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Private Ronald Edward Eagleton
A.I.F. "Z" Special Unit (Z Force)

Click For EnlargementBackground
Born on June 29, 1924 at Glebe, New South Wales. Growing up he was a keen cyclist, rifle target shooter and carpenter craftsman. He was a Presbyterian and never married but dated Norma Snook of Perth, Western Australia.

Wartime History
Joined the Australian Army underage at Paddington, NSW by falsifying his date of birth to be March 3, 1920 as Private Ronald Edward Eagleton, NX92651. He participated in the Markham Valley campaign and fought at Shaggy Ridge. Afterwards, attached to the "Z" Special Unit (Z Force).

Mission History
Click For EnlargementOn April 11, 1945 "Operation Copper" (originally code named "Operation Ash") eight Australian Army Z Special Unit (Z Force) commandos boarded HMAS HDML 1321 in Aitaple Harbor. The force included: Lt. Alan R. Gubbay, Lt. Thomas J. Barnes, Sgt Malcolm F. M. Weber, L/Cpl Spencer H. Walklate, Sig Michael S. Hagger, Sig John R. Chandler, Pte Ronald E. Eagleton and Spr Edgar T. Dennis.

Their objective was to motor near Muschu Island, then paddle ashore in four folboats. Strong currents pushed them southward and swamped and capsized some of their boats causing them to loose equipment. The force made landfall near Som Point and waited until morning. Ashore, their mission was to capture a Japanese soldier for interrogation and to make a beach reconnaissance for a perspective landing area. Also, reconnoiter the island's defenses and locate two concealed naval guns, then use their folboats to rendezvous with HMAS HDML 1321.

During the night, they board four folboats and paddled towards Muschu Island. Strong currents pushed them southward and swamped and capsized some of their boats causing them to loose some equipment. The force made landfall near Som Point and waited until morning.

Although they had lost some of their equipment, they continued on their mission which was all but complete when they took a wrong turn on their march back to their secret camp and encountered an Japanese patrol. The commandos' prisoner slipped off his gag and shouted. The men escaped this enemy patrol, and later attempted unsuccessfully to put to sea on a raft, losing many more of their weapons in the process. In an attempt to make contact with friendly aircraft or patrol boats, Lt Gubbay, Lt Barnes, L/Cpl Walklate and Pte Eagleton put to sea on logs. They were never seen again.

The remaining commandos: Sgt Malcolm F. M. Weber, Sig Michael S. Hagger, Sig John R. Chandler, Pte Ronald E. Eagleton and Spr E. T. Dennis remained on Muschu Island. On April 14, they approached bomb craters seeking fresh water and ran into a Japanese patrol and all were killed except Spr Edgar T. Dennis.

Memorials
Click For EnlargementOfficially, declared dead on April 13, 1945. The Australian Army Unrecovered War Casualties Unit led by Major Jack Thurgar investigated this case and recovered the remains of Walklate and Eagleton. On June 12, 2014 Eagleton was buried at Port Moresby War Cemetery (Bomana) at C8. E. 24. The memorial service included an honor guard from the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and the 1st and 2nd Commando Regiments provided the funeral party. Also in attendance was 94 year old Edgar "Mick" Dennis, sole survivor of the raid.

War Crimes Investigation
In September 1945, after the official Japanese surrender, the garrisons on Muschu Island and Kairiru Island surrendered and became Prisoners of War of the Australian Army. In October 1945, Captain Kiyoshisa Noto was interrogated and submitted a sworn statement to Australian Army Headquarters about his role with Allied prisoners. Captain Kiyoshisa Noto was found guilty for his role in Thorpe's execution and found guilty of the execution of two Australian commandos from this raid. At the Rabaul Wart Crimes Trial, he was sentenced to twenty years but only served one year of his sentence then was released.

References
CWGC - Ronald Edward Eagleton
The Naval Land Unit That Vanished in the Jungle pages 78-81
The Guns of Muschu
Funeral Service for two Australian soldiers of the Second World War at Bomana War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea on 12th June 2014

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

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  Pacific Wrecks Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing home those Missing In Action (MIA) and leveraging new technologies in the study of World War II Pacific and the Korean War.  
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