“What follows are excerpts from the diary of Probational Officer Toshihiro Oura, who was posted near the Munda Point airfield on the southwest tip of New Georgia. His journal was translated in 1943 by Dye Ogata and Frank Sanwo, nisei interpreters with the intelligence section of the U.S. Army’s 37th Infantry Division. Oura was a platoon leader in the Imperial Japanese Army’s 15th Antiaircraft Field Defense Unit, which was commanded by Colonel Shunichi Shiroto. It was equipped with 25mm and 40mm antiaircraft and antitank automatic cannons.
In June 1943, about five months after America’s final victory at Guadalcanal, U.S. forces continued their advance through the Solomon Islands by commencing operations against Japanese-held New Georgia. A major goal of the campaign was the capture of the airfield at Munda Point. On June 30, American troops landed on Rendova Island, about eight miles southeast of Munda. Several days later, two regiments of the 43rd Infantry Division began landing at Zanana, on New Georgia, about eight miles east of Munda. (U.S. forces had already come ashore at the southeast tip of the island and would soon land on its northern shore.) American commanders quickly deployed artillery on Rendova and the nearby channel islands with which to support their westward drive to capture Munda Point.
July 9: The artillery barrage started at 2 a.m. There were great numbers of tracer shells, which made it like day. However, the tracer shells went overhead and did not hit within the positions. At 5, the firing ceased.
During this shelling, 2nd Lt. Imura (a graduate of Naseda University), who was attached to the searchlight battalion, and one other soldier were killed by a direct hit. Many officers of my immediate acquaintance were dying right alongside. When the shelling ceased, three Zero planes came over to reconnoiter and then returned. At 7:30 a.m., about 50 Grummans [TBFs] came over. Since our positions could be clearly seen from Rendova, we could not fire. I was really fed up when the order came from the Field Defense HQ to fire.
Our CO began to feel sympathy toward the men. He couldn’t figure out any way to fire that wasn’t to our disadvantage. After he laughingly said, “I would like to die now after seeing the action of our troops,” he continued by saying that he would leave all the decisions up to the platoon leaders. He showed a sense of sympathy and never came out with an order to fire.
If our operations would only start, I would fire again and again, even though our positions would be exposed and we in turn would be fired upon. As it is now, we are being fired upon, and we have not returned fire. Enemy planes are constantly overhead, so I can’t even take a step outside of our shelters. If we were to fire now, they would concentrate their fire on us, and our emplacements would be leveled. And then all of us would be annihilated together. We shall fight. Right now, living is more important. In the last stages of this battle, if we can stop the tanks from coming in from the south, then we can die laughing.
July 10: My, the shelling is fierce, but aside from a little scare, the results have been nil. But still, if [a shell] were to hit our shelter, we’re goners. All of the personnel, wearing steel helmets within the shelters, waited quietly for action. The heat in the shelter was like that of a cellar, and the unpleasant odor drifted about. It is suicidal to go to the latrine. I put on my helmet, and after I had made complete preparations, I took off for the bomb crater, which was in front of me. While I was defecating, six or seven shells fell, so I took off and came back.
At 3:30 p.m., the shelling ceased. The artillery’s accuracy has become a real thing. We never can tell when we are to die. Oh, God! I would like to die after seeing the action of our invincible imperial forces. After looking at a dud, I can see that the enemy’s artillery is 150mm [155mm, actually].
July 11: The 13th Infantry Regiment, which was scheduled to land last night, did so at Bairoko Harbor. We are about to take the initiative. At 7:40 a.m. 45 carrier-based Grummans appeared. Aside from a close hit, all of the rest of the bombs were dropped elsewhere. During the afternoon for about 21⁄2 hours, concentrated fire rained on us. The enemy has fired at least 2,000 rounds today. Some hit within five meters of my shelter. At this rate, day after tomorrow, I’ll be a goner. The enemy is firing about 20 rounds at a time. Regardless of what shelter I may be in, at the present rate, it will be of no avail. One of our precious guns was lost in today’s bombing.
July 12: Last evening, I was watching the shelling and some fell within three meters of the positions. It is really a mystery why there have not been any personnel losses up until now. Right now, I am lying on my side, facing Rendova, with the acting operator, 1st Class Pvt. Tomioka, but today or sometime tomorrow I guess we’ll be hit. If our last gun were to be destroyed, then our company would become a labor outfit.
Since our mission is that of a tank destroyer unit, we couldn’t very well stay hidden. We went out to take a peep to the south several times. Fortunately, there were no tanks. When the shelling ceased, we were on the verge of collapse from fatigue and lack of sleep.
At 7 a.m. about 40 Douglas [SBD] bombers effected a general bombing. After about 8:50, we had a concentration of fire on our positions. The 4th Squad’s gun was knocked out. One [shell] burst south and to one side of our shelter, and this made several marks on the aiming apparatus and the barrel. The ammunition was set afire. Demolition shells must be good only for things above ground level because, queer as it may seem, the personnel are still intact. This winds up things for this 3rd Platoon leader with the loss of three guns. Losing the guns puts a sense of guilt on me, yet the personnel are intact. There is nothing for us to do but to feel fortunate in the midst of all the bad luck. From now on, we are a labor company.
July 13: All the personnel assembled where the Field Defense HQ was located, in the midst of shelling, after having come through the dark jungle and over muddy paths. We dug dugouts in the empty area. After getting wet from the evening dew, we lay down. The distance we traveled really was hard going, so much that it hardly can be expressed.
Sergeant Takagi died last night in the naval shelling. The dead already amounted to 6 to 7 men. Lance Corporal Ito and four men, who were handling rations, are missing.
I must say that there is close cooperation between [the enemy’s] air, land, and naval forces. Our forces have not carried out a large-scale bombing; they haven’t shelled Rendova with a single battleship, nor have they given the army any heavy artillery pieces.
What do you call this? How could such action be called modern war? I keenly feel the poor liaison of the Japanese forces and the weakness of our military strength. My! This is really disheartening. We haven’t been fighting, merely dying in the midst of bombs and shelling.
However, the Japanese forces couldn’t let the enemy have his own way; we must look forward with expectations that something will be done. Probational Officer Oura [the author] has been ordered to be the rifle platoon leader. Probational Officer Takagi has been ordered to be the CO of the 41st Battalion. We are to provide defense and security against the enemy, who is penetrating into the area of North Munda. The organization is now 27 men and a company of three squads. We are to make it impossible for an advance and attack to be made from any direction.
July 14: Several enemy planes came over early this morning and circled at a low altitude to our rear. After every reconnoitering, shelling would follow. We are doing our best camouflaging right now. Evidently we haven’t been exposed, because shells are landing 300 meters to our left and right. The sick, with 2nd Lt. Hattori, are to return from the 41st Battalion sometime today. I am supposed to be in charge of them, and they are to be the 2nd Platoon. I am also to be in command of the rifle platoon.
We rested at battalion headquarters for a little while when the order came for us to wait at the former positions, so we returned. Shells were falling, and there were patients being carried in on stretchers while fighters hovered over us in plain daylight. It was so bad, I can’t go on talking about it.
At 11 a.m., the order came for Probational Officer Oura and six men to go to the east lookout post, another new position for the Field Defense HQ; 2nd Lt. Imura was killed and a total of four wounded today. I immediately departed in the rain, and I stumbled time and time again while going through the jungle. On my way, I stopped at Field Defense HQ and received orders. I took command of 12 men, including the medical unit. As usual, shelling was concentrated on the pom-pom gun positions. The sounds of the explosions and the concussions were terrific. I lay down in the canvas shelter unconcerned.
July 15: I picked Lance Cpl. Sugiyama, Wakita, Shimura, Muramatsu, and Ota, the six best men. Tomorrow, Corporal Takahashi and his five men will come and then we will have a strength of 12 men. We are going to start installing a 10cm gun. This east lookout post is the eye of all the forces in Munda.
I set up binoculars and observed the enemy positions. The U.S. flag could be seen fluttering on PT-boats. A destroyer, which had been camouflaged, was at anchor. You could call [the scene] a war movie or perhaps a “Newsweek” movie [a Japanese equivalent of Movietone or Paramount newsreels]. At any rate, it is interesting to an outsider. The moving boats and bursting shells looked as if you could almost grab them.
This morning’s shelling was a shelling of all shellings. By 7 they had already fired 1,000 rounds into the vicinity of the Kawai Detachment’s positions. Lance Corporal Sugiyama was struck. I believe it will take him about a month and a half to recover.
Shells are hitting close by right now, so we can’t go outside. The offending odor of perspiration in the dugout is unbearable. The place where we stand guard has already become the death ground of two men. No one back home would ever think that we are living in a crater. I am taking the place of 2nd Lt. Imura. It is really smelly. They said that they hadn’t found the two legs of the men yet. Four-engine Consolidated bombers [B-24s] fly around at low altitude. I can see plainly through my binoculars two men looking this way from the window to the rear of the insignia.
July 17: I had to lie down inside the narrow dugout because close hits were bursting in great numbers. Present strength is the CO and 13 men.
From 3 p.m., the 41st Battalion fired their AA guns against artillery positions at Roviana for about one hour. One shell made a direct hit but only after many unsuccessful efforts.
July 18: It rained heavily last night. The sound of explosions is terrific. Anticipating a landing by the enemy between tonight and dawn, we guarded more closely. I held the binoculars from 3 to 6:30 a.m., when it was pretty certain that it was safe. I could not sleep on account of the rain and telephone calls that came from Field Defense HQ and the 41st Battalion, and my fatigue mounted. I inquired about a shell that burst nearby this morning.
I hear the enemy is increasingly concentrating his troops on Guadalcanal for a new offensive. However, we must not complain because our navy and our air force might be striking at Guadalcanal. If we can only crush Guadalcanal, the enemy at Rendova will be automatically annihilated.
July 19: Last night’s shelling was terrific. This concentration of fire is just over our dugout. Since it has only one entrance, the air is stuffy, and the sounds of the explosions cause ringing in our ears. It is really more than I can bear. The men were scared, and they all ran into my dugout. I had to take them out mercilessly and assign them to other dugouts. There were nine men in the dugout, and if it were to receive a direct hit, the entire personnel would be buried alive.”
Source: MHQ, blogrolled here