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    Huggins Road Block Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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R. Hodgkinson Jan 1943

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Bottomley Jan 25, 1943

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Justin Taylan 2005

Location
The Huggins Road Block was located between Soputa and Sanananda near the junction of the Soputa Track and Sanananda Track and the second junction with the Cape Killerton Track to Cape Killerton. Also known as simply the "Road Block", "Huggins Block" or by the 163rd Infantry Regimental code name "Musket" or "Old Huggins".

Wartime History
On November 30, 1942 U. S. Army soldiers from the 32nd Infantry Divison, 126th Infantry Regiment's I Company and Anti-Tank Company under the command of Captain John Shirley reached this position by 6:30pm and established a road block to prevent the Japanese from advancing and enveloped their forward positions.

On December 1, 1942 a relief column led by Captain Meredith M. Huggins, S-3 from the 3d Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment attempted to reach the road block with supplies and rations but had to fight their way into the perimeter but arrived safely at 11:00am. Soon afterwards, the Japanese launched a heavy counter attack and occupied 50 yards from the northeastern perimeter. During the attack, Captain Shirley was killed at 12:40pm and Captain Huggins took command and the position was named "Huggins Road Block" in his honor.

During December, Japanese attacked the area from all sides and attempted to isolate it from resupply and overcome the road block.

After the fall of Buna on January 3, 1943 the 1st Battalion, 163d Infantry, and regimental headquarters took over complete responsibility for the roadblock area that was now a well developed defensive position with inner and outer perimeter in square or circular formation for rifle and automatic weapon pits connected with trenches. Each squad was spaced approximately 15 yards apart. At the center of the position was a field kitchen, headquarters, switchboard, aid station, water purification, ammunition dump and supporting 81mm mortars plus two 37mm guns firing canister shot. Supplies were delivered by natives working in shifts and evacuating the wounded.

On January 4, 1943 the 1st Battalion, 163d Infantry Regiment began clearing of the area between Huggins and Kano. The 2d Battalion, 163d Infantry Regiment captured position along the Cape Killerton Trail to the west of Huggins. The Australian Army 18th Brigade was tasked with clearing enemy opposition south of Huggins.

By January 16, 1943 the positions between Huggins and James was reduced as the last major Japanese resistance along the Sandananda Track.

American casualties associated with Huggins Road Block (partial list)
Captain John Shirley (KIA 12/1/42)
1st Lt. Hershel G. Horton, O-373543, C.O. I Company (WIA 12/1/42, KIA 12/15/42 BR)
Pvt. Earl Joseph Keating, 34150954, Anti-tank company, 126th IR, 32nd Div (MIA/KIA 12/5/42, BR 2012)
Pvt John Henry "Buddy" Klopp, 34150934 Anti-tank company, 126th IR, 32nd Div (MIA/KIA 12/5/42 BR 2010)
Sgt Bernard F. Clarke 36155586, medical detachment (KIA 12/9/42, BR)

Huggins Road Block Memorial
During April 1992, The American Legion erected a memorial plaque at this location. The plaque reads:

Capt. Meredith M. Huggins, USA
3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment
32nd Division "Huggins Road Block"
November 1942 - December 1942

After his commanding officer was killed, Capt. Huggins assumed command of companies of the 126th Infantry, 32nd Division, tasked with securing a tactical choke point to thwart a rapid Japanese advance across the Kokoda Trail. Huggins' bravery under fire and his ability to hold a numerically superior Japanese force at bay, laid the groundwork for an American victory in New Guinea.  The place where he fought and was wounded on 5 December 1942, now bears the name "Huggins Road Block" in honor of his valor. With grateful appreciation the American Legion remembers Capt. Meredith M. Huggins."


Japanese Memorial
A simple Japanese memorial plaque erected across from the Huggins Road Block Memorial.  A display of several Japanese wartime helmets and relics are placed nearby. It is possible this memorial is located at the site of the wartime Japanese cemetery. The plaque reads:

"The war dead from Kochi-ken lies here. 1974, July Governor of Kochi, Kochi-ken,
Masumi Mizobuchi, representative of bereaved New Guinea society".

References
US Army in World War II - Victory in Papua Chapter XII pages 221-222, 224, 226-227, 231
US Army in World War II - Victory in Papua Chapter XVII pages 328-330, 333, 339-340
US Army in World War II - Establishing Roadblock on Sanananda Road, 22-30 November 1942
FindAGrave - Pvt John Henry "Buddy" Klopp (photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt Bernard F. "Bud" Clarke (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut Hershel G. Horton (photos, grave photo)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John H. Klopp
"Private Klopp's remains were recovered and identified. His name is permanently inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial."
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) Earl J. Keating
"PVT Keating's remains were recovered in 2012 from Papua, New Guinea. His remains were identified in August 2015. Private Keating's remains to be buried at private cemetery in New Orleans, LA. PVT Keating's name is permanently inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery
Private Earl J. Keating's remains were recovered on September 2012 and identified on August 21, 2015."
FindAGrave - Pvt Earl J Keating (tablets of the missing)
The American Legion [Volume 133, No. 3 (September 1992)
Stars & Stripes "Cost and value of New Guinea road trigger probe of JPAC" May 27, 2014
Historical Report: JPAC Incident 34 Huggins Roadblock, Sanananda Village, Northern Province Independent State of Papua New Guinea 27 April 2015
Stars & Stripes "Decades after death in WWII, a son of New Orleans comes home" May 23, 2016
AP "Finally home: Remains of WW2 US soldier are returned to his native New Orleans after villager in Papua New Guinea stumbles upon his dog tag 74 years after death" May 23, 2016

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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