Vintage Saturday: The Owen Gun Dance March 30, 2013 Ian McCollum Submachine Guns, Vintage photo 37 Yep, this is exactly the dance I would do if I got an Owen Gun (click for full size) Thanks to Mike S. for the photo! Share this:RedditTwitterFacebook Australia
Ok, Obvious Commonwealth Colonial troops of some sort, but I’m curious as to the exact ethnic group. 2 of the fellas dancing have Enfields….
Papuan Infantry Battalion troops circa WW2. At the time New Guinea was an Australian ‘colony’ after we claimed the northern half off zee germans in the early stages of WW1. Australia raised the PIB early 1940 and it continued until independence as the Royal Pacific Island Regiment (along with Solomon Islands) until 1975.
Looks more like an old fashion auction to me that has more than 1 person who is determined to go home with the Owen.
I am guessing Papua New Guinea. I know the Aussies have had many operations there over the years. I think they are worshipping the Owen “magical machine that can fire many rounds”
One of my step brothers worked in the islands north east of Oz, there are still abandoned airfields full of american bombers
and I think there are still some cargo cults active
so worship of an owen gun wouldn’t be too far out of the way
James Watt’s agent (for selling and erecting Boulton and Watt steam engines) in the Cornish mining town of Redruth – Murdoch – along with inventing the steam locomotive (Watt caught Murdoch travelling to London to patent his locomotive and ordered him back to concentrate on what he was paid for, so it fell to his young friend Trevithick to build the first locomotive) invented gas lighting.
It is said that some portraits of Murdoch went to Iran, where they were hung in Zoroastrian fire temples.
Owen as a deity – seems plausible.
I believe these are Fijian troops, probably from the World War Two-era South Pacific Scouts or Fijian Scouts, who earned a highly-enviable battle record second to none in the grueling campaigns of the Pacific War. They served alongside Australian, New Zealand and other Commonwealth troops as well as on detachment to US forces. The dance they are doing may be a victory celebration after a successful engagement, or it could simply be a commemoration of a local holiday.
There are many documented accounts of the legendary courage and fighting prowess of the Fijians during the Second World War and in the numerous bush wars of the mid- to late 20th century. One of the incidents highlighting this was the Battle Of Mirbat that took place on 19th July 1972 during the Dhofar campaign in Oman. A nine-man SAS training team, including Fijian Staff Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba and Trooper Sekonaia Talavesi, supported by a handful of troops from the Omani Intelligence Service, Omani gendarmes, Pakistani administrative personnel and a lone British Intelligence NCO, held off a ferociously-determined attack by an estimated 300 well-trained, well-armed Dhofari rebels ( “Adoo” ) on the BATT House in the Jebel Ali, an escarpment on the approach route into the port of Mirbat. The only weapons the defenders had that were any heavier than the standard L1A1 SLR were one 25-pounder gun-howitzer, one Browning M2HB 50-cal. HMG, one L7A1 ( FN MAG ) 7.62mm GPMG, one 81mm mortar and a 60mm mortar.
During the course of the action, Staff-Sergeant Labalaba manned and fired the 25-pounder ( which normally required a 4-6 man gun team ) single-handedly at the approaching Adoo in an effort to divert them from the BATT House strongpoint. He continued to do so even after being shot in the face and gravely injured. Trooper Talavesi and Omani trooper Walid Khamis then crossed 800 meters of open ground that was being ranged by heavy mortar, MG and rifle fire and reached the 25-pounder gun emplacement to reinforce Labalaba. Khamis was badly injured when he took a 7.62mm round in the stomach and both the Fijians were by that time literally firing the 25-pounder at point-blank range at the advancing Adoo by simply sighting down the barrel. Labalaba was hit again and killed when he tried to reach a 60mm mortar nearby ; Talavesi continued to fight off the Adoo with his SLR in spite of being struck in the shoulder, head and stomach by enemy rounds. SAS detachment commander Captain Mike Kealy and Trooper Tommy Tobin finally managed to reach Talavesi’s position after making the same perilous crossing, but Tobin was mortally wounded when his jaw was blown off by an AK-47 round.
At this point, it was only the holding action of the defenders, bolstered by the M2HB, GPMG and 81mm mortar, that prevented the position from being overrun. The eventual arrival of low-altitude air support by BAC Strikemaster aircraft from the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force and ground reinforcements from “G” Squadron of the SAS finally turned the tide of the battle against the rebels.
Hi Earl. Fijian soldiers also featured in the Iranian Embassy siege. One was of course seen on TV when he got burnt abseiling into a room . Another one was a team leader, and if my memory serves me correct
the officer went on to lead the SAS team that was responsible for the protection of the Royal family, and this was at a time when Lord Mountbatten had just been murdered by the IRA. I would be keen to know how many
fijians are in the British SAS- there are over 2,000 fijian soldiers currently serving and 350 in Scottish Regiments.
I would say they are from Papua new guinea (PNG) rather than fiji
people from fiji are generally lighter skinned than those in the photo people from PNG are like those in the pic and as has already been pointed out the australians recruited lots of PNG natives generally as stretcher bearers, porters etc but also as armed auxilaries
The guys in the picture also look more lightly built than typical Fijians, but I’ve only known one person from New Guinea, so I can’t say more than “he looked a bit like that”
Looks very similar to the Snoopy Dance. Probably some local derivation.
I’ve known a few pretty dark-skinned Fijians with distinctly Melanesian, rather than Polynesian, profiles, also some who were not as heavily-built as one might think ( the younger ones are often quite muscular and athletic-looking, like the fellows in the photo ). Having said that, Richard C and Keith might still be right ; however, there is also a distinct possibility that the men in the photo might not be PNG natives but Solomon Islanders instead.
Could be Solomon Islanders – Remember Sgt Jacob Vouza??? One of the Native Heroes of Guadalcanal??? IIRC I saw pictures of him in and old book (prolly Guadalcanal Diary ny Richard Tregaskis) in this same type of garb…which BTW is common (in many variations) among Pacific Islanders….
CB in FL
Hi, Chris :
Thanks for bringing up Sgt. Jacob Vouza. I remember reading a lot about him too — what an extraordinarily brave individual deserving of the highest respect! A very good and informative book by historian Walter Lord on the Coastwatchers of the Solomons, which includes extremely rare photographs and accounts of Solomons Islanders who served with the Coastwatchers, was published by Viking Press in 1977. Jacob Vouza and many of his contemporaries are included in the book, which pays fitting tribute to their courage, fortitude, intelligence and perseverance in the face of daunting odds and great personal risk. There is also some additional information that provides a lot of insight into the Coastwatchers as well as native scout and supply line personnel in the New Guinea Campaign from Osmar White’s outstanding front-line reporting in “Green Armour”. White was close friends with famed war correspondent Chester Wilmot and combat photographer Damien Parer, and all three exemplified the very best in war reporting in that they lived with the front-line troops, expecting and receiving no special privileges, security or comforts, were exposed to the same risks and dangers, took on actual leadership responsibilities like any field-grade officer, suffered on the trail and in battle with the men, and if necessary died alongside them. They were true examples of the deepest possible embedment long before there was such a term in the military lexicon.
Very nice photo. The Owen looks like it has a home-made butt, I have never seen one quite like the one shown. I think the men are almost certainly from PNG, unlikely to be from Fiji or the Solomons, but anything is possible. It is easy to find pictures of PNG police or soldiers of WWII with Owen guns, if one looks through Australian WWII history books. Fijian units were attached to New Zealand forces, and served mostly in the Solomons. The Australian Army served in PNG and Bougainville but not in the ‘southern’ Solomons. Having travelled around these places, these men look like PNG people, but again, anything is possible.
Definetly not Fijian Scouts -they ‘started’ at 6″ up to close 7″. I would suggest Papua New Guineans who made fearsome soldiers. Allies didn’t hand out machine guns lightly- these soldiers were properly trained by by Australians and some of them became Officers.
Good points in both posts, Paul — thank you. Both the Papuans and Fijians were formidable adversaries, and not to be trifled with, especially once their blood was “up”. Even the more elite Japanese units, themselves no pushover by any standard, had great respect for them and did not relish getting entangled with such a foe in closed country.
…also- (excuse my ignorance) I’m presuming the Owens gun is australian? Fijians were armed with Lee Enfields, Brens, then American guns, like carbines, Thompsons and that M1 30 calibre . Because of close quarter fighting- only carefully selected got machineguns. Papuans were in Papua Infantry Battalion. Story; Seargent Katue got left behind in mission presumed killed- months later he turned up with 26 Japanese officer and NCO insignia . He earned a MM.
The Fijians reformed the 1st Battalion Fiji Guerilla Commandos for Malayan conflict 1952. They were headed by NZer, they had their own officers, NCOs, and basically given free reign to do as they pleased. Their motto was “Hunt to kill” -which pretty much somes it up. They outperformed more famous regiments (read UK SAS, NZ SAS and Aus SAS.) There were many cases where the enemy left their ambush unset when they knew it was fijians advancing.
I am a very minor -amateur/ with bad memory/ historian with an interest in Bougainville WW2.
These are either solomon islanders in ww2 or papua new guineans in ww2, the solomon islanders were known to be the most fearsome/fearless islander warriors in ww2, they were scouts credited for many great valour and feats such as the rescue of John Kennedy JFK who went on to become the president of the USA, among many great solomon island scouts was Jacob Vouza a native who became sergeant major in the US marines during and who has so many heroic accounts it is hard to know where to begin..
Papua new guinean scouts were also great warriors (kokoda trail etc) and the picture looks to be of one of their scout formations posing in a celebrative fashion for the camera (not a dance or anything),most probably papuan scouts as they were issued the 303 enfields and the owen guns whereas solomon island scouts used the american garand and american sub machine guns.
Fijians and Tongans in ww2 were issued standard troop uniform unlike the solomon islanders and papua new guineans. Fijians and Tongans were not known for much valour/medals/account of heroism (no offence)in ww2 battles. Best Bet is Papua New Guinea Scouts!
Re; Fijians / Tongans not known for much valor commments. 1st Battallion Fiji Infantry Regiment medals; VC-1, CBE-2, OBE-3, DSO-3, MC-12, DCM-4, MM-19,
British Empire medal-4, Mentioned in dispatches-39, American Silver Star-5, American Bronze Star-2. There were 450 troops in 1st Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment.
Most of the Fijian Commando work was long range reconnaisance behind enemy lines, Offensive F.I.R attacks, spearheading American Offensive attacks.
They were kept in Reserve in the Battle of Bougainville- their role was to be moved to any point on a 7 mile perimeter when the Japanese en-masse (8) banzai attacks broke through.
individual Fijian troops were spread throughout American Divisions acting as ‘guard dogs’ against Japanese small scale probing/ infiltration sorties.
Their prowess at hand to hand fighting and use of the bayonet was second to none. There were 40,000 Allied soldiers at Bougainville- the fijians made up 1% of Allied forces, but
made up 10% of Killed in Action. The veteran hard core Japanese 6th Division, (who were mostly known for their atrocities during the “Rape of Nganking”, 1937) featured largely in
For two months prior to the Battle of Bougainville, the Fijian Commandos (400) lived 20 miles outside the Allied Perimeter and 5 miles from Japanese headquarters, high up in the mountain ranges at their
base; Ibu. They provided the Americans with valuable informations such as enemy troop numbers, movements, battlements, encampments, etc, etc which the Americans would then bomb
by plane. Before the battle of Bougainville “up to 5000” Japanese troops, including Hirohito’s elite Naval troops made a concerted attack on the Fijians and in effect surrounded them.
A sergeant Sotutu who had been a missionary prior to the war knew of a disused trail that they were able to escape by. No fijians were killed and managed to take 200 islanders with them.
This battle was known as “The escape from Ibu” and was written up by the American General Oscar Griswold as a “minor tactical classic”.
I’m Fijian. This guys are definitely not Fijians… with that dance and the facial (nasal) structure.
paul wilding.. where can I obtain documents that tells those stories in your most recent comment about Fijians presence unsetting ambush plans. I’ve heard stories about it happening but I’m very interested in reading them.
I quote: ” for the first time after the fijians arriaval in Malaya the CTs had started losing significant numbers after initially largely having matters
their own way. The reason had been the willingness of Tinker and his fijians to actually live and patrol in the jungle, which had previously
been somewhat of a haven for the CTs.
(Major Ron Tinker of 2 Brigade, had won the OBE, MC, and MM with the Long Range Desert Group in north Africa WW2).
The fijians were only ambushed once and they developed such a reputation for aggression that the opposition, rather than engage them
from ambush would let them go by”.
Written by Chin Peng (leader of Malayan Communist Party): At the time of the emergency the Australian believed that with their Bougainville
experience, they had a lot they could teach the British about Jungle warfare. Chin Peng (“Mr Ong”) did not particularly support this view, as he
remembered his British, Australain and New Zealand adversaries as being of similar quality. The troops he particularly admired for their
toughness and skill were the fijians and maoris of the New Zealand contingent.
Hi Jone, email me for info. ..firstname.lastname@example.org
These guys in photo definetly from Papuan Infantry Battalion. You can see an image of a Papuan Sergeant holding an Owens machine gun
and similar ‘uniform’ http://www.tumbir.com/search/new%20guinea%20campaign
Thanks very much for the clarification, Paul. Regardless of whether they were Papuan, Solomon Islanders, Fijian, Maori, et al., all served with great distinction and courage throughout the Pacific campaigns and for a long time thereafter, up to and including the present day for many.
I am simply grateful that this article has given us the opportunity to re-visit and reiterate their invaluable contributions, and to make sure that they will not be “forgotten”. They deserve so much better than has generally been acknowledged.
Hi Earl- are you a Kiwi? A contact of mine
Is Pat Booth, the well known NZ author.
He worked at Auckland newspaper with Colonel Upton, leader FIR and our shared goal is pacific troops get credit for their role.
At the time, they were definetly were the poor cousins, which was ridiculous. My interest is my mothers brother served in Bougainville and died as a boy.
Hi Earl, im impressed how you manage to keep such
A seriously broad interest in so many
Diverse subjects. You are retired?
Hi Earl, are you Australian or per chance New Zealander?
Hi, Paul :
I’m neither Aussie nor Kiwi, although my mum and step-dad have lived for a very long time in Roleystone in Western Australia. I was born in Singapore but have called Stuart, a small town in rural Martin County, Florida, home nearly my whole adult life.
I currently work as an engineering inspector for URS/AECOM, and was for many years an industrial-commercial diver/sub-sea engineer. I have always had a deep interest in history, particularly military history, and the Asian and Pacific conflicts have always held my attention closely. I have been fortunate enough in the course of work-related travel to sometimes take a diversion and traverse the ground where certain events took place, and to get a real sense of those events that I have read about from authors and historians more well-versed than I will ever be. Actually being there helps to put some flesh on the framework, so to speak. Being an ex-NCO, I also have a lot of empathy for the ordinary soldier, sailor and airman, and for the civilians who are inevitably and reluctantly dragged into conflicts not of their choosing.
What about you, Paul? What is your background? I have learned a great deal from reading your posts ( and those of so many others ) here on FW ; you have a broad and deep knowledge that I hope you will continue to share. We are so lucky to have such a diverse and amazing collective knowledge base on FW, not to mention a great Web Master. I am glad we have had the opportunity to meet and learn from one another.
Hi Earl. I am certainly impressed by your broad knowledge- my knowledge comes from a strong focus: My uncle (New Zealand) was in the 1st Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment and any ‘other’ stories i know
about fijian soldiers are collateral from my internet searches on F.I.R. You certainly have had an interesting life; i have a friend who was a commercial diver- and it’s not a job for the feignt of heart.
I am 53 and am a modern furniture designer. However New Zealand is probably 50 years behind the world (which is fantastic), we have only 4.5 million people (which also is fantastic)
but these factors make business for me tough- and might I add being pretty hopeless at administration doesn’t help!
I presumed you were a Kiwi because it’s hard for me to fathom your broad knowledge on fijians- I made the point about Pat Booth, because in New Zealand after the war soldiers who fought in the
pacific campaigns were not really considered “real” soldiers- I kid you not. These soldiers were actually treated like this and their efforts belittled, many suffered from neuroses.
The African and european wars were far more heroic; the landscapes, history more grander, and the idea of fighting more romanticised! which is so bizarre and more importantly the pacific war battles get
little mention or honour even today. This needs to be remedied as it was a brutal campaign because the Japanese were a formidable foe and the jungle was also the enemy.
To fight anywhere in the world, the soldier went throught the same terror and pain, yes- but I believe the Pacific theatre was worse as the Japanese took no prisoners and if caught alive you would die a cruel death,
and from my persective a far harder theatre of war to be in.
Hello, Paul :
Good to hear from you, and thanks very much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I hope that your uncle survived the war to live a long and fulfilling life in spite of what he must have gone through. New Zealand is a wonderful place without the excessive over-population that bedevils so many places in the world today, with all the consequences and impacts on the environment and limited resources. Being 50 years behind the rest of the world in certain aspects is, I think, actually a great blessing in many ways, although I quite understand that your occupation can be a bit more challenging because of that. Like anything else in life, there are trade-offs, are there not?
I am in almost complete agreement about the unfairness with which history has treated the veterans of the Pacific campaigns ( it reminds me of how the Soviet veterans of the war in Afghanistan — the Afgantsy — were treated ). The only battles or campaigns that tend to be best remembered are the biggest and most numerically significant ones that stand out in the popular imagination, such as the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa, or the ones that shocked an unknowing public when fully revealed for what they entailed, such as the Battle For Tarawa. Not to take anything away from the veterans who had to suffer so terribly through those battles, what is largely ignored or forgotten is the cumulative effect of the smaller, mostly forgotten campaigns which nonetheless had an equally significant collective influence on the final outcome of the war. Most of these involved a great deal of close-quarters bush or jungle warfare, and as Australian correspondent Osmar White — among many others who had a most painful first-hand experience of such warfare — aptly described it, it was the most singular and ruthless type of warfare of all, with no quarter asked or given. Add to that an incredibly tenacious and determined enemy, long and tenuous ( at best ) logistical trains and a very difficult natural environment, complete with tropical diseases and unforgiving terrain and climate, and one can just begin to appreciate how truly difficult the Pacific War was for those who had to serve in it. For these men, the fighting was just as or more bloody and traumatic than the fighting elsewhere. Again, Osmar White summed things up aptly in his book about the New Guinea Campaign when he showed that jungle toughness was really a combination of the most extreme physical conditioning combined with the right state of mind ; sheer mental and physical endurance and ultimate patience ; a deep and practical knowledge of the land, its uses and all its nuances ; and a bloodstream full of antibodies.
He also stated in his journals ( ca. 1942-1943 ) that the early phases of the New Guinea Campaign would provide a model from which the lessons learned would lead to strategy and tactics that would prove subsequently successful against the Japanese, and I think he was mostly correct.
You are quite right in asserting that the forgotten soldiers of the Pacific War deserve far, far better.
hi Earl. I think there is a book or two in you! My uncle; Bruce Ingham Dent was born in a very out of the way rural area in Waimate, South Island. He left his home at 13 to live with grandparents in Oamaru city so he could
go to college. He continued his interest in the church- joining the choir and was very gifted at playing the cornet . A very peaceful kid, (although very sporting) when he left school entered Christchurch University and studied a Batchelor of Arts
and Theology with the intention to join the church as a minister.
At the age of 19 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour and New Zealanders believed the Japanese were on their way.
He volunteered for the army and within a short time he was promoted to a sergeant. Within a year he was sent to fiji to help train the fijians. He would have got on well with the fijians as they are very devout in their christianity
and very respectful for authority. Most of the fijians had never experienced electric power, worn boots or used a rifle but they proved very adept at learning their new role. The fijians culture was one where they
did large scale synchronised movements and use of the fighting stick – and of course all this proved an incredible base to work from for the parade ground and the battle field.
Also, prior to the English missionaries arriving in the Fiji Islands it was a very martial society- quite primitive and brutal even when not warring- quite similar in ways to the early days in feudal Japan.
A great respect and love for the English King and a willingness to lay down their life for him, plus their incredible endurance, strength was turning them into excellent soldiers.
Earlier it was in Guadacanal that a small trial run of Fijian Guerilla Commandos were set onto the Japanese in 1943 and proved so effective and devastating that the Americans wanted more and this is when my uncle
arrived to train larger numbers more thoroughly. After training he spent some months on coastwatching and sorties onto various islands. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. he then landed on Bougainville
some months after the Allied invasion, and as my earlier story stated, went to the Ibu outpost.
While there the American Photo Journalist David Duncan spent time with the Fiji Regiment and accompanied my uncles 12 man platoon on deep incursions into enemy territory. These stories are well documented and appeared in
The Saturday Evening Post, The National geographic magazine and others. I am fortunate that with my interest in my uncles war history i was blessed with such information to study.
The battle of Bougainville is not one of the great clebrated battles for the very fact General Oscar Griswold was a masterful tactitian and the fact that Japanese officers inexplicably would carry orders of battle
around with them and prisoners often new of intended operations. Griswold was able to plan his defences accordingly so it turned out to be an absolute defeat of the Japanese.
The Japanese in turn were criticised by many for wasting so many thousands of soldiers in futile en-masse banzai attacks. However, if the Americans had no forward knowledge of intended attacks, they can be devastating.
One of the last attacks the japanese broke through close to the generals headquarters. All the artillery, tank, airplane, heavy machine gun, mortar superiority counts for nought.
Its down to bitter close quarter fighting and fortunately for the Allies they prevailed. The Japanese forces had been decimated and they now conceded defeat and retreated- however as we all know the Japanese in defeat
were even more tenascious than in attack, and the fighting was bitter and to the death. A major role for the Fiji Infantry Regiment was to pursue the retreating Japanese.
2nd Lt. Bruce Dent was killed in one of these actions. After the battle the Regiment was too decimated and was disbanded. 40% of F.I.R. officers and 35% of NCOs had been killed in actions.
While the big battle raged over 3 weeks- not only did the troops have to contend with the usual jungle conditions, but a series of massive earthquakes were felt- some troops on smelling the sulphur thought they were being gassed.
Yes Earl, New Zealand is fantastic being behind the times- especially people behaviour- most people are still easy going until you visit the cities.
However Politicians and land developers are furiously working to replicate the world’s lust for overcrowding, environmental pollution, the rape of resources, numerous social ills and all the other marvellous benefits that
come with rampant expansion.
And yes, life is definetly about trade-offs.
Hi, Paul :
Thanks very much for sharing your uncle’s service history — that’s quite the story about life and where it can lead us, isn’t it? My deepest regret in reading this was learning about his untimely death as I get the feeling that he would have been able to help make things so much better for his fellow man and for society in general had he lived on instead. I hope that he did not suffer too much and was able to recognize at that fateful moment that he had done what was right and kind and humane in his relationships with others in all the times before, and that his life was truly complete. One can ask for little more than this at the end of the day.
The endeavours of the FIR and the terrible casualties that they incurred are still — most unfairly — a historical footnote even today. Fortunately, it is in small but significant forums such as this that the issue is gradually being brought to light and I hope that this will all lead to a proper correction to the historical record. As a child, I remember reading early articles in old wartime copies of National Geographic about exactly what you have described per David Duncan, et al, thanks to my uncle, who compiled a personal library containing every single original published copy of National Geographic from circa 1900 onwards up until 2006. Those stark, unrelenting old black-and-white photographs were able to communicate a visual message that even the most graphic and sophisticated photographic techniques of today are not able to quite achieve.
I have read extensively about the Battle For Bougainville, and agree that it was yet another lynch pin in the hard and painful learning process needed to defeat the Japanese, just as the New Guinea Campaign was. Author and historian Walter Lord, best known for his epic story “A Night To Remember” of the sinking of the White Star liner “Titanic” in 1912, wrote a very good and intimate account about the Coastwatchers in the Solomons entitled “Lonely Vigil” ( Viking Press, 1977 ; ISBN 0-670-43765-4 ) which I consider a “must-read”, even though it is largely forgotten today.
On a side note, I fully understand your feelings about developers, settlement pressures and State Government collusion in the process. Here in Florida, we have struggled for many decades with the same problems. I have been fortunate enough to live in a county that is still largely “Old Florida” with a lot of natural, undisturbed wilderness left, thanks to a collective resistance ( local Government included ) to the intrusions and ambitions of developers and “big money”, with what has been developed having been generally kept to a small scale and carefully integrated into the natural environment. There are several other counties that, for similar or different reasons, are the same way. However, make no mistake about it — the developers and their allies, driven by the desire for profit and expansion, are constantly trying to pry their way in, and the pressures are enormous while the methodologies and salesmanship are equally devious. It is only via constant and consistent vigil that we have been able to hold off this onslaught and keep it outside the county lines.
Hi Earl. I found when I was 20 my life certainly steered me towards amazing adventures both good and bad- now I try and keep on the boring, sensible paths and by and large my life is quite predictable. Having
written that I think I need to change! My uncle’s batman wrote to my aunty after his death and said Bruce carried his bible into battle and would read it every night when able. I’m sure the fijians were kindred souls,
in fact the 40 year old missionary Sergeant Sotutu would also have influenced his platoon and Regiment. I read yesterday that David Duncan was also very religious.
I would guess that my uncle made the decision to be a soldier and all that goes with it, the Japanese were coming and their reputation preceeded them- it was a terrible job, but it had to be done.
In time he became a soldier; after missions with his 12 man platoon deep into enemy territory seeking enemy battlements etc, he would then return to Ibu and fly a small Cub plane Ibu (they had cut a small airfield from the top of the mountain by hand) fly back to Torokina, then fly with a Bomber and pinpoint the targets and bomb them. Then fly back to Torokina, probably for some rest and then fly the Cub back to Ibu, which I understand was a scary undertaking in itself.
He was killed instantly by heavy machine gun fire as they advanced towards 3 heavily concealed nests- 14 fijians were injured until they were destroyed. The dread of all families was relatives been killed by snipers.
A big chunk of my information has come from : “U.S. Army in World War 11. The War in the Pacific. Cartwheel. The reduction of Rabaul. John Miller, Jr. http://www.iblio.org The role of the Fijians is written about.
I must give special mention to the 129th who were positioned in front of the Fijians. Griswold knew the Japanese wanted the airfields and the Japanese were going to use their best troops and resources to attack,
so he positioned the veteran 129th to face them. Which in effect was the job to confront the toughest Japanese soldiers imaginable in their waves of en-masse night -time attacks.
(and later, they too were given the unenviable task of pursuing the fleeing Japanese. Their casualties were heavy; 25% of total Allied killed).
They received a Presidential Unit Citation; Company F, 129th Infantry – 37th Battalion “For holding the line on Bougainville against Japanese attacks and repulsing 3 major enemy assaults”.
Griswold had seen a lot in his days and mentioned these attacks were beyond belief; these attacks were by absolutely committed hardcore Japanese soldiers- which was not always the case.
As an aside, they also would run single file into a mindfield and the front runners would ultimately clear the way- unbelievable.
I too was brought up with The National geographic Magazine- my father collected 1960s onwards to 1990s- I particularly loved the American cars of the 1960s and probably what got me interested in that era of cars to this day.
I will note the books you have mentioned. I spent 2 months fulltime collating my Uncle’s war story and it was very distracting from work, but incredibly enjoyable. I will have to read them at a later date.
Thank you for your interest and your letters are great.
I better do some work- its 8am Friday morning!
Hi Earl, i have an image of a painting done by a Japanese artist who was at a Pacific WW2 en-masse Japanese
Banzai attack. It is reminiscent of Munche’s painting “The scream”.
I find it captures the horror and terror of the attack. It may give some insight to Pacific war veteran families who dont understand their father or grandfathers reluctance to talk about the war. Boldly stated it was mass- murder of the worst order, but it wasn’t chosen by Americans, it was forced on them.
How could you ever forget such a night and if you survived, the aftermath. The clinical neuroses after Bougainville- i understand was the worst in all the theatres of battle.