by Sgt. Mack Morris
By Sgt. Walter Peters
YANK reprinted this anonymous report on combat conditions in New Guinea by a wounded noncom from the "Intelligence Bulletin" with permission of the War Department.
We were flown over the Owen Stanley range to relieve an Australian combat unit, which was keeping open a trail over which natives were bringing up supplies.
The first day we had snipers firing into our perimeter (an area with all-around defense) with explosive bullets, which were very irritating and nerve-racking. The next morning the same thing started. I got permission from my lieutenant to go out and see if I could find the sniper. I walked about 40 yards out of the perimeter, and I saw him in a large tree about 300 yards away. Since this was the first Jap I had seen, I was quite nervous. I took my time and fired five shots. The Jap fell only partly out of the tree; he was tied in by his legs, and his rifle was strapped to a limb.
Our first general activity was to send out patrols under company noncoms, to be sure there were no Japs digging in.
One day about noon, our commander asked for volunteers to go into an area believed to be occupied, by the Japs. I asked for two men to go with me into the area. We had gone about 300 yards when we thought we heard something moving in the undergrowth. I left the two men behind and crawled up to a place where the growth had been cut down to about knee height There I could see fresh dirt, so I lay still and listened for about 30 minutes. Then I brought the other two men up with me and I left them in my position while I crawled forward to investigate. I found a freshly dug hole, with a banana-tree trunk forming a wall about waist high on two sides of it.
I called the other men up, and we decided to go back and report what we had seen; however, just then a .25-caliber machine gun opened up, and we immediately dived into the hole. We thought that the enemy was covering the hole with this one gun, but another .25 caliber opened up from another direction. All during the afternoon we exchanged fire with them, using our Thompson submachine guns and the one Browning automatic rifle we had with us. At about 2000, after dark, we went back into the jungle and got away without a shot being fired at us. We stayed in the jungle that night because it is absolute suicide to go into your own perimeter after dark.
Next morning we reported what we had seen. At night you're not permitted to fire your rifle because it would reveal to the Japs exactly where you are—you use only hand grenades and the bayonet.
The Japs will go from tree to tree during the hours of darkness and make noises, or call familiar names of people, or call your medical personnel. When they have located your perimeter, they fire their machine guns about waist high over your position; then they send a group of men crawling in under their own fire. They crawl very slowly until they feel the edge of your foxhole; then they will back away a bit and throw in hand grenades.
Another favorite Japanese trick is to capture a wounded man and place him near a trail or perimeter and then cover him with machine-gun fire. They will torture him until he screams and yells for help, but it is absolutely suicide to send him help.
One morning at 0845 we were told we were going to attack the Jap perimeter at 0900. The lieutenant in charge took with him two runners, who carried a telephone and the necessary wire. When we were at the right position, our artillery and machine guns laid down a barrage until the lieutenant telephoned back for them to stop. We moved on, on our bellies. The Japs were out of their pillboxes and seemed to be doing some sort of fatigue work. There were six of us who got within 20 yards of them without being seen. We had three Tommy guns, a Browning automatic rifle, a Springfield rifle, and a Garand rifle. The lieutenant motioned for us to start firing. One sergeant threw a grenade, and, as it hit, we opened up with all our guns. There wasn't a single Jap who escaped, but there were some left in pillboxes, and they pinned us down with fire from one .50-caliber machine gun and from several .30-caliber machine guns. One of our six men got hit near the hip with a .50-caliber bullet, which lodged in his left shoulder. The Japs also wounded three more of our men who were behind us. The lieutenant telephoned the commanding officer and told him our situation, and we were ordered to retire. Later we made another attack on this perimeter and took it.
There was a lieutenant who had been shot down near a pillbox, and our commanding officer asked for volunteers to go in and get him. When he was last seen he was still alive, but when we got to him, after wading through swamp water waist deep, he was lying on his stomach--dead. While we were going toward him, the Japanese had killed the lieutenant by slashing his stomach, and had placed him on an "island." We put him on a litter and started back into our own perimeter, but the Japs opened fire on us, and we had to leave him and take cover in the trees. I thought the fire was coming from only one pillbox, so we all started firing in the direction from which the fire was coming. We soon learned, however, that there were two more pillboxes from which we also wore receiving machine-gun fire. When they stopped firing, another boy and myself went out and got the lieutenant ana took him into the perimeter. Later he was taken to battalion headquarters (command post) where he was buried in the regimental burial ground.
A few weeks later our battalion moved into a position to make an attack on a large Japanese perimeter. All artillery and machine-gun fire was concentrated on this perimeter before the infantry started pushing forward. The heat was terrific. We moved in about 100 yards under Japanese fire, with two platoons forward and one in reserve (the squads also were two forward and one in reserve). My squad was in reserve when we started forward.
The lieutenant sent back for me to bring my squad forward and relieve the right squad. Because so many of this squad had been killed and wounded or had passed out from heat exhaustion, I thought I might find a better place to put my men. So I crawled forward to find positions for them. I had found a few good shell holes, some logs, and depressions in the ground, when a .30-caliber machine gun opened fiie on me. The first burst hit the front handle grip of my Tommy gun, and, of course, I got as low as possible; but the second burst hit my Tommy gun drum, and two bullets hit me in the arm. Also, fragments of the drum hit me hard-on the hand and shoulder. These .30's were explosive bullets which broke up my arm and tore a great deal of flesh away from it. It felt as if an ax blade were shearing through the flesh of my arm.
I rolled over into a small depression of the ground, and took my knife out and tried to cut off the sleeve of my coveralls. While I was cutting, I saw the barrel of the .30 caliber sticking out of a small pillbox, so I rolled back and got my Tommy gun, thinking there might be a chance of knocking out this one machine gun, which was about 80 yards away.
Just as I was getting in the right position to shoot, a .25-caliber machine gun opened up from the left. One bullet hit me in the elbow and one in the ribs—the latter went through my pipe and a can of tobacco and only broke my rib. I pulled out this bullet myself, burning my index finger on the hot lead. Another bullet went through my helmet and just grazed my scalp.
I lay there for about 3 hours in the hot sun, bleeding profusely. Figuring that I would bleed to death if I remained there, I began to crawl back to my own men—only hoping and trusting to God that He would give me strength and protection to get back. I got back to my men, and the platoon medical personnel made a hasty cross splint and sling for my mangled left arm.
One of my men helped me back to the command post where litter bearers took me back to a dispensary. Attendants gave me morphine and put me on a jeep, which carried me back—with several other casualties—to a portable hospital. There medical officers removed two bullets. Next day I was sent to a landing field where a plane was waiting to take casualties to Port Moresby.