The 32D 'Red Arrow' Veteran Association

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The 32D Infantry Division

in World War II

The ‘Red Arrow’

The New Guinea Campaign - Saidor


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The New Guinea Campaign - Saidor

    "The campaign on New Guinea is all but forgotten except by those who served there. Battles with names like Tarawa, Saipan, and Iwo Jima overshadow it. Yet Allied operations in New Guinea were essential to the U.S. Navy's drive across the Central Pacific and to the U.S. Army's liberation of the Philippine Islands from Japanese occupation. The remorseless Allied advance along the northern New Guinea coastline toward the Philippines forced the Japanese to divert precious ships, planes, and men who might otherwise have reinforced their crumbling Central Pacific front.
    "New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. Its north coastline extends nearly 1,600 miles from 12 degrees south latitude to just south of the equator. A major mountain range cuts across the island's center from the eastern end of New Guinea to Geelvink Bay on the west and makes passage overland through the jungled mountains by large units nearly impossible. The lee of the mountainous spine, around the Port Moresby area, is wet from January to April but otherwise dry. On the windward side, scene of most of the ground fighting during 1942-45, rainfall runs as high as 300 inches per year. As one veteran recalled, "It rains daily for nine months and then the monsoon starts."
    "Disease thrived on New Guinea. Malaria was the greatest debilitator, but dengue fever, dysentery, scrub typhus, and a host of other tropical sicknesses awaited unwary soldiers in the jungle. Scattered, tiny coastal settlements dotted the flat malarial north coastline, but inland the lush tropical jungle swallowed men and equipment.
    "The terrain was a commander's nightmare because it fragmented the deployment of large formations. On the north shore a tangled morass of large mangrove swamps slowed overland movement. Monsoon rains of 8 or 10 inches a day turned torpid streams into impassible rivers. There were no roads or railways, and supply lines were often native tracks, usually a dirt trail a yard or so wide tramped out over the centuries through the jungle growth. Downpours quickly dissolved such footpaths into calf-deep mud that reduced soldiers to exhausted automatons stumbling over the glue-like ground. Fed by the frequent downpours, the lush rain forest jungle afforded excellent concealment to stubborn defenders and made coordinated overland envelopments nearly impossible. Infantrymen carrying 60 lbs. of weapons, equipment, and pack staggered along in temperatures reaching the mid-90s with humidity levels to match. The U.S. Army faced a determined Japanese foe on a battleground riddled with disease and whose terrain made a mockery of orthodox military deployments." (Drea 3-4)

The Strategic Situation

    "In January 1943 the Allied and the Japanese forces facing each other on New Guinea were like two battered heavy weights. Round one had gone to the Americans and Australians who had ejected the Japanese from Papua, New Guinea. After 3 months of unimaginative frontal attacks had overcome a well entrenched foe, Gen. MacArthur had his airstrip and staging base at Buna on the north coast. It was expensive real estate. About 13,000 Japanese troops perished during the terrible fighting, but Allied casualties were also heavy; 8,500 men fell in battle (5,698 of them Australians) and 27,000 cases of malaria were reported, mainly because of shortages of medical supplies. Besides ruining the Australian 7th and U.S. 32nd Infantry Divisions, the campaign had severely taxed the Australian 5th and U.S. 41st Infantry Divisions. The exhausted Americans needed six months to reconstitute before their next operation. Australian ground forces, despite heavier losses, became the front line of defense against the Japanese who, though bloodied, were ready for round two.
    "To block the Allied counteroffensives on New Guinea and in the Solomons, Tokyo dispatched thousands of reinforcements to its great bastion at Rabaul, New Britain. On 9 November 1942, Eighth Area Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Hitoshi Imamura, opened on Rabaul. Eighteenth Army, commanded by Lt. Gen. Hatazo Adachi, was organized the same day and subordinated to Eighth Area Army. Adachi took charge of operations on New Guinea. Despite their defeat at Buna and the heavy losses in the continuing struggle for Guadalcanal, in January 1943 Japan still held the preponderant air, naval, and ground strength in the Southwest Pacific and retained the strategic initiative in New Guinea. With these advantages, they planned to strike again for Port Moresby.
    "Japanese construction battalions had transformed the prewar airfield and harbor at Lae, North East New Guinea, into a major air base and anchorage on the Huon Gulf. Japanese infantrymen could land at the stronghold and then sortie under air cover to seize a forward air base at Wau, located in the malarious Bulolo Valley about 150 miles west-northwest of Buna. With Wau in hand, the Japanese could lunge forward again toward Moresby protected by an aerial umbrella. Isolated and weakly defended, the Australian airstrip at Wau seemed ripe for Eighteenth Army's picking.
    "In January 1943 Eighth Area Army ordered reinforcements to Lae. Forewarned of the impending convoy by decrypted Japanese naval messages, MacArthur's air chief, Lt. Gen. George C. Kenney, commander of Allied Air Forces and U.S. Fifth Air Force, sent repeated air attacks against the enemy ships. Allied pilots sank two troop transports, damaged another, and killed 600 Japanese soldiers. Only 1/3 of the intended Japanese reinforcements reached Lae, and these survivors salvaged only half of their equipment. Without reinforcements, the desperate attack on Wau failed. The defeated Japanese remnants fell back into the jungle, slowly giving ground toward Lae.
    "Repulsed at Wau and pressed by the Australians, Japanese forces on New Guinea urgently needed reinforcements. On 19 February 1943, U.S. Navy cryptanalysts handed MacArthur solid intelligence that the enemy was planning another major transport to Lae in early March. Kenney threw every available aircraft into a 3 day struggle from 2-5 March, known as the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Eight transports and four destroyers were lost in all. Of the 51st Division's 6,912 troops, about 3,900 survived, but only 1,000 soaked, oil stained, and dispirited officers and men reached Lae. Kenney's destruction of the 51st Division condemned the Japanese to the strategic defensive on New Guinea.
    "From February to June 1943 the battleground in eastern New Guinea lapsed into a stalemate as the opponents reinforced and replaced earlier losses. Shipping shortages created logistics and transportation bottlenecks for both sides. The Imperial Navy could not make good its heavy losses in naval planes and pilots so the Japanese Army Air Force was gradually taking control of air bases and operations in New Guinea. For the Allies, Europe also had first priority, for long range heavy bombers and fighters were needed in North Africa. Kenney found himself trying to justify additional scarce warplanes from Washington for New Guinea. Carrier based aircraft in the Pacific remained firmly under U.S. Navy control, as did the greater part of the Pacific Fleet. MacArthur was limited to cruisers, destroyers, and submarines. He lacked transports, cargo vessels, and landing craft as well as the specialized crews to man them. Neither side had the resources in early 1943 to force a decisive victory, and the campaign seemed likely to continue as a war of attrition." (Drea 4-5)

 

photo added 12 Dec. 12

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Map depicting the location of Saidor on New Guinea, from U.S. Army Center of Military History brochure ‘New Guinea’.

As noted in the previous section, the 32D 'Red Arrow' Infantry Division was training and rebuilding in Australia during this time frame. Let us now jump ahead to when the 32D Division reentered the fighting on New Guinea.

On 17 December 1943 the U.S. Sixth Army was tasked with the mission to capture Saidor. This was done to take advantage of the recent success of the Australian 9th Division at Finschhafen. An American blocking position at Saidor would cut off the Japanese retreat from Finschhafen, and would trap an entire Japanese division at Sio. The task of establishing this blocking position at Saidor would be assigned to the 32D Division.

On 22 December 1943 Michaelmas Task Force was organized for the mission of seizing the airfield at Saidor and securing the surrounding area. The 32D Division provided the majority of the units that made up the task force. The main combat power for the task force was the 126TH Infantry. The task force commander was BG Clarence A. Martin, assistant commander of the 32D Division. COL Joseph S. Bradley was CO of the 126TH Infantry; he also served as BG Martin's chief of staff for the task force.

"The Saidor area is no better for military operations, and in some ways perhaps a little worse, than other regions of New Guinea’s northern coast. Surrounded by high mountains, it is cut by swamp-bordered streams. The soil is generally too soft to support vehicles, there are no roads, and luxurious growths cover nearly all the area. The beaches are often covered by loose stones, and reefs make shore approaches difficult. Torrential rains can be expected in the early months of the year." (Blakeley 133)

 

2 January 1944 was the scheduled D-day for Michaelmas Task Force. "Time was short for organizing the task force, for planning the loading of the ships, and for arranging for naval gunfire support, air support, communications, supplies, evacuation of sick and wounded, and for distributing maps and air photographs. The fact that many of the attached units were not a part of the 32nd Division, and the necessity of maintaining secrecy, both complicated the task. Nevertheless, the main elements of the force were embarked from Goodenough Island in nine Destroyer-transports, several LCIs (landing craft, infantry), and two LSTs (landing ship, tank), during the last days of December 1943. Rain hampered the operation." (Blakeley 133)

"A partial list of the composition of Michaelmas Task Force is included at this point to indicate to readers unfamiliar with the complex requirements, in terms of essential organizations, associated with even a relatively small and simple operation. This list does not, of course, include the naval combat craft, transports, and air units participating in the operation but not a part of the task force proper. Neither, as will be seen, does it include any of the units added later." (Blakeley 133, 135)

126TH Infantry Regiment,
120TH Field Artillery Battalion,
121ST Field Artillery Battalion,
Company A, 114TH Engineer Battalion,
Company C and 1ST Platoon of Company B, 632D Tank Destroyer Battalion,
Company A and a platoon of Company D, 107TH Medical Battalion,
Detachment of 32D Quartermaster Company,
Detachment of 732D Ordnance Company,
Detachment of Military Police Platoon, 32D Infantry Division,
Detachment of 32D Signal Company,
18TH Portable Surgical Hospital,
5TH Portable Surgical Hospital,
16TH Signal Operations Battalion
191ST Field Artillery Group, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery,
Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, and Batteries A and D, 743D Coast Artillery Battalion,
Batteries B and D, 209TH Coast Artillery Battalion (Automatic Weapons),
Battery A, less one platoon, 236TH Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion,
23D Field Hospital,
One section of Company C, 543D Quartermaster Service Battalion,
Shore Battalion, 542D Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment,
One boat company, 542D Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment,
One section of 2nd Platoon, 601ST Graves Registration Company,
670TH Clearing Platoon,
Company C (collecting), 135TH Medical Regiment,
Survey Detachment of 8TH Engineer Squadron,
21ST Ordnance Company, plus attachments,
Detachment of Company A, 60TH Signal Battalion,
863D Engineer Aviation Battalion,
One platoon of 189TH Gasoline Supply Company,
3D Platoon of 453D Engineer Depot Company,
5TH Malaria Survey Unit,
15TH Malaria Control Unit,
27TH Medical Supply Platoon (Aviation).

The combined strength of these units that comprised Michaelmas Task Force consisted of approximately 450 officers and 8,500 men.

    "In spite of all handicaps, the task force moved out on schedule. Nine destroyers furnished the escort and gunfire support. Because of the bad weather the movement to the transport assembly area off Saidor was a difficult one. Nevertheless, the first assault waves landed on three adjacent beaches, designated as Red, White and Blue, less than an hour behind schedule. Strong naval gunfire and air support neutralized the small Japanese garrison, and the landing was unopposed. Surprise had evidently been complete. Air interference attempted by the enemy was ineffective, but did result in casualties of one killed and several wounded.
    "The mission of capturing the airfield area had been quickly accomplished. A tremendous task now faced the engineers of the force in the building of docks and roads, and in getting the airfield into operation. Handicapped by narrow, rocky beaches, rough seas, and occasional enemy air interference, the “men with the hairy ears” nevertheless had the field in operation within a week, and the primary part of General Martin’s mission was accomplished.
    "A secondary result was to furnish a motor torpedo-boat base. The Navy could now operate farther west along the coast and interfere considerably more with Japanese water-borne supply and evacuation. But more important than this – the Saidor landing put American troops in a position to cut the Japanese land movement of supplies and troops along the trails between the coast and the mountains. An estimated 5,000 enemy troops east of Saidor were now in danger of being cut off from their supply bases by both sea and land.
    "As soon as the beachhead was established, patrols were pushed inland to prevent movements between the Japanese bases farther west along the coast and the forces now trapped between Saidor and the Australians operating against them from the east. In the first landings the battalions of the 126th Infantry had come ashore on three beaches. The 3rd Battalion had taken Red (north) Beach, and the 2nd Battalion White (center) and Blue (south) Beaches. The 1st Battalion then came in on White Beach, passed through the 2nd, and kept on west to seize Saidor Village and the airstrip by it. The 120th Field Artillery Battalion and two batteries of antiaircraft artillery were also landed that first day. From this nucleus, the beachhead was expanded and patrols were pushed inland." (Blakeley 136)

photo added 7 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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The 1st assault wave at Saidor, New Guinea. These are likely 126TH Inf. Soldiers on 2 January 1944.

photo added 7 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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The 1st assault wave at Saidor, New Guinea. These are likely 126TH Inf. Soldiers on 2 January 1944.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
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Aerial view of shoreline of Saidor, New Guinea, showing LST’s unloading equipment on 2 January 1944.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
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LST’s unloading troops (likely from 126TH Inf.) directly on shore during an amphibious landing at Saidor, New Guinea on 2 January 1944.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
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A Cub plane is unloaded from an LST during landing operations at Saidor, New Guinea, on 2 January 1944. This plane was used for artillery observation by the 120TH Field Artillery, 32D Division.

 

Here is CPT William R. Fleischer's first-hand account of the operation, based on excerpts from his diary:

3 January 1944.  At 0400 our shore defenses opened fire at about 1,000 yards’ range on three unidentified vessels that failed to give the recognition signal.  Several hits were scored and the vessels put out to sea.  But after daylight we discovered that these were our own LSTs which had lost their escort.  One man was killed and three wounded by this fire.  Units disembarked were the 121st FA Bn, and Batteries A and D, 743rd CA Bn (AA).  The 121st went into position to support the east flank and the 120th the west flank.  The AA Batteries were placed in positions previously reconnoitered.

Over on the east flank, the 2nd Bn, 126th Infantry, sent two reinforced platoons of Company F forward to organize a defensive position along the coastal track to Mur.

An outpost of Company B killed one Japanese out of a party of three men who seemed to be wandering aimlessly in the brush.  The dead Japanese was wearing sandals and a ragged uniform, and he was carrying a pack.  The two others escaped.

Reports radioed from Sixth Army indicated that the Japanese troops to the east of the beachhead might attempt to break through the position sometime between 10 and 20 January.  There might also be a diversionary attack on the west with the attempt from the east.

Total casualties for the day 3 killed, 17 wounded.

“4 January.  A 62-man patrol sent by the 2nd Bn along the coastal track to Sel reached Mur and reported no enemy found.  Another 2nd Bn patrol was sent southwest.  It made no contact with live Japanese but found 6 fresh Japanese graves and an abandoned OP.

A Company K patrol was dispatched to Cape Iris, crossing the swift Mot River to get there.  It carried one SCR-284 radio for hourly reports to 3rd Bn, but it never worked at all.  This patrol ran into five enemy at Teteri and killed one and dispersed the rest.

Near Bilau village this patrol signaled the LCMs (landing craft, mechanized) offshore which were bringing up their packs, extra rations, and additional ammunition, to come on in.  But as the LCMs closed in on the beach they came under enemy MG fire from the bush.  They opened up return fire with two caliber .50 MGs.  But they didn’t fire on the Japanese, but at the patrol.  By good luck their aim was poor and no one was hit.

At 1430 about 30 Japanese armed with rifles and two light MGs attacked this patrol.  The enemy staged a banzai bayonet charge but our patrol met it with automatic weapons fire and killed three and drove the rest back.  The Company K patrol lost one killed.  It withdrew to the east bank of the Mot, killing two more Japanese on the way.

Total casualties for this day were 1 killed, 5 wounded.

“5 January.  The 2nd Bn combat patrol reached Sel on 5 Jan. and not far from there encountered a small group of enemy.  These Japanese withdrew and the patrol was ordered to establish an outguard position at Sel and stay there.

“6 January.  Patrol activity was continued to the east and west but found no enemy.  The natives started coming out of the hills.  They seemed friendly and glad to have the white man back.

“7 January. 1st Bn patrols covered their assigned inland area, but met no enemy.

The 2nd Bn sent out a patrol of one platoon to explore inland trails for enemy activity.

At 1710 our patrol near Sel was strafed by our own aircraft.  No casualties or damage.

The 3rd Bn patrols discovered no enemy.

Of the 12 LCMs sent to this task force from Cape Cretin, 2 were returned as unserviceable, 3 were being repaired, and 4 were stuck on reefs, and this left 3 for duty.  So 6 additional LCMs were requested in order to supply outlying units which could not be reached by roads.

The Luluais and Tultuls chiefs and sub-chiefs of the tribes from surrounding villages reported in for a conference.  They went away to bring in still more natives.

There were no roads to our flank positions which were many miles apart, only trails impassable for wheeled vehicles.  The only way of getting supplies and heavy equipment to the flanks was by landing craft.  Heavy ground swells often kept these craft form landing on the beaches.  In view of these difficulties and the enemy threat, a recommendation was made to Sixth Army on 10 January that additional combat troops be sent to the Saidor area.

Sixth Army messages still warned of enemy army and marine units assembling to eastward.  They estimated 5,000 or 6,000 enemy combat troops on the coast east of Saidor.

“8 January.  The 2nd and 3rd Bns spent this day developing the outpost line of resistance farther.  At 0424, a 2nd Bn outpost near Sel was attacked by 10 or 15 Japanese who disclosed their approach by springing a hand grenade booby trap 50 yds in front of our position.  The outpost opened up with MGs and 60mm mortars and repulsed the attack.  At daylight a reconnaissance patrol found 5 dead Japanese and one seriously wounded.  The enemy troops had carried rifles with bayonets fixed, and knee mortars and grenades.  All their weapons were new and in excellent condition.  They had no packs or canteens.  A base camp was probably nearby.

Inland patrol reports were negative.

“9 January.  Field Order No. 2 readjusted defense of the area.

Inland patrols reported no contacts.

The Saidor beachhead at this time included about 14 miles of coastline.

The 3rd Bn patrol reoccupied Bilau Village.

“10 January.  The 1st and 3rd Bn patrols inland and to the west reported no enemy contacts.  A 2nd Bn patrol met some Japanese on the Sel-Seure track and requested artillery fire on them.  Battery C, 121st FA Bn, fired 60 rounds HE and 5 smoke shells.  The patrol was again stopped by an enemy MG still firing near some large rocks.  Battery C fired another concentration, but the patrol drew still more fire and then established a position along the track for the night.

The I&R Platoon returned from patrolling inland from Cape Iris. With it came natives from villages in that district.

“11 January.  1st Bn patrols reported no contact.  The 2nd Bn on the Sel-Seure track advanced farther with artillery support and occupied the narrow coastal track east of Sel without resistance at 1400.

Natives brought us much good information.

There were several reports during the early morning hours of enemy barge activity near Cape Iris.  One from the 3rd Bn said that one large barge and seven small barges were steaming around the cape and were being strafed by our planes.  But later investigation showed that the barges were two dummies our troops had erected on the beach between the Mot River and Cape Iris.  Still later on, these dummies caused another alert or two.  Our Air Corps strafed them, our boats shelled them, and our troops let them have it with tommy guns.  The Japanese themselves showed no apparent interest in the barges.

“12 January.  An enemy patrol of about 20 men attacked our outpost at Bilau.  Reports were confirmed that natives led this patrol to our position.  The outpost repulsed the attack but withdrew across the Mot River, which was now in flood.

About 12 inches of rain fell during this single night.  It made the roads into quagmires.  And besides this, the high seas and heavy surfs impeded supply and hindered reconnaissance.

 

photo added 7 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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32D Division engineers work to extricate their wrecker from a mud hole on a “road” near Saidor, New Guinea, ca. January 1944.

photo added 7 Dec. 12

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

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Engineers (possibly from 32D Div.) attempt to keep a “road” passable near Saidor, New Guinea, ca. January 1944.

photo added 7 Dec. 12

Col. George A. Bond photo

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Lt. Hill and his Piper Cub, named “Miss Calculation,” ca. 1944, New Guinea. This photo was submitted by the grandson of Col. George A. Bond, who served as 32D division G-2.

 

“13 January.  A patrol of 30 men from the 3rd Bn, led by CPT Johnson, tried to reenter Bilau Village.  They ran into fire from enemy light MGs.

“14 January.  On this day the Sel outpost changed forces.  The 2nd Platoon of Company E, and Weapons Platoon of Company E, with Lt. Harowitz in command, relieved the platoon of

Company G and the Weapons Platoon of Company M.
Eight inches more of rain.
G4 needed more native barter items – beads, knives, razors and mirrors.

“15 January.  3rd Bn reports no enemy at Bilau or Teteri.

Two inches of rainfall. High seas continued.

“16 January.  Five LSTs beached about 1045, bringing the 1st Bn, 128th Infantry, and 1,600 tons of bulk stores.  The Bn immediately took up a defensive position to the west of the beaches with outguards along the Mot River.  A new defensive sector was assigned to the 2nd Bn, 126th Infantry which was moved to the east flank in reserve.  The 3rd Bn, 126th Infantry, occupied a reserve position on the west flank.  These 3 Bns supplied defense of the beach and of approaches into the Saidor area from the mountains.  They also furnished a number of inland patrols, and outguards.

The 120th FA Bn moved farther west to support that flank.
Still heavy rain. Construction work by engineers practically stopped.

“17 January.  Between 0400 and 0500 an estimated 5 enemy planes dropped supply parachutes on the west bank of the Warup River, and 6 east of the Mot River.  Our patrols recovered all these bundles.  They contained mostly food – rice, salt and soy bean flour.

Pamphlets were dropped in the hills south of Saidor, urging the natives to come in.

“19 January.  The rest of the 128th RCT began to arrive.  (This put the bulk of the 32nd Division in the Task Force and General Gill took over command of the entire operation.)

“20 January.  The 1st Bn, 128th Infantry, relieved the outpost of the 3rd Bn, 126th Infantry, at 1500.  The CO, 128th Infantry, assumed responsibility for defense west of the Nankina River.  We continued vigorous patrolling to the flanks and inland.  Patrols in the Gabumi-Sindaman area met strong resistance.  Strong west flank outguards were established on the trails coming into the Saidor area.  These patrolled vigorously and often clashed with enemy patrols.  Artillery observers accompanied all standing outguards larger than a platoon.

A patrol from the 3rd Bn, 126th Infantry, returned after a 3 day reconnaissance and reported that natives told them small parties of Japanese had been moving along the Sindaman-Gabumi track for the past week, pilfering, looting, raping and burning as they went.

Good weather at last let the engineers make sustained progress on the roads.

“23 January.  The 2nd Bn, 126th Infantry, patrol reported many small enemy patrols, apparently foraging for food.

A special patrol from the 2nd Bn, led by Lt. Mohl, left to get some prisoners.  It consisted of 10 men and 15 native carriers.

“24 January.  The I&R Platoon, 126th Infantry, 1 officer and 8 men of Company I, moved into Sindaman guided there by natives.  Our patrol surrounded a hut where natives had reported enemy to be living.  Hearing no sound from within the hut, a sergeant from the I&R Platoon stood up.  At this same time a native came out of the hut and saw the sergeant, but gave no sign of recognition.  Instead he started talking to the Japanese to show our men where they were.  When fire was placed on the hut, one Japanese was killed immediately.  Then a second Japanese jumped up screaming, snatched a stick from the ground, and charged at Lt. Kittrel.  The Lt. shot him through the neck but then discovered that his clip had fallen from his gun when he fired.  Platoon Sergeant Young now tried to fire but his clip, too, had dropped from his carbine.  Now a sergeant from Company L opened up with his tommy gun but the Japanese kept going by sheer force of his charge.  It finally took the butt of his tommy gun to stop him.  A third Jap was found dead from fever.

A patrol found two Japanese asleep in foxholes 400 yards west of the Mot River and killed them.

“25 January.  The patrol from the 2nd Bn, 126th Infantry, led by Lt. Mohl, reported it had captured two prisoners and killed four other enemy.  The prisoners had been living on native food and their morale was low.  They said that all their troops were undernourished and had poor equipment, if any.

Sharp patrol actions in the Sibog-Sindaman area.  Six Japanese killed.

“26 January.  A patrol on the coastal track toward Teteri on the west side of the Mot River met a force of 20 Japanese supported by a light MG and a heavy MG.  In the exchange of fire 4 enemy were killed and two wounded.  Both patrols withdrew.  Artillery then placed a concentration on this area.

“27 January. Enemy attempting to use inland routes.

Maintenance of vehicles is almost impossible for us because the roads are so bad.

“28 January.  A combat patrol from the 1st Bn, 128th Infantry engaged in a fire fight with about 100 enemy in the vicinity of Teteri.  Forty-three Japs killed.  We lost 8 killed (including LTC Clarkson, CO, 1st Bn, 128th Infantry,) 9 wounded, 6 missing.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 136-145)

SSG Victor L. Olson, from Colfax, Wisconsin, and assigned to the 128TH Inf., is one of those six MIA at Teteri. He has been MIA since 28 January and is presumed to have been KIA that day. It is likely that SSG Olson’s third Silver Star was awarded for his actions at Teteri. His first Silver Star was awarded for his actions on 5 Dec. ’42 at Buna; his second was also awarded for his actions at Buna. He also earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 2 Jan. ‘13]

CPL Oral Hake, from Dunn Co., Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf., was one of those eight KIA at Teteri. CPL Hake earned the Silver Star and it is likely that he earned it for his actions at Teteri. He also earned the Purple Heart. He was a PVT in Co. A, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Menomonie, 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 9 Mar. ‘14]

PFC James Gagliano, from Champaign, IL and a medic assigned to the 128TH Inf., might be one of those six MIA at Teteri. He has been MIA since 28 January and is presumed to have been KIA that day. His family says he was killed on New Guinea when a hospital was bombed, if that is the case he may not have been a member of this patrol.

PFC Cecil Paul Goodman, from Camden, Tennessee, and assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf., is one of those six MIA at Teteri. He has been MIA since 28 January and is presumed to have been KIA that day. PFC Goodman earned the Silver Star and it is likely that he earned it for his actions at Teteri. He also earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 6 Mar. ‘14]

PFC Vernon M. Hargrove, from Veto, Alabama, and assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf., is one of those six MIA at Teteri. He has been MIA since 28 January and is presumed to have been KIA that day. PFC Hargrove earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. [added 6 Mar. ‘14]

PFC Van William Hill, from Craighead County, Arkansas, and assigned to 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf., is one of those six MIA at Teteri. He has been MIA since 28 January and is presumed to have been KIA that day. PFC Hill earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions 28 Jan. at Teteri. He also earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 12 Mar. ‘14]

CPT Fleischer continues:

“30 January.  A Japanese walked right into Sel outpost and surrendered.  His regiment had gone inland, trying to by pass Saidor by inland track.  His physical condition was so bad he didn’t think he could make it.  He weighed 75 lbs.

“1 February.  Outpost at Sibog attacked at 0330 by an unknown number of Japanese.  Enemy withdrew after throwing 3 grenades and firing 8 shots.  No casualties.

“2 February.  Three Japanese entered the outguard at Sereng and threw 4 grenades.  Three of our men were killed, 4 seriously wounded, 3 slightly.

“3 February.  Seven Japanese killed by artillery fire dropped in their midst while digging in the vicinity of Mot.  Fifty Japanese dispersed by artillery concentration.

“4 February.  Enemy holds west bank of Mot River with detachments at Gabumi covering the Sindaman track.

“7 February.  MAJ E. R. Kindig, CO, 121st FA Bn, flying in a cub plane piloted by Lt. F. J. Piaprowski [Piotrowski], was observing the effects of fire.  This plane failed to return and search produced negative results.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 136-145)

MAJ Earl R. Kindig and 2LT Francis J. Piotrowski were listed as missing-in-action for 57 1/2 years. However, on 26 Feb. 2000 a team from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii arrived at the site of an L4A wreck that was discovered approximately 19 miles southeast of Saidor near the village of Yaut. In Feb. '01 the remains of both officers were positively identified by the CILHI. MAJ Kindig, from Washington, IA, now rests at Arlington National Cemetery. MAJ Kindig was posthumously awarded the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart for his actions. 2LT Piotrowski, from Kalamazoo, MI, now rests at Arlington National Cemetery and/or Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kalamazoo (he is memorialized at both). 2LT Piotrowski was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Air Medal for his actions. [updated 9 May ‘13]

CPT Fleischer continues:

“8 February.  Task Force headquarters moved to new location on the west bank of the Nankina River.

“9 February.  A patrol from Company K, 128th Infantry, marching across country, received fire from light MGs and rifles.  CPT Mooney, CO of Company K, and 5 men were killed in this action.  The rest of the patrol withdrew under heavy fire.

Several bridges washed out by heavy rains.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 145)

CPT Lester Taylor Mooney was from Norman, Oklahoma, and he had earned the Silver Star for his actions on 26 Nov. ‘42 near Buna, New Guinea. [added 25 Jan. ‘13]

CPT Fleischer continues:

“10 February.  Enemy on the Sibog-Sindaman track have dug in and now have at least 4 pillboxes there.  An estimated company of 150-200 Japanese are in the position.

A patrol returning came to the scene of the action where CPT Mooney and 5 men were killed.  They found all 6 bodies.  One man with a BAR had been leading, followed by the CPT and the rest of the patrol.  The BAR man evidently was wounded, for his body was found in a ravine about 15 feet from the trail where he had crawled and died.  The CPT and 3 others were killed instantly.  There was evidence that one SGT had been wounded and then bayoneted to death.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 146)

 

Advance elements of the Australian 5th Division, advancing northwest along the coast from Sio, made contact with Michaelmas Force at the Yaut River (approximately 14 miles SE of Saidor) on 10 February. The link-up with the Australians near Saidor marked the completion of large-scale operations by Michaelmas Force because the two Japanese divisions in the immediate area began an organized retreat toward Madang, about 150 miles up the coast. However, the U.S. and Australian forces still had to contend with the eight companies the Japanese designated to conduct delaying actions and harassment, to discourage large-scale pursuit of the retreating units. Also, some of the Japanese forces attempted to escape southward to Finschhafen, so the Allies attempted to impede their egress as well.

“Because permission to move east was received too late, Martin could not block the Japanese in that direction. And the escape route to the south ran up and down such steep ravines and slopes that no heavy weapons could be carried there, and the Americans could not block that route either. General Martin decided to attack to the west. The move, executed by elements of the 1st and 3d Battalions, 126th Infantry, began at once. (Miller 308)

On 18 February, MG Gill and his staff landed at Saidor and he assumed command.

 

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
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A cable ferry brings supplies across the Mot River near Saidor, New Guinea on 22 February 1944.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
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Soldiers from Co. C, 126TH Infantry, 32D Division, cross Seng River, near Saidor, New Guinea on 25 February 1944.

SSG Russell E. Young, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., was KIA on 22 February near Saidor. He had earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 Dec. ‘42 near Soputa, New Guinea. 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 10 Feb. ‘13]

Patrols from 3D Bn., 126TH Inf. arrived at Biliau at Cape Iris (12 miles up the coast from Saidor) on 24 February.


    "Early in March [1944] a task force was organized to make a landing at Yalau Plantation on the coast about 30 miles west of Saidor. Its primary mission was to establish a base there to intercept enemy stragglers trying to bypass the Saidor area and escape to the west.
    "The 2nd Bn, 126th Infantry, was selected as the principal combat team for the mission. The Bn CO, LTC Oliver O. Dixon, was in command of the Force. The other units were: Battery B, 120th FA Bn; Antitank Company, 126th Infantry; 2nd Platoon, 32nd Reconnaissance Troop.
    "The combat team landed at 0735 on 5 March 1944. It was unopposed. Patrols sent to the east from Yalau Plantation did meet some resistance. The numerous small engagements that resulted slowed the progress down. On 14 April the force made contact with Australian units near Bogadjim, about 30 miles west of Yalau Plantation. Now the whole area was firmly in Allied control.
    "The Saidor and Yalau Plantation operations were a great improvement over the Buna Campaign. This time supplies, particularly rations, had been relatively ample. Naval gunfire support had been available and tactical air support had become somewhat better. In the 32nd Division units, the troops’ combat experience and their long period of training had produced more competent leadership, better combat efficiency, and higher morale." (Blakeley 146-147)

 

During the night of 6 April, a solitary Japanese G4M ‘Betty’ twin-engine bomber, flying at an extremely low altitude, raided the 32D Division’s position at Saidor. The bombs exploded in the assembly area of the 114TH Engineer Combat Battalion, killing more than a dozen Soldiers and wounding dozens more. [added 8 May ‘13]

 

Next Section - The New Guinea Campaign - Aitape and the Driniumor River

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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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