Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jungle Fighters by Jules Archer

Jungle Fighters: A Firsthand Account of the Forgotten New Guinea CampaignThis book is the author's true accounts of the Allied efforts to protect New Guinea during WW II. Failure to defend this land would lead to the Japanese invasion of Australia. The author, Jules Archer, helped defend Allied forces against enemy air attacks, and he also had experience with land battles. This book describes his memories of victories, defeats, humor, and bravery. The author also shares the stupidity of military decisions and the stubbornness of some officers leading to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of soldiers. There are many examples in the book, but the stories of "Lieutenant Baxter", a fake name of a real officer, highlight the problems.

Fighting the enemy in the jungle was difficult due to the heat, flooding rains, dangerous animals, and disease. Baxter created new problems right away when he took over Archer's plotting platoon. He refused to care about the welfare and morale of his troops; he had his men set up pup tents and sleep on the ground even though there were larger tents with cots available. He ordered the men to move jeeps, trucks, and equipment into a deep ditch even though Archer and others warned him that torrential rains would wash everything away. Guess what happened nine days later? He endangered the lives of his men by refusing to allow them to take cover during enemy bombing raids. I've only shared a couple of incidents, but Archer was finally able to convince the Army that Baxter was incompetent and got him removed.

Despite the examples of poor leadership, the bravery of the American and Australian soldiers shined through. Sick, tired, and hungry men were still able to defeat Japanese forces that outnumbered them by thousands. Herman Buttcher was wounded twice but still led his men to overtake enemy positions that had previously killed hundreds of other soldiers. Sgt. Bill Simon had bullets in a rib and shell scraps in his arm and leg, but he still returned to successful bombing missions. Sgt. Tom Derrick single-handily took over an enemy ridge by scrambling across the area, tossing grenades, and taking out ten Japanese posts. He accomplished this feat even after his battalion had been ordered to retreat, because leaders did not see any way to win.

The author honestly shares his frustrations with the military efforts, but Archer's stories celebrate the courage and determination of the American and Australian warriors.

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