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Snooping Behind Japanese Lines

Discussion in 'The War In The Pacific' started by Jim, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    On a dark night, Lieutenant Edward McLogan, a platoon leader in the elite American outfit of volunteers known as Merrill’s Marauders, was concerned about shouts from a Japanese force to his front in mountainous northern Burma. It seemed clear that the enemy unit was about to launch an assault against his dug-in platoon. McLogan called for Sergeant Roy A. Matsumoto, a Nisei (second generation Japanese-American), who was serving as a frontline interpreter. “What’re they jabbering about out there?” the lieutenant asked. Matsumoto replied that he would get closer and eavesdrop. It was early March 1945. A few weeks earlier in another locale, Matsumoto had been with a battalion of Merrill’s Marauders when he found and tapped into a Japanese telephone line connecting the front and rear echelon. The Japanese talked freely, no doubt secure in the knowledge that Americans could not understand their language.

    Matsumoto intercepted one conversation between a frustrated and upset Japanese sergeant who gave his position away. He told the rear echelon that he had only three men with rifles to protect a large ammunition dump and that he feared the Americans were about to attack. He pleaded for “help and advice.” The Japanese sergeant’s plight and location were relayed to the Marauder’s leader, Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill. An accommodating fellow, he agreed to provide “help and advice” to the ammunition dump. It was delivered by a flight of fighter-bombers that blew up the hidden cache of explosives. Now, with Lieutenant McLogan’s platoon, Matsumoto slithered and crawled forward in the blackness until he was behind Japanese positions. There he lay stone-still for nearly an hour and listened to conversations.

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    Matsumoto returned from the high-risk mission and reported that the Japanese planned an attack after dawn on a forward slope of a hill held by McLogan’s platoon. The platoon leader pulled his men back to the top of the elevation where they could bring down fire on the attackers. At daybreak, shouts of Banzai! split the air as a contingent of Japanese broke out of a woods and charged up the slope, hurling hand grenades at the foxholes McLogan’s men had abandoned two hours earlier. Then they stormed the position with bayonets fixed, firing wildly into the empty foxholes. The fact that the Americans were not where they were supposed to be did not delay the assault for long. Led by a sword-waving officer, the Japanese rushed on up the hill.

    McLogan and his men held their fire until the Japanese were within twenty yards of the top. Then the Marauders loosed withering bursts from rifles and machine guns that cut down the attackers like a huge scythe hacking off cornstalks. Perhaps fifty bodies were sprawled in front of the Americans. But minutes later, a second wave of attackers bolted up the hill. Perhaps seeing the corpses of so many comrades, the Japanese flopped to the ground. Then Roy Matsumoto shouted in Japanese from the crest of the hill, “Charge! Charge!” Not knowing from where the command had come and ever obedient to orders, men of the second wave scrambled to their feet and dashed forward right into the muzzles of spitting machine guns and rifles. Now an eerie quiet descended upon the bloody elevation. Thanks to the quick-thinking Nisei, the Japanese force had been wiped out without the loss of a single Marauder.
     

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