Tag Archives: amtrac

An Unwanted Sword, 76 Years Ago Today

17 September 1945: Surrender of Borneo at Bandjermasin. The Japanese major general, a career officer in his full uniform with some 2,500 of the Emperor’s troops under his command, attempted to hand his family sword to the senior Allied officer on the scene, a malarial temporary lieutenant colonel in field dress with rolled-up sleeves and a bush hat, who, after suffering the loss of one out of four men in his battalion in the preceding campaign to reach that moment, ordered the general via an interpreter to place his sword on the ground before of the Australians.

Note the Digger with his Enfield revolver at the ready. Photo by Corp. Robert Eric Donaldson, AWM 118033

“Major General Michio Uno, Imperial Japanese Army, Commanding the Japanese 37th Army Forces in the area, lays his sword at the feet of NX349 Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Ewan Murray Robson, CBE, DSO, Commanding Officer, 2/31 Infantry Battalion during the Japanese surrender ceremony on the local sports ground. Also identified is Warrant Officer Class 2 Arthur Pappadopoulos, Interpreter with the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS), GHQ beside Robson, and on the extreme left, behind Lt Col Robson is Warrant Officer Class 1 George Hawkins.”

Part of the 25th Brigade, 7th Division, the 2/31st was formed just as the 70th Battalion (Australia) after Dunkirk in England from assorted Australian non-infantry types and trained to be infantry to defend the British Isles against a looming invasion by Hitler. Renamed the 2/31st, following the end of the Battle of Britain, the unit was sent to North Africa then served in the Syrian campaign before being rushed back to defend Australia in early 1942 after Japan entered the war.

This photograph from State Library Victoria is of the 2/31 Australian Infantry Battalion walking in high cane along the Banks of the Brown River, circa 1943. When the Japanese arrived in Papua, their goal was to make their way across the Kokoda Track and form a base from which to attack the mainland of Australia. The Kokoda campaign is remembered as one of the most difficult operations in Australian military history – a campaign that cost the lives of many soldiers.

After being decimated through two years of fighting in the fierce jungle during the New Guinea campaigns, the reconstituted battalion landed at Green Beach at Balikpapan along with the rest of the 7th Division on 2 July 1945. Overcoming fierce Japanese opposition as they pushed inland from the beach, they were again in the Green Hell of jungle fighting, suffering the highest casualties of any Allied unit in the Borneo campaign, with nearly a quarter of the battalion killed or injured. On the way, they liberated a huge camp at Kandangan, which held Dutch women and children that had been interned since 1942, as well as a second large camp that held some 2,000 Indian POWs captured in Burma.

Soldiers of the Australian 2/31st Battalion passing through the town of Bandjermasin in Borneo as they took responsibility for the area from the Japanese. “They are being given an enthusiastic welcome by local civilians.” AWM photo 118018

The 2/31st Battalion received 22 battle honors for its service during the war, and its members earned a VC, three DSOs, four MCs, one DCM, and a score of MMs. It was disbanded in March 1946, and the unit, assembled from “odds and ends” had never since uncased its flag.

Its commander, Lt. Col. Murray Robson had been mustered out even before then, discharged in November 1945, his war service at an end. A solicitor by trade and a member of the NSW parliament, he had joined the Australian militia at age 33 as a reserve lieutenant three weeks after Hitler crossed into Poland in 1939 and, serving with the 2/31st since June 1940, earned the DSO in New Guinea after being wounded in Syria and mentioned thrice in dispatches.

No word on whatever became of Major General Uno’s katana.

Amtracs are no joke

For years we had a company of the 4th Amtrac Bn stationed here in Gulfport and you often saw the giant AAVP7s moving around and operating offshore. They even responded to flooded neighborhoods after Katrina.

If you have ever seen an amtrac hit the water, you instantly realize why they call these cavernous tracks, “Iron Ducks.”

Sadly, one Marine is confirmed dead as well as seven additional Marines and one Sailor are missing and presumed to have likewise perished off the coast of Southern California following the swamping of an amtrac in a training exercise.

From I MEF: 

After an extensive 40-hour search, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). I Marine Expeditionary force. and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) concluded their search and rescue operation for seven missing Marines and one Sailor, today.

All eight service members are presumed deceased. The 15th MEU and the ARG leadership determined that there was little probability of a successful rescue given the circumstances of the incident.

On July 30, 15 Marines and one Sailor were participating in a routine training exercise off the coast of San Clemente Island, California, when the amphibious assault vehicle they were riding in, began to take on water and sank. Of the 16 service members, eight Marines were rescued, one died and two others are in critical condition at a local hospital.

“It is with a heavy heart, that I decided to conclude the search and rescue effort,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th MEU Commanding Officer. “The steadfast dedication of the Marines, Sailors. and Coast Guardsmen to the persistent rescue effort was tremendous.”

Over the course of the at-sea search, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard helicopter, ships and watercraft searched more than I,000 square nautical miles.

Assisting in the search efforts were the USS John Finn. the USS Makin Island, the USS Somerset, and the USS San Diego. Eleven U.S. Navy SH-60 helicopters and multiple Navy and Manne Corps small boats were also involved. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Sector San Diego assisted as well

“Our thoughts and prayers have been, and will continue to be with our Marines’ and Sailor’s families during this difficult time,” said Bronzi. “As we turn to recovery operations we will continue our exhaustive search for our missing Marines and Sailor.”

Efforts will now turn to finding and recovering the Marines and Sailor still missing. Assisting in the recovery efforts is the offshore supply vessel HOS Dominator, as well as Undersea Rescue Command, utilizing their Remotely Operated Vehicle to survey the sea floor.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated. The names of the Marines and Sailor will be released 24-hours after next of kin notification.

Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper issued the following statement:

A grateful nation and the Department of Defense grieves the tragic loss of the Marines and Sailor lost in the amphibious assault vehicle accident off the coast of San Clemente Island. Our prayers and condolences are with the family and friends of these brave young men:

Lance Cpl. Guillermo S. Perez, 20, of New Braunfels, Texas
Pfc. Bryan J. Baltierra, 19, of Corona, California
Lance Cpl. Marco A. Barranco, 21, of Montebello, California
Pfc. Evan A. Bath, 19, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin
U.S. Navy Hospitalman Christopher Gnem, 22, of Stockton, California
Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, 21, of Bend, Oregon
Cpl. Wesley A. Rodd, 23, of Harris, Texas
Lance Cpl. Chase D. Sweetwood, 19, of Portland, Oregon
Cpl. Cesar A. Villanueva, 21, of Riverside, California

Their service, commitment and courage will always be remembered by the nation they served. While the incident remains under investigation, I want to assure our service members and their families that we are committed to gathering all the facts, understanding exactly how this incident occurred, and preventing similar tragedies in the future.

Shades of Balikpapan

The largest Australian-led amphibious landing and offensive assault in history were the OBOE 2 landings at Balikpapan, Borneo (then the Japanese-held Dutch East Indies) in which some 33,000 troops hit the beach in July 1945. We’ve talked about that operation a couple weeks ago on a Warship Wednesday. 

With the path cleared by UDT-18, 7th Division Australian troops come ashore from landing craft during landing near Balikpapan oil fields in Borneo in July 1945. Some 33,000-strong combined Australian and Royal Netherlands Indies amphibious forces, the largest ever amphibious assault by Australian forces, hit the beach. 

Therefore, it is fitting that this month’s Talisman Saber ’19 exercise saw the largest Australian-led amphibious landing since OBOE with an extended multi-day combined force assault on Langham Beach, near Stanage Bay, Queensland, involving not only the Australians but also U.S. Marines, New Zealand troops, and elements of the British MoD, Japanese Self-Defense Force (ironically) and Canadian Forces.

As part of the exercise scenario, the fictional Pacific nation Kamaria invaded nearby “Legais” island, sparking global outcry and a response from the Blue Forces to liberate the occupied territory. Recon elements were inserted on D-3 with a full-on landing on D-Day with amphibious assault vehicles, landing craft, and helicopters bringing troops to shore.

The imagery was great.

More here. 

Fire and ice

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton A. Precht

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dalton A. Precht (click to big up)

A U.S. Marine Corps M1A1 Abrams tank fires its main gun as it takes part in a live-fire exercise in Rena, Norway. The Marines are preparing themselves for Exercise Cold Response 16, which will bring together 12 NATO allies and partner nations and approximately 16,000 troops in order to enhance joint crisis response capabilities in cold weather environments.

More on Cold Response 16 including a bunch of videos in my column at Guns.com.