The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association

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The 32D Infantry Division

in World War II

The ‘Red Arrow’

126TH Infantry in the Australian Zone during the Battle of Buna

 

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126TH Infantry in the Australian Zone During the Battle of Buna

Note: While this page is labeled ‘126TH Infantry in the Australian Zone…’ you will notice that there is not a lot of specific information about the Australian forces. This is not a snub of Australia’s vital contribution to this campaign. The main reason is because this website is dedicated to telling the story of the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division. There are several excellent websites out there that tell the story of the Australian forces much better than I ever could. Victory over the Japanese on the Papuan Peninsula could not have happened without U.S. and Australian forces working, and fighting, together.


Meanwhile, in the Australian zone, Col. Tomlinson’s 126TH had been making some progress, but it was not until 26 November 1942 that a coordinated attack with the Australians was launched. With the support of an Australian artillery battery, the infantry advance got off to a good start, but was soon halted by determined opposition. Col. Tomlinson and some of his staff were well forward to observe and had some close calls with enemy fire.
“Major Simon Warmenhoven, regimental surgeon, was later awarded the [Distinguished Service Cross] for his work in aiding wounded Australians under heavy fire. (Blakeley 73)

Sadly, Maj.Warmenhoven’s DSC was bestowed posthumously because he passed away in Australia, after the Papuan Campaign, before it was presented. Then Capt. Warmenhoven was a Michigan National Guard officer with the 126TH Inf. when the 32D Division was activated on 15 Oct. 1940. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

Several Soldiers earned the Silver Star for their gallantry on 26 November. Some of them are listed here; more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

Maj. Richard D. Boerem, from Owosso, Michigan, and assigned to 1ST Bn., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 26 November 1942 near Soputa. He was a Capt. in HQ, 63D Inf. Bde., Michigan National Guard, at Detroit, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

Sgt. Stanley E. Beaugrand, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and assigned to Co. C, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 26 November near Soputa. He was a Pvt. in Co. C, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Kalamazoo, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 20 May ‘14]

Sgt. Walter A. LaFaunce, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his actions on 26 November near Sanananda. He was KIA that day. He was a Pvt. in Co. K, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 13 Apr. ‘13]

Pfc. Merl W. Holm, from Lake City, Iowa, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 26 November near Sanananda. [added 11 Apr. ‘13]

On 27 November the Japanese counterattacked vigorously all day, but were eventually repulsed.

“Their pressure was directed principally at Zeeff, whose forward perimeter was now between 300 and 400 yards from the track, but intermittent glancing blows were sent also against the Australian and American positions in the banana plantation. The heaviest attack of the day came toward evening. It was beaten off with the help of Major Hanson’s 25-pounders and the excellent observation of one of Hanson’s forward observers, Lt. A. N. T. Daniels, who was with Zeeff. Daniels switched the artillery fire from Zeeff’s front to Bosgard’s and back again to such good effect that the Japanese attack soon dwindled to nuisance fire only. (Milner 162)”

“Still facing the task of cleaning out the Japanese immediately to their front, the group spent the day of [28 November] in patrolling and locating the hidden enemy positions. One of Zeeff’s platoon leaders, 1st Lt. Henry M. Crouch, Jr., accompanied by Lieutenant Daniels, stalked and ambushed a party of eight Japanese. In a particularly daring foray, Sgt. Robert R. McGee of Company L led the patrol that located the main enemy position standing in the way of the advance and helped wipe it out. (Milner 162)

Sgt. McGee was from Michigan and was bestowed with the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions from 23 to 28 Nov. '42 near Sanananda. He was a Cpl. in Co. L, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, 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. [added 21 Dec. ‘12]

The Cannon and Anti-tank Companies of the 126TH arrived at Soputa, after an arduous trek from Wairope, on 28 November and would soon be put to use.

1st Lt. Charles C. Kanapaux, from Charleston, South Carolina, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions near Soputa on 29 Nov. ‘42. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 19 May ‘14]

On 30 November, Col. Tomlinson started a coordinated, three-pronged attack with the objective of establishing a roadblock on the Soputa-Sanananda track behind the Japanese forward positions.

The main emphasis would be made on the left flank, so he sent his XO (Maj. Bernard G. Baetcke, assisted by 1st Lt. Peter Louis Dal Ponte, CO of Service Co.) to the take command of the troops currently in that area under Maj. Bond. These troops consisted of Cos. I and K, parts of Co. M and 3D Bn. HQ's, and the Anti-tank & Cannon Cos. The assault element of this force consisted of Co. I (Capt. Shirley), Anti-tank Co. (Capt. Roger Keast), a light machine gun section from Co. M, and a communications section from 3D Bn. HQ's. (total of 265 men), and would be commanded by Maj. Bond, assisted by Lt. Daniels. Co. K (led by Lt. Lytle) and Cannon Co. (1st Lt. John L. Fenton) would be in support and reserve under the command of Capt. Medendorp.

When the attack commenced early that morning, preceded by a ten minute artillery and mortar barrage, the assault element on the left flank attacked due east toward the Soputa-Sanananda track about 1,400 yards away.

The attack on the right was commanded by Maj. Bert Zeeff and consisted of Co. L. They initially met no opposition but they were stopped by a strong Japanese force after they had advanced 150 yards.

The center attack was commanded by Maj. Boerem and consisted of Cos. C and D. They were only able to advance a few yards.

The attack's main effort on the left flank fared much better than the attacks from the center and right flank. Co. K's excellent supporting fire drew a strong response from the enemy, which allowed Maj. Bond's assault force to initially advance without great difficulty. While starting to cross a large patch of kunai grass 400 yards beyond the line of departure, they encountered strong rifle, machine gun and mortar fire from all sides. Major Bond was wounded and had to be evacuated. The attack began to lose momentum so Maj. Baetcke came forward to rally the troops and he successfully led the effort to clear the enemy out of the Kunai patch. Capt. Shirley took command of the assault force and continued the attack.

About 1,000 yards out, they encountered some impenetrable jungle and a 300 yard stretch of knee deep swamp. Capt. Shirley’s men were initially held up by effective mortar and machine gun fire that commanded the swamp, but they were eventually able to get across the swamp and disperse the enemy.

Past the swamp they found a well-traveled trail that headed straight east so they followed it. At 1700 Company I’s scouts reported an enemy bivouac directly ahead. Capt. Shirley ordered Company I to fix bayonets and assault the enemy position (some references state that Capt. Keast and his Anti-tank Co. participated in this bayonet assault as well). The attack was well executed and successful. After driving the enemy out, they organized a perimeter defense of the captured bivouac area by about 1830. Two hours later they received heavy mortar fire in the perimeter and sometime after that the Japanese counterattacked from the northeast and northwest. The Japanese attacks were repulsed with few casualties. The captured bivouac area, relatively open and oval shaped about 250 yards long and 150 yards wide, lay astride the trail and behind the Japanese forward positions. The long sought roadblock had been established; the 126TH Infantry had gained its objective! A few days later this roadblock was bestowed with the nom de guerre of ‘Huggins’ Roadblock’.

Meanwhile, the attack on the right flank (Maj. Zeeff) made some progress but was stopped by strong enemy defenses before it could link up with Maj. Baetcke's force. When Maj. Zeeff was subjected to determined counterattacks, he was ordered to withdraw by Col. Tomlinson. About a dozen men from Maj. Zeeff's force were killed. One of those was Pvt. Hymie Y. Epstein, a medic who had repeatedly distinguished himself before he was KIA by a sniper on 1 December. He was posthumously bestowed with the Silver Star for his valor on 22 November, but he exhibited numerous acts of bravery before he was KIA. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 11 Feb. ‘13]

Maj. Baetcke was later bestowed with the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 30 November. He was a Capt. assigned to HQ, 63D Inf. Bde., Michigan National Guard, at Detroit, when the Division was mobilized. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

Several Soldiers earned the Silver Star for their gallantry on 30 November near Soputa. Some of them are listed here and more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

Maj. George C. Bond, from Michigan and commander of 3D Bn., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 30 November 1942 near Soputa, New Guinea. He was a Capt. and commander of Co. B, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Adrian, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40; he was WIA on 30 Nov. '42. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

Sgt. John F. Carskadon, from Ferrysburg, Michigan, and assigned to Co. F, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 30 November near Buna. He was a Pvt. in Co. F, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Haven, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 26 Mar. ‘13]

Sgt. George L. May, from Edmore, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions on 30 November near Soputa. [added 31 Jan. ‘13]

Cpl. James V. Burrows, from Courtland Township, Michigan, and assigned to Co. L, 126TH Inf., was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions on 30 November near Soputa. He went MIA on 2 December. 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 1 Feb. ‘13]

“Next morning [1 December] Captain Keast and a strong patrol including Lieutenant Daniels, the Australian forward observer who had done such effective work for Major Zeeff on the right, tried a probing attack just off the southwest end of the perimeter. They ran into a well-laid enemy ambush. Keast and Daniels were killed and nine others were wounded. As quickly as they could, the men pulled back into the perimeter, the 1st Sergeant of Company I, Alfred R. Wentzloff, and five men of the company successfully covering their retreat by fire. Beginning in the late afternoon of 1 December and continuing till after midnight, at least five separate counterattacks hit the roadblock troops from the southwest, north, northwest, and northeast. All were thrown back with only small casualties to the garrison. (Milner 220-21)

Capt. Roger Keast, from Lansing, Michigan, and commander of Anti-tank Co., 126TH Inf., was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions between Soputa and Sanananda. It is likely that the award was bestowed for his actions on 30 November and/or 1 December, cannot be certain without finding the actual citation. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 5 Feb. ‘13]

First Sgt. Alfred R. Wentzloff, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his direct actions to thwart a Japanese counterattack on 1 December at the roadblock. He was a Pvt. in Co. I, 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 8 Feb. ‘13]

Capt. Shirley’s detachment at the roadblock on the Soputa-Sanananda trail consisted of Co. I, Antitank Company, and detachments of Company M and the 3D Battalion Headquarters Company. Maj. Baetcke was with Co. K and Cannon Co. about 1,400 yards west of the roadblock. Maj. Boerem and the rest of the 126TH troops, consisting of Co. L and parts of Companies C and D, were at a trail junction south of the roadblock, opposite a Japanese position.

Some newspaper articles from the time referred to the troops at the roadblock as “The Lost Company of New Guinea.” Certainly not in the sense of lost as in not knowing where they were. They knew exactly where they were and their presence there was intentional, to disrupt the Japanese and pave the way for continued U.S. and Australian advance toward Sanananda and Gona. The label was much more likely homage to “The Lost Battalion” of WWI fame, several units from the 77TH ‘Statue of Liberty’ Division that found themselves in a terribly harrowing position when they were surrounded by the Germans and incessantly attacked from all sides for about a week until it was relieved. [added 6 Feb. ‘13]

Early on 1 December 1942, 1st Lt. Hershel Horton, from Co. I, 126TH Inf., led a small patrol from the roadblock on what he referred to as a “mercy mission”. Their objective was to locate and identify the remains of recent U.S. casualties, one of which was Capt. Roger Keast, his good friend, who had been KIA while leading a patrol earlier that day. First Lt. Horton’s patrol was also ambushed, he was seriously WIA, and the other members of his patrol were forced to withdraw under fire. Unfortunately, as you are about to read below, this was the start of two weeks of hell on earth for 1st Lt. Horton. His comrades made numerous attempts to find him and rescue him, while he languished in unbearable agony, but were ultimately unsuccessful. On 11 December he pulled out the prayer book he carried and penned a heartrending letter to his family while he lay dying and anxiously hoping for rescue. [added 11 Feb. ‘13]

“Dearly Beloved. My dear sweet Father, Mother and Sister: Mr. & Mrs. George A. Horton Jr., and Sister Gwenivere.

“About 9:00 A.M. I came out on a mercy patrol to pick up dog tags etc., of our dead. This was the morning of Tuesday, December 1, 1942.

“I was trying to turn over the body of Captain Keast, a friend of mine, when I was shot two or three times in my right leg and hip.  Lt. Ellis, Sgt. Young and Pvt. Merle Christian were with me. I yelled that I was shot, I was in front of all but Merle, they ran for shelter. I dragged myself for a Jap grass shanty about twelve yards to the rear of where I was shot.

“Sgt. Young said he would send help as soon as possible. Possible never came, evidently because I laid there unattended in any way without food or water or medical care. Two days of semi-deliriousness and then I called Captain Shirley's name, Ellis, Help, etc. Finally Lt. Gibbs and one of his men from the Anti-Tank Co. came to me. Their Medic also came up. The Medic gave me my first drink of water in three days, but he had no food to offer. The medic bandaged me temporarily. Lt. Gibbs promised me aid, but I never saw him again. The Medic came back and gave me water, but a man helping him got shot there and that scared him away. Life from then on was a terrible nightmare. The hot burning sun, the delirious nights.  No one came near me from then on, but I did dig a water hole in four days’ time, which was wonderful to me; although it was polluted by all the rotting bodies within 12 ft. and 14 ft. of me. Then two or three rescue parties from my Company came out, but they never could find me. On two or three occasions they nearly got to me when the Japs or a rainstorm made it impossible. The Japs are living within 15 yds. of me. I see them every day.

“I have tried to make splints and crawl or walk out, but I just can't make it. Today, (as nearly as I can judge, Dec. 11) I managed to stand, but I could go no farther. A Jap shot me in the shoulder and neck as I weakly sat there and I thought my time had come, but no, I sit and lay here in this terrible place, wondering not why God has forsaken me; but rather why He is making me suffer this terrible end?  It is true I understand life and its reasons now, but why should He send it to this terrible grave with me? Why not let me live and tell others? I am not afraid to die although I have nearly lost my faith a couple of days here. I have a pistol here, but I could not kill myself; I still have faith in the Lord. I think He must be giving me the supreme test. I know now how Christ felt on the cross.

“I have imagined hearing several other rescue parties, but one's imagination grows as his body shrivels.

“I have had no food of any kind since that morning I was shot. My right hip is broken and my right leg, both compound fractures; else I could have been out of here in those first couple of days, wounds or no wounds.

“My life has been good, but I am so young and have so many things undone that a man of 29 should do.

“We may never know God's purpose in striking me down like this, but He must have one. I can still say truthfully that I have never killed a man, although I have been ordered to order others to.

“I wonder how long a man can go on like this? I shall continue to pray for a miracle of rescue. I want to commend Lt. Ellis for his wonderful efforts and heroism in attempt to rescue me under the Jap treachery.

“God bless you My loved ones. Keep the faith, don't worry. I shall see you all again someday. I prepare to meet My Maker.”

 

“Love,

“Hershel”

First Lt. Horton was WIA a second time circa 11 December and was then KIA circa 15 December. When he was eventually found and recovered, his personal effects were processed and returned to his family, and the letter to his family was discovered. It was obviously incredibly sorrowful, but also somewhat inspirational at the same time. His family decided to share his letter with the local newspaper. From there it was published in newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals from coast to coast during WWII, it was even read into the Congressional Record. [added 11 Feb. ‘13]

First Lt. Horton was born in IL circa 1914. He grew up in Aurora, IL, and graduated high school there in 1931. He attended the University of Notre Dame; he would have been the Class of '43 if he hadn’t left school to enter the service. He is said to have been decorated for leading a supply patrol somewhere between Soputa and Sanananda, the actual award, citation, date, and specific circumstances have proved elusive. He was posthumously awarded at least one Purple Heart. [added 11 Feb. ‘13]

The other members of 1st Lt. Horton’s patrol were Lt. Walter B. Ellis, S. Sgt. Russell E. Young, and Pvt. Merle Christian. Lt. Ellis was from Houston, TX; he earned the Silver Star for his actions during the Papuan Campaign. The exact date and circumstances of his decoration are currently unknown, but it is quite possible he could have been cited for the dangerous attempts to rescue 1st Lt. Horton. S. Sgt. Young was born in IN, but he entered the service from Grand Rapids, MI (he was a Soldier in the Michigan National Guard’s Co. I, 126TH Inf.). S. Sgt. Young earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 December 1942 near Soputa, a strong indication that it may have been for the attempts to find 1st Lt. Horton. Pvt. Christian was born in IN and entered the service at Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN; not much additional information about him is currently known. More information about Lt. Ellis, S. Sgt. Young, and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 11 Feb. ‘13]

The other officer named in 1st Lt. Horton’s letter, Lt. Gibbs, is quite likely Lt. Henry Sylvester Gibbs, Jr. He was from Morehead City, NC, assigned to Anti-tank Co., 126TH Inf., and is known to have led one or more supply patrols to “Huggins’ Roadblock.”

added 11 Feb. 13

Acme Newsphotos

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Lt. Henry Gibbs gets a shave from Lt. Harold Evans (from Robersonville, NC) and his razor-sharp bayonet somewhere in the Buna area on 13 Jan. ‘43. This photo was taken a few days after the original 126TH Inf. Soldiers at “Huggins’ Roadblock” were relieved by other forces.

 

Meanwhile the situation back at the roadblock continued to become more and more difficult.

“The roadblock was attacked repeatedly both day and night. On [2] December 1942, an ammunition and ration party under Capt. Huggins (S-3 of the 3rd Battalion) fought its way to the roadblock. Capt. Shirley was killed during a strong attack on the position soon thereafter. Capt. Huggins took over command and Lt. Dal Ponte took the supply party back to its base. (Blakeley 115) The new commander became the namesake for the roadblock, which thereafter became known as “Huggins’ Roadblock”. Several Soldiers were awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor that day. Some of them are listed below and more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

Capt. John D. Shirley, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and commander of Co. I, 126TH Inf., was posthumously bestowed with the Silver Star for his actions between Soputa and Sanananda. It is likely that the award was bestowed for his actions between 30 November and 2 December when he played such a key role in establishing the hard-won roadblock, cannot be certain without finding the actual citation. 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 6 Feb. ‘13]

S. Sgt. Russell E. Young, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 December near Soputa. It is possible that he earned the decoration while on a dangerous patrol to protect the vital telephone line that ran from “Huggins’ Roadblock” to the main command post. He discovered several Japanese soldiers who were attempting to cut the line and killed them. It is also possible that he earned his decoration during the attempt to rescue 1st Lt. Hershel Horton. He was a Pvt. in Co. I, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. S. Sgt. Young was later KIA on 22 February 1944 at Saidor, New Guinea. [added 10 Feb. ‘13]

Sgt. Bernard F. 'Bud' Clarke (Clark), from Saint Joseph, Michigan, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his attempt to rescue a wounded U.S. officer behind Japanese lines between Sanananda and Soputa on 2 December. It is quite likely that the wounded officer was 1st Lt. Hershel Horton, see above. [added 1 Apr. ‘13]

Sgt. Leland L. Sharp, from Montgomery, Michigan, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his attempt to rescue a wounded U.S. officer behind Japanese lines between Sanananda and Soputa on 2 December. It is quite likely that the wounded officer was 1st Lt. Hershel Horton, see above. [added 1 Apr. ‘13]

Pfc. Karl Skyee, from Boyne City, Michigan, and assigned to HQ Co., 3D Bn., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions 2 December near Soputa. [added 30 Apr. ‘13]

Pvt. Ezra Davis, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a medic with the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 December 1942 at “Huggins Roadblock” near Soputa. He was known as the “praying patcher” because he often prayed while treating wounded comrades and he desired to become a minister. [added 10 Feb. ‘13]

Pvt. Robbie H. Scheef, from Millard, Nebraska, and assigned to HQ Co., 3D Bn., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 December near Soputa. [added 30 Apr. ‘13]

Pvt. Robert M. Shearer, from Indianola, Mississippi, and assigned to HQ Co., 3D Bn., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 December near Soputa. [added 30 Apr. ‘13]

Pfc. Francisco A. Olguin, Jr., from Pecos, TX, and Pvt. Clifford V. North, from Harris County, TX, were both assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf. and MIA, presumed KIA, on 2 December near “Huggins’ Roadblock.”  In Sep. '95, after learning that members of the local indigenous population had uncovered human remains, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) (renamed Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in '15) found their battlefield graves near Sanananda, Papua, New Guinea.  Pfc. Olguin and Pvt. North were positively identified on 26 Oct. '04, after being MIA for nearly 62 years.  Pfc. Olguin was reinterred with full military honors at Mt. Evergreen Cemetery on Memorial Day, 30 May '05.  Pvt. North was reinterred at Forest Park Cemetery, Houston, TX, ca. May '05. [added 2 Nov. ’15, TPB]

All of the Allied troops in the Australian zone were now in bad shape. The Australians were in danger of becoming too weak to sustain offensive action, due to losses from combat and tropical diseases. The strength of the 126TH Infantry was also being whittled away by casualties and sickness. The prospect of an early victory west of the Giruwa was fading.

At this point you should return to the main Battle of Buna page for some information related to the 32D Division as a whole. You will then be directed back to this point at the appropriate time.

Around 3 or 4 December 1942, Col. Tomlinson, his 126TH Infantry Headquarters, and part of his Headquarters Company, were transferred back to the control of the 32D Division. Maj. Baetcke assumed command of the remainder of the 126TH Inf. in the Australian zone. Major Zeeff became Maj. Baetcke's executive officer.

T/Sgt. Edgar C. Marsh, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to HQ Co., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 3 December near Buna. He was a Cpl. in HQ Co., 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 17 Apr. ‘13]

First Lt. John F. O’Sullivan, from Massachusetts, earned the earned the Silver Star for his actions on 4 December near Soputa. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 12 Feb. ‘13]

On 5 December, a coordinated attack, with about 300 troops, was launched against the Japanese position near the trail junction. Maj. Baetcke’s group attacked southward while Maj. Boerem’s grouped attacked northward, both attacks were repulsed. Two soldiers were killed, 63 wounded and 25 were missing.

Pvt. Earl Joseph Keating, from New Orleans and assigned to AT Co., 126TH Inf., was one of those Soldiers MIA, presumed KIA; he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions on 5 December.  After being MIA for nearly 73 years, Pvt. Keating’s remains have been located and repatriated.  Members of the local indigenous population located his and Pvt. John H. Klopp’s remains near the site of “Huggins’ Roadblock” in 2010.  A team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC, renamed Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in 2015) recovered remains, dog tag, Sheaffer’s Balance fountain pen, and plastic comb in 2012 and took them back to Hawaii for positive identification.  The confirmed identification was announced on 1 Aug. ’15. Pvt. Keating was re-interred at Saint Joseph Cemetery, New Orleans, LA on 28 May '16.  Co-mingled remains of Pvt. Keating and Pvt. John H. Klopp were re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery on 23 Mar. '16. [added 12 Nov. ’16, TPB]

Pvt. John Henry ‘Buddy’ Klopp, from New Orleans and assigned to AT Co., 126TH Inf., was one of those Soldiers MIA, presumed KIA; he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions on 5 December.  After being MIA for nearly 73 years, Pvt. Klopp’s remains have been located and repatriated.  Members of the local indigenous population located his remains near the site of “Huggins’ Roadblock” in 2010.  A team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC, renamed Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in 2015) recovered remains, dog tags, watch, helmet, and boots in 2012 and took them back to Hawaii for positive identification.  The confirmed identification was announced on 2 Oct. ’15. Pvt. Klopp and some co-mingled remains of Pvt. Earl J. Keating were re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery on 23 Mar. ’16. [added 2 Nov. ’15, TPB]

Pfc. Leonard Taylor 'Jim' Bradley, from Iowa and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., was one of those Soldiers WIA; he earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 5 December. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

Several Soldiers earned the Silver Star for their gallantry on 5 December. Some of them are listed below and more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

Capt. Harry L. Richardson, Jr., from Ashland, Virginia, and commander of Co. C, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 5 December near Soputa. [added 12 Feb. ‘13, TPB]

First Sgt. Wheeler G. Bowman, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and assigned to Co. C, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 5 December along the Soputa Trail. He was Pfc. in Co. C, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Kalamazoo, MI when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 20 May ‘14, TPB]

Pvt. Milo G. Marks, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and assigned to Co. C, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 5 December near Soputa. He was Pvt. in Co. C, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Kalamazoo, MI when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 26 May ‘14, TPB]

Pvt. Jesse S. Sommer, from McLean County, Illinois, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 5 December near Sanananda. The award was bestowed posthumously because he was KIA the next day. [added 1 May ‘13, TPB]

Several Soldiers earned the Silver Star for their gallantry on 6 December. Some of them are listed below and more information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients.

S. Sgt. Steve E. Fuller, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his actions on 6 December near Sanananda Point. He has been MIA since that day. He was a Pfc. in Co. K, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 7 Apr. ‘13, TPB]

Tec. 5 Walter J. Zinchuk, from South Windham, Maine, and assigned to Co. A, 114TH Engr. Bn., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 6 December near Sanananda. [added 24 May ‘14, TPB]

Pfc. Walter J. Campbell, from Detroit, Michigan, and assigned to Med. Det., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions as a medic on 6 December near Sanananda. He was a Pvt. in Co. C, l07TH Med. Regt., Michigan National Guard, at Detroit, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 26 Mar. ‘13, TPB]

Pfc. Alonzo Enos, from Mesa, Arizona, and assigned to Co. C, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 6 December near Soputa. [added 25 May ‘14, TPB]

Pfc. William F. Mills, from Somerville, Massachusetts, and assigned to Co. A, 114TH Engr. Bn., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 6 December near Sanananda. [added 26 May ‘14, TPB]

Pfc. Andrew J. Zlatykanicz, Jr., from Hamilton, Ohio, and assigned to Co. A, 114TH Engr. Bn., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 6 December near Sanananda. [added 26 May ‘14, TPB]

Pvt. Robert C. Rief, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 6 December near Soputa-Sanananda. He was a Pvt. in Co. I, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Grand Rapids, MI, when 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. [added 26 Apr. ‘13, TPB]

On 7 December, Maj. Baetcke and Maj. Zeef were evacuated, after being stricken with malaria.  Maj. Boerem assumed command of the whole detachment.  “Several additional attempts to get supplies to the roadblock were unsuccessful.  On 8 December, a supply party under the vigorous and courageous leadership of Lieutenant Dal Ponte got through to the roadblock.  Capt. Huggins, who had been wounded on the 5th, was evacuated when the supply party returned under cover of darkness to a position held by Company K and Cannon Company west of the roadblock.  Lieutenant Dal Ponte stayed at the roadblock in command.  He had about 225 men, but many were too sick to fight.  They were packed into a small area, subject to almost constant attacks, exposed to hot sun by day and rain by night, and with inadequate rations. (Blakeley 115-18)

Later Maj. Dal Ponte recalled, “…water was procured from a hole dug about 3 feet deep…chlorinated for drinking by administering individual tablets.  Another source of water supply was that which the men would catch in their pouches from the downpour during the previous night.…The disposal of wastes and the burying of dead had to be accomplished within [the] area.…Rations were very meager because the ration parties concentrated on ammunition.…Chocolate bars, bully beef, and instant coffee were the main items of food when provided.…The weather was almost without [exception] rain at night and boiling hot sun during the day.…The men were able to get hot coffee by using canned heat that they had saved from previous ration issues or by an expedient consisting of sand and the gasoline taken from the captured trucks.…” (qtd. in Milner 224) [added 15 Apr. ’17, TPB]

A second supply party, led by 1st Lt. Zina R. Carter, made it to the roadblock on 10 December. The radios and field telephones were not working, again, so Lt. Dal Ponte sent a message back with 1st Lt. Carter to let higher headquarters know that morale was reasonably good, but medical problems were constantly mounting and the soldiers at the roadblock needed to be relieved soon. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

“Life at the roadblock was hard. Although the troops were hungry, feverish, and in need of sleep, they were on an almost perpetual alert. Crouched low in their muddy foxholes, their feet going bad, they repelled attack after attack. Sometimes the Japanese got so close to their slit trenches that the troops were able to grab them by the ankles and pull them in. Several Japanese officers were caught and killed in this way. (Milner 224) [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

“Communications between the supply base to the west and the troops in the roadblock were poor. The radios in use, the SCR-195 and SCR-288, proved very unreliable. Not only did the Japanese frequently cut the [telephone] wire laid to the roadblock, but they apparently made a practice of tapping it frequently. Extreme care was therefore observed in telephone conversations. As an additional precaution, frequent use was made of Dutch, a language familiar to many Michigan troops whose forebears had come from the Netherlands. (Milner 225) [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

Pvt. Jack M. Binns, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, and assigned to Co. C, 126TH Inf., was KIA on 11 December in the vicinity of “Huggins’ Roadblock”. He was posthumously bestowed with DSC for his actions on 26 Nov. near Cape Endaiadere through 11 Dec. when he was KIA. He was a Soldier in Co. C, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Kalamazoo, 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. [added 18 Dec. ‘12]

Sgt. Willard L. Oles, from Adrian, Michigan, and assigned to Co. B, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions between 26 November and 13 December near Soputa. He was a Cpl. in Co. B, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Adrian, 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 20 Apr. ‘13]

The 126TH Infantry’s other groups were in a similar predicament. Casualties, and no replacements to make up the losses, were reducing the strength of the force every day. On 14 December, Maj. Boerem, after repeated requests, was able to have Co. K and Cannon Co. relieved by Australian units. Also that day, the roadblock received much needed food, ammunition and medical supplies when a supply party of fifty-five soldiers successfully infiltrated the roadblock.

First Lt. Zina Roscoe Carter, from St. Petersburg, Florida, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 14 December 1942 between Soputa & Sanananda. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 10 Jan. ‘13]

PVT Clare T. Latham, from East Detroit, Michigan, and assigned to Med. Det., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for his efforts to rescue an Australian officer during a mortar attack along the Sanananda Track on 15 December. He was WIA that day and later DOW on 4 Jan. '43. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 13 Apr. ‘13]

Brig. Gen. Byers, acting commander of the forward elements of the 32D Division, was WIA by a Japanese sniper while he was observing the attack on the Coconut Grove the morning of 16 December. Lt. Gen. Eichelberger was now the only U.S. general officer left in the combat area, so he took command of the forward elements of the 32D Division. “With three generals knocked out of action by enemy fire, Eichelberger says in Our Jungle Road to Tokyo that he permitted himself a grim chuckle as he recalled a fragment of the World War I song: “The General won the Croix de Guerre - But the so-and-so was never there - Hinkey, dinkey, parlez-vous. (qtd. in Blakeley 95)

Brig. Gen. Clovis E. Byers, originally from Columbus, Ohio, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions while observing the attack by Urbana Force on 16 December 1942 near Buna. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 9 Jan. ‘13]

Lt. Gen. Eichelberger also pays tribute to the National Guard officers in the 32D Division: “There were many great commanders among the National Guard officers of the 32nd Division. In crises, I would like to have them again as comrades. I can mention only a few here: Colonels Merle H. Howe of Michigan and Herbert M. Smith of Wisconsin, Maj. H. E. [Hantelmann] of Iowa, Maj. Edmund R. Schroeder of Wisconsin, the inimitable Capt. W. H. Dames of Wisconsin, whose Company G, 127th Infantry, never made a wrong move in battle. (qtd. in Blakeley 95)

This table contains ten Associated Press photos taken in the Buna area in November and December of 1942. These photos were contributed in memory of Edward S. Anderson, a 32D Infantry Division Veteran who served with the 114TH Eng. Bn. (Companies A & C) in New Guinea and the Philippines. The photo captions, in italics, are the original captions from when the photos were taken. The photos were contributed by M. Anderson, Edward Anderson's nephew.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/buna20(t).jpg“Scout Car Crosses Stream on New Guinea – An army scout car takes a jungle stream in New Guinea with ease - - more or less. While soldiers push, some of their buddies watch from the “privacy” of their bath. The Americans were reported, Nov. 13, to be pushing the Jap army down the Buna trail.” Associated Press photo dated 11-13-42.

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Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/buna15(t).jpg“Mortar Blasts at Japs in New Guinea – An American three inch trench mortar, almost hidden in a deep New Guinea jungle lets loose at a Jap position as the combined force of Australians and Americans under General MacArthur worked its way across the Owen Stanley Mountain Range to trap the enemy in the Buna-Gona area.” Associated Press photo dated 12-15-42.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/buna16(t).jpg“Allies Toil Across New Guinea to Attack Japs – Working their way across the trackless New Guinea jungles and mountain wastes of the Owen Stanley Ranges, to get a crack at the Japs in the Buna-Gona area, engineer troops of a combined Australian-American task force under General MacArthur build a bridge to move men and equipment to an advance base on jeeps and motorized transport. After almost three months they finally trapped the Japs along Buna Bay.” Associated Press photo dated 12-15-42.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/sutton%20and%20poole(t).jpg“’Wild Man’ From Michigan Takes Jap Bullet Calmly – Described as a “Wild Man” at the front and credited with killing between 30 and 40 japs as his unit cross New Guinea to trap the enemy in the Buna-Gona area, Private First Class Orin Sutton (left) of Charlevoix, Mich., sits calmly and has his leg bandaged after he was hit by a Jap machine gun bullet. He was back in action in less than 24 hours. Doing the bandaging is Private First Class Allie Poole of Petersburg, Mich.” Associated Press photo dated 12-15-42.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/buna19(t).jpg“Manpower Moves Ammunition for Attack on Japs – Ammunition for three inch trench mortars is loaded on the back of a pack carrier for transport to weapons set up in the jungles of New Guinea as a combined Australian and American task force under General MacArthur advanced against the Japs and trapped them in the Buna-Gona area.” Associated Press photo dated 12-15-42.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/buna17(t).jpg“Exhausted Jap Prisoner Observed by Americans – American soldiers on the Buna front watch an exhausted Japanese prisoner. This picture is one of several release by the Army from among those made by Edward Widdis, Associated Press photographer, who was encamped with the fighting forces just 100 yards behind the front in Buna.” Associate Press photo dated 12-18-42.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/buna18(t).jpg“Moving in For Jap Flank – Moving along the Buna Road in New Guinea, these American soldiers were to open a flanking movement against the Japs in the bitter fighting in that area. They moved up toward the Japs single file, well scattered.” Associate Press photo dated 12-18-42.

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/soputa(t).jpg“Bringing Home the Wounded – American soldiers on the Soputa front near Buna, New Guinea, bear their wounded to headquarters as they return from 11 days fighting the Japs. Note the automatic gun by the soldiers side on the stretcher." Associated Press photo 12-24-42.”

Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: http://www.32nd-division.org/history/ww2/buna/soputa2(t).jpg“Hot Food Comes to a Fox Hole – Hot food has come up to these soldiers in the line on the Soputa front near Buna, New Guinea. These Americans were in the line 11 days. Hot food was brought up through the jungle and underbrush as often as possible despite the danger. L. to R.: Private William Mills, Sommerville, Mass.; Private Hebert Van Lier, Boston, Mass.; Private Edward K. Fairbanks, Sommerville, Mass.; and Sgt. Joseph P. Doran, Nahant, Mass.” Associate Press photo dated 12-24-42.


“During the next week, several Australian units reached the vicinity of the roadblock, but it was not until the evening of 22 December that Dal Ponte and his command were relieved after twenty-two days of almost continuous fighting. The Army’s official history
[Victory in Papua] pays them tribute: ‘They were dazed, sick and exhausted, and their feet were in such bad shape they could hardly use them. Their spirit, nevertheless, was high and it should be have been, for the defense of the roadblock had not only been praiseworthy, it had been superb.’ Among the decorations awarded were the Distinguished Service Cross for Capt. Huggins and Lt. Dal Ponte.
(Blakeley 118)

Capt. Huggins, from Oregon, was bestowed the DSC for his actions on 1 December.  More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

First Lt. Dal Ponte, from Three Rivers, Michigan, was bestowed with the DSC for his actions on 9 December.  More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.

Pfc. Gerald (Jerald) D. Massey, from Greentown, Indiana, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 22 December near Sanananda. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 17 Apr. ‘13]

Pvt. Leroy Johnson, from Oakdale, Louisiana, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 22 December near Sanananda. Pvt. Johnson was later KIA and posthumously bestowed with the Medal of Honor on Leyte. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 3 Jan. ‘13]

On 24 December, “five 32nd Division men were awarded the [Distinguished Service Cross] in an attack on the track junction. A sap had been dug to within fifteen feet of an enemy trench. Sergeant Chester C. Funk of Cannon Company, 126th Infantry, although wounded, held the sap throughout the night against enemy attacks. At dawn, four men crawled forward from the sap, assaulted the trench and held it until reinforced. They were: Corporal Orrin C. Sutton and Private Edward R. [Rossman (Roseman)] of Company L, and Privates Lawrence B. Marion and Harold Pederson of Company M. (Blakeley 118) The track junction mentioned is the point where the Killerton Trail splits off from the Soputa-Sanananda Track.

Sgt. Funk was from Washington. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 19 Dec. ‘12]

Cpl. Sutton, from Charlevoix, Michigan, was WIA by a Japanese machine gun bullet ca. 15 Dec.; after medical treatment he returned to duty less than 24 hours later. He may be namesake for Sherman-Wudarcki-Sutton Post No. 582 of VFW in Ortonville, Michigan. It seems he was the inspiration for a character in Superman comic book in 1943. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 12 Dec. ‘12]

Pfc. Rossman was from Tell City, Indiana. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 1 Jan. ‘13]

Pvt. Marion was from Michigan. He was a Cpl. in Co. H, 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, at Iona, MI, 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. [added 21 Dec. ‘12]

Pvt. Pederson was from Ohio. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 29 Dec. ‘12]

Cpl. Glenn W. Follett, from Benton Harbor, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 24 December. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 5 Apr. ‘13]

On Christmas Day, Maj. Boerem only had four hundred soldiers left; a few days later there were only three hundred.

Capt. Russell J. Wildey, from Michigan and commander of Co. M, 126TH Inf., earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 26 December near Sanananda.  He was WIA during the event.  He was a 2d Lt. in 126TH Inf., Michigan National Guard, 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 21 May ‘13]

S. Sgt. Robert F. Danenberg (Dannenberg), from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and assigned to Cannon Co., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star (posthumously) for rescuing a wounded comrade on 26 December (some sources state 25 Dec.), but he was subsequently KIA by an enemy sniper.  He was a Sgt. in Btry. C, 120TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Chippewa Falls, 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 2 Apr. ‘13]

S. Sgt. Elmer P. Peterson, from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and assigned to Cannon Co., 126TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 26 December near Soputa.  He was a Pfc. in Btry. C, 120TH FA Regt., Wisconsin National Guard, at Chippewa Falls, 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 20 May ‘14]

On 31 December, Maj. Francis L. Irwin relieved Maj. Boerem, who was exhausted.  Lt. Dal Ponte was back in the line, commanding the seventy-eight men left.

The Australian soldiers were also in rough shape.  Both the Americans and Australians welcomed the arrival of the 163D Infantry Regimental Combat Team, consisting of the 163D Regiment and 550 other troops from the U.S. 41STSunsetters’ Infantry Division.  A few months later the 41ST Div. would earn a new nickname, the ‘Jungleers’.  The 163D RCT was commanded by Col. Jens A. Doe, and was committed to action with the Australian 7th Division.

added 5 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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U.S. Soldiers unload rations that were brought up the Girua [Giruwa] River in a collapsible assault boat in December 1942.

added 5 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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Japanese prisoners eating canned rations supplied by Australian soldiers in the Buna/Sanananda area.

“The relief of the 126th troops was finally completed on the afternoon of 9 January 1943. Major Boerem, who had not quit but continued on as Major Irwin’s executive, went to Buna to prepare for the arrival of the detachment there. Three days later, the detachment, down to 158 men from a strength of over 1300 at the start of operations across the Giruwa, started its march back to the Division. With Major Irwin at their head, and Dal Ponte – now a Captain – as second in command, they reached Simemi that night. General Eichelberger received them on 14 January, as he says, ‘with band music and with what might well be described as a martial welcome . . . my eyes were wet’. (Blakeley 118-9)

Return to the main Battle of Buna page.

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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 Philippines.  U. 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 Guardn.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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created 12 July 1999