After-Action Report

Emil Poiesz and Tony Napi
Emil and Toni Napi per the back of the photo.

The following is an after action report written by Emil at some point during the Papua New Guinea campaign.  The original handwritten version is available here:  Emil Poiesz After Action Report

In his own words, Emil describes one of undoubtedly countless engagements with Japanese soldiers during his long service in Papua New Guinea.  His direct, factual recounting of events is chilling, but it also inspires admiration, heightening the impact of his story, and that of every combat veteran.

The original transcription from the handwritten document was done by his sister, Mary Louise Poiesz.

MACHINE GUN EMPLACEMENT

At approximately 1700, Sunday, Cpl. White and I returned from mission, on which Lt. Fearman observed fire on M. G. Emplacement outside west of our perimeter. This was the same emplacement which had been causing wire crews trouble during the morning.  As we neared our perimeter, coming back Infantrymen told us to be careful going in as the japs were firing on our perimeter. This was only occasional firing, for I noticed none for some minutes after my return. Immediately on my return, I secured a couple of canteens and filled them with water from the creek which formed the eastern boundary of the main perimeter. There was no firing there just then, Sgt. T-IV’s Adamski, Wilson and myself then began our evening meal.  Firing broke out now and then, increasing in intensity, until we at last abandoned our meal.

The Jap artillery piece (or pieces, since it seemed to be more than one) and mortars began opening up at the same time (as nearly as I can place it———about 1800).  I saw T-V White, Pvt. Rich, and Pvt. Shadafore start for the East flank of the perimeter; most of the firing came from there then, but broke out on the front soon after. All infantrymen not on radios or C. P. work also were picking positions on the perimeter. Firing by this time was a roar of sound. I stayed at my radio but was given no traffic to clear. I had one real report from C. P. Sometime later, T—IV Wilson came to our radio shack and told us that Inf. Co. had given orders to be prepared to blow up our radios and that we were to secure grenades for this purpose. I got our ‘610 ‘ and placed it near our ‘284’ so that it would be easier to destroy, and then went over towards the C, P. intending to get grenades, but could not find any, so I went back and secured all the papers, magazines, books, brevity codes and S. O. I. from our radio station. I was confused or I would have thought at that time to take 209 c. d. also.

When I returned to the C. P, area, the order was given to destroy radios and an infantry radio operator gave myself and two other men grenades to toss in at their sets, I threw the papers into the hole and we tossed our grenades, scrambling on to the beach to escape their effects.  At this point I saw Sgt. Riefl. We only exchanged a few irrelevant words, but I got the impression somehow that he was looking for Capt. Canter. Men were screaming for ammo and medical attention.  I believe these were the first of “A” Co. to get back into the perimeter. There was a great deal of confusion, and I could find no grenades, so I crawled back to our radio hut and fired two shots into each of the radios, ‘ 610 ‘ and ‘284’, and then backed away again toward the C. P.  Lt. Fearman, naked, was at the C. P. now yelling things like “We’ve got `em boys, we’ve got ’em.” “Give me a phone.”  It didn’t look like we had anybody to me, but he did give everyone confidence and the communication Sgt. from the Inf. did find a phone which got ammo switchboard…this was the underwater line.  Lt. Fearman called for F. C. C. and got it very quickly. He explained in short sentences what he wanted in the way of fire and asked how much ammo was on hand. I explained to him that I was an artillery man and would handle the phone and he could go down to the beach and observe. This arrangement was carried out until the third round was fired. The line went dead before we got “on the way” for this round.

By this time a great number of men were on the beach retreating from all sides of the perimeter, but mostly from the left flank — the side where “A” Co, came in. The men were milling around in confusion.  I could hear officers yelling “Get back on that left flank” and other commands, but the men seemed too dazed to obey until a Sgt (someone told me his name, but I didn’t remember it) stood up on the crest of the beach and yelled “Are we  a bunch of cowards? — Let’s go get the yellow bastards” or words similar to those, and started to the perimeter. A great many of the men followed him up. It is only a surmise, but this line of men walking up from the beach seemed to have had a great deal to  do with the Japs eventually falling back. They must have looked to the Japs like a fresh company landed as reinforcements.

Pvt. Pearlstein came over then (he had been with Capt. Canter until that time, I believe) and suggested that we go to the other end of the perimeter and tap phone lines there as some of them may have only been cut by the intense fire. He strapped a phone around my waist and re started out to try, Lt. Fearman with us. Lt. Fearman stayed on the beach, as his naked body made too good a target in the bright moon, and Pearlstein and I crawled up towards the center of the village. Pearlstein made the first try, jumping up to catch a line (they were overhead through the village), but when he came down he had the wrong end of the line in his hand, and though we crawled around, we could not find the other end—it was combat wire and hard to locate. Somewhere during this I lost Pearlstein, I tried one more line on the center path of the village, but the line was dead. After looking, but not finding other wires, I backed off the beach just in time to see Lt. Fearman swimming out to sea. When I came back to the C. P. Pvt. Shadafore & T—IV White were just coming back to get more ammo, and a drink if possible. The firing had decreased by this time. I went back with them and we took up positions under a hut just behind and between two m. g.’s which were on the creek line towards the left front. The time then was about 2130. There was activity on the center right of the perimeter during the night, but all remained quiet near us. Wilson, Rich were also at this position.

In the morning I went back to the C, P. to see if there were any instructions. Capt, Canter was on a phone sending fire commands      He said he had no need for us, so I went back and we moved to another hut and ate some rations.  An infantry officer came over and told us to take up positions in and aside of the M. G. emplacements on the creek. There were the m. g. crews, a couple of medics and all of our artillery men except Capt. Canter and Sgt. Riefl at this position then. Sgt. Riefl came over (sometime after ten I think it was) and said that we were going to be evacuated. I went over to the ‘610’ set and removed the crystals, then asked Capt. Canter if we should try to get the rest of the equipment to the beach. He said to not take any more that would away the fact that we were pulling out.  Some infantry officers, with unnecessary roughness, I thought, ordered me back to the perimeter. I went and got in a hole with White and Rich. When the signal to leave came, the machine guns pulled out first and then the rest of us backed off to the beach.

The radios were undoubtedly destroyed too early, although  at the time the order was given things did look extremely bad.

Wires were a hopeless tangle—being tied in at one tree and becoming torn out and twisted in the confusion. If the lines had been more orderly and not concentrated, it is just possible that we might have had communications a short time longer.

Ammo supplies were not in readiness at the beginning of the engagement, and enough personnel was not left to distribute it.