With the 41st Division in the Southwest Pacific
A Foot Soldier's Story
Publication Year: 2002
"[W]e began our advance toward the Mokmer Airstrip.... The road climbed a ridge 15 or 20 feet high and we found ourselves on a flat coral plateau sparsely covered by small trees and scrub growth.... As we moved westward along the road, two of our destroyers were sailing abreast of the lead elements of the advancing column. The first indication of trouble was the roar of heavy artillery shells sailing over our heads... aimed at our destroyers.... Shortly after that our forward movement stopped, and we heard heavy firing from the head of the column.... As we waited, we began to hear heavy fire from the rear.... We were cut off and surrounded!"
In the enormous literature of the Second World War, there are surprisingly few accounts of fighting in the southwest Pacific, fewer still by common infantrymen. This memoir, written with a simple and direct honesty that is rare indeed, follows a foot soldier's career from basic training to mustering out. It takes the reader into the jungles and caves of New Guinea and the Philippines during the long campaign to win the war against Japan. From basic training at Camp Roberts through combat, occupation, and the long journey home, Francis Catanzaro's account tells of the excitement, misery, cruelty, and terror of combat, and of the uneasy boredom of jungle camp life. A member of the famed 41st Infantry Brigade, the "Jungleers," Catanzaro saw combat at Hollandia, Biak, Zamboanga, and Mindanao. He was a part of the Japanese occupation force and writes with feeling about living among his former enemies and of the decision to drop the atom bomb. With the 41st Division in the Southwest Pacific is a powerful, gritty, and moving narrative of the life of a soldier during some of the most difficult fighting of World War II.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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In exotic, steamy, coral-encrusted jungle locales throughout the Francis “Bernie” Catanzaro and his 41st Infantry Division buddiesthe war’s conclusion three and a half years later. When the average American thought of the Pacifc War, he or she thought of Marine-Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The Army’s considerable role in the de-...
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After World War II had come to an end and I was back at home, I seldom talked about my service in the U.S. Army. I was happy to be a civilian again, and I tried to put my experiences as an infantryman out of my mind. However, there were infrequent occasions over the years, usually while talking with others who had served, when the war was the subject of our conversations.
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My thanks are due my dear wife, Jayne, who has served as an editor and critic, attempting to rectify my errors in grammar and punctuation while offering encouragement and assistance with this endeavor.
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1 Basic Training: Camp Roberts
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The streets were deserted. It was 5:45 on the morning of July 5, 1943. I was about to begin my
2 Overseas: The Southwest Pacific
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As we weighed anchor later that afternoon, the deck was filled with anxious and excited troops. The ship moved slowly and smoothly across the bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and out toward the open ocean. We were underway. I wondered about our destination and what the future held in store for us. As I looked back, the city, the bay, and its bridges made a beautiful picture in the late afternoon sun. I had a spot by the starboard rail, there was a cool breeze, and I was enjoying the beginning of my
3 Hollandia: The RECKLESS Task Force
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The next morning, April 19th, the members of our company boarded an LCI, stowed our gear in the compartments below deck, and anxiously awaited our departure. It was early evening before we were underway. Rather than taking a direct westerly route toward Hollandia, the convoy headed due north, past the western tip of New Britain.
4 Biak: The HURRICANE Task Force
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On the afternoon of May 25th, the members of Company I, fully equipped for combat, trudged up the ramp of an LCI to board the craft that would become part of a convoy that departed that evening for Biak. After the convoy was underway, I went up on deck to eat my evening meal of K-rations. There was a galley aboard the LCI, but it was only large enough to prepare meals for the crew.
5 A Welcome Respite
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After the fall of the Ibdi Pocket, only scattered resistance remained in the northern part of the island, so it was no longer necessary for our company to guard the hospital. We moved to an area east of the Mokmer airstrip and began to set up camp. However, we had barely completed pitching the tents when a snafu was discovered; the air force wanted to use the area as a camp for members of its ground crew.
6 Zamboanga: VICTOR IV
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On March 8th, our battalion boarded an LST that was to become part of a 200-ship convoy under the command of Admiral Forest Royal.1 The LST, a large, shallow-draft, ocean-going ship that was 328 feet long and 50 feet wide, was capable of carrying troops and supplies plus trucks, tanks, and small landing craft. Because of its large size and because it usually traveled at a speed of only eight or nine knots, it was sometimes called “large slow target”...
7 Mindanao: VICTOR V
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About four weeks after the end of the Zamboanga campaign, the 162nd Infantry was alerted for movement to the Parang- Cotabato region of Mindanao, about 150 miles east of Zamboanga. Our battalion boarded an LST on May 3rd and sailed across Moro Gulf to Parang, where we debarked the next day. The 24th Division had carried out an assault landing in the vicinity of Parang on April 17th. The 31st Division came ashore
8 Japan: Army of Occupation
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On September 19th, the members of our battalion boarded a troop transport, part of a twenty-ship convoy that departed later that afternoon for Japan. After two days at sea, we arrived at Leyte, where we spent a day in the bay while supplies were taken aboard. The next morning the convoy departed Leyte, resuming the voyage to the Japanese homeland. We arrived at Okinawa on September 25th, where the convoy anchored in Buckner Bay.
9 The Long Journey Home
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At long last the day for which I had been waiting arrived. It was December 22, 1945. Along with eleven other members of Company I, Smitty and I boarded a train at the station in Fukuyama. We settled in our seats for what was to be an eighteen-hour ride to Nagoya, our port of embarkation.
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Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2002