, including 1,500 combat troops of the 20th Division, were based at Aitape. The indications are that not more than 1,000 Japanese of all arms and services were actually in the Aitape area on D Day.[N5-17] These troops comprised mostly antiaircraft artillerymen and service personnel who fled inland when Allied landing operations began. No organized resistance was encountered except for the skirmishes at Kamti, and the only evidence of centralized command in the area was a captured report, dated 25 April, from the Commander, Aitape Garrison Unit, to the 18th Army.

The document told of the Allied landings, described operations to 25 April, set the strength of the Aitape Garrison Unit at 240 troops, and outlined a grandiose plan of attack, which probably culminated in the action around Kamti. Unknown to the Allies, there had been a small scouting party of the 20th Division at Aitape on D Day, but after the landings this group withdrew eastward to rejoin the main body of the 18th Army. Other Japanese survivors in the Aitape area tried to make their way westward to Vanimo, a minor enemy barge hideout on the coast between Aitape and Hollandia.[N5-18]

Between 22 April and 4 May, Japanese casualties in the Aitape area were estimated at 525 killed, and during the same period 25 of the enemy were captured. Allied losses were 19 killed and 40 wounded. All the Allied casualties were American, and with but two or three exceptions all were suffered by the 163rd Infantry.[N5-19]

There were a few signs that the 18th Army might be initiating a movement westward from Wewak toward Aitape, since interrogations of natives and aerial reconnaissance produced indications of organized enemy activity far beyond the east flank of the PERSECUTION Task Force. The Japanese were reported to be bridging the Anumb River, about fifteen miles east of the Danmap. Motor vehicles or their tracks were observed along the beach and on the coastal trail from Wewak west to the Anumb, and aerial observers and Allied ground patrols found that enemy parties were reconnoitering the coastal track from the Danmap River west to the mouth of the Dandriwad. Natives reported that organized Japanese groups were bivouacking at various coastal villages between the Dandriwad and Danmap.

Intelligence officers of the PERSECUTION Task Force and ALAMO Force interpreted these activities as indicating that an organized westward movement by 18th Army units was under way. Whether or not this movement presaged an attack on the PERSECUTION Task Force was not yet clear, but it seemed certain that Allied troops on the east flank might soon meet strong Japanese units.[N5-20]

[N5-17 Rad ALAMO to GHQ, WF-3714, 22 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 21-22 Apr 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit, PERSECUTION, 24 Jan 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 26 Jan 44; PTF G-2 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI’s 710-61, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 1 Mar-22 Apr 44.]

[N5-18 PTF G-2 Jnl, 22 Apr-4 May 44; Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-220, 29 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; 18th Army Opns, III, 47, 55-56.]

[N5-19 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 22 Apr-4 May 44, p. 6; PTF G-1 and G-2 Jnls, 22 Apr-4 May 44.]

[N5-20 Rads, PTF to ALAMO, KL-748 and AE-373, 3 May 44, Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-406, 4 May 44, and Rad, ALAMO to GHQ SWPA, WF-617, 4 May 44 all in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 4-5 May 44.]

Contact with the 18th Army on the East Flank

While the PERSECUTION Task Force was accomplishing its primary mission—seizure and repair of the Tadji strips—final plans were being made at higher headquarters for another operation in the Wakde-Sarmi area of Dutch New Guinea, 250 miles northwest of Aitape. The 163rd Regimental Combat Team and General Doe with most of his staff were to participate in the new advance, which was scheduled for mid-May. General Krueger therefore directed that the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Division be relieved of combat in the Aitape area and concentrated at Blue Beach by 6 May to begin staging for Wakde-Sarmi.[N5-21]

Reorganization of the PERSECUTION Task Force

The 32nd Infantry Division, less two regiments, was to move from Saidor in eastern New Guinea to Aitape to relieve the 163rd Regimental Combat Team. The 127th Regimental Combat Team of the 32nd Division had already arrived at Aitape. Initially, the 128th Infantry was to remain at Saidor as part of the ALAMO Force Reserve for Wakde-Sarmi. The remainder of the 32nd Division, consisting of the 126th Regimental Combat Team and division troops, arrived at Blue Beach on 4 May. Major General William H. Gill, the division commander, immediately assumed command of the PERSECUTION Task Force and two days later his division staff, after becoming acquainted with the situation in the Aitape area, began activity as Headquarters, PERSECUTION Task Force.[N5-22]

Just before the Wakde-Sarmi operation began, it was decided to move the 128th Infantry from Saidor to Aitape so that the unit would be closer to its potential objective area in case of need. Noncombat ships being available, the 128th Infantry (less the 3rd Battalion) was shipped to Blue Beach, where it arrived on 15 May. The rest of the regiment, together with rear echelons of other 32nd Division units, arrived at Aitape later in the month. Early in June the 128th Infantry was released from its ALAMO Force Reserve role for Wakde-Sarmi and reverted to the control of the 32nd Division and the PERSECUTION Task Force.[N5-23] As soon as General Gill assumed command of the PERSECUTION Task Force, defenses in the Aitape area were reorganized.

The area west of Waitanan Creek, designated the West Sector, was assigned to the 126th Regimental Combat Team. To the east, the 127th Regimental Combat Team was to operate in an area named the East Sector. A series of defensive lines in front of a main line of resistance around the airstrips covered the approaches to the vital fields. Positions on the main line of resistance were to be constructed rapidly but were to be occupied only on orders from task force headquarters. Beyond the main line of resistance there were set up a local security line, an outpost line of resistance, and an outpost security patrol line. The latter, lying about ten miles inland, was to mark the general limits of patrolling.[N4-24]

[N5-21 ALAMO Force FO 15, 29 Apr 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 29-30 Apr 44; Rad, PTF to ALAMO, R-103, 4 May 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 6-7 May 44.]

[N5-22 ALAMO Force FO 15, 29 Apr 44; 32nd Div FO 1, 30 Apr 44, and PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, both in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44.]

[N5-23 Rad, PTF to ALAMO, AE-840, 17 May 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 16-18 May 44; Rad, ALAMO Adv Hq to PTF, WH-271, 8 Jun 44, in ALAMO Adv Hq G-3 Jnl Wakde-Biak, 7-8 Jun 44.]

The 126th Infantry completed relief of the 163rd Infantry’s outposts and patrol bases on the west flank by 8 May. Thereafter, outpost troops were rotated from time to time, and gradually many outposts were closed out, as Japanese activity on the west ceased. On 29 May, because Japanese pressure was increasing on the east flank, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 126th Infantry, were transferred to the East Sector, and responsibility for patrolling and defending the West Sector (which had been extended in mid-May to the eastern edge of Tadji Fighter Strip) passed to the 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry. Patrolling by all elements of the 126th Infantry in the West Sector accounted for a few Japanese killed, found dead along inland trails, or captured.[N4-25]

On 10 June boundaries between various elements of the PERSECUTION Task Force were again changed and redispositions were effected. A new defensive area, designated the Center Sector, was established between the West and East Sectors to cover the ground between the eastern edge of the Tadji airstrips to a line running southwestward inland from Pro. The new sector became the responsibility of the 128th Infantry, while the 126th Infantry retained control in the West Sector and the 127th continued operations in the East Sector.

At the same time, the main line of resistance was drawn in toward the airfields from a previous eastern extension along the Nigia River, and the earlier inland defensive lines were either abolished or withdrawn. Troops of the West and Center Sectors continued patrolling in the areas for which they were responsible. Only a few enemy stragglers were encountered, and no signs of organized Japanese activity were discovered in those sectors.[N5-26]

East Sector Troops Meet the Enemy Colonel Merle H. Howe, commanding the 127th Infantry, was assigned to the command of the East Sector on 6 May. His missions were to maintain contact with the enemy on the eastern flank, to discover enemy intentions, and to delay any westward movement on the part of elements of the 18th Army. He was ordered to maintain outposts and patrol bases at Anamo and Nyaparake on the coast and at Chinapelli and Afua inland. When he took over his new command, Colonel Howe had little information concerning the Japanese on the east flank beyond the fact that elements of two of the 18th Army’s three divisions had been identified far east of the Nigia River.

Troops of the 20th Division had been discovered building defensive positions on the east bank of the Danmap River and elements of the 41st Division were thought to be in the same general area. Finally, air observers had discovered concentrations of Japanese troops at coastal villages between the Danmap and Wewak. There seemed to be definite indications that large elements of the 18th Army were beginning to move westward from Wewak.[N5-27] Colonel Howe subdivided his East Sector into battalion areas. The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, was to maintain a reinforced rifle company at Nyaparake and an outpost at Babiang, to the east near the mouth of the Dandriwad River. The battalion was to patrol up the Dandriwad and along the coast east to the Danmap River.

[N5-24 PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44.]

[N5-25 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 1st Bn 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10.]

[N5-26 PTF FO 4, 10 Jun 44, atchd to PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 128th Inf Jnl, 4 May-Jun 44.]

[N5-27 PTF FO 2, 6 May 44, and G-2 Annex thereto, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-3 May 44; 127th Inf Jnl file, 4-15 May 44.]

The 2nd Battalion was made responsible for inland patrols to Chinapelli, Palauru, and Afua. The 3rd Battalion was to maintain permanent outposts at Anamo, near the mouth of the Driniumor River, and at Afua, six miles up that stream. Some of these dispositions were already in effect, with the Nyaparake Force on station and 2nd Battalion units operating in the Palauru area. The other dispositions were completed by mid-May. [N5-28]

The Nyaparake Force, comprising Company C and elements of Company D, and commanded by Captain Tally D. Fulmer of Company C, 127th Infantry, started patrolling to the east and inland on 7 May. [N5-29] On that day, patrols pushed across the mouth of the Dandriwad River to Babiang and Marubian. After clashing with a well-organized Japanese patrol, the Nyaparake Force elements withdrew to the west bank of the Dandriwad and spent the next day patrolling up that river and questioning natives concerning enemy movements. On the 8th a rifle platoon and a light machine gun section from Company A arrived to strengthen the Nyaparake Force.

The advance eastward was resumed the next day along two routes beyond Babiang. One was the coastal trail and the other the “Old German Road,” a name presumably referring to the days of German occupation of this part of New Guinea before World War I. The Old German Road paralleled the coastal track at a distance of about 300 yards inland. Supported by Seventh Fleet PT’s based at Aitape, Nyaparake Force patrols pushed almost 5,000 yards east of the Dandriwad during the day, encountering some resistance along both routes. At dusk all patrols retired to Babiang, and Captain Fulmer re-examined his situation in the light of information obtained during the day. Large enemy groups had been reported to the west of Nyaparake at Yakamul and even as far distant as the Driniumor River, over halfway back to the Tadji perimeter.

To the east, Japanese opposition gave every indication of increasing. Finally, it appeared that the Nyaparake Force was being outflanked to the south. Reports had come in that enemy parties were moving along the foothills of the Torricelli Mountains immediately south of the main inland east-west trail, which crossed the Dandriwad and Drindaria Rivers about four miles upstream.

Captain Fulmer strengthened the outpost at Charov, up the Drindaria, in order to keep closer watch on the enemy reported south of that village. At the same time he requested that aircraft strafe the coastal trail and the Old German Road east of Babiang before any further attempt to advance eastward was made. Colonel Howe agreed to request the air support mission, and he ordered the Nyaparake Force to continue pushing eastward after the air strike was completed.

Eight P-40’s of No. 78 Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, bombed and strafed the two roads east of Babiang at 1130 on 10 May. Marubian, thought to be a Japanese assembly point, was also attacked. After the air strikes Captain Fulmer sent the 1st Platoon, Company C, forward from Babiang while the 3rd Platoon moved on to take Marubian without opposition. A defensive perimeter was set up around Marubian and an ambush was established on the Old German Road south of that village. No contacts were made with the enemy during the day. The advance continued on the 11th and the two forward platoons had reached a point about two miles beyond Marubian by early afternoon when they were halted by Japanese machine gun and small arms fire. The 3rd Platoon, on the coastal trail, pulled back about six hundred yards from the point of contact and watched a party of about fifty-five well-equipped Japanese proceed southwestward off the trail and disappear inland. The 3rd Platoon dug in for the night on the beach, while the 1st Platoon, on the Old German Road, returned to Marubian.

[N5-28 127th Inf Jnl file, 4-15 May 44.]

[N5-29 Information in the remainder of this subsection is based principally upon: 127th Inf Jnl files, 5-15 and 15-31 May 44; 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 1-2.]

Captain Fulmer decided to move the rest of Company C, 127th Infantry, to Marubian on 12 May. Since this would practically denude the base at Nyaparake of combat troops, the Charov outpost was ordered to return to the base village. These redispositions were accomplished during the morning of the 12th, and the advance eastward beyond Marubian was resumed about 1300 the same day.

The 3rd Platoon of Company C, in the lead, soon encountered rifle and machine gun fire from Japanese positions at a stream-crossing near which the advance had stopped the previous afternoon. In an attempt to outflank the Japanese, the 1st Platoon moved inland about 300 yards and into line south of the 3rd. This maneuver led the 1st Platoon into dense jungle where it was stopped by determined enemy small arms fire. Further probing of the enemy defenses proved fruitless and, as night was approaching, Captain Fulmer pulled the platoon out of action. The unit moved back to the beach and dug in about 600 yards west of the stream crossing, where the 3rd Platoon had already set up defenses.

About 1100 on the 13th the 2nd Platoon, with a section of 81-mm. mortars and another of .50-caliber machine guns attached, arrived in the forward area. The riflemen of the 2nd and 3rd Platoons then joined forces and pushed on down the coast through the scene of the previous afternoon’s encounter until held up at another stream by new enemy defenses. The 1st Platoon remained behind to protect the mortars and machine guns. Scouts having reported that the Japanese were firmly entrenched at the new crossing, Captain Fulmer used his heavy weapons to soften the opposition. The 81-mm. mortars and the .50-caliber machine guns fired for about twenty minutes on the enemy defenses, and a section of 60-mm. mortars joined in the last ten minutes of the barrage. Under cover of this fire the 2nd and 3rd Platoons formed along the west bank of the small stream on a front extending 300 yards inland. The 3rd Platoon was on the beach and the 2nd on the right. At 1400, as preparation fire ceased, the two platoons started eastward. The 3rd crossed the small creek near the mouth without difficulty and pushed eastward nearly 500 yards before encountering any resistance.

The situation in the 2nd Platoon’s sector was quite different. There the ground was covered with sago palms, underbrush, and heavy jungle growth which limited visibility to five or ten yards. The platoon ran into concentrated rifle and machine gun fire immediately after starting its attack and was unable to force a crossing of the small stream. The platoon leader disengaged his force and tried to cross the creek farther inland.

But the enemy refused his left flank and the maneuver failed. Because the dense rain forest masked their fires, mortars and heavy machine guns could not support further advances in the inland sector. Captain Fulmer therefore pulled the platoon out of action on the right flank, drew it back to the beach, and sent it across the stream along the route taken by the 3rd Platoon. After crossing the creek and drawing abreast of the 3rd Platoon, the 2nd Platoon again attacked in a southeasterly direction.

The unit overran a small Japanese supply dump and aid station and advanced 50-100 yards inland but was again pinned down by enemy machine gun fire. One squad attempted to find the left of the enemy’s defenses by moving 100 yards deeper into the jungle. This effort proved futile. Since the platoon’s forward elements were now being fired on from both the south and the east and because it was again impossible to support the unit with mortar or machine gun fire, no further progress could be expected. The 3rd Platoon had been forced to halt because of the danger of being cut off by the Japanese opposing the 2nd Platoon. Captain Fulmer called off the attack to set up night defenses.

The 3rd Platoon anchored its left flank on the beach at a point about 150 yards east of the small stream, extending its lines about 50 yards inland and westward another 75 yards. The 2nd Platoon tied its left into the right of the 3rd and stretched the perimeter west to the mouth of the creek. About 200 yards beyond the eastern edge of this perimeter was an outpost of eight men, including mortar observers who were in contact with the main force by sound-powered telephone.

Inside the larger perimeter were 60-mm. mortars, light machine guns, .50-caliber machine guns, and an aid station. Since the 81-mm. mortars could not obtain clearance in the area chosen for the main force, they remained under the protection of the 1st Platoon in a separate perimeter about 500 yards to the west. It seemed certain that the Japanese who had been holding up the advance during the day would attack during the night, and it was considered probable that such an attack would come through the heavy jungle at the southern, or inland, side of the main perimeter, where visibility was limited to five yards even in daylight. The expected attack was not long in coming, although not from the direction anticipated.

Shortly after 0200 on 14 May, after a short preparation by grenades, light mortars, and light machine guns, 100 to 200 Japanese of the 78th Infantry, 20th Division,30 attacked from the east against the coastal sector of the perimeter. This assault was broken up by rifle and automatic weapons fire and by lobbing mortar shells to the rear of the advancing enemy group. The Japanese disappeared into the jungle south of the narrow beach. For the next hour Captain Fulmer’s mortars placed harassing fire into suspected enemy assembly points east of the small stream. Meanwhile, the eight man outpost reported that many small parties of Japanese were moving up the beach within 300 yards of the main perimeter and then slipping southward into the jungle. Such maneuvers seemed to presage another attack.

The second assault came about 0330, this time against the eastern and southeastern third of the defenses. The Japanese were again beaten back by small arms and mortar fire, but at 0500 they made a final effort which covered the entire eastern half of the perimeter. This last attack was quickly broken up and the Japanese quieted down.

[N5-30 This identification is from 18th Army Opns, III, 83-84.]

About 0730 on the 14th, elements of Company A, 127th Infantry, began moving into the forward perimeter to reinforce Captain Fulmer’s beleaguered units. The 1st Platoon of Company C and the 81-mm. mortar section also moved forward in preparation for continuing the advance.

But now questions arose at the headquarters of the East Sector and the PERSECUTION Task Force concerning the feasibility of further advance. Captain Fulmer was willing to continue forward if he could be reinforced by a rifle platoon of Company A, another section of heavy machine guns, and another section of 81-mm. mortars. Colonel Howe and General Gill looked on the matter from a different point of view. It would be extremely difficult, they realized, to establish an overland supply system for the advancing force and they knew that there were not enough small boats available in the Aitape area to insure over water supply. Further advance would accomplish little unless a large base for future operations could be established well beyond the Marubian area, a project for which insufficient troops and amphibious craft were available.

Moreover, the principal mission of the PERSECUTION Task Force was to protect the Tadji airfields, not to undertake large-scale offensive operations. General Gill finally decided to withdraw the Nyaparake Force’s advance elements from the Marubian area and replace it with Company A, under the command of Captain Herman Bottcher,[N5-31] who was to carry out a holding mission on the west bank of the Dandriwad. Withdrawal from Yakamul

On 13 May the bulk of Company A arrived at Ulau Mission, just west of the Dandriwad’s mouth.32 Company C remained at Marubian temporarily. There was little action on the 13th, but events the next day prompted General Gill to change his plans again. On the 14th Japanese patrols moved between Company C and the Dandriwad River, cutting the company’s overland line of withdrawal. At the same time strong enemy patrols harassed Company A’s positions at Ulau Mission. It seemed apparent that the American outposts could not long withstand this pressure and, therefore, both the Ulau and Marubian units were picked up by small craft on the 15th and taken westward to Nyaparake, whence the advance eastward had begun a week earlier.

[N5-31 Captain Bottcher had been awarded a DSC and a battlefield promotion from the ranks during the Papuan Campaign. His exploits there are recounted in Milner, Victory in Papua.]

[N5-32 Information in this subsection is based on: 127th Inf Jnl files, 15-31 May and 1-11 Jun 44: 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 32nd Rcn Tr Opns Rpt Aitape, pp. 6-14; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 4-9; 1st Bn 126th Inf Jnl, 4 May-27 Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 2-7; PTF FO 3, 19 May 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 2nd Bn 80th Inf, Field Diary, 31 May-14 Jul 44, as translated in 32nd Inf Div G-2 files, in ORB RAG AGO collection; 18th Army Opns III, 84-88; Incl 2, Comments and Observations, pp. 1-2, to Ltr, Major General Clarence A. Martin to General Ward, 12 Nov 50, no sub, in OCMH files. The latter document is hereafter cited as Martin Comments.]

During the next few days the Nyaparake Force continued patrolling, making contacts with well-organized enemy units which appeared to be more aggressive and larger than those previously encountered in the East Sector. Companies C and D returned to Tadji Plantation on 19 May and were replaced at Nyaparake by the 32nd Reconnaissance Troop. On the same day Brigadier General Clarence A. Martin, Assistant Division Commander, 32nd Division, was placed in command of the East Sector and charged with the missions previously assigned to Colonel Howe—to maintain contact with and delay enemy units moving westward. General Martin was directed to move all East Sector troops except the Nyaparake Force to the west bank of the Driniumor River. The Nyaparake Force, now comprising the 32nd Reconnaissance Troop and Company A, 127th Infantry, was placed under the command of Captain Bottcher, who was transferred from Company A to the command of the reconnaissance unit. To render the force more mobile, all its heavy equipment was sent back to Blue Beach, and the unit was instructed to retire to the Driniumor River in case Japanese pressure increased.

Captain Bottcher’s patrols soon found that enemy pressure was indeed increasing. Some Japanese patrols were active to the east while others outflanked the force to the south and, about 1850 on 22 May, attacked from the west. During the following night the Nyaparake Force fought its way out of this encirclement and retired two miles along the beach to Parakovio. The next day General Martin sent most of Company A back to Tadji and that night and during the morning of the 24th the remaining elements of the Nyaparake Force withdrew along the beach to good defensive positions at the mouth of a small creek about 3,000 yards west of Yakamul. The Japanese followed closely, occupying Yakamul and sending scouting parties westward along inland trails toward Afua and the Driniumor River.

By now it was evident that the Japanese had crossed the Drindaria in some force and it appeared that the aggressive enemy patrols had missions other than merely screening movements far to the east in the Wewak area. Deeming the Japanese movements a threat to the security of the Tadji airfields, General Gill decided to make an effort to drive the enemy’s forward units back across the Drindaria. For this purpose he assigned the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, to the East Sector. The battalion was to move forward to the Nyaparake Force’s perimeter, where Company G, 127th Infantry, was to relieve Captain Bottcher’s men. The 126th Infantry’s unit was to be supported by Battery C, 126th Field Artillery Battalion, from positions at the mouth of the Driniumor and by Battery B from the perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry.

Company G completed the relief of the now misnamed Nyaparake Force on 31 May, and about 1100 on the same day the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, reached the forward position. Lieutenant Colonel Cladie A. Bailey’s battalion pushed rapidly onward through Yakamul, from which the enemy withdrew hurriedly, and moved on to Parakovio against little opposition. Despite the lack of determined resistence on 31 May, it was soon to become evident that one battalion was not going to be strong enough to drive the Japanese forces already west of the Drindaria back across that stream. By this time elements of the 78th and 80th Infantry Regiments, 20th Division, had been definitely identified west of the Drindaria. Although the PERSECUTION Task Force did not yet know it, large segments of both regiments were operating in the Yakamul area, where they were supported by a few weapons of the 26th Field Artillery Regiment, 20th Division. These Japanese forces now began to strike back at the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, which, on 1 June, was able to advance only 400 yards beyond Parakovio before it was stopped by enemy machine gun and artillery fire. At 1115 General Martin ordered the unit to retire to Yakamul. Using Yakamul as a base, the battalion was to develop the enemy situation along the Harech River from the coast to the foothills of the Torricelli Mountains, five miles inland.

During the night of 1-2 June, Japanese artillery shelled the battalion command post and enemy patrols drove in outposts which had been set up just east of Yakamul. The next morning the battalion was divided into two parts. At Yakamul was stationed Company A, Headquarters Company, and part of Company D. This combined group, numbering about 350 men, was put under the command of Captain Gile A. Herrick of Company A and designated Herrick Force. The rest of the battalion, now called Bailey Force, moved south down the trail from Yakamul to patrol along the Harech River.

The Japanese soon became very active around the perimeter of Herrick Force. On 3 June the enemy launched a series of minor attacks against Company A, which was separated from the rest of Herrick Force by a small, unbridged stream about four feet deep and varying in width from ten to fifty yards. Under cover of these attacks, other Japanese groups bypassed Herrick Force to the south and on the next morning appeared west of Yakamul, between Herrick Force and the two-mile distant perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry.

Sporadic small arms fire, intensifying during the afternoon, was directed at all parts of the Herrick Force perimeter during 4 June. About 1640 this fire was augmented by mortar and artillery shells, a development which seemed to presage an imminent Japanese infantry attack. At 1830 an enemy force of more than company strength surged out of the jungle on the southeast side of the American perimeter in an apparent attempt to drive a wedge between Company A and the rest of Herrick Force. The attack was halted by automatic weapons fire and the barrier presented by the small stream. The enemy then turned northeast from the creek against Company A. Simultaneously, a small group of enemy attacked west along the beach.

Because Company A was in danger of being surrounded, Captain Herrick ordered the unit to withdraw across the small stream to Yakamul. Since the Japanese had the stream covered with small arms and at least one well-concealed machine gun, the withdrawal was a slow process and consumed over an hour. During the movement the Japanese continued to attack and, toward the end of the hour, succeeded in overrunning some of Company A’s automatic weapons positions. Deprived of this support, most of the remaining troops retreated rapidly across the stream, leaving behind radios, mortars, machine guns, and twenty to twenty-five dead or wounded men. Most of the wounded managed to get across the stream after darkness, which was approaching at the time of the enemy’s final attack.

By 1940 the Japanese were in complete possession of the Company A position, whence they could send flanking fire toward the Yakamul perimeter. Captain Herrick ordered his men to dig in deeply. He reorganized his positions and even put some of the lightly wounded on defensive posts. Japanese ground attacks kept up until 2200, and sporadic bursts of mortar, grenade, and machine gun fire continued throughout the night.

When he learned of the situation at Yakamul, General Martin ordered Bailey Force to return to the coast and relieve Herrick Force. Radio communication difficulties prevented delivery of this order until 2000 and it was 2200 before Colonel Bailey could organize his force in the darkness and heavy jungle and start it moving north. By that time the Japanese had a strong force blocking the trail to Yakamul. Bailey Force therefore had to swing northwest toward the perimeter of Company G, 127th Infantry, two miles west of Yakamul. After an arduous overland march through trackless, heavily jungled terrain, the leading elements of Bailey Force began straggling into Company G’s perimeter about 1130 on 5 June.

General Martin then ordered Bailey Force to move east and drive the Japanese from the Yakamul area, but this order was changed when the East Sector commander learned that Bailey Force had been marching for over thirteen hours on empty stomachs and was not yet completely assembled at Company G’s perimeter. Bailey Force was thereupon fed from Company G’s limited food supply and sent west along the coastal trail to the Driniumor River. Company G and the battery of the 126th Field Artillery Battalion which it had been protecting moved back to the Driniumor late in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the evacuation of Herrick Force from Yakamul had also been ordered, and about 1115 on 5 June small boats arrived at Yakamul from Blue Beach to take the beleaguered troops back to the Tadji area. Insofar as time permitted, radios, ammunition, and heavy weapons for which there was no room on the boats were destroyed.

As this work was under way, a few light mortars and light machine guns kept up a steady fire on the Japanese who, now surrounding the entire perimeter, had been harassing Herrick Force since dawn. At the last possible moment, just when it seemed the Japanese were about to launch a final infantry assault, Captain Herrick ordered his men to make for the small boats on the run. The move was covered by friendly rocket and machine gun fire from an LCM standing offshore, while the Japanese took the running men under fire from the old Company A positions. So fast and well organized was the sudden race for the boats that the Japanese had no time to get all their weapons into action, and only one American was wounded during the boarding. The small craft hurriedly left the area and took Herrick Force back to Blue Beach, where the unit was re-equipped. By 1500 the troops had rejoined the rest of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, on the Driniumor River.

Losses of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, during its action in the Yakamul area were 18 men killed, 75 wounded, and 8 missing. The battalion estimated that it had killed 200 to 250 Japanese and wounded many more.[N4-33] Operations Along the Driniumor While the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, had been patrolling in the Yakamul area, elements of the 127th Infantry had been operating to the west along the Driniumor River from the coast six miles upstream to Afua.34 Until the end of May little Japanese activity had been noted in the Anamo-Afua area, but on the 31st of the month a ration train carrying supplies up the west bank of the Driniumor to two platoons of Company L, 127th Infantry, at Afua was ambushed and forced back to the coast. Later in the day a party of Japanese estimated to be of company strength was seen crossing the Driniumor River from east to west at a point about 1,000 yards north of Afua. By dusk it appeared that at least two companies of Japanese had crossed the river near Afua and had established themselves on high, thickly jungled ground north and northwest of the village.

[N5-33 A Japanese postwar estimate sets Japanese losses in the Yakamul area from 31 May through 6 June at 100 men killed or wounded. Whatever the true figures, the estimate of the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, appears rather high.]

[N5-34 Unless otherwise indicated, material in this subsection is from: PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 3-10; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th Inf Jnl files, 15-31 May, 1-11 Jun, 12-18 Jun, and 19-27 Jun 44; 1st Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 3rd Bn 127th Inf Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; 127th Inf Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 4-9; Martin Comments, pp. 2-4.]

During the next four days elements of the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, maneuvered in fruitless attempts to drive a Japanese group, 75 to 100 strong, off a low, jungled ridge about a mile and a half north of Afua. Colonel Howe, concerned about the lack of success of his troops, early on the morning of 5 June radioed to the battalion commander: “This is the third day of maneuvering to drive the enemy off that ridge. So far today we have had no report of enemy firing a shot and we are not sure they are even there. I have been besieged with questions as to why we don’t fight the enemy. Unless we can report some accomplishment today I have no alibis to offer. Push either Fulmer [Company C] or Sawyer [Company B] in there until they draw fire.” [N5-35] During the morning Companies B and C organized a final attack and occupied the ridge, which the Japanese had abandoned during the night.

Meanwhile the PERSECUTION Task Force had decided to establish an outer defensive line along the Driniumor River. Originating in the Torricelli Mountains south of Afua, the river ran almost due north through many gorges and over steep falls to a sharp bend at Afua. From Afua to its mouth, a six-mile stretch, the river had an open bed varying from 75 to 150 yards in width. Except during tropical cloudbursts, this section of the river was not much more than knee deep. Dense rain forests extended to the river’s banks at most places, although there were some areas of thinner, brush like vegetation. Islands, or rather high points of the wide bed, were overgrown with high canebrake or grasses, limiting visibility across the stream.

The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, dug in for 3,600 yards along the west bank of the river north from Afua, while the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, covered the same bank south from the river’s mouth about 2,000 yards. A gap of some 3,000 yards which was left between the two units was covered by patrols. On 7 June, when the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, replaced the 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, on the northern portion of the defense line, a company of the former unit was strung out along some 500 yards of the gap.

On the same day Japanese activity broke out anew in the Afua area, this time about 1,300 yards west of Afua on the Afua—Palauru trail, which had now become a main supply line for troops stationed in the Afua area. Two days later the Japanese had disappeared from the Afua-Palauru trail, much to the surprise of the PERSECUTION Task Force. The task force G-2 Section decided that the enemy had withdrawn when his ration and ammunition supply was depleted, and this belief was strengthened during the next day or so when, contrary to previous sightings, all Japanese patrol movements in the Driniumor River area seemed to be from west to east.

[N5-35 Msg, 127th Inf to 1st Bn 127th Inf, 5 Jun 44, in 127th Inf Jnl file, 1-11 Jun 44.]

 For a couple of days some thought had been given to withdrawing the 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, from Afua because of the apparent threat to the Afua-Palauru supply line, but on 10 June Headquarters, PERSECUTION Task Force, decided to leave the battalion in place. On the same day the East Sector was ordered to speed development of strong defensive positions along the Driniumor. The river line was to be held as long as possible in the face of a Japanese attack and, if forced back, the East Sector troops were to delay enemy advances in successive positions—one along the line X-ray River-Koronal Creek, about halfway to the Nigia River, and the other at the Nigia itself—before retreating to the main line of resistance around the airfields. The East Sector was to patrol east of the Driniumor in order to maintain contact with the enemy.[N5-36]

After 10 June Japanese patrols in the Driniumor area became less numerous and less aggressive, but more determined enemy parties were located in hilly and heavily forested terrain along the southern branches of Niumen Creek, which lay about 3,000 yards east of the Driniumor. The Japanese appeared to be forming a counter-reconnaissance screen along Niumen Creek in order to prevent East Sector troops from finding out anything about deployments farther east. So successful were the enemy efforts that few patrols of the 127th Infantry (the 3rd Battalion replaced the 1st at Afua on 22 June) managed to push beyond Niumen Creek.

In the area covered by the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, some patrols were able to move east along the coast as far as Yakamul, but about 20 June the Japanese put more forces into the Yakamul area and stopped American patrolling in the region. In an attempt to gather additional information, one patrol was carried far down the coast to Suain Plantation. There a landing was made in a veritable hornet’s nest of Japanese activity and the few men who reached the beach were hurriedly withdrawn. No more such long-range efforts to obtain information were made.

The closing days of June found the PERSECUTION Task Force still in firm possession of the Tadji airfield area. Operations on the west flank had overcome all Japanese opposition in that region, and no more enemy activity had been encountered there after early May. On the east flank, however, the situation was far different. All elements of the PERSECUTION Task Force which had moved east of the Driniumor River had been gradually forced back until, at the end of the month, even small patrols were having difficulty operating east of the river. As the month ended, the task force’s eastern defenses were along the west bank of the Driniumor, where the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, and the 3rd Battalion, 127th Infantry, were digging in, anticipating future attacks by elements of the 18th Army. Except for minor outposts, the rest of the PERSECUTION Task Force was encamped behind the Tadji airfield main line of resistance.

[N5-36 PTF FO 4, 10 Jun 44, in PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44; Martin Comments, pp. 2-3.]

Support of East Sector Operations

East Sector forces were supplied by a variety of methods. Units along the coast were supported directly by small boat from Blue Beach or by native ration trains moving along the coastal track. Supplies to the Afua area went south from the coast along the Anamo-Afua trail or, later, over the inland track from the Tadji fields through Chinapelli and Palauru. Wheeled transport was impracticable except along short stretches of the coastal track. In early June, when the Japanese ambushed many ration parties which attempted to reach Afua, experiments were made with air supply from the Tadji strips. Breakage and loss were heavy at first, but air supply rapidly became more successful as pilots gained experience and ground troops located good dropping grounds. A dropping ground cleared on the west bank of the Driniumor about 2,200 yards north of Afua soon became the principal source of supply for troops in the Afua area.[N5-37]

Communications during operations east of the Driniumor were carried out principally by radio, but between units along the river and from the stream back to higher headquarters telephone became the principal means of communication. Keeping the telephone lines in service was a task to which much time and effort had to be devoted. The Japanese continually cut the lines, or American troops and heavy equipment accidentally broke the wires. The enemy often stationed riflemen to cover breaks in the line, thus making repair work dangerous. Usually, it was found less time consuming and less hazardous to string new wire than to attempt to find and repair breaks. As a result, miles of telephone wire soon lined the ground along the trails or was strung along the trees in the Driniumor River area and back to the Tadji perimeter.[N5-38] Before mid-June most telephone messages in the East Sector were sent “in the clear,” but evidence began to indicate that the Japanese were tapping East Sector lines. On 19 June, therefore, the PERSECUTION Task Force directed that no more clear text telephone messages be used in the East Sector. As in the case of the telephone, all radio messages, of which some concerning routine matters had been previously sent in the clear, were encoded after mid-June.[N5-39]

Radio communications presented no particular problems in the coastal region, but inland radio trouble was chronic and sometimes acute. Radio range was limited, especially at night, by dense jungle and atmospheric conditions, while almost daily tropical storms originating over the Torricelli Mountains hampered both transmission and reception. At times the only way radio could be employed in the Afua area was by having artillery liaison sets transmit to artillery liaison planes flying directly overhead. There were some indications that the Japanese tried to jam East Sector radio circuits, but there was never any proof that the suspected jamming was anything more than static caused by adverse atmospheric conditions.[N5-40]

[N5-37 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 12-19; 127th Inf Jnl files, 1-11, 12-18, and 19-27 Jun 44; PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44.]

[N5-38 Intervs with Brig Gen Julian W. Cunningham, ex-CG 112 Cav RCT, and Capt Leonard Lowry, ex-CO Company I, 127th Inf, Apr 47, copies in OCMH files. Many of the remarks concerning telephone and radio communications in this section are based on the experience of the 112th Cavalry in operations along the Driniumor River after 28 June. According to Captain Lowry, who had been in the Aitape area since 23 April, the remarks apply equally well to the period before 28 June. The journals of all units of the PERSECUTION Task Force during the period 22 April to 28 June contain many entries concerning the difficulties of communication, especially radio, in the Aitape area.]

[N5-39 PTF G-3 Jnl, 4 May-28 Jun 44.]

[N5-40 The suspicion that the Japanese tapped telephone lines and jammed radio circuits is to be found in the journals and reports of most of the American units which operated in the Aitape area. However, no Japanese documents captured at the time, no the spot interrogations of prisoners, and no postwar Japanese reports contain any evidence that the enemy engaged in either practice.]

Principal naval support for units in the Aitape area after the end of April was provided by Seventh Fleet PT’s. These speedy craft devoted most of their attention to Japanese barge traffic east of Aitape, sinking or damaging so many of the enemy craft that the 18th Army units were forced to limit their westward movements to poor overland trails. One of the largest single “bags” was obtained during the night of 26-27 June when fifteen Japanese barges were sunk near Wewak. In addition to their antibarge activity, the PT’s also undertook many reconnaissance missions both east and west of Aitape, and, from time to time, provided escorts or fire support for East Sector units operating east of the Driniumor. PT’s also carried out many daylight patrols in co-operation with Australian aircraft based on the Tadji strips. The principal targets of these air-sea operations were Japanese coastal guns and troop concentrations along the beach between the Drindaria and Danmap Rivers.[N5-41]

Close air support and other air missions requested by the PERSECUTION Task Force were carried out under the direction of No. 10 Operational Group, Royal Australian Air Force. From 24 April through 12 May this group’s combat planes comprised three P-40 squadrons of No. 78 Wing. The wing moved out of the Aitape area toward the end of May and from the period 25 May to 9 June only the 110th Reconnaissance Squadron, U. S. Fifth Air Force, was stationed at Tadji. On the 9th a squadron of Beaufighters (twin-engined fighters) of the Royal Australian Air Force’s No.71 Wing arrived at Tadji and by the 15th two more squadrons of the same wing, both equipped with Beauforts (twin-engined fighter-bombers), had reached Aitape. On the 22nd of the month, Headquarters, No. 10 Operational Group, left Tadji and control of air operations in the Aitape area passed to Headquarters, No. 71 Wing.

[N5-41 PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp.10-11.]

In May the Australian aircraft flew over 1,600 sorties and dropped almost fifty-seven tons of bombs of all types on ground targets from Aitape to Wewak. During June the pace of air operations was stepped up and from the 7th of that month until 6 July the two Beaufort squadrons alone flew 495 sorties and dropped about 325 tons of bombs. When more bombing than the Tadji-based Beauforts could provide was needed, A-20’s and B-25’s of the Fifth Air Force, flying first from Nadzab in eastern New Guinea and later from Hollandia, swung into action. The Australian Beauforts were also occasionally pressed into service as supply aircraft, dropping rations and ammunition to American forces along the Driniumor. Most supply missions were, however, undertaken by Fifth Air Force C-47’s from Nadzab or Hollandia or sometimes employing one of the Tadji strips as a staging base. Both Fifth Air Force and Australian planes also flew many reconnaissance missions between Aitape and Wewak.

These operations, together with the bombing of coastal villages occupied by the Japanese, suspected enemy bivouac areas, bridges over the many streams between the Driniumor and Wewak, and Japanese field or antiaircraft artillery emplacements, materially assisted the East Sector in the execution of its delaying and patrolling missions.

[N5-42 Ltrs, F/Lt Davies, Officer-in-Charge, War Hist Sec., Hq RAAF, to author, 2 Apr and 8 May 48, in OCMH files; PTF Opns Rpt Aitape, 4 May-28 Jun 44, pp. 10-11.]

Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY; Robert Ross Smith (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Aitape-Deployment for Battle; PERSECUTION Task Force (6)

World War Two: Japanese Forces From Pearl Harbor to Hollandia (4)

 

Your Daring Dating Horoscopes for the Weekend of March 22

Your Daring Dating Horoscopes for the Weekend of March 22

David Wells, Astrologer

From The Astrology Room

Aries
With Venus out of your social sky, it could be time to reflect on what you really want from love, time go full on Moon gazing as you contemplate your place in the universe and is that person from accounts really going to be the one? When looking for a soulmate it pays to put the effort in Aries.

Taurus
It’s tick-tock time on Mars as he’s running out of influence direct from Taurusville and as your relationship ruler it would be a shame not to use his passion, his thrust. To bring balance, your alluring ruler Venus is moving into your social sky. Passion and allure, what can you do with that?

Gemini
Finding the right person isn’t easy, what does he or she look like and are looks really that important? Maybe in the first instance, but as you get to know someone it’s important he or she can keep up with you Gem, I mean in conversations to be clear! Stand by. Here comes the complete package.

Cancer
With the union of Saturn and Pluto it’s all to play for with everything from marriage counselling to mates mediating in an ongoing love match you hope to resolve. Some may ask you if it’s all worth it, it clearly is, or you wouldn’t be putting yourself through it. Right?

Leo
What is about music that invokes memories like very little else? A song can transport you back to your youth, dancing at your local and flirting like it had just been discovered. That Leo. If it takes some tunes and another go at fitting into that outfit so be it; find your flirt and make it work.

Virgo
Mercury is lifting, partially lifting, some of the restrictions you’ve been under as far as finding something a little more permanent on the love front and with Venus joining in, it could be faster than you expected. No fewer than five planets are sticking their nose into your love business. Get on it.

Libra
Having released, breathe, take your time and consider what you want next. Dating isn’t something you pick up on in any specific time scale, we are all different, so find your own flow Libra and work with it. I said find your own! Why ask everyone you know what to do next? Find your own flow. Worn out.

Scorpio
Now you know what you don’t want, now you’ve spent weeks, months or even years with someone who wasn’t it, you can finally focus on someone who is. Mercury might provide a few false starts yet, little tests, appetizers before the main course if you like, and what a main course it is. Yummo.

Sagittarius
Why would you care what someone else thought or said? You’re the sort who explores, finds things out for themselves and you really don’t need anyone else telling you anything about his or her past, who they saw, what they did. Some folks relish it, live for the gossip and that’s what it is; gossip. Ignore.

Capricorn
Thefty astrology is pushing the K word your way; Karma. Before you run for a tin hat and some sturdy table to hide under, remember that when it comes to soulmates, Karma can be your biggest ally. A fated meeting is just that, unavoidable. What you do when you meet him or her is your call.

Aquarius
How you do feel when a mate ghosts you? Suddenly he or she isn’t there, where have they gone? This week you could get that treatment from a would be love interest, perhaps you’ve had a date or two? Good. True colours shown and you can move on to someone very much in the here and now.

Pisces
Venus is heading for your sign, surely that’s a good thing for your love life? Sure is but like all good things you might have to wait for that hot date as Mercury is still on the huffy bus, destination The Glums. You could turn things around? Shift of attitude, shift into receiving all the adoration.

Born on the Pisces-Aries Cusp

Born on the Pisces-Aries Cusp

Discover the inspiring powers of the Cusp of Rebirth

 

If you’re born on the Pisces-Aries Cusp, from March 17 to March 23, you’re a dreamer and a go-getter! Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac and Aries is the first, so you were fittingly born on the Cusp of Rebirth. This makes you both imaginative and impulsive, and chances are you know what you want — and you want it now.

Born on this cusp, you are influenced by fantastical Neptune, the ruling planet of Pisces, and Mars, the ruling planet of Aries. Neptune will boost your imagination, while active Mars will get you fired up with initiative. This makes you a creative individual who takes your dreams and puts them into action. You know how to make your wishes become realities!

Being born on the Pisces-Aries cusp, you’re instinctive, strong, and raring to go. This mix of energy allows you to combine your fearlessness with compassion for others, which can make you a very successful leader! You are loyal to your friends and colleagues and eager to take certain people with you on your way to the top.

While you’re fun, smart, and quirky, you can also be very impatient. Born on this cusp, your intuitive knowledge is joined by an impulsive — sometimes immature — need to act. You don’t always let your thoughts marinate, so you have a tendency to put your ideas into action as soon as they come to you. Sometimes you will luck and find success this way, but others may not be comfortable going along on your ride.

Because you were born on the Cusp of Rebirth, you have a passionate imagination that allows you to craft new and different opinions, theories, and stories. You are an innovative pioneer who can easily understand the needs of others and take the best course of action. Focus your energy and use your abilities wisely, and you’ll be an impressive force to be reckoned with.

Strengths:

Intuitive, smart, empathetic, driven, fun, quirky, creative

Your ability to churn out ideas, solutions, and plans makes you an exceptional leader. Life is never dull when you’re around! You know how to solve problems creatively and have the energy to act and make concrete decisions. You have a strong empathy and compassion for your loved ones, and you’re eager to listen and advise them with your intuitive senses.

Weaknesses:

Stubborn, loud, impulsive, direct, selfish, uncompromising

Your different way of looking at the world and willingness to share with others can sometimes be off-putting in social settings. You love to dive into deep subjects quickly with anyone who is willing to listen, and while this can make fast friends for those willing to engage, it can also make other people quite uncomfortable. You tend to latch on to your beliefs and can be very stubborn when someone challenges you. Enjoy the debate! Try to relax and have a fun, diverse conversation with those who disagree with you.

Compatibility:

You’re an eccentric individual who appreciates having a good partner to talk to. Air signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius will love staying up all night talking together and sharing unique ideas and dreams. Earth signs, however, are the yin to your yang. You will light up their world and they will offer you the grounding support that you need. This is a recipe for a serious relationship though, so you might need to date around first before you settle down.

Advice:

You enjoy the sound of your voice, ideas, and opinions very much — and it can affect your social life. Practice your patience and give others the chance to speak. Yes, you are an intelligent individual, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t have good ideas as well. Work a little harder on your listening skills and ability with work with others, and you’ll be a rockstar with a fan club!

Celebrities:

Reese Witherspoon, Adam Levine, Gary Oldman, Rob Lowe, Bruce Willis, Queen Latifah, William Shatner, Perez Hilton

 

Tarot.com is Part of Zappallas USA © 2019

Spirit Message of the Day – Nurture Innocence

Spirit Message of the Day – Nurture Innocence

INNOCENCE
“Whether you are a mother or just have a mother, we all know that the subject of mothers is complex. But here we are looking at a specific aspect of motherhood; its relationship with providing care.”

“In its ideal form, the love of a mother for her child is selfless, pure, and unconditional. She is devoted to the care of her child. She will sacrifice herself for them. Her love is not marred by an agenda; it is innocent. The fairy shown on this card holds the tiny life close to her. The child reaches out, forming their first relationship; a pure and simple action. The mother and baby nurture one another, giving to each other in different ways. In life, things are less than ideal, but still, we understand the responsibility of the care of an innocent, new life is major. It takes sacrifices, strength, and wisdom that we may not have imagined.”

“Motherhood, the practice of being a mother, can take many forms. We may be called to take care of something or someone that has nothing to do with babies. Caring for someone in this way can also be a gift, similar to motherhood. It can be an unusually satisfying experience.”

“This image, of the innocent mother and baby fairies, is one of those tender, touching images that really holds a thousand words. Mother and child cling together. Although the mother acknowledges us with a glance, we know that this attention is fleeting. In less than a moment, her focus will be back on her baby. For the time being, they are each other’s whole world. Her purple gown, representing her personal power, is bound with a white ribbon, representing purity and spirituality. She is using her abilities for one purpose only; to care for this child.”

MESSAGE FOR YOU
“Care needs to be given, and it’s up to you to give it. It may be a person or animal, an event, ora project. Whatever it is, there is a need for you to focus, at least for a while, only on it. You will need to put some of your own needs and desires on the back burner for the time being, and attend to the need at hand. This card could also mean that you are the one in need and should accept the care and help that is being offered.” 

Today’s message is from Barbara Moore’s book entitled Enchanted Oracle with oracle card art from Jessica Galbreth.

Published on SpiritBlogger’s Blog

World War Two: Europe (2-6); Operation MARKET-GARDEN-Planning

A maxim of war is that you reinforce success. In early September of 1944, the problem was not to find a success but to choose among many. The very nature of General Eisenhower’s strategic reserve narrowed the choice. His reserve was not conventional but airborne.

In anticipation of an opportunity to use this latent strength, General Eisenhower as early as mid-July had solicited his planners to prepare an airborne plan marked by “imagination and daring.” Spurred by this directive and the glittering successes of the breakout and pursuit, the planning staffs had begun almost to mass produce blue-prints for airborne operations.

By mid-August creation of a combined Allied airborne headquarters controlling most of the airborne troops and much of the troop carrier strength in the theater had implemented the planning. This headquarters was the First Allied Airborne Army. General Eisenhower’s desire for a suitable occasion to employ the army was heightened by the fact that the U.S. Chief of Staff, General Marshall, and General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General, Army Air Forces, wanted to see what a large-scale airborne attack could accomplish deep in enemy territory.

By the time the first Allied patrols neared the German border, eighteen separate airborne plans had been considered. Five had reached the stage of detailed planning. Three had progressed almost to the point of launching. But none had matured. The fledgling plans embraced a variety of objectives: the city of Tournai, to block Germans retreating from the Channel coast; the vicinity of Liege, to get the First Army across the Meuse River; the Aachen-Maastricht gap, to get Allied troops through the West Wall. In most cases fast-moving ground troops were about to overrun the objectives before an airborne force could be thrown in.

No matter that circumstances had denied an immediate commitment of SHAEF’s strategic reserve; the maxim of reinforcing success was nonetheless valid. Indeed, each day of fading summer and continued advance heightened desire for early use of the airborne troops. The paratroopers and glider-men resting and training in England became, in effect, coins burning holes in SHAEF’s pocket. This is not to say that SHAEF intended to spend the airborne troops rashly but that SHAEF had decided on the advisability of buying an airborne product and was looking about for the right occasion. Even the Germans believed an airborne attack imminent, although they had no fixed idea where.

The fact that a sensitive ear might have detected portentous sputtering’s as the Allied war machine neared the German border did little or nothing to lessen interest in an airborne operation. Except in the case of General Bradley, who was reluctant to relinquish the support of troop carrier aircraft flying supply missions, the signs that the pursuit might be nearing an end heightened the desire to use the airborne troops. Both General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery began to look to the airborne forces for the extra push needed to get the Allies across the Rhine River before the logistical situation should force a halt and enable the Germans to recoup behind the Rhine.

Most of the airborne plans considered in the last days of August and in early September focused upon getting some part of the Allied armies across the Rhine. Among these was Operation COMET, a plan to seize river crossings in the Netherlands near Arnhem along the projected axis of the Second British Army. COMET still was on the drawing boards when concern mounted that the one and a half airborne divisions allotted for the job would be insufficient. On 10 September COMET was canceled. Though canceled, COMET was not abandoned. On the day of cancellation, 10 September, Field Marshal Montgomery approached General Eisenhower with another proposal that was in effect a strengthening of COMET. After General Eisenhower had endorsed it, this plan looked like the real thing.

The new plan was labeled Operation MARKET. Three and a half airborne divisions were to drop in the vicinity of Grave, Nijmegen, and Arnhem to seize bridges over several canals and the Maas, Waal (Rhine), and Neder Rijn Rivers.

They were to open a corridor more than fifty miles long leading from Eindhoven northward. As soon as an adequate landing field could be secured, an air portable division was to be flown in as reinforcement. In a companion piece named Operation GARDEN, ground troops of the Second British Army were to push from the Dutch-Belgian border to the Ijsselmeer (Zuider Zee), a total distance of ninety-nine miles. The main effort of the ground attack was to be made by the 30 Corps from a bridgehead across the Meuse-Escaut Canal a few miles south of Eindhoven on the Dutch-Belgian frontier. On either flank the 8 and 12 Corps were to launch supporting attacks.

Operation MARKET-GARDEN had two major objectives: to get Allied troops across the Rhine and to capture the Ruhr. Three major advantages were expected to accrue: (1) cutting the land exit of those Germans remaining in western Holland; (2) outflanking the West Wall, and (3) positioning British ground forces for a subsequent drive into Germany along the North German Plain.

Although the proposed operation prompted some objections at 12th Army Group, at First Allied Airborne Army, and even among some members of Field Marshal Montgomery’s staff, it conformed to

General Arnold’s recommendation for an operation some distance behind the enemy’s forward positions and beyond the area where enemy reserves normally were located; it afforded an opportunity for using the long-idle airborne resources; it was in accord with Montgomery’s desire for a thrust across the Rhine, while the enemy was disorganized; and it appeared to General Eisenhower to be the boldest and best move the Allies could make at the moment. At the least, General Eisenhower thought the operation would strengthen the 21st Army Group in its later fight to clear the Schelde estuary and open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping. Field Marshal Montgomery examined the objections that the proposed route of advance “involved the additional obstacle of the Lower Rhine (Neder Rijn) as compared with more easterly approaches, and would carry us to an area relatively remote from the Ruhr.” He considered these to be overridden by the fact that the operation would outflank the West Wall, would be on a line which the enemy would consider least likely for the Allies to use, and would be within easy range of Allied airborne forces located in England.

Operation MARKET-GARDEN was nothing if not daring. It was particularly so in light of a logistical situation that, at best, was strained and in light of the unpredictable nature of the weather in northwestern Europe at this season. Set against these factors was the climate of opinions that pervaded most Allied headquarters during early September. This was the same optimistic period when the First Army was preparing to dash through the West Wall in a quick drive to the Rhine. Not until the day Operation MARKET began was the First Army to experience any particular trouble in the West Wall; even then it would have been hard to convince most Allied commanders that this rugged countenance the Germans had begun to exhibit was anything more than a mask.

Fairly typical of the Allied point of view was SHAEF’s estimate of the situation a week before the airborne attack. The SHAEF G-2 estimated enemy strength throughout the West at 48 divisions with a true equivalent of 20 infantry and 4 armored divisions. Four days before the airborne attack the 1st British Airborne Corps calculated that the Germans in the Netherlands had few infantry reserves and

a total armored strength of not more than fifty to one hundred tanks. While numerous signs pointed to German reinforcements of river and canal lines near Arnhem and Nijmegen, the British believed the troops manning them were few and of a “low category.” Thinking back after the operation was over, the 1st British Airborne Division recalled, “It was thought the enemy must still be disorganized after his long and hasty retreat from south of the River Seine and that though there might be numerous small bodies of enemy in the area, he would not be capable of organized resistance to any great extent.”

This is not to say that warning notes were not struck. By 10 September, the day when General Eisenhower approved the operation, the British had remarked that “Dutch Resistance sources report that battered panzer formations have been sent to Holland to refit, and mention Eindhoven and Nijmegen as the reception areas.” A few days later the SHAEF G-2 announced that these panzer formations were the 9th SS Panzer Division and presumably the 10th SS Panzer Division. They probably were to be reequipped with new tanks from a depot reported “in the area of Cleves [Kleve] ,” a few miles across the German frontier from Nijmegen and Arnhem.

News of these two German armored divisions near Arnhem caused particular concern to General Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Walter B. Smith. Believing strongly that the Allies would have to employ not one but two airborne divisions at Arnhem if they were to counter the German armor, General Smith obtained the Supreme Commander’s permission to go to Field Marshal Montgomery with a warning. Either they should “drop the equivalent of a second division in the Arnhem area” or change the plan and move one of the American divisions, scheduled to drop farther south, up to Arnhem. But, General Smith recalled after the war, “Montgomery “ridiculed the idea” and “waved my objections airily aside.”

The likelihood of encountering enemy armor in the vicinity of the drop zones obviously was of serious concern to airborne commanders, particularly in view of the fifty-mile dispersion of the airborne drop. American commanders, whose troops possessed even less in the way of antitank weapons than did British airborne troops, were especially perturbed. There were other disturbing signs. Stiffening resistance around the British bridgehead across the Meuse-Escaut Canal did not go unremarked. The G-2 of the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division noted further, “A captured document indicates that the degree of control exercised over the regrouping and collecting of the apparently scattered remnants of a beaten army [was] little short of remarkable. Furthermore, the fighting capacity of the new Battle Groups formed from the remnants of battered divisions seems unimpaired.”

Despite these warnings, the general view appeared to be as recounted after the operation by the British Airborne Corps. This was that “once the crust of resistance in the front line had been broken, the German Army would be unable to concentrate any other troops in sufficient strength to stop the breakthrough.” Although the XXX British Corps would have to advance ninety-nine miles, leading units “might reach the Zuider Zee between 2-5 days after crossing the Belgian-Dutch frontier.”

The Germans In the Netherlands

Had MARKET-GARDEN been scheduled two weeks earlier than it was, the Allies would have found the German situation in the Netherlands much as they predicted. For not until 4 September, when news of the fall of Antwerp had jolted Hitler into dispatching General Student and headquarters of the First Parachute Army to the Dutch-Belgian border, was cohesion of any description introduced into German defenses along this “door to northwestern Germany.” General Student had at first but one corps, the LXXXVIII Corps under General der Infanterie Hans Reinhard, and one division, the 719th Infantry Division under Generalleutnant Karl Sievers. The corps headquarters General Student had borrowed from the neighboring Fifteenth Army. The division was a “fortress” division that had been guarding the coast of the Netherlands since 1940.

Though at full strength, this one division was scarcely sufficient to cover the entire corps front, a fifty-mile stretch along the Albert Canal from Antwerp southeast to Hasse Lieutenant General Reinhard therefore concentrated the bulk of the 719th Division in the west near Antwerp where he expected the main British attack. A drive north from Antwerp was logical, for by continuing in this direction the British might seal off the island of Walcheren and the peninsula of South Beveland from the Dutch mainland. This appeared expedient; for even though seizure of Antwerp had trapped the German Fifteenth Army against the coast the bulk of that army yet might escape across the Schelde estuary to Walcheren and South Beveland and thence to the mainland. If the British corked up these two promontories, they might annihilate the Fifteenth Army at will and in so doing clear the seaward approaches to Antwerp, without which the port was useless.

General Reinhard hardly could have anticipated that Field Marshal Montgomery was so intent on getting a bridgehead across the Rhine that he would turn his drive northeastward toward the left wing of the LXXXVIII Corps in the direction of Eindhoven. From a local viewpoint, the reorientation of the British drive meant that the 719th Division’s Albert Canal line would be hit along its weak eastern extension.

Prospects for averting a major breakthrough across the Albert toward Eindhoven were dark, when from an unexpected source came assistance. It emerged in the form of an audacious and prescient commander, Generalleutnant Kurt Chill. Retreating from the debacle in France with remnants of his own 85th Infantry Division and two others, General Chill had received orders to assemble his survivors in the Rhineland. Soon thereafter, General Chill perceived the critical situation along the Albert Canal. Acting with independence and dispatch, he postponed his withdrawal in order to set up straggler rallying points along the canal.

By nightfall of 4 September General Chill had caught in his net a conglomeration of Navy, Luftwaffe, and military government troops and men from almost every conceivable branch of the Wehrmacht. A crazy-quilt mob-but General Chill managed in a matter of hours to fashion a fairly presentable defense that was sufficient to repulse the first minor British probes toward the canal.

On 6 September General Chill reported to General Reinhard to subordinate his Kampfgruppe Chill to the LXXXVIII Corps. General Reinhard must have embraced the reinforcement with delight; for on this same day the British had penetrated the extended outposts of the 719th Division to force a bridgehead over the Albert at BeerinGeneral (This was one of the bridgeheads subsequently employed by General Corlett’s XIX U.S. Corps to get across the canal.) To General Chill fell the problem of containing the bridgehead.

For all the danger inherent in the Beeringen bridgehead, the First Parachute Army commander, General Student, could take satisfaction in the fact that tangible subordinate units now were controlling the bulk of his front from Antwerp to Hassel Only on the extreme eastern wing near Maastricht was there an out and-out gap, and this he was to fill the next day, 7 September, with the 176th Division under Colonel Landau. (This was the division which subsequently opposed the left wing of General Corlett’s XIX Corps.)

During the next fortnight, some of General Student’s own parachute troops began to arrive in the army sector. Having been either rehabilitated or newly constituted, these units included five new parachute regiments, a new parachute antitank battalion, about 5,000 service troops, a battalion of the 2nd Parachute Regiment, and another formation with a noble record, the 6th Parachute Regiment. Under command of Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich-August Freiherr von der Heydte, the 6th Parachute Regiment had acquitted itself admirably enough in Normandy to attain the prestige, if not the strength, of a division. The regiment had been reconstituted to a strength considerably in excess of a normal parachute regiment.

General Student threw in the bulk of his parachute troops against the British bridgehead at Beeringen. First he committed one of the newly constituted parachute regiments, the battalion of the 2nd Parachute Regiment, and the entire 6th Parachute Regiment, all organized into a Kampfgruppe that took its name from the commander, Colonel Walther. Next General Student threw in three of his remaining new parachute regiments, organized into Parachute Training Division Erdmann under Student’s chief of staff, Generalleutnant Wolfgang Erdmann. [This unit later was re-designated the 7th Parachute Division.] These units were responsible for the stiffening German resistance noted along the Dutch-Belgian border. Yet the end result was merely to weaken the German paratroopers on the very eve of MARKETGARDEN.

By mid-September the British had defeated every effort to repulse them at Beeringen and had pressed forward an additional twenty miles to throw two bridgeheads across the Meuse-Escaut Canal. The main bridgehead was at De Groote Barrier on the road to Eindhoven. There the British paused to await their role in MARKET-GARDEN.

From west to east the First Parachute Army was lined up in this order of battle: From Antwerp to the juncture of the Albert and Meuse-Escaut Canals was General Sievers’ 719th Division. Opposing the two British bridgeheads beyond the Meuse-Escaut were Kampfgruppe Chill and Kampfgruppe Walther, the latter with at least two battalions of Colonel von der Heydte’s 6th Parachute Regiment still on hand. All these troops were under General Reinhard’s LXXXVIII Corps. From the bridgehead on the Eindhoven highway east to the boundary with the Seventh Army near Maastricht were the two divisions under General Student’s direct control, Division Erdmann and the 176th Division.

 In the meantime, the trapped Fifteenth Army under General der Infanterie Gustav von Zangen had been taking advantage of the reorientation of the British drive. Leaving some units to hold the south bank of the Schelde, Zangen began to ferry the bulk of his army across the estuary. Divisions released by this movement he assembled behind the western wing of the First Parachute Army. The first of these divisions was the 245th Infantry, a collection of chaff that even a mild wind might blow away. On 16 September this division was transferred to the First Parachute Army’s LXXXVIII Corps and utilized by General Reinhard to back up the line in rear of Kampfgruppe Chill. The second was the 59th Infantry Division under Generalleutnant Walter Poppe, which was in transit to the First Parachute Army’s sector just as the Allied airborne landings occurred. General Poppe still had about a thousand good infantrymen and a few engineers, a field replacement battalion, eighteen antitank guns, and about thirty 105-and 150-mm. howitzers.

Both the First Parachute Army and the Fifteenth Army were subordinate to Field Marshal Model’s Army Group B, the same headquarters which controlled General Brandenberger’s Seventh Army at Aachen. In addition, Field Marshal Model exercised tactical control over forces of the Armed Forces Command Netherlands, a headquarters not appreciably unlike that of a U.S. communications zone. Specifically, an armed forces commander was the highest military commander in occupied territories (like Norway or the Netherlands), which were governed by a civilian (Nazi party) Reich commISSIOner (Reichskommissar). His duties were to represent the interests of the Wehrmacht with the civilian administration, to safeguard the administration, to guard military installations such as railways, roads, and supply dumps, and to co-ordinate the needs of individual branches of the Wehrmacht m his territory. In the Netherlands this post had been held since 1940 by the senior Luftwaffe officer, General der Flieger Friedrich Christiansen.

Even though the First Parachute Army and part of the Fifteenth Army had moved into the Netherlands, General Christiansen’s Armed Forces Command Netherlands on the eve of MARKET-GARDEN still was charged with considerable responsibility.

Much as U.S. forces draw army rear boundaries delineating responsibility between the armies and the communications zone, the Germans had drawn a line across the rear of their two armies in the Netherlands. General Christiansen still was charged with defending all territory north of that line, which followed generally the Maas and Waal Rivers. Because MARKET-GARDEN involved a penetration deep into the enemy rear areas, Christiansen and his troops would be embroiled in the fighting much as would the field armies.

Through events culminating in departure of the 719th Division for the Dutch-Belgian border, General Christiansen had lost to the active fighting commands all of three divisions which originally he had possessed for defense of the Netherlands. As mid-September approached, he had left only a miscellany of regional defense and housekeeping troops of all four services: Army, Navy, Luftwaffe, and Waffen-SS.

 Because the Allied landing zones at Nijmegen and Arnhem were but a few miles from the German border, troops and headquarters of another of the enemy’s rear echelon formations also might become involved. This headquarters was Wehrkreis VI. Similar in some respects to the corps areas into which the United States was divided before the war, the German Wehrkreise were, in effect, military districts.

The headquarters of these districts were administrative commands responsible for training replacements, organizing new units, and channeling materiel. Adjacent to the corridor the Allies planned to seize in the Netherlands, Wehrkreis VI embraced almost the whole of the province of Westphalia and parts of three other provinces. During the course of the war, Wehrkreis VI had activated numerous divisions and, as the war in the West had taken a turn for the worse, had relinquished as combat divisions even its replacement training units, the very framework about which the replacement system functioned. In mid-September the only major headquarters remaining in Wehrkreis VI was an administrative unit. This too had to go into the line to occupy the West Wall north of Aachen as the 406th (Landesschuetzen) Division.

 Upon reaching the front, the 406th Division came under an ad hoc corps staff headed by General der Kavallerie Kurt Feldt, formerly Military Governor for Southwest France (Militaerbefehlshaber Suedwestfrankreich) until the inexorable march of events had dethroned him. In recognition of the provisional nature of the command, General Feldt’s corps became known not by numerical designation but as Corps Feldt. Except for the 406th Division, General Feldt had only a smattering of armored replacement units. Within his lone division the troops represented the very last reserve Wehrkreis VI possibly could muster: vanous Alarmeinheiten (emergency alert units), numerous “ear” and “stomach” battalions, and several Luftwaffe battalions formed from Luftwaffe noncommissioned officer training schools.

The Allied airborne attack under normal circumstances might have encountered only a portion of the First Parachute Army, those two divisions of the Fifteenth Army which by mid-September had escaped across the Schelde, and those scratch rear echelon formations of Armed Forces Commander Netherlands and Wehrkreis VI. But as luck would have it, Field Marshal Model late on 3 September had issued an order that was destined to alter markedly the German strength in the immediate vicinity of the Allied landing zones. On 3 September the Army Group B commander had directed that the Fifth Panzer Army, retreating in disorder from France, release the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions to move to the vicinity of Arnhem for rehabilitation.

Two days later Model ordered that headquarters of the II SS Panzer Corps under SS-ObergruppenFührer und General der Waffen-SS Willi Bittrich also move to the vicinity of Arnhem. General Bittrich was to direct rehabilitation of the 9th SS Panzer Division and two panzer divisions (the 2nd and 116th), which were to move to the Netherlands whenever they could disengage from combat under General Brandenberger’s Seventh Army.

 In failing to include the 10th SS Panzer Division in the charge to General Bittrich, Model apparently had in mind another order which he issued formally four days later on 9 September. He instructed the 10th SS Panzer Division to continue past Arnhem into Germany for rehabilitation presumably more thorough than could be accomplished near Arnhem. At the same time, Model altered General Bittrich’s orders in regard to the 9th SS Panzer Division. Seeing the threat to Aachen posed by continuing advance of the First U.S. Army, Model instructed the 9th SS Panzer to prepare to move against this threat.

Unfortunately for the Allies, only minor elements of either of these SS divisions had begun to move away when the first Allied parachutists landed unsuspectingly within half a day’s march from their assembly areas. Field Marshal Model thus had a ready reserve with which to fight back.

Seven Days for Planning

On the Allied side, the planning and command for the airborne phase of MARKET-GARDEN became the responsibility of the First Allied Airborne Army. The army commander, Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton, had been a top air commander in the Pacific and the Middle East. Having moved to England as commander of the Ninth Air Force for the air war against Germany, General Brereton had assumed command of the First Allied Airborne Army on 8 August 1944.

He was given operational control of the following: headquarters of the XVIII U.S. Corps (Airborne), commanded by Major General Matthew B. Ridgway; headquarters of the 1st British Airborne Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General F. A. M. Browning, who served also as deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army; the IX U.S. Troop Carrier Command under Major General Paul L. Williams; and two Royal Air Force troop carrier groups (38 and 46) . American airborne troops under General Brereton’s control were the veteran 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the untried 17th Airborne Division, the latter not scheduled to participate in MARKET. British troops at his disposal were the 1st Airborne Division and the 52nd Lowland Division (Air-portable), plus special air service troops and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade, the latter to serve in MARKET under command of the 1st Airborne Division.

The first major planning conference -on Operation MARKET convened in England late on 10 September, only a few hours after General Eisenhower in a meeting with Montgomery at Brussels had given his approval. The first conference dealt primarily with command and administration. As deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, General Browning was to direct operations on the ground through headquarters of his British Airborne Corps. He and his headquarters were to fly in with the airborne divisions. The XVIII U.S. Corps was relegated to certain administrative functions and to general observation of the planning and conduct of the operation. Once the ground troops overran the airborne divisions, command was to pass to the 30 British Corps. Responsibility for the complex troop carrier role fell to the commander of the IX Troop Carrier Command, General Williams. The overall commander was General Brereton.

Although planning proceeded swiftly, Operation MARKET did not mature without acute growing pains. At the outset, lack of supply threatened to stunt or at least delay growth. On I I September Field Marshal Montgomery protested to General Eisenhower that the Supreme Commander’s failure to give priority to the northern thrust over other operations (that is, to the exclusion of other offensive operations) meant that the airborne attack could not be staged before 23 September, and possibly not before 26 September.

This delay,” the British commander warned, “will give the enemy time to organize better defensive arrangements and we must expect heavier resistance and slower progress.” General Eisenhower promptly sent his chief of staff, General Smith, to 21st Army Group headquarters to assure Montgomery that Allied planes and American trucks could deliver a thousand tons of supplies

per day. Confirming this in writing, General Eisenhower promised this tonnage until about 1 October. At the same time, he said, the First U.S. Army would have sufficient supplies to continue its attack at Aachen.

Except that Montgomery urged that emergency supply be continued a week past I October, by which time a through railway supporting the British should be in operation, he was thoroughly placated. “Most grateful to you personally and to Beetle,” Montgomery wrote the Supreme Commander, “for all you are doing for me.” Making the usual salaam to the vagaries of weather, he set forward the target date six days to 17 September.

Field Marshal Montgomery’s decision meant that the First Allied Airborne Army had but seven days for planning and preparation, a period strikingly short even in view of the similarity to the defunct operation COMET-when contrasted with the long weeks and even months of planning and special training that had gone into most earlier airborne operations. Yet one of the cardinal reasons for executing MARKET at all was to take advantage of German disorganization: each day’s delay lessened that advantage. With that in mind, Field Marshal Montgomery had made his decision on the side of speed. In approving, General Eisenhower noted that not only could advantage be expected from speedy exploitation of the enemy’s condition but that an earlier release of the U.S. airborne divisions might be effected. This was desirable because of proposed operations to support General Bradley’s 12th Army Group.

One of the more crucial decisions facing General Brereton and the staff of the First Allied Airborne Army was that of daylight versus night attack. Moving by day, planes and gliders would be exposed to more accurate flak. This was a serious consideration, both because the C-47 (Sky train) troop carrier planes were low-speed aircraft possessing neither armor nor self-sealing gasoline tanks and because marked increase had been noted recently in antiaircraft guns in the vicinity of the target area. On the other hand, moving by night invited greater danger from enemy aircraft. Although the enemy’s daylight fighter force had been reduced almost to inconsequence, his night fighters had retained some measure of potency.

In regard to the actual drop, it went without saying that a daylight operation should provide a better drop pattern. To realize what could happen in the dark, one had but to recall the Normandy operation when drop sticks had scattered like windblown confetti.

A major factor governing selection of a night drop in Normandy had been a need to co-ordinate airborne and seaborne units. The plan for co-ordination of air and ground efforts in Operation MARKET-GARDEN imposed no restrictions. Neither had the Allies at the time of the Normandy drop possessed the unquestioned air supremacy they now had attained. It was an air supremacy that could be maintained through proximity of the target area to bases in England, France, and Belgium. Assured of a comprehensive anti-flak program, General Brereton made his decision: by day.

Another question was which of two routes to take to the target area. The more direct route from England passed over islands in the Schelde-Maas estuary. The aircraft would be subject to fire from flak barges and coastal flak positions and would have to fly some eighty miles over enemy-occupied territory. The alternative was a longer southern route. Over friendly Belgium most of the way, this route involved a maximum flight over enemy territory of sixty-five miles. On the other hand, flak was thick among the enemy front lines south of Eindhoven.

General Brereton and his planners considered that one long column would expose rear elements to an alerted enemy and that parallel columns along the same path would provide too many flak gunners with optimum targets. With these points in mind, they found a solution in compromise. The two divisions scheduled to land farthest north were to take the northern route across the Dutch islands.

The other division was to follow the southern route across Belgium to a point near Bourg-Leopold, thence north across the front lines into the Netherlands. A third task of selecting appropriate drop and landing zones was more complex. Factors like flak, terrain, assigned objectives, priority of objectives, direction of flight-these and countless others entered into the consideration, so that in the end the drop zones that were selected represented, as always, compromise in its least attractive connotation. The division scheduled to land farthest north, for example, wanted drop zones close to and on either side of the major objective of the Arnhem bridge across the Neder Rijn. Because of the buildings of the city, flak concentrations close to the city, and terrain south of the bridge deemed too boggy and too compartmented by dikes, this division settled for drop zones only on one side of the river and no closer to the bridge than six to eight miles. Whether flak and terrain might not have been less of a problem than distance from the objective hardly could have been answered unequivocally during the planning stage; indeed, the actual event may not always provide an unqualified answer.

Terrain in the target area was unusual, a patchwork pattern of polder land, dikes, elevated roadways, and easily defended waterways. The biggest obstacles were the three major rivers, ranging in width from 200 to 400 yards, which provided the basic motive for airborne participation: the Maas ( Meuse), the Waal (Rhine) , and the Neder Rijn. The proposed corridor also encompassed two smaller rivers, the Dommeland the Aa, and three major canals: the Wilhelmina, the Willems, and the Maas-Waal.

Because of these waterways, the texture of the soil, and innumerable drainage ditches and dikes, a vehicular column would be road-bound almost all the way from Eindhoven to Arnhem. This was a harsh restriction. Although the cities of Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem are communications centers, all with more than 100,000 population, only one main highway passes through them in the direction the ground troops in Operation GARDEN were to take. It runs from Eindhoven through St. Oedenrode, Veghel, Grave, and Nijmegen, thence to Arnhem. The planners had to consider that failure to secure any of the bridges along this route might spell serious delay and even defeat for the entire operation.

Between Eindhoven and Arnhem the highway passes through fiat, open country with less than a 30-foot variation in altitude over a distance of fifty miles. The only major elevations in the vicinity of the road are two hill masses: one north of the Neder Rijn, northwest and north of Arnhem, rising to more than 300 feet; the other between the Maas and Waal Rivers, southeast of Nijmegen, rising to 300 feet. The two elevations represented some of the highest ground in the Netherlands.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the terrain is the extent and density of the vegetation. Almost every path and road is lined on either side by trees. Almost every field and every dike is topped by trees or large bushes. The result, during spring, summer, and early fall, is severe restriction of observation. Indeed, those who would fight in the Netherlands would encounter just as many problems of observation as did others in earlier wars in Flanders and the Po Valley of Italy. In terrain like this, it is difficult for the stronger force to bring its full power to bear at anyone point, and the ability of the weaker, defending force may be considerably enhanced.

Either the bridges over the waterways or features necessary to ensure seizure and retention of the bridges made up the principal objectives assigned to the three airborne divisions. Dropping farthest south between Eindhoven and Veghel, the 101st Airborne Division was to secure approximately fifteen miles of the corridor, including the city of Eindhoven and bridges at Zon, St. Oedenrode, and Veghel.

The 82nd Airborne Division was to drop in the middle to capture bridges over the Maas at Grave, the Waal at Nijmegen, and the Maas-Waal Canal in between, plus the high ground southeast of Nijmegen To the 1st British Airborne Division fell the role farthest from the start line of the ground troops, that of securing a bridge over the Neder Rijn at Arnhem and maintaining a bridgehead north of the river sufficiently large to enable the XXX Corps to pass through en route to the Ijsselmeer. The 1st Polish Parachute Brigade was to drop on D plus 2 to strengthen the British at Arnhem, and the 52 Lowland Division (Air-portable) was to be flown in north of Arnhem as soon as landing strips could be prepared. Reinforcing the British was in keeping with the fact that the 1st Airborne Division would be the last to be relieved by the ground columns.

Operation MARKET was the largest airborne operation ever mounted and was destined to retain that distinction through the rest of World War Two. Nevertheless, the size of the initial drop was restricted by the number of troop carrier aircraft available in the theater. Only about half the troops of the three airborne divisions could be transported in one lift.

Naturally anxious that all their strength arrive on D-Day, the division commanders asked that the planes fly more than one mission the first day. They pointed to the importance of bringing all troops into the corridor before the enemy could reinforce his antiaircraft defenses or launch an organized ground assault For their part, the troop carrier commanders dissented.

Flying more than one mission per aircraft, they said, would afford insufficient time between missions for spot maintenance, repair of battle damage, and rest for the crews. High casualties among the airmen might be the result if weather remained favorable, they pointed out, and if combat aircraft assumed some of the resupply missions, the troop carriers might fly but one mission daily and still transport three and a half divisions by D plus 2.

Although it meant taking a chance on enemy reaction and on the weather, General Brereton sided with the troop carrier commanders. He decided on one lift per day. Although subsequent planning indicated that it would in fact take four days to convey the divisions, General Brereton stuck by his decision.

The D-Day lift would be sufficient for transporting the advance headquarters of the British Airborne Corps, the three parachute regiments of both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, and three major increments of the 1st Airborne Division: a parachute brigade, an air landing brigade, and a regiment of air landing artillery.

Enough space remained in the first lift to permit the division commanders a degree of flexibility in choosing small units of supporting troops to go in on D-Day. In the second lift, on D plus 1, the remainder of the British airborne division was to reach Arnhem, the 101st was to get its glider infantry regiment, the 82nd its airborne artillery, and both American divisions another fraction of their supporting troops.

On D plus 2, despite anticipated demands of resupply, the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade was to join the British at Arnhem, the 82nd was to get its glider infantry, and the 101st was to receive its artillery. On the fourth day the tails of all divisions might arrive.

For the D-Day lift the 101st Airborne Division was allotted 424 American parachute aircraft and 70 gliders and tugs, while the 82nd Airborne Division was to employ 480 troop carriers and 50 gliders and tugs. The 1st Airborne Division was to have 145 American carriers, 354 British and 4 American gliders, and 358 British tugs. Variance in the number of parachute and glider craft assigned the British and American divisions stemmed primarily from organizational differences. The variations between the American divisions were attributable to differences in objectives and proposed tactical employment. The 101st, for example, was to use the second lift to build up infantry strength, while the 82nd, in anticipation of a longer fight before contact with the ground column, was to concentrate on artillery. Some elements of all divisions not immediately needed were to travel by sea and thence overland in wake of the ground column.

While the airborne planning proceeded in England, planning and preparation for the companion piece, Operation GARDEN, progressed on the Continent under General Dempsey’s Second British Army. The 30 Corps under Lieutenant General Brian G. Horrocks was to strike the first blow on the ground an hour after the first parachutists jumped. As soon as logistics and regrouping might permit, the 8 and 12 Corps were to attack along either flank of the 30 Corps and gradually were to assume responsibility for the flanks of the salient created by the main attack. The advance of these two corps obviously would be affected by the strained logistical situation, by belts of marshy terrain crossed by few improved roads leading northward, and by the weakness of the 8 Corps, on the right, which would possess at first only one division.

The start line for the main attack by the 30 Corps was the periphery of the bridgehead north of the Meuse-Escaut Canal beyond De Groote Barrier, thirteen miles below Eindhoven. By moving behind a heavy curtain of artillery fire and fighter bomber attacks, General Horrocks hoped to achieve a quick breakthrough with the Guards Armoured Division, supported by the 43rd and 50th Infantry Divisions. In his formal orders, General Horrocks assigned the armor a D-Day objective of the village of Valkenswaard, six miles short of Eindhoven, which was the designated point of contact with the 101st Airborne Division. Yet General Horrocks said informally that he hoped to be in Eindhoven before nightfall on D Day.

Certainly the corps commander’s aside was more in keeping with Field Marshal Montgomery’s directive that the ground thrust be “rapid and violent, and without regard to what is happening on the flanks.In the same manner, a D-Day objective of Eindhoven rather than Valkenswaard was more realistic if General Horrocks was to succeed in expectations of reaching Arnhem “before the end of D plus 3” and of attaining the IJsselmeer, ninety-nine miles from his start line, in “six days or less.”

Directing that vehicles advance two abreast along the single highway through Eindhoven to Arnhem, General Horrocks prohibited southbound traffic. Over this highway to Arnhem, he told a briefing conference, he intended to pass 20,000 vehicles in sixty hours. Yet the British commander hardly could have been as sanguine as he appeared, judging from questions he asked later, in private. “How many days rations will they jump with? How long can they hold out? How many days will they be supplied by air?

What Did the Germans Know?

In hope of deceiving the Germans into believing that the Allied supply situation denied offensive action other than that already under way by the First and Third U.S. Armies, the British withdrew their advance patrols, in some cases as much as ten miles. They might have spared themselves the trouble. The Germans already had noted with apprehension a “constant stream” of reinforcements concentrating behind the right wing of the Second British Army. From 9 to 14 September the intelligence officer of Field Marshal Model’s Army Group B issued daily warnings of an imminent British offensive, probably to be launched in the direction of Nijmegen, Arnhem, and Wesel. The objective: the Ruhr.

Projecting himself with facility into the position of the Allied high command, the Army Group B G-2 on 14 September put imaginary words into the mouth of General Eisenhower in the form of a mythical order:. . . The Second British Army [he imagined the Supreme Allied Commander to say] will assemble its units at the Maas-Scheldt [Meuse-Escaut] and Albert Canals. On its right wing it will concentrate an attack force mainly composed of armored units, and, after forcing a Maas crossing (see order to First U.S. Army), will launch operations to break through to the Rhenish-Westphalian Industrial Area [Ruhr] with the main effort via Roermond. To cover the northern flank, the left wing of the [Second British] Army will close to the Waal at Nijmegen, and thus create the basic conditions necessary to cut off the German forces committed in the Dutch coastal areas [the Fifteenth Army].

As far as the ground picture was concerned, this German intelligence officer should have been decorated for his perspicacity. The British actually had intended earlier to do as the German G-2 predicted, to strike close along the left flank of the First U.S. Army to cross the Rhine near Wesel. But the introduction of Operation MARKET had altered this concept drastically.

The German conception of what the Allies would do with their airborne reserve was far more daring than anything the Allies actually considered. Even though the Germans on the basis of purely strategic considerations expected an airborne operation about mid-September and even though they had a long-time paratrooper in command of the sector the Allies had chosen (First Parachute Army’s General Student), they could not see the southern part of the Netherlands as a likely spot. In putting words into the mouth of General Eisenhower, the Army Group B G-2,[NOTE 44D-AB-2] for example, predicted airborne operations in conjunction with the ground offensive which he outlined, but he looked far beyond the Netherlands to a spot fifty miles east of the Rhine.

[NOTE 44D-AB2: “In conjunction with [the Second British Army’s attack],” the G-2 noted in his mythical order, “a large-scale airborne landing by the First Allied Airborne Army north of the Lippe River in the area south of Muenster is planned for an as yet indefinite date …. ” Ibid. Eight days earlier this same G-2 had predicted, more conservatively, airborne operations near Aachen and in the Saar region. Summary Estimate of Allied Situation, 6 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Ie/AO.]

As incredible as an operation like this might have appeared to the Allies at the time, the Germans saw no fantasy in it. Indeed, a step higher up the ladder of German command, at OB WEST, Field Marshal von Rundstedt endorsed the view that the Allies would use their airborne troops east of the Rhine. Even within Hitler’s inner circle of advisers, none saw disparity between this prediction and reality. On the very eve of MARKET-GARDEN, the chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, Generaloberst Alfred JodI, voiced his concern about possible airborne landings in the northern part of the Netherlands, northern Germany, and Denmark.

Thinking independently of his G-2, the Army Group B commander, Field Marshal Model, strayed equally far from reality, but with results not unfavorable to the Germans. Having received a report on 11 September that the Allies were assembling landing craft in British ports, Model reasoned that this meant a seaborne invasion of the Netherlands. Reports as late as the morning of 17 September, D-Day for Operation MARKET, of “conspicuously active” sea and air reconnaissance of the Wadden Islands off the Dutch coast fed both Model’s and Rundstedt’s apprehension. Both believed that the Allies would drop airborne troops in conjunction with a seaborne invasion. Even as Allied paratroopers and glider-men were winging toward the Netherlands, Rundstedt was ordering a thorough study of the sea- and air-landing possibilities in northern Holland. The results were to be reported to Hitler.

As for Field Marshal Model, he had gone Rundstedt one better. As early as 11 September, Model had alerted General Christiansen, the Armed Forces Commander Netherlands, and ordered him to defend the coast of the Netherlands with all forces at his disposal. Model went so far as to order that mobile interceptor units be formed from various forces, including elements of the II SS Panzer Corps that had been sent to the Netherlands for rehabilitation.

No indications existed to show that this order had any effect on the actual Allied attack. Another order, however, issued to provide Army Group B a reserve, did serve the Germans well. This was a directive from Model on 12 September transferring the 59th Division (General Poppe) from the Fifteenth Army to the sector of the First Parachute Army. As a result, the 59th Division was in transit near Tilburg, seventeen miles northwest of Eindhoven, when the first Allied parachutists dropped. This good fortune-plus the chance presence of the II SS Panzer Corps near Arnhem-was all the more singular because not only Model but no other German commander, including Hitler, had so much as an inkling of the true nature, scope, or location of the impending Allied airborne operation.

[NOTE: Oreste Pinto, Spy Catcher (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952), maintains that presence of the SS divisions near Arnhem was the result of a betrayal of the MARKET-GARDEN plan before the event by a Dutch traitor. The theory has no basis in fact. It ignores German surprise at the landings as well as the fact that Model ordered the SS divisions to the Netherlands on 3 September, before the Allies even considered a plan like MARKET-GARDEN. The divisions were, in fact, ordered to Arnhem as the first step in later commitment of them in the Ardennes counteroffensive, an operation which Hitler had already decided upon. A retired Dutch army officer, Colonel T. A. Boeree, has prepared a point by-point refutation of the betrayal story and has provided a copy of his findings, entitled The Truth About the Supposed Spy at Arnhem, for OCMH. A commission of inquiry of the Netherlands Lower House has reported its findings on the matter in the fourth volume of its proceedings (Staten-Generaal Tweede Kamer Enquetecommissie Regeringsbeleid 1940-1945,]

The Flight to the Corridor

Back in England, troops not already on the airfields began to assemble on 15 September and were sealed in at daylight the next morning. At headquarters of General Browning’s British Airborne Corps, the general belief, as recalled later, was “that the flight and landings would be hazardous, that the capture intact of the bridge objectives was more a matter of surprise and confusion than hard fighting,

that the advance of the ground forces would be very swift if the airborne operations were successful, and that, in these circumstances, the considerable dispersion of the airborne forces was acceptable. 58

The troops themselves underwent the inescapable apprehensions that precede almost any military operation. In spite of their status as veterans, their fears were in many instances magnified for Operation MARKET. Not only were they to drop far behind enemy lines; they were to fly for a half hour or more over enemy territory and land in the full light of day. Neither of these had they done before September, made the final, irrevocable decision. D-Day was the next day, 17 September. H Hour was 1300.

The campaign began that night when the Royal Air Force Bomber Command started a program to eliminate as much as possible of the enemy’s antiaircraft defense while at the same time concealing

the fact that anything unusual was in the offing. A force of 200 Lancaster’s and 23 Mosquitoes dropped some 890 tons of bombs on German airfields from which fighters might threaten gliders and C-47’s. Another force of 59 planes struck by night at a flak position. In each case, the pilots reported good results. Particularly effective was a strike against an airfield where the enemy’s new Messerschmitt 262 jet aircraft were based. So cratered were the runways after the RAF raid that no jets could take off on 17 September.

Early on D-Day morning, 100 British bombers escorted by Spitfires renewed the assault by bombing three coastal defense batteries along the northern air route. As time pressed close for the coming of the troop carriers, 816 Flying Fortresses of the Eighth Air Force, escorted by P-51 ‘s, took up the fight. They dropped 3,139 tons of bombs on 117 flak positions along both the northern and southern routes. Six other B-17’s hit an airfield at Eindhoven. Including escorts, 435 British and 983 American planes participated in the preliminary bombardment. Only 2 B-17’S, 2 Lancaster’s, and 3 other British planes were lost.

To weave a protective screen about the two great trains of troop carriers, 1,131 Allied fighters took to the air. Along the northern route, a British command, Air Defense of Great Britain, provided 371 Tempests, Spitfires, and Mosquitoes. Along the southern route, the Eighth Air Force employed 548 P-47’s, P-38’s, and P-5 I ‘so Adding to the total, the Ninth Air Force employed 212 planes against flak positions near the front lines along the Dutch-Belgian border. All flights got an invaluable assist from the weather. Overland fog at the airfields in England had cleared by 0900.

Over the North Sea and the Continent the weather was fair with a slight haze. Visibility varied from four to six miles. Had the day been tailor-made it hardly could have been better for an airborne operation.

Beginning at 1025 on Sunday morning, 17 September, 12 British and 6 American transport planes flew into the east to drop Pathfinder teams on drop and landing zones 20 minutes before H-Hour. Close

behind them, from the stationary aircraft carrier that England had become, swarmed the greatest armada of troop carrying aircraft ever before assembled for one operation.

A force of 1,545 transport planes and 478 gliders took off that day from 24 airfields in the vicinity of Swinden, Newbury, and Grantham. Converging at rendezvous points near the British coast, the streams of aircraft split into two great trains to cross the North Sea. Along the northern route American planes: 1,175; British planes: 370; American gliders: 124; British gliders: 354. northern route went the planes and gliders carrying the 1st and 82nd Airborne Divisions and General Browning’s corps headquarters. Along the southern route went the 101st Airborne Division. Beacons and searchlight cones marked both rendezvous points and points of departure from the coast, while two marker boats fixed the routes over the North Sea.

A small percentage of planes and gliders aborted over England and the sea. To save personnel who ditched in the sea, the Air/Sea Rescue Service, a component of Air Defense of Great Britain, had placed a string of seventeen launches along the northern route and ten along the shorter southern route. In addition, planes of Air Defense of Great Britain, the British Coastal Command, and the Eighth Air Force flew as spotters for ditched planes and gliders. During the course of Operation MARKET, a total of 205 men were snatched from the sea.

The average time of flight from base to target area on D-Day was two and a half hours. From thirty to fifty minutes of this time was spent over enemy territory. Once the planes and gliders on the northern route reached the Dutch coast, they attracted flak ranging from light to heavy; but few aircraft were hit. Many German batteries were silent, victims of the preliminary bombardment. Others gave in quickly to ubiquitous British escort craft.

Along the southern route the 101st Airborne Division encountered concentrated flak as soon as the planes headed across German lines. One of the Pathfinder planes was hit and crashed. Some of the lower-flying planes and gliders in the main waves drew small arms fire. Although some serials escaped the flak almost without losses, others incurred severe damage. Yet few crippled planes fell before reaching the targets and releasing their loads. The paratroopers had unqualified praise for pilots who held doggedly to their courses, sometimes with motors in flames or wings broken and often at the price of their own lives after passengers or gliders had been released. No instance of a pilot resorting to evasive action under the stress of antiaircraft fire came to light on D-Day.

Luftwaffe reaction was hesitant, almost nonexistent. Although Allied pilots spotted approximately 30 German planes, only one group of about 15 Focke-Wulf 190’s dared to attack. These engaged a group of Eighth Air Force fighters over Wesel but quickly gave up after shooting down but 1 U.S. fighter, hardly fair exchange for the loss of 7 German planes.

The airmen executed two other missions on D-Day. Almost at H-Hour, 84 British planes of the 2nd Tactical Air Force attacked German barracks at Nijmegen, Arnhem, and two nearby cities; and after nightfall the RAF Bomber Command executed two dummy parachute drops with 10 aircraft each at points several miles to both east and west of the actual drop zones.

Planning staffs for Operation MARKET had been prepared to accept losses in transport aircraft and gliders as high as 30 percent. In reality, losses were a phenomenally low 2.8 percent. The enemy shot down not one plane or glider carrying the British airborne division and knocked out only 35 American troop carriers and 13 gliders, most of them along the southern route. Of the escort, the British lost 2 planes, the Americans 18. Total losses in transports, gliders, and fighters were 68.Out of a total of 4,676 transports, gliders, fighters, and bombers that participated on D Day, only 75 craft failed to get through.

Almost exactly at H-Hour transports in the leading serials began to disgorge their loads in the beginning of what was to become the most successful drop any of the three airborne divisions ever had staged, either in combat or training. British landings were almost 100 percent on the correct drop and landing zones. The 82nd Airborne Division’s landings were “without exception” the best in the division’s history. The 101st Airborne Division’s operation was a “parade ground jump” that from any viewpoint was the most successful the division had ever had.

A total of 331 British aircraft and 319 gliders and 1,150 American planes and 106 gliders got through. Within an hour and twenty minutes, approximately 20,000 American and British troops landed by parachute and glider in good order far behind enemy lines. The unparalleled success of the drops and landings made it clear early that the decision for a daylight operation had been, under the circumstances, a happy one. Up to this point, the Allies had staged an overwhelming success.

SOURCE: THE SIEGFRIED LINE CAMPAIGN; by: Charles B. MacDonald (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Europe (2-7); Operation MARKET-GARDEN-Invasion From the Sky

World War Two: Japanese Imperial Navy; Battle of Java Sea

The diminution of the ABDA naval forces was caused by more than battle damage; ironically, there was then a fuel shortage in Java’s ports. Java had large oil deposits, but not in the quantity that Borneo and Sumatra did. It did have large storage facilities, but these were inland, and the Japanese who operated the oil facilities at the ports refused to work after the Japanese air raids began. Oil, then, was not readily available to warships needing to refuel. Likewise, munitions were running low; the destroyer tender Black Hawk issued her last torpedoes on 21 February, which meant that the destroyers Pillsbury and Parrott were eliminated from the ABDA naval force, since they had no torpedoes in their magazines.

The repair facilities in Java, which had always been inadequate for large naval forces, also had suffered from the bombing. Since such facilities could not accomplish necessary repair and overhaul, the number of warships available and ready for action was further diminished. The Stewart, which was damaged in the Battle of Badung Strait, was placed in dry-dock at Surabaja, only to have the dry-dock to collapse. The light cruiser Tromp, having been hit eleven times on her bridge and control tower in the Battle of Badung Strait, had to be sent to Australia for repairs, because there were no facilities in Java which were not already in use. The destroyer Banckert was knocked out of the war, severely damaged by a bombing raid on Surbaja on 24 February. The destroyer Whipple had collided with the De Ruyter and was inoperative; she was temporarily given a “soft’ bow but was still unfit for inclusion in the Combined Fleet. The destroyer Edsall had been damaged when depth charges were incorrectly set and exploded too near her stern. She too, could perform only limited escort duty. The Marblehead could not be repaired in Java and was sent to Ceylon. The Black Hawk was sent to Australia, escorted by the destroyers Bulmer and Barker, which were in a sorry state of disrepair, with their torpedo supplies almost exhausted.

Even among those left in the ABDA force, the heavy cruiser Houston’s after turret were still inoperable, although her forward guns were still working. Indeed all the ships left to Admiral Doorman were in need of overhaul; the fore that was to face Japan in a last effort to stop the invasion of east Java was simply inadequate. So desperate was the situation that General Wavell, after consultation with Washington, dissolved ABDA Command on 25 February 1942 and placed the defense of Java under the operational command of Admiral Helfrich. All Army, naval and air forces were now commanded by Dutch officers.

In contrast, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, with the riches prize now locked in, prepared a massive assault with both army and navy units. Their plan called for three landings on the western end of Java, in Sunda Strait–at Bantam Bay, Merak, and Eretenwetan–for the capture of the capital of Batavia. An eastern wing was to land at Kragan, 100 miles west of Surabaja. Preliminary to the landing, Bawean Island, 80 miles north of Surabaja, was to be invaded to set up a radio station.

Two covering forces hovered south of Java. These were Admiral Nobutake Kondo’s Southern Force, Main Body, and Admiral Nagumo’s First Mobile Fleet, Carrier Strike Force, the latter still constituted as it had been for the Pearl harbor raid. They were so placed as to cut off Australia from Java and India. Nagumo’s planes thus interdicted and sank the seaplane tender Langley, with thirty-two desperately needed P-40’s near Tjilatjap.

Java was important to the Japanese, for it had considerable oil deposits and it also had a number of important refineries. The island, the most densely populated region in the world (50 million inhabitants) was the administrative, industrial, and vital working center for the 3,000-mile-long chain of the Netherlands East Indies. It was the heart of the Dutch possessions in the South Seas.

The responsibility for the capture of Surabaja was given to the Imperial Japanese Army’s 48th Division, which had been fighting in the Philippines. It was brought to Jolo and embarked on transports, sailing on 19 February as the First Escort Force. The convoy put in at Balikpapan to take on the 56th Regiment (without the detachment at Bandjarmasiin), and sailed again on 23 February. On 25 February, it was joined by the Second Escort Force, led by the Jintsu (light cruiser) and her nine destroyers.

For the invasion of Batavia in the west, the Japanese Army combined the headquarters of the 16th Army, 2nd Division , and the 230th Regiment of the 38th Division. The convoy of fifty-six transports left Camranh Bay on 18 February. On the first leg of it’s journey, this Third Escort Force was screened by the Natori (light cruiser) and her eight destroyers. As it neared it’s three beachheads, it was further backed up by the West Support Force of four cruisers and three destroyers, the Yura and her eight destroyers, and by the light carrier Ryujio and seaplane tenders Chitose and Mizuho.

ABDA Command knew of the concentration of ships at Jolo and received correct information on 24 February that several invasion armadas were headed south. It had guessed correctly that the invasion would be a two-pronged one. There was little that could be done about it, beside awaiting the appearance of Japanese ships and attacking them as the situation developed. AbDA naval forces had been under constant attack by land-based planes, from the east, north, and west, it’s retaliatory force was thus being reduced daily. Nevertheless, ABDA Command planned to use it’s remaining bombers on the first warships that appeared, and then to throw its’ combined Strike Fleet at the convoy.

It was the Eastern Force that appeared first, when destroyers from the First Escort Force backed the occupation of Bwean Island on 25 February. At once Admiral Helfrich commander-in-chief of all naval forces in Java, ordered Admiral Doorman to concentrate his naval forces at Surabaja, thus bring in the heavy cruiser Exeter, the light cruiser Perth, and the destroyers Jupiter, Electra and Encounter from Batavia. (the light cruiser Hobart was also in Batavia, but was low on fuel, because the tanker that could have refueled her was put out of action by an air raid on the morning of 25 February.) Admiral Doorman did not await the arrival of the ships from Batavia, however. On 25 February, he used this ships at Surabaja in a dusk-to-dawn sweep along the coast westward toward Madura, hoping to intercept transports. He was joined by the Batavian contingent upon his return to Surabaja. By then reports of large convoys, headed for both east and west Java, were coming in. Doorman ordered the remaining ships at Batavia–the Australian light cruiser Hobart, two old Royal Navy light cruisers, the Dragon and the Scout, and the Dutch destroyer Evertsen–all now Mobil, to intercept a Japanese convoy, reported to be nearing Muntok. They sortied at 2200, back were back in port by 0100hrs on 26 February.

On 27 February, the same force was ordered to make another sweep to the north from Batavia; if no enemy was sighted by 0430 on 28 February, the force was to escape through the Sunda Strait to the British naval base at Trincomalee, Ceylon. All but the Dutch destroyer Evertsen went to Ceylon. The Evertsen, however lost contact with her siter ships, because of a squall. She then tried to join the Houston and Perth, which were in action at Bantam Bay. Engaged in a fire fight with the destroyers Murakumo and Shirakumo, she received hits, caught fire and was beached.

The Second Escort Fleet, leaving the armada bound for Kragan, was disorganized as it neared Java. Lieutenant Commander Tameichi Hara (later to be captain), skipper of the destroyer Amastukaze, felt that Admiral Yamamoto, who was convinced that air power in Java had been eliminated, was unwise in sending the Carrier Strike Force to make a raid in to the Indian Ocean , while cancelling air cover from land-based planes. “This audacity resulted in jeopardizing the operation of at least the convoy I escorted.”

The convoy of forty-0ne transports was disposed in two columns, sailing slowly at 10 knots and zigzagging in what Hara thought was a disgraceful manner. Many of the transports were requisitioned merchant ships, whose captains were inexperienced in this kind of operation. The convoy straggled over a length of 20 miles. At its head were four minesweeper, in line abreast at 3,300 yards, followed by three destroyers with a similar spacing. Behind this double advance line came the light cruiser Naka with a small patrol ship on either side. The middle section of he transports had one destroyer on each side. Much father away to port came the light cruiser Jintsu with the four destroyers of Destroyer Division 16 ( of which the Amatsukaze was a part). The eastern Region Support Force of the heavy cruisers Nachie and Haguro was 200 miles astern.

Hara’s fears might well have been realized it the Dutch had had more planes, or if Admiral Doorman had attacked the convoy when its exact position had been given to him, at 1357 on 27 February. A PBY had attacked the Amatsukaze at 0600 on the 26th February, its bomb dropping, however 300 yards ahead of the destroyer. A few fighter planes flying from Balikpapan were giving afternoon cover for the Japanese ships that day. At 1748, two American B-17’s flying from Malang broke through a low ceiling, this time dropping six 500-lb bombs. The bombs were poorly aimed, however; four hit about 1,000 yards from the Amatsukaze and two about 500 yards from the Hatsukaze.

Admiral Doorman’s strike force did not make an immediate assault on the reported invasion fleet-probably out of weariness and fear of the enemy planes, rather than a command indecision. His fleet had spent the night of 26 February o a searching sweep that took him to Bawean Island shortly before the Japanese occupied it. Luck was against Doorman, for the Bawean Island occupation force had only a light naval escort. He turned back toward Surabaja at 0900 on 27 February. Although Admiral Helfrich had asked him to immediately attack convoys now being constantly reported by air reconnaissance, Doorman nevertheless returned to Surabaja at about 1400. But again Helfrich ordered him to turn and fight, so he once more reversed course to seek the enemy.

A scout plane from Balikpapan had reported the morning movement of Doorman’s force. Its proximity to the advance echelons of the eastern convoy now began to alarm the Japanese naval command. The Nachi catapulted a plane which was to keep Doorman’s force in sight, and both heavy cruisers, the Nachi and Haguro, with the destroyers Ikazuchi and Abebono, went to top speed in order to be in a position when Admiral Doorman finally made his sortie from outer Surabaja harbor toward the convoy. The Battle of the Java Sea was about to begin.

FIRST PHASE: 1525-1650—-27 February

The Japanese were not caught by surprise, for the Nachi’s scout plane had been radioing accurate ships’ positions. Doorman’s strike force had its cruiser in column led by the light cruiser De Ruyter (flagships), followed by the heavy cruisers Exeter and Houston( the latter could fire only her forward turrets), and the light cruiser Perth and Java. On the columns port beam were the two Dutch destroyers Witte de With and Kortenauer.

On the port quarter of the cruiser column came the U.S. destroyers John D. Edwards, Alden, John D. Ford, and Paul Jones. (the Pope was in Surabaja harbor but could not catch up with Doorman’s force) Three miles from the main columns starboard bow were the English destroyers Electra, Jupiter and Encounter. The group set a course northwest by west almost crossing, at first, the Japanese convoys column’s escorts heading south.

The Japanese had, in column, the light cruiser Jintsu (flagship Destroyer Squadron 2) with four destroyers: the Yukikaze (with Rear Admiral Tanaka on board) and the Tokitsukaze, Amastsukaze, and Hatsukaze. These ships had been sailing northwest, but on sighting Doorman’s force they turned toward it, and headed due south, still in single column. The time was 1521. The Jintsu’s group maintained this course for nine minutes, until, again in column, it turned due west for nine more minutes, paralleling Doorman at distance of 30,500yards.

Coming up fast, on a southerly course, were the heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro, screened on their port side by the destroyers Ushio, Sazanami, Yamakaze and Kawakaze. At 1525 they were still some 13, 000 yards north of the Jintsu’s destroyers. As they gained ground, they, too swung westward but were 10,000 yards north of Destroyer Squadron 2, which was making a deep south-to-west loop. Japanese heavy cruisers fired their first salvos at Houston and the Exeter at 1547, and kept up their fire until 1650.

Another 13,000 yards to the west, and nearly parallel to the heavy cruisers, a third column was sailing south preparing for battle : Destroyer Squadron 4, with the light cruiser Naka and the destoryers Asagumo, Minegumo, Murasame, Samidare, Harukaze and Yurdachi. They went the farthest south of the three groups, not turning south-west till 1557. Thus the three separate groups of ships were roughly parallel to Doorman’s column.

At this point the Japanese began using their favorite weapons-the “ long lance“, their 24-inch torpedoes, which because they were oxygen propelled, made almost no wake. Naka and he destroyers made torpedo launches at 1603, 1610 and 1615, at distances of between 13,000 and 15, 000 yards. They also involved in afire fight witht eh outranged British destroyers Electra , Jupiter and Encounter, and with Doorman’s cruisers, no real damaged was suffered on either side.

The Haguro launched either torpedoes at 1622 at 12-1/2 miles. Meanwhile the Jintsu with her destroyers made a sagging loop, from south to west, and then fired at the De Ruyter at 1545. He column received return fire from the British destroyers Electra, Jupiter, and Encounter., but missed the mark. The Jintsu’s ships made smoke at 1600 and continued west.

At 1623 the De Ruyter took a hit in an auxiliary engine room, but the 8-inch shell failed to explode. The first real damage occurred at 1638, when the Nachi scored a direct hit on the Exeter, setting her afire. The rest of the column simultaneously turned ninety degrees, so that all ships ended up in a line of abreast. A Japanese torpedo struck the destroyer Kortanaer, which blew up and sank immediately at 1640. (time span between 1622 launch and the distance to be covered suggests that the torpedo came from the Haguro)

The strike force was now in disarray, with the Exeter on fire and destroyer gone, so the force turned south, away from the Japanese transports. The three Japanese groups, having blocked the course to the west, then turned south toward Java at 1640, with the cruisers continuing their fire. The strike force was being turned back toward Surabaja.

During this phase the Japanese heavy cruisers fired 1,271 rounds of 8-inch shells, the Jintsu and Naka fired 171 rounds of 5-1/2-inch shells and 39 torpedoes were launched by the Japanese ships. The American destroyers, on the disengagement side of the battle line, had not entered the fray. Because the distances were so great, neither side distinguished itself in marksmanship. The Japanese, however, prevented Doorman from attacking the transports.

SECOND PHASE: 1650-1720 HOURS

At 1650, Doorman’s strike force was in a state of considerable confusion, which was compounded by the poor communication between ships. When ABDA was in existence, a French/English code book had been published, but for some reason, it was never issued to the ships of Navy ABDA. On board the De Ruyter and English officer could relay Doorman’s Dutch orders to the English Exeter, which could then relay them to the officers of the other English speaking ships. But when the Exeter was hit, and her communications room was destroyed, orders could not be flashed to the other English-speaking ships by blinker lights or semaphones, because those ships did not have the code book.

The Exeter, still in flames, headed on a nearly straight course steaming southeast by south before 1700 she had become the outermost ship on the port side of the force. As she slowly pursued this course, the four American destroyers cut her wake and formed a screen for the main column of cruisers. Farther south, the Perth and Java turned ninety degrees to the west, and then, having arranged themselves in column, reversed their course. The Houston and De Ruyter, after making a complete circle, joined the Perth and Java thus forming a four-ship column, which sailed southeast by south. Gradually some order had been restored, two separate groups had emerged. The port group consisted of the limping Exeter, and the Witte With, Jupiter, Encounter, and Electra, acting as a screen on the Exeter’s starboard side. Ten thousand yards ahead and some 6,000 yards to the starboard side of the Exeter group’s course were the De Ruyter, Perth, Houston and Java, in column, screened to port by the four American destroyers, Both columns continued sailing southeast by south , until 1713.

The three group’s of Japanese ships were in pursuit, sweeping in along paralleling arc from south to southeast, with the tow heavy cruisers, the Nachi and Haguro, making the most extensive swing to the east. All three groups had set their courses so that they would intersect the Allied columns. This was a phase of maneuver, and there was no firing of torpedo launching by either side until 1715.

When the battle began again, the Haguro and the Nachi were farthest to the north, crossing Doorman’s “T” from the rear. Five to six thousand yards to the southeast were the Jintsu‘s eight destroyers, in two columns of four, about 2,000 yards apart. The Jintsu herself was on the starboard side of the two columns, equally distant from the Naka and her six destroyers.

At 1715, the Haguro and Nachi began firing again at the De Ruyter’s column, and at 1718 the Nachi launched torpedoes at the Exeter’s column. The Allies did not return fire, but the De Ruyter’s column at once turned hard to port toward the transports, to avoid the torpedoes. Then the Naka’s Destroyer Squadron 4 launched twenty-four torpedoes at a range of 21,000 yards; all missed. The Naka’s destroyers had another engagement with the Exeter and her screen, at 18,000 yards. The Houston, now in a position to use her undamaged forward turrets, returned the Naka’s fire. The Combined Strike Force, however, was headed for new trouble, for its two groups were on a collision course when the De Ruyter’s column turned northeast to ward the Exeter’s column, which was still southbound. A second melee, with ships falling out of formation, was in the making. Furthermore, the force was being squeezed together form the north and the west, as the Japanese began to sense Doorman’s predicament. Read Admiral Takeo Takagi, commander-in-chief of the Eastern Support Force, ordered the transports to reverse course and head again for their beachheads.

THIRD PHASE: 1720-1750

A new Japanese attack was forming up. The heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro continued east at a distance of about 19,000 years from Doorman’s force, which after its unavoidable confusion, had gathered itself and started south again. The two heavy cruisers kept up a long-distance barrage from their twenty 8-inch guns, and at 1724, the launched more torpedoes. Finally at 1726 they reversed course and head southwest by west, ceasing fire. About 12,000 yards northwest of the reconstructed Exeter column, the Jintsu and her eight destroyers, steaming southeast by east, were readying a torpedo attack against the Exeter group. South and slightly west of the Jintsu, the Naka was forming up her destroyers into two columns (of four and two) on her starboard quarter, also to attack the crippled Exeter.

On the Allied side, the Exeter was screened to starboard by destroyers Jupiter, Witte de With, Encounter, and Electra. The group moved slowly, since the Exeter could only make five knots. The De Ruyter column, now ahead of the Exeter and screened on its port side by the four American destroyers, had set a northeasterly course, at right angles to the Exeter.

By 1720, visibility at the battle scene was becoming rather poor. During the previous half hour, the Allied columns and been making smoke, which was added to by the Exeter’s fires. This was to the Allied ship’s advantage, for they could not see the Nachi and Haguro as well, and at times the other two Japanese groups would also be obscured. Meanwhile, the Japanese fleet had planes from the Nachi, Jintsu and the Naka marking Doorman’s position and spotting the salvos of their own ships.

The Jintsu’s advancing destroyers released their torpedoes at 15,000, from 1726 , then reserved course, streaming to the northwest . The Jintsu fired a torpedo salvo at 1728 and also reserved course. The Naka fired torpedoes at 1720 at 18,500 yards made smoke, and reversed course to almost due west. . Her column of four destroyers closed under 10,000 yards, launched their torpedoes, and reserved course, to ward Naka. For some reason, the other two ships in the Naka’s group, the Asagumo an d Minegumo, kept closing and did not launch until they were only 6,5000 yards from their targets. No Japanese explanation for these two-destroyers closer-range charge has been found; perhaps it was sort of banzai charge.

In the meantime, the British destroyers Encounter and Electra had seen the danger of a torpedo attack and, leaving the Exeter group, they headed due south to counter the torpedo attack. The two ships looped to the west, eventually heading to the northeast. The Encounter engaged the Minegumo in a fire fight, as the two ships paralleling one another, closed to 3,000 yards. This duel went on from about 1730 to 1740, strangely enough, neither ships inflicted much damage, even at close range. The Electra scored a direct hit on the Asagumo at 5,000 yards, causing her to go dead in the water for a few minutes, with four of her men killed. She made it back to Balikpapan, however the next day. At the same time, the Asagumo made two direct hits on the Electra, she limped a long, tried to continue her circle to the east, but finally went down at 1746. Nevertheless, the bravery shown by the two British destroyers in countercharging a superior force ( at the start of the charge, they faced two light cruisers and fourteen destroyers) exemplified the British style of destroyer training, in the best tradition of the Royal Navy.

Meanwhile , Admiral Doorman was determined to have another try at the transports. Which he knew were close by. At 1720, the De Ruyter column began swinging to the northeast, and since all the Japanese ships appeared to retiring (except the Asagumo and Minegumo), it continued to circle. The four American destroyers, however, struck out own their own transport hunt, sailing almost due north. Admiral Doorman temporarily gave up on the transports shortly thereafter, and the column, completing its circle, headed toward the southeast, on the port side of the Exeter and her two escorts, The American destroyers, 10,000 yards north-northeast of the De Ruyter group, also turned. The crews of the strike force were exhausted and frustrated, and the ships were low on fuel and ammunition. For the moment it looked as if the battle was over. Doorman’s force had been weakened, with one heavy cruiser a fire and another destroyer lost.

FOURTH PHASE: 1850-1910 (27 February 1942)

After sailing east for a few minutes and seeing no Japanese ships, Admiral Doorman decided to make another try for the transports, and heading almost due north, directly for the convoys. His counterpart, Admiral Takagi in the Nachi, did not know whether the Allied force had returned to Surabaja to refuel, whether it knew of the presence of Admiral Takahashi’s Main Force led by the heavy cruiser Ashigara, east of Madura Island, or whether Admiral Doorman would still make another try for the transports. Since Admiral Takagi’s biggest responsibility was the protection of the transports, he set a course which would block Doorman’s group if it came from the south. He guessed correctly, for, at 1850, the sighted each other again.

The Allied column was still led by the De Ruyter, followed by the Perth, Houston, and Java. One British destroyer, the Jupiter, screened to the port van and the four American destroyers protected the starboard rear,

The Japanese had the Jintsu and her eight destroyers headed north on an exactly parallel course, 17,500 yards away on the port beam of Doorman’s column. The Nachi and the Haguro were also on the port side at 16,000 yards, slightly north of the Allied ships. They turned on searchlights briefly and opened fire at 1855, then turned northwest, making smoke. The Allied cruisers returned fire from 1855 t0 1910 and then, again heading away from the transports, began a slow turn to the east. The Jintsu’s group continued north until 1907, when they fired torpedoes at the turning Allied column, at a range of slightly under 21,000 yards. The Jintsu and her two destroyer column turned to the northwest. No damage was sustained by either side in the long range skirmish, but once again the transports had been protected.

FIFTH PHASE: 2230-2300 ( 27 FEBRUARY 1942)

After losing contact with the enemy, Doorman again tried a northern thrust. But by this time his force had been further diminished. Although she had been clearly informed of a minefield in the area the destroyer Jupiter suffered a hugh explosion, probably from amine, and sank. Doorman had also sent the four American destroyers (the old four-pipers simply could not make the speed necessary) back to Surabaja to refuel, and then to Tanjomg Priak, to pick up torpedoes. His column of cruisers, now stripped of destroyers, remained in the same order as before, heading north. It was spotted at 16,000 yards by a lookout on the Nachi at 2233. At that time the Nachi and Haguro were headed due south, with Doorman’s column on their port bow. The ever present Jintsu with her eight destroyers, steaming on a southwesterly course was 16,000 yards north-northwest of Doorman. She slowly turned to starbaord, until she was on a northeasterly course, protecting the transports.

The two Japanese Heavy cruisers, then, took on the four Allied ships alone. The Nachi and Haguro opened fire at 2237, continued south for five minutes, and then reserved course to the north, again blocking Doorman’s path to the transports. Beginning at 2240, Doorman’s column fired on the Japanese cruisers for four minutes, as the column turned five degrees to starboard and then held course. The Nachi and Haguro reopened fire at 2252 for four minutes; meanwhile the Nachi launched eight torpedoes, and the Harugo four., at a range of 14,000 yards. A torpedo struck the De Ruyter aft, erupting into flames, her ammunition exploding, she fell out of line to starboard and soon sank, taking Admiral Doorman and 344 of his men down with her. She had done all that could be asked of an outnumbered and outgunned ship. Four minutes later, a torpedo slammed into the Java. She burst into flames and soon followed the De Ruyter to the bottom. Only the Houston and the Perth were left afloat. Doorman’s last order to them was to go to Batavia, rather than stand by to pick up survivors.

SIXTH PHASE: 0900-1140 (MARCH 1, 1942)

There would be no safety for the Houston and Perth even if they made it to Batavia, for another Japanese battle fleet was already close by to protect the landings in west Java. Nevertheless, the two Allied ships tried for Batavia, and arriving during the mid-watch. The damaged Exeter and Encounter, and the Pope were still back at Surabaja. The Exeter had made emergency repairs, buried her dead, and refueled. The three ships sortied on the evening of 28 February, with orders to try to reach Colombo, Ceylon, via the Sundra Strait. Their plan of escape was to sail during daylight, east of Bawean Island, toward the south coast of Borneo, and then make a night run for Sunda Strait. Their hopes, which were slim to begin with, vanished altogether on 1 March, when they were spotted by Japanese aircraft as they left Surabaja, Admiral Tagai was ready and waiting for them.

The Nachi and Haguro and their two destroyers, the Yamakaze and Kawakaze, sighted the three Allied ships to the northeast, at about 33,000 yards. For about an hour, the Japanese ships steamed northwest and then at 0950 they turned to the northeast, thus cutting the Allied ships off from a retreat to Surabaja. Admiral Takahashi had arrive from the west with the Ashigara and Myoko, which at 0940, were due west of the Exeter, at 33,750. Nearer, to the east, were the Akebono and Isazuchi. Although trapped, the three Allied ships nevertheless continued sailing on a northwesterly course, the battle began at around 0904, with the Allied ships firing at the Akedono and Ikazuchi, which returned fire, along witht eh Ashigara and Myoko. The three excaping ships immediately made smoke and turned to starboard; by 1000, they were headed due east. The Japanese heavy cruiser Ashigara and Myoko paralleled to the northeast at about 16,000 yards, firing almost continuously. The Akebono and Ikazuchi were south of the trapped ships, paralleling them atabout 12,000 yards, while the Nachi, Myoko and their two destroyers were father south, on parallel course at 27,000 yards. Gunfire and torpedo launchings were made continuously by the Japanese. The Exeter, after repeated torpedo hits from the southern ships, sank at 1130. The Encounter, on the Exeter’s port side, took fire mainly from the Ashigara and the Myoko, and sank five minutes after the Exeter. The destroyer Pope, was sunk at about 1205 (theexcat time has never been determined).

The four remaining American destroyers, the John D. Ford, Paul Jones, John D. Edwards, and the Alden, left Surabaja on 28 February, slipped into Bali Strait during the night, broke through the Bali Strike Force (the destroyers Hatsuharu, Nenohi, Nenhi, Wakaba, and Hatsushimo) and escaped to Australia.

The Battle of the Java Sea could hardly be called classic, by any criterion. Doorman’s forces, on paper, were almost equal to those of the Japanese on the afternoon of 17 February. But a variety of factors cut into the strength of Doorman’s group; fatigue from constant patrol against invasion, older ships, the lack of a common language or common code book, the lack of communication with shore commanders, and a command and force which where composed of men of different nationalities, who therefore lack training in common tactic’s. It has also been claimed that the loss of air contributed to the Allied defeat; yet this battle was fought almost exclusively by ships. (Australian Buffalo aircraft did attack Japanese ships, but without result. Still, the Japanese planes, from both the heavy and light cruisers, which acted as spotters, gave the Japanese a great advantage. In addition, Japanese aviation was wreaking havoc with Java’s naval facilities ashore, thus adding to Helfrich’s difficulties.

All this expenditure of energy and equipment, and loss of life (almost all from the Allied side) delayed the invasion of east Java by less than twenty-four hours. Whatever the size, quality, and quantity of Japanese naval strength, the Japanese warships executed their assigned tasks. They had displayed an extraordinary skill in night fighting that would work to their advantage again and again. The eastern Java invasion transports were completely untouched.

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

World War Two: Japanese Imperial Navy; Battle of Sundra Strait-February 1942

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

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

With Warren Force poised to attack Giropa Point, and Urbana Force moving to envelop Buna Mission along the newly established corridor from Entrance Creek to the coast, the reduction of the enemy positions on the Buna side of the Girua River was finally at hand. This was to be no easy task. The enemy at Buna was heavily outnumbered and almost completely surrounded, but he was fighting with the utmost ferocity and was to be cleared out of his remaining positions at Buna only after some of the bitterest fighting of the campaign.

The Advance to Giropa Point: The Abortive Attack of 29 December

Warren Force had completed the reduction of the Old Strip on the 28th. Just before midnight of the same day the 2/12 Battalion, thirty officers and 570 other ranks under Lieutenant Colonel A. S. W. Arnold, reached Oro Bay from Goodenough Island by corvette. The battalion and its gear were landed safely during the night, and the troops who were to begin moving forward to the front the next day went into bivouac in the brigade area near Boreo. (The 18th Brigade was replaced on Goodenough Island by the 7th Brigade from Milne Bay—the 2/12 Battalion, for instance, being replaced there by the 25 Battalion.)

Brigadier Wootten devoted the next morning to regrouping and reorganization. Company A, 2/10 Battalion, moved to the left flank and took up a position on the right of Company C, 2/10 Battalion, which continued on the far left as the main assault company. Companies B and D, 2/10 Battalion, continued as before on the far right, with D on the outside and B on D’s left flank. Companies C and A, 128th Infantry, and Company C, 126th Infantry, with Company A, 126th Infantry, in support, were in the center of the line. Company B, 126th Infantry, Company B, 128th Infantry, and a composite company of the 2/9 Battalion were in reserve. Four tanks in position at the bridge between the strips were ready to go, and seven others, which had just reached Boreo from Oro Bay, were in reserve, as was the 2/12 Battalion, which began moving to the front that morning.

At 1235 Wootten gave verbal orders for an attack on the area between Giropa Point and the mouth of Simemi Creek. The attack, which was to be in a northeasterly direction toward the coast, was to be mounte dafter 1400 with the four available tanks. Company C, 2/10 Battalion, was to follow the tanks and in general make the main effort, but the companies on its right were to take advantage of every opportunity to advance provided they did not unnecessarily expose their flanks.

Colonel Dobbs fixed zero hour at 1600. The tanks were delayed, and the attack did not get under way until 1715, following an artillery preparation with smoke. In an effort apparently to make up for lost time, the tanks moved at high speed and came in obliquely across the line of departure. Without waiting for the slower-moving infantry to close in behind them, they moved north without moderating their speed. The infantry as a result had to attack independently of the tanks, and the tanks, far in front of the infantry, had to move on the enemy bunkers without infantry support.

As the tanks hit the first line of bunkers, the Japanese, with no Allied infantry at hand to stop them, pulled back to their second bunker line. When the tanks finally discovered what had happened and began working on the second line, the Japanese filtered back into the first line, in plenty of time to stop the foot soldiers who had meanwhile managed to fight their way into the grove. At 1845 the attack had to be called off. The tanks by that time had expended all their ammunition, and the infantrymen were met by such intense fire from hidden enemy bunker positions that they had to pull back to the edge of the Coconut Plantation and consolidate.4

The 2/12 Battalion is Committed

The fresh 2/12 Battalion reached the front that night, 29 December. Early the following morning Brigadier Wootten ordered it to take over on the left in place of the 2/10 Battalion, which had seen a great deal of action and needed rest. The day was devoted to regrouping and reorganization. Colonel Arnold went forward to reconnoiter the front his battalion was to take over.

Major Beaver’s 126th Infantry troops, who were also in need of rest, exchanged places with Colonel MacNab’s battalion, the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, which after a week of rest in the Cape Endaiadere area was again ready to attack. The redisposition of the troops was completed next day. By evening of 31 December the battalions were in place: the 2/12 Battalion on the left, the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry in the center, and the 2/10 Battalion on the right. The 2/12 Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, were on an 1,100-yard east-west front and faced the coast. The 2/10 Battalion, with a holding mission, was drawn up across the head of the strip on a 500-yard front at right angles to them, its left tied in on the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, and its right on Simemi Creek. Major Clarkson’s 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, was on the 2/12 Battalion’s left rear; Company A, 2/9 Battalion, was in reserve.

At 1535 Brigadier Wootten issued a carefully drawn plan for the reduction the next day of Giropa Point and the area between it and the Old Strip. The attack would be supported by the mortars of the 2/10 Battalion, the 25-pounders of the Manning and Hall Troops, and the 4.5-inch howitzers of the Stokes Troop. Of the eleven tanks of X Squadron, 2/6 Armored Regiment, nine would be committed to the attack: six immediately, and the remaining three as they were needed.

The operation was to be in two phases. In Phase One the 2/12 Battalion and the tanks, with the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, as left-flank guard, were to attack in a northeasterly direction, break through to the coast, and turn southeast, thereby completing the enemy’s encirclement. In Phase Two, the 2/12 Battalion was to herd the encircled Japanese toward the companies advancing on the right and, with their help, destroy them. That night, while the troops snatched what rest they could before the next day’s attack, the K.P.M, ship Bath and the Australian freighter Camara came into Oro Bay with 350 and 500 tons of cargo, respectively, unloaded, and departed before daybreak.

The arrival of the Bath and the Camara marked a logistical milestone in the campaign. Since the night of 11-12 December, when the Karsik made the first pioneering trip to Oro Bay, six freighters making nine individual trips had brought in roughly 4,000 tons of cargo. This was more than three times the 1,252 tons that the Air Force had flown in to the 32nd Division during the same period, and 1,550 more than the 2,450 tons that it was to fly in for the 32nd Division’s use during the entire period that the division was in combat. Between the freighters and the luggers, an average of 200 tons of cargo was now coming into Oro Bay daily and had been since 20 December. Supply at Buna, in short, had ceased to be a problem just as the fight for the place was coming to an end.

[NOTE1007: Hist Port Det E, COSC, Buna; 32nd Div G-4 Sec, Rear Echelon, Record of Air Shipments, 13 Nov 42-23 Jan 43; 32nd Div AAR, Papuan Campaign; 32nd Div QM Det, Rpt on Activities, Papuan Campaign; Interv with Col Moffatt, 23 Feb 50. The tonnage brought in by the freighters during the twenty-day period in question included 3,100 tons of general cargo and an estimated 900 tons of tanks, vehicles, and road-building equipment for which no precise figures are available. The six freighters were the Karsik, the Japara, the Bantam, the Mulcra, the Bath, and the Comara. The Karsik made three individual trips during this period; the Japara, two; the rest, one each.]

The Attack on New Year’s Day

After a heavy artillery and mortar preparation, the troops on the right and left moved out for the attack at 0800, New Year’s Day. On the left, Companies A and D, 2/12 Battalion, and the six tanks cut northeast through the plantation toward the coast. The 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, followed them. Facing north, Companies I, K, and L, 128th Infantry, moved on the dispersal bays off the northwest end from below (south), and the 2/10 Battalion, facing west, remained in position on the Old Strip.

Without tanks to support it, the attack by the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, went slowly. The Japanese in the dispersal bays were well entrenched and fighting hard. On the left, the attack made excellent progress from the start. Closely followed by the infantry, the tanks made short work of the enemy defenses in the Giropa Plantation.

[NOTE 15-1111KL: Ltr, Colonel MacNab to General Ward, 7 Mar 51. Colonel MacNab recalls the attack in these words: “Arnold and I took our outfits in with a sort of old-time flourish. . . . Arnold and I had been in view of each other almost continuously during this period, each in the front line of his troops. . . . When he had gotten fairly close to the line of bunkers (we were coming in on their rear and flank) he yelled to my troops, ‘Where is the American commander?’ I replied . . ., ‘you know damn well where I am, you’ve been trying to get abreast for an hour.’ He yelled ‘Let’s get the bastards,’ and I yelled at my Company L and one platoon of Company K in the front wave, ‘Come on you grease balls.’ (Never before or since have I ever called a man that.) We all, Aussies and Yanks, went in on the run. There were not many Japs left. We killed them in the grass with bayonets, and . . . when we couldn’t reach them [with fire].” Ltr, Colonel MacNab to author, 18 Apr 50. MacNab was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in Hq USAFFE GO No. 34, 21 Jun 43.]

The leading tank reached the coastal track below Giropa Point at 0830. A half-hour later all the tanks and most of the infantry had reached the coast. The 1st Battalion,128th Infantry, moved forward, mopping up pockets of enemy resistance that the Australians had overlooked or bypassed. Company A, 2/12 Battalion, with Company D immediately behind it, anchored its left flank on Giropa Creek, just west of Giropa Point, and began to consolidate on a 400-yard front along the shore. Companies B and C, 2/12 Battalion, which had been operating to the rear of Companies A and D, began moving eastward and southeastward with the tanks to complete the second phase of the attack.

Against the stiffest kind of opposition, the tanks and the Australian infantry following them moved steadily forward. By evening Companies C and D had cleared out the beach as far as the mouth of Simemi Creek. The 2/12 Battalion lost 62 killed, 128 wounded, and one missing in the day’s fighting, but the Japanese on the Warren front were finished. All that remained was to deliver the coup de grâce.

The Australians had pressed into use that day for the first time a blast bomb of their own invention consisting essentially of a Mills bomb screwed into a two-pound can of ammonal explosive. As Colonel MacNab recalls, it was used in the following manner: “A tank would knock a corner off the enemy bunker, and while this hole was ‘buttoned up’ by automatic or rifle fire, a volunteer would creep up to the side of the bunker, heave in the bomb, and duck. The explosion would rock the bunker and stupefy the Japanese inside. Then a can of Jap aviation gasoline would be tossed in, ignited by tracers, and the bunker would be burned out.”

The end came the next morning. Major Clarkson’s 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, finished clearing out the last pocket of enemy resistance on the left; details of the 2/9 and 2/10 Battalions finally cleaned out the enemy emplacements on the island at the mouth of Simemi Creek; and Companies C and B, 2/12 Battalion, the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, and eight tanks attacked the Japanese in the dispersal bays. The 2/10 Battalion, with Allied fire coming in its direction, stayed down out of harm’s way.

The attacks by Colonel Arnold and Colonel MacNab, the one attacking from the west and the other from the south, were soon over. As the fire slackened, the officers and men of the 2/10 Battalion rose out of their holes in the Old Strip area and watched the last Japanese positions being overrun.

This was the last organized attack delivered by Warren Force. After taking Giropa Point and the area immediately to the eastward, the troops had little left to do but mop up. Orders were issued that day to the 2/12 Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 128th Infantry, to begin moving westward toward Buna Mission in the morning. The orders were revoked a few hours later, when it was found that contact had been made with Urbana Force, and that that force was already proceeding with the envelopment of Buna Mission.

The Capture of Buna Mission: The Failure To Cross the North Bridge

At 1330, 28 December, while Urbana Force was tidying up its corridor from Entrance Creek to the coast and preparing to move forward to the sea, General Eichelberger, accompanied by General Sutherland, Colonel Bowen, Colonel Rogers, and Colonel Harding, arrived at Colonel Grose’s CP from Buna Force headquarters. Asked for a report on the situation, Grose gave Eichelberger a resume of how things stood. Among other things, Grose told Eichelberger that he had just taken the 3rd Battalion out of the line for a much-needed rest.

At 1428, without discussing the matter further with Grose, Eichelberger ordered that the 3rd Battalion, split into two elements, launch an immediate attack on Buna Mission. One element was to advance on the mission from the island by way of the north bridge; the other element, starting from the southern side of the island, was to move upon it in five Australian assault boats which had reached the front the day before.

Eichelberger and Grose had discussed this plan and several others some days before, but had never worked out the details. Grose recalls that he was so startled by the sudden order to commit the tired battalion to such an attack that it took him a few minutes to organize the maneuvers in his mind.

Aside from the weariness of his troops, there was another even greater difficulty. The enemy had a line of bunkers just off the northern end of the bridge, and the bridge itself, a narrow, makeshift structure forty feet long and a couple of feet wide, had a fifteen-foot gap at its northern end—the result of a recent Allied artillery hit.

As soon as I had my thoughts collected [Grose recalls], I called for volunteers among the officers present to do certain things. Colonel Bowen volunteered to get the engineers and collect the necessary timbers to fix the bridge, Colonel Rogers to reconnoiter the position on the island and see that the troops were conducted thereto, and Colonel Harding to coordinate and control the mortar and artillery fire. I ordered Captain Stephen Hewitt, my S-2, to make the reconnaissance of the route the boats were to take . . . and Captain Leonard E. Garret, my S-3, to arrange for and coordinate the fires of Company H from the island and the troops on the finger, both of which were to fire on the mission preceding the attack.

[NOTE 15-1515AF: Ltr, Colonel Grose to General Ward, 26 Feb 51. This finger was a narrow spit of land projecting from the vicinity of Buna Village to the mouth of Entrance Creek. It will be called hereafter the village finger. The finger on the other side of the mouth of Entrance Creek will be called the mission finger. 16 127th Inf Jnl, 1428, 1538, 28 Dec 42; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 28 Dec 42.]

Colonel Grose quickly worked out the details of the plan. The attack was to open with fifteen minutes of artillery and mortar fire on the mission and the bunkers facing the bridge. Guided by directions given them by Captain Hewitt as a result of his reconnaissance, forty men of Company K in the five assault boats were to round the eastern end of the island just as the preparatory fire began lifting. They were to land east of the bridge and establish a bridgehead. Supported by fire from Company H on the island and from a platoon of Company E at the tip of the village finger, they were to engage the enemy with fire, thereby masking the bridge and permitting the planks required to make it usable to be laid in safety. As soon as the planks were down, the rest of Company K would dash across the bridge in single file, and would be followed by Company I and Company L, in that order. When all three companies were across, they would attack north in concert with Major Schroeder’s force on the coast, which would attack from the southeast.

The preliminary tasks were completed in short order. Captain Hewitt, who had gone out in one of the assault boats, returned with the results of his reconnaissance. Six enlisted men volunteered to lay in place the three heavy timbers that would span the gap at the northern end of the bridge. Commanding the assault boats, 1st Lieutenant Clarence Riggs of the 3rd Battalion’s Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon quickly moved them into position in some heavy foliage off the southern side of the island. The rest of the 3rd Battalion, guided by Colonel Rogers, began moving forward to the bridge area from the center of the island. Having been told only a little while before that they were to be given a rest, the troops of the battalion were slow in moving forward, and Colonel Rogers was unable to get them into position south of the bridge until the first salvo of the artillery preparation hit the mission.

The time was 1720. As the first artillery salvo went down, the boats pushed off from their hidden position. The troops had been misdirected by Captain Hewitt, however. Instead of going around the island and landing on the east side of Entrance Creek, they tried to land on the mission finger.

The platoon of Company E on the village ringer mistook them for the enemy and opened fire on them, as did the Japanese. Lieutenant Riggs’ boat, in the lead, swamped and sank. Although Riggs could not swim, he somehow reached shore and managed to stop the firing from the village finger, but it was too late: most of the boats had already been sunk in the shallows. Fortunately no one was killed or drowned.

[NOTE 15-1717CS: 127th Inf Jnl, 1515, 1538, 1720, 1735, 28 Dec 42; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 28 Dec 42; Colonel Grose’s Diary, 28 Dec 42; Colonel Bowen, Certificate, 3 Jan 4; Interv with Colonel Grose, 18 Nov 50; Ltr, Colonel Rogers to author, 26 Jun 50; Ltr, Major Philip A. Jenson to author, 24 Jun 51; Ltr, Colonel Grose to General Ward, 26 Feb 51. Staff Sergeant Milan J. Miljativich of Company K took command when Lieutenant Riggs’ boat sank and tried desperately to redirect the rest of the boats to the mission. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in Hq USAFFE GO No. 34, 21 Jun 43.]

Things had also miscarried at the bridge. The six men to volunteer—Privates Arthur Melanson and Earl Mittelberger, T/5’s Charles H. Gray and Bart McDonough of Company A, 114th Engineer Battalion, and Privates Elmer R. Hangarten and Edward G. Squires of Company H—had advanced across the bridge, two men to a timber.

Amid heavy fire from the opposite shore, they dropped the three timbers in place, and all except Mittelberger, who was killed on the bridge, lived to tell the tale. As soon as the timbers were in place, Company K started crossing. Scarcely had the first two men reached the northern end of the bridge, when the newly laid planks fell into the stream because of the weakness of the pilings at the other end of the bridge. The two men, one of them wounded and neither able to swim, hid under the bank on the other side of the stream, only their heads showing. They were rescued the following night by 1st Lieutenant William H. Bragg, Jr., commanding officer of the mortar platoon of Company H, and three enlisted men of the company, who swam across the creek to save them.

[NOTE 15-1818SC: 127th Inf Jnl, 1735, 28 Dec 42, 2215, 29 Dec 42; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 27 Dec 42, 28 Dec 42; Ltr, Colonel Rogers to author, 26 Jun 50; Ltr, Colonel Grose to General Ward, 26 Feb 51; Ltr, Colonel Herbert A. Smith to General Ward, 20 Mar 51. The six volunteers were later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Their citations are in GHQ SWPA GO No. 11, 22 Jan 43. Colonel Bowen and Colonel Rogers, who were both active at the southern end of the bridge trying to get the attack started, were also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. For Colonel Rogers, who was twice wounded that afternoon, it was the second time in the campaign that he was to be so decorated. Colonel Bowen’s citation for the Distinguished Service Cross is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 4, 10 Jan 43; Colonel Roger’s citation for the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Service Cross is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 7, 15 Jan 43.]

The New Plan

On the night of 28-29 December ammunition and pioneer troops of the 127th Infantry finished digging a 2½-foot-deep trench across the northwest end of the gardens. The trench, which they had begun the night before, was the idea of Captain W. A. Larson, Major Hootman’s successor as regimentalS-4. Early on 29 December it went into use as a route by which supplies were brought forward and the wounded were carried back. It was an immediate success and proved as useful in the transfer of troops as in evacuation and supply.

Later the same morning the original Urbana Force—the 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry, and the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry—went back into the line. The 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry, less the troops at Tarakena and Siwori Village, took up a holding position at the southeast end of the Government Gardens, and the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, moved into the Triangle to take over its defense. Just after the two battalions began moving forward from their rest areas, Company B, 127th Infantry, from its position along the coast southeast of the mission, pushed forward to the sea and established a 200-foot frontage along the shore.

Major Schroeder’s line now extended from Entrance Creek to the sea, but the troops on the island were still held up by fire from the northern end of the bridge. An apparent solution to the problem was found that night. Just before midnight a patrol of Company H, 127th Infantry, under 1st Lieutenant Allan W. Simms, waded across from the village sandspit to the spit projecting from the mission. The patrol remained on the mission side of the creek for half an hour, without receiving any fire or finding any Japanese in the area. On the basis of this evidence of enemy weakness, a new plan to envelop the mission was drawn on 20 December.

Under the new plan, Company E, 127th Infantry, and Company F, 128th Infantry, the 127th Infantry troops leading, would cross the shallows between the village and the mission. Company E was to turn right and establish a bridgehead. Company F crossing behind it would move northeast along the coast directly on the mission as soon as Company E had knocked out the bunkers and the bridge was repaired. Company H, 127th Infantry, and Company G, 128th Infantry, would cross over from the island, tie in on Company F’s right along the coast, and attack. Major Schroeder’s 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, reinforced by elements of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, would meanwhile be moving on the mission from the southeast. The result would be a double envelopment of the mission with separate columns converging upon it simultaneously from the front and from both flanks. This final, multipronged attack was to open at dawn the following morning, 31 December.

The Attack of 31 December

Preparations for the attacks from the village spit were completed in good time on the 30th. Early in the morning, while Company G, 127th Infantry, under Captain Dames, moved into the Coconut Grove for a well earned rest, Company F, 128th Infantry, under Captain Jefferson R. Cronk, went into bivouac at Buna Village, and was joined there by Company E, 127th Infantry (less the platoon on the finger). Company E, low in morale after its heavy losses in the Triangle, was under the command of Lieutenant Bragg of Company H, who had volunteered to lead it in the attack across the shallows.

Major Schroeder had meanwhile been attacking toward the mission. The Japanese were still holding strongly along the coast, and he made little progress. There was no cause for concern, however, for Schroeder’s position was secure. Facing Buna Mission, the line was held by Companies F, A, K, and L. Elements of Company M and Company B in platoon strength were in place in the gardens on both sides of the corridor; Companies C and I were in the center of the corridor; Company D was to the east of it facing Giropa Point.23 It was clear that the enemy for all his tenacity would not be able to hold on the coast when the attacks from the village and the island got under way.

At 0430 the following morning, while it was still dark, Company E, 127th Infantry, and Company F, 128th Infantry, started moving in single file across the shallows between the finger and the mission. Company E was in the lead, with Lieutenant Bragg at the head of the column. The plan was to launch a surprise attack on the enemy positions opposite the bridge at daybreak. The men were under orders to make as little noise as possible and had been warned not to fire their weapons until told to do so. Company E gained the spit on the mission side without alerting the enemy, turned right, and began to move inland. Just as the leading elements of the company reached the spit, some of the men to the rear, unable to resist the temptation, threw grenades into a couple of landing barges that were stranded on the beach. At once the whole area broke into an uproar, the beach lit up with flares, and the troops were assailed with hand grenades, rifle grenades, and automatic weapons.

The Japanese reaction threw the troops into a panic. Their plight became even worse when Lieutenant Bragg, who in General Eichelberger’s words was to have been “the spark plug of the whole affair,” was shot in the legs during the first few moments of the firing and, in the confusion of the moment, was reported missing. Colonel Grose waited on the village spitto hear news of the attack. He had a man with sound-powered telephone and a roll of wire following the action and reporting on its progress. The first information Grose heard on the phone was that the lieutenant who had taken command when Bragg fell was “running to the rear,” and that there were others with him.

I told the man [Colonel Grose recalls] to stop them and send them back. He replied that he couldn’t because they were already past him. Then the man said, The whole company is following them.’ So I placed myself on the trail over which I knew they would have to come, and, pistol in hand, I stopped the lieutenant and all those following him. I directed the lieutenant to return and he said he couldn’t. I then asked him if he knew what that meant and he said he did. The first sergeant was wounded, and I therefore let him proceed to the dressing station. I designated a sergeant nearby to take the men back and he did so. I then sent the lieutenant to the rear in arrest and under guard.

Although Company E, in its flight, passed through Company F, 128th Infantry, which had been moving forward immediately to its rear, Captain Cronk’s company was not affected by Company E’s disorganization. Cronk himself, Colonel Grose recalls, was as calm and collected as if he were on the drill field. The 128th Infantry troops moved forward steadily and, by the time they were finally joined by Company E, had established a strong position on the spit and were holding their own. On Colonel Grose’s orders Captain Cronk took command of Company E, and the two companies began attacking toward the bunkers in the area north of the bridge. They met stiff resistance, and, in a full day’s fighting, Cronk could report only a small advance, though he hoped to do better the next day. The steadiness under fire of Captain Cronk’s company had saved the day. General Eichelberger finally had his long-sought toe hold on the mission, and Captain Yasuda’s troops, under attack for the first time from two directions, faced annihilation.

Yasuda had received some rations and ammunition by submarine on the night of the 25th and continued to fight stoutly for the mission with his remaining troops. The fighting was particularly bitter along the coast southeast of the mission and in the swamp north of the gardens, where elements of Company C were still busy cleaning out pockets of enemy resistance. Although Companies E, F, and H, 126th Infantry, under Captain Sullivan, advanced 300 yards in the area east of the right fork of the Triangle, thus completing the capture of the gardens, the day’s gains along the coast and in the swamp north of the gardens were disappointing.

[NOTE 15-2929PM: 2nd Bn, 126th Inf, Jnl, 31 Dec 42; 127th Inf Jnl, 0818, 31 Dec 42; 32nd Div G-3 Daily Periodic Rpt, 31 Dec 42; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 31 Dec 42; Ltr, General Eichelberger to General Sutherland, 31 Dec 42; Rpt, CG Buna Forces, p. 36. Private Earl Johnson and Private First Class Herman Bender of Company M, 127th Infantry—both killed that day—greatly distinguished themselves in the fighting along the coast. Johnson was killed while covering the withdrawal of his squad from a dangerously advanced position where it had been pinned down by enemy fire; Bender met his death as the result of a bold dash through an open field swept by enemy fire to find the flank of a neighboring unit with which all contact had been lost. Both men were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citations are in Hq USAFFE GO No. 32, 15 Jun 43.]

The enemy was resisting fanatically, but he was obviously nearing the end of his powers. For several days artillery overs from the Warren front had been troubling the troops on the Urbana front, and the troops on the Warren front were, in turn, receiving fire that could have come only from Urbana Force. Not only were the two forces moving closer together, but a patrol of the 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry, had made contact that morning with a patrol of Warren Force at the southwest end of the gardens.

Since Warren Force was to mount its final attack on Giropa Point in the morning, Company B, 127th Infantry, was ordered to attack eastward the next day to link up with Warren Force and assist it in the cleanup. General Eichelberger wrote to General Sutherland that night that he hoped the attack would “go through in fine shape.”If it did,” he added, “it will then be just a matter of cleaning up Buna Mission.”

General Eichelberger described the situation “as it is at present” in these words: On the right, the Australians with their tanks have moved up to the mouth of Simemi Greek, [and] the entire area of the two strips is in our hands. Martin’s men have extended to the left from the Old Strip for several hundred yards so that the forces of the Urbana and Warren fronts are now only about 600 yards apart. On the left, we have established a corridor between Giropa Point and Buna Mission, and have moved enough men in there to make it hold. The famous “Triangle” which held us up so long, was finally taken, and our men also occupy the island south of Buna Village. Today, we are moving on Buna Mission from both directions, and I sincerely hope we will be able to knock it off. After noting that there had hitherto been many disappointments in the campaign, he went on to say, “Little by little we are getting those devils penned in and perhaps we shall be able to finish them shortly.”

Colonel Yazawa’s Mission

At Rabual, meanwhile, the impending collapse at Buna was causing 18th Army headquarters the deepest concern. On 26 December General Adachi ordered General Yamagata (whose headquarters, it will be recalled, was then at Danawatu, north of Gona) to move all his troops by sea to Giruwa. He was to use them first to rescue the Buna garrison. If the rescue failed, he was to divert them to the defense of Giruwa and hold it to the last. Two days later, Adachi ordered Buna evacuated. Its defenders were to fight their way to Giruwa with the help of a special force which would be under command of Colonel Yazawa, who was to proceed to Buna Mission from Giruwa by way of the beach and attack the American left flank. After cutting his way through to the beleaguered Japanese Army and Navy troops holding the mission, he was to withdraw with them to Giruwa.

It was a desperate plan, but not necessarily an impracticable one. The Japanese must have known from clashing with Lieutenant Chagnon’s fifty-two men near Tarakena that the American flank covering Buna as virtually undefended. They may have thought, therefore, that Colonel Yazawa’s raiding party might still save the defenders of Buna Mission—only about two miles from Tarakena by beach—by launching a sudden surprise attack, advancing swiftly, and making a quick withdrawal.

General Yamagata lost no time in complying with General Adachi’s orders. On 27 December he ordered 430 men from Danawatu to Giruwa, with orders to report to Colonel Yazawa. Yazawa, who had led his regiment across the Owen Stanleys and back, was perhaps the most experienced and resourceful commander the Japanese had at Giruwa. The fact that he was detailed to the task of rescuing the Buna garrison was an indication of the importance Rabaul attached to his mission.

General Yamagata arrived at Giruwa on 29 December and, two days later, gave Colonel Yazawa his orders. The rescue operation, the orders read, was to be directly under Yamagata’s command. It was to be undertaken as soon as a suitable concentration of forces reached Giruwa from Danawatu. Yazawa began assembling troops for the thrust eastward, the fall of Buna Mission was imminent, and most of its defenders had only a few hours to live.

The Envelopment

On New Year’s day, while Warren Force and its tanks were reducing Giropa Point, Urbana Force launched what it hoped would be the final assault on Buna Mission. Early in the morning, while Company B attacked eastward toward Giropa Point, the artillery and mortars laid down a heavy barrage on the mission and the rest of Urbana Force struck at the Japanese line around the mission. Captain Cronk attacked from the mission spit, and Major Schroeder’s troops, pivoting on Entrance Creek, moved on the mission from the southeast.

Some Company B men could already see the tanks on Giropa Point, but the unit was still held up by very strong enemy resistance. Company F, 128th Infantry, left alone on the spit when Colonel Grose withdrew Company E, 127th Infantry, for reorganization, also found itself unable to move forward. In the swamp Company C, supported on the right by Company M, moved forward 150 yards, and the remaining companies to the right of M—F, A, and L, with I and D immediately to the rear—made some progress.

The enemy had thus far fought with the greatest tenacity, but evidence of his disintegration was not lacking. On the evening of 1 January while Colonel Smith of the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, and Major Clarkson of the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry, established a joint Urbana Force-Warren Force outpost in the no man’s land between their two fronts, Japanese troops were sighted for the first time trying to swim from the mission—an unmistakable sign that the mission’s defense was on the point of collapse.

[NOTE 15-3535PH: 127th Inf Jnl, 1600, 1850, 1900, 1 Jan 43; G-3 Daily Periodic Rpt, Buna Force, 1 Jan 43; Ltr, General Eichelberger to General Sutherland, 1 Jan 43, copy in OCMH files. During this day’s action Private Robert H. Campbell of Company M, 127th Infantry, crawled to the rescue of a wounded member of the company, who was lying in the open in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gun. Campbell was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The citation is in Hq USAFFE GO No. 34, 21 Jun 43.]

Urbana Force made careful preparations for the next day’s attack. The main effort was to be along the coast. It was to be spearheaded by two relatively rested units, Company G, 127th Infantry, and Company G, 128th Infantry, which had gone into reserve when the troops on the mission spit failed to knock out the bunkers facing the north bridge. Company H, 127th Infantry, would cross over from the island as soon as either Company F, 128th Infantry, advancing from the mission spit, or Company C, 127th Infantry, moving up through the swamp north of the gardens, took over the area north of the bridge and made repair of the bridge possible. The Japanese continued their desperate attempts to escape. Just before dawn of the next day, Saturday, twenty enemy soldiers carrying heavy packs and led by a lieutenant made a break for the beached landing barges on the mission spit. They had three machine guns with them and their packs were loaded with food, medicine, and personal effects, as if for a quick getaway. Captain Cronk’s company turned its machine guns and rifle son them and cut them down to a man. At daylight, observers all the way from Buna Village to Tarakena caught sight of large numbers of Japanese in the water. Some were swimming, others were clinging to boxes, rafts, and logs; still others were trying to escape in small boats. Artillery and machine gun fire was immediately laid down on the troops in the water, and, at 1000, the air force began systematically strafing them with B-25’s, P-39’s, and Wirraways.

The two top Japanese commanders at Buna had chosen to die at their posts. Realizing that the end was near, Captain Yasuda and Colonel Yamamoto met at a central point the same day, Saturday, and killed themselves in the traditional Japanese fashion by cutting open their bellies.

Despite the fact that the mission was already partly evacuated, there were still enough Japanese left in the mission and along its approaches to give Urbana Force (in General Eichelberger’s phrase) “the darndest fight” all day. At 1000, just as the attack was about to open, Major Schroeder, who was in a forward observation post at the time, was struck and mortally wounded by a Japanese bullet which penetrated his skull. Captain Donald F. Runnoe, a member of Schroeder’s staff, at once took over command of Schroeder’s battalion, and Colonel Grose came up and took personal charge of the coastal drive.

A heavy artillery barrage and white phosphorous smoke shells hit the enemy before the troops finally jumped off at 1015. Captain Cronk’s company on the spit attacked southeast. Company C in the swamp, with Company M still on its right, attacked toward the north bridge between the island and the mission. The two G Companies—Company G, 128th Infantry, and Company G, 127th Infantry, with the latter unit under Captain Dames leading—passed through the lines of Companies I, L, and M and advanced through the Coconut Plantation to attack the mission from the southeast.

The attack went smoothly from the first. The phosphorous shells set fire to the grass and trees at several points in the mission area and, in one instance, exposed a whole line of enemy bunkers to Allied fire. Attempts by the Japanese to flee these exposed positions were met by machine gun fire from the troops on the island and on the mission spit. As the phosphorous shells exploded in trees, they also set afire several of the huts in the mission. When enemy troops in dugouts beneath the burning huts tried to escape, they ran into bursts of Allied fire which killed most of them.

The remaining Japanese continued their dogged last-ditch resistance and had to be rooted out of each dugout and bunker by grenade, machine gun, and submachine gun fire. Company C, 127th Infantry, on the left, and Company G, 127th Infantry, on the right, made excellent progress, but Company F, 128th Infantry, on the mission spit was held up, as was Company B, 127th Infantry, which had meanwhile resumed its attack to the eastward.

[NOTE 15-4141ET: 127th Inf Jnl, 1315, 1523, 1627, 2 Jan 43; 127th Inf Tact Hist, 2 Jan 43; Ltr, General Eichelberger to General Sutherland, 2 Jan 43; F. Tillman Durdin, The New York Times, 8 Jan 43; Rpt, CG Buna Forces, p. 36; Colonel Grose, Comments on the Buna-Sanananda Opn, 2 Feb 46. For their performance in the day’s fighting, Colonel Grose and Captain Runnoe were later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Grose’s citation is in GHQ SWPA GO No. 4, 10 Jan 43: Runnoe’s, in Hq USAFFE GO No. 34, 21 Jun 43.]

At 1400 Company C was in sight of the bunkers covering the north bridge. An hour and a half later Company G, 127th Infantry, reached the point of the mission with Company G, 128th Infantry, hard on its heels. Only scattered rifle fire met the troops, and they quickly took their first prisoners—a dozen Chinese laborers, naked except for breechcloths.

Ten minutes later Company C came up, followed by Company M, and in a few more minutes Companies I, L, and A reached the scene. The engineers had meanwhile been repairing the north bridge. By 1620 Company H was across it, thus finally completing the envelopment.

The mission was overrun by 1632. The remaining enemy troops in the area were either flushed out of their hiding places and killed, or entombed in them. By 1700 the fighting was over except in a few pockets of resistance near the beach. There a handful of Japanese held out stubbornly and were left to be dealt with the next day. The mission was a scene of utter desolation. All through the area the ground was pitted with shell holes. The trees were broken and bedraggled. Abandoned weapons and derelict landing craft littered the beach, and Japanese dead were everywhere.

In its attack toward Giropa Point, Company B had been held up by a line of enemy bunkers in the road junction near the coast, which had been bypassed in the coastal advance. As soon as he could, General Eichelberger pulled Company C out of the mission area and sent it to the assistance of Company B. The two companies launched a concerted attack late that afternoon, cleared out the bunkers, and by 1930 had made contact with the 2/12 Battalion. With the 2/10 Battalion and the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 128th Infantry, the 2/12th had finished clearing out the area between Giropa Point and the west bank of Simemi Creek earlier in the day. After more than six weeks of fighting, the Buna area in its entirety was finally in Allied hands.

The End at Buna: Cleaning Out the Pockets

Mopping up of isolated pockets of resistance on both Warren and Urbana fronts continued for several days until the last of the enemy troops were accounted for. An observer describes the scene on 3 January, a Sunday, as follows: [By] Sunday, the . . . front from the shattered palms of Buna Village to Cape Endaiadere was almost peaceful. It was possible to walk its entire length and hear only a few scattered shots and occasional bursts of mortar fire. In the . . . swamp … a few Japanese snipers still held out, in a patch of jungle … a bunker or two still resisted, but great stretches of the front were scenes of quiet desolation. . . . The only considerable fighting during the day occurred in the jungle area southwest of Giropa Point, where a small group of laborers, estimated as high as a hundred, fled when the point was captured.

Their intention perhaps was to try to escape through the swamps and jungles, and scatter into the interior. . . .Americans and Australians however drew a line around them from all sides and made contact along the beach between Buna Mission and Giropa Point, and methodically mopped up the enemy pocket.

Americans quelled the last resistance to Buna Mission by Sunday noon in a little thicket on the beach where a few Japanese held out in bunkers. Routed from the bunkers, some scurried behind a wrecked barge on the beach and continued to fire. They were finally killed by a high explosive charge that blew the barge and the Japanese to bits. By noon, the Americans had counted roughly 150 Japanese dead in the Buna Mission area.

Small squads finished the job of eliminating the last fighting Japanese. Some Americans [went swimming in] the sea. Some washed out their clothing for the first time in weeks, some simply slept the deep sleep of exhaustion, curled up under shell-shattered trees or in sandy foxholes. By Tuesday, the only Japanese left in the area extending from Buna Village through Cape Endaiadere were roving groups and individuals . . . who were hiding out in jungle and sago swamp, and who by now had become desperately hungry. These Japanese were trying to keep under cover during the day [to prowl] at night through moonless blackness in American-Australian lines seeking something to eat. Some 190 Japanese were finally buried at Buna Mission, and 300 at Giropa Point.

Fifty prisoners were taken. Warren Force took twenty-one horribly emaciated Koreans and one Japanese soldier. Urbana Force took twenty-eight prisoners, mainly Chinese and Koreans. Of the few Japanese among them most were captured near Siwori Village and Tarakena when they were caught naked and unarmed as they swam in from the sea.

Booty was heavy on both fronts. On the Warren front it included, in addition to the three-inch naval guns and the pompoms, rifles, machine guns, radio equipment, several 37-mm. guns, two 75-mm. mountain guns on wheels, nine unserviceable trucks, some of American make, and a number of smashed fighter aircraft, two of them Zero-type planes that were found on the Old Strip and looked as if they could be repaired. Booty taken by Urbana Force, besides the weapons taken in the Triangle and several antiaircraft guns captured in the Government Gardens, included a 75-mm. gun and miscellaneous items of equipment. Hardly any food or ammunition was found on either front.

The Congratulatory Messages

By 3 January it was obvious that all organized resistance on the Buna side of the Girua River was over. In a special memorandum issued at noon that day, General Eichelberger told American troops who had taken part in the fighting that they had had their baptism of fire and were now veterans. The lessons they had learned at Buna, he added, would serve to reduce losses in the future and bring further victories.

 

Later that day General Blarney sent a message of congratulations to Brigadier Wootten and the troops serving under him on the successful conclusion of the fighting on the Warren Front. Their operations, he said, had been marked “by the greatest thoroughness in planning,” by “constant steadiness in control,” and by “valor and determination in execution.”

General Herring in turn, issued a special order of the day in which he expressed to Australians and Americans alike his appreciation of “their magnificent and prolonged effort.” He dwelt on the strength of the enemy’s defenses, his tenacious resistance, the hardships that the men had borne, and the fortitude with which they had borne them. He complimented all concerned on their steadfastness and determination and said, “You have done a job of which both our countries should indeed be proud.”

General Marshall sent General MacArthur his congratulations the next day. MacArthur thanked Marshall for his congratulatory message, and added, “Howeverunwarranted it may be, the impression prevailedthat this area’s efforts were belittled and disparaged at home, and despite all my efforts to the contrary the effect was depressing. Your tributes have had a tonic effect.”

Buna’s Cost: Battle Losses

There were 1,400 Japanese buried at Buna—500 west of Giropa Point and 900 east of it.[15-J-51] On the Allied side, 620 were killed, 2,065 wounded, and 132 missing. The 32nd Division sustained 1,954 of these casualties—353 killed, 1,508 wounded, and 93 missing; the 18th Brigade had 863 casualties—267 killed, 557 wounded, and 39 missing.[15-A-53]

[NOTE 15-J-51: Ltr, General Eichelberger to General Sutherland, 7 Jan 43; Rpt, CG Buna Forces, p. 42. The above figure includes only the counted dead. It does not include Japanese dead who could not be counted because their bunkers had caved in or had been sealed up during the fighting.]

[NOTE 15-A-53: Rpt on Opns 18th Bde Gp at Cape Endaiadere and Giropa Point. Of the 267 Australians killed, 230 were killed in action, and 37 died of wounds.]

The total casualties were thus 2,817 killed, wounded, and missing—a figure considerably in excess of the 2,200 men the Japanese were estimated to have had at Buna when the 32nd Division launched its first attacks upon them there.

Losses Due to Sickness and Disease

The troops had been plagued unceasingly by all manner of chiggers, mites, and insects, exposed to debilitating tropical infections, fevers, and diseases, and forced most of the time to eat cold and inadequate rations, sleep in water-filled foxholes, and go for days on end without being dry. Their gaunt and haggard faces, knobby knees and elbows that poked through ragged uniforms attested to what the men had been through.

Some of the hazards that faced them were revealed vividly in a letter written on 10 January by Major E. Mansfield Gunn, a medical officer on General Eichelberger’s staff: … Be sure to rinse the dyed jungle equipment over and over again in cold water, otherwise it will ruin everything [and] make everything stink. . . . Furthermore, we are not sure [the dye] is not absorbed by the body, and then excreted in the urine, because some of the urine would indicate [that was the case].. . . Tablets for individual chlorination of water in the canteen would be of the greatest value for all; two pairs of shoes are definitely needed [because] everything dries very slowly. A chigger repellent for each individual is needed for there are millions of the little fellows.. . .[There] is a growing incidence of scrub typhus here. . . . The inoculations we all received were designed to prevent the European typhus, and hence there is nothing to do but hope. There are some tremendous rats in the area, and no doubt the fleas on same are carrying the infection from the dead Japanese to our soldiers. One medical officer just died of the disease and another one is in very poor shape today. There has been an awful lot of work to do with these units, and under existing travel conditions, it is the toughest situation any of us have ever been in. … Sickness of all sorts, particularly of the various tropical fevers is on the increase also, so I expect that almost everyone in the division will come out of here either wounded or sick. I do not intend to paint a depressing picture, but that is the truth as things stand today. The figures will be appalling to you when you see them.

As late as mid-January Colonel Warmenhoven, then the division surgeon, was urging that all troops be compelled to take quinine daily, but the difficulty was that the medicine was still in short supply. He cited the case of a battalion in the 128th Infantry that had gone for several days entirely without it. Warmenhoven found also that the drinking water was often polluted and sometimes insufficiently chlorinated. There were now field ranges at most of the jeep-heads, and some of the men had canned heat and primus stoves, but the division surgeon nevertheless noted that rations were still inadequate and that the troops were still eating them cold most of the time.

The cost of sickness and disease at Buna was to reach staggering proportions. In a check of the health of the 32nd Division undertaken shortly after the Buna mop-up was completed, the temperature of 675 soldiers, representing a cross section of the division’s three combat teams, was taken. Colonel Warmenhoven reported that “53 percent of this group of soldiers were running a temperature ranging between 99 degrees to 104.6 degrees. … In order of prevalence, the cause of the rise in temperature is due to the following: Malaria, Exhaustive States, Gastro-Enteritis, Dengue Fever, Acute Upper Respiratory Infection, and Typhus (scrub).” The average normal sick-call rate of a command, the colonel pointed out, was 3.8 percent of its strength. The sick-call rate of the 32nd Division was 24 percent, and going higher. Some 2,952 men (more than three quarters of them from Buna where the division had made its primary effort) were already hospitalized because of disease and fever, and fifty to one hundred were being evacuated from Buna to Port Moresby daily for the same cause.

The Situation to the Westward

Colonel Yazawa Scatters the Tarakena Patrol

Ordered on 31 December to rescue the troops at Buna Mission, Colonel Yazawa had been unable to leave Giruwa until the evening of 2 January and then with only 250 men, most of them from the 1st Battalion, 170th Infantry. Shortly after he left Giruwa he learned that Buna Mission had already fallen. His energies thereafter were devoted to picking up as many of the survivors as possible. The success of his rescue mission required that the spit off Tarakena (on which many of the swimmers were landing, after hiding out during the day from Allied planes and patrols) be in Japanese hands. Ordering a careful reconnaissance of Lieutenant Chagnon’s position, he attacked it at dusk on 4 January with the bulk of his force.

 

Lieutenant Chagnon had been reinforced that afternoon by twenty-one men of Company E, 126th Infantry. When attacked, he had under his command seventy-three soldiers from seven different companies—including men from the Headquarters and Service Companies of the 127th Infantry—a 60-mm. mortar, and three light machine guns. The force was short of ammunition and grenades, and the attack came as a complete surprise. Hit from the front, rear, and left, Chagnon’s men fought as best they could until all their ammunition was gone and they had no recourse but to swim for it. The lieutenant, who retrieved one of the machine guns under fire and continued operating it until it jammed, was the last man out. Members of Chagnon’s patrol kept straggling into Siwori Village all that night. By the following day all but four had come in—a small loss in view of the fact that Yazawa’s attack had been made in overwhelming strength.

Having cleared Chagnon’s position on the spit and mainland, Yazawa proceeded with his rescue work. He was soon able to report that he had picked up some 190 survivors of the Buna garrison. Most of them had swum from the mission and had had the good sense to keep out of sight during the day.

Colonel Grose meanwhile had not been idle. By the early morning of 5 January he had part of Company F, 127th Infantry, across Siwori Creek. The crossing was unopposed. The men quickly re-established themselves on the other side of the creek and began moving northwestward.

The Stalemate at Sanananda

Buna had fallen, and the bridgehead across Siwori Creek had been re-established. The campaign, however, was far from over. West of the Girua River on the Sanananda front things were at a stalemate, and hadbeen for some time. In his order of the day of 3 January General Herring had told the troops that the battle for Buna was “but a step on the way.” They still had, he said, the difficult job ahead of them of cleaning the enemy out of the Sanananda area, a job that would “not be any easier than Buna.”

It was a timely reminder. As Colonel Leslie M. Skerry, General Eichelberger’s G-1, put the matter: “While we were engaged in the Buna area, we did not have much opportunity to think about what was going on elsewhere. But after getting rid of the Japanese here, we awoke to the fact that there was another most difficult situation existing in the Sanananda area next door.” There, Skerry noted, “a state of semi-siege has been going on … with little progress being made.”

With the 127th Infantry in position to move on Tarakena, and the 18th Brigade, the tanks, and most of the guns in use at Buna available for use on the other side of the river, the time had come to move on the enemy’s Sanananda-Giruwa position in force.

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

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

World War Two: PapuanCampaign (16);Urbana Force-Closes on the Mission