Australia-Japan Research Project

Australian and Japanese attitudes to the war
Southern Cross: IV Army planning for the operation

Now I think it would be appropriate to set out the thoughts and plans of the G.O.C. For the New Guinea war. This is because I think it greatly helps understanding of the various problems in respect of command which subsequently arose throughout the whole army, and the basic reasoning and planning caused by these.

The first thing pointed out was that as regards orders, it was expected that one be omniscient and omnipotent in their execution. It was axiomatic that units would not have any doubts.

As the battle position stood in the South Seas area war, the practice of this principle was important. For a full three years the New Guinea campaign has been waiting, and it had been found that this was the golden rule. It had already been impressed in people’s minds that the New Guinea battle was not a desperate struggle, so that it was only daring fighting by the personnel of every unit. Meritorious deeds on the New Guinea battleground were not the laurel wreaths of victory but the wreaths adorning the funeral service. They received no eulogies and there was no reminiscence save their glory.

The duty of the army was definite – to check the enemy’s reckless attacks and to contribute to the establishment of the bases in the rear. In a battle situation such as this it was quite impossible to make calculations. If we had used battle tactics according to the abacus , in the end it would not have worked out. In the beginning there was no way but to retreat, and the first thing to be done was the preparatory work for the whole army.

There is not the least particle of anything being impossible in the orders of the superior commander to his subordinate units. It was a matter of considering all the changes in the situation, estimating whether or not these were or were not profitable to the army as a whole, and issuing orders. However, it was not humanly possible to do this – a commanding officer might estimate that something was possible and then it would turn out to be impossible. However, whether it was possible or not depended on the people. There were also occasions when something, which had been impossible when preparations were being made, turned out to be possible.

There were people who abused the submission to orders in the army, saying that it was a relic of the feudal system of an antiquated period, but this was a misapprehension. This submission to orders was in any time and place an iron and inexorable principle. In this world it was not to be changed, nor, I feel, in the future. It was thus in the U.S., British and Soviet forces.

The second point was an understanding command and a mutual comradeship. This was an unwritten but inexorable rule. In difficult situations in warfare, a feeling of comradeship was essential. This was similar to human and individual existence. Where units were in difficulty, they should expect the affection of their commander.

Especially in a place like New Guinea where the units were spread over vast distances and doing all sorts of duties, if they were to strike as one they had to have mutual standards and principles and combat difficulties.

Conspicuous examples of this were the activity of the Nakai Detachment in their opposition at the Ramu River during the retreat of 51st Division and the activity of Nakai Detachment and the 41st Division at the time of the big advance on Madang by 20th and 51st Divisions.

Printed on 06/14/2024 03:29:36 PM