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The Ghost Mountain Boys: The Terrifying Battle for Buna and Papua New Guinea--the Forgotten Land War of the South Pacific

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3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  642 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Lying due north of Australia, New Guinea is among the world’s largest islands. In 1942, when World War II exploded onto its shores, it was an inhospitable, cursorily mapped, disease-ridden land of dense jungle, towering mountain peaks, deep valleys, and fetid swamps. Coveted by the Japanese for its strategic position, New Guinea became the site of one of the South Pacific’ ...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published (first published September 30th 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,586)
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Kathryn
Feb 13, 2013 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because my father fought in the Battle of Buna. Though not a Ghost Mountain Boy, he, too, was a Michigan farm boy who was sent off to New Guinea to fight the Japanese as a soldier in the 127th Infantry, Company L of the Army's 32nd Red Arrow Division.

Throughout the book, I could hear my dad's voice retelling the details of malaria, jungle rot, mud, torrential rain, poor or non-existent food, death and miscalculated strategies that he and his fellow soldiers experienced. The dif
...more
Nadir
Apr 10, 2011 Nadir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, ww2
The addition of veteran (and veteran's families) interviews in the many years since the war has deeply enhanced the history. The official history and the early histories on this battle (Lida Mayo's "Bloody Buna") focused on interviews with high ranking officers, leaving out the experiences of the lower ranks and the enlisted. It is very difficult to get a truly unbiased view of the early battles of New Guinea because so much rivalry between MacArthur and his Australian Allies led to each dispara ...more
Al
Mar 01, 2011 Al rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
This was an informative look at the Papuan campaign and it was interesting in that Campbell focused on several Soldiers involved in this campaign, but it could've been so much better. He really only scratched the surface of an incredibly brutal campaign which saw heroism on a daily basis from not only the infantryman, but the cooks and mechanics, as well. The units involved were Michigan and Wisconsin National Guard regiments, and the author's lack of back story significantly limited the scope o ...more
Rob Kitchin
May 12, 2012 Rob Kitchin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In The Ghost Mountain Boys James Campbell tells the story of the 32nd Division’s campaign in New Guinea, their trek across the Owen Stanley range and the eerie Ghost Mountain, and their struggle to overrun the Japanese at Buna. Campbell’s account is excellent on a number of levels. First, he does a very good job of personalising the story, tracking a number of Division members from senior officers to enlisted men, based on interviews, letters sent home and archival research. We get to know the m ...more
J.S.
Sep 18, 2014 J.S. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
The battle for Buna, New Guinea (November 1942 through January 1943), isn't as well-known as others like Guadalcanal. The 32nd Army Infantry Division (National Guard) was tasked with defeating a Japanese army poised for devastating strikes on Australia. Unfortunately, the 32nd was poorly trained and supplied, and had to fight both the Japanese and the jungle. MacArthur and other top brass grossly underestimated the strength and condition of the enemy, which, contrary to their belief was numerous ...more
Jonathan
Dec 10, 2014 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii-allies
Well done book on a forgotten campaign. Something I knew very little about, I knew of it but not the details. The author does a good job of weaving the picture on the ground with first hand accounts and diary entries with the general overview from the command side. Sadly yet another campaign where men and their lives were sacrificed on the altar of Douglas MacArthur's ambition and ego.
Megan Hamsher
Mar 18, 2016 Megan Hamsher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the back of the book, one of lines says
"Reminiscent of classics like 'Band of Brothers'...."

One of the other lines on the back of the book says,
".. it is part war diary, part extreme adventure tale, and part biography."

The Ghost Mountain Boys focuses on people first and the battles second.
One gets dumped right smack in the middle of theses units, and more than once, one wonders how anyone survived at all....
one learns the character and attributes of many of these men,
and one's heart sadden
...more
Jeff
Feb 09, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In brief, the subject matter is fascinating, but the writing comes up short. The story of what the men of the 32nd Division suffered through in 1942/43 on the island of New Guinea is amazing. How the US Army thought they could dump a bunch of poorly trained and equipped midwestern farm boys into the jungles and mountains of New Guinea and expect them to be effective is mind-blowing. But they were effective. Fighting alongside the Australians (for coverage of whom, see "Kokoda"), they managed to ...more
Albert
Sep 22, 2010 Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marines are the better known marauders of the Pacific conflict. However, as a West Point graduate let me know in no uncertain terms, the Army was there, too. "The Ghost Mountain Boys" has as part of its title "the terrifying battle" and terrifying it was. Ill-trained Army National Guardsmen took on the Imperial Japanese Army. Sustaining horrible losses and operating under unspeakable conditions, the American soldiers prevailed. Forget the campaign and a feckless Douglas MacArthur, where do we ge ...more
Chuck
Sep 17, 2014 Chuck rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The battle for New Guinea was brutal jungle warfare. Though Guadalcanal is much better known, the number of dead in New Guinea was three times larger than at Guadalcanal. MacArthur was the commander, and one can see how he earned the derisive nickname of "Dugout Doug". While his men were fighting, he remained comfortably ensconced in a mansion some hundred miles away, devising plans for battle. He never visited the battlefield to see what conditions were like. As a result, thousands of Allied tr ...more
Karen
May 02, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I review a book, I don't give a synopsis of the storyline, but simply an explanation as to why I rated it what I did. I'll be honest, I did not love this book and I did not find it amazing. I had a hard time following it and found it tedious at times-- but that is mainly because battle and war themes aren't my genre of choice. The book gives a very realistic look at this battle.

I gave it a 5 stars because my grandfather, Frank Jakubowski was one of the brave Red Arrow men who served in the
...more
Isaac
Sep 25, 2015 Isaac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent enough book about a battle that nobody has ever heard about. Another good example of how many soldiers went through total hell during WWII and then came home quietly. How many stories like this have been lost because of a hero's humility?
Jack London
Apr 13, 2016 Jack London rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The untrained and ill-equipped American 32d Division achieved the impossible crossing of the Owen Stanley Range, without being detected, to launch an attack on the Japanese at Buna that would enable General MacArthur to pursue his plan to launch the attack on Japan that would recover the entire Western Pacific. These men went, carrying heavy equipment, weapons, and each other on their backs across a ten thousand foot range where no one had gone before; even the indigenous Papuans would not cross ...more
Brett
Jan 16, 2016 Brett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is a remarkable story about the men who fought in terrible conditions during WWII, I don't think the author did the story justice. I had a harder time getting into this book than I did with similar books from authors such as Stephen Ambrose, David McCullough, and Hampton Sides. That being said, the book is still worth reading because the story of these men needs to be told. I think part of my problem was I listened to this on audio book, and I did not particularly care for the narrato ...more
Tom Schulte
Feb 03, 2012 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I didn't not know it, but much like the Afghan and Iraq wars, there was in WWII a lot of National Guard units that were shipped off to a foreign war, much to the chagrin of the unit members. The NG unit sent to Papua New Guinea was mostly Michigan citizens. They were largely from the west side of the state: Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Muskegon, etc.

One that features in the book is Hubert Schulte. I wonder if he is a relation to me?

Any way, it is a fascinating tale of the brutal and overlooked chap
...more
Chi Dubinski
Oct 25, 2012 Chi Dubinski rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 32nd Division consisted of National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, and reserve officers and draftees from around the country. They were sent overseas without training and even the most basic supplies. Their assignment was to march 130 miles over the Owen Stanley mountains and then sent in to assault the Japanese position—two months of combat.
Campbell bases his book on letters, journals, and interviews, many conducted at an Old Timers reunion at Fort McCoy in 2005. There are mentions
...more
Michael Coustier
What prompted me to read this book has been a small interest in the WWII Pacific Theater.
I have small bits and pieces from my mom regarding my grand-fathers involvement in the pacific, and I was hoping this might give me an inside into it.
Essentially, I know three things about my grandfathers involvement with WW2.
1. He hated "japs". Certainly not a PC thing to say in 2013, but when I was 6 years old on his farm in Napa and he was drunk off his ass and I was in the barn with him while my parents
...more
Jan
Sep 02, 2013 Jan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A forgotten part of World War II - New Guinea - a strategic island for the safety of Australia, this is where Douglas MacArthur went after he famously left the Philippines. This is the struggle for the capture of the island from the Japanese forces - a struggle conducted by very green American troops from the midwest as well as Australian forces. MacArthur does not come off well here - he seems very interested in his legacy and in winning victory at any cost and the costs are very steep. He neve ...more
Amy
Feb 13, 2014 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly didn't know that part of WWII was fought in New Guinea. I'm not as up to speed in the Pacific theater as I am of what happened in Europe. I also didn't know that many National Guard units were fighting during the war. The writing is very engaging, but sometimes the extreme details of the battles were a bit tedious for me, but I'm not a military enthusiast, so that is why I tended to skim over some of the details.
Yamo
I had the pleasure of having christmas dinner with a man named Dan DeYoung 2 christmas' ago. He was one of the Ghost Mountain Boys. He told my nieces and my sister, Mom and Hutch about his experiences in WWII in the South Pacific and also his developing relationship with this author and how he had been interviewed for this book. I went to a book signing at a private home in Atherton last year with my brother-in-law and met the author and other veterans. It is an unknown chapter of that World War ...more
Mark Soone
Oh I had such high hopes for this book, instead I find myself wrestling between 2/3 stars. I continue on my historical fiction/Non-Fiction kick and perhaps I need a break as my last 3 books have been very highly rated on goodreads, yet have not quite cliked for me...Perhaps this rating/review is more a reflection of me and where I am than upon the book itself.

The story was a very cool and especially unique, I have never read or seen a book that tackled this side of the war (although i am sure th
...more
Zinger
Jul 21, 2008 Zinger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
During WWII, the U.S. Army's 32nd Infantry Division gets sent to New Guinea to displace the Japanese. The men were not trained nor supplied for the tasks they were given. They had to march over the Owen Stanley Mountains (130 miles) and were victims of dysentery, malaria and several other insect born diseases, hunger, and exhaustion. That was the easy part.
The men, barely living, then had to engage the enemy, who were experienced soldiers and well fortified. McArthur and other leaders wanted the
...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I didn't not know it, but much like the Afghan and Iraq wars, there was in WWII a lot of National Guard units that were shipped off to a foreign war, much to the chagrin of the unit members. The NG unit sent to Papua New Guinea was mostly Michigan citizens. They were largely from the west side of the state: Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Muskegon, etc.

One that features in the book is Hubert Schulte. I wonder if he is a relation to me?

Any way, it is a fascinating tale of the brutal and overlooked chap
...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I didn't not know it, but much like the Afghan and Iraq wars, there was in WWII a lot of National Guard units that were shipped off to a foreign war, much to the chagrin of the unit members. The NG unit sent to Papua New Guinea was mostly Michigan citizens. They were largely from the west side of the state: Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Muskegon, etc.

One that features in the book is Hubert Schulte. I wonder if he is a relation to me?

Any way, it is a fascinating tale of the brutal and overlooked chap
...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I didn't not know it, but much like the Afghan and Iraq wars, there was in WWII a lot of National Guard units that were shipped off to a foreign war, much to the chagrin of the unit members. The NG unit sent to Papua New Guinea was mostly Michigan citizens. They were largely from the west side of the state: Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Muskegon, etc.

One that features in the book is Hubert Schulte. I wonder if he is a relation to me?

Any way, it is a fascinating tale of the brutal and overlooked chap
...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I didn't not know it, but much like the Afghan and Iraq wars, there was in WWII a lot of National Guard units that were shipped off to a foreign war, much to the chagrin of the unit members. The NG unit sent to Papua New Guinea was mostly Michigan citizens. They were largely from the west side of the state: Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Muskegon, etc.

One that features in the book is Hubert Schulte. I wonder if he is a relation to me?

Any way, it is a fascinating tale of the brutal and overlooked chap
...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, military
I didn't not know it, but much like the Afghan and Iraq wars, there was in WWII a lot of National Guard units that were shipped off to a foreign war, much to the chagrin of the unit members. The NG unit sent to Papua New Guinea was mostly Michigan citizens. They were largely from the west side of the state: Grand Rapids, Big Rapids, Muskegon, etc.

One that features in the book is Hubert Schulte. I wonder if he is a relation to me?

Any way, it is a fascinating tale of the brutal and overlooked chap
...more
Kaila Walker
I found this hard to get into and I got lost in some of the details. I did eventually find my way through it. I don't recommend this book to those who are just beginning to read about the wars. I will probably revisit it later after I lay some more foundation in my learning of this topic.
Pbwritr
Dec 23, 2009 Pbwritr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Gripping book. On the island of New Guinea during WWII, ill-trained, ill-clad, ill-fed, and ill-equipped men were sent to the southern part of the island to cross over the mountain ranges and through the unforgiving jungle to be able to attack the Japanese when they landed on the north. General Douglas MacArthur does not come off well in this book sipping mint juleps on the veranda of a government mansion he's procured, firing battle commanders who don't have enough casualties, and never getting ...more
Zarah
It...kinda disappointed me. I wanted it to pull me into the story, and while it sometimes did... I skimmed the last few chapters.
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Author, adventurer and producer James Campbell is a native of Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. He has written stories for Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Military History, Backpacker, Audubon, Field and Stream, and many other magazines and newspapers. His first book, The Final Frontiersman was chosen by Amazon in 2004 as the #1 Outdoor title of the Year and one ...more
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“Before setting off for Jaure, Medendorp radioed regimental headquarters. Using the code words that the regiment had established for the villages along the route, which the men had named after cities in Michigan, Medendorp informed Colonel Quinn that Keast would remain in Laruni. “Starting for Holland,” Medendorp said, referring to Jaure by its code name. “Keast has bad knee. He is staying at Coldwater (Laruni) with fifty men. Received supplies.” 0 likes
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