205 Field Artillery Battalion
by Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

             On 28 May 1944, second day of the Biak Operation, 205 Field Artillery's 105 mm guns landed at Bosnek. We came on Z + 2 because our first mission was only general support of an expected easy capture of Mokmer Strip. Capt Wise, 1st Lieutenant Jendrzewski, and three men of our advance party led us down the coast to positions below the low, dark-green Ibdi ridges.

            Landing on Biak at 0825, all batteries by 1130 were emplaced below Ibdi and waiting for firing orders, 100 yards behind 146 Field Artillery Battalion closest to Parai Defile. Suddenly our mission changed from general support to combat for 162 Infantry.

            For in Parai Defile 90 minutes before we were ready to fire, 3rd Battalion 162 Infantry was already in trouble. The Japs had pocketed them; they needed every gun that could bear on the Japs surrounding them.

            Ten minutes after our guns began firing, two Jap mortar shells impacted among our guns and 20 minutes later, two more shells. Although reported "slightly wounded", two Field Artillery men were evacuated. From 1140 to 1500, mortar fire blasted into us.

            At 1200,these first two men were wounded, in B Battery Bodine was hit in right shin bone; Montana in head and right arm. Also in "B" 30 minutes later, Georgepoulos was wounded in right leg.

            By 1300, three men of 205 Field Artillery suffered also when on detached duty in 146 Field Artillery's command post. Stout of our Headquarter Battery was lacerated in right shoulder, and Service Battery's 1st Lieutenant McClendon was reported as "seriously wounded" in an unnamed part of his body. But Wilbur L Hill of Headquarters Battery died of wounds.

            And by 1330, B Battery again had casualties five wounded, and one dead. Pvt. Walton G. Hayes was killed from fragments that penetrated the right side of his head. Medic Bonior was wounded in right shoulder blade, and Augustini in right thigh and left upper arm. Landis was wounded in left shoulder blade, and Jackson lost his little finger. Fagundes was wounded in the left arm.

            All told, 205 Field Artillery had two dead, 11 wounded and hospitalized - and three more men hit who remained on duty.

Meanwhile, we were unable to relieve 162's 3rd Battalion from the overwhelming fire of Japs concealed in the Parai Ridges. Effect of any Field Artillery shells was limited because the Japs were in deep fissures crosswise to our fire, or in caves and crevices ending towards the sea.

            Offshore destroyers and rocket craft were best positioned to fire on the Parai Japs, but that fire became impossible. About 1200, Ensign Travis, Naval Fire Support Officer, was killed forward with C 162. Naval Fire Support became impossible, for no replacement for this liaison officer was at once available, and direct communication to destroyers and LCls became erratic for two whole days. It was impossible to concentrate enough shells to neutralize Jap fire. So 162 Infantry would have to retreat from Parai Defile, but could not complete that retreat until the next day, 29 May.

            By 1220, while 205 Field Artillery endured mortar fire, 41 Division Artillery changed our mission from general support to direct support of 162 Infantry. Knobbs and Wilson, both, 1st Lieutenant forwarded two observers' parties to call down fire for 3rd Battalion and 2nd Battalion about 1500 yards west of Parai Village. By 1845, also, an observer for attached 121 Field Artillery's 75s was also delivering fire. All night, we harassed the Japs with our shells.

            About 2000 that night, a Jap plane lobbed three anti-personnel bombs on A Battery. Bombs did little damage; a man was lightly wounded but stayed on duty. Fragments did dent the carriage of No 2 gun. An ammo pit flamed up, but we quickly put out the fire.

            On 29 May, we battled for 162 Infantry who had to fight Jap tanks in early morning before our men had to leave Parai Defile. At 0847 for a time, we neutralized Jap mortars on the ridge above 162 Infantry. At 0916, our observers brought down fire to drive off one of the seven Jap tanks that attacked 162 Infantry. A minute later, 60 rounds from Jap mortars impacted our firing area, but harmlessly.

            Thirteen minutes later, a mountain gun and mortars shot down on us from the reverse slope of a high ridge to the north. We requested an air-strike, but we have no report of any Air Force assistance. Forty minutes later, perhaps because of our own shelling, we took no more mortar or cannon fire from that ridge.

            On that 29 May, however, we mainly lobbed shells behind or on the north flank of retreating 162 Infantry. We believe that we saved many lives for our infantrymen who reformed with us that night in perimeter 500 yards west of Ibdi. Although the Japs could have wiped out 162's 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion, losses were comparatively small. Efforts of 205 Field Artillery, 146 Field Artillery, and other support units had kept 162's losses of 28-29 May down to 32 killed, 94 wounded, and three missing in action.

            Our 205 Field Artillery casualties included a man wounded and marked "Duty," and Toronto struck by falling flak in B Battery. He was slashed in right thigh and evacuated.

            On 30 May, we were largely inactive while 162's patrols sought new routes to attack the victorious Japs north and west of us. At 0740, our destroyers shelled the Parai coast. At 1300, probable knee-mortars impacted near B Battery.

            That night, 205 Field Artillery was secure in a thousand-yard long perimeter some 500 yards west of Ibdi. With us were some  tanks, C Company 186 Infantry, D Company 542 Amphibious Engineers, and 162's Regimental Headquarters, 1st Battalion, and CN and AT Companies.

            Early on 31 May at 0740, our own B-25s strafed our Battalion area. Our Narrative reports that four men were wounded, but Casualty List has just one name. Corporal Menghelli suffered a total fracture of his left thigh from a .50 heavy machine gun bullet. At 1300, some 15-20 rounds of a Jap machine gun struck 200-300 yards from our Command Post, but did not wound any 205 Field Artillery men.

            On the morn of 31 May, our front lines towards the Parai Japs were only about 300 yards of our two forward A and C Batteries. We could not fire close support without endangering our Infantry protecting us. We dug new positions and laid new wire, then dispatched "C" to the rear a half mile, and "A" one mile back. While the forward B Battery remained on call to fire, "A" and "C" were out of action just a minimum time because they dropped at once into previously prepared stations. By 1800 hours, "A" was registered on a new base point, and "C" also was registered by 1900 Hours.

            By 1 June, General Fuller had begun his new offensive for Mokmer Strip - a two-pronged offensive. While 162 Infantry continued fighting to liquidate the Parai Defile Japs, 186 Infantry would advance overland to capture Mokmer Strip from the rear.      With offshore destroyers' aid, 205 Field Artillery would support both regiments.

            By 2015 that night of 1 June, 205 Field Artillery caught hell from those 75 mm mountain guns on Ibdi Ridges overlooking our perimeter. At 2015 Hours, four guns zeroed on our area and threw down screaming ("Whistling Charlie") shells on us.

            That cause of this shell fire was the arrival of tanks of 603 Tank Company at 2015. The tanks buttoned up and ran away, but the Jap guns seemed to plunge down shells with such accuracy that we wondered how they failed to destroy our Batteries.          At midnight, they fired 100 rounds that exploded a gas and ammo dump on the left flank of long-suffering B Battery. To save them from the flames and explosions, we had to move three howitzers and two of our defending machine guns.

Lieutenant Rector observed the .75s gun-flashes 5,000 yards off, and began counter-battery against them.

            But not until 0230 on 2 June were the valiant Jap gunners shelled into silence. For the rest of the night, we turned to deliver harassing fire against Parai Defile. At dawn, we opened up against the same mountain gun battery to be sure that we got no more fire from that area. Before dark again, we fired a normal barrage to secure us against their 75s.

            Our Journal reports that four men were wounded that night - two from Headquarters Battery and two from Service Battery. The Casualty List has only two of these names. At 2330 that night of 1-2 June, a .75 wounded Bushaw in Headquarters Battery - struck him in left side. At 0330 just as we finally silenced the guns, Lewis was hit in upper right side.

            Already, 162 Infantry had begun probing again to expel the Japs from Parai Defile. From an ambush position at a stream crossing halfway through the Defile, 3rd Battalion pushed on 3 June. L Company pushed with seven tanks. An observer party under 1st Lieutenant Oakes and a liaison party with 1st Lieutenant Ross accompanied "L" with the tanks.

            But in that narrow foreshore below tall cliffs, the Japs held a nearly impregnable roadblock. A Jap charge briefly cut off L's lead platoon. Then a lone warrior disabled a tank which had to be towed out. Our guns blasted probable Jap positions, but we had to retreat.

            On that same 3 June, we marked with smoke three different targets for air-strikes. The Air Force credited us for accurate marking of those positions which resulted in precision bombing. At 1000 that morning, B Battery's Crouch was wounded by a .50 heavy machine gun - a simple fracture of his left forearm.

            On 6 June, 1st Lieutenant Knobbs scanned the Mokmer coast from his floating observation post - an LCV - "Landing Craft Vehicle" - of 542 Amphibious Engineers. He called down effective fire on troops, tanks, trucks, and guns. Two large fires started in Japanese dumps. Japs fired back, but Knobbs was only grazed in left ear - other men in the craft unhurt.

            Meanwhile, 2nd Lieutenant Shea boarded a destroyer better to call down fire against the Jap roadblock and other positions in Parai Defile from which 3rd Battalion was forced back on 3 June. All afternoon and night, our battalion harassed that area.

            But the Japs still held Parai Defile. On 7 June after 186 had seized Mokmer Strip from inland, our troops needed the fastest way to supply that isolated regiment. Supply by landing craft from Bosnek was far too slow. To get a truck route, Gen Fuller had to liquidate the Parai Defile Japs. He had to land troops west of the roadblock to press against L 162 on the other side.

            On that 7 June, 21 LVTs - "Landing Vehicles Tracked" - loaded reinforced I and K Companies to land at Parai Village, west of the Defile. Before they landed, 205 Field Artillery and the destroyers fired a heavy preparation so aimed as to clear the area but not damage Parai Jetty. Captains Wise and McDougall also rode those LVTs with an observer party to call down fire on the Japs overhead in the ridges. (Despite the successful landing, it was not until 1335 12 June that Parai Defile was cleared of Japs.)

            On 8 June, 205 Field Artillery continued the offensive for 186 and 162 Infantry now in fighting to drive the Japs from positions above Mokmer Strip. To range the Japs at a farther distance than before, we had to displace A Battery to a new position west of Ibdi before B and C Batteries.

            Our 205 Field Artillery pilot, 2nd Lieutenant King, began using our new little air-strip for his Piper Cub observation plane (By the close of the Biak Operation, King would have flown over 175 missions for 205 Field Artillery, from the Salamaua Operation onward.)

            Radio communication with our forward observers at Mokmer Drome were difficult through Parai Defile. We had to relay all messages from Headquarters through our floating observation post out in the sea. Despite danger from Jap shore parties, we had to man that position 24 hours a day.

            All that 8 June, we fired heavily on the Japs holding that low ridge above Mokmer Strip. On 9 June, our 105s shelled to prepare the landing for supply craft at Mokmer Beach. On 10 June, we shelled Mokmer Ridge against the Japs firing down on 186 Infantry on Spoeria Beach. At 1800, Lieutenant Wilson shot up pillboxes and two anti-aircraft guns. From the air, 1st Lieutenant King called down fire that put a Jap dual purpose anti-aircraft gun out of action. (In the Papuan and New

Guinea Campaigns, King would fly over 175 combat missions, with over 400 hours' flying time.)

            On 13 June, B and C Batteries moved forward by landing craft past the Parai Defile Japs, then marched to new positions by Mokmer Drome. Despite some Jap fire that wounded three unnamed men, we were ready to fight by 1930. "A" Battery rejoined us next day.

            When 1st Battalion 186 Infantry attacked West Caves approaches, 1st Lieutenant Klemens Nelson led an observer party to assist. When Japs attacked 186 Infantry with tank support, our field artillery men fought them off in the front lines. Nelson himself killed two Japs. Under small arms and field artillery fire, they brought down 105 field artillery shells to help defeat the Japs.

            On 10 June, our last big shoot-out of our Batteries as a whole was to help 186 Infantry cut off the Japs escape route behind West Caves. Much later, on 30 June, C Battery had perhaps the last memorable firing mission of 205 Field Artillery, against the few die-hard Japs still in East Caves. From near Mokmer Village, we arced 800 rounds of smoke and high explosives into the caves. Little Jap resistance was left after our bombardment.

            In our Battle of Biak, 205 Field Artillery Battalion lost only two killed and 16 actually reported hospitalized from wounds. Under continuous Jap menace, we helped win victory on Biak.

 

CREDIT: Documentary sources found at Washington National Records Center from the fourth Visitation Grant of our 41st Division Association were three. I used 205 Field Artillery "Narrative Report," "Log of Observations," and "Casualty List." I still had to use R.R. Smith's Approach to the Philippines to get the full picture of 205 Field Artillery's place in the operation. Award stories were just two available: of 1st Lieutenant Steven King and Klemens Nelson.