I Was There! - I Saw the Americans Storm Munda Field
Munda, in New Georgia, fell to the Americans on August 6, 1943. How its much-bombed airport – of immense importance to the occupying Japanese – was stormed by U.S. infantry is vividly told by Walter Farr, Special Correspondent of The Daily Mail, from which this story is reprinted.
Fifty yards ahead, through the tropical trees, I can see a crowd of ragged-looking Jap soldiers running wildly away in three directions and firing back at us with light machine-guns and rifles as they go. Stumbling over mounds of fallen coconuts and among American-made bomb craters, they dash back into temporary safety on high ground near Munda Point, where their mortars are firing to cover the retreat.
This is the end of Munda Field. Ignoring the mortar fire, we rush on to see whether our infantry unit or another, pouring down Bibolo Hill on our right, shall be first to step on to the aerodrome. We cross a bare, cratered ridge where heaps of dead Japs lay near their mangled guns and rifles.
Breathlessly we hurry over a Jap burial place where our last torrent of bombs a few hours ago threw up skeletons from their graves. On through scores of pillboxes and lines of trenches. Then comes a final stream of enemy machine-gun fire, throwing up clouds of coral near us and killing one of our officers.
Americans on either side of me advance with fixed bayonets. Here and there a man drops flat to fire at the fleeing Japs, or to fling grenades into a pillbox entrance, or into ruined native shacks – just to make sure. A rifle barks near me, and one Jap who could not run as fast as the others drops dead. More American riflemen pause to pump a few more founds into the prone figure in case he is pretending death.
Someone shouts, “A plane, a plane! Look, there's a grounded plane right ahead of us!” Suddenly through the shell-torn trees there looms the tattered outline of a wrecked Zero. More Japs are running frantically away from it. Our main body halts in case of some last-minute enemy traps, but we move on.
Another wrecked Zero comes into view, then another, and another. Twenty of them in all. Four of us move forward, clear the under brush, skirt three huge bomb craters, and run towards the planes – straight on to Munda Field.
There, stretching 3,000 yards before us to Munda Point, is what is left of one of the world's most bombed airports. There are acres and acres of craters and practically every installation has been ground to pieces bu the fury of our bombardment. Only an occasional window frame or doorway or a few charred papers mark the place which the Japs thought would be the nerve centre of a huge aerial armada which would drive us back towards Australia.
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