Second Mount Austen
On 9 January, McClure's 2nd Battalion—commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Peters—replaced the three battalions from the 132nd Regiment and prepared to assault the Gifu. Over the next four days, the Americans tried to feel out the Japanese positions with patrols. At the same time, the Gifu defenders attempted to wear down the Americans with night infiltration attacks. By 13 January, the 2nd Battalion had lost 57 killed or wounded. The battle casualties plus malaria reduced the battalion to 75% of its effective strength by the next day. To assist the battalion, the 35th Regiment's anti-tank gun company personnel were attached to the battalion as infantry.
With the capture of the Sea Horse by the Americans, the Japanese in the Gifu were now isolated from the rest of the 17th Army. In a last message over his field phone before the line was cut, Inagaki refused an order from Oka to abandon his position and attempt to infiltrate back to friendly lines, instead vowing that his command would "fight to the last". Inagaki apparently refused the order because to do so would have meant leaving his sick and injured men behind.
An American attack on the Gifu by the entire 2nd Battalion on 15 January was completely repulsed by the Japanese. In response, McClure relieved Peters of command on 16 January and replaced him with Major Stanley R. Larsen. Larsen decided to completely surround the Gifu and try to reduce it with a massive artillery bombardment on 17 January.
In the meantime, the Americans used a loudspeaker to broadcast a surrender appeal in Japanese to the Gifu's defenders. Only five Japanese soldiers responded. One of the five reported that his company actually gathered to discuss the appeal, but decided not to surrender because they were too weak to carry their injured, non-ambulatory comrades with them to the American lines. Instead, they elected to perish together as a unit. One Japanese officer defending the Gifu wrote in his diary, "I heard the enemy talking in Japanese over a loud speaker. He is probably telling us to come out - what fools the enemy are. The Japanese Army will stick it out to the end. Position must be defended in all conditions with our lives."
At 14:30 hours on 17 January, twelve 155 mm and thirty-seven 105 mm guns opened fire on the Gifu. Over the next one and a half hours, the American artillery fired 1,700 shells into an area about 1,000 yd (910 m) square. Because of the lateness of the hour, the Americans were unable to follow the barrage with an immediate attack but instead had to wait until the next day, which allowed the Japanese time to recover. On 18 January, the Americans attacked into the weaker west side of the Gifu, making some headway and destroying several Japanese pillboxes over the next two days until heavy rain stopped the attack on 20 January. That night, 11 Japanese were killed trying to escape from the Gifu.
On 22 January, the Americans were able to move a light tank up their supply trail to Mount Austen. The tank proved to be the decisive factor in the battle. At 10:20, the tank—protected by 16–18 riflemen—blasted three Japanese pillboxes and penetrated into the Gifu pocket. Proceeding onward, the tank completely traversed the Gifu and destroyed five more pillboxes, breaching a gap 200 yd (180 m) wide in the Japanese line. The American infantry surged through the gap and took positions in the middle of the Gifu.
That night, around 02:30, apparently realizing that the battle was lost, Inagaki led his staff and most of the remaining survivors of his command—about 100 men—in a final charge on the Americans. In the charge, Inagaki and the remainder of his troops were killed almost to the last man. At sunrise on 23 January, the Americans secured the rest of the Gifu. Sixty-four men from the American 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry were killed during the assaults on the Gifu between 9 and 23 January, bringing the total number of Americans killed taking Mount Austen to 175. The Americans counted the bodies of 431 Japanese in the remains of the Gifu's fortifications and 87 elsewhere around Mount Austen. Total Japanese losses in the Sea Horse and both Mount Austen battles were probably between 1,100 and 1,500 men.
Famous quotes containing the words austen and/or mount:
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”
—Jane Austen (17751817)
“On the 31st of August, 1846, I left Concord in Massachusetts for Bangor and the backwoods of Maine,... I proposed to make excursions to Mount Ktaadn, the second highest mountain in New England, about thirty miles distant, and to some of the lakes of the Penobscot, either alone or with such company as I might pick up there.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)