January 1995 / February
Flahavin / Rod Bellars
Austen & Gifu Strongpoint
Mt. Austen, Gifu
Hills 27, 31, 34
View from Observation
Post of Henderson
Mt Austen is a jumble of peaks at various heights.
As you can see from this map, The Gifu strongpoint (the jungle
area between Hills 31 and 27) was at a lower elevation. Down on
the coast you can see the Matanikau
river sandbar. Just across the Matanikau from Gifu are the Seahorse
and Galloping Horse (Thin Red Line) battle
is about 9 miles to the left in this picture. The Japanese were
sending raiding parties from Gifu were poking about around the
field. US forces wanted to push to the west (right of photo) the
Army command could not leave the Japanese Gifu forces on their
The present surfaced road goes up to
the summit of MT Austen where the Japs had their Oberservation
Post. The view across Henderson and the whole perimeter is magnificent.
This is an interesting area. The "Grassy Knoll" position on the
top of Mt. Austen was used by Japanese artillery observers to
direct their artillery fire onto Henderson
Field. It also commanded and the view across the
whole Marine perimeter and is a very good observation post. Nearby
there were overgrown slit trenches.
US and Japanese helmets 1996
G4M Betty Bomber wing with Japanese 70mm wheels
G4M Betty Wing
The present village was built in the 1960's
on the western edge of the Gifu between Hills 31 and 27. When they cleared the ground years ago to build
it they found a lot of items, as the fighting here went
on here for two months. In 1996 the locals had found helmets, mess tins, water bottles - even the wheels from the Japanese
70mm gun captured by the Americans on the hill.
70mm Japanese Mountain Gun
During the American surprise attack the Japanese crew had
been caught resting under trees 30 yards from the gun and
been cut down as they ran to man it - one wheel has a bullet
hole through it. The Americans then used the
gun against the Japanese until the ammunition supply ran
out. The gun had been taken apart and buried in foxholes
- 50 years in the ground but 90% paint and wood still remained
on the wheels.
G4M Betty Wing Section
When we went there in 1995 the first things we noticed
as the taxi pulled up was a large segment of Betty bomber
wing, still with the red primer paint and most of the "meatball".
There were also engine controls and a Zero drop tank
leaning against a tree, (from the Lunga Point area they
said). Not wanting to see these items go the way of
the Betty tail fin at Bloody Ridge the museum let it be
known they would not be pleased if the aircraft remains
went "missing". These fragments were still there
in 1996, although deteriorating and losing paint out in
in 1998 up in the GIFU ravines. Those are US mortar shells
I believe. He said there was a lot of unexploded stuff in
the ravines, plus other bits and pieces. A lot of US mortar
shells did not go off as the guy who guided me to Thin
Red Line Area had a lot of live ones he had collected
from the ridges!
Relics from foxhole on Hill 27, 1998
Japanese 75mm ammo tin 1998
Japanese Memorial Pillar
1999 locals wanted $50 to climb Hill 27. The greed factor
not previously there.
all the post June 1999 ethnic tension it is a no go in this
area. In 1999 that Hill 27 had been gone over
by a fine tooth comb, nothing much left in the foxholes
was told in 1999 that the place to look is on the steep
slopes that drop towards the Matanikau.
Japanese lost about 100 men in the Hill 27 battle and I
think most of them have been likewise dug up by the Japanese
and cremated at their memorial on hill 27, but bones and
skulls can still be found in the ravines.
Japanese have constructed a simple white pillar memorial
to the Oka Force that died here. From here a short
walk took us to the Japanese memorial on top of Hill 27
- nearby was a pile of shrapnel and more Grand rifle clips.
The plaque reads:
- Memorial - Oka Force Fought
November 1942 to January 1943, under commanded by Col.
Akinosuke Oka the 247th Infantry Regiment and 2nd Battalion
of the 228th Infantry Regiment were based here Mt. Austen
then fought against the 192nd and 182nd infantry regiments
of Americal Division and 35th Infantry Regiment of 25th
Division. There were not the foods for eating, and the
ammunitions to fire. The battlefield were sure hell!
Major Zenshichi Nishihata and his 2nd Battalion/124th
Commander Major Takeyoshi Inagaki and his 2nd Battalion
228th assaulted to investigate then suffered an honorable
defeat on the dawn of 28 January 1943.
1994 dedication by
Members of the bereaved families and survived comrades
in Fukuoka, Japan
Canteens and shell casing
Ribbed containers are Japanese gas mask respirator cans.
Ammo Clips, US Grenades
In 1998 another search of the hillside
turned up cartridges , ration tins , grenade tin and 60mm mortar
tin lids , grenade segments , grenade handles, a 75mm ammo tin
lid , US Carlisle bandage tins and various ammo clips.
Strewn amongst nearby foxholes
was a litter of ration tins , batteries and grenade handles
. As we walked back past the memorial and down the hill we passed
a foxhole containing American steel helmet fittings and discarded
Further into some of the steeper
ravines there were items scattered about . villagers found a
Japanese skeleton near a cave entrance with a single US .45
caliber case outside - I guess he refused to surrender.
We found and were shown helmets, gas mask respirators
, mess tins with US canister ammo shot holes through them ,
ammo clips, shovels etc., some of which we got for the museum.
M Romero's Canteen
One US water bottle I found here was marked
M. ROMERO with a serial number. I
wrote to the US Army Records Dept . Most of his file was lost
and all they could tell me was that he enlisted in October 1941
and was discharged in September 1943 , so he survived Guadalcanal
Live US grenades in 1995
Japanese Grenade in tree
One villager could not work out
why all these "canteens" seemed to be full of stuff until I
explained to him . The village was built on part of the battlefield
and they found lots of stuff when they cleared the land . The
good Jap mess tins are still used for cooking!
Live Grenades Discovered
Lots of live grenades there , US and Japanese, but
we did not fool with those. Got a couple of empty ones though,
but it was the live ones that had the 99% yellow paint.
There were US grenade handles,
bits of fuse and the metal lids off the grenade tins scattered
on the rear slope. On the way back down I passed a recently
excavated foxhole with helmet fittings and about 20 BAR magazines
Gifu Mass grave
of last 85 defenders
Fragment on the hill
2nd Lt. Toshio
The present road goes past Hill 31 and
you turn off to the right down a 600 yard dirt road to get
to the village.
Hill 31was the site of the mass grave of
the last 85 Japanese defenders killed during the final breakout
attempt There were foxholes nearby and shattered pieces
of helmets and shot up water bottles in the grass.
Japanese Mass Grave
In 1984 the Japanese came back and dug up
the bones and erected a monument. There were still shattered
and shot up pieces of water bottles and helmets around the
area when we were there.
Recovery of Japanese Remains
The locals said the Japanese recovered
lots of bones in 1984 at the foot of the hill, in the area
of the Japanese counterattacks. The Japanese still periodically
search for remains and cremate any bones found at the memorial
in a bowl - in 1996 we found a half burnt Japanese leather
helmet liner in the bowl.
Grave of Toshio Kojima
Innes erected the cross for Toshio, when the bones
were found in October 1995. All the implements around him
in the foxhole were American and he was in an American foxhole.
From his dog tag we were able to establish his identity.
He was Toshio Kojima of the 228th Infantry. In 1996 a Japanese
bone recovery team did take some bones from the grave. Some
of his bones became part of a bone burning ceremony at the
Japanese memorial. The grave however still has some of Toshio's
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