Guest Post: Muddy – Eighty Years Ago


Eighty years ago, in the first minutes of the 30th of June, 1943, two waves of United States troops of the 41st Infantry Division were thrown ashore in a shipwreck landing at Nassau Bay, south of the Huon Gulf in Papua New Guinea. The event signalled the beginning of Operation Doublet, the final stage in the ultimately 18-month long Wau-Salamaua campaign of 1942-43.

It has been estimated that a minimum of 20,000 men served on-the-ground during those 18 months. In infantry alone, Australia contributed 8 battalions, 3 independent companies, the NGVR, and one company of the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB). The United States 162nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team consisted of three battalions. Japan committed 11 battalions of infantry and 2 naval garrison units (also called Special Naval Landing Parties (SNLP).

On the Allied side, under the command of first Kanga Force, then the Third, followed by the Fifth Australian Divisions, the main combat units were the 15th, 17th, and 29th Australian Infantry Brigades, and the 162nd U.S. Infantry Regiment. The Japanese 51st Division, which had seen service in China, consisted of the 66th, 102nd, and 115th Infantry Regiments. These came from the Utsunomiya area north of Tokyo. The Japanese 20th and 41st Divisions contributed one infantry battalion each.

The artillery, engineer, amphibious engineer, medical, supply, ordnance, and transport units, from both sides, are too numerous to mention by name. On the Allied side, the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) was vital for supervising native welfare and labour.

Lieutenant-Colonel Fleay, then Major Generals Savige and Milford commanded the Australians, Colonels MacKechnie and Coane the Americans, and Major General Nakano, the Japanese 51st Division.

Operation Doublet – the last 11 weeks of the campaign – was the last time any significant number of U.S. troops fought under Australian command in the Southwest Pacific Area. The command arrangements were confusing, and no preparations for working side-by-side had been made prior to the beginning of the campaign itself. The commander of the initial U.S. element – MacKechnie Force – was relieved by his divisional commander, though later returned on Australian request in a different role. The Australians requested the relief of the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Battalion of the U.S. 162nd Inf. Regt., a Major Archibald Roosevelt (nephew of the U.S. President).

Two A.I.F., two Royal Papuan Constabulary, and at least 8 Allied airmen (including 3 Australians), were captured by the Japanese during the campaign. All are believed to have been executed, though only three of the executions took place at Salamaua. Another three A.I.F., two men supporting a wounded mate, are believed to have been captured and executed at the Markham River, just south of Lae.

One of the R.A.A.F. men executed at Salamaua was Flight Lieutenant W.E. Newton, V.C. ‘Bill’ Newton’s Victoria Cross was the only one awarded to a member of the R.A.A.F. for service in the S.W.P.A. Of the two other crew of his Boston bomber, one was either killed by anti-aircraft fire over Salamaua or drowned when the aircraft was ditched into Bayern Bay, and the other bayonetted at Lae and possibly buried alive. The Japanese local naval commander who decapitated Newton (whose head has never been found), was later killed in the Philippines.

The commander of the Sasebo No.5 S.N.L.P., who, when at Buna the previous year had given the order to execute nine Australians, was killed in an air raid at Salamaua in July, 1943.

Then U.S. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, was controversially awarded a Silver Star in mid 1942 for alleged courage whilst an observer in a U.S. bomber in the vicinity of Salamaua.

An estimated 5,000 Japanese escaped from Salamaua to the near north (mostly Lae, but some to Finschhafen), in the last few weeks of Doublet. The reason for this was twofold: (1). No Allied naval fighting resources were allotted to support Doublet aside from the few U.S. P.T. Boats harboured at Morobe further south. While these performed an admirable job hunting enemy barges, there were too few of them available, and no reliable communication between them and shore-based sources of intelligence once afloat. (2). Despite a proposal by Gen. Savige of the Third Australian Division to seize a beachhead on the coastal route from Salamaua to Lae, with a full infantry battalion and artillery field pieces, the only land-based resources made available for the main blocking role was a single infantry company operating from very difficult inland terrain.

At no time during Operation Doublet or the 15 months of mostly sporadic fighting that preceded it, did either Generals. MacArthur or Blamey visit the battlefield or the base area in the Bulolo Valley inland.

The Salamaua aerodrome – the primary reason for the settlement’s importance, despite the ‘drome having been used infrequently during the campaign – was re-entered on the 11th of September, 1943, though it was not until the following day, the 12th, when the settlement areas of Kela, the Isthmus, and the Peninsula, were declared clear of Japanese. While the enemy had successfully evacuated, with only a handful of sick or wounded stragglers remaining, the Japanese rearguard had fought tenaciously in the western ridges sector of their inner defences until the last hours.   

With Lae falling – after just 12 days – on the 16th of September, Salamaua was quickly discarded as a site for port facilities to support the advance further north, the capture of the strategic Huon Peninsula and the western edge of New Britain. While a U.S. radar unit briefly operated there, and the Australian war cemetery was built and maintained there, overlooking Samoa Harbour and the Peninsula, within little more than 18 months, Salamaua had no sign of European habitation aside from battlefield debris.

Despite substantial percentages of the relevant volumes of the Australian Official History of the Second World War being dedicated to the Wau-Salamaua campaign, popular military history now largely ignores this 18-month period, and at best, renders it as a one-sentence ‘sideshow’ to the reoccupation of Lae. Turning point events do not occur spontaneously. They must be provoked, lead up to, or linked by, narrative intervals that carry less perceived glamour. Such is the case with the Wau-Salamaua campaign, and Operation Doublet.


36 responses to “Guest Post: Muddy – Eighty Years Ago”

  1. Enyaw Avatar
    Enyaw

    Thank you for the above History , I found it very , very interesting .

  2. Tekweni Avatar
    Tekweni

    Evidence of the war was still visible in the early 2000’s at Salamaua when I spent a number of weekends there. I was doing expat contract work in PNG then. A number of times kids came up to us with ammo clips to sell. We just dropped them in the sea. There was a large bomb partially exposed on the beach towards the end of the flat part of the peninsula. The closest cottage to it was about 100 metres away. Nobody brave enough to be too close. There are some Jap guns on the hill at the end of the peninsula. It was a very popular weekend retreat for expats with the sheltered northern side and the exposed south which actually has waves breaking on the beach. Lae is all black sand whereas Salamaua is white beaches. It’s a lovely spot.

  3. Alamak! Avatar

    Nice post and appreciate learning some forgotten his

  4. jupes Avatar
    jupes

    Thanks for that Muddy. So much of our history is easily forgotten. With the Australian War Memorial disgracefully pivoting to the totally fake ‘frontier wars’, it is up to people like you to keep the flame alive.

  5. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    As Tekweni mentions, Salamaua and inland still have battlefield remnants whereas Lae is … Well, let’s leave it at that. There’s currently a push to rebirth a tourist industry for Salamaua & surrounds (Tambu Bay a few miles south is gorgeous, though the hike to the haus pek pek at night is a challenge), but the lack of basic infrastructure is daunting.

  6. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Inland from Salamaua is the scene of one of Damien Parer’s most famous photos, of Pte W.O.W. Johnston being helped across a creek, with his eyes bandaged after a Japanese grenade exploded near him. He was treated, and went back to the front line, but was again wounded, and walked to Bulolo across the mountains, before returning to Australia.

    He apparently hated the fame that he received from “that damned photo”.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle Avatar
    Bruce of Newcastle

    The Nassau landing was a schemozzle despite 2/6th Bn sending a platoon to guide the Americans in to the beaches. There weren’t any Japanese. Nevertheless the Americans lost a lot of guys…to friendly fire. They were jumpy and shot anything that moved, which was mostly other Americans. Then the 162th sat in laager for ages before actually doing anything (except accidentally shooting each other).

    This is very American. Like at Kasserine they were hopeless at the start, but they learned very very quickly. It wasn’t long after Nassau Bay that the US infantry were laying waste to the Japanese. But their first run onto the playing ground was a mess.

    You can read the whole tale of woe from the official AWM history here:

    Chapter 4 – Rendezvous at Nassau Bay (1961)

  8. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Muddy

    One of your photos is of the burial of three NCOs killed during the attack on Timbered Knoll. Another photo in that series shows two soldiers, one with an Owen Gun, looking into a Japanese trench. It is labelled “Clearing Japanese positions, Timbered Knoll”. There is (or, in these PC days, used to be) an uncompleted sketch of a similar scene at Timbered Knoll which had a caption something like “Shooting Japanese wounded, Timbered Knoll”.

    When a man like Johnston, wounded twice, had to walk for some days before air evacuation, and a stretcher case needed up to 16 carriers for the trip, what else could be done? Send them back to their own lines, in disgrace for having been captured?

  9. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    “… perhaps used to be) …

  10. thefrollickingmole Avatar
    thefrollickingmole

    Literally just finished reading Australian army campaigns series #30, which deals with this campaign
    One of the biggest takeaways (apart from the bravery of the blokes, and the awfulness of the country they had to get through) is how logistics was an absolute key.
    To quote a Japanese chap
    Ogawa said: “you cant raise your head. Your back is heated by the bullets. You cant fire your single shot bolt action Type 38 infantry rifle. Youd feel too absurd.”

  11. thefrollickingmole Avatar
    thefrollickingmole

    Literally just finished reading Australian army campaigns series #30, which deals with this campaign
    One of the biggest takeaways (apart from the bravery of the blokes, and the awfulness of the country they had to get through) is how logistics was an absolute key.
    To quote a Japanese chap
    Ogawa said: “you cant raise your head. Your back is heated by the bullets. You cant fire your single shot bolt action Type 38 infantry rifle. Youd feel too absurd.”

  12. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Boambee John.
    That still shot from Parer’s newsreel footage was taken while Sgt. Ayres was guiding Johnston over Allen’s Creek, which was a tributary of the Francisco River just to the west of Bobdubi Ridge. From memory, Johnston had been wounded in an assault on Old Vickers Position, which occupied the highest and most vital ground at the northern end of Bobdubi Ridge. The Ridge itself overlooked the main track from Salamaua to Komiatum and Mubo further south, and the Australians used several positions on it to harass the Japanese L of C using MMGs and mortars. Prior to Operation Doublet, the 2/3rd Australian Independent Company had based a Vickers MMG at the location before they were pushed off by the enemy. Hence the name ‘Old Vickers Position.’

    Bruce of Newcastle.
    There were Japanese not too far away (1-2 miles), and it is possible there were several Japanese stragglers from the beach post at the point where Mackforce had landed, but yes, the ‘green’ troops were very jumpy and a great number of their casualties the following night were self-inflicted. In their defence, it was an awful night in terms of weather, and they had been literally dumped from their landing barges in the surf, with the third wave not landing at all, leaving them short-handed. They were also uncertain exactly where the Japanese were (Australian reconnaissance had been limited so as not to prejudice surprise). They did languish at the beachhead for several days though, delaying the beginning of the linking-up with the Australian 17th Bde in the Bitoi Valley.

    Much can be written about the Australian-American relationships in this campaign, and Dexter is quite diplomatic (which is understandable, as most of the major players were still alive when this volume was published). The American troops themselves were respected, but the command confusion, deficit in junior leadership (which some of the Australian units also shared), and, it must be said, a certain degree of arrogance on some American officers (Roosevelt and Fuller, the latter the division commander), did not help matters. The lack of progress of Roosevelt’s battalion in Tambu Bay Aust Inf Bde a few ridges over.

    BJ (second comment).
    Yes, there are several similar sketches, by Ivor Hele. Both Hele and Parer were present in the aftermath of the Timbered Knoll attack, and Parer at least was there during, of course. By the time the Japanese positions were occupied, the light was fading fast, and those of the 2/3rd Coy present (one platoon plus one section of another platoon as a reserve) were occupied in evacuating their wounded (3 killed, 3 wounded), and digging in for the expected counter attack. (A week or so previously, not far south, the Japanese had spent three days and 20 separate attacks trying to regain a position called Ambush Knoll). Fifteen Japanese had been killed in the attack (which presumably includes several wounded), and a further three were killed the following morning. The Japanese defenders were from Usui Company of the 66th Inf Regt (I forget the battalion number). The remnants of this company were later involved in defending one of the last holdout positions at Charlie Hill, not too far east of Timbered Knoll.

    Mole.
    Your comment about logistics is spot on. The challenge of supply affected practically every element of this campaign. I could write an essay about the supply issues – from both sides – but I think it would be too dry for most.

    An interesting point is that it was discovered at the end of the campaign that both sides had possessed roughly the same number of artillery, and while the Japanese ability to supply amn to their guns was an important factor, some enemy guns were found with stocks of ammo ready for use.

  13. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Muddy

    For a fictionalised account of the experience of the 58th/59th Battalion (from Victoria, Johnston’s unit) in the Salamaua campaign, track down The Last Blue Sea, by David Forrest.

  14. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    I forgot to note that the second photograph from the top of the page is a still from Damien Parer newsreel footage of the attack on Timbered Knoll as it progressed. The burial scene was the following day. The last image is a drawing of the attack on the Samalaua Isthmus by the Boston bomber piloted by Flt. Lt. W.E. ‘Bill’ Newton, for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

    The Isthmus is the coconut palm-lined dogleg in the centre of the frame, which was garrisoned by the Japanese navy. Outside the bottom left of the frame was rising ground where a battery of A/A guns were located, but those which shot down Newton’s aircraft were based at MacDonald’s Junction, which was where the Isthmus joined the mainland.

    Behind the outer edge of the Boston’s port wing, in the background (not visible here) was the Salamaua airstrip. In the far background, above the aircraft’s tail, is Mount Tambu, one of the most strategic positions in this side of the battlefield.

    Newton crash landed in Bayern Bay approximately 4 inches (looking at the screen) to the left of the image frame. The Japanese Navy, whom he had just bombed and strafed, sent a boat to grab him and his surviving Serjeant (Lyon). Unsurprisingly, they were not happy with them having survived. Ten days later Newton was executed at a place called Kong Point, about five or six inches (again, as we are looking at the screen now), to the right of the right hand border of the drawing. The following day, Lyon was bayoneted at Lae. On the same day as Lyon’s execution, a U.S. airman by the name of Staff Sgt. Fox, was captured 8-10 miles from Salamaua, in the direction of Lae. His fellow crew member, Ramsay, who had parachuted with him into the Huon Gulf, did not survive the swim to shore. Whether he drowned or was taken by a shark (of which there were plenty in these waters) is unknown.

  15. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    B.J.
    I do have a copy of that book, thank you. The author’s name was a pseudonym. I forget his real name now, but he was a member of the 58/59th also. The characters in Forrest’s story are an amalgam, much like Peter Pinney’s ‘Johnno’ trilogy, which included The Barbarians, the latter about the 2/3rd Ind Coy in the Wau-Salamaua campaign. I’m confident that the brigade major in The Last Blue Sea was based partly on then Major George Warfe. The locations he writes about are based on real places also, though ‘The Triangle’ was not at Bobdubi Ridge, but a few miles further south, in the Goodview area (adjacent to Mt. Tambu). I’ve visited Bobdubi and Mt. Tambu, but did not get a chance to get to Goodview.

  16. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Muddy

    Agree re George Warfe as the “Golliwog”, BM.

  17. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    B.J.
    The 58/59th did have an officer transfer from their parent brigade’s headquarters; Captain Newman, who, I think, was a BM (L). He later became 2 i/c to Warfe. Neither man looked like a ‘Golliwog,’ but Forrest’s description of the character’s killer eyes fits with Maj. Warfe, and about a decade ago I had a former member of the battalion, who directed me to Forrest’s book, tell me that yes, G.W. Warfe, DSO, MC, was the inspiration for ‘The Golliwog.’

    If you’re familiar with Pinney’s The Barbarians, I also had the honour of briefly corresponding with the man Pinney depicted as ‘Possum,’ though as noted above, his characters were amalgams, which didn’t sit very well with many members of his former unit. Pinney was a renegade though, as is obvious with his many books, fiction and non-fiction alike. Though Pinney went on to be awarded an M.M. with the 2/8th Cdo Sqn on Bougainville, his character ‘Johnno’ was not a likeable soldier, where unrestricted individualism and independence was likely to jeopardise the functioning of the unit, and the safety of his mates. Even though the independent companies valued initiative, cohesion and discipline were still vital.

  18. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    The only war crime prosecution I’m aware of, directly connected with the Wau-Salamaua campaign, was that of a Japanese transport unit officer acquitted of murdering a Chinese civilian (quite a few Chinese had been captured in Canton and taken as forced labourers to Rabaul and other places, including Salamaua. Few of them survived).
    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=701510

    There were extensive investigations into missing men, some of whom were discovered to have been executed, however no prosecutions were undertaken, for several reasons. Most astonishing was the evidence of cannibalism and mutilation of bodies in the Battle for Wau, but again, I’m unaware of any prosecutions, despite these being included in Sir William Webb’s investigations, and the fact that a number of battalion commanders from the units possibly involved, survived the war and returned to Japan.

    *My apologies for the multiple posts, but I reason that anyone not interested in military history will not have read this far anyway.

  19. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Not connected with Wau-Salamaua, but relevant to my previous post regarding cannibalism: See p.5 of https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1348852

  20. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    Johnson, NOT Johnston. Memory fail!

  21. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Thanks, B.J. It’s a touch embarrassing that I didn’t pick that up!

  22. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Air strafing following the Battle for Wau:
    26th Feb ’43: 22 Sqn war diary: “Army Intell. Report – 47 enemy dead counted on Blackcat Track between Buibaining and Waipali in addition to many bodies in scrub off track [NAA: A9186, 45, ‘RAAF Unit History Sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book – Forms A50 and A51] Number 22 City of Sydney Squadron],’ p.236].”

  23. Boambee John Avatar
    Boambee John

    I have seen a description of Beaufighters strafing near Wau, with the 4 nose mounted cannons producing a “sheet of flame” several metres long.

  24. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    The Beaus were certainly a potent weapon, however tactical air support during the campaign was constrained due to both the jungle canopy and the nature of some of the enemy’s positions on razorback ridges. The Battle for Wau was an opportunity for strafers, both in the Valley and on the kunai ridges to the east, however once the Japanese entered the jungle again during their retreat, the best that could be done was harassing attacks along the known Ls of C. Sometimes it paid off, as noted above, but aside from Garrison Hill at Mubo, Komiatum Ridge, and of course Salamaua itself (Isthmus, Kela, the airstrip), there were few other ‘open’ areas where concentrations of the enemy might be targeted. Quite often, the results of such attacks were unobserved, making it difficult to estimate the efficiency of such air support.

  25. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    the frollickingmole above mentioned the important of logistics.

    The Japanese 6.5mm rifle and LMG ammunition came in a metal lined box of 850 rounds, [in clips of 5 rounds each; three clips to a cardboard container], weighed 57 ½ lbs. The same 6.5mm ammunition also came in boxes of 1,440 rounds, which weighed 82 1/2lbs. A 600 round wooden box of 7.7mm (.303 inch) MMG ammunition, weighed 52 ½ lbs.

    A wooden box containing three rounds of 70mm for a Japanese battalion gun, and 3 fuses, weighed 39lbs. Two 75mm field artillery rounds and 2 fuses, weighed 48lbs. Four rounds and four fuses for a 75mm mountain gun Type “94” weighed 85 ½ lbs.

    Consider that the natives in Australian service (under the auspices of ANGAU) were permitted to carry between 30 and 40 lbs (13.6 – 18kgs) each, depending on the conditions of the track and length of carry.

    While the Japanese at Salamaua began 1943 with an unknown number of Chinese ‘coolies’ and also impressed natives into service, as the year progressed, the Chinese dwindled in number, and ANGAU evacuated as many natives as possible from villages within the Japanese reach. This placed a greater burden for transporting supplies to the ordinary soldier.

  26. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    The greatest challenge for the Japanese was the security of their supply line from Rabaul to the Finschhafen-Lae-Salamaua area. After the Bismarck Sea disaster of early March, 1943, no further convoys were risked to their forward-most bases (though convoys were run to the northern-most ports, such as Madang). Motorised barges and submarines became the means of transporting supplies and men, and it was the hunting for these, mostly the former, in which the Allied air forces made their greatest contribution to the Salamaua Campaign.

    “In May 1943, supply submarines took 400 tons of cargo from Rabaul to the Huon Gulf area. In July, the Japanese managed to mount seven submarine transport missions that landed 195 men and 238 tons of supplies. The following month, seven submarines made a total of eighteen trips to Lae. According to a Japanese submarine commander who took part, submarines completed 95 trips to New Guinea between December 1942 and September 1943, in all transporting 3,500 tons of cargo. By contrast, in June 1943 alone, the Allies moved 55,305 tons from Milne Bay and Port Moresby to forward areas, increasing to 200,246 tons in September [Journal of the Australian War Memorial, No. 34 – June 2001: The naval campaigns for New Guinea by Dr. David Stephens, via https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/journal/j34/stevens%5D.”

    In mid August, 1943, the Japanese Southeast Area Submarine Force, 7th Submarine Squadron, had vessels I-121, I-122, I-174, I-176, I-1277, I-180, I-32, and I-38 engaged in the transportation of supplies and personnel to ‘eastern New Guinea’ [Salamaua was the only active area of operations at that time] [Reference available upon request].

    “Further proof of barge traffic at night from Lae to Salamaua is given by the flashing of search lights from Lae in the early hours of the morning, probably to guide home the barges. Our troops at the mouth of the Buang River heard the sound of engines at 2145 hours 14 Jul and again at 2200 hours the following night. On 14 Jul the barges were definitely moving south. Allowing an average speed of 7 knots these timings indicate that the barges leave Lae at about 2000-2030 hours. This gives them 2-2 ½ hours in which to load after dark. Arriving in Salamaua about 2330 hours they would have to leave again by 0500 hours to be back in hiding by daylight. The presence of barges in Lae Harbour at about 0600 hours would be accounted for by the back loading of casualties which would have to be taken ashore before the barges went to the hide outs. However, on 15 Jul 15 barges were seen in the harbour indicating possibly that a quantity of cargo had been carried on the return trip [Reference available upon request].”

  27. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Naval Lieutenant Yamada, Yasuo, was the senior naval officer at Salamaua when Flight Lieutenant Newton V.C. and Serjeant John Lyon ditched within sight of the Isthmus on the 18th of March, 1943. Yamada was from Yokohama, and had entered the Japanese Naval Academy at Eta Jima in 1935, and graduated four years later. He commanded No. 2 Detachment of the Sasebo No. 5 Special Naval Landing Party, which was approx. 200 strong, plus a detachment of roughly 80 others. He survived the war.

    No. 1 Detachment of Sasebo No. 5, commanded by Lt. Komai, Uichi, had not long returned to the naval area on the Salamaua Isthmus from Mubo (in the Bitoi Valley, inland), when the Australian Boston piloted by Newton was shot down. The strength of No. 1 detachment when they returned to Salamaua is not known, but they had been roughly 200 strong 8 months previously. Assuming they had been whittled down to just half strength, the Japanese naval garrison attacked by Newton on the 16th and 18th of March, 1943, was possibly 350-380.

  28. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    “When the prisoner-of-war [Sjt. John Lyon] was taken from the truck, Fujita ordered me to have the Prisoner-of-war blindfolded. I ordered a sailor to blindfold the Prisoner-of-war and that was done. Yamashita then led the Prisoner-of-war to the side of the grave and made him kneel on the edge. When the Prisoner-of-war was in position, Yamashita bayonetted him in the back in the vicinity of the heart. The Prisoner-of-war fell into the grave and Yamashita then bayonetted him again in the side. A short burial ceremony was held [unlikely]. The grave was then filled in [with Lyon possibly possibly still alive, according to a doctor who examined his remains when they were found five years later] and the party [which included the two highest ranking naval officers in the area] dispersed.”

    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=393663

  29. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    “On the day appointed for the executions No.2 Company [Miyata Butai/No. 82 Keibitai [Naval Guard Unit] took the 2 Prisoners of War to the place [at Lae] indicated on rough sketch … I walked alone to the scene … [he recalls the officers present, including the two most senior naval officers] … The 2 Australians were marched down with hands tied behind their backs. The execution arrangements were carried out by a No 2 Company Chief Petty Officer – I think, Tsuchiya – who called for volunteers. When none volunteered the Chief Petty Officer in charge ordered 2 men (names and ranks unknown) from No 2 Company to act as executioners. Both prisoners were led to the already dug graves and each made to kneel alongside. They were then blindfolded. One executioner then stepped up and several times bayonetted one Australian in the back. The other executioner then stopped [sic] forward and carried out a like operation on the other Australian. The bodies of the Australians were then thrown into the graves which were then filled. Lieutenant (medical) Kurobane did not ascertain if life was extinct before their bodies were buried.”

    https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1072561

    While this former Japanese naval officer’s recollection of time periods is confusing, it is likely this eye witness account refers to the executions of Sgt. Maybe of the No. 1 Independent Company Reinforcement Platoon, and Signaller McBarron, both of whom were attached to Kanga Force in mid 1942, and both captured in the Markham Valley, west of Lae.

    Neither man’s remains were found, although it is likely they were buried in the same general area as Sjt. John Lyon [mentioned above], and Staff Sgt. Fox, a U.S. airman captured just after Newton and Lyon.

  30. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Sgt. Mayne, sorry.
    One letter out, but disrespectful.

  31. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    U.S. award citation:
    “Maj. George M. Baldwin, for exceptionally meritorious conduct int he performance of outstanding services in New Guinea … Maj. Baldwin, commanding an artillery battalion, found it necessary as the result of the activities of an enemy raiding force concentrated in his battalion area, to convert part of his troops to Infantry to ward off repeated attacks …”
    [American Field Artillery Journal, June, 1944, p.391].

    The events referred to in the above citation took place in the southern part of Tambu Bay, on the coast roughly 9 kilometres southeast of the Salamaua aerodrome in the middle of August, 1943. A Japanese raiding force had indeed infiltrated the area where most of the American and Australian field artillery was located, and made two nighttime attempts – one on an Australian position and one on an American troop to destroy the guns. Ultimately unsuccessful, it was a daring attempt by the enemy to an encroaching threat. It was not without damage though, because three Australians were killed at one gun position, and another half a dozen were ambushed and killed as one of the Japanese parties sought to return to their base area.

  32. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    In the first Japanese air raid on the mainland of New Guinea, on the 21st of January, 1942, a combined total of 15 civilian aircraft and one RAAF Hudson were destroyed at the three targeted aerodromes (Lae (6), Salamaua (6), Bulolo (3).

    While a handful of these were of small capacity, the losses seriously hindered the number of civilian aircraft available to complement the paucity of military aircraft for supply and communications purposes when the Japanese landed on the Papuan coast (Gona-Sanananda-Buna) seven months later.

  33. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Roosevelt Ridge, 28th of July, 1943.
    Sgt. Floyd West, ‘E’ Coy, 162nd U.S. Inf. Regt:

    “Our climb to combat on the ridge-crest was heartbreaking. We had to literally crawl up a 60-degree slope hand to hand to hand from one brush clump to another. My BAR weighed 22 pounds, and 22 steel clips weighed almost as much. I wore a 40-pound combat pack with at least four grenades in it.
    In the area where “E” fought, the slope was less than 20 degrees, with visibility into the jungle less than 100 feet. As my BAR opened up, I worried about hitting F 162 men in the jungle who might have already taken the ground before us. Yet I had to spray the leafy tangle to cover E Company men, and hope not to hit any Yanks.
    I expended all of my BAR clips against unseen Japs, and called for more. No BAR clips came, so I refilled my clips with machine gun cartridges. Every fourth was a tracer, but I continued the fight for Roosevelt Ridge. Again I sprayed the jungle – my gun now so hot that the barrel lightly burned my left hand.
    This was a time in the midst of combat when a man’s own life seems not to matter. I couldn’t hear any other fire over the blasts of my BAR, and the machine gun bullets seemed to have halted Jap fire completely. I never stopped to think that even if I couldn’t see where my tracers were hitting – that the Japs could see where they were coming from.
    Then two Jap bullets found me. One really played havoc. The BAR was shot out of my right hand. A bullet hit my partly loaded BAR clip and blew it up while it was only partly fired.
    The explosion smashed the knuckle above my right first finger. It stripped 90 percent of the flesh from the other side of the middle finger. Only a couple of strips of the clip remained in the BAR breach. My hand was permanently blackened from powder burns. Small fragments of cartridge casings and clips – dozens of slivers – dug into my right hand and shoulder and chest still to be removed by doctors years later.
    I also had a hole the size of a half-dollar in my right cheek. The Medic – I remember his name as Williams – said, “You’re sure lucky. It missed your jugular vein by less than an inch.”
    The most important first aid that Medic Williams gave me was for the middle finger with its 90 percent of the skin loose and dangling. He wrapped the loose skin back with a bandage over a tongue depressant. “I can save that skin for you,” he said. “Don’t let anybody unwrap it.” Despite the offensive odor, I kept the bandage on and saved 90 percent of the skin with but a little scar tissue.”

    [Jungleer newsletter; full reference available upon request].

  34. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Pte. Sala, ‘A’ Coy Papuan Infantry Battalion, citation for award of Military Medal (M.M.):

    “On 1 Jul ’43, near Dinga Pt. [Cape Dinga formed the southern boundary of Nassau Bay, where the America MacKechnie Force landed at the beginning of Operation Doublet] this soldier while on patrol with two other Native members of his Unit, surprised and opened fire on an enemy party in a village [there were three villages on the southern shore of Nassau Bay: Bassis I, II, and III]. Three of the enemy took refuge in a large “T” shaped dugout. Pte. Sala immediately hurled three hand grenades into the dugout and then attempted to enter. He was met with a burst of L.M.G. fire. He then despatched one member of the patrol for assistance and ordered the other to guard the bush track. He then threw another grenade into the dugout and again tried to enter. This time he drew rifle fire. He then mounted guard at the entrance to the dugout. When reinforcements arrived, he threw one more grenade and was the first to enter. The three occupants were dead.

    On the 3 Jul 43, while employed as a despatch runner, this soldier saw five Japs enter a Native hut. Unobserved, he crept to the hut and hurled a grenade inside but could not wait to investigate further.

    This soldier has shown outstanding bravery at all times and a keen willingness to participate in offensive operations.”

    [Again, the reference is available upon request].

    Sala, who was from the Aitape area on the far northern coast, had only enlisted in the PIB on the 18th of March that year (1943).

  35. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Capt. D. Provan, 15th Aust Inf Bn (29th Bde), citation for award of Military Cross (M.C.):

    “On 1 Sep 43 during operations against the enemy in the Scout Ridge Sector of the Salamaua defences, by his outstanding leadership and command whilst subject to heavy enemy fire and in total disregard for his own personal safety, succeeded in holding his precarious posn on the edge of the enemy’s main line of defences.

    During the consolidation of this posn, the Coy was strongly counter-attacked on two occasions. With all but one of his officers wounded & although wounded himself in three places, in the head and body[,] Capt. D. Provan continued to personally direct the defences of the ground gained, continuously subjecting himself to enemy fire to ensure that the posn was held until he became exhausted & suffering from loss of blood had to be evacuated.”

    [Reference will be supplied upon request].

    Scout Ridge was the dominating topographical feature on the coastal axis of advance, which, for the first two 7 or 8 weeks of Operation Doublet, had been spearheaded by the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the U.S. 162nd Inf Regt. Several miles in length, Scout Ridge, heavily jungle-covered, had minor ridges and spurs shooting off both sides (coastal and inland), and was the key to reaching the Francisco River (which ran parallel to the aerodrome) from the south.

  36. Pattmclit Avatar
    Pattmclit

    Thx Muddy, I found that V interesting
    Pat

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