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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

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  448 ratings  ·  66 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 1,023)
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Kathryn
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
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
Rob Kitchin
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.
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
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.
Al
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
Chuck
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
Don Weidinger
exhaustion and disease 2/3 effected, New Guinea, 400K training TX-LA, FDR order 9066 interned 120K Japanese Americans patriotism, betrayed by govt, Germans and Japanese pursued master race, mountain with no sun frozen ice, prayer was their only recourse, despair of Japanese and American forces, the Buddha stare, shorter skirts to save material and retread tires, avoid butcher-ville run-up like ww1, lose leg for what, not mop-up or run-up, first land victory, the hard way back 90% casualties 70% ...more
Tom Schulte
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Pbwritr
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
Albert
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
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.
Bryan
Should be required reading for every Wisconsonite and Michigander, especially those in the military, reserves and veterans. It will give you a whole new perspective on Macaurther, the role of the 32nd Brigade in WW2, and the horrible battlefield conditions they were expected to prevail in. At times I found this book absolutely heartbreaking while reading about the conditions and lack of support and upper echelon leadership these men dealt with. Most military historians that are familiar with thi ...more
Frances Fuller
After much searching I finally found a book about a joint effort of the Austrailias and Americans in the South Pacific during WWII. What a let down. This author was unable to develop any connection from the reader to the soldier. Instead of an in-depth story as Band of Brothers, he attempted to tell one liners about a hundred different soldiers. It is possible to write a book about armies and yet understand the individual soldiers motivations and experiences. This book was disjointed, shallow, a ...more
Barbara
I always find it hard to read about war, but this untold story pulled me in. It is especially fascinating from the point of view that many of the men of the 32nd Division were from West Michigan, where I grew up. The attrition in the Buna campaign was horrible and MacArthur, an ass. Worst of all, the campaign need not have been carried out as a trek across a jungle and mountains, fighting disease more than the Japanese. Even months later, battle conditions were 'improved' if there is such a thin ...more
David Bales
A very comprehensive history of the U.S./Australian effort to prevent the Japanese from taking over New Guinea and threatening Australia during 1942; the efforts of the U.S. Army in New Guinea is another "lost front" of World War II, having been overshadowed by the fighting on Guadalcanal and the Naval battle at Midway that was going on at the same time. General MacArthur sent ill-equipped and undertrained American troops over the Owens-Stanley Mountains of New Guinea to fight Japanese veterans ...more
Larry
Book about the Battle for New Guinea by my old friend Soupy. He does a great job covering the hardship and trek of the US Army across the island while fighting the Japanese. Jim starts with a focus on the many who come from the Muskegon area and brings these men to life by showing us their lives. He then follows the men to Papua New Guinea and brings the conditions they faced, the ineptitude of some of their superiors and the amazing strength and courage of the men and other superiors to the for ...more
Robert Melnyk
Interesting book about a little known battle in WWII (at least little known to me). I had heard of Iwo Jima, Midway, Guadalcanal, and the Philippines, but I had never heard of the battle of New Guinea. I guess that is why the book is sub-titled "The Forgotten War of the South Pacific :-). It is another amazing story of courage and survival in the war in the Pacific. Both American and Australian forces fought not only the Japanese, but the jungles of New Guinea in order to win this important batt ...more
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