The 32D 'Red Arrow' Veteran Association

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The 32D Infantry Division

in World War II

The ‘Red Arrow’

Papuan Campaign - The Battle of Buna

 

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Papuan Campaign - The Battle of Buna

“The Japanese line at Buna was, in its way, a masterpiece. It forced the 32D Division to attack the enemy where he was strongest – in the Triangle, along the trail leading to the bridge between the strips; along the northern edge of the strip; and frontally in the Duropa Plantation. By canalizing the Allied attack into these narrow, well-defended fronts, the Japanese who had short, interior lines of communication, and could shift troops from front to front by truck and landing craft, were in a position to exploit their available strength to the maximum, no matter what its numerical inferiority to that of the Allies.” (Milner 142-3)

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"Buna"
copyrighted image
"Honoring Those Who Have Served through Art".
A.M. Stencel
Stencel Military Fine Art

“The basic plan of attack was relatively simple. The objective was to destroy the enemy. The 32d Infantry Division and the Australian 7th Division were to attack abreast, the 32d Division on the right. The boundary between the divisions was to be the Girua River. Movement forward was to commence on 16 November 1942.” (Blakeley 55)

On 15 November 1942 MG Harding issued Field Order No. 1 for the operation. A battalion of the 128TH would move west along the coast to Cape Endaiadere; another would take the Buna airfield; the remaining battalion would be the Division reserve, held near Dobodura, where it would help the engineers prepare a landing strip. The 126TH, minus 2D Bn. which was still a few days away, would move to Inonda and later to Buna. The attack would commence on 19 November.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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Soldiers of Co. L, 3D Bn., 128TH Inf., 32D Division, crossing footbridge between Warisota Plantation and Boreo, New Guinea on 15 November 1942.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
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Soldiers of Co. L and Co. M, 128TH Inf., 32D Division, wading across the Samboga River between Boreo and Dobodura, during the drive on Buna, New Guinea on 15 November 1942.

“NEW” photo added 5 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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LTC Herbert A. Smith leading some of his 2D Bn., 128TH Inf. Soldiers across a river on the way to Embogo on 15 November 1942.

“NEW” photo added 4 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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Australian troops load 3.7 inch mountain guns onto a captured Japanese barge on 15 November 1942. It is likely that they were being loaded at Biamu, Oro Bay, for transport up the coast closer to Buna (the guns mentioned below). It is possible that these soldiers are from O'Hare Troop of the 1st Australian Mountain Battery.

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Here is a map of the Buna area, 16-21 November 1942, from the US Army Center of Military History website.

 

 

“Just to make victory doubly certain, Harding and his artillery officer, Brigadier General W. Waldron, had been trying to get some tanks and heavy artillery to use in the attack on Buna. They received little support from General MacArthur, and for this the responsibility partly lay with General Kenney, who argued that tanks and artillery had no place in jungle warfare. Kenney’s influence over MacArthur remained very strong-strangely so in a matter concerning ground action in the jungle, on which he could have had no real knowledge. Loyal to Air, Kenney maintained that “The artillery in this theater flies.”

“The American officers on the Buna coast disagreed; and turned for help to the Australians. Lend-lease light tanks were then at Milne Bay, but could not be brought forward. With the artillery, they had better luck. One of the flat-bottomed, motor-driven barges the Japanese had left behind at Milne Bay could be used to transport the guns. Shuttling back and forth, the barge brought up four 25-pounder guns and two 3.7-inch mountain howitzers, also their Australian crews.”

“In a daring commando landing ahead of the troops, General Waldron took the two mountain howitzers to the front in the Japanese barge on the evening of November 15. Moving cautiously up the coast in the blackness, about midnight the barge grounded at Cape Sudest, a headland about halfway between Embogo and Hariko. There was no sign of life, on the sound of breakers and lashing palm fronds. Putting the howitzers and crews ashore before daybreak, Waldron returned in the empty barge to pick up two of the 25-pounder guns. His ammunition was to be brought up next day in General MacNider’s [McNider] command ship, the trawler Kelton. (Mayo 93) [updated 19 May ‘12]

 

“NEW” photo added 4 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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BG MacNider (McNider) (center) planning for the mid-November attack on Buna.

On 16 November the advance commenced according to plan. On the coast, the 128TH Infantry moved forward in two columns. The 1ST Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. McCoy) moved up the trail toward Cape Endaiadere. The second column, a little further inland, was 3D Battalion (LTC Miller) followed by 2D Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Herbert A. Smith), headed for the bridge between the air strips near Buna Mission. On the left of the Division’s zone, Colonel Tomlinson's 126TH Infantry (minus the 2D Bn. which was near the end of its march over the Owen Stanley Mountains) moved out from Bofu toward Inonda and Buna.

“On the other side of the Girua, to the left of the 32d Division, the Australian infantry also started its advance. The fight for Buna had begun with both the Americans and Australians anticipating an easy victory. (Blakeley 56)

“Early in the afternoon came the first indication that the battle for Buna might be costly. The men at Hariko saw American bombers over the Buna area being attacked by a heavy volume of antiaircraft fire; one bomber went down in flames. A reconnaissance patrol ran into Japanese machinegun fire from Cape Endaiadere. Artillery support was called for, and the mountain howitzers were brought up. At [1640 hours] the crews fired on Cape Endaiadere.”

At 1845 hours on 16 November, 17 or 18 Japanese Zeros attacked the 32D Division's supply boats about one half of a mile off Cape Sudest (about 8 or 10 miles SE of Buna) while they were enroute from Embogo to Hariko. The schooner Alacrity, towing a small barge, was laden with ammunition as well as the 29 men and equipment of the 22D Portable Hospital. MAJ Parker C. Hardin, from Charleston, IL, was the commander of the hospital. Other personnel aboard the Alacrity included 1LT John E. Harbert, an ordnance officer, and 40 native ammunition bearers. The trawler Bonwin was carrying ammunition and gasoline drums as well as LTC McKenny, Thomas Fisher, and Frank Bagnall (the latter two Australian cameramen). The trawler Minnemura was transporting ammunition, rations, radio supplies, 81mm mortars, .50 caliber machine guns, and other assorted heavy equipment which could not be easily carried through the jungles and swamps by the Soldiers. MG Harding, his aides, COL Herbert B. Laux, an Army Ground Forces observer, CPT John R. Keegan, and Geoffrey Reading, an Australian war correspondent, were also aboard the Minnemura. The Japanese barge was loaded with two Australian 25-pounder howitzers, their crews, and as much 25-pounder ammunition they could cram aboard. BG Waldron and COL Harold F. Handy, an Army Ground Forces observer, were also aboard the Japanese barge.

The Soldiers tried to fend off the Zeros with mostly small arms fire, but they were unsuccessful. A couple of available machine guns were put into action too, witnesses say they destroyed at least one and damaged at least one more of the Zeros. Soon the boats were burning and everyone was forced into the water when the ammunition started to explode. The two generals were among those who made it to shore, numerous witness statements credit MG Harding with assisting wounded Soldiers to shore and to rescue boats. Robert Doyle, a war correspondent for the Milwaukee Journal, was aboard one of the vessels and made the half-mile swim to shore. LTC McKenny and 23 other U.S. and Australian personnel were KIA. Thomas Fisher, an Australian cameraman, was among those killed; he had been photographing the American advance since October. About 28 of the native ammunition bearers were also killed. About 100 personnel had been wounded. [updated 19 May ‘12]

LTC Laurence A. McKenny has been MIA since 16 Nov. ’42, although he was presumed KIA that day. He and his family had ties to both Wisconsin and Michigan, but he entered active service for WWII from Detroit. He had served in France during WWI, some sources claim he served with the 32D Division, others state he served with the Air Corps; others list him on roster of Co. C, 313TH Fld. Sig. Bn., 88TH Division. He was LTC assigned to HQ, 63D Inf. Bde., Michigan National Guard, at Detroit, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. He was principal of an elementary school in Detroit, MI, when he entered active service for WWII. [added 8 May ‘13]

“Ten participants were later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross [for their heroic efforts to rescue comrades in spite of the enemy fire and exploding ammunition on 16 November]: Colonel John J. Carew, 114th Engineer Battalion; Lieutenant John E. Harbert, Ordnance; Lieutenant Herbert G. Peabody, Division Headquarters Company; Staff Sergeant John R. MacGowan, Sergeant Howard J. Weiss, Corporal Gordon C. Snyder and Private Cloyd G. Myers of the 128th Infantry [HQ, H & I Cos.]; Private First Class Donald R. Price, Privates Maro P. Johnson and Homer W. [McAllister (MacAllister)] of the 107th Quartermaster Battalion. (Blakeley 60) The citations are in GHQ SWPA GO No. 64, 28 Dec. ’42, and GO No. 1, 1 Jan. ’43. Some information about them is listed here and additional information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

COL Carew was from Medford, Massachusetts, and was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest.

1LT Harbert was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. He was born in Kansas and his home of record was Mount Vernon, Washington, but then CPL Harbert was assigned to the l07TH Ordnance Company, Michigan National Guard, at Pontiac, Michigan, when the 32D Div. was mobilized on 15 Oct. '40.

1LT Peabody was from Vermont and was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. He was bestowed with a second DSC nineteen days later on 5 Dec. '42. [added 13 Dec. ‘12]

SSG MacGowen, from Wisconsin and assigned to HQ Co., 128TH Inf., was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. He was a PVT in Co. L, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Beloit, WI, when the 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 20 Dec. ‘12]

SGT Weiss, from Edgerton, Wisconsin, and assigned to HQ Co., 128TH Inf., was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. He was a CPL in HQ Co., 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Edgerton, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 1 Jan. ‘13]

CPL Snyder, from Michigan and assigned to Co. I, 128TH Inf., was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 1 Jan. ‘13]

PFC Price, from Whitewater, Wisconsin, was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. He was a PVT in Co. F, 107TH QM Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Whitewater, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 29 Dec. ‘12]

PVT Johnson, from Illinois and assigned to Co. A, 107TH QM Bn. was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 20 Dec. ‘12]

PVT McAllister (MacAllister), from South Carolina and assigned to Co. A, 107TH QM Bn., was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 21 Dec. ‘12]

PVT Myers, from Nebraska and assigned to Co. H, 128TH Inf., was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 28 Dec. ‘12]

Numerous other Soldiers earned the Silver Star for their actions during the aerial attack against the supply boats off Cape Sudest on 16 November. Some of them are listed below and additional information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

MG Edwin F. Harding, from Ohio and Commanding General, 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to assist in the rescue effort on 16 November near Hariko. [added 14 Jan. ‘13]

MAJ Stanley W. Hollenbeck, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Commander of the 14TH Portable Surgical Hospital, earned the Silver Star for providing medical treatment to the survivors of the attack on 16 November. He was a MAJ and commander of Med. Dept., 126TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Milwaukee, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 3 Jan. ‘13]

MAJ Parker C. Hardin, from Charleston, Illinois, and Commander of the 22D Portable Hospital, earned the Silver Star for providing medical treatment to the survivors of the attack on 16 November. He himself was one of those survivors and swam nearly half a mile to shore before beginning to provide aid to the wounded survivors. He earned another Silver Star for his efforts on 7 December, see below. [added 4 Jan. ‘13]

CPT Paul H. Maurer, from Ohio, earned the Silver Star for his actions on 16 November near Hariko. He may have been a medical officer. [added 25 Jan. ‘13]

CPT Leonard J. Milcarek, from Illinois, earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medical officer on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 25 Jan. ‘13]

CPT George W. Pugsley, Jr., from Bayard, Nebraska, was a medical officer who earned the Silver Star for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 12 Feb. ‘13]

CPT Albert (Alfred) F. Rogers, from Beloit, Wisconsin, and a medical officer assigned to 22D Portable Hospital, earned the Silver Star for his actions 16-23 November near Hariko. He was aboard one of the ships attacked by Japanese planes and he saved a fellow officer who could not swim well, towing him to shore through the hail of machine gun bullets. [added 13 Feb. ‘13]

1LT Robert B. Winkler, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and assigned as an aide to MG Harding, earned the Silver Star for his actions during the attack on 16 November. He was a PVT in Btry. A, 126TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Milwaukee, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 4 Jan. ‘13]

CWO Hugo H. Voelkli, from Monroe, Wisconsin, and assigned to the 32D Division, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to salvage much-needed ammunition from one of the barges during the attack on 16 November. He was the 1SG of Co. K, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Monroe, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 3 Jan. ‘13]

WO Daniel J. ‘Danny’ Herr, from New York, and assigned to the 32D Division, earned the Silver Star for his actions on 16 November. [added 4 Jan. ‘13]

SSG William F. Cherry, from Franklin County, Ohio, earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 16 November. [added 28 Mar. ‘13]

SGT Llewelynn Hoffman, from Chicago, Illinois, earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 16 November near Cape Sudest. He entered active service with Illinois National Guard on 3 Mar. '41 at Chicago, IL. [added 11 Apr. ‘13]

Tec. 5 Robert L. Smith, from Long Beach, California, earned the Silver Star for his actions on 16 November near Cape Sudest. [added 17 Sep. ‘13]

CPL Oscar L. Hanson, from Woodford, Wisconsin, and PVT William R. Briggs, from Onalaska, Washington, both assigned to Anti-tank Co., 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for their team effort to fend off the Japanese aircraft with a .50 caliber machinegun aboard one of the vessels during the attack on 16 November. Witnesses credit the pair with hitting at least one of the enemy aircraft. [added 3 Jan. ‘13]

Tec. 4 Leonard M. Hart was from Chicago, Illinois, and earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 16 November. He had entered active service with Illinois National Guard on 5 Mar. '41 at Chicago, IL. [added 9 Apr. ‘13]

PFC Harold J. Wells, from Saskatchewan, Canada, and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 16 November at Cape Sudest. [added 2 May ‘13]

PVT John R. Goodwin, from Scott County, Arkansas, and assigned to Anti-tank Co., 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his actions on 16 November. He has been MIA since that day. [added 8 Apr. ‘13]

Dan Caswell, a war correspondent for the UP, interviewed some of the survivors and he quoted or mentioned some of them in a dispatch he submitted from the Buna area on 16 November. Although he did not mention the general by name, he was referring to MG Harding, the Division Commander, or BG Waldron, commander of Division Artillery. Here are a couple of snippets from his dispatch:

          “On the way to shore [the general] had to dive frequently to avoid the machine gun bullets of the Japanese planes which fired at him and other survivors.

          “While he was swimming, the general helped Warrant Officer Danny Herr, a former New York reporter, who was wounded, though not seriously, in both legs. [He was later awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day, see above.]

          “Arriving at our task force headquarters camp, the general still wore his waterlogged wrist watch, which had stopped at 6:58 p.m., when he entered the water.”

 

          “Survivors straggled into camp, most of them nearly naked. They had lost all their equipment and personal belongings.

          “I talked to Corp. Fred Hillmer, Montello, Wis., Pvt. Paul A. Mabes, Edgerton, Wis., Corp. Edgar Brush, Chicago, who were among the last to leave the larger trawler after firing their machine guns at the Zeros until the last moment. They hit one Zero and saw it crash in the jungle.

          “The greatest loss in the trawler attack was the portable field hospital of Maj. Parker Hardin, Charleston, Ill.

          “Capt. Wilfred Schnedler, a chaplain and former Lutheran minister of Huntingdon, Ind., was one who swam ashore.

          “”We lost everything but our religion,” he said. “I could not even save my New Testament.”

Murlin Spencer, a war correspondent for the AP, submitted a similar dispatch from the Buna area on 16 November, but he mentioned some other survivors. Here are a couple of snippets from his dispatch:

          “Heroes were many, such as Sergts. Howard Weiss of Edgerton, Wis., and John McGowan of Beloit, Wis., who launched a lifeboat from shore while ammunition on the ships was exploding, and went to help survivors. [Both NCOs were later bestowed with the DSC for their actions that day, see above.]

          “Pvt. Howard V. Boeher, one of those aboard the trawlers said:

          ”Things soon got too hot and we took to the water, heading for shore a half of a mile away. I helped one boy, Corp. Vincent Masterjohn of Spooner, Wis., ashore but had a hard time of it.” [CPL Masterjohn was a PVT in AT Plt., HQ Co., 128TH Inf. Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Spooner, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40.]

          “The Japanese bombers also attacked the Allied positions along the shore and, after the bombing, I walked down the beach to a small native hut built on stilts where the doctors were at work on the wounded.

          “They had been on the ships, too, and they were dead tired, but they worked on.

          “I watched four officers, including Lieut. A. F. Rogers of Milwaukee, bandage the wounded by flashlight.”

 

          “At the height of the attack on the ground troops, Robert Doyle, war correspondent of the Milwaukee Journal, and I lay flat, hugging the shelter of a tree. We heard a soldier saying over and over:

          ”Damn them – but we’ll get them yet.”

          “The soldier was Sergt. Fred Nishitugi, an American of Japanese descent.”

PVT James H. Brown, from Hempstead County, Arkansas and assigned to the 128TH Inf. has been MIA since 16 November, most likely near Cape Sudest. PVT Brown earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, bestowed posthumously, for his actions on 16 November. [added 7 Mar. ‘14]

PVT George Green, a Native American from Dells Dam, Wisconsin, and assigned to Svc. Co., 128TH Inf., was WIA by shrapnel during the attack and has been MIA since 16 November. It's not clear if was killed on one of the supply boats or one of the dinghies that went out from shore to rescue the wounded and salvage supplies. He was a PVT in Svc. Co., 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Neillsville, WI when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40; PVT Green earned the Purple Heart, bestowed posthumously. PVT Green earned the Purple Heart, bestowed posthumously, on 16 November. [added 7 Mar. ‘14]

CPL Leonard G. Rupprecht, from Neillsville, Wisconsin, was aboard one of the boats and has been MIA since he was thrown overboard during that attack on 16 November. He was a CPL in Svc. Co., 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Neillsville, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. He was the chaplain assistant for Chaplain Wilfred Schnedler. CPL Rupprecht earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, bestowed posthumously, for his actions on 16 November. [added 1 Mar. ‘13]

The next morning, 17 November, the Japanese knocked two of the three remaining boats out of commission. One lugger, the Two Freddies, was badly damaged and had to head back to Milne Bay for repairs. The other lugger, the Willyama, suffered more severe damaged and had to be beached. This left only one lugger operational, the Kelton. [updated 19 May ‘12] A crucial and irreplaceable supply link had been crippled; there were no other boats available. The weapons, equipment and supplies lost would soon be sorely missed. These same boats were also supposed to transport some of the Division's troops waiting at Pongani (about 25 miles from Buna), those units now faced an arduous trip on foot. The G4, LTC Joseph Sladen Bradley, and the rest of the Division, would now be even more dependent on the Army Air Force for resupply. Major Ralph T. Birkeness, who would succeed LTC McKenny as Division quartermaster, was still at Port Moresby and was already busy attempting to arrange additional air drops.

PVT Edward L. Reising, from Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for gallantry in action as a medic on 17 November near Pongani. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 25 Apr. ‘13]

Numerous Soldiers earned the Silver Star for their gallantry on 18 November near Buna. Some of them are listed here and more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

SSG Robert Ernest Fiechter, from Monroe, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. K, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 18 November near Simemi. Some resources imply that he earned his decoration during the same incident as Tec. 4 McGettigan and CPL Reese (below). He was a PVT in Co. K, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Monroe, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized 15 Oct. '40. [added 27 Feb. ‘13]

SSG Russell E. Sigwell, from Beloit, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. L, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 18 November near Buna. He was a SGT in Co. L, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Beloit, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 25 Apr. ‘13]

Tec. 4 Homer D. McGettigan, from Darlington, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. K, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star when “he and two other men discovered a Japanese machine gun ambush and wiped it out” on 18 November near Simemi. Some resources imply that he earned his decoration during the same incident as SSG Fiechter (above) and CPL Reese (below). He was a PVT in Co. K, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Monroe, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. He later received a battlefield commission to 2LT in Jan. ’43. 2LT McGettigan was KIA 13 May ’45 along the Villa Verde Trail on Luzon and was posthumously awarded the OLC to the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. [added 16 Apr. ‘13]

CPL Frank H. Reese, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. K, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 18 November Simemi. Some resources imply that he earned his decoration during the same incident as SSG Fiechter and Tec. 4 McGettigan (above). He was WIA 27 Nov. '42. [added 24 Apr. ‘13]

PFC Theodore I. Wiercinski, from Michigan and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 18 November near Hariko. [added 2 May ‘13]

PVT Ernest D. Erickson, from Hardy, Iowa, and assigned to Med. Det., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 18 November near Sanananda. He later earned the OLC to the Silver Star as well as the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. [added 4 Apr. ‘13]

On 19 November the attack commenced. It rained heavily all day; no aircraft could get off the ground. Fresh Japanese reinforcements had arrived from Rabaul on the 16th and 17th; these were now in the area that the 128TH Infantry was poised to attack. The 1ST Battalion (LTC McCoy) set out from Boreo and 3D Battalion (LTC Miller) from Simemi. The 2D Battalion, the Division reserve, was located at Ango and Dobodura. Those at Dobodura were helping the engineers to complete the airfield, which was now even more vital after the loss of the supply boats.

The 1ST Bn., 128TH made enemy contact 700 yards from Boreo, near the Duropa Plantation.

“It was met at that point by heavy machine gun and rifle fire from hidden enemy machine gun positions west of the track. The troops deployed and attacked, but the heavy overhead jungle growth made it difficult for them to use their mortars effectively and their grenades were of little use because they did not know where the enemy was or where the fire was coming from. The Japanese weapons gave off no flash, and the reverberation of their fire in the jungle made it impossible to ascertain their whereabouts by sound. To complicate matters, the Japanese made it a practice to rotate their weapons among several hidden positions, causing the inexperienced Americans, until they saw through the trick, to imagine themselves covered by automatic weapons from all sides.” (Victory in Papua, qtd. in Blakeley 61)

A medic, T/5 Edwin C. De Rosier, repeatedly exposed himself to the intense enemy fire in order to aid the wounded, saving several lives. “Killed in action two weeks later, De Rosier was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (Blakeley 61)

T/5 De Rosier, from Wakefield, Michigan but entered service at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was posthumously bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 19 November. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

SGT Victor J. Reigel, from Marshfield, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. C, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for singlehandedly attacking and eliminating a Japanese machine gun position that was impeding the advance of his company near Cape Endaiadere on 19 November. He was unscathed during the action, although he was later WIA on 30 Dec. '42.He was a PVT in Co. C, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Marshfield, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 25 Apr. ‘13]

CPL Delos A. Leland, from Marshfield, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. C, 128TH Inf., was bestowed with the Distinguished Service Cross for actions during the attack at Cape Endaiadere on 19 November. He was a PFC in Co. C, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Marshfield, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 2 Jan. ‘13]

“Out of rations, and with a greater part of its ammunition used up, the 1st battalion ended the day a badly shaken outfit. The troops had entered the battle joking and laughing, and sure of an easy victory. Now they were dazed and taken aback by the mauling they had received at the hands of the Japanese. Nor did it escape them that the bodies of the few Japanese left on the field were those of fresh, well-fed, well-armed troops - not, as they had been led to expect, the tired, emaciated, and disease-ridden survivors of the fighting in the Owen Stanleys. It was to be sometime before they and their fellows recovered from the shock of finding that the battle was to be no push-over, and that, instead of a short and easy mop-up, a long cruel fight lay ahead of them.” (Victory in Papua, qtd. in Blakeley 61)

 

    “Colonel Miller's troops had an even ruder awakening. As the 3d Battalion approached the trail junction between the Old and New Strips, the Simemi Trail degenerated into a narrow causeway with swamp on either side. Attempts to get the troops through an open area about 300 yards south of the junction were met with such intense fire from the western end of the New Strip, from behind the bridge between the strips, and from machine guns forward of the junction itself that no further advance was possible that day.
    “Nor could Miller do much to blast out the enemy with fire. He had no 81mm mortars; most of the machine-gun cartridges he had with him were found to be of the wrong type, a large percentage of his grenades failed to go off; and he quickly ran out of .30-caliber ammunition and had to call for a fresh supply to be dropped to him from the air.” (Victory in Papua, qtd. in Blakeley 61-2)

 

CPL Robert J. Tappen, from Menominee, Michigan, and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 19 November somewhere in the Buna area, possibly during the attack at Cape Endaiadere. He was a PVT in Co. A, 107TH Engr. Regt., Michigan National Guard, at Escanaba, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 5 Jan. ‘13]

 

A flight of seven Japanese Zeros strafed the U.S. troops at least once during the day, while Allied aircraft were grounded by the rainy weather.

 

Also on 19 November, COL Tomlinson (126TH Inf.) sent MAJ Bond with Cos. I & K to establish contact with the 7th Australian Division on the other side of the Girua River, because they had been unable to make radio contact. They located the Australians at Popondetta then went back to Inonda. From there the 126TH (minus 1ST Bn., which was with the 128TH) Infantry continued its march toward Buna.

PFC Carl O. Christenson, from Detroit, Michigan, and assigned to Med. Det., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 19 November in the Buna area. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 4 Apr. ‘13]

20 November showed little improvement for the 128TH Infantry. The 1ST Bn. was able to gain 200 yards; the 3D Bn. went nowhere. 1LT John W. Crow, who heroically led Co. C in knocking out several machine guns, was reported MIA that day.

“Lieutenant Crow, last seen charging an enemy machine gun post, submachine gun in hand, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.” (Milner 176) 1LT Crow, from Plum Grove, Texas, was posthumously bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 19 & 20 November. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

PVT Dale F. Wimer, from Cassville and/or Beetown, Wisconsin, and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star risking his life under heavy enemy fire to “give first aid to the 32d Division Jungle Fighters in his own and other platoons” on 20 November near Buna. [added 2 May ‘13]

Late in the day both battalions received much-needed rations and ammo; these were dropped at Hariko and Simemi. More troops also arrived, in the form of 1ST Battalion, 126TH Infantry, after completing a strenuous cross-country trek from Pongani.

As if things weren't already difficult enough for the 32D Division, the situation was about to get worse. General Blamey, the New Guinea Force commander, with General MacArthur’s consent, decided to take the 126TH Infantry away from MG Harding and give it to General Vassey, commander of the Australian 7th Division. The Australians weren't making any more progress than the 32D was. Higher headquarters somehow thought that this was because "there seemed to be more Japanese in General Vassey’s area than in General Harding’s (Victory in Papua, qtd. in Blakeley 65)" So they decided “that the main effort would therefore have to be made west of the Girua River. (Victory in Papua, qtd. in Blakeley 65)

MG Harding, rightly upset about the impending loss of half of his available combat power, just as the battle for Buna was getting underway; sent a message “’For General Herring's eyes only,’ he urged that the decision to take the 126th Infantry away from him be reconsidered as likely to lead to confusion, resentment, and misunderstanding. (Blakeley 65) General Herring's gruff response was, “the decision would have to stand, and that he was counting on Harding to make no more difficulties in the matter. (Blakeley 65)

On 21 November, a task force of the 126TH Infantry arrived at Soputa and was assigned to Brigadier Lloyd, commander of the Australian 16th Brigade. The force included the Regimental Headquarters, two companies and platoon from 1ST Battalion (commanded by MAJ Richard D. Boerem), the 2D Battalion (commanded by MAJ Herbert M. Smith), the 17TH Portable Hospital, as well as the Service Company and one platoon from Company A, 114TH Engineer Battalion. The Regiment’s Cannon and Anti-tank Companies were located near Wairope.

MAJ Boerem was a CPT assigned to HQ, 63D Inf. Bde., Michigan National Guard, at Detroit, MI, and MAJ Smith was commander of Service Co., 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Neillsville, WI, when the 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. ’40.

“While the bulk of the troops in the 32nd Division’s left zone was being moved out of it, things were not going well on the right. (Blakeley 66) A 0800 attack by the 1ST and 3D Bns. of the 128TH and 1ST Bn. (-) of the 126TH did not go off because the commanders didn’t receive the attack orders until ¾ of an hour after H-hour. Air support for the attack arrived on schedule; but some of the bombs fell short, causing casualties in the 3D Bn. of the 128TH (LTC Miller).

“NEW” photo added 4 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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U.S. Soldiers march through Hariko on their way to the attack at Cape Endaiadere on 21 Nov. ’42. It is very likely that these are from 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf.; they were to attack Cape Endaiadere from along the coast. The 3D Bn. was to advance along an inland trail. The 2D Bn. was the reserve and was supposed to follow 3D Bn.

So MG Harding rescheduled his attack for 1300. The infantry attack was to be preceded by a 1245 air attack, but no planes arrived. General Harding made another attempt for a coordinated attack, with air support.

“The air attack, by A-20s and B-25s, came in around 1600; it was not a success. Most of the planes could not find the target area; one flight dropped its bombs in the sea, and one B-25 got a direct hit on Companies B and C of the 128th, killing six, wounding twelve, and seriously affecting the will to fight of the whole battalion. The Japanese positions were virtually untouched and the attacks against them were easily repulsed with heavy casualties.” (Blakeley 66)

“The troops along the coastal track fought desperately with rifles, Thompson submachine guns, light machine guns, and hand grenades. They knocked out a few machine gun nests during the day, as did the Australian Independent Company which was operating near the eastern end of the strip. Otherwise there was little progress. Casualties were heavy. In three days of combat, Company C [128th Inf.] lost sixty-three men, including all four of its officers. Two sergeants, killed within a few hours of each other, commanded it on the 21st. The two sergeants, 1SG Reuben J. Steger, and SSG Carl [J.] Cherney, both from Marshfield, Wisconsin, were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (Milner 178)

Both 1SG Steger and SSG Cherney had enlisted in Co. C, 128TH Inf. Wisconsin National Guard at Marshfield, Wisconsin, ca. 1936. Steger was 1SG and Cherney was a CPL in Co. C when the 32D Division was activated into Federal service on 15 Oct. ‘40. More information about them and their DSCs can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 17 Dec. ‘12]

Numerous Soldiers earned the Silver Star for gallantry in action on 21 November. Some of them are listed below and more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

1LT Harry W. Lusk, Co. C, 128TH Inf., was WIA and earned the Silver Star for his actions about this time. Some references state he was WIA on 22 Nov., given the information about 1SG Steger and SSG Cherney above, it is more likely he was WIA 20-21 November. 1LT Lusk was originally from Pennsylvania, but he lived and worked in Wisconsin after he graduated from the UW in Madison in 1935. He was a 1LT in the Reserves when he was assigned to Co. C, 128TH Inf. at Camp Livingston in Oct. ’41. [added 17 Dec. ‘12]

SSG Ivan J. Yearman, from Baraboo, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. H, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 21 November near Buna. He was a PFC in Co. H, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Baraboo, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 2 May ‘13]

SGT James F. Kincaid, from Beloit, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. L, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 21 November near Buna. Born at Martinez, California, he was a PFC in Co. L, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Beloit, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 12 Apr. ‘13]

SGT Herbert E. Smith, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. B, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star, posthumously, for his actions on 21 November near Buna. He was WIA numerous times during the attack, but he continued to lead his men until he fell dead. He was a CPL in Co. B, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Eau Claire, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 30 Apr. ‘13]

SGT James P. Welsh, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. B, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star, posthumously, for his actions on 21 November near Buna. He continued to lead his men during the attack, even after being WIA multiple times, until he collapsed. He was a PFC in Co. B, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Eau Claire, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 30 Apr. ‘13]

CPL Ralph C. Harrison, from Beloit, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. L, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his efforts to rescue wounded comrades forward of friendly lines on 21 November near Buna. He was a PVT in Co. L, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Beloit, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 9 Apr. ‘13]

PFC Julius Aschenbrenner, Jr., from Pinckney, Michigan, and assigned to the 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 21 November near Buna. He, armed only with a pistol, voluntarily joined a few riflemen to attack an enemy machine gun under heavy fire. He was WIA, but it is unclear whether he was wounded during this attack on 21 Nov. or later in Dec. [added 18 Feb. ‘13]

PFC William L. Gauthier, from Ishpeming, Michigan and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 21 November somewhere near Buna. During an enemy attack, he repeatedly left his protective position to rush to aid wounded comrades. [added 5 Jan. ‘13]

PFC James W. Kice, from Kansas City, Missouri, earned the Silver Star for his actions on 21 November near Buna. [added 12 Apr. ‘13]

PVT John I. Manning, from Detroit, Michigan, and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his efforts to rescue wounded comrades forward of friendly lines on 21 November near Buna. [added 17 Apr. ‘13]

PVT Emil G. Medvin, from Cleveland, Ohio, and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his efforts to rescue wounded comrades forward of friendly lines on 21 November near Buna. He entered active service with the Ohio National Guard at Cleveland, OH, on 15 Oct. '40. [added 17 Apr. ‘13]

A decision was made that night to break off 3D Battalion's attack. Company I (Lt. Carl K. Fryday) was left in place to retain the ground that had been taken. The rest of the Battalion was moved to the right flank (with 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf.).

On the left of the Division's sector, MG Harding, was forced to commit his reserve (COL Herbert A. Smith's 2D Bn., 128TH Inf.) to replace the 126TH Inf. (which had been detached).

“The 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry, moving forward [from Ango] toward the Triangle along the Dobodura-Buna track, new nothing of the Japanese defenses in the area and very little about the terrain. At 1330 Sgt. Irving W. Hall of Company F, leading the point, caught a swift glimpse of an enemy machine gun about fifty yards away. Coolly turning his back on the gun so as to give the impression that he had not seen it, Hall motioned his men off the track. Before the Japanese knew what he was up to he turned around and fired a burst at them from his submachine gun. In the heavy fire fight that ensued, the point suffered one casualty. Hall was later awarded the Silver Star.(Milner 182)

SGT Hall was from Endeavor, Wisconsin, and was a PVT in Co. F, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Portage, WI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 5 Feb. ‘13]

This battalion was hastily thrown in and soon needed help. So MG Harding pleaded for the return of at least one of his battalions. General Herring consented, the 2D Bn., 126TH was sent back across the river. It was late on 22 November before they could get across the flooded river on improvised rafts.

On the morning of 22 November, COL Tomlinson’s remaining troops passed through the Australians to attack. MAJ Boerem's detachment from 1ST Bn. made a frontal attack along the trail. The 3D Bn., with 2 companies on the left and one on the right, attempted to flank the enemy position on both sides. Company M would be the reserve. The attack made some progress at first, but soon ran into serious opposition, which halted its advance along the Sanananda Track. A Japanese counterattack was forced back, with the aid of the Australians.

CPT Bevin D. Lee, from South Carolina and the commander of Co. L, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions during his unit’s attack near the banana plantation in the vicinity of the track junction (on the Sanananda Track) on 22 November. He was WIA on 25 November. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 23 Jan. ‘13]

1LT Bernard P. Howes, from Hugo, Oklahoma, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 22 November along the Soputa-Sanananda Track. He was a member of the Oklahoma National Guard at the start of the war. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 23 Jan. ‘13]

Tec. 4 Donald Atchinson, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions 22 to 26 November near Buna. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 18 Feb. ‘13]

PVT Wilbur (Wilber) C. Bauman, from Whitehouse, Ohio, and assigned to Co. L, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 22 November near Soputa. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 18 Feb. ‘13]

The forces on the Division’s right flank (1ST and 3D Battalions of the 128TH, a detachment of 1ST Battalion of the 126TH and one Australian independent company) were now designated ‘Warren Force’ and commanded by BG Hanford MacNider (McNider). The units on the left were designated as ‘Urbana Force’, commanded by LTC Herbert A. Smith, CO 2D Bn., 128TH, and also included the 2D Battalion of the 126TH.

Why ‘Urbana Force’ and ‘Warren Force’?

A war-time dispatch submitted from overseas by Murlin Spencer on 3 July 1943, and printed in the Youngstown Vindicator on 4 July 1943, may shed some light on the subject. In this particular dispatch he was focusing on some of the notable Ohioans who were involved in the battles for Buna, Gona, and Sanananda. When writing about Gen. Eichelberger he said, he was remembering his home state when he named one of the forces at the front “Urbana force” and a second “Warren force”.” Gen. Eichelberger was born and raised at Urbana, Ohio and he attended Ohio State University before he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It is not clear what the connection to Warren, Ohio was. [added 29 Apr. ‘13]

Further complicating an already difficult situation, these units had become split up and intermingled. This mixing of units was mainly due to transportation problems, enemy action, and interference from higher headquarters. This naturally added to the confusion and made normal administrative tasks much harder. It also had an adverse effect on morale because a unit separated from its parent organization often feels that it does not receive its share of supplies and is assigned the most undesirable tasks.

Meanwhile, there was some improvement to the supply situation now that the Dobodura airstrip was operational and four boats had been found to replace those lost to Japanese air attacks.

The supply situation was getting better in the Australian Zone as well, now that a new airfield at Popondetta was open. One of the first flights to land on 23 November delivered some welcomed artillery pieces, four 25-pounders from the 2/1 Australian Field Regiment. The detachment, commanded by Major A. G. Hanson, was in action by the end of the day at firing positions north of Soputa. [added 21 Dec. ‘12]

1LT Johney B. Wax, from Denham Springs, Louisiana, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 23 November near Soputa. He was later promoted to CPT and commanded Co. K, 126TH Inf. on Leyte. [added 15 Feb. ‘13]

SGT Sidney DeVries, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. L, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his actions on 23 November near Soputa. He has been MIA since that day. He was a PVT in Co. L, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 3 Apr. ‘13]

About this time, MG Harding asked the Australians for some light tanks; he thought they could be put to good use in the relatively open Duropa Plantation area. However, the only way to bring the tanks to the area was some captured barges, which sank when the first tanks were loaded on them.

PFC Joseph R. Freiburger, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. L, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 25 November near Soputa. He was a PVT in Co. L, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 5 Apr. ‘13]

On 26 November, 2LT Robert Arthur Dix, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, earned the Silver Star for his actions in the Buna area. The exact location, unit of assignment and circumstances of his deeds are unclear. He was a CPL in HQ Btry., 1ST Bn., 126TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Milwaukee, WI, when the 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. The 126TH FA, now a battalion, was not deployed to the forward battle area around Buna, so it is possible that he was assigned to Division HQ at this time. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

SSG Donald N. Rea, from Michigan and assigned to the 32D Div., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 26 November near Buna. The decoration was bestowed posthumously because he was KIA. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 24 Apr. ‘13]

CPT Michael V. DeFina, from Medford, Massachusetts, and assigned to the 114TH Engr. Bn., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 28 November near Simemi, New Guinea. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 11 Jan. ‘13]

On 29 November, one gun from Battery A, 129TH Field Artillery Battalion, arrived at Dobodura.

“The 105mm howitzer of Battery A, 129TH Field Artillery Battalion was loaded in a B-17 in Brisbane and flown to Port Moresby, together with a gun crew of eight men, equipment and 200 rounds of ammunition. Later it took three C-47 transport planes to carry the same load over the Owen-Stanley Mountains. The transports landed at Dobodura. Here the gun was assembled and Lieutenant Colonel Melvin McCreary immediately selected a position. After the gun was pulled up the trail a short distance northwest of Ango, 2d Lieutenant Herbert H. Jackson and his men commenced firing. The gun never left this position until the end of the Buna Campaign. The reason for not shifting was (1) positions were not available because of the terrain and (2) most of the 32d Division front was within range of the position occupied by the gun. It was the only American field piece brought up to support the 32d Infantry Division during the Papuan Campaign. Conditions for the Australians was much the same; only eight guns of various calibers were brought into action west of the Girua River.” (Blakeley 67)

Official dispatches from Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters that were printed in American newspapers used the plural form in referring to American 105mm howitzers that were brought to bear against the Japanese in the Buna-area (suggesting there was more than one). They also stated that the tractors normally used to tow the howitzers were also brought to the front. A couple of dispatches claimed that the entire battery and all of its equipment were flown over the Owen Stanleys to the Buna-area. Those dispatches were obvious exaggerations. Some references state that Btry. A was indeed transported to New Guinea in its entirety, but the unit never left Port Moresby (with the exception of the one howitzer) due to transportation shortages.

The sole 105mm howitzer from Btry. A, 129TH FA Bn. that did make the journey from Australia to the battlefront was named by 2LT Jackson and his gun crew. Each man had a name he wanted his comrades to adopt, but only one name could be chosen. The name that won out was the one offered by CPL John Polishek, from Benton Harbor, MI. The howitzer would be named Helen, in honor of Helen Yankus, “a pretty brunette from Chicago” who was CPL Polishek’s fiancée. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

Here is some additional information about 2LT Jackson and the eight enlisted men of his gun crew from Btry. A, 129TH FA Bn. at Buna. Unfortunately additional information about some of these men has proven elusive.

2LT Herbert H. Jackson was from Wisconsin Rapids, WI. He was a SGT in Btry. E, 120TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Wisconsin Rapids, WI when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. His brother Robert C. Jackson was also a SGT in same unit. Herbert was commissioned 2LT while the Div. was in Australia, and then assigned to Btry. A, 129TH FA Bn. When he returned to the U.S. ca. Aug. '45 he assigned to staff of Artillery School at Ft. Sill, OK, he was CPT by that time. He separated from service in Feb. '46. Later he served in Korean War in '52 and '53, he served with the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) as an artillery advisor assigned to the South Korean 90TH FA Bn. He also served with the 32D Div. during the Berlin Crisis, he was MAJ and XO of 120TH Arty., 2D How. Bn. (T). His last assignment before he retired from military service was as Commander of 1ST Bn., 120TH FA, Wisconsin National Guard, at Wisconsin Rapids. He passed away 20 Apr. '12. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

SGT Robert J. Soik was from Stevens Point, WI. He was a CPL in Btry. D, 120TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Stevens Point, WI when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. He was assigned to Btry. A, 129TH FA Bn. after the Div. was ‘triangularized’ in Feb. ‘42. He attained the rank of 1SG before he was discharged 13 Jul. '45 at Fort Sheridan, IL. He returned to Stevens Point and started a plumbing, heating and well drilling that still bears his name. He passed away 3 Mar. '04. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

CPL John Polishuk, from Benton Harbor, MI, entered service 19 Jun. '41 at Kalamazoo, MI. He had met Miss Helen Yankus, from Chicago, while she was visiting at a neighboring farm; they became engaged before he entered service. He returned to the U.S. as a SGT ca. the spring of '44 and continued to serve until he was discharged ca. Dec. ’45. At some point he married Helen, the woman that the sole U.S. 105mm how. at Buna had been named for. He passed away in ‘90. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

PVT Nello Baroni was from Walnut Grove, CA and he entered service 18 Feb. '42 at Presidio of Monterey, CA. He passed away passed away 8 Aug. '04. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

PVT Daniel C. Blumenshein was from St. John, WA. He attained the rank of at least Tec. 4 before he was discharged. He passed away 1 Jul. '76. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

PVT Edwin Andrew Boston was from Tulia, TX. He entered service 6 Feb. '42 at Camp Wolters, TX. He trained at Ft. Bliss, TX and Camp Roberts, CA before he was assigned to Btry. A, 129TH FA Bn. He passed away 16 Feb. '90. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

PVT Herbert Campbell was from Blaney, SC. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

PVT Chester S. Kowalski was from Stevens Point, WI. He was a PVT in Btry. D, 120TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Stevens Point, WI when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. He was assigned to Btry. A, 129TH FA Bn. after the Div. was ‘triangularized’ in Feb. ‘42. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

PVT James Wilson was from Kadoka, SD. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]

Helen was emplaced at Ango on 30 November, but it was not ready to fire in time to support the attacks scheduled for ‘Warren Force’ and ‘Urbana Force’ that day. From the next day until the end of the campaign it provided invaluable support; it could reach any target ‘Warren Force’ and ‘Urbana Force’ and it could reach quite a few targets in the Australian Zone as well. It is unfortunate that keeping even this solitary 105mm howitzer supplied with the ammunition it needed proved troublesome. Helen had to sit silent for days on occasion because there were not enough transports to fly all of the needed supplies, including ammunition, over the Owen Stanleys and there were not enough ships to bring them by sea either. [added 28 Mar. ‘14]


 

From this point until the conclusion of the Battle of Buna/Sanananda, the 32D Division was split into 3 distinct forces operating simultaneously in 3 separate sectors. In an effort to (hopefully) eliminate some confusion, a separate page will be devoted to each force to track their progress throughout the remainder of the Campaign.

Warren Force

Urbana Force

32D Div. troops in the Australian Zone

At appropriate points, you will be directed to return here for information that pertains to the 32D Division as a whole.


 

“The official, but perhaps incomplete, battle casualty figures by the end of November were: 82 killed in action, 85 missing in action and 325 wounded, a total of 492. These losses were not in themselves the explanation of the Division’s failure to make an effective penetration of the enemy's main line of resistance. Nonbattle casualties; physical weakness from lack of shelter, proper rations and rest; inadequate training; and possibly poor leadership at the various levels of command were more probable reasons. This last factor was now to be vigorously examined.” (Blakeley 77)

 

During November of 1942, Lieutenant General Eichelberger had made an attempt to visit the 32D Division and see them in action. He wanted to see how they were doing because they would probably rejoin his I Corps eventually. He was also seeking information about the Japanese fighting methods to incorporate into training programs for other U.S. troops assembling in Australia. When he reached Port Moresby, he was told by General Sutherland, MacArthur’s chief of staff, that he was to immediately return to Australia. According to LG Eichelberger, Gen. Sutherland explicitly clarified the role of I Corps: “My officers and I were not headed for combat; our job was to train troops; and the training role would be ours from then on. (qtd. in Blakeley 79)

Within two weeks this concept would suddenly change. The senior American and Australian leaders, including General MacArthur, felt that something needed to be done about the leadership of the 32D Division.

“Aside from the major influence of the combat situation itself, two other factors seem to have led up to this decision. One was General Harding’s repeated attempts to get Colonel Tomlinson’s 126th Infantry returned to him or some or all of the 127th Infantry flown forward to join his command in combat. (Harding had less than half of the Division’s Infantry strength, only a few pieces of artillery and small detachments of other troops under his command at this time.) The other was his unwillingness to relieve his two force commanders, Colonels Mott and Hale. The first he thought was doing a good job although he at times antagonized ‘superiors, subordinates and contemporaries.’ The second, Colonel Hale, was the last of the National Guard regimental commanders still with the Division, and he had been in command of Warren Force only a week. Moreover, in Harding’s opinion Hale and his aggressive and battle-experienced executive, Lt. Col. [MacNab (McNab)], were doing as well as could be expected with inadequate forces against a strong enemy position.” (Blakeley 79-81)

General MacArthur ordered LG Eichelberger to Port Moresby immediately. He arrived in Port Moresby on 30 November 1942, accompanied by his chief of staff, BG Clovis E. Byers, and several other I Corps officers and enlisted men. He reported to General MacArthur for instructions, which were reportedly highly dramatic. LG Eichelberger quoted Gen. MacArthur as saying, “Bob, I want you to take Buna, or not come back alive, and that goes for your chief of staff too! (qtd. in Blakeley 81) LG Eichelberger was given a free hand to do whatever he deemed necessary to complete the mission, even to the extent of relieving General Harding, as well as other commanders.

“In any case, it is evident that MacArthur believed that in spite of deficiencies in training and supply, in spite of weather conditions, in spite of the high sick rate, aggressive leadership could nevertheless achieve victory in the Buna area. Whether or not he believed that it could be done without reinforcements of the troops currently engaged in the struggle is not entirely clear.” (Blakeley 81)

CPL Ronald L. Albert, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and assigned to the 114TH Engr. Bn., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 30 November at Dobodura. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 15 Feb. ‘13]

On 1 December 1942, LG Eichelberger arrived at Dobodura and assumed command of all U.S. troops in the area. The remainder of the day consisted of conferences with MG Harding and other officers.

“The basic picture, he found, was that the Japanese position in the Buna area was about 3 miles in width and relatively shallow in depth. It was all on dry land with excellent lateral communication along the beach. One flank was on the sea, which the Japanese navy controlled, and the other on unfordable streams. The concealed bunkers, connecting trenches, and cleared fields of fire constituted an excellent defensive position. The troops of the 32d, on the other hand, were in morasses which had few trails, and these were well known to the enemy.” (Blakeley 83)

General Eichelberger immediately requested (just like MG Harding had recently attempted) that Gen. MacArthur's headquarters send at least one battalion of the 127TH Infantry forward. For some reason LG Eichelberger's request was granted while MG Harding's had been ignored; the whole regiment was soon on the way.

On 2 December, LG Eichelberger went to Urbana Force, and sent COL Gordon Rogers (I Corps G-2) and COL Clarence A. Martin (I Corps G-3) to Warren Force.

    “It was a long, hard day for all concerned from every point of view. Most of the travel had to be done on foot, the new arrivals were under pressure to get results, and the officers and men already on the ground felt that the newcomers had no realization of what the troops had been through or of the difficulties that they were now facing. Eichelberger was accompanied by Harding and Waldron. There were some caustic comments by Eichelberger that drew some emphatic reactions, particularly from Colonel Mott. The two colonels who visited the Warren front did not get back to Dobodura until 2200. Their reports were highly critical, and Eichelberger concluded that the day's purported attacks had had no reality on either front.
    “In spite of General MacArthur’s order to relieve the Division’s senior commanders, the new area commander had not immediately done so. Eichelberger had, certainly, been put in a peculiar position. With no warning, in fact after being told that his job was to run training in Australia - he was now primarily in command of a fraction of a division instead of a corps, and he was clearly expected to produce results no matter how ruthless he had to be. It was also unusual that he had apparently been ordered to relieve the Division commander rather than make his own decision after personal investigation on the scene. There is indeed evidence that he still felt that he had some opinion in the matter.” (Blakeley 83)

 

COL Martin was awarded the OLC to the Silver Star for his actions on 2 December. He was awarded his first Silver Star during WWI. He also assumed command of the 128TH Inf. on or about 2 December. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

 

LG Eichelberger did recognize two things that needed to be done right away. Improve the supply situation and attempt to un-mix the units. He also started making some command changes. General Harding was relieved and General Waldron was placed in command of the Division, Lieutenant Colonel Melvin L. McCreary then became Division Artillery commander.

 

LTC McCreary had been an Army Instructor assigned to the 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, in the late 1920's and early 1930's; later he was an Army Instructor assigned to WNG artillery units in Milwaukee for 3 years before the war. He was from Ohio and had been an enlisted National Guard Soldier in Co. L, 7TH Ohio Inf. before WWI. He was commissioned 2LT of Arty. 15 Aug. '17 and served overseas as a 1LT with 8TH FA Regt. during the war. After the war he joined the Regular Army. He was the commander of the 121ST FA Bn. after the 32D Div. was triangularized in Feb. '42. [added 13 Dec. ‘12]

 

“In order to avoid the creation of still another link in the already too extensive chain of command, he merged elements of Headquarters I Corps with Headquarters 32d Infantry Division under the name of Buna Force Headquarters. (Blakeley 83-4) COL Martin became commander of both the 128TH Infantry and Warren Force. Colonel John E. Grose, I Corps inspector general, became commander of Urbana Force. Colonel George DeGraaf, I Corps supply officer, was given the vital and difficult task improving the supply situation.

 

“While this sweeping shake-up was going on, individuals at the front were performing deeds of valor which later earned them the Distinguished Service Cross. Among them were Private John E. Combs, Captain Harold E. [Hantelmann], Lieutenant James I. Hunt, and Staff Sergeant Delmar H. Daniels. (Blakeley 94)

 

“S. Sgt. Delmar H. Daniels, of Company B, 126th Infantry, led three volunteers against an enemy strongpoint near the dispersal bays at the eastern end of the strip, which had held up the company for some time, only to be killed as he attempted to clear out the enemy position. Daniels was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (Milner 208) He was a SGT in Co. B, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Adrian, Michigan, when the 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

CPT Hantelmann, from Dubuque, Iowa, was bestowed with the DSC for his actions 1-3 December. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

1LT Hunt, from Lima, Ohio, was bestowed with the DSC for his actions 2-5 December, primarily for leading his platoon in an attack on Buna Village, despite being seriously wounded. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 13 Dec. ‘12]

PVT Combs was from Tennessee and was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 1 December. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 18 Dec. ‘12]

 

“Colonel Mott later contributed a touch of grim humor to an essentially tragic situation. The day he was relieved from command of Urbana Force, Mott had been told by Eichelberger that he was to be decorated with the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. Actually, Mott had not been wounded and so did not get the Purple Heart. Mott’s comment was: ‘I really should have got that too since I got my throat cut.’ (qtd. in Blakeley 84)

“What were the principal factors contributing to a situation where courage was not wanting in many and yet the Division had come so close to failure that the theater commander had intervened? (Blakeley 84)There were many contributing factors and most of them were listed on the Strategic Situation And Overview On The Eve Of The Papuan Campaign section earlier. They are repeated here, to refresh your memory and for added emphasis. “The reasons were many, but they should be examined not only in justice to the Division but as a basis for the understanding of its future successes. (Blakeley 84)

The 32D Division's early difficulties, like most American units early in the war, were seriously affected by the fact that America had a very small standing military before World War II. The resulting rapid military expansion necessitated by the war contributed to serious early deficiencies in leaders, weapons, equipment and training. The turnover of senior leaders and sudden influx of inexperienced, raw recruits shortly before they entered combat had been considerable. The Division's training was affected by its reorganization from a 'square' division to a 'triangular' division shortly before it entered combat. Its training was further hampered by its sudden change of mission (from Europe to the Pacific Theater) and the resulting moves related to that change. “During the period from February 1942, when General Harding took command, to the Division's entrance into combat in November, the Division was, as Harding said, ‘always getting ready to move, on the move, or getting settled after a move.’ (qtd. in Blakeley 84)

In Australia, the Division's initial training was geared toward the fact that its most likely course of action would be to defend Australia against an invasion by the Japanese. When it was realized that the Division would instead carry the fight to the Japanese in the jungles of New Guinea, the needed jungle training was inhibited by lack of time and resources. Little was known about Japanese fighting techniques. Training sites and training aids for jungle training, as well as weapons and equipment adapted to jungle warfare, were inadequate or non-existent. In addition to supply and equipment shortages that seem to be common in all wars, the Southwest Pacific had the major handicap of its incredibly long supply lines. The climate and terrain in Papua could not have been worse. The unnecessarily lengthy and complex chain of command, from Gen. MacArthur, through two Australian headquarters, to the Division, was bound to cause confusion and problems.

Also, the Division was initially committed to battle with only two of its infantry regiments (one of which was subsequently taken away), and none of its organic artillery, save one howitzer, and some of its mortars. Due to the lack of artillery, the infantry soldiers at Buna were forced to reduce the sturdy Japanese bunkers with little more than grenades, and they paid a high price to do it. A few more artillery pieces, a handful of tanks committed earlier, even a few bazookas or flamethrowers, would have done much to eliminate or reduce the many difficulties facing the 32D Division, and the Australians, in the Buna area.

     “Finally, the 32nd Division had both the honor and the handicap of being one of the first American Divisions to be tested in battle. 
    “These causes, in total, resulted in heartbreak for the Division as a whole, and for General Harding and several of his senior officers. To their credit, some of them, Harding included, went to other commands and important contributions to the winning of the war. The sweeping changes in command were, of course, highly disturbing to many not directly affected. 
    “It should be noted, too, in fairness to the officers and men of the Division who bore the burden of the early days of the Buna campaign, that it was not, as will be seen, until another regiment of the Division plus a reinforced brigade of veteran Australian troops was brought in that the Buna area was captured.” (Blakeley 85)

You should bear in mind that the 32D Division, during this difficult time at Buna, was writing the book for combat against the Japanese in the jungles of the Pacific with their sweat and blood. All of the Pacific battles yet to come were able to benefit from the lessons learned by the 32D Division at Buna, and also the Marines and Army Infantry concurrently fighting at Guadalcanal.

 

“A great deal has been said and whispered about the 32nd Division, and much of it makes no sense. The 32nd which ‘failed’ at Buna was the same 32nd that won victory there. No one else did. Later, rejuvenated and retrained, the Division went on to establish a superior combat record in the Philippines Campaign. The 32nd originally was a Wisconsin-Michigan National Guard outfit. It went into Buna ‘high’ on itself, full of confidence, but quite unprepared and untrained for the miseries and terrors of jungle so alien to the experience of boys from the clipped green lawns and serene streets of the small-town Middle West. Almost all troops are afraid in battle because almost all men are afraid. That is where leadership comes in. There were men and officers who failed at Buna. But any historian will be hard put to discover in this war a division that earned, and deserved, so many citations and decorations for individual bravery. The record is there. And often beside the printed citation is the sad and significant little star which means ‘Posthumous’.” (Gen. Eichelberger, qtd. in Blakeley 85)

 

“Eichelberger goes on to say that to understand the 32d, one must remember what it had gone through in its first weeks in Papua, and how quickly the men were riddled with malaria, dengue fever, tropical dysentery, and covered with jungle ulcers. Soon after he arrived at the front, he had the temperatures of the men of one company taken, and every member was running a fever. (Blakeley 85-7)

For the next two days LG Eichelberger stopped all fighting, as far as the enemy’s activities permitted, to attempt to reduce the mixing of units and attempt to fix the supply problems. He also requested the return of COL Tomlinson and his 126TH Infantry headquarters from the Australian zone. Again LG Eichelberger's request was granted, while a similar request by MG Harding had been refused. MAJ Baetcke, with MAJ Zeeff as his XO, assumed command of the remaining 126TH Inf. troops in the Australian zone, maintaining their hard won roadblock.

Also around this time, the 127TH Infantry started to arrive at Dobodura. More good news was the arrival of five Australian Bren-gun carriers and some forty tons of ammunition and food on the Warren front.

 

At this point you should return to the separate pages for the different forces.

Warren Force

Urbana Force

32D Div. troops in the Australian Zone

 

After several failed attempts to resupply their forces in the Buna-area by sea, the Japanese airdropped supplies on 4 December (the drop zone was about 5 miles north of Buna). The supplies were loaded in 9 large planes, which were escorted by 14 Zero fighters. [added 27 Mar. ‘14]

On 7 December, Japanese aircraft bombed and strafed the 2D Field Hospital, which was set up at Simemi, approximately five miles southeast of Buna, as the crow flies. If Soldiers needed more medical care than that which could be provided by the small, portable hospitals at the front, they were evacuated to the larger field hospital a short distance from the front. The 2D Field Hospital was providing care to 400 U.S. and Australian patients that day, some were being treated for any of the prevalent, debilitating, tropical diseases, and many more had already been seriously wounded by the enemy on the front line. After the Japanese attack, 50 of the patients had been killed or wounded again. This was at least the third time in two weeks the hospital had been attacked. Numerous personnel were decorated for valor during the attack. Some of them are listed here and additional information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 4 Jan. ‘13]

MAJ Parker C. Hardin, from Charleston, Illinois, earned his second Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. He had earned his first Silver Star for his actions on 16 November, see above. [added 4 Jan. ‘13]

MAJ Lemuel E. Day, from Chicago, Illinois, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. The award was made posthumously because MAJ Day died on 22 December. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

MAJ Herbert B. Shields, Jr., from Enid, Oklahoma, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. He was assigned to the 2D Field Hospital when he earned the decoration; he was assigned as the acting 32D Div. Surgeon when he received it. [added 13 Feb. ‘13]

CPT William F. Edwards, from New Albany, Indiana, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

CPT Lloyd W. Taylor, from San Francisco, California, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

1LT Nathan Brooks, from Detroit, Michigan, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

1LT Julius J. Gutow, from Flint, Michigan, earned the Silver Star for his efforts to provide medical treatment to patients at the 2D Field Hospital during and after a Japanese air attack at Simemi on 7 December. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

An interesting anecdote about CPT Edwards and one of his patients on 7 December was mentioned in a UP news release submitted by an unnamed war correspondent on 14 December. “Captain Edwards was removing shrapnel from an Australian soldier when Japanese planes suddenly swooped down on the defenseless hospital. After the roar of the planes had died away, the Aussie told Edwards: “Guess you’d better fix this one up now, Doc.” A machine gun bullet had smashed into the soldier’s shoulder as he lay on the operating table.”

On 26 December, Japanese aircraft attacked the Allied positions at Dobodura, but they inflicted negligible damage. The next morning 54 Japanese planes tried again. Overall damage to the infrastructure was again minimal, but 3 Allied personnel were KIA and 8 others WIA during the raid. Twenty aircraft from the Fifth Air Force were able to intercept the Japanese planes, shooting down 14 of the enemy with the loss of 1 U.S. P-38.

PVT Andrew J. Heck, from River Rouge, Michigan, earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 28 December near Dobodura. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 10 Apr. ‘13]

 

At this point you should return to the separate pages for the different forces.

Warren Force

Urbana Force

32D Div. troops in the Australian Zone

  
  
  
  
  
  
 

 

Next Section - Papuan Campaign - The Battle of Sanananda

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Bibliography (primary sources for historical information regarding the 32D ‘The Red Arrow’ Infantry Division’s exploits during World War II):

Blakeley, H. W., Major General, Retired.  The 32D Infantry Division in World War II.  The Thirty-second Infantry Division History Commission, State of Wisconsin, n.d.
Cannon, M. Hamlin.  Leyte: The Return to the PhilippinesU. S. Army Center of Military History, 1954.
Carlisle, John M.  Red Arrow Men: Stories About the 32nd Division on the Villa Verde.  Detroit: Arnold-Powers, Inc., 1945.

Drea, Edward J.  Defending the Driniumor: Covering Force Operations in New Guinea, 1944.  Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1984.

Drea, Edward J.  New Guinea - The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II.  U. S. Army Center of Military History, n.d.
Hill, Jim Dan, Major General, Retired.  The Minute Man in Peace and War.  Harrisburg: The Stackpole Company, 1964.
Jungwirth, Clarence J.  Diary of a National Guardsman in World War II.  Oshkosh, WI: Poeschl Printing Company, 1991.
Mayo, Lida.  Bloody Buna.  Canberra, Australia: Australian National University Press, 1975.

Miller, John, Jr.  Cartwheel: The Reduction of Rabaul.  U. S. Army Center of Military History, 1959.

Milner, Samuel.  Victory in Papua.  U. S. Army Center of Military History, 1957.
Papuan Campaign - The Buna-Sanananda Operation.  Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, War Department, 1945.
The Red Arrow - 1955 - The 32D Division, Wisconsin National Guard.  n.p., 1955.
Smith, Herbert M., Lieutenant Colonel, Retired. Four Score and Ten: Happenings in the Life of Herbert M. Smith.  Eau Claire, WI: Heins Publications, 1995.

Smith, Herbert M., Lieutenant Colonel, Retired. Hannibal Had Elephants II.  Eau Claire, WI: Rev. William A. Heins, 1995.

Smith, Robert Ross.  The Approach to the Philippines.  U. S. Army Center of Military History, 1953.
Smith, Robert Ross. 
Triumph in the Philippines.  U. S. Army Center of Military History, 1963.

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