Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Dad And The Banzai Charge, Fuelled By Aussie Lager - Veterans' Day, 2015

New Guinea, 1944. Not Ikea.

If I can say one thing about life here in our little house where The Workbench is located, nearly forty years in the gaming hobby does mean that one does have a lot of very odd objects, relics, items, and just plain stuff sitting around. A case in point are these two lamps, which my dad picked up in 1944 from some nice Japanese soldiers who'd left them lying around. He kept them for years, in their raw state, and finally added the lampshades and electrical hardware when he had the time.

My dad didn't talk much about his time in the Fifth Air Force; to here him tell his young sons about the Second World War, it was all island paradises, buxom nurses, and unlimited quantities of Aussie lager, flown in from The Land Down Under by helpful supply officers. I once asked him how he, as an aircraft mechanic, had gotten both a Purple Heart and aircrew / flight wings. He said, in the tone of voice used by doting parents to beloved but not-very-bright offspring, "I got it after I cut myself shaving." (Ah, right, Dad.)

I found out, after he passed away, what he'd really been up to - the snapshot of him standing next to a Soviet BT-7 tank was my first clue that something was not being mentioned in passing - and nearly fainted. He was doing stuff in C-46 and C-47 transport airplanes that I wouldn't have even considered doing in a tank. My word!

So anyway, he's in New Guinea in 1944, minding his own business and waiting for chow call. He and his colleagues are indeed having some good cold Aussie lager, when the local Japanese garrison - who are still in business, over on the other side of the airfield where my dad was fixing up broken airplanes - start dropping 81mm mortar rounds all over the place. Normally, this was not a matter for much concern, he told me, because "those other folks" never seemed to be able to figure out what all the little knobs on the mortar did and never really managed to hit anything important.

What annoyed my dad and his buddies was that they did this every evening, right at chow call, and it really made for an unsettled digestion. After all, one of these days, one of these kids from Yokohama or Osaka might get lucky and drop a round into the corned beef brisket. After what my dad described as a considerable amount of lager, they thought that Something Must Be Done about this annoying mortar crew, and so they collected all of their vast armory of weapons - one .45 pistol, one .30 carbine, and a lot of wrenches, hammers, pry bars, and other tools capable of inflicting blunt force trauma. (The firearms, by the way, were for the snakes, with which New Guinea is plentifully supplied.)

My dad and his buddies surged down the runway, brandishing their arsenal of improvised weapons, much to the bemusement and alarm of the regular infantry and Marines who normally dealt with hostile people; Dad thought that they may have been screaming "BANZAI!", just to be rude, but his recollections of the actual moments of their headlong charge are, in his words, "a little hazy". The Imperial Japanese Army never knew what hit it; after a confused melee, the mortar crews left the Americans in possession of the field, and my dad in possession of several rifles, a sword, a flag, and two perfectly good - and live - 81mm mortal rounds.

He got the fuses pulled, making the rounds more or less safe, and removed the high explosive innards with a hammer and chisel while sitting on his bunk in his tent. He was cordially invited to do that elsewhere by his sergeant, after that worthy had been revived; he'd walked in to see my dad happily chipping away, and promptly fainted. (Can you blame him?) The net result, you can see above; two lamps that sit on the chest of drawers in the game lounge.

Thinking of you and your buddies today, Dad...


  1. Hate to say this, but those look a hell of a lot larger than 81mm rounds.

    1. They're 81's; I measured them. They are for a Type 97 or Type 99 mortar, which my dad said was too big to fit in his kit bag.

  2. What a great story, and (perhaps) a parable worthy of the 20th century (beating mortar shells into table lamps...).

    Happy Veterans' Day.
    : )

  3. God bless your father and all his buddies who defined courage by going to where the bullets were coming from.

  4. That's what violence of action will get you. Good on him.

  5. My father was a boy during WW2, but he collected a lot of memorabilia and passed much of it down to me.

  6. My father was a boy during WW2, but he collected a lot of memorabilia and passed much of it down to me.