November 18 This Day During World War ll

November 18, 1942 – After an arduous march over rugged mountainous terrain, during which the Commanding Officer had suffered a heart attack, 2nd Battalion of US 126th Infantry Regiment reached Pongani, southeast of Buna, Australian Papua. Less than half the battalion were still fit for action. In October 1942 the 2nd Battalion, assisted by several hundred natives carriers, was sent across the Owen Stanley Ranges via the Kapa Kapa Trail toward Jaure, where they were to flank the Japanese retreating towards the coast on the Kokoda Trail. The total distance over the mountains to the Japanese positions was over 130 miles (210 km), and most of the trail was rarely used. They were completely unprepared; the Battalion suffered greatly from exposure to the elements in the mountains. The troops also suffered from malaria, dengue fever, bush typhus, trenchfoot, and tropical dysentery. The men carried only six days rations, expecting to be resupplied en route. Some of their rations included including hardtack, rice, and Australian bully beef which had become rancid. Many men got food poisoning. They had leather toilet seats but no machetes, insect repellent, waterproof containers for medicine or personal effects, and it rained heavily every day. It was “one of the most harrowing marches in American military history. The Battalion took 42 days to cross the mountains and reach the coast. They never saw a Japanese soldier during their trek, and the battalion reached the north coast after the Australians who had fought the Japanese down the Kokoda Trail. During their march, the remainder of the Regiment was flown across the Owen Stanley Range, arriving before the 2/126th. The battalion earned the nickname “The Ghost Battalion” during the march, referring not only to the ghost-like conditions encountered when they passed 3,080 metres (10,100 ft)-high Mount Obree, which they nicknamed Ghost Mountain, but to their condition upon arrival.

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