The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Veteran Association
The 32D Infantry Division
in World War II
The ‘Red Arrow’
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)
“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
Map depicting the location of Saidor on New Guinea, from U.S. Army Center of Military History brochure ‘New Guinea’.
On 17 December 1943 the U.S. Sixth Army was tasked with the mission to capture Saidor, as part of Operation DEXTERITY. 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 ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division.
Other components of Operation DEXTERITY included an amphibious landing on the Arawe Peninsula of New Britain on 15 Dec. ’43 by DIRECTOR Task Force, centered around the 112TH Cav. as well as an amphibious landing at Cape Gloucester on New Britain on 26 Dec. ’43 by BACKHANDER Task Force, centered around the 1ST Marine Div. Operation DEXTERITY was itself a part of the much larger Operation CARTWHEEL.
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 Brig. Gen. Clarence A. Martin, assistant commander of the 32D Division. Col. Joseph S. Bradley was commander of the 126TH Infantry; he also served as Brig. Gen. 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)
The scheduled D-day for MICHAELMAS Task Force was 2 January 1944. “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.
On 1 January, as the invasion force approached Saidor, 60 B–24 ‘Liberators’ and 48 B–25 ‘Mitchells’ dropped 218 tons of bombs on the Japanese positions. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
“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 [at 0725 hours on 2 January], less than an hour behind schedule.” (Blakeley 136)
H-hour was pushed back from 0650 to 0705 hours. The beaches were obscured due to rain and a very overcast sky; the delay would improve visibility for naval gunfire and landing beach identification. The final formation of the landing craft then caused a 20-min. delay. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
“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 [2 sailors also drowned].” (Blakeley 136)
The destroyers fired 1,725 5-in. shells and the LCI(R)s fired 624 4.5-in. rockets at the beaches and points beyond. The aerial barrage, delayed some by the weather, consisted of B–24 ‘Liberators’, B–25 ‘Mitchells’, and A–20 ‘Havocs’ bombing the airfield and high ground behind the beaches. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
“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
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
The 1st assault wave at Saidor, New Guinea. These are likely 126TH Inf. Soldiers on 2 January 1944.
LSTs unloading troops (likely from 126TH Inf.) directly on shore during an amphibious landing at Saidor, New Guinea on 2 January 1944.
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.
Over on the east flank, the 2d Battalion, 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.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 136-145)
Sgt. David E. Fuller, from Conway Co., AR, and assigned to the 126TH Inf., was KIA on 3 Jan. ’44. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Capt. Fleischer continues:
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 3d Battalion, but it never worked at all. This patrol ran into five enemy at [Teterei] and killed one and dispersed the rest.
Near [Biliau (Beliau)] 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 machine gun 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 machine guns 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.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 136-145)
Pfc. John F. Wagner, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., was the Soldier KIA at Biliau (Beliau) on 4 Jan. ‘44. Pfc. Wagner, one of two lead scouts for the patrol, earned the Distinguished Service Cross, bestowed posthumously, for his heavy and accurate covering fire with his BAR on 4 Jan. at Biliau (Beliau). More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 18 Jun. ’14, TPB]
Capt. Fleischer continues:
The 2d Battalion 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 3d Battalion 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.
Inland patrol reports were negative.
Inland patrols reported no contacts.
The Saidor beachhead at this time included about 14 miles of coastline.
The 3d Battalion patrol reoccupied [Biliau (Beliau)] Village.
The I&R Platoon returned from patrolling inland from Cape Iris. With it came natives from villages in that district.
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 3d Battalion 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.
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
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
Engineers (likely Co. A, 114TH Engr. Bn.) attempt to keep a “road” passable near Saidor, New Guinea, ca. January 1944.
photo added 7 Dec. 12
Col. George A. Bond photo
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 Div. G-2.
Two inches of rainfall. High seas continued.
The 120th FA Battalion moved
farther west to support that flank.
Still heavy rain. Construction work by engineers practically stopped.
Pamphlets were dropped in the hills south of Saidor, urging the natives to come in.
A patrol from the 3d Battalion, 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.
A special patrol from the 2nd Battalion, led by Lieutenant Mohl, left to get some prisoners. It consisted of 10 men and 15 native carriers [and 8 days’ rations].” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 136-145)
The leader of that special patrol was 2d Lt. John L. Mohl, from White Pine, MT. 2d Lt. Mohl earned the Silver Star, likely for his actions leading this patrol near Saidor. He had earlier earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions 19 Jan. '43 near Sanananda, New Guinea as a S. Sgt. with 3D Plt., Co. C, 163D Inf., 41ST Div. He had entered active service as Pvt. with Montana National Guard on 16 Sep. '40 at Bozeman, MT. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 17 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Capt. Fleischer continues:
A patrol found two Japanese asleep in foxholes 400 yards west of the Mot River and killed them.
Sharp patrol actions in the Sibog-Sindaman area. Six Japanese killed.
Maintenance of vehicles is almost impossible for us because the roads are so bad. (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 136-145)
The 50-man patrol from 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf., led by 1st Lt. George J. Hess, Edgerton, WI, and Lt. James E. Barnett, Northport, AL, was bound for Cape Iris, about a 2-mile march northwest of the Mot River. A pair of war-time dispatches which Robert J. Doyle, war correspondent from Milwaukee Journal, filed from New Guinea on 3 and 4 Feb. ’44 offer a rare glimpse of the patrol’s activities. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
The patrol waded across the rushing river at about 0900 hours and set off on a route parallel to and about ˝ a mile from the beach. After marching through the jungle for about a mile, the patrol turned 90 degrees and emerged onto the beach near the village of Teterei, New Guinea. They were attacked by a larger Japanese force almost immediately. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
The beach being the quickest and easiest route of egress, the patrol headed southeast along the coast in an attempt to get back to the Mot River. They were fired upon and returned fire almost the entire way. Several enemy machineguns emplaced in a coconut grove blocked the patrol’s continued advance along the beach, so they turned 180 degrees to head up the coast to the spot where they originally emerged from the jungle. Again they were fired upon and returned fire almost the entire way. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Once back in the jungle, the patrol was divided into three parties in the hope it might simplify their return to the Mot River. One group was led by Lt. Barnett, another by Sgt. Aaron Meyers, from University City, MO, and the 3rd by 1st Lt. Hess. The first two groups made it back to U.S. lines with little further difficulty, but 1st Lt. Hess’ group encountered some trouble. His group was evacuating the wounded and dead, their movement was slowed, and they received more fire from the pursuing Japanese. They made it back to the river but could not negotiate the swift current with the wounded and dead. The harassment by the Japanese continued. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Upon his group’s return to the forward command post, Sgt. Meyers found Lt. Col. Gordon M. Clarkson, the battalion commander who had been forward all day to monitor the patrol, and informed him of 1st Lt. Hess’ predicament. Lt. Col. Clarkson and Sgt. Meyers led a hastily assembled group of volunteers back to the river to aid 1st Lt. Hess. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Sgt. Meyers, from University City, MO and assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf. had earned the Silver Star for his actions on 15 Dec. '42 near Buna. He may have been recommended for decoration for his actions during this patrol on 28 Jan. ’44 near Teterei. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Meanwhile, 1st Lt. Hess found a rope and attempted to carry it across the river to facilitate the evacuation of his 14 men. He was nearly swept away by the swift current; his men were able to pull him back with the rope. He made another attempt, this time he went upriver as far as the rope would extend before attempting to cross. As he was crossing the river and as the current was carrying him downstream, the rescue party had reached the opposite bank. Six of the men formed a human chain from the river bank as far into the river as they could reach; they were Lt. Col. Clarkson, Lt. Joseph J. Hartigan, S. Sgt. Victor L. Olson, Sgt. John F. Christie, Sgt. Thomas Reno Reed, Jr., and Cpl. Arnold D. Mahon. Lt. Col. Clarkson was the anchorman on the river bank but the exact order of the other men is not known. The last man in the chain was just able to grab 1st Lt. Hess’ hand as the river carried him past. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
1st Lt. George J. Hess, from Edgerton, WI was assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf. He had enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard in '34 and was a Sgt. in HQ Co., 128TH Inf. at Edgerton, WI when the 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. Commissioned 2d Lt. at some point, he served with Co. A at Buna and earned the Silver Star for his actions on Christmas Day '42 there. 1st Lt. Hess earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 28 Jan. '44 near Teterei. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
At that moment a Japanese machinegun opened fire on the rescue party. S. Sgt. Olson, Co. A, 128TH Inf., was KIA by the machinegun burst and has been MIA ever since; the other men, except Lt. Col. Clarkson, ducked under water to escape the fire. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
S. Sgt. Victor L. Olson, from Colfax, WI, was a Pvt. in Co. A, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Menomonie, WI when the 32D Div. mobilized on 15 Oct. '40. He had earned 2 Silver Stars for his actions at Buna, the 1st Silver Star for his actions on 5 Dec. '42, the 2nd Silver Star for his actions Christmas Day '42. S. Sgt. Olson earned a 3rd Silver Star, bestowed posthumously, for his actions during this rescue attempt on 28 Jan. '44 near Teterei. He also earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. S. Sgt. Olson is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 2 Jan. ’13, TPB]
Lt. Col. Clarkson was seriously WIA by a second machinegun burst as he was attempting to pull Sgt. Reed up the river bank to safety. Sgt. Reed was able to pull Lt. Col. Clarkson into the grassy area where the rescue party became pinned down, but he DOW soon after. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Lt. Col. Gordon Madison Clarkson was from Macon, MO, but some references list his hometown as San Francisco, CA, where he was stationed when he first entered active service. He graduated the USMA at West Point in '38 and commissioned 2d Lt. Some of his duty stations include the Presidio; Borinquen Field, Puerto Rico; where he was promoted 1st Lt.; Jamaica, where he was promoted Capt. ca. ‘41; and Camp Roberts, CA, where he was married. Then Maj. Clarkson assumed command of the 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. on 13 Dec. '42 at Buna; he earned the Silver Star for his actions there. Lt. Col. Clarkson earned the Distinguished Service Cross, bestowed posthumously, for his actions on 28 Jan. '44 near Teterei. He is interred in Oakwood Cemetery, Macon, MO. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Lt. Joseph J. Hartigan was from New York, NY and likely served with 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. Lt. Hartigan earned the Silver Star, almost certainly for his actions on 28 Jan. '44 at Teterei. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Sgt. John F. Christie, from Marshfield, WI, entered service 8 Jan. '43 at Milwaukee, WI and was likely assigned to 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. Sgt. Christie may have been recommended for decoration after this event. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Sgt. Thomas Reno Reed, Jr., from Philadelphia, PA, and assigned to 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf., had been WIA at Buna and earned the Purple Heart. Sgt. Reed earned the Silver Star, almost certainly for his actions on 28 Jan. '44 at Teterei. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Cpl. Arnold D. Mahon, from Hickory Ridge, AR, served with 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. Cpl. Mahon earned the Silver Star, likely for his actions on 28 Jan. '44 near Teterei. Later promoted to Sgt., he would be KIA on 13 Jul. '44 near Aitape, New Guinea. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
In the interim night had fallen, eight of the fourteen remaining Soldiers from 1st Lt. Hess’ group were able to make it back to friendly lines under cover of darkness. Pvt. William Alexander, from Beacon, TN, was the last man to make it out; he got back at about 2300 hours. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Sgt. John Quincy Adams was from Baraboo, WI and entered service 3 Aug. '42 at Milwaukee, WI. He served with 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. and was one of those eight men who made it out after night fell. Sgt. Adams earned the Silver Star for his actions on 28 Jan. '44 near Teterei. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Six men from 1st Lt. Hess’ group volunteered to stay with their one wounded and two dead comrades; they were never seen alive again. Most of them are still MIA, presumed KIA. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Cpl. Oral Hake, from Dunn Co., WI, and assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf., was one of those six who volunteered to stay behind. Cpl. Hake was initially reported MIA, his remains were eventually recovered, his status changed to KIA, and he was interred at the Manila American Cemetery. Cpl. Hake earned the Silver Star; bestowed posthumously, for his actions on 28 Jan. ’44 at Teterei; he also earned the Purple Heart. He was a Pvt. in Co. A, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Menomonie, WI when the 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, TPB]
Pvt. Walter A. Kerker was from Oconto Falls, WI and entered service 20 Aug. '42 at Milwaukee, WI. He was assigned to 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. and was one of those six who volunteered to stay behind. He has been MIA since 28 Jan. '44 near Teterei; a Finding of Death (FOD) was issued on 17 Jan. '46. Pvt. Kerker earned the Silver Star for his actions 28 Jan. ’44 near Teterei; he also earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Pvt. Kerker is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of Silver Star recipients. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
It is almost certain that the following five men were either among those six volunteers or were the wounded and dead comrades that those six men volunteered to protect. [added 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Cpl. Bernard P. Woods, married and from Los Angeles, CA, entered service 21 Feb. '42 at Ft. MacArthur, CA and was assigned to 128TH Inf. He has been MIA since 28 Jan. ‘44 at Teterei; a Finding of Death (FOD) was issued on 17 Jan. '46. Cpl. Woods earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions 28 Jan. ’44 at Teterei; 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 13 Jun. ’14, TPB]
Pfc. James Gagliano was from Champaign, IL and entered service 24 Aug. '42 at Chicago, IL. He was a medic assigned to the 128TH Inf., has been MIA since 28 Jan. ’44, and is presumed to have been KIA that day near Saidor, possibly at Teterei. Some members of his family believe 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 Teterei patrol. Pfc. Gagliano earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery. [added 9 Mar. ’14, TPB]
Pfc. Cecil Paul Goodman, married and from Camden, TN, entered service 19 Dec. '42 at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. He was assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf. and has been MIA since 28 Jan. ’44 at Teterei; a Finding of Death (FOD) was issued on 17 Jan. '46. Pfc. Goodman earned the Silver Star his actions on 28 Jan. ’44 at Teterei; 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, TPB]
Pfc. Vernon M. Hargrove was from Veto, AL and entered service 22 Aug. '42 at Ft. McClellan, AL. He was assigned to Co. A, 128TH Inf., has been MIA since 28 Jan. ‘44 and is presumed to have been KIA that day at Teterei. Pfc. Hargrove earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. [added 6 Mar. ’14, TPB]
Pfc. Van William Hill was from Craighead County, AR and entered service 10 Jul. '42 at Little Rock, AR. He was assigned to 1ST Bn., 128TH Inf. and has been MIA since 28 Jan. ‘44 at Teterei; a Finding of Death (FOD) was issued on 17 Jan. '46. Pfc. Hill earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions 28 Jan. at Teterei; 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, TPB]
Pfc. Walter Lambert, Jr., from Duryea, PA and assigned to 128TH Inf., DOW on 2 Feb. ’44 and was possibly one of those casualties at Sereng that day. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Pfc. Isadore Zaas, from Detroit, MI and assigned to 128TH Inf., was KIA 2 Feb. ‘44 and was possibly one of those casualties at Sereng that day. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Capt. Fleischer continues:
A press release from Advanced Allied HQ, New Guinea, on 4 February stated that Allied fighter bombers struck Beliau, Teterei, and other Japanese occupied villages near the western edge of the Saidor beachhead that day. B–24 ‘Liberators’ dropped 107 tons of bombs on larger Japanese installations farther up the coast. [added 17 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Capt. Fleischer continues:
Several bridges washed out by heavy rains.” (Fleischer qtd. in Blakeley 145)
Capt. 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]
Pfc. Gregory C. Rotella, from Asheville, NC, with ties to Cherokee Co., SC, and assigned to 128TH Inf. Regt., was KIA 9 Feb. ’44 near Saidor, New Guinea. So he was likely a member of this patrol from Co. K. He was originally assigned to Co. E, 506TH PIR, 101ST Div., the Easy Company of Band of Brothers fame. He completed airborne training with that unit, but a twist of fate terminated his association with that historic unit and resulted in his association with another. [added 17 Oct.. ‘14]
Capt. Fleischer continues:
A patrol returning came to the scene of the action where Captain Mooney and 5 men were killed. They found all 6 bodies. One man with a BAR had been leading, followed by the Captain 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 Captain and 3 others were killed instantly. There was evidence that one Sergeant 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, linked up with MICHAELMAS Force at the Yaut River (approximately 14 miles SE of Saidor) on 10 February. The meeting 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 60 miles up the coast from Saidor. 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)”
“By 10 February, when General Krueger declared DEXTERITY over, and GHQ announced that U.S. Army Services of Supply, Southwest Pacific, would take over supplying Saidor, Arawe, and Gloucester on 1 March, the Saidor garrison numbered 14,979 in addition to a small naval detachment. Forty men had been killed, 111 wounded; 16 were missing. (Miller 302)” Some of those casualties were from units other than the 32D Div. and, as seen below, those casualty numbers were not final. [added 25 Oct. ’14, TPB]
An advance detachment of the Division’s 32D Reconnaissance Troop departed Finschhafen on 12 February bound for Saidor. Second Lt. Louis J. Wortham and his 12 men were to select an assembly area and prepare for the arrival of the rest of the Troop, scheduled to arrive about a week later. [added 30 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Second Lt. Wortham, from Center, TX, entered service as a Pvt. on 10 Mar. '41 at Houston, TX. At the time of his arrival at Saidor he was the mess officer of 32D Cav. Recon. Trp. [added 30 Oct. ’14, TPB]
On 18 February, Maj. Gen. Gill and his staff landed at Saidor and he assumed command.
Pfc. Donald V. King, from Webster, WI and assigned to Co. B, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions on 20 Feb. '44 at Cape Iris, near Saidor, New Guinea. He was a Pvt. in Co. B, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Eau Claire, WI when the 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 26 Oct. ’14, TPB]
S. Sgt. Russell E. Young, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf., was KIA on 22 February near Saidor. He may be the platoon sergeant mentioned in the incident on 24 Jan. mentioned above. He had earned the Silver Star for his actions on 2 Dec. ‘42 at “Huggins’ Roadblock” 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]
At 0840 hours on 22 February, the main body of the 32D Recon. Trp. landed at Saidor, coming from Finschhafen. Commanded by Capt. George MacElwee Bowles, from Portland, ME, the unit had assigned 7 other officers and 196 enlisted Soldiers at that time. The unit marched northwest via a coastal trail for about 5 miles to their assembly area at Helmholtz Point. Looking west across Wab Bay, they could watch the near daily artillery barrages and aerial strafing and bombing of the stubborn Japanese positions still holding out on Cape Iris near the mouth of the Mot River. The 32D Recon. Trp. would conduct patrols in the Saidor-area from now until 28 April, when they would embark for the Division’s next campaign at Aitape. [added 30 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Twenty-two or thirty-seven of the Troop’s 204 assigned men formed a small rear detachment kept at Goodenough Island, consisting of the maint. and supply officer, 1st Lt. Bernard Joseph Lillie, from Greenfield, MA, and 36 enlisted Soldiers. They would be reunited with the rest of the Troop on 3 March. [added 30 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Patrols from 3D Bn., 126TH Inf. arrived at Biliau (Beliau) at Cape Iris (12 miles up the coast from Saidor) on 24 February.
Pfc. Robert Woodrow Teeples, from Black River Falls, WI and assigned to Co. L, 128TH Inf., earned the Silver Star for his actions as 3-7 March at Kumisanger, mid-way between Saidor and Madang, while on temporary duty with the Alamo Scouts. He was a PVT in Co. C, 128TH Inf., Wisconsin National Guard, at Marshfield, WI when the 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 30 Oct. ’14, TPB]
“Early in March  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 Battalion, 126th Infantry, was selected as the principal combat team for the mission. The Bn CO, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver O. Dixon, was in command of the Force. The other units were: Battery B, 120th FA Battalion; 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 1944, 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 nineteen Soldiers and wounding dozens more. [added 8 May ’13, TPB]
Those KIA or DOW as a result of the bombing on 6 April included [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]:
Pvt. Gerald D. Acton, from Cambria Co., PA and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn., was KIA in the attack. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Pfc. Thomas H. Antle, from Middlesex Co., MA and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn., was WIA in the attack and DOW on 7 April. He was a member of the Mass. Nat. Guard when mobilized on 16 Jan. '41. [added 9 Nov. ’14, TPB]
Sgt. William H. Boynton, Jr., from Groton, MA and assigned to 114TH Engr., was WIA in the attack and DOW later that day. He was a veteran of the fighting at Buna-Sanananda. [added 9 Nov. ’14, TPB]
T/5 Leon O. Lewis, from Los Angeles Co., CA, and assigned to Co. C, 114TH Engr. Bn. He was a veteran of the fighting at Buna-Sanananda. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Pvt. James P. McNaughton, from Dauphin Co., PA, and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Pvt. Derrell (Derell) W. Peacock, from Brevard Co., FL, and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Pvt. John E. Rabovsky, from Mahoning Co., OH and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn., was WIA in the attack and DOW on 7 April. [added 9 Nov. ’14, TPB]
Pvt. Charles A. Rymes, from York Co., ME, and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
1st Sgt. Henry H. Roberts, from Waltham, MA, and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn. He was a S. Sgt. in Mass. Nat. Guard at Cambridge, MA when 114TH Engr. Regt. was mobilized on 16 Jan. '41. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Pvt. Fred Winet, from Cuyahoga, OH and assigned to 114TH Engr. Bn. He entered active service with Ohio Nat. Guard at Cleveland, OH when they were mobilized 15 Oct. '40. [added 16 Oct. ’14, TPB]
Between 2 January and 6 April, there were at least 60 men killed, 135 men WIA, and 16 men MIA at Saidor. Most, but not all of them were from the 32D Infantry Division. [added 25 Oct. ’14, TPB]
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.
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.
Milner, Samuel. Victory in
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.
revised 9 November 2014
since 12 July 1999