Operation of Troop A, 124th Cavalry (Mars Task Force) in the Battle of Nam-Pak-Kha, January 28 1945 to February 2 1945, Central Burma Campaign, Personal Experience of a Troop Commanding Officer, Maj William A. Locke
Late in February, 1944 the first phase of the Allied Operation for the reconquest of Burma began. The purpose of this Allied offensive was to regain control of the land routes across Burma so that supplies could be transported to China. The enormous tonnage of supplies which were required of the American and British Allies in order to keep China in the war had to be transported vast distances over sea, land and air. With the Japanese controlling all of the sea ports of China, as well as the whole of French Indo-China, Thailand, and Burma, our Chinese Allies were sealed off by land and sea. This threw a tremendous strain on the air force Which attempted to sustain the supply flow until a sea and land route could be reestablished. At the beginning of the campaign related in this archive, supplies were being flown from India, across Burma, and into the interior of China. The objective of this campaign was to drive the enemy out of Burma so that the land and sea routes to China could be opened. This operation was planned in late 1943. At the time there was known to be a total of five Japanese Divisions in Burma. The first phase, which was to be carried out by American and Chinese forces operating from bases in the vicinity of Ledo on the northwest border of Burma, had as its objective the capture of Myitkyina, the northern terminus of the Myitkyina – Mandalay railroad. Accomplishment of this first phase would permit the building of a road from Ledo to the Burma Road, and thus facilitate the overland transportation or supplies to China while succeeding phases or the campaign were being accomplished. At the conclusion or the campaign, supplies could again be brought in by sea to the Port or Rangoon, carried by rail to Lashio and thence over the Burma Road to China as had been the case previous to the occupation of Burma a by the Japanese.
The first phase of this campaign was accomplished by August 3 1944, with the fall or Myitkyina. The American and Chinese forces with which this operation was conducted consisted or one American RCT (Regimental Combat Team), the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), popularly known as Merrill’s Marauders, and the Chinese 22-ID and 38-ID. The Marauders spearheaded the advance of this force all the way through northern Burma, and during the assault or the strongly held objective. This was the last offensive action of the Marauders, for with the end of this phase or the Burma Campaign, diseace, fatigue, malnutrition and the normal attrition of jungle fighting had decimated their ranks. With a small cadre or the original Marauders, and many replacements, the unit was reorganized and re-designated as the 475th Infantry.
Organization and Mission
The second phase of the Central Burma Campaign was started from Myitkyina on November 15 1944, and was assigned to a specially organized American Force known as Mars Task Force. This task force was composed of a headquarters, the 475th Infantry (formerly the Marauders), and the 124th Cavalry which was to fight as infantry. The organization of the two regiments differed as one was standard infantry and the other standard cavalry, but their equipment was the same. Organic transportation was by pack mules only, and the force was to be resupplied by air drop. It was necessary to reorganize the 124th Cavalry Regiment, as they arrived in the theater under-strength, and the equipment which was issued to them for the operation could not be properly employed under a standard horse cavalry organization. The result was a regiment consisting of three squadrons which were in effect three small but complete combat teams, each with a battery of 75-MM pack howitzer field artillery attached. The heavy weapons were contained in the headquarters troop of the squadron, and in the headquarters platoon of each line troop. The service and heavy weapons troops of the regiment were disbanded and the personnel used to strengthen the squadrons.
Each rifle platoon had one 60-MM mortar squad armed with one 60-MM mortar. This mortar was the modified type equipped with a small base plate and a lanyard trigger. This permitted the weapon to be fired on a horizontal plane to give the shell a flat trajectory. It proved to be extremely effective against enemy bunkers which were too close to be reached by high angle tire. Training of the force was characteristic of that for the jungle, and emphasized small unit leadership and teamwork within small units. Discipline was emphasized to insure efficient and aggressive action on the part of small units and individuals when acting independently. Live ammunition was used in all combat problems to familiarize individuals with the effectiveness of their own and supporting fires. The 475th Regimental Combat Team left Myitkyina on November 15 1944, moving south.
During this time the 124-Cav continued training. It was not until the December 16 1944, day of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, that the 124-Cav started on its mission objective. It moved in three squadron serials, each a day apart. The enemy situation was very vague at this time, as the Japanese had moved south after the fall of Myitkyina, and contact with them had been lost. Consequently the first objective of the task force was to develop the situation. A specific mission would be assigned later when the enemy situation was better known. For the present it was to move south on a prescribed route of march. Two weeks after leaving its base at Myitkyina, the 124-Cav received its definite mission. It was to cut the Burma Road in the vicinity of Namphakka. In doing this it was to go by way of Bahmo and Mong Wi, rendez-vouing with the 475-RCT in Mong Wi. By January 11, the two regiments and the forward command post of the Mars Task Force were assembled in Mong Wi.
At Mong Wi, the two regiments were given their specific missions. The Burma Road in the task force objective area was dominated by two hill masses about three miles apart. The 475-RCT was assigned the southern hill mass, and the 124-RCT was given the northern hill mass. Both of these regimental objectives were known to be occupied by the enemy, but the strength was not known. The terrain would not permit the combat teams to move towards their objectives on a broad front, so they resorted to their routine method of advance; that of squadrons or battalions moving a day apart on the same trail. The 3/124 moved out of Mong Wi on or about January 18, a day after the 1/475-RCT. It was followed on January 19 by the 1/124 while the 2/124 remained in Mong Wi as task force reserve.
The approach to the two objectives took the regiments over the most difficult terrain they had encountered. It required four days to march twenty-one miles – the point at which contact was made with the enemy. About mid-morning of the fourth day out of Mong Wi, the 1/124 heard heavy firing from the southeast. This was in the direction of the 475-RCT. After a short time the firing of small arms decreased, but artillery continued. It was learned later that the 1/475 had struck a trail block, and that the artillery, which had gone in position to support the battalion, continued firing to interdict traffic on the Burma Road. At noon it was learned that the 3/124, a days march ahead of the 1/124, had been stopped the day before by heavy enemy resistance. During the night the 3/124 had been subject to a strong attack on their perimeter, and had taken many casualties. The 3/124 Commander considered his position untenable for the coming night unless he could be given reinforcements. The sound of the 3/124 fight had not been heard by the 1/124 zone because of the peculiar acoustics caused by the cross compartment arrangement of the hills. The enemy situation was developing in front of both regiments.
Reinforcement of the 3/124
Troop A and Troop B, which were leading the 1/124 column, were ordered to make a forced march to reinforce the 3/124 which was in contact with the enemy. The commanding officer of Troop A was given command of both troops for this march. No information as to the strength or exact location of the enemy was available to the Troop A Commander as they started out. The location of the 3/124 was definitely known, but there was no knowledge as to how their battle positions were drawn up. It was not even known whether the 3/124 was fighting in a perimeter or a line position. only enough time to water the animals was allowed, and then the two troops moved out. A map study of the route to the 3/124 showed that about midway a deep canyon would have to be crossed. To prevent loss of time in crossing this obstacle, the commander of Troop A went ahead of the main body with a reconnaissance party. When this reconnaissance party arrived at the edge of the canyon, they found a similar party there under the executive officer of the 3/124. It was sent there for the same purpose. The crossing site suggested by the 3/124 executive officer was five miles off the route of march. This was discouraging, for time was important if the reinforcement troops were to reach the 3/124 by night. The sergeant in charge of reconnaissance for the commander of Troop A asked that he be allowed to search for a shorter route while waiting for the arrival of the main body. Permission was granted. This capable sergeant plunged into the thick brush of the downward slope of the canyon. The problem was to find a crossing which the pack mules could negotiate. Before the first troops arrived, he had found a route which was hazardous, and which would require about an hour’s work for the leading platoon in clearing the brush and cutting down the most precipitous slopes. Even so, it was better than a ten mile march to take advantage of a better crossing.
The leading platoon was immediately put to work on this project, and while this work was in progress, the remainder of the main body fed men and animals. It was now early afternoon. The work was rotated so that all of the men had a chance to eat and get a short rest. The delay caused by this crossing only amounted to about forty-five minutes. With the canyon crossing safely behind them, the reinforcing troops knew that they would reach the 3/124 far ahead of the planned schedule. The commander of Troop A went ahead with the executive officer or the 3/124 to contact the commander of the squadron needing the reinforcements. Upon arrival at the 3/124, it was found that the situation had eased considerably for the squadron. The enemy did not seem to be showing any strength against the positions at this time. The reinforcement was timely, however, for the squadron was overextended in order to completely hold the objective. With the arrival of A and B Troops, it was possible to strengthen the perimeter, and to place I Troop, which had been hardest hit the night before, within the perimeter as a reserve.
This perimeter was under good enemy observation. Seeming to realize that they had been out maneuvered, the Japs made no attack that night. With the arrival of the remainder of the 1/124 on January 22, the entire position was reorganized, and A Troop was given the mission of establishing trail blocks on the trails leading into the position from the north. By nightfall the regiments of the task force were disposed in defense position. The 475-RCT on the right had encountered strong organized enemy resistance, and had committed two of its battalions in an effort to attain its objective. Considerable enemy traffic could be observed on the Burma Road, but it could not be determined as to whether or not this indicated an attempt on the part of the Japs to reinforce their troops in contact with the task force.
At about 1600, January 22, the positions for the trail blocks had been selected. While these were being established at top speed to have them ready by darkness, the troop commander dispatched two patrols of one squad each to reconnoiter to the north. Nothing was known of the enemy situation in this area, and it was desirable to know the strength which the enemy could throw against these blocking positions. One patrol was to advance as far as the village of Mong Noi. The other was to go as far as the village of Namogun, and there split; half returning by the trail leading directly south from this village, and the other half returning by a trail which ran south from a point five hundred yards to the west of Namogun. The enemy situation did not remain a mystery for long. Twenty minutes after starting out, the Mong Noi patrol was engaged in a fire fight. The commander of Troop A could tell by the sounds of the weapons that the Japanese were delivering a preponderance of the fire. The exchange of fire lasted for about five minutes, and then died out. In due time a runner came back from this patrol to give the story. The patrol was fired upon as it came adjacent to a hill to the east of the trail. As the patrol returned the fire, they could observe several Japanese, estimated to be about a platoon, rush over the crest of the hill from which the fire was coming, and occupy prepared bunkers on the forward slope of the hill. As fighting was not his mission just then, the resourceful NCO in charge of the patrol had broken off the fire fight after causing the enemy to show his strength, then by-passed the exposed portion of the trail by detouring through the jungle to the west of the trail. His report ended by stating that he was continuing on his mission to Mong Noi. For this and other similar evidences of his leadership ability in this campaign. This resourceful NCO was given a battlefield promotion.
Hurrying to take advantage of the short remaining time of daylight, the Troop A Commander took his artillery observer and 81-MM mortar observer, along with a few riflemen for security, and hurried to a position on the trail where he could see the enemy strong point. Upon arrival he found two men of the Mong Noi Patrol whom the NCO had left to keep the strong point under observation. A good observation post was found on a hill line which formed a semi-circular ring around the high point occupied by the enemy. This brought the American party within two hundred and fifty yards from the leading positions of the Japanese. A deep and heavily wooded draw separated the two forces. The hill occupied by the observation party of Troop A and the hill fortified by the enemy were both important terrain features, as both gave almost perfect observation on the area occupied by the 1/124 and 3/124 on an adjacent ridge in the distance. It will never be understood why the Japs did not occupy both of these terrain features. Full details of this situation were sent back to the 1/124, and the commander of Troop A began making plans to seize the enemy positions as he felt that an order to attack would be forthcoming. On his own initiative he had the artillery and the mortars register on the enemy position. The Japanese gave no reaction to this registration. The observation post was manned for the night, and wire was laid to the position after dark.
The Commander of Troop A now made his way to the 1/124 CP to give a detailed report and to offer a plan for taking the enemy positions. The squadron commander appreciated the aggressive action and plans of Troop A, but was forced to hold everything in standby as the 1/124 was now in regimental reserve, and as such was not allowed to commit even a part of its force. Instead of returning to his troop with approval for his attack plans, the Commander of Troop A returned with orders to maintain observation on the enemy position, and to initiate no further patrol action without specific orders from squadron. Thus the situation remained frozen for seven days until on January 29, when the 2/124 arrived upon the scene from Mong Wi and relieved the 1/124 as regimental reserve. The 1/124 ordered then the attack to be launched at 1000 on that day.
The Plan of Attack
The 613-FAB was placed in direct support of the troop, and a section of heavy machine guns was attached from squadron headquarters troop. The plan of attack was as follows : the assault was to be made from the west by the 1st Plat and the 2nd Plat abreast; the 1st Platoon on the left. The 3rd Platoon and the section of heavy machine guns were to establish a base of fire from a point on the crescent ridge directly north of the Japanese positions. The artillery was to open the attack with fire upon the positions. At the same time the 81-MM mortars were to open fire on the reverse slope of the enemy held hill to prevent reinforcement of the position and to neutralize possible mortar positions. The base of fire was to remain silent and hold their fire until the leading elements of the assault platoons approached the leading enemy positions, then they were to open fire ahead of the assaulting platoons and keep the enemy pinned down. At the time 3rd Platoon commenced firing, the artillery was to shift their fires up towards the crest of the hill, and make succeeding fifty yard shifts to the east as the assaulting platoons advanced. As soon as the fire of the 3rd Platoon was masked by advancing troops on the enemy positions, they were to displace and join the assaulting elements on the objective. Each of the assaulting platoons would have a squad in support, and with this squad would be a light machine gun crew.
Briefing for this attack had gone on for a week. The most thorough reconnaissance had been made down to and including the squad leaders. Troop A could find their positions in the dark, and this they actually did on the morning of the attack remaining in concealment until jump off time. All of this reconnaissance and maneuver took place within three hundred yards of the enemy positions. The troop commander feared that because of this the intention to attack might be discovered, but when daylight came on, no unusual activity or fire was noticeable on the part of the enemy.
The artillery commenced firing promptly at 1000. As soon as the enemy held positions became obscured in dust, the two platoons started their descent into the draw separating the two positions. Going down into the draw was accomplished with no difficulty. The enemy had no security outposts. Climbing the steep grade to the enemy positions, however, was more difficult. Seeing that the men were panting and out of breath, the troop commander signaled for a brief halt just before the leading elements reached the summit. This was accomplished by simply raising the arm in the signal for a halt. The platoon leaders were well trained and kept the troop commander in view so that his orders could be communicated in this manner. During this halt it was noticed that the radio operator, carrying the SCR 300, was too fatigued to be efficient. All members of the troop had been trained in radio procedure, so the radio was transferred to the troop commander’s runner. Then the signal to advance was given, and the two platoons resumed their climb. The troop commander and his command group, including the artillery and 81-MM mortar observers, were in front of the left platoon. As they stepped onto the plateau, the artillery fire was promptly shifted fifty yards forward. The two platoons followed closely in good formation and in good order. Control by the NCO’s was good. The center of impact of the artillery was about fifty to seventy-five yards in front of the troops. The artillery observer objected to bringing fire in this close to the troops, but acquiesced to the troop commanders wishes.
Concurrently with the shift of artillery fire, the 3rd Platoon let loose with a tremendous volume of fire which was laid a few feet in front of the attacking troops. So far there had been no evidence of enemy reaction, but at this time a Jap soldier raised out of a bunker, and took off at a dead run into the artillery impact area. Before he could be killed by artillery fire, though, the troops dispatched him with their small arms. At the same time a small amount of rifle fire was received from the leading bunkers. The troop commander shouted to his platoon leaders to reduce each bunker before moving on. The squads then began a systematic destruction of the enemy within the bunkers. The system was simple. While one or two men would keep the occupants of a bunker down by firing into the aperture, another would walk up and drop hand grenades into the slit. This had been practiced many times in training, and proved to be an effective method. Most of the bunkers were found to be occupied by two or three Japs. Evidently the Jap plan of resistance was to allow troops to pass occupied bunkers, and then fire upon them from the rear. When the enemy in succeeding bunkers saw that the leading positions were being neutralized and that none were being passed, they began to bring a volume of small arms fire upon the attackers. They used some light machine gun fire at this time. This fire was wild and ineffective. It is believed that this was because of the heavy artillery pounding and the heavy volume of small arms fire from the 3rd Platoon.
As the troop continued the work of neutralizing bunkers, some of the enemy tried to run out of their positions, only to be shot down by the troops. Others destroyed themselves within the bunkers. One resourceful Jap Nambu Light Machine gunner ran to the rear with his weapon slung over his left shoulder and the muzzle pointing in the direction of the attackers – firing as he ran. He was covering his own withdrawal. He was last seen as he disappeared into the smoke and dust of the artillery impact area. There his rear guard protection was of little use.
The troop continued to work up the gentle forward slope of the enemy held hill. During this time some enemy light mortar fire began to fall upon them, but it was not serious enough to hamper them at their work. When the crest of the hill was reached, however, the assaulting elements were met with heavy small arms fire from the ridge to their front – another ridge running north and south and about a hundred yards from the one now occupied by the troop. The first casualties were taken at this point. One man was wounded and one killed. Our 81-MM mortar fire was still falling in the draw between the two ridges, and it was felt that it was serving a useful purpose there. So the artillery tire was shifted to the next ridge. This caused the enemy fire to be reduced. At the same time, through a natural break in the foliage, several Japs were seen to be running towards the left flank of the troop. The support squad and light machine gun of the left platoon was immediately ordered to engage this target. The 60-MM mortars with each platoon supported this action with low angle fire made possible by the modifications on the weapon. The effect was good, but it was not known as to whether or not the developing counterattack had been stopped There was a possibility that this counterattack might catch the 3rd Platoon in the process of displacing forward to the newly won position. This fear was soon dispelled as the 3rd Platoon arrived upon the scene under the command of our NCO. The officer platoon leader had become a casualty. The 3rd Platoon was immediately deployed to meet the counterattack, and advanced to take up positions on a slight rise of the ridge line. As they crossed the low ground in front of the rise, they were fired upon. But the resistance was not in strength or well organized. The platoon opened fire, assaulted the rise, and took it. They dug in hastily to protect the left flank of the troop. At this point the troop commander made a complete report to the squadron commander. The troops were on their objective; the opposition on the opposite ridge was estimated to be a reinforced company; a counterattack was developing, but it was not known in what strength the counter attack would be made. The squadron commander replied that he had watched the entire action from a good observation post, and that he considered the position too large for one troop to hold. Consequently he had already ordered Troop B to march to the position to reinforce Troop A. By taking over the left half of the objective – the part now held by the 3rd Platoon of Troop A. Neither troop commander was given command of the newly won position as a whole. Orders to the troop commanders were merely to coordinate. The SCR 300 radios worked perfectly in this exchange of messages.
The 1st and 2nd Platoons were ordered to dig in and organize their positions as quickly as possible. They were arranged so that when the 3rd Platoon was released by the arrival of Troop B, it could dig in on the rear of the two forward platoons and thus establish a tight perimeter for Troop A. The heavy machine gun section was assigned a position in the 2nd Platoon area so that they could be centrally located, and support both the perimeter of A Troop and B Troop. But the non commissioned officer and the men of this machine gun section lacked aggressiveness. Some fire was being received from the enemy ridge, but it was mostly ineffective. It caused the machine gun section to remain in defilade when they could have been carrying out their orders and digging in with the rest of the troop. When the troop commander learned of this situation, he placed the machine gun section under the command of the officer platoon leader of the 2nd Platoon. With this leadership the section got into position with no more trouble. As B Troop moved into position, it was fired upon by remnants of the repulsed counter attacking force which had remained in position to the rear or east of the 3rd Platoon position. One platoon of B Troop was committed to attack this opposition. This was done promptly and with success, but the platoon suffered three casualties, including the officer platoon leader.
The 3rd Platoon was released, and it began organizing its assigned position in the troop perimeter. As the two troops worked on their defensive positions, enemy opposition ceased almost entirely. our artillery and mortar fire was discontinued. By dark A Troop had its defenses completed. The area was still very large even with the assignment of part of it to B Troop. The Commander of Troop A had all of the men available with him including the cooks and most of the mule handlers. Artillery and mortar concentrations were planned. The men were entrenched in two and three men bunkers, each bunker with heavy overhead protection. Bunkers had all around fields of fire so that any penetration by the enemy would be constantly under fire. Because of the nature of the terrain and the close proximity of the enemy, no outposts were used. However, the perimeter was ringed with warning devices and booby traps. There was an ample supply of food and ammunition within the perimeter. Just before dark, the Commander of Troop A visited the Commander of Troop B for the purpose of coordinating artillery and mortar concentrations. B Troop was far from being ready for the night. Many of the positions were shallow and without overhead cover. Some pack mules were still in the area, and the B Troop Commander stated that these animals would have to make a round trip yet that night to replenish their supply of ammunition, as they were almost out.
There was just time remaining before complete darkness for the Commander of Troop A to give his own positions a final check, so with this on his mind he left Troop B. With everything in readiness in the area of Troop A, the commander waited in his CP for the enemy activity which he felt sure would develop. The enemy did not keep the troop waiting long, but within a half hour after complete darkness, they began to probe the perimeter. Several booby traps were exploded, but the men held their fire. They were told not to open fire until an attack was evident. The exploded booby traps were all in front of the 1st and 3rd Platoons. No attack developed. When it was evident that the enemy had finished probing the position, selected men of the platoons performed the daring feat of creeping out forward in the darkness to reset the traps. This was accomplished without loss or incident. At 2330, a sudden and intense volume of enemy heavy mortar and artillery fire was delivered on Troop A’s position. This lasted for approximately fifteen minutes and then was lifted as suddenly as it had been delivered. It was immediately followed by heavy small arms and machine gun fire in front of the 2nd Platoon and against the boundary separating the 1st and 3rd Platoons. The attack was delivered simultaneously from two directions. The screaming and yelling Japs charged the perimeter, setting off the warning devices and booby traps as they came. The troop commenced firing with all of its weapons, artillery and mortar fire was called for and delivered. With the exception of a few fanatical individual enemy soldiers, the attack was repulsed. These few penetrated the perimeter, but were killed by riflemen who did not have to leave their foxholes to fire on them. The all around fields of fire which had been carefully arranged in daylight paid dividends.
B Troop had been attacked simultaneously with A Troop. When the attack subsided on A Troop, a terrific battle could be heard in progress in the B Troop area. Apparently their positions had been completely overrun. One of the troop officers of B Troop radioed the commander of Troop A saying that they were overrun; they had taken heavy casualties; the Troop Commander was missing; and that they were out of ammunition. The Commander of Troop A warned this officer not to give such information in the clear, and advised him that Troop A would give what assistance it could. At this stage of the fight a flare was sent up from the Jap lines on the hill to the east, and with that the enemy left the overrun position of Troop B. It was never understood why the enemy gave up this newly retaken position. The commander of Troop A sent his executive officer to Troop B to find out what condition existed there, while he himself inspected his own perimeter to see how the men had fared during the attack. In the Troop A area it was found that the troops were all in position and in good order. The 2nd Platoon had suffered two men killed and three wounded. One of these was a squad leader. The 1st Platoon had taken three wounded; the 3rd Platoon had no casualties. The men were busy repairing the damage done to their bunkers, and details were in front of the perimeter reinstalling the warning system of booby traps and sound devices. There was an ample supply of ammunition remaining on all positions and the aid men were taking care of the wounded. No automatic weapons had been damaged. Nothing more could be done in his own perimeter, so the Troop A Commander turned his attention to the conditions in Troop B. Here the situation was not so encouraging. The Troop A executive officer stated that heavy casualties had been sustained; the 60-MM mortars, which had been set up in battery, had been completely demolished. Whether or not the weapons could be reconditioned and new crews assigned to operate them was not known. The mortars were also out of ammunition. A gap existed in the north part of their perimeter – a critical point. The troop commander and 1st sergeant were missing, and the morale of the men was badly shaken. Because of its heavy casualties, Troop B would no longer be able to hold its original perimeter.
The executive officer estimated that with a squad from A Troop, the gap in the north part of the B Troop perimeter could be restored, and that the survivors could reorganize the remainder of the perimeter. He further stated that B Troop should have to have a portion of A Troop’s reserve ammunition in order to be effective. The Commander of A Troop was willing to part with same of his reserve ammunition, but hesitated to weaken his own troop to reinforce B Troop, especially if they were to be sacrificed to a hopeless situation. The 3rd Platoon Leader was ordered to prepare to send one of his squads to the B Troop position, and to send the squad leader of that squad to meet the Troop A Commander at the B Troop Command Post. Then the Troop A Commander immediately left for the Troop B Command Post to get a first hand estimate of the situation. The remaining officer of B Troop gave the impression of being capable and efficient. The Commander of Troop A decided to reinforce the position with one squad, and at the same time began to help the Troop B officer reorganize the position. One of the glaring deficiencies was found in the fire plan for support fires. These were too far out in front of the perimeter, thus they had allowed the enemy to attack undisturbed by mortars and artillery once they had gotten in close to the perimeter. Luckily, the artillery observer with B Troop was still living, so that condition was corrected at once.
Next, the remaining men of B Troop were placed in advantageous positions and reorganized. When the Commander of Troop A was satisfied that all preparation that was possible had been started, he left for his own perimeter. At 0400, the enemy attacked both perimeters again. This attack followed the same pattern with a fifteen minute concentration of mortar and artillery fire. The second attack, however, was not as aggressive as the first, and it was repulsed from both perimeters. The close in mortar and artillery fires played an important part in breaking up this attempt. A Troop lost one man killed in this action, and one heavy machine gun was put out of action with a bullet through the water jacket. The remainder of the night passed without incident. In the morning a thorough search was made for any enemy that might have entered the perimeter and remained there. But the only enemy found were dead ones. The squadron commander came on the position early in the morning, and stated that A and B Troops would have to remain in position for two or three days before an attack could be launched to take the Burma Road. This was because the entire task force had been heavily engaged in combat, and the casualties had piled up at the clearing station. The only means of evacuation was by liaison type plane, and it would take that much time for the medical services to catch up with the situation under this handicap.
Until February 2, A and B Troops held their positions. No further large scale attacks were launched against these positions, but several minor harassing attacks were made. Artillery and mortar fire frequently fell on the troops, and sniper fire was consistent throughout the period.
On February 2, Troops A and B were ordered to engage in a fire fight to contain the enemy while the 2nd Squadron made an attack around the north flank. They were to keep the enemy occupied all through this attack, but were not required to take any ground. This was done. By early afternoon the 2nd Squadron had secured its objective. This placed the squadron in advance of and slightly to the left of Troops A and B. The enemy troops opposing Troops A and B were now in a precarious position. Long range artillery fires began to fall in the perimeters occupied by Troops A and B. Enemy patrol activity was increased, and continued active throughout the night until about 0500 hours in the morning. At that time an unusually heavy concentration of artillery fire was placed on the positions. This heavy fire continued for about an hour. Then suddenly the situation became quiet. A patrol was sent out with daylight on February 3, only to find that the enemy had accomplished a good withdrawal. Resistance had also ceased in front of the 2nd Squadron. The meaning of this was not clearly understood at the time, but the fact was established later on that the entire Japanese force had executed an excellent withdrawal to the south, moving their troops on the Burma Road in front of the entire task force, and disengaging those in front of the 475th Regiment at the last.
For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)