Courage Under Fire: Growing up in the South Pacific of World War II. Pt 9

Buna Mission

On December 9, 1942, Company E of the 126th was a beat up force. The losses they had taken during the repeated attempts to take Buna village were significant. Relief forces arrived and Company E moved to the rear. Buna village fell to U.S. forces on December 14, 1942.

December 16, 1942


With the fall of Buna village, the tide appeared to be turning in favor of the Allied forces. Battles continued to rage as the fortified Japanese forces remained determined to keep a stranglehold on parts of the island. Company E would not remain long in the rear. On December 16, 1942, the 2/126th received orders sending it back into battle.

Buna mission remained an enemy stronghold. The 2/126th would be part of the push to take the mission. Battle plans sent the men of the 2/126th to the Coconut Grove above and below the triangle. The aim was to take the triangle. Japanese forces were dug in at Buna mission the area was a natural fortress. Few approaches were workable and well-placed enemy positions protected those.

December 18, 1942

Dec 18-28 1942

The plan was for 2 companies of the 126th to attack across the bridge from the Coconut Grove. Air support would pound the enemy but because of the contained area once the ground troops began moving they would be on their own. 100 men from Companies E and G, with a supporting weapons crew from Company H would lead the attack.

The troops crossed the bridge at Entrance Creek and moved into the bridgehead area at the mouth of the triangle at 2200.

Bridge over Entrance Creek
Bridge over Entrance Creek

December 19, 1942


0650 the Japanese forces saw the daybreak to a barrage of mortars, artillery, and bombs coming from the air. A final barrage of mortars rained down on the enemy at 0730.

0745 The men of Company E and G began to approach straight south. Enemy crossfire stopped the approach within yards. Hours passed as the men remained pinned down and losses mounted. They made a second push at 1415, again they were cut down by crossfire. The men tried a third futile attempt at 1600.

By nightfall, 40 of the 107 men who started the attack had been killed or wounded. The 127th was brought in to relieve the battered forces.

The jungles of Papua have taken a heavy toll on the men of the 32nd Division as of mid December 1942. An enemy that was supposed to be a pushover just keeps proving their fierce determination and resolve. The men of Company E, 126th regiment were still not done in the jungles of the Buna region.

5 replies »

    • The entire division was decimated in the Papuan campaign. The numbers are startling. My husband’s grandfather was injured by the enemy at least 3 times because he had 3 purple hearts by the end of the war. I assume one was probably earned during service around Buna.

      Liked by 1 person

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