WWII; Guadalcanal; Battle of Mount Austen
WWII; Guadalcanal; Battle of Mount Austen
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
27 May 2002
- Mt Austen
- -9.483 159.983
Two-Track Mono; Electrovoice RE50 Dynamic Omni Microphone
Log of DAT #: 3
Engineer: Neal Conan
Date: May 27 2002
JI = John Innes
NC = Neal Conan
:00 - :26
ambi. getting out of the car, unloading, doors closing
john I'm going to have to get sound of that! (laughs)
the grid references 104, where they fought, against where they spent that night on the third of December, where the action took place, which is where the gateway is here. And I say 'well it can't be there because I'm there all the time,' there's no logic in that, but how could I be going past a famous event and not know. So I came up here and the description was a spider web of ridges on the highest part of the mountain, and I'm saying, 'eayh, that's the highest part of the mountain..' so I'm looking for evidence that one, 57 years ago, for one night, some people were here so I'm looking for a bully beef can, something! So I looked in here because the goal was, the Americans were.. the foxholes were on the line of the road now - as you can see a logical place to put foxholes, and the Japanese approached what they thought were their own lines, were 'oops, we're in trouble' and they ran for the trees in this direction, and there was a two hour firefight, and if this was the right position, I'm not lowing for evidence that it is so. The grass as you can see is quite short, it's only about 4 foot high, when I was looking at that time it was higher than me, and I could lean into it and I couldn't push through, it was so bad, but fortunately by some act of god someone found a Zippo lighter, and so we burnt the whole lot off, and it was all safe enough to go in, it was clear as what you could see down there. And there it all was, I picked up 17 firing pins from hand grenades, heaps and heaps of shrapnel from the hand grenades, and up here hundreds of hundreds of rounds of ammunition, so I rang Bill Fischer in America from here - at two in the morning, and I wouldn't say he was ornery, but at two in the morning her certainly was. And he said 'well what do you want' and I said 'bill, bill, I found your spot on the mountain,' and he said 'ehhh, I'll be there in October.' (laughs)
he came back, and you can be 100% right, and you're the expert and you know all about these things, and oops, you're 100% wrong. So I still wanted absolute proof that this was it, but I was very very optimistic that this was the spot. Carlson, with this long, lat., and the evidence that yes there was a firefight here, and I brought bill back here, where we are standing now, and I said 'bill, what do you think?" and he's impassive.. and just looking around and I'm thinking 'oh, this doesn't look promising.' And he pointed to just to where the car was and said 'I slept over there.' ¿ yes, I got a real buzz out of that! I don't know if he was playing me along, or what. In carlson's report he said something about the patriotic songs that they sang. So I said to bill 'can you remember the songs you sang?' and he said 'yeah.. we song god bless America and onward, Christian soldiers." And how he was wounded, in fact one of the Japanese wasn't dead and he let go with a grenade when he was. and pretended to be dead. In fact he felt his pulse, and it was a very strong pulse, and then he just let go with a grenade, and he was shot wit a shotgun with this stomach, and bill remembered that t night the burning of the Japanese stomach, he could just smell that all night, as well as the men snoring and he's deep behind enemy lines.
Bill was only 16 and when I first was speaking to him I told him he was carrying the same weight today as he was in 1942, except that he was carrying the ammunition in 1942, so he caught me on that one. A remarkable man. At 16 you could join the forces, but you had to have the signatures from the folks, and of course they used the ruse that they'd join the foreign legion if you don't sign, and they'd rather have you fighting for Americans, so yeah away you go. So that's just perfect, the spider web of ridges, the description, and I asked bill if you could se the sea and he said 'oh, you could just see it,' that's all¿ you couldn't really see anything else. The runway, the airfield? No, but the ultimate proof is when you get them back. What I've got is all those bullets and firing pins I've got them in two plastic bags, so if I get a raider back on the 60th, I'm going to burn that off, throw them back in and we're going go find them together, and there's a big chance that I'm going to get a raider back. We'll move on the observation post from here.
I will mention that there's another search that bill and I are on - lt jack miller was one of those that were running down, you can see that slop there, the Americans were running down and this according to the description by Carlson, they were bushwhacking the Japanese in the trees here. And jack miller was wounded in the throat when he ws in that melee there, according to Carlson by an American made Thompson submachine gun apparently captured by the enemy. In all probability that was friendly fire and there were three cases that bill knows of friendly fire but Carlson always protected his men, he didn't ay anything about friendly fire. Jack miller survive the night and one hour then next morning after they were moving out, unfortunately he choked on his own blood and he's still her, and that' s the search me and bill are on and we'd love to find jack miller¿
ok - very light birds..
FX - bug
FX - bug
ambi. Birds become louder, shrills
FX - extended bug
10:50 - beginning of track 2
¿-12:00, garbled sounds, mic interf.
the Japanese set up their observation posts there on the 22nd of September, and I'll show you his little cave, where that man was, and he hung there for about three months. Eventually they figured it out, and they fired an artillery shot.. and in his memoirs, because he survived. he wrote that they fired the artillery shot and he retired into the trees. So he wasn't a bonsai man, but aspiring to live. And the list of marines that are coming back, are terrific, one of which was on the Jordan patrol and I had a patrol that went all the way up to mt. Austen, up here to where the car is, and he was carrying the radio, and when he got up to here, he noticed he was getting interference from a nearby radio transmitter.. the nearby radio transmitter was over there, you see that sign that's the Japanese observation point so obviously they noticed these men coming up, and when they got to the crest of the hill over there, they came under fire, and he threw his radio away and they withdrew. A stronger patrol came up a few days later, the Jordan patrol, and had successful action against some Japanese and this man was not noticed by the Jordan patrol at all, and he survived until December time when that artillery shell landed nearby and he was off. But what a spectacular view of everything, and from this position that we're going to go to, and you can see point view, savon island, and even today in the haze you can see all the way off to Tulagi. So he could see all the shipping, all the airplanes landing, he could notify the pistol petes - with the airplanes taking off the pistol petes would make it difficult for them - he would have witnessed night of the battleships on the 13th of October, that night, the two Japanese 14 inch battleships came in, kongo and maruna and they just bombarded the airfield, and in fact he, at 5 in the morning, radioed back, that the airfield was unusable - and much to his chagrin, at 5:40 speedy took off (laughs)
you want to walk?
(discussing walking vs. driving¿)
ng = ambi, wind rustling through leaves, occasional bird.. too light though
FX - small clang
FX - bird chirps
this was ambience at the top of Mt. Austen, the panoramic view of Andersen field, the entire American perimeter¿
FX - bug
ng = ambi.. mostly wind blowing through grasses and trees.. footsteps at 19:05.. a lot of mic interference from wind?
FX - bug
19:58 Beg track 4
ambi.. heavy breathing
take your breath for a minute
usually when I take people up here I like being the first, because by the time everybody else gets up here I've got my breath back and I can start talking.. I'm not really that fit. This is the memorial to the Oka force that fought here. I'll read I tout to you. From November 1942 to January 1943 by command of Colonel Akinosuku Oka, 124 infantry regiment, and second battalion, so of 228 infantry regiment were besieged here at mt. Austen, then fought against 132nd, and 108th infantry regiments of amercorps division, and 35th infantry of infantry regiment of the 25th division, they did not the third ¿ and the ammunition so fire, the battlefields were sure to hell. Cdr. Mjr., senshiki nishihara, and his second battalion 124th infantry Cdr Major Takeyoshi Inagaki and his second battalion 228th, resorting to investing forces and then suffered an honorable defeat on the dawn of 23rd of January, 1943. September 1994 dedicated by the persons concerned of the bereaved families and survived comrades in fokiaka, Japan. The are we just moved from, barata village is right where the gifu area was. Most of the people that fought there were from an area in Japan called the gifu, hence they gave them selves and the Americans picked up on it, the gifu area. Now on the .. as I was mentioning earlier, the 132nd infantry was given the responsibility of reducing this rodut, and the first and third battalions were attacking frontally and doing no good whatsoever, and the second battalion was released from reserve and has made its way around this flank here to the right, and on the 2nd of January they've come up from the water hold and they've crested this hill. When they reached the crest of this hill, they saw a Japanese mountain gun, by itself and the crew in the shade. The crew has run for the gun when they seen the Americans, but it was too late; they were cut down. The Americans then threw the breach over the side of the cliff there, and made their way back to the crest of the hill and we'll just go and see the foxholes that they dug on the morning of the 2nd of January, and they had 20 minutes because 20 minutes later form the gifu the first of five counterattacks that day, it was hand-to-hand fighting, it's was a ¿ thing and they held on and they repelled all of the 5 counterattacks. That night they then left the hill 200 yards, moved 200 yards away to the south, allowed the Japanese to take back the hill, but called in the artillery, there was no defensive positions to withstand the artillery. The next morning they took the hill back, and they stayed there from the 2nd to eventually the 23rd of January, the Americans had totally surrounded this gifu area - the people at the gifu just count' get any further resupply and that was the significance of the taking of this hill because they had the Japanese surrounded. Then on the 22nd of January the Americans managed to get up the right road, approaching from what we know as the Honiara side. Two of those tanks broke down, one didn't, and it managed to pass through two passes all the way through the gifu area. That night, the 89 Japanese that were well enough to muster, assessed the situation, decided it was absolutely hopeless. They had been given orders to withdraw, which they ignored, and they had been offered surrender to the Americans, and they ignored that, they couldn't leave the dead is what they said. And they had one final bonsai charge towards the strongest part of the American's line. And later on the Americans said 'well, why'd they do that? If they had attacked to the east they would have had a chance of getting away - but that was not their intention, to get away, they just wanted the honorable defeat. And any force of ire from that final bonsai charge - four were wounded too badly to die. The others so ¿ the honorable defeat is what they were looking for. In fact there was a col. Larson helped locate where those final 85 were buried. And they were dug up in 1986 and the villagers still talk about this one Japanese man who dug up his father, and that was quite an emotional event. Well if we make our way up the hill we'll see a set of American foxholes that were set up on the 2nd of January 1943. (25:45)
ng = ambi, footsteps.. pretty light
g = ambi, longer grasses, louder
this hole here has an interesting story about it. it's the beginning of the American defensive positions that were set up that day.. it continues on over there an along the ridge line, on the military crest along the absolute crest on the hill. But an interesting event occurred surrounding this fox hole. Two of the village people came down to my office and said they had found an American, the remains of an American, in this foxhole. So I came up and had a look and all the implements around him were certainly American, there were three mortars there, there was a bayonet, bullets, all of the material around the remains were American. Coincidentally later that week, we had general Paul Henderson, brother of lofton Henderson, who the field was named after, was coming with a contingent of marines to rededicate the name Henderson. So he brought the marines here to get their opinion, and sure enough yes, all agreed he was American and someone from so hi was going to come out and ___ the remains. Coincidentally we had 57 Japanese here by Mrs Kawaguchi, who was the sister, excuse me, the daughter, of the general Kawaguchi, who led the attack on bloody ridge. Now I explained to her about eh American I found and those 57 Japanese came here by themselves and they all go around here and they gathered around and prayed for the soul of the American. Four weeks later, the sgt who led the people up who these foxholes belonged to has adamant to find out who he is, 'he was one of my men that went missing, it looks like we found him,' and he was ringing every day 'john, is there any amore news?' so so hi hadn't got back to me so I thought ' oh dammit I'll go in myself,' and so three of us went in and we were looking for his dogtag, and he was lying on his back with one harm across like that, and it was a Japanese dogtag. And it turns out that we were able to identify who he was, he was 2nd lt. Tashio kijima, and he was in the 228th infantry, and that dogtag got back to Tokyo, back to Nagoya, and his 82 year old sister got her brothers' dogtag back, and in fact the missing American was located in 1943, so both mysteries were cleared up. Hopefully there was some satisfaction by tashio's sister that she got his dogtag. And that little bit of wood we're seeing here, when I believed it was American, I'd made across, I'd arranged with father percy, the catholic priest, to say a few words, and I was gong to put a cross with the name o the American on it, and when I discovered it was tashio nijima, I thought it was all very ecumenical, I'll still put a cross there and we had Japanese on one side and English on the other side who he was, and the fact that he was killed in Jan. 1943. so that's another project of the 60th to make that more secure. That has survived a few bush fires but the wood wasn't up to it so we need a new cross. The flowers that you see there, are stuck.. I had a plastic water bottle, and I stuck some flowers in there that I had taken from the Japanese memorial and I've seeded, so we now have the flowers from the Japanese memorial in there, so that tidies up that position. That's one of the stories in that hole¿
foxhole, foxhole¿. Foxhole.. they were using hand grenades to blast - you can see the coral. Very nice to get behind, but wasn't as exposed in the morning of January 2nd 1943. and you will also see in all of the foxholes, food tins. If you do a dig, that's the most common thing you'll see in a foxhole, food tins. Been and hash seemed to be a popular one there's some writing on that but I can't make out what it is. You get lids of containers that contained hand grenades or mortars.
claging¿ spam tins
spam.. nice and tasty.. runny spam served in 100 degree temperatures..
that's a nice foxhole, it would have taken a mortar too¿.
This is another foxhole with a story. Well every foxhole has a story. This foxhole here, the original owner was joe mycheck, 132nd infantry of course, from Chicago, and that was his foxhole. And right beside him was an Italian called fornelli. Joe was telling me the story of fornelli, who was fearless, would snipe at the gifu. And joe, safely in his foxhole would pass him the ammunition. So joe brought back his daughter a few years back and she wrote into tone of the Chicago papers 'where did I go on my holidays' in the kiddy section and she said 'oh I went to Guadalcanal with my father and this is him in his foxhole,' and that was published. That was a story. But you can see the military crest, you can't see the gifu. You stand up here, they can see you. It really was hand-to-hand here because grenades are being used and you find lots and lots of Japanese and American grenades and fragments. If you're within grenade throwing distance, it's hand to hand. They were being attacked, these people here, from three sides at one stage. In the earlier apart of the battle they were just hanging in there, and of course they gradually got the upper hand through sheer weight of numbers. I'll show you their approach from the jungle and the excitement they would have felt leaving the jungle, approaching this hill. When you're in the jungle you have little idea of which way is east, west, south, and north. You know whish was y is up and down and that's about it. they were using compasses. You were totally disoriented, but when they were approaching here they were helped by the cactus air force who had a plane that as revving up it's engines and then cutting out immediately over hill 27, so they ere giving a hearing bearing on which way they were to be going, so they had auditory help as well as their compass.
it's quite step here. Incredibly the Japanese didn't' have anyone on this hill. They preferred to stay in the shade, in concealment, was their goal. Just one or two people on this hill would have given the warning the approach, as you can see, directly from the east, was just near impossible. That's too big a climb. When they approached from this direction here, and they emerged form the trees, and can you imagine what they're thinking? They've got together, they're going to break out into the open now, best of luck, what's going to happen to us I wonder, how many of us are going to make it through? They've shot through just to below here and they thought "we've got here and nobody's noticed?" they come up a bit further, and they're still doing it. I wonder how in the hell we could get away with this! and they made it all the way without taking any hits, none of them. The emotion! I speculate how on earth they must have been feeling and the relief to have made it to the crest. This area we're looking at now is literally covered in foxholes, and if we don't slip over then we'll make it down there safely.
ok - ambi. footsteps through heavy grass
voices, mumbling, footsteps
bird, couple chirps
voices, john says something about foxholes, not on mic
a nice big machine gun. I found the asbestos gloves there so they could change the barrel.. and you could see they could have that field of fire in the fixed position here. The Japanese were trying to get up from that way, this machine gun would play havoc on them.
g - ambi - footsteps
that's another nice on in there..
g - ambi. Footsteps
a garand, m-1. proving that it was army not marine..
mumbling¿ 'yes, these are all American..'
that's a tunnel of some sort. I think it's booby-trapped. Neal you mind going in and checking it out?
there's a tunnel with a room in there, they had to bring up their waters because there's none on the hill. I'll just speculate as to what was put in there. I wish the hill could talk so it could tell me. It's something you could crawl into and it's a b it deeper. It's a bit too narrow for me to crawl through, but I'd have to lose a bit of weight to do it. but it obviously leads to something. You could see the care they've taken to reinforcing around the entrances, so it wouldn't be a personal fighting position at all. This is obviously an important area.
as you can see all around foxhole after foxhole. I can speculate that as they've come out of the jungle they'd quickly want to get into safe positions so this was made as a safety area for coming up.
so once they'd come up this hill and finally taken the gifu in that last bonsai charge, once that happened that was pretty well the end wasn't it?
that's it. after everybody has fought and died over this earth, they left it. seems strange doesn't it? but yes, there was no further use needed. Their goals was to get rid of te Japanese on this hill. Got rid of them on the gifu - ok- no further importance whatsoever. So they just abandoned it. And the beauty is from a historic point of view, 60 years later you can come up to this almost pristine situation where nothing has been built about it, and nothin has been spoilt in any way. The only spoil is the ravages of time with the rain. But nobody¿ this is not a tourist area. You'll be one of few that have been back since 42¿ 43.
that used to have writing on it, it used to have united states army like this. Beans are just what you want in a place like this.
spam is much better!
and of course if you wanted to go anywhere, you stayed in your foxhole, that's where you went, you used your helmet. More than one man has told me that he forgot to take the liner out before he did his business.
what do we have here?
what does it say? How's your eyes?
let's see.. get some of that dirt off. Spells it the other way¿ mortar M-I-8, M-2.. 30 mm. No, excuse me, 80 mm¿ no no¿ 60!
containers like tennis balls I suppose. ¿batteries from maybe a field radio. I think they're dead now.
FX - a saw? Scraping
60 mm mortar.. that's a much bigger one.. that one is much smaller, must be down at the bottom. Obviously a mortar unit was here.
FX - plang -sounds like shovel in the ground
80 mm.. .a whole range here..
snake from the battle?
open these with a can opener?
they'd use the bayonets
FX - wood pole falling on the ground
Ok - Ambi, footsteps, grass
so this was probably a mortar pit right here?
yeah, well judging by all the mortar equipment, that's what it looks like. You got plenty of protection from the Japanese.. 27 onto the gifu (missed words)
46:57 - 48:24
vg - ambi. long grass footsteps, but noises
FX - locust?
this position.. the grass is .. boy we're so close tot eh jungle.. move over here a bit. This is the position that would make me nervous at night. That foxhole is right beside the jungle, and this is the edge of the defensive position. At night every sound would be a jap coming after you. That would be terrifying, I don't think I'd get any sleep at all In that position. When we have our burnoff, it's more clear, but you can obviously see how close it is to the jungle, it's a nice deep one, you'd obviously would have a couple of buddies in there with you. You'd want that.
so this guy was tail end Charlie?
tail end Charlie, that's right, and every noise would have been scaring the living daylights out of him. One of my army buddies, I asked "how did you feel when you were on Guadalcanal?" I ask every man that question that fought here - Japanese, American, the common thread is that they were all hungry. The Japanese were seriously hungry, and the Americans were just hungry. But he said "John, I was just scared, all the time, from the day I landed to the day I left, I was just scared." The tactic at night was that you stay in your foxhole because the Japanese only fought at night, if they were attacking, sometimes they were compelled to fight during the day because the Americans were attacking, but at night you stayed in your foxhole and if you got out of your foxhole, you would be shot.. so you just stayed there. He would crouch down and if anybody broke that silhouette, he would shoot him. He didn't have to, but any threat-like change in the silhouette and bang, he was into 'em. - he was 18 that one, that particular army man
vg - tail ambi, crickets, sounds like "night" in a way
he heard all this activity the next day, and his machine gun platoon, and they were saying the ships are going to do it tomorrow they had all the reinforcements, the ships went backwards and forwards and all they could do is wait and see what tomorrow would bring. And dawn brought beauty - thank god, they're gone. Imagine the emotion that day. Joe mycheck.
where is he from?
Chicago.. he came up with a very good book, "Orchids in the Mud.."
so they came out of the jungle here?
they made their way up as quickly as they could, get up, and in the stages of¿ it's okay okay, I imagine someone was furiously digging those holes straight away - but no resistance at all. It wasn't until they got up to the top, and they saw the Japanese gun and the artillery piece and the Japanese in the shade¿ they saw the Japanese, and the japs an for the gun, they were cut down, too late, and they disassembled the gun, took the breach out, and they threw the part over in the jungle and set up the foxholes there. As the fighting progress, of course you had Japanese in there and of course the Americans had to dispose of the bodies and they threw them over the cliff here. And many were found down in the 1970s down in the bottom here when they threw them away. They used a convenient foxhole to bury them, or just throw them away if they could, so at nighttime that's what they would be intending to do.
in fact there's a famous photo that you would have seen by the way, it's taken of a mortar burst and they show you seahorse, and in the background this is the border that you see. You see it in millers' book, the first offensive, and is the first photograph there. It was the first book, the first serious book published about this campaign, published in 1949. Frank's is still the best.
54:14 BEG TRACK 5
it's easier uphill than it is downhill.
this is a waterhole that the japs were using to get the water to the gifu area, and I have heard stories that they allowed the Americans to get the water from her and the Americans allowed them to get the water from here. I don't know if it was that gentlemanly but this was a vital little stream this one. As you'll notice there's not water up I the gifu area.
FX - twigs snap
57:09 - 58:18
vg - ambi - water from stream trickling.
vg - breathing, ambi, child crying in background, footsteps, crickets..
child's cry gets nearer/louder
john mumbling in background, Neal breathing
backpack sounds, long grasses¿
fx - twigs snapping
as you can see there's a way of the tourist tracks.. anyway, I'll just read this out, it's a memorial to the okafors fought, comdr major, senakichi ishahara, and the 124th infantry, cmdr majr takayoshi inigaki and his 2nd battalion 128th infantry, suffered an honorable defeat on the dawn of 23rd of January 1943. 85 soldiers were buried in the trench. In 1994 this memorial was put down by those concerned by the bereaved families and survived comrades. So this is where the bonsai charge ended. They were just about buried on the spot, as I said 89 took part in that assault in this direction from the east, just into the strongest part of the American lines. They almost perfectly achieved what they were after, to all die an honorable death. 4 fortunately survived
can you do me the favor of telling us the story again of those 85, as they decided?
there were 89 on the night of the 22nd, that day they had survived withstood American attacks form the 17th of December 42 to the 22nd of January 1943, and after being shelled and bombed every day and assaulted by ground forces, they were still holding their perimeter.. and on the 22nd, being in a much weakened state, of course, but the Americans brought up two, three tanks, three stewart tanks, and two of them broke down getting up the right road - one didn't, and that one tank past through the gifu area, all the way through, twice, being followed by soldiers who were mopping up behind the tank and the tank withdrew behind the American perimeter. The 89 surviving Japanese figured out that that was it. the Americans had tanks up here, being through their lines twice, they were out of ammo, out of water, absolutely no hope, no food.. and they decided the 89 had one final bonsai charge - they had been ordered to withdraw, retreat, to the east, but they refused those orders and they had been offered surrender to the American forces in Japanese, to them, and they considered all of their options, and they said they can't leave the dead, and so they decided to have their final bonsai charge, and at dawn at happened, and this is where they ended up - 84 were killed, and four survived.
okay.. thank you
ok - footsteps, chuckling in background
1:06:28 beginning of track 6
as we were leaving the battlefield area of gifu,
as we were leaving the battlefield area of gifu, one of the kids who live here came up and handed john what looked like to me a couple of large clumps of coral. Bones, john said, probably Japanese. We left them at the offering bowl at the base of the Japanese memorial to be burned the next time the relatives come here. For radio expeditions, I'm Neal Conan, national public radio, on Guadalcanal.