Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Day of Honor

An evening some years ago I was reading letters to my father, old letters my mother had written. His eyes brightened as he recognized her voice in each one. Then as I reached for another from among the tightly packed envelopes, I found this coarse piece of tablet paper wedged between. As I read, his eyes riveted on the long lost remembrance, and as mine questioned, he began the story:

That evening, Company M, 128th Infantry, 32D was ordered to gather together their few archaic implements of war, strip, and toss their fatigues into vats of green dye. And as they were jettisoning every possession, my father found a scrap of paper and quickly scribbled one last letter, dripping dye as the shirt on his back continued to dry. Then as planes were revving in the predawn mist and he was waiting in line, a guy in his company broke the silence: “'Sweet Tooth,’ tell us somethin’ funny.” My father sternly elucidated “This is not funny!” as they went into the night....

The day of death is of greater honor than the day of one's birth (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:1), today was the day of my father’s death, 70 years after that fateful night.

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo
An Australian sentry guards an American Boeing B-17 in the early morning as soldiers of the 128TH Infantry, 32D Division, wait in the distance to board planes for Port Moresby at Amberly Field, Ipswich, Australia, on 18 September, 1942.


Company E, 126th and Company M, 128th were the very first U.S. units to be to be airborne into combat.1As part of the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division, they initiated the Division’s unenviable record of more days in combat than any other U.S. division during World War II.1 During the Papuan Campaign they also had the unenviable distinction of a casualty count that exceeded the division's entire battle strength.1 But in doing so they wrote first chapter in the book of jungle warfare for all who would follow:
“The 32D Division, during this difficult time at Buna, was writing the book for combat against the Japanese in the jungles of the Pacific with their sweat and blood. All of the Pacific battles yet to come were able to benefit from the lessons learned by the 32D Division at Buna, and also the Marines and Army Infantry concurrently fighting at Guadalcanal.”1
1Highlights of the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Infantry Division during World War II
2The32D Infantry Division in World War II The ‘Red Arrow’ Papuan Campaign - The Battle of Buna

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