General Douglas MacArthur
Kokoda trail commander General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (26 January 1880 – 5 April 1964) was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army who was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the Philippines Campaign, which made him and his father Arthur MacArthur, Jr., the first father and son to be awarded the medal. He was one of only five men ever to rise to the rank of General of the Army in the U.S. Army, and the only man ever to become a field marshal in the Philippine Army.
In February 1942, as Japanese forces tightened their grip on the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered by President Roosevelt to relocate to Australia.On the night of 12 March 1942, MacArthur and a select group that included his wife Jean and son Arthur, as well as Sutherland, Akin, Casey, Richard Marshall, Charles A. Willoughby, LeGrande A. Diller, and Harold H. George, left Corregidor in four PT boats. MacArthur, his family and Sutherland traveled aboard PT 41, commanded by Lieutenant John D. Bulkeley. The others followed aboard PT 34, PT 35 and PT 32. MacArthur and his party reached Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao, where B-17s picked them up, and flew them to Australia. His famous speech, in which he said, “I came through and I shall return”, was first made at Terowie, a small town in South Australia.
April 1942, MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA). Lieutenant General George Brett became Commander, Allied Air Forces, and Vice Admiral Herbert F. Leary became Commander, Allied Naval Forces. Since the bulk of land forces in the theater were Australian, George Marshall insisted an Australian be appointed as Commander, Allied Land Forces, and the job went to General Sir Thomas Blamey. Although predominantly Australian and American, MacArthur’s command also included small numbers of personnel from the Netherlands East Indies, the United Kingdom, and other countries.MacArthur established a close relationship with the Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin,although many Australians resented MacArthur as a foreign general who had been imposed upon them.MacArthur had little confidence in Brett’s abilities as commander of Allied Air Forces,and in August 1942 selected Major General George C. Kenney to replace him.
The Japanese struck first, landing at Buna in July, and at Milne Bay in August. The Australians repulsed the Japanese at Milne Bay, but a series of defeats in the Kokoda Track campaign had a depressing effect back in Australia. On 30 August, MacArthur radioed Washington that unless action was taken, New Guinea Force would be overwhelmed. He sent Blamey to Port Moresby to take personal command. Having committed all available Australian troops, MacArthur decided to send American forces. The 32nd Infantry Division, a poorly trained National Guard division, was selected. A series of embarrassing reverses in the Battle of Buna-Gona led to outspoken criticism of the American troops by the Australians. MacArthur then ordered Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger to assume command of the Americans, and “take Buna, or not come back alive.
MacArthur moved the advanced echelon of GHQ to Port Moresby on 6 November 1942. After Buna finally fell on 3 January 1943,MacArthur awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to twelve officers for “precise execution of operations”. This use of the country’s second highest award aroused resentment, because while some, like Eichelberger and George Alan Vasey, had fought in the field, others, like Sutherland and Willoughby, had not. For his part, MacArthur was awarded his third Distinguished Service Medal, and the Australian government had him appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
General Douglas MacArthur AWM 109060
Sir Thomas Albert Blamey
Sir Thomas Albert Blamey AWM 107532
Sir Thomas Albert Blamey (1884-1951), army officer and commissioner of police, was born on 24 January 1884 at Lake Albert, near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.
With the outbreak of WW1 Blamey served briefly at the War Office in London before joining the 1st Australian Division in Egypt as general staff officer, 3rd grade (intelligence). He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, with Major General (Sir) William Bridges and Colonel (Sir) Brudenell White, and next month led a small patrol behind enemy lines in a daring effort to locate Turkish guns.Blamey was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel and went back to Egypt to help form the 2nd Division; he returned to Gallipoli in September and was appointed the division’s assistant-adjutant and quartermaster general.
Vasey returned home to defend Australia directly for the first time. Vasey was promoted to temporary major general, and in September 1942 went to Port Moresby to command the 6th Division. A month later he took over the 7th Division, then engaged in the famous battle for the Kokoda Trail.On Vasey’s trek over the Kokoda trail he advanced the Brigade headquarters past the point of the battalion headquarters in order to put pressure on the advancing Australians. Vasey’s men then fought in the battles for Gona and Sanananda on Papua’s coast.Vasey was loved by his men but the respect in which he was genuinely held made him one of the AIF’s most popular officers.
In 1943 he was involved in the successful capture of Lae before sending his troops up the Markham and Ramu valleys. In February 1944 Vasey became ill and was evacuated to Australia. When Vasey’s returned to good health he was again on his way back to the front lines when on 5 March he flew to New Guinea to take up his command but the Hudson aircraft in which he was travelling crashed into the sea off Cairns during a cyclone, killing Vasey and all on board.
Major General George Alan Vasey AMW009517
Major General Arthur "Tubby" Allen
Major General Arthur "Tubby" Allen (left)
Major-General Tomitaro Hori
General Tomitaro Hori,
Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell
One of the Australian Army’s most controversial senior officers in the Second World War, Sydney Rowell was born on 15 December 1894 at Lockleys, South Australia.
Rowell became one of the first to graduate from Royal Military College Duntroon. Rowell joined his regiment in Egypt until early 1915. Soon afterwards he was injured and broke his leg. He arrived at Gallipoli on 12 May 1915 but was soon hospitalised in Malta. He returned to his unit but was evacuated with typhoid in November and returned to Australia. He taught at Duntroon Royal Military College until June 1917.
Rowell was appointed Chief of Staff in the 6th Division shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940 he was appointed Brigadier, General Staff on the headquarters of I Australian Corps under Thomas Blamey. Relations between the two men soured irreparably after the Greek campaign of 1941. Rowell felt Blamey to be both “incompetent” and guilty of poor judgement and a coward. Blamey considered Rowell to be pampas and lacked in the stamina needed during a long desperate campaign.
Rowell given the task to run the 7th Division’s operational headquarters during the Syrian campaign. During 1941 he served as Deputy to the Chief of General Staff.
In March 1942 Rowell was given command of I Corps and promoted to temporary lieutenant general. He was sent to Papua to command New Guinea Force in July 1942 and made responsible for defending Port Moresby and recapturing Kokoda airstrip.
Rowell had some difficulties in supply Pott’s and the men of the 21st brigade on the Kokoda track and for a period of about 5 days the offensive was stalled allowing the Japanese to position themselves well and gain the upper hand in the battle for the Kokoda track and Port Moresby.
The battle for Australia and the Kokoda trail did not go well for Rowell and the 21st brigade as they were forced back time and time again, although they did infact wear the enemy down and ground them to a halt eventually pushing the Japanese back towards the sea and recapturing the Kokoda tail and the much desired Kokoda airstrip.
Blamey was sent to Papua from Australia by General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme allied commander in the South-west Pacific. Rowell was deeply offended and did not wont to serve under Blamey again and in a series of heated arguments Blamey dismissed Rowell along with Potts and sent them back to Australia.
Balmey took the kudos for recapturing the Kokoda track although Rowell, Pott’s and the men of the 21st brigade laid down many lives and the foundations for the recapture of Kokoda station.
Rowell worked in the War Office in London and was involved in high-level planning for the fighting that would follow D-Day. After the war, Rowell served as Vice Chief of the General Staff. In 1950 he became Chief of the General Staff. He retired to Melbourne in 1954, where he held a number of company directorships.
He died on 12 April 1975.
Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell p00474.001
Brigadier Arnold Potts
Brigadier Arnold Potts AWM 026716 (left)
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner
Ralph Honner was one of Australia’s greatest second world war battlefield commanders.
His distinguished career saw service in North Africa, Greece, Crete and his decisive role he played in the infamous Kokoda trail battles.
Peter FitzSimons described Honner as a most fascinating character.
The 39th Battalion who were dug in at Isurava in disorder when Ralph Honner arrived in the nick of time to instill confidence, courage and battle field tactics to halt the advancing Japanese until the AIF arrived to relieve them.
Ralph was a great and respected leader, who didn’t assert his authority by pointing to the pips on his shoulders, he didn’t below and shout his orders, he instead led and inspired his men by living the battle through their eyes not asking any one to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself.
Isurava where the 39 didn’t have enough troops to hold the perimeter he placed his men in strategic locations and rehearsed their counter attacks. The counter attacks relied upon neighboring companies assisting to thrust the Japanese off the position.
When Honner’s men of the 39th seen the tactics working they grew in confidence and became one of the most famous fighting forces from the Kokoda track campaign and the pacific war.
Honner arrived at Gona with his depleted but confident 39th Battalion and saw first hand the disaster that was unfolding before them.
The 21st Brigade who were accused of cowardice by Blamey were throwing themselves upon the enemy position across open ground or wading through swamps in what was deemed to be absolute suicide attacks.
Honner took one look and that was enough to prove to him battle plans need to change. Honner come up with the tactic of delaying the charge of the artillery until it penetrated the earth which allowed his 39th Battalion to surround the Japanese unknowingly and when the artillery had ceased his men pounced upon them wiping out the Japanese and capturing Gona.
Honners famous wire stated “Gona’s Gone”.
After the Kokoda track campaign Honner went on to command the 2/14 Battalion in the Ramu Valley (NE New Guinea) until he was seriously wounded in the hip seeing the end to his fighting days.
Well respected Australian military historian David Horner describes him as “Honner was not just a capable commander: he was a man of integrity, honour and faith.He needed to be, as he led his men through events of such stress that they were to dominate the memories of the survivors for the next half a century”.
Come and stand on the ground were Honner and his men faced the Japanese with our Kokoda trail tours.
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Honner AWM 005638
Major General Kenneth William Eather
Major General Kenneth Eather
Major General Ken Eather CB, CBE, DSO, ED was born on 6 July 1901 and died on 9 May 1993. Ken was an Australian soldier who served during World War II, rising to the rank of major general. Ken took part as Brigade commander on the Kokoda Trail and Northern beach heads.
During the Kokoda Trail campaign Eather’s forces met the Japanese in Battle on Ioribaiwa. Eather, inexperienced in jungle warfare, was defeated and compelled to retreat. During the engagement on Ioribaiwa the 3rd Militia Battalion were caught napping when they were digging their fox holes. The 3rd had no centuries observing for moving enemy and had left their weapons out of reach away from where they where digging. The Japanese jumped on this opportunity and wedged themselves in between the Australian front line. More crucially they now held the high ground for the entire front which allowed them to rake the Australians with machine gun fire. The Australians counter attacked on a few occasions but were unable to dislodge the Japanese.
Brigadier Kenneth Eather asked for permission to fall back to Imita Ridge for a firm base to launch a counter offensive. Permission was reluctantly given but Tubby Allan’s order was stern and stated that no further withdrawal was possible. This was essentially the Australian’s last stand.
From Imita Eather’s 25th Infantry Brigade pushed the Japanese back over the mountains although this was at a slower advanced rate than that of the Japanese advance and Blamey made this well known to his commanders.
In November, Eather and the 25th Brigade meet the Japanese in the Battle of Oivi-Gorari with a decisive victory at low cost to his own men.
Eather and the 25th Brigade pursued the Japanese to the coast for the Battles of Buna-Gona. Eather’s men suffered heavy casualties from the enemy and tropical diseases, the 25th Infantry Brigade being almost wiped out.
Eather was awarded the United States Distinguished Service Cross and he was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his service during the Papuan campaign.
Eather learned quickly that speed was one of the keys to dispersing the Japanese and while in command in the Markham Valley he was unimpressed with the speed of the advance. Eather himself carrying a pistol led a column of his men as lead scout marched them hastily into Lae unopposed by the Japanese only to be strafed by the U S Air Force and shelled by our own Australian artillery. This earned him the nickname of Par Lap from his own men.
Eather became concerned at the way Vietnam veterans were being treated by some veterans of World War II, and made a point of appearing at Anzac Day marches and RSL events with his adopted son Owen Eather. Eather continued to lead Anzac Day marches through Sydney until 1992.
Eather died at a nursing home in Mosman, New South Wales on 9 May 1993. As the last surviving Australian general of World War II, he was given a military funeral at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.