• Print
  • Share

(2 of 4)

The Genial Friend. If any of the Japs then on duty in Siberia are still around Tokyo, they must know that old acquaintance will not help them now. Bob Eichelberger is a genial, dryly humorous extrovert with a consuming interest in people and an infinite capacity for liking them. But he is also a steel-hard soldier with a vast respect for unbending discipline and the same reverent regard for spit & polish that he got at the U.S. Military Academy almost 40 years ago. Tokyo's Japs can expect fair and efficient treatment. But no monkey business. And no favors.

The Long Trail. For General Eichelberger and his Eighth Army, Tokyo was the end of one of the bitterest, hardest fought trails of the Pacific War. For the General it began three years and 4,000 roundabout miles away, in the blood and mud of a wretched copra settlement called Buna on the north coast of New Guinea.

When Eichelberger and his staff of the I Corps* arrived in Australia to report to MacArthur, Australian troops were still being pushed south across the Owen Stanley Mountains. Little more than three months later, when I Corps staff got the call, the counteroffensive had begun, but the U.S. 32nd Infantry Division was stalled before Buna and something had to be done. Eichelberger's orders from MacArthur were: get them out of the mud and get them moving. One of Eichelberger's first acts was to relieve the commander, Major General Edwin F. Harding, a friend and West Point classmate ('09). Some of the 32nd's officers privately denounced Eichelberger as ruthless, Prussian. Other officers were removed; the staff work was jacked up.

Jungle Trouble. To inspire the 32nd, Eichelberger's method was to get up on the front himself—and his officers went with him, where riflemen could see them. Three brigadiers were wounded but Eichelberger, who insisted on wearing his general's stars within sight of the Japanese ("What's the use of being up here if the boys can't see who I am?'') came through without a scratch.

The 32nd's soldiers came to know him as a general who liked to shuck his shirt when the sun was hot, as a kidder who seldom seemed worried. But they also knew him as a rawhiding commander who knew no friends. He fired officers right & left. He also took heavy casualties.

A month after he took command, the division captured Buna and MacArthur had his foothold on the north coast. The men of the 32nd, who called their division cemetery ''Eichelberger Square." then went on to fight the coastal campaign and the battle of the Philippines. This week they had their greatest hour of triumph when General Yamashita walked into their lines.

After Buna, Eichelberger trained troops in Australia until he got back into action again at Hollandia, took the vital New Guinea port with deftness and speed. The Japs were hit where they weren't at Hollandia, but there were enough stray units around to infiltrate Eichelberger's command post by night. on Digg


For use in rail of Articles page or Section Fronts pages. Duplicate and change name as necesssary to distinguish.