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WWII - The Capture of Colonel Kisou Ouchi

African Americans in the U.S. Army During World War II


Upon arriving in the Solomon Islands at the end of February 1944, the men and units that constituted the 93rd Infantry Division were assigned to various locations. Members of the Division Headquarters, 25th Infantry, and a wide assortment of Field Artillery, Medical, and Service battalions debarked at Guadalcanal. Men in the 368th Infantry, the 594th Field Artillery Battalion, and several attached medical and engineer companies landed at the ports of Banika in the Russell Islands Group and Vella Lavella Island. The all-draftee 369th Infantry, the 595th Field Artillery Battalion, and several detachments settled in at New Georgia in the central Solomons. There all units underwent jungle training and performed labor details at docks, warehouses, and supply dumps before moving on to relieve elements of other units advancing toward the Philippines (Historical Section, 93rd Infantry Division 1946:5-6).

It was on these islands during the spring and summer months of 1944 that the majority of the 93rd servicemen received their first taste of war. At Bougainville, battalions and companies of the 25th Regimental Combat Team clashed with Japanese troops while performing numerous reconnaissance and combat patrol missions along the Numa-Numa Trail and the Laruma River. During this period, the men of the 25th marched through knee-deep mud and rain that typified the banyan tree-covered jungle terrain, protecting lines of communication and securing trails beyond the American defense perimeter. This work was hazardous and exposed the 25th to continuous Japanese fire. As a result, several of the men received commendations and promotions for their actions. Members of the 93rdís 593rd Field Artillery Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Joe B. Phillips, earned a special commendation from Brigadier General William C. Dunckel, the American Division Artillery Commander for the accuracy of their howitzer fire and for their efficiency in constructing positions(Boyd 1945). At New Georgia and the Russell Islands, elements of the 369th and 368th Infantry Regiments carried out security patrols against Japanese troops and helped stabilize hostile areas against enemy sea and airborne attacks. Following these initial combat experiences, the elements of the 93rd were brought back together briefly on Morotai Island during the spring of 1945 before components of the 368th and the 369th were assigned as security forces on New Guinea, Biak, and Mindanao. On Morotai, Jack C. McKenzie, Alfonzonia Dillon, Stanley Nakanishi, and other patrol members of the 93rd Headquarters navigated the rugged terrain surrounding the Tijoe River to hunt down and capture Colonel Kisou Ouchi, the highest-ranking Japanese officer taken prisoner during the Pacific War (93rd Infantry Division Files 1945; Boyd 1945).

Components of the 24th Infantry Regiment performed service support duties on Guadalcanal from March to August 1943 while several of its battalions were ordered to Bougainville to unload ships, work supply dumps, and engage enemy forces. In February of that year, men in the 24thís First Battalion, attached to the U. S. 37th Division, moved forward to reinforce the American Defense Perimeter and to cut the Japanese communications and supply lines on the island (Martin 1944). Led by Henry McAllister, a native of Hamburg New York, the 1st Battalion assaulted enemy positions several thousand yards from the friendly lines. During the action, Chicago, Illinois, native Alonzo Douglas was credited with being the first African American infantryman to kill a Japanese soldier in the Pacific War (Kluckhohn 1944). The activities of the 24thís First Battalion were significant in that they represented the first time black infantrymen had engaged enemy forces during the war. Of the unitís action, 14th Corps Commander, General Oscar W. Griswold concluded, "Although this battalion has in the past been employed largely on labor duties to the detriment of its training, its work in combat here has progressively and noticeably improved" (e.g., Cronin 1951; Miller 1959; Muller 1972).




An estimated five to six hundred Japanese remained on Morotai; on the nearby large island of Halmahera there were 40,000 more. The 93d Division relieved elements of the 31st Division on Morotai on 13 April, assuming responsibility for the defense and operation of all Eighth Army installations on the island. It had air support from the Both Wing, Royal Australian Air Force, and sea support from Naval Task Unit 701.2 (PT) . Combat troops of the division were instructed to kill or capture the remaining Japanese.

Operations, especially on the west coast of Morotai, were intensive, with combat patrols covering ever widening areas. As a result, the remaining enemy troops, in groups of fifty or less, were unable to concentrate. The Japanese force, under the command of Col. Kisou Ouchi of the 211th Infantry Regiment, was composed chiefly of remnants of the 2d Diversionary Unit, 36th Division Sea Transport Unit, 220th Infantry Regiment, 211th Infantry Regiment, one company of the 212th Infantry Regiment, 20th Expeditionary Force, and the 18th Shipping Engineers. Most of these troops, with instructions to carry out raids on Eighth Army installations, were located along the west coast of the island, especially in the Tilai, Wajaboeia, Tijoe, Libano, and Sopi areas. The Japanese kept close to the better native gardens in the area. Supply barges had formerly come to Morotai from Halmahera, landing near the mouth of the Tijoe River, but PT squadrons now prevented bulk resupply of the enemy troops remaining on Morotai. Only once during the period of the 93d's occupancy were barges successful in reaching land. On 13 May, PT boats sank two of four barges but two others escaped and landed north of the Tijoe. One, on the way back to Halmahera, was intercepted and sunk; the other, beached and camouflaged, was located by 25th Infantry patrols and destroyed. There was neither organized resistance nor offensive action on the part of the enemy; the job of 93d Division patrols was to prevent consolidation of the remaining Japanese forces, who might yet engage in' harassing action against the Allied base on Morotai, and to search out and capture or kill the remaining Japanese on the island.

On 15 April the first of the 93d's patrols, one from the 369th Infantry, killed four Japanese. On 21 April, the first prisoner was taken, also by the 369th. Beginning in May, landing parties went to the western and northern sectors of the island, eventually covering the entire coast line.

The disposition and number of the enemy arriving on the barge discovered in May was of the greatest interest to the 93d Division, for one of its missions was to prevent the resupply and reinforcement of the Japanese left on Morotai. On 24 May one group was located by a small patrol from Company F, 368th Infantry, led by Lt. Richard L. Crawford. The patrol trailed a pair of footprints up a stream bed from Hapo to a point two miles inland. There the trail left the stream bed and all but disappeared in the rough terrain on the north side. On a small outcropping overlooking their approach, the patrol sighted seven Japanese in clean uniforms, well equipped with pistols, but with only one rifle. One, who later proved to be a captain leading the party, stood gazing in a mirror, shaping his beard with what the patrol described as "obvious admiration." At very close range, the patrol opened fire, killing six of the seven Japanese. The seventh man, wounded, escaped. These seven, members of a Keinpoi party the dual-functioning, military police and intelligence personnel plus seven or eight well-equipped Japanese seen by the 3d Battalion, 25th Infantry, on the coast north of Libano on 13 May accounted for a total of fourteen or fifteen Japanese who had presumably arrived on the barge from Halmahera.

Psychological warfare worked well for the 93d in smoking out the hungrier elements of the remaining enemy. Many of the captured prisoners carried propaganda leaflets, or said that they had heard the division's propaganda broadcasts. One prisoner, while listening to a broadcast amplified from a beach, started down to surrender. He related later that he was "very disgusted" with the team for leaving the beach before he arrived. He then had to go hungry two more days before he was picked up by one of the division's patrols.
A main effort of the 93d Division's patrols during the period on Morotai was to capture Colonel Ouchi alive. Ouchi, described as an egotistic commander, disliked by his men because of a tendency to allocate to himself more than a fair share of available food and supplies, successfully eluded the division's patrols for weeks, though his command post was located several times. The division was so intent on seeking him out for capture that the 93d's motto on Morotai became "Gherchez Ouchi."

A 25th Infantry patrol on 11 July found traces of Ouchi in the Tijoe River area. On the last day of July, a twelve man patrol set out to capture him. After moving about 100 yards in from the coast in the Tijoe area, the patrol came upon two Japanese, one of whom they wounded and captured. The wounded prisoner informed the patrol that a camp of ten Japanese was not far away. After administering first aid to the wounded man, the patrol located a three but camp, spotted six Japanese, and killed one. The other five, including some who were wounded, escaped. The patrol bivouacked near the Japanese camp. The three huts were well supplied with rice, ammunition, blankets, and grenades. The patrol decided that it was close upon Colonel Ouchi. On 2 August it scouted the surrounding area without finding the enemy until, in the late afternoon, the sound of chopping led the patrol to a clearing with four huts in which several Japanese were sleeping. Five others, each carrying supplies, were approaching the camp. After dropping their supplies, they went to the river to bathe. The patrol surrounded them and ordered them to surrender, but they began to scatter in all directions.

Of the Japanese in the area, seven were killed, two escaped naked into the jungle, and one was taken prisoner. The prisoner turned out to be Colonel Ouchi. As the patrol started for the beach, one of the mortally wounded Japanese made a lunge for the sergeant holding Ouchi. The sergeant, "handling his carbine expertly with one hand and shooting from the hip," hit the Japanese in the temple. He fell dead at the sergeant's feet. Colonel Ouchi was one of the highest ranking Japanese officers captured before the surrender of Japan.
Morotai, during the period of the 93d's occupation, was the scene of considerable activity pertinent to the extension of the war in the Pacific. During the earlier weeks on the island, troops of the division, especially the 25th Infantry, then in reserve, were supplying all available men for round-the-clock port duties. The port of Morotai was then handling most of the troops and supplies used in the Australian invasion of Borneo. Working alongside Australian dock workers, the troops of the 93d played large part in getting these operations under way. From 10 April to 10 July the division discharged and out-loaded 311,552 tons of supplies and equipment, moved thousands of Allied troops from transports to staging areas and back to embarkation points, and improved harbor facilities, roads, and camp sites.

In the last days of the war, the 93d had charge of more than 1,500 "patients" and crew from the Japanese
hospital ship Tachibana Maru. This ship, intercepted by two destroyers, the USS Conner and USS Charette, was brought into Morotai as a prize on 6 August. The patients aboard this hospital ship had been removed from a Japanese general hospital in New Guinea. Most of them were very nearly and some completely recovered from beriberi, malaria, and other diseases. The American boarding party found mortar shells packed in boxes marked with red crosses and labeled medical supplies. Patients were sleeping in the holds the ship carried twice its normal seven hundred on rifles, machine guns, ammunition, and hand grenades hidden under bunks. At Morotai, the patients were removed for a thorough search of the ship, a procedure which would have been impossible, especially in the light of the later discovery of the extent of arms and ammunition available aboard the ship, had not Army troops been available to take charge of and guard the prisoners. Working parties unloading the ship found approximately thirty tons of assorted ammunition, including hand grenades, rifle, howitzer, and machine gun ammunition, four hundred rifles and carbines, fifteen light machine guns, forty-five knee mortars, and four 8cm. field howitzers.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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