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The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea--The Forgotten War of the South Pacific

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  817 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Campbell brings to vivid life one of the more forgotten, grislier campaigns of World War II, the Buna Trail campaign in New Guinea. The Japanese were trying to get a foothold on the south coast of the island, opposite Australia. The American Thirty-second Infantry Division had the job of driving them back over the Owen Stanley Mountain. It succeeded, at the cost of more th ...more
Hardcover, 378 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Crown Publishing Group (first published September 30th 2007)
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Kathryn
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sweetwilliam
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first time I ever heard of the Red Arrow division was from my father when I was a small boy. A late uncle of mine was one of the reservists/National Guardsman called up to fight the Japanese in New Guinea. However, as my father explained, my uncle was unable to answer the call because he was bedridden with TB. My dad ended that story with "they [the 32nd Division] were wiped out somewhere in the Pacific." I had wondered what happened to them ever since.

This book is about ill-trained and unde
...more
Nadir
Mar 27, 2011 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 rated it it was ok
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
Maggie Shanley
Jun 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This non-fiction tale of the 32nd division during the Pacific campaign of World War II was informative but a tad dry. So many soldiers were discussed it was hard to keep track of them all and I hated MacArthur's callous disregard for life as portrayed in this book. I actually found some parts of the source notes more interesting than whole chapters of the text. I did learn more about the absolute importance of supply lies, communication and medical knowledge during war.
J.S.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Rob Kitchin
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jeff
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Chuck
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jonathan
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
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.
Albert
Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Kristen
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book brings the horror and sacrifice of these young men into bright focus, having traversed some of the same country for a short time as they did, without a 70 pound back on my back, it filled me with awe that these young men lived in these conditions without access to modern anti-malarial drugs, in constant danger and for months on end. That they were betrayed by General McArthur was unforgivable after the hell these men lived through.
Isaac
Sep 19, 2015 rated it liked it
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?
Sean
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I did not know the story of New Guinea and the 32nd division in WW II "red arrow" division. I was only a chapter into this book when I went to the WW II Weekend at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading. http://www.maam.org/maamwwii.html I was waiting in line to get in the show on Saturday morning, and we had to move our line to let a car park. A guy and his wife got out. He was wearing the Red Arrow and 32nd division insignia so he let me take his picture and chat 5 minutes. He was Sal Castro. ...more
Erik Parsons
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a book that gave great insight into one of the lesser known campaigns in the Pacific during the war. My grandfather was a member of the Red Arrow Division, which participated in the New Guinea campaign, but he never talked about the war. Reading this, it was clear as to why. This arm of the Pacific campaign was brutal. Great book!
Anthony Whitt
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good reading for World War Two history buffs. Covers a little known battle for New Guinea where the jungle was as fierce an opponent as the Japanese soldier. The author introduces the reader to the American soldier that was a friend and neighbor just down the street. He puts a face on the price our soldiers paid to protect the freedom we enjoy today.
Hud (Bob) Huddleston
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book. Added interest due to the Michigan connection
Megan Hamsher
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Coustier
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Karen
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Yamo
Jan 09, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Michael Delaware
When one reads WW II history in the Pacific theatre, names such as Guadalcanal, Bataan and the Philippines come most often up when referenced. However, one of the worst experiences in that engagement with the Japanese for both American and Australian troops was on the island of New Guinea.
With a combination of rugged terrain, hot jungles, cold mist covered mountains, malaria, starvation, dysentery, jungle rot, black water fever, and all manner of other diseases these troops endured a living hel
...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 01, 2011 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 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 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
Pbwritr
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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