G Company, 163rd Infantry Regiment: Butchers of Sanananda

By Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian

             A key episode in our Division's history was the capture of "the hospital lot" at Sanananda. For that deed of our jungle-stained riflemen, Tokyo Rose screamed over the radio: "The Butchers of Sanananda will never leave New Guinea!" Or that's the way Luther Mayberry, a scarfaced Texan from the Panhandle, used to tell it to us rookies a year after the Papuan Campaign.        According to him, our Division earned the title of "The Butchers" from "the hospital lot" and Tokyo Rose. And we were proud of that story; it gave G Company's veterans a tone and a bearing that we tried to live up to. And this is the way it all happened.

            After its first week of hell in its first jungle fighting, the 163 Infantry was ordered to help the Australians clear out the Japanese perimeters at the junction of the Killerton Trail and the Sanananda Track. On January 12, 1943, the Second Battalion had the mission to strike the rear of a Japanese position that was holding up the First Battalion. F Company led off behind its ported rifles, and its leading platoons disappeared into the jungle.

            But when the crackle of Japanese long rifles grew too heavy before F Company, G Company got the command to try a movement on the right flank. G was sent north about a hundred yards and then assigned to work its way for a mile to the Sanananda Track through a tangle of rainforest.

            Somewhere up the slot of a jungle trail, a Mormon scout told me, he came upon a pillbox and a Japanese guard outside it whom he shot to death instantly. Past the pillbox, they sighted a little thinner jungle, and here and there a lean-to and Japanese soldiers. Then Japanese grenades began to explode.

            And the men of G Company knew what: to do. They had probed into a fortified center of resistance, and they formed into thin irregular lines of skirmishers and went in firing at the grenadiers and the few riflemen and those with the bayonets.

            They killed many who resisted, and some held out for a good while in holes among the big trees. And there were fools who would not surrender and turned and fell down dead. One Californian beheaded four Nips with his BAR, I was told.

            And some time during this approach firing with the M-l's leaping in the hands and the spent clips ringing out and the Nips falling dead, individual G Company men realized what a strange pocket of Japanese perimeter they had stormed into.

            It was like a battle, with the crackle of enemy explosions and their own hard sharp fire. There were Japs who fought, and there were dead Japs under blankets, and there were live Japs under blankets.

            And G Company had no time to listen with a stethoscope- not when a pale hand reached out to detonate a grenade and throw it in your face. So G men fired first, and pulled back blankets later. And some Nips were dead from blackwater fever or malaria or wounds, and some were sick to death. And some had been playing possum. Men have told me about slaying able-bodied Nippo grenade men who lay under blankets besides skeletons. In cases like that, you would shoot or die.

            Meanwhile, F Company was not so lucky as G when it renewed its pressure on our left. A machine-gun blasted from a corner of the hospital area, and four men of F died and eleven were wounded.

            None of these Japanese gunners were in ill health until Captain Jim Buckland took a detail from E Company and struck them from the rear and blew them full of holes.

            Such was the "hospital lot at Sanananda." It began on the morning of June 12, 1943, shortly after some damp, filthy, wet-footed Yanks awoke from their holes where they had slept but a little and guarded all night and had been awakened to "clear the area" and make out breakfast on nauseous Australian bully-beef. And the fighting in the hospital lot was all over by noon.

            It was an area three hundred yards abreast by about four hundred yards ahead. In that jungle terrain, visibility was often limited to twenty-five feet, and the enemy was scattered everywhere throughout the hospital area.

            The responsibility for this melee of armed men and hospital patients was solely that of the Japanese. In defiance of international law, they had fortified a hospital area and allowed their own armed men to mingle with the patients. And the denizens of the hospital lot paid the penalty to E, F, and G Companies of the 163 Infantry. And thus - I have been told and would like to believe -the Division got its name of "THE BUTCHERS OF SANANANDA."  


In this story, most of the credit is due to Colonel William H. Benson of Montana's 163 Armored Cavalry - who was then CO of G Co 163 Infantry. You can tell where I have supplied memories of stories told me by G Co veterans at Finschafen back in April, 1944. 



More on "Hospital Lot" F Company 163 At Sanananda

By Tech Sergeant Richard W. Bain, F-163


            Here are other highlights of the 163 ,Infantry's attack on the so-called "hospital" at Sanananda, on January 12. 1943. Early that day, F Co. 163 had orders to move around to the rear of a Jap perimeter and attack. We lost eight men wounded there.

            Later that day, orders came for F Co. to move around G Company's left flank. We moved out on the dead run, the Third Platoon in the lead. We ran smack into a Jap machine gun with a rifle squad. We lost four killed this time, and eight wounded--a total loss up to this time of twelve wounded and four KIA.

            Let us remember these dead: 2nd Lieutenant Ralph H. Ogden (Portland, Oregon), Sergeant Harold W. Roush (Kalispell, Montana), and Pvt Jack Marcus and Pfc Emil F. Prinz of Chicago. This proved to be a well fortified hospital lot.