Picnic at Sansapor
By Sgt. Charles Pearson
YANK Staff Correspondent
Sansapor, Netherlands New Guinea [By Cable]
If there had been some ice cream around, the invasion of Cape Sansapor would have been a picnic. It was a surprise landing. Instead of warships plastering the beach to clear the way for the invasion craft, the LCVPs chugged in unescorted, hoping there would be no one ashore besides the usual hermit crabs.
The infantrymen poured out on the beach and nothing happened. Noone shot at them and no one ran away from them. There just wasn't anyone there. Wave after wave came in and disappeared in the jungle. LCIs and troops proceeded up the beach. It was Sunday morning with the sun shining and no shot fired. A soldier wiped the sweat off his face and said: “Well, why don't we choose up sides?”
Two and a half miles offshore was Amsterdam Island and two miles farther out, Middleburg Island. A company in buffaloes went to Amsterdam and a platoon occupied Middleburg. There were no Japs on either island.
Back on the beach, GIs speculated on the whereabouts of the next landing, gambled with guilders and discussed women. A photographer walked by.
Up on the left flank, a machine gun opened fire suddenly, followed by a few bursts of rifles and tommy guns. There was no answering Jap fire at all. "Someone saw a rabbit," a soldier said by way of explanation.
Two young natives came up the beach and were chased into the water by a small barking puppy. Some ducks and trucks were using the beach for a highway. Five photographers stroIled past.
A small force moving up the right flank to the river passed through a native village, and 10 minutes later all the natives were smoking American cigarettes.
Back at the landing point a whole platoon of photographers went by. There wasn’t much of a battle but it was getting a lot of attention. Cats and bulldozers were building roads and clearing the ground. Ack-ack guns were in position. A small fellow went past with a large white sign lettered in blue: To Latrine. The beachhead was civilized now.
Next morning a force left Sansapor beach in LCMs and headed up the coast to a small settlement, evidently used by the Japs as a barge-relay station. The landing was made a mile and a half to the left of the village. Like the first landing, there were no shots fired. Part of the infantry started for the jungle trail and the rest headed up the beach.
There's a peculiar thing about infantrymen. Whenever they march in, there's always some madman at the head of the column with a seven-foot stride, and everyone in the second half of the column puffs and sweats. It was like that here. As the force approached the village it slowed down and advanced cautiously. The precaution was unnecessary since a rooster, a hen and a pig in the village offered no resistance. The rooster was killed, the hen was captured, and the pig escaped.
We found the village clean and in good order. The Japs who had been living there had scrubbed out the place before leaving. They left practically nothing of value or interest behind. The huts were set in around coconut palms and some banana, breadfruit, kapok and lemon trees. Flowers, red hibiscus and frangipani were everywhere, and it was the kind of place some bum who had never been there would describe as a tropical paradise. The heat was stifling.
There had been no air attacks thus far, and there was little likelihood that the Japs, who had been in the place and taken a powder, would return. All in all it was a cheap victory. No one was sorry about that.
This was not the first action for the troops who took Cape Sansapor. They had fought in earlier New Guinea battles where the going was really tough. The surprise landing probably was more of a surprise to these infantrymen than to anyone else.
The operation will never be made into a movie starring Dorothy Lamour. It undoubtedly will not make everyone forget about a second front. But it does bring us 200 miles closer to the Philippines and the Japanese jackpot. At the moment that's the general idea behind all our movements in this theater.