Headquarters Company 2nd Battalion 162 Infantry: From C Ridge Into Salamaua - First!

by Pfc Joe Bradshaw with Dr. Hargis Westerfield, Division Historian


             After storming Roosevelt Ridge on 15 August 1943, 2nd Battalion 162 Infantry had to capture the Japs' Scout Ridge, which lay north of "Roosevelt" and at right angles to it and extended half-way to Salamaua Town. While the other two battalion pressed on our left flank, 2nd Battalion had to fight uphill on three parallel ridges that climbed from Dot Inlet to Scout Ridge - ridges named only "B," "C," and "D,"

But first, our scouts had to locate the Jap positions above us in that overhanging hill jungle. On 16 August, 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company's Pfc Bradshaw and Sergeant Daniel found B Ridge clear of Japs three-fourths of the way up. Marking the limit of our patrol by branches across the trail, we then scouted all the way up C Ridge.

From the highest point of C Ridge - a tree that we named "King Dick," we saw no Japs clearly. But looking northeast across a draw to a rounded hill later named Berger Hill, we seemed to discern bent forms struggling up it.

To be sure that they were Japs, we patrolled through the draw of giant ferns towards Berger Hill. Suddenly, we heard Jap voices - saw maybe 10 armed Japs coming from Berger Hill towards B Ridge, next to Roosevelt. They laughed and sang like a bus-load of US school-children picnicking.

When hidden Daniel rose to see better, his rifle-butt scraped a stone. They silenced; we heard steps of a grim patrol encircling our fern thicket.

Back to back, fingers on triggers, we looked up to netted Jap helmets in sunset. Suddenly, frightened wings whirred up from the ferns before us. The Japs decided that we were birds, and marched on.

A six-man section of the same patrol with Bradshaw and Daniel had seen Japs bivouacking near Lokanu Village, northwards before D Ridge. They had watched Japs cook or hang laundry.

Thus, our patrol of 16 August learned that Japs held D Ridge, but that C Ridge was clear. (Later, a patrol of other 2nd Battalion Headquarters men contacted Japs far up on the B Ridge summit.) Using the tree King Dick on Jap-free C Ridge, field artillery observers began calling fire on Band D Ridge. Then on 26 August, F Company seized the C Ridge summit after a needless field artillery preparation.

            Then Captain Munkres ordered Bradshaw and Daniel to take 13 men (among them, Reser) with a recently attached Captain to locate Jap positions on D Ridge. Munkres cautioned us to watch out for a 1st Battalion patrol coming over from the southwest.  

            Starting on the west slope of F Company's new perimeter where D Ridge Japs could not see us, we patrolled up an almost waterless creek-bed of pot-holes, then up a faint track that put us near a tunnel of interlocked foliage. Bradshaw tried to crawl up the tunnel to observe D Ridge, but the patrol's rifle fire recalled him.

Daniel said that he had shot two Japs, but was uncertain whether they were Japs or men of our 1st Battalion patrol. Our men sporadically fired, although unsure of whom they fired at. Bradshaw leaped into a sunny opening and cursed them. Their answering wild volley replied that they were Japs. Our firepower repelled them, and we were recalled without casualties. We do not know how many Japs we killed. Later, we learned that 1st Battalion had called off their patrol.

With 2nd Lieutenant Polimac commanding, Bradshaw and Daniel led another patrol past F Company's position to search for Japs past the inland point of C Ridge.

About 250 yards deep in waist-high kunai, we found a Nip corpse beside his bullet-holed helmet. He had certainly died rushing into battle with our previous patrol. Then three Nips climbed up the slippery bank of Pot-Hole Creek and died under Bradshaw's tommie and Daniel's Springfield.

Deeper into kunai, 1,000 yards from F's perimeter, we struck a north-south trail pitted by Japs' hob-nailed shoes. Outposted Bradshaw and Daniel looked down a trail-curve around the hill - just in time to see and hear a noisy Nip Platoon bouncing towards us.

Before BARmen could come up, Daniel fired prematurely and forced Bradshaw's tommie to fire also. The Japs hit our platoon on three sides - front, downhill, and up from Pot-Hole Creek. Over 50 Jap rifles fired; we were mortared, machine-gunned, grenaded.

But Polimac had our platoon already deployed; we blew them back on all three sides, had no losses. They threatened our rear; Polimac ordered our withdrawal, while Bradshaw's tommie discouraged any Jap pursuit.

Happy were Major Berger and Captain Munkres. C Ridge had been safely captured. We had two fights in three hours without casualties. We had discovered a Jap supply trail. Field artillery harassed the ridges 24 hours a day.

Three days later, Munkres tried to entrap those Japs who had forced Polimac's Platoon from the Scout Ridge Trail. With four men picked by himself, Bradshaw was to lie in ambush where the trail came from a "wigwam" of interwoven jungle, crossed Pot-Hole Creek, and climbed a 10-foot bank. An un- named 1st Lieutenant was to drive the Japs into an ambush with his Platoon. (Bradshaw's four picked men were an unnamed BARman with his assistant Cashley, Broome, and 41 MP's Moyer, a boyhood friend of Bradshaw.)

Forty-five minutes after Bradshaw posted ambush, heavy mortars briefly blasted the Japs, After 30 minutes' silence, the unnamed 1st Lieutenant with his Sergeant came to tell us that an attack was useless. Irritated Bradshaw now thought that he had persuaded the Lieutenant to make a flank attack this time against the Japs. Bradshaw crawled back into ambush to await the attack.

             From a distance, the Sergeant fired his carbine. Then the Lieutenant's Platoon withdrew. Concealed Japs fired; Bradshaw's men returned fire. Feeling deserted, Bradshaw's men left the ambush. Cashly was wounded, Broome left dead. To cover their retreat, Bradshaw's tommie silenced the Japs below us.

Later, the Sergeant said that his carbine had killed a Jap creeping up on Bradshaw. Broome exposed himself to look. Bullets struck Broome in several places for an instant kill.

Next morning, Polimac led a squad with Bradshaw and 41 MP's Moyer to recover Broome's body. Far ahead and alone, Bradshaw inspected ground in the Wigwam on all-fours, tommie slung on his shoulder.

Suddenly he looked up: two Nips slightly to his right at 10-15 feet aiming rifles at him. "Japs!" he howled, and flipped over. Their bullets missed. Again he rolled over as more bullets whizzed past. He came up on his knees, tommie exploding viciously. The squad found three - not two - dead Nips.

Before Polimac could place his squad for defense, Japs swarmed up firing. Our fire halted them, but we had to leave, after a probable number of Jap casualties. We do not know when Broome's body was recovered.

We thought that Japs held ground between B Ridge and Old Baldy, a hill slightly north of F Company on C Ridge. Bradshaw and Daniel guided 30 G and H Company men on this recon, with G's Lieutenant Glauscen and Lieutenant McHenry of "H" who resembled movie hero Clark Gable. (It was now hard to find 30 able men from any 162 Company.) Most of these men wore jungle caps - not helmets.

In a low meadow where a defile mouth between B and C Ridges touched the creek-bed, Bradshaw noted a suspicious- looking low mound. A Jap shot echoed up the defile. As he flattened, Japs volleyed bullets, grenades, mortar-shells.

Glauscen rushed up bent low and dropped beside Bradshaw. Lieutenant McHenry skillfully deployed his 30 riflemen firing prone in a wide, deep semi-circle. From a ridge-shoulder above the Nips where three trees were close together, Daniel's Springfield carefully picked off Japs who could be seen only from high up.

Bradshaw, Glauscen crawled to shelter behind a 4-foot bank just two arm-lengths from the low mound of the Jap machine gun. Bradshaw's tommie and Glauscen's carbine zipped bullets through the pillbox slot.

Jap fragments glanced from Bradshaw's helmet through Glauscen's cap; he crawled pack in pain. More Japs fired. Fragments lightly wounded Bradshaw in right side, abdomen. He looked back to see Lieutenant "Clark Gable" bandaging wounded H Company's Fitzgerald's knee, only 200 feet behind him. From farther up B Ridge, another Jap machine gun fired down on us which Bradshaw dueled with his tommie.

The "G" Platoon withdrew. Bradshaw took Fitzgerald's arm over his shoulder and bellied with him over the rough ground.

Fitzgerald screamed when his toe caught on root or vine or rock. After 25 yards, Daniel came down to help drag him out. Another fragment wounded Bradshaw more seriously at the base of his neck. Ghastly Fitzgerald now begged us to leave him, but we dragged him back to perimeter and saved his life.

Like Fitzgerald, Bradshaw was hospitalized. With only three wounded, including Glauscen, we had blasted the Jap strong- point. Daniel himself claimed 20 hits; the whole platoon must have wounded 20 more Japs.

Released from hospital a few days later, Bradshaw about 1030 1 September hit a slit trench when Nips mortared 2nd Battalion Headquarters. They wounded 2-3 men, but missed Bradshaw.

Returning to G's command post on C Ridge, he learned that Lieutenant McHenry's Platoon was again besieging the Jap strongpoint which had wounded him a few days before. The Platoon had stalked the position for two hours, but still did not know whether any Nips were in it. Captain Ratliffe asked Bradshaw to look at that position.

When he probed past the inactive Platoon of riflemen, that same pillbox fired as before. While he fell prone, a grenade bounded past, then exploded and seemed to paralyze him in the side. Then the Platoon's rifles, grenades, machine guns, and .60 mortars got fire superiority, but Ratliff wisely withdrew from a suicidal charge.

This time in hospital, Dr. Maffeo told Bradshaw that he might have a homer. Another Captain-Medic said that a chunk of "oval shrap" was imbedded in his shoulder, too deep to be removed in that field hospital. Bradshaw was offered a homer again, but declined. After carrying that "scrap iron" in his shoulder through two more campaigns, Bradshaw still retains it.

After nine hospital days - and a bombardment about the fourth day - Bradshaw was released. Returning to depleted 2nd Battalion Headquarters, he heard that Jap resistance on Scout Ridge was broken - that most of his outfit was already moving on Salamaua Town. If he hiked up D Ridge, he might catch his cobbers on the trail.

Panting up D Ridge, which the Aussie 15 Battalion of militia had captured, Bradshaw arrived at the Scout Ridge trail crossing, before 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company appeared. He joined Sergeant Daniel to scout before 2nd Battalion moving on Salamaua Town. The combat-worn Japs had retreated. We hiked north up the wide Jap supply trail past empty Jap blockhouses with three coconut log tiers, guarded by trenches and pillboxes.

Before 0800 10 September, Major Berger and Captain Munkres sent for Bradshaw and Daniel to cut cross-jungle to find a safe ford for 2nd Battalion across the Francisco River. We did not then perceive that we would find ourselves racing to be first in Salamaua.

With Sergeant Robertson - a boyhood friend from Portland whose help Bradshaw had requested - we three plunged off Scout Ridge, down cliffs above the swirling, yellow Francisco River. Sometimes we climbed down sheer cliffs where a wrong step meant death. Down past soaring waterfalls, we clung desperately to vines. Or we took turns hacking through brush. We probed a silent village past abandoned Nippo gear.

Beside swirling Francisco River, an Aussie Signal detail welcomed us with hot billy-can tea. Although Aussies had crossed, they said that a whole Battalion would be in danger. We asked them to connect us with 2nd Battalion for consultation. They said that they were trying hard to contact Major Berger, but their failure all day made us suspicious. Were they trying to hold us back?

So at gray dawn 12 September 1943, we three helped each other into the sudden, treacherous currents. We probably crossed before that small detachment of 162's 3rd Battalion crossed on that same 12 September.

Scouting into Salamaua Strip with its wrecked Nip planes about sunrise, we were only 1500 yards south of the town.

Then, angry and frustrated, we saw an Aussie Platoon coming down from the west past Chinatown. We contacted them at the right time for a hospitable tea-break and our gift of cigarettes. Bradshaw said that our men were to find a beach for landing supplies. The blond Aussie Commanding Officer told us that no Aussies had yet checked out the town. He would send out a party after tea, and he advised us not to scout farther in.

With the Aussie officer's consent, Bradshaw drew a line in the sand to mark town limits. Sergeants Daniel and Robertson with Pfc Bradshaw locked arms together and strode over the line first into Salamaua town, as we still believe. As first into Salamaua, we three searched the residential area and returned to the Strip with three barracks bags full of Jap Lugers, swords, daggers, flags and money. We rejoined 2nd Battalion to bivouac under a grounded Jap plane. Our Salamaua war was ended.

 

CREDIT: In a 37-page single-spaced typescript written in 1980 with two undated 1980 letters, Joe Bradshaw has supplied our only detailed story of 2nd Battalion 162's fight for Scout Ridge after Roosevelt Ridge was stormed. Background is from Aussie David Dexter's The New Guinea Offensives (mainly the Australian story), and Colonel AR MacKechnie 's "Report of Operations of 162 Infantry 29 June - Sept 1943." Col Mackechnie's Chapter VII summarizes his 2nd Battalion's actions. (Journal of 162 on the operation was almost useless. Casualty List of 162 cannot be located in Federal Archives, nor personnel lists.) Dexter claims that Captain AG Ganter's patrol led Aussie 42 Battalion into Salamaua the day before Bradshaw's entry. But Bradshaw's group found no Aussies in Salamaua, as his manuscript points out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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