Colonel Merle H. Howe
sRA32nd Infantry DivisionsRA

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Rest in Australia

April 1943 - Entire Division is re-assembled in Australia for rest, recuperation, replacement and re-training. It would be months before the Red Arrow men would regain their health and be ready for combat.
In letters during this period, Merle wrote that they were receiving many visitors from the States and higher echelons of the Army. None of these people had been to Buna; yet, they all felt compelled to comment and judge the action there and the conduct of the troops. In one letter he says, "What the men really need is a couple of days in town with no one bothering them. Instead, they are constantly reminded of (Buna)."
6 May 1943 - Units of the 32nd Infantry Division are awarded the Distinguished Unit Streamer embroidered Papua.

Papua Streamer
Image is courtesy of the Center for Militay History On-line (U.S. Army)
Distinguished Unit Streamer for "outstanding performance of duty in action during the period 23 July 1942 to
23 January 1943."

CITATION: When (a) bold and aggressive enemy invaded Papua in strength, the combined action of ground and air units of these forces, in association with Allied units, checked the hostile advance, drove the enemy back to the seacoast and in a series of actions against a highly organized defensive zone, utterly destroyed him. Ground combat forces, operating over roadless jungle-covered mountains and swamps, demonstrated their courage and resourcefulness in closing with an enemy who took every advantage of the nearly impassable terrain. Air forces, by repeatedly attacking the enemy ground forces and installations, by destroying his convoys attempting reinforcement and supply, and by transporting ground forces and supplies to areas for which land routes were non-existent and sea routes slow and hazardous, made possible the success of the ground operations. Service units, operating far forward of their normal positions and at times in advance of ground combat elements, built landing fields in the jungle, established and operated supply points, and provided for the hospitalization and evacuation of the wounded and sick. The courage, spirit, and devotion to duty of all elements of the command made possible the complete victory attained.

(Source: General Orders Number 21, War Department, 6 May 1943; as cited in  The 32d Infantry Division in World War II by Major General H.W. Blakeley USA, Retired; pages 130 and 131.)

The units awarded this distinction were: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 32nd Infantry Division; 32nd Ordnance Detachment; 32nd Quartermaster Company; 32nd Reconnaissance Troop; 32nd Signal Company; 107th Medical Battalion; 114th Engineer Battalion; 126th Infantry Regiment; 127th Infantry Regiment; 128th Infantry Regiment; Battery A, 129th Field Artillery Battalion.
27 May 1943 - The Oak Leaf Cluster to the Silver Star was presented to Merle at a ceremony in Australia by
Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger.
15 November 1943 - Against his wishes, Merle received a Purple Heart for the wound he suffered at Buna.
Purple Heart
Back of Purple Heart
Purple Heart for "wounds received in action in the Buna Sector on December 5, 1942."

In December 1942, Merle had been grazed by a sniper's bullet. The Regimental Adjutant awarded him a Purple Heart and Merle ordered him to withdraw it. (See the Buna page for more detail.)

In November 1943, Major General Gill, the Division Commander, ordered the award of the Purple Heart to Merle for the 5 December 1942 incident.

CITATION: Colonel MERLE H. HOWE, 127th Infantry (then Lieutenant Colonel, General Staff Corps, Headquarters 32nd Infantry Division), United States Army. For wounds received in action near Buna Village, New Guinea. By command of Major General Gill: John A. Hettinger, Colonel, General Staff Corps, Chief of Staff.

(Source: Headquarters, 32nd Infantry Division, General Orders No. 81,
November 15, 1943. Also, notes by Virginia Howe and Merle Howe's Service Record File, the Howe Family)

22 December 1943 - The 126th Infantry Regiment and other elements of the Division are organized into a task force with the mission of capturing an airfield and surrounding area at Saidor, New Guinea. The Red Arrow men return to combat.

Bottom of a Japanese Artillery Shell
Japanese Artillery Shell
Sometime, somewhere, someone gave Merle the bottom of a Japanese Artillery Shell. It appears to have been hack sawed down to a height of 1-1/2". It is 85 millimeters in diameter.

It has the letter "F", the numeral "7", crossed cannons and some Japanese characters stamped or engraved into the bottom.

We are working on getting better images of it.

Does anyone know anything about this shell?


Did you serve with Merle Howe during World War II?     Did you know him before the War?
Colonel Howe's family would love to learn your recollections of him and your shared experiences.
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Colonel Howe Memories
P.O. Box 451156
Westlake, Ohio 44145-1156

126th Pin
126th Infantry Regiment
127th Pin
127th Infantry Regiment
128th Pin
128th Infantry Regiment

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