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by Eric Hammel
Pacifica Press 2000
Index, photos, force list
Cover Price: $24.95
Order now at amazon.com
The New Georgia Campaign June - August 1943
What happened in the Solomons campaign after Guadalcanal? The answers are told in an excellent history book by author Eric Hammel in Munda Trail: The New Georgia Campaign. Read about green US Army troops and amphibious tactics that had only been tested on paper, and how only a few Japanese were holding up 4,000 American infantrymen. It is the story of American baptism into fire of jungle warfare, and how these rookie troops overcame the obstacles ahead of them.
Hammel's history reads like fiction. His history is well researched, and jumps between Navy men, Army commanders, pilots in the sky and the lowest private on patrol. This style gives one a feel for the entire operation, with anecdotes and narrative beyond just what was going on in headquarters in the rear. Also unique to most military histories is equal attention to the Japanese commanders and troops opposing the landing. It is a rare treat to get a picture of what they were thinking, and what obstacles they had to overcome.
The history of the Munda Trail New Georgia campaign begins with a secret airfield that Japanese painstakingly constructed to give them striking power in the central Solomons. They went to great lengths, including the fact that they waited until the last possible minute to chop down the trees in the runway, after the crushed coral base had been applied.
Read about Coastwatchers, and local scouts contributions to the pre invasion reconnaissance and their dangerous buy effective harassment tactics. Human error lead to blunders on both sides, like the day the wrong fuel was added to a radar unit's generator on the beachhead. That day, an enemy air raid bombed the beach when air cover and coordinated AA defense could have otherwise been implemented.
As fighting moves inland, green troops begin fighting lone Japanese snipers who fire a few shot and flee, rarely do the Americans see the enemy or hit them. Moral suffers, and combat neurosis effects some GIs who flee or fire wildly into the night, and one some occasions even would their own comrades.
Tanks and flamethowers must be used to pry defenders out of bunkers and emplacements built with coconut logs and so skillfully camouflaged, that many soldiers are killed or wounded when a new bunker is discovered. The Munda Trail is the story of jungle warfare on one of the countless islands that was a heated battlefield during WWII, but today is all but forgotten by most other historians. For the veterans who served there, it was their first test of combat where tactics were often uncertain and the fate of the battle rested in the hands of a relatively small number of troops who fought their way to valor and finally victory.
Review by Justin Taylan
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