Courage Under Fire: Growing up in the South Pacific of WWII. Pt 2


The Louisiana Maneuvers

Fred Jacobs spent his 18th birthday in Louisiana. Camp Beauregard was a case of embrace the suck. The troops grew to refer to the place as Camp Dis-regard. The camp was equipped to handle a single regiment. The entire 32nd Division was sent there anyway. The troops set about training for whatever the future would bring.

On August 12, 1941 congress passed legislation extending the federalized service of the National Guard units from 12 months to 18 months. At the same time congress approved the use of National Guard units outside of the Western Hemisphere. The 32nd Infantry Division was destined for overseas service.

Soldiers conducting daily exercise in a bivouac area during the Louisiana Maneuvers in September 1941.

During August and September of 1941 the state of Louisiana became the mock combat zone for massive war games meant to prepare the troops for war. The exercises included over half a million troops and covered nearly 16 million acres of territory.

in a series of the most grandiose field exercises and full maneuvers ever staged any time, anywhere, before or since, by American troops

then Col. Jim Dan Hill, CO of the 120TH Field Artillery Regiment regarding the Louisiana Maneuvers

December 7, 1941

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor altered the United States’ approach to the war rampaging across the world. The sleeping giant was awake. The United States officially joined World War II on December 11, 1941. Fred turned 19 the next day.

Australia bound.

On March 25, 1942 the 32nd Infantry Division received orders shipping the division to Australia.

April 10, 1942 troops of the 32nd Infantry Division boarded trains for San Francisco. The last train carrying troops arrived in San Francisco on April 14, 1942. The troops were loaded up on ships in San Francisco. They set sail for Australia on April 22, 1942.

Fred had been in the military less than 2 years. He was 19 years old. Fred and his fellow soldiers of Company E set sail from San Francisco for Australia on the converted luxury ship USAT Lurline. The entire 32nd Infantry Division sailed from San Francisco. 10 ships were required for the trip. The convoy marks the first time in history an entire division was sent overseas in one convoy. On May 14, 1942 the division arrived in Adelaide, Australia.

Photograph of the SS Lurline in the 1930’s. Fred rode the Lurline to Australia.

Interesting Fact: For the men of the 32nd Infantry Division the day of May 7, 1942 never existed. Their convoy crossed the International Day Line on May 6, 1942. On the other side of the line the date was May 8, 1942.

Japanese Domination

The Japanese forces dominated the Pacific in the fall of 1942. There was concern some concern that the Japanese might set sights on invading Australia. The Japanese were running amok in the south Pacific. The United States forces were tasked with the job of harassing the enemy. The 32nd was ordered to help put the Japanese on the defensive.

“I shall return.”

General Douglas MacArthur’s promise to the Philippines in March 1942.

General MacArthur was still blistering from the Japanese victory on the Philippines in March of 1942. He and his family had been forced to flee the island by boat. The famed general had a standing promise to return. It was the 32nd Infantry Divisions job to help make that promise a reality.

General MacArthur ordered the Red Arrow Infantry Division to New Guinea on September 13, 1942. The initial deployment to New Guinea included Fred’s 126th regiment. On September 15, Fred and the rest of the men of Company E, were the first unit to take off from Amberly Field in Brisbane, Australia. It was a 1000 mile flight to Port Moresby.

The Three Spearheads

Once can only imagine the mood on that flight. Excitement? Fear? A strange combination of both? The men were woefully unprepared for the struggle they were about to face. They had trained for service in Europe, and even that training had been disrupted as the division moved from place to place.

“In the rush of getting ready on short notice, there was not time to get the fatigue uniforms which had been sprayed with green camouflage dye thoroughly dried, and they were dried out on the men’s backs as they flew north”

-Blakeley

The men of Company E must have had some sense of pride as they headed into New Guinea. General Harding had addressed the men before they left on their mission. He explained to them that as the leading element of the 126th, which was in turn the leading unit of the Division they were “the spearhead of the spearhead of the spearhead”. From that point on Company E proudly began to call itself the Three Sprearheads.

The rest of the 32nd Infantry Division would arrive in Port Moresby on September 29, 1942.

The men of the Red Arrow Division were about to get battle tested. Stay tuned for the next installment in my series on Fred Jacobs during the South Pacific of World War II.

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2 replies »

    • Embrace the suck is a term borrowed from my time around modern day soldiers lol. It seems fitting for what they experienced. New Guinea is coming…I may need therapy just from reading all the information. I suspect the battle of Buna Gona is where Fred was awarded his first purple heart.

      Liked by 1 person

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