capture of buna

position under cover of a smoke screen laid down by mortars. Even before Eichelberger and his deeply trusted chief of staff, Brigadier General Clovis Byers, could settle into their rooms, they received a summons to meet with MacArthur and were ushered onto the veranda. The Japanese planned to seize Buna, site of an Australian government mission, and then send troops south along the Kokoda Trail, which wound over the rugged Owen Stanley Range, to capture the Allied base at Port Moresby on the southern coast of Papua. All products are produced on-demand and shipped worldwide within 2 - 3 business days. 45 days of fighting, Buna Mission was ours. Then some of our troops advanced too far and alerted When MacArthur thereafter realized that the capture of Buna village did not necessarily mean the imminence of final victory, he urged Eichelberger to mass his forces for one final climactic attack against Buna Government Station and the rest of the Japanese defensive perimeter. By this time, Buna village had been captured but the Japanese remained well-entrenched around the airfields and the government station. A church parade in the shade of trees. The village was taken by nightfall, with the help of … Village. This ended the last organized resistance in the Weapons were corroding or unattended in the tropical climate. He had barely hung on to Port Moresby. Before dawn E Company, 127th Infantry, and F Company, 128th Infantry, Chastened but angry, Eichelberger did all he could to limit his exposure to the media. He was also an average, if not uninterested, student. Village side to the spit on the Mission side and reported the crossing The Australian counteroffensive in New Guinea contributed to the capture of the islands of Buna and Gona, and eventually led to the Japanese losing out on every one of their captured islands. the corridor which it had forced through to the sea between Giropa Point His entourage included Colonel Rogers and four others. failed. Kerry Packer, Australian businessman who founded World Series Cricket. “I take it I am to return to Moresby,” Harding said. One-day totals of six to 10 inches were not uncommon. It was midafternoon on November 30 by the time Eichelberger and members of his staff arrived at Government House—the rambling four-bedroom, one-story house in Port Moresby, on Papua’s western shore—where MacArthur had located his headquarters. (U.S. Army Center of Military History), Eichelberger’s run-in with the snipers was typical of what was happening all over the Buna perimeter. While he was unwilling to squander lives in pursuit of his military ambitions, there was nonetheless a single-minded ruthlessness about him. “I would rather have you slip a rattlesnake in my pocket than to have you give me any publicity,” the lieutenant general told an academy classmate who headed up the War Department’s public relations branch. Buna Village had been taken on the background. (Robert L. Eichelberger Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, ESRPH080014240). men withdrew, circling east of the enemy positions. Two American soldiers fire into a Japanese dugout before entering it for inspection during the Allied offensive that ended with the capture of Buna Mission, last Japanese point of resistence in the Papuan Peninsula. Casualties among his retinue inevitably piled up. Filthy and tired, the men had a shadowy appearance. 22d; the same day a platoon of F Company crossed Entrance Creek to Musita Still fewer succeeded in swimming to Sanananda, where they shared the fate But there was still the little matter of overrunning the Japanese defenders. “We just keep looking for Japs, killing them, and pushing ahead.”, The troops still had few weapons beyond grenades and rifles with which to assault the well-camouflaged Japanese bunkers. During the night of the 29th a patrol from H Company under Lt. Alan While the attacks chewed up the remnants of the 2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry—Lieutenant Odell’s F Company had only 38 soldiers left—they inflicted hundreds of casualties on the Japanese. Thanks to Bottcher and his men, Buna village was cut off from the Government Station (and Bottcher earned not only his citizenship but also a field commission and the Distinguished Service Cross). of its defenders. pulled back to reorganize. The 32nd Division was shattered and had to be completely rebuilt. hand grenades and rifle fire, killing three of the enemy. other jaw of the pincers, was held up along the beach. Here enemy rifle, grenade, What Eichelberger did not know was that the “little devils” were nearly finished. region. MacArthur decided to commit the U.S. 32nd Infantry Division to New Guinea to Capture Buna. Mar. The action on the Urbana front, without tank support, moved forward Generals Blamey and Eichelberger inspect captured Japanese equipment. By 29 December the wedge had been driven through. This story was originally published in the October 2019 issue of World War II magazine. the remaining Japanese were driven slowly up the coast through the desolate The call came into U.S. “Realistically we found bunkers by losing men,” one survivor said. A final assault was planned for the 31st. was mortally wounded, but the advance continued. On the right, I Company Before Operation POSTERN could be attempted, U.S. ground forces needed six months to recover.2 Figure 2. On the beach of Buna Mission, last point of Japanese resistance in the Papuan section of New Guinea, the bodies of slain Japanese soldiers lie a few steps from their shattered landing boat. This was accomplished at a steep cost, with 8,500 Allied casualties, 27,000 cases of malaria, and 4 divisions (2 American and 2 Australian) that were either rendered combat ineffective or severely depleted. At one point, Eichelberger was pinned down for a quarter of an hour, bullets zipping by about four inches overhead, spattering everywhere around him. Eichelberger breathed a sigh of relief when he found out that both would recover. “Tell him to please be patient.”. Kenneth E. Gruennert, leading Prodigious rains, usually falling in torrents at night, soaked everyone and everything. Prodded by Eichelberger, American soldiers day by day attacked and killed tenacious Japanese defenders at such places as the Duropa Plantation, the Triangle, Government Gardens, and Simemi Creek. from E Company led by S/Sgt. Eichelberger knew that the mass offensive MacArthur envisioned was an impossibility. in the lines at the Coconut Grove. Boice, third commander 14 December by the 3d Battalion, 127th Infantry. Though the two old classmates ate breakfast together the next day, their relationship never recovered; in fact, it was the last time they ever spoke. Buna’s capture was more difficult than had been expected due to faulty intelligence reports and ignorance—of the terrain, weather conditions, and the health of the Allied forces. In the course of the next 3 days, units of the 127th Infantry established On December 3, the troops ate their first hot meal in nearly two weeks. Eichelberger hands a soldier a cigarette—a goodwill gesture that became a war-long habit for the nonsmoking general. At last Harding blurted, “You were probably sent here to get heads. “The Papuan campaign is in its final closing phase,” MacArthur’s headquarters stated triumphantly. It was late November 1942 and General Douglas MacArthur, Allied supreme commander for the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA), needed the corps commander to stave off a debacle. The problem during the heavy fighting of the next 3 days was to “I know how anxious General MacArthur must be,” he told Sutherland in one typical missive. One platoon of L Company, split into patrols, broke through a weak spot Many others were buried by their comrades in the course of the battle. “The Sanananda position [the final Japanese-held perimeter in the area] has now been completely enveloped. There was nothing subtle about the offensive. (George Strock/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images). In a renewal of the attack on Christmas Day, first F Company under Capt. With the victory at Buna, the Allies had now driven a permanent wedge in the Japanese defensive perimeter. Often they fought at handshake range. reached the point of the Mission. Daniel F. Rini of E Company captured a third bunker almost single-handed. In almost all the small-unit actions, the two sides fought within a couple hundred yards of each other. last evacuated it. The Capture of Buna 15 December 1942--3 January 1943. Memorial. Several carried Thompson submachine guns. Waldron followed and expressed his regrets, as did Eichelberger. The Americans were putting pressure on the Japanese, inflicting damage on them, but significant forward movement was negligible. But although victory now seemed probable, Eichelberger was well aware that, as he put it, “the fighting was under conditions that are indescribable.” The monotonous 90-degree heat and high humidity sapped energy and made it difficult to stay hydrated. An Upper Level High Pressure Ridge (Shaded “Arch” shape with arrows) pushes away some of the clouds to dry us out for a bit. A platoon from H Company, 126th Infantry, under the command of Staff Sergeant Herman J. F. Bottcher, 33, infiltrated past several enemy bunkers and made it to the beach between Buna village and Buna Government Station, a prewar Australian colonial outpost a few hundred yards farther east along the coast. Palm trees and branches lie strewn on the shell-churned soil of Buna Village, New Guinea, in the wake of the Japanese retreat before U.S. and Australian forces. The “There was some talk that I would be shot in the back by some of [Harding’s] men,” he later wrote. If necessary, put sergeants in charge of battalions and corporals in charge of companies. They reached undertook to establish a corridor to the 3 forward companies (A, F, and For the first time, the Americans had breached the Japanese defensive line. attacked this position in the evening. On the 29th. Subscribe here. Many thousands more soldiers were, of course, stricken with disease, bringing the overall casualty rate from battle and disease, factoring in replacement troops, to well over 100 percent. The Japanese force at Buna You said I wouldn’t make the grade at West Point, and now I’m running the place.”, His ultimate goal, though, was to command troops in battle. Urbana Front: Capture of Buna Mission (15 December-2 January) The action on the Urbana front, without tank support, moved forward less dramatically but with equal success. Within a few minutes, they all became enmeshed in confusing, intimate duels with the unseen snipers. The graphics for days 1-3 show the front that moves through the Pacific Northwest today and another offshore Friday. “Our shoes were full of blood, and those sores never went away,” one of the afflicted wrote in his diary. There was one bright spot, though. The assault For two days he called a halt to all operations while he installed new leaders, restored unit integrity, planned a new offensive, fed the troops, clothed them properly, got them medical care, and restored their shaken morale. Well done, Bob.”. E Company swung east but was unable to clear the bridgehead Bridge over Entrance Creek to Musita Island. II : Sanananda --Background of the Sanananda Operation - … to tree-top level to plant almost 500 20-pound parachute bombs and to strafe “Well, off we went, and within minutes our forward rush had definitely and completely halted,” Odell wrote. In the cover what is offered is an original wartime photo! Robert Eichelberger continued to serve under MacArthur (here in Tokyo in April 1948), notably as commander of the occupation army in Japan. This I : Buna --Background of the Buna operation --Battering at Buna (19 November --14 December) --Warren Front : capture of the old strip (15 December --3 January) --Urbana Front : capture of the Buna Mission (15 December --2 January) --pt. GIs approach a Japanese foxhole in Buna. B Company extended the corridor southeast of the Mission to the sea Their battalion commander, Lt. Charles E. Wagner and Pfc. fire, but the Japanese had evacuated the positions under fire and set up “If there was an opening in the jungle,” Sergeant Henry Dearchs, another infantry soldier, recalled, “the Japs didn’t shoot at the first guy. This attack came within thirty miles of Port Moresby, before an … The enemy had already seized the western half of the island from the Dutch. attack, but the troops could not advance and dug in where they were. Come with us.” They got up and followed, though undoubtedly some wondered if this old man with the stars was out of his mind. Buna (see Figure 3). enemy out of the north half of Government Gardens. On 8 January, they arrived at Tarakena. He had already lost the Philippines. Relieve every regimental and battalion commander. southeast of the Mission, but the enemy attacked their rear and destroyed The lieutenant general was especially angry at a sentence from a communiqué MacArthur released soon after the conclusion of the Papua campaign: “There was no necessity to hurry the attack because the time element, in this case, was of little importance.” For a commander who had repeatedly risked his life and expended the lives of many other good men because his chief told him that time was of paramount importance, the statement was hard to take. Now his first offensive in the war was careening toward disaster. The battle casualty rate was nearly one in four. Dictated by the swampy terrain, Harding had divided his command into two main, noncontinuous regimental-size fronts. BAYTOWN (3 September 1943) British invasion of Italy at Reggio di Calabria mounted from Sicily ... plan (canceled) for the occupation of the Buna area of New Guinea PUGILIST-GALLOP (1943) attack to outflank the Mareth Line in Tunisia QUADRANT U.S.-British Conference at Quebec, August 1943. of this bunker he bandaged a serious wound in his shoulder and charged Buna Village has been taken. and Giropa Point. The commander of the 1st Battalion, Maj. Schroeder, Often he wrote to Sutherland, or even MacArthur himself, pleading for forbearance. … at the east end of the island and attack northeast toward the Mission. no farther. On the 23d the engineers finished a small footbridge across Entrance The U.S. Army’s official historian quite properly termed the campaign “one of the costliest of the Pacific war.”. On 20 December this company under Capt. Allied troops in occupation of Buna after its capture. In the midst of it all, General Eichelberger tried to hold together his army and destroy the Japanese through his attrition plan. If you don’t relieve them, I’ll relieve you. Col. Herbert A. Smith, charged at the head of a squad to take one bunker; Other groups followed, The Buna battle had really boiled down to the stark reality that the Americans now had to annihilate the defenders, bunker by bunker, trench by trench, tree by tree, probably until they were all dead—an extermination duel that was nearly unprecedented in U.S. Army history. Eichelberger was polite but distracted. As night settled over Dobodura, Harding visited Eichelberger’s tent and began to brief him on new attack plans. On 27 December General Eichelberger came up and directed the operation. The tired American survivors picked through the ruins of their hard-won objective. Photo: KRISTIAN NOE I. ROMANES, CC BY-SA 4.0. “They can, and they did,” Harding replied matter-of-factly. He launched a series of small, tenacious attacks against the beleaguered enemy garrison at Buna village. Creek at the edge of the Coconut Grove, and five companies of the 127th (Bettmann/Getty Images), These slights might have been nothing more than a mere annoyance to a less sensitive and proud man than Eichelberger. Japanese soldiers lie on the beach near Buna Government Station in January 1943, their wrecked landing vessel in the background. A few escaped into the jungle, where they starved or were hunted down. “Harding has failed miserably. The Capture of Buna Village (6--14 December) For the next week activity was very restricted. G Company took three of the bunkers but got “Of the 40 men who started with me, four had been…killed and 18 were laying wounded. Though he privately resented aspects of “Mac,” their relationship in person was good. THE MISSION FALLS (28 DECEMBER-2 JANUARY), Even before the occupation of the Triangle, it was clear that the 127th had been destroyed. the night the battalion was relieved. At 1600 another mortar concentration heralded a new to cross Entrance Creek above the Coconut Grove, and to drive to the sea When MacArthur found out that Buna village had fallen, he was jubilant. United States Office Of War Information. More than anything, he felt disappointed in MacArthur and hurt by his actions. Work parties were better organized. Bob, I want you to take Buna or not come back alive.” He pointed at Byers. Shells pitted the area. Once the attackers identified the location of a bunker, one group sprayed the surrounding trees with fire to eliminate snipers, while the other attempted to get close enough to kill anyone in the bunker. Eichelberger continued to spend most of his days at or near the forward positions. “It is important for the attacking force to be certain that all enemy personnel in a ‘destroyed’ bunker are dead,” one junior officer advised. began wading across and by 0500 had gained the spit on the Mission side US Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller, deputy commander-in-chief for military operations with US Central Command (Forward) during the First Gulf War. one of these patrols, charged a bunker single-handed and put it out with of the Triangle. and the Mission. These gallant attacks made clear the extreme difficulty of taking the He occasionally browbeat officers whom he considered weak or ineffective. The 1st Battalion, 127th Infantry, advancing on the right flank as the G Company, 128th Infantry, attacked up the trail on the 17th life but saved his company commander by smothering the explosion of an Unlike his iconic chief, though, posterity has largely forgotten him. Another remembered, “The only place we could attack was in their line of fire.”, Japanese riflemen tied themselves to the tops of coconut trees and acted in a dual role as observers for their comrades in nearby bunkers and as snipers who picked off men as they tried to advance. Many of they smashed through to Entrance Creek. In a letter to his wife, Eichelberger contemptuously referred to MacArthur as “the great hero” who, although not seeing Buna before, during, or after the fight, permitted press articles saying that “he was leading troops in battle.”, The notion that MacArthur personally led soldiers in action at Buna solidified among the American public—a myth that bothered Eichelberger on many levels, especially from the standpoint of personal integrity. There was no actual line, just confused clumps of frightened soldiers scattered around the jungle. At the Urbana front, they saw a group of soldiers take some fire within a few yards of their jump-off point and go to ground. Incessant attacks on both fronts characterized the final phase of the Buna operation. Crossing Entrance Planes were unloaded with more reliability. The few soldiers actually at the front would not go forward. But it took several more hard weeks of fighting by Australian troops and the 41st Infantry Division’s 163rd Infantry Regiment, plus many more agonizing days of frontline-combat command for Eichelberger, before the Allies on January 22 could claim to control Sanananda, thus ending the Papua campaign. He saw in the army a chance to prove himself. The island of New Guinea stood like a giant shield of mountainous jungle between Australia and the all-conquering empire of Japan. MacArthur continued pacing and railing against the situation at Buna, then paused, looked at Eichelberger, and uttered fateful words: “That is the job I’m giving you. 22 Rare Photographs That Capture the Brutal Life of American Troops During the Battle of Buna-Gona From mid-November 1942 to the end of January 1943 the Australians and the Americans reduced the Japanese base in the Gona-Buna-Sanananda area. Gas stoves were brought up to provide hot meals, and the soldiers were permitted to have their pack rolls. As a result, American ground combat capability in SWPA was substantially limited for most of 1943. K Company attacked across the creek east of Musita Island They had only 10 minutes to recon the area. In hopes of luring the Americans into an ambush, Japanese soldiers shouted, “Hey, we give up!” or “Hey, we surrender!” only to gun down anyone who left cover. enemy thus cut off in the Mission was assailed each day until 2 January, Offered for bid is an original US wartime photograph/snapshot (see scan) that measures to be approximately 3.5" x 2.5" inches in size. Richard Jewell, police officer who discovered pipe bombs on the grounds of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and helped evacuate the area before the bombs exploded. regain and maintain contact with this forward spearhead by clearing the The prize for each typical advance was usually a couple of hundred yards of stinking swamp, jungle, or coastal coconut palms. When the call from SWPA headquarters, at last, came on that listless Sunday afternoon, he understood exactly what it meant. Like nearly everyone else, General Eichelberger experienced the horror of the sniper fire. Sgt. The same was true when he later encountered members of three attacking rifle companies. All other things are merely subsidiary to this. The 18th Brigade's first attack was launched in the airfield area by the 2/9th and 2/10th Battalions on the morning of 18 December. The attack “I was feeling decidedly hurt,” Eichelberger later admitted. Horace N. Harger worked Thirteen A-20's dropped Instead of replacing Byers with another division commander, he simply filled the role himself. 127th Infantry, could see our tanks in the vicinity of Giropa Point. Hot, humid, insect-infested, Papua’s battlefield conditions were memorably awful. their way across the Government Gardens, crawling through the grass from but lost 10 of the 27 men in the company within half an hour. Thirty-four men, almost half the pushed across the creek and established a bridgehead well to the north For the general, Buna represented a professional crossroads of sorts. Dobodura ( 148.365E 8.765S ) was a large area of unforested firm ground in the middle of the jungle, most likely a fossil river bed, that was suitable for rapid development of airfields. The Urbana sector, which he named for Eichelberger’s hometown, was on the western flank, in front of Buna village, where the Japanese had anchored their perimeter; the Warren front, named after the Ohio county Harding was from, was on the eastern flank. American troops everywhere. They’d let you all come in before firing.”. One by one they captured primitive prewar airfields on the northern shore of Australian-controlled Papua New Guinea. W. Simms waded across the mouth of Entrance Creek from the spit on the Newly promoted to lieutenant general, Robert L. Eichelberger, 56, had spent his entire life preparing for this sort of summons. Photo: US Airman w/ Captured Japanese A6M Fighter; BUNA, New Guinea 1943!!! 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