23 March 2014

Japanese Bayonet Practice in New Britain, 1942

From Darkest Hour: The True Story of Lark Force at Rabaul - Australia's Worst Military Disaster of World War II, by Bruce Gamble (Zenith, 2006), Kindle Loc. 2440-2447, 2592-2601:
In 1942 the great majority of Japanese troops carried the 6.5mm Arisaka Model 38, a long but relatively light rifle that boasted almost no recoil. The weapon also had another important attribute, as described in a U.S. Army intelligence bulletin: “The length of the Model 38 makes it particularly suitable for bayonet fighting. When the Japanese infantryman is armed with this rifle and the Model 30 (1897) bayonet, which is also unusually long, he feels that in close combat he is a match for his larger and taller enemies.” The Imperial Army placed a heavy emphasis on bayonet fighting. Recruits spent hours practicing such moves as the “side-step thrust,” the “low body thrust,” and the “body contact thrust.” At this point in the war, few members of the South Seas Detachment, if any, had personally experienced hand-to-hand combat. They didn’t know what it felt like to pierce a man’s body with the thin, fifteen-inch-long blade affixed to the end of their rifles. But on the morning of February 4, many of Noda’s men would find out.


WHEN THE LONG DAY OF KILLING FINALLY ENDED, NODA’S MEN HAD massacred 160 Australians. All were tied up, rendering them completely defenseless, before they were bayoneted or shot. The mass execution, sanctioned by Colonel Kusunose at Rabaul, almost certainly had the approval of Major General Horii. Afterward, the Japanese tacked a chilling message to the front door of the Waitavalo plantation house: “To Commander Scanlan—Now that this Island is took and tightly surrounded by our Air Forces and Navy you have no means of escape. If your religion does not allow you to commit suicide it is up to you to surrender yourself and to beg mercy for your troops. You will be responsible for the death of your men.” Leaving the bodies to rot in the sun, Noda and his troops boarded their landing craft and headed back to Rabaul, taking with them the twenty-two prisoners that had first surrendered on the beach. The 8th Company stopped at Adler Bay and picked up dozens of soldiers waiting there under a white flag, and also stopped at the Warangoi River for more prisoners, including Harold Page and Harry Townsend. All were delivered to Malaguna Camp, part of which had been wired off to form a prison compound.

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