Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with Herbert M. Smith

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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[Interview Begins]

ZEITLIN: Myself, Richard Zeitlin, and Craig Luther are here interviewing Colonel Herbert M. Smith in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Herb Smith, who was known as Red Smith during the Second World War, played an important role in the Wisconsin National Guard during the 1930's and during the Guard's initial campaigns of the Second World War in the Southwest Pacific. Both Craig Luther and I will interview Colonel Smith and I'm going to start off by discussing your early life and childhood.

I'd like you to tell us your full name, where you were born, and describe your education and what you did when you were a youngster; like what your parents did and what you did.

SMITH: Well, okay. I'm Herbert M. Smith. I was born here in Neillsville in 1903. 00:01:00When I was going to school in Neillsville all except for senior year I was in St. John's Military Academy. And after I was out of school I worked with a telephone company which was family owned. And then I attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison for a year and a half. And I wasn't too happy with it so I 00:02:00decided that I would learn the telephone business. And in 1928 I had a job with the Wisconsin telephone company with the transmission crew who worked on the toll lines to keep them up and in operating order. And we had our own toll lines here in Marshfield and all over this county and also in Jackson County. So the 00:03:00toll was where the money is. And I was in the telephone business so I was interested to get that experience. And then when I started with the telephone company I was out doing line work, digging holes, putting up poles, putting up wire. And then later I was in shooting trouble and that was very interesting because you were on your own out there, you didn't have nobody to ask what do I 00:04:00do next. And then I got ill and I worked in the office. I went in the office in 1935. My dad was interested in politics and he represented this area in the assembly and in the senate and also was Governor Kohler's executive secretary. That was the first corps, old Walter J. and _____ (??) Senior. So he left quite a lot that I should look after here while he was gone. And all of this, this 00:05:00time I was in the National Guard. I went in the service company, one that was federally recognized and as I recall it was May 20, 1920.

ZEITLIN: You joined the Wisconsin National Guard in February 1920.

SMITH: Yeah, and before that was organized there was a State Guard. That was Company I and I was in the too. They said, "You're old enough aren't ya?" I said, "Sure!" I was sixteen. So I got a head start there.

ZEITLIN: And the State Guard was the unit that was formed while the National 00:06:00Guard was off in World War I.

SMITH: Yeah, yeah. And so I went through -- I was heading back to the telephone business and I finished that up. I had an opportunity to get an REA loan and one dial and that was a lot of work I did considerable engineering and also the financial build up to get this REA loan. And we came out of that very nicely and 00:07:00at the same time we were putting up a hospital here and I was president of the hospital board for almost origin(??) for the next twenty years. That kept me busy too.

ZEITLIN: How old were you then? You must have been very young to be the president of a hospital board.

SMITH: That was 1958, no wait a minute, it was earlier than that. No, I was old enough.

ZEITLIN: This is after the war.

SMITH: No, no! No. Oh, yes, yes, yes. This was after the war. So I was old enough. After all, it doesn't make any difference how old you are. And then, oh 00:08:00back to the National Guard. I never was a corporal, and I was interested in the kitchen. I just enjoyed that. So they had to have a mess sergeant, well they said, 'Well Herby here, he's good around the kitchen, he can be mess sergeant!" So I was mess sergeant, one year. Then I was a staff sergeant. Then I was a first sergeant, then I was a master sergeant. This is all in the service company.

ZEITLIN: And this is all in the 1920's?

SMITH: Oh, no! No. This is on up, now we're -- but in 1926 I was commissioned 00:09:00second lieutenant and I was second lieutenant for eleven years, no, no, probably nine years. Didn't have any vacancies, but all of this time I would have -- I was handling rations and all the other stuff in the regiment and I had some wonderful experience. I knew everybody and everybody knew me! Now, this was very handy when you had to have a meal made. There's always somebody that owed you something.

LUTHER: [laughs] Very good point.

SMITH: It was all just a lot of enjoyment. I really enjoyed it.


ZEITLIN: What kind of people were attracted to the National Guard at that time? In the 1920's and 30's, who provided the man power? I mean were they -- describe their backgrounds, their education levels, that kind of stuff.

SMITH: Well, I'll tell you who, it was these young kids coming out of high school. They didn't always have a job but they would pick up odd jobs and they were good kids, they were good kids. They get into trouble once in a while but nothing serious. And the officers were all, almost all, working or else owned 00:11:00small businesses. They were energetic and they were smart. I mean they understood what life was. They didn't have any high, pardon me, college education. They were from the soil. And I think that that's what gave the 1-2 aid. It's good foundation.

LUTHER?: Did most of the officers rise through the enlisted ranks? They were 00:12:00like sergeants and then they got a direct commission like you did to second lieutenant or did most of them---

SMITH: I would say so, yes, I would say so. Because Zapden Odenhower(??) and I we were sergeants at the same time.

LUTHER: Now did you have to go to any kind of a special school to accept that commission as a second lieutenant or the next day you were just a second lieutenant period.

SMITH: No, in those days they had these courses. There's a ten and, a twenty, and a thirty, and a forty and fifty series. To be the second lieutenant you had to have a ten series. Now that came later. I didn't --

LUTHER: You didn't have to do that?

SMITH: No, but that came later but this series carried you right on out. I took 00:13:00'em all. They were correspondence courses and they were interesting and [clock chimes] they were very instructive.

ZEITLIN: What did they have? What kind of material did they cover?

SMITH: The series?


SMITH: Well, they uh, your earlier ones were just your, well Army orientation. And then as you went up they got into combat and problems like that that they kept getting larger units. You start out with a company then the battalion and 00:14:00then on up. And it was really interesting, so.

ZEITLIN: Did you ever have to get together with an instructor to go over this or was it strictly correspondence?

SMITH: It was all corresp -- no wait a minute! Every once in a while these regular Army instructors would come around like a preacher on the circuit and if you had any questions or if you thought that he could help you -- and they were all the levels, right up in the, right up in the -- they would do anything for you, in order to help you.

ZEITLIN: What kind of activities, most of your activities centered on the armory, the local armory. When you had meetings and so forth they were held at 00:15:00the local armory I assume. Could you describe some of that? How often would you meet?

LUTHER: Typical drill.

ZEITLIN: Typical drill.

SMITH: Well, we were in a service company you see so they had these men that operated the stable. Well they had their harnesses and all of that that they'd have to keep up in shape. And then you'd have the order drill, have rifle marksmen ship, that's about all the -- then you'd have lectures of course on 00:16:00your different operations.

LUTHER: Did you have any kind of a physical training test?

SMITH: No, no. You were supposed to work hard enough outside of the armory to--

LUTHER: Stay in shape.

SMITH: Keep up our physical.

ZEITLIN: Was the guard mostly horse drawn? I mean did they have trucks or --?

SMITH: In the early days it was all horse drawn. They had a -- our supply office had one and half ton truck -- no wait a minute three quarters.

ZEITLIN: One truck?


SMITH: Yeah.

ZEITLIN: And everything else was horses?

SMITH: Yeah, the old escort wagons, those rolling kitchens, oh sure, we had those.

ZEITLIN: And didn't the Wisconsin National Guard have quite a bit of cavalry, the number of cavalry units at the time?

SMITH: There was a cavalry unit and it also had the artillery, had a medical regiment. Oh, yeah. They had everything here.

ZEITLIN: Did the Wisconsin National Guard ever come together and join together like at Camp Williams and have drills? Periodic drills and maneuvers?

SMITH: Oh yes, every summer! There was a two week exam and it was Camp Douglass 00:18:00then. And I'd go down there and have the exercises and the author on the reservation. Regular CPX's and those often involved the brigade and the artillery was often in it too and the medics. The engineers were over admission they didn't have any engineers in Wisconsin.

ZEITLIN: What about the cav, did they use the cav in the summer camp too?

SMITH: If the artillery was in there at the same time as the cavalry because 00:19:00you'd have to have all the horses you know now.

ZEITLIN: Were there?

SMITH: I don't know. I was pretty busy with 1-2-8.

ZEITLIN: You were by this time still in the service company of the 1-2-8?

SMITH: Yeah. I was in there all the time until I was transferred to the 1-2-6 down at Camp Livingston. Just a short time before we moved up to Fort Evans.

ZEITLIN: Now back in the Wisconsin, back in the Guard in the 1930's how big-how 00:20:00many people were in the Wisconsin Guard. Do you remember that off hand, or even just in the ball park? Were the units up to full strength?

SMITH: No, no. Well, they evidently had problems then like now with their finances and there uh -- so, these line companies had about sixty men in as I recall.

ZEITLIN: And what's a full strength company? A hundred? A hundred and fifty?

SMITH: No, they said around two hundred men.

LUTHER: Yeah, with the World War II division.

SMITH: Oh yeah.

ZEITLIN: Was the Wisconsin National Guard in the 1930's still operating under 00:21:00the command structure of the square division of World War I? Did they still have four regiments?

SMITH: What we were called at the service we were--there was 1-2-5, 1-2-6, 1-2-7, 1-2-8.

ZEITLIN: And the 1-2-5 was it spun off later on or?

SMITH: Yeah, they were set over in Southern California and did guard duty during the whole war.

ZEITLIN: Yeah, lucky them, huh?

SMITH: Yeah.

ZEITLIN: So okay, we have companies that are supposed to be two hundred men that are really sixty men. So we're talking about units that are at least four times under their appropriate size for what they're supposed to do, for their mission.


SMITH: Yeah.

ZEITLIN: What was envisioned during the 1930's, in the early part of the 1930's and right on through the decade, what were the guards duties? What would the training involved, what was the mission?

SMITH: Well, as I see it, and I was always told, was that our job was to train these kids so they would know what it was all about. And they were called upon to do any job at a higher level that they could walk into it. In other words, if 00:23:00I had a job and I was knocked out that they shouldn't miss me. There was someone right there that would know, at least have an idea, of what to do.

ZEITLIN: Would you say that the Guard was training to be involved in future--as a national defense component? Or was it pretty much a component of maintaining domestic tranquility? In other words, were the Guard's duty's and responsibilities geared towards another war in Europe, for example? For during the old war--the First World War--were they training under World War I view points? Or were they training to help in the case of a natural disaster or labor unrest?

SMITH: They were trained for both of those but primarily I would say combat over 00:24:00in Europe. Not in any jungle in New Guinea.

ZEITLIN: In the training of the guard for combat operations during the 1930's, how did they practice that? Can you tell us the ---

SMITH: It was open warfare, it wasn't any trench warfare, it was keep moving, keep moving.

ZEITLIN: Is this what they called fire and maneuver, or closed order, I mean was it advancing by lines and columns? Or rushing in small units?

SMITH: Oh no, it was using small units. There wasn't any charge brigade, no that 00:25:00wasn't in it.

LUTHER: So there would be more stress on like a light infantry platoon, basically.

SMITH: Here's your objective, you hold 'em here and then he'll run.

LUTHER: What was the organization then of a typical squad in a light infantry platoon?

SMITH: Well they had a couple of BAR's.

LUTHER: Two BAR's in one squad? Or in the platoon?

SMITH: No, in each platoon as I recall. I was in the service I mean I'm not too conversive with the line company. And then they had the machine gun companies in 00:26:00each battalion, so they had fire power. But it was used very flexible. There wasn't any this, this, this, it was, you know.

ZEITLIN: So it was quite modern in some ways then.

SMITH: Well, sure, sure. We weren't dummies.

ZEITLIN: How was the cavalry supposed to be employed?

SMITH: Well, I tell you, Colonel John C.P. Handy never told me. [laughter all around] But I would imagine that they was maybe on a skirmish, maybe on reconnaissance. I would imagine maybe riot duty. We had a little of that -- we 00:27:00were sent over to Kohler, one of the strikes.

ZEITLIN: One of which strikes?

SMITH: Over at Kohler.

ZEITLIN: Oh Kohler.

SMITH: That must have been in the early 30's.

ZEITLIN: Can you tell us a little bit about that? Can you describe that as best you can?

SMITH: When the troops came in there the townspeople all clapped their hands and also these crackers (??) all did the same thing! We were in there, we didn't 00:28:00have any trouble. I was sent over to help handling rations for the troops.

LUTHER: In the 20's and 30's in the National Guard--right now, all National Guard personnel have to go through active duty training, a basic training, then they go on guard duty. Was there any kind of a basic training for enlistees in the National Guard that might have been administered by the state? Or did they just, now you're in the Guard and you go off and learn as you go?

SMITH: No, you're in the Guard. Once in a while they would send officers to school. I know I went to Fort Benning in 1939. [End of tape 1, Side A]


LUTHER: But no enlisted people I mean, just any. When you went to school it was more of an advanced course it's not because you just entered the service so. You just learned by being in the Guard and hands on type of thing.

SMITH: That was the officer's job to teach the company what the duties were. There weren't any downtown schools that I remember that.

ZEITLIN: Then along comes by the end of 30's, by the end of 1930's, the United States, clearly in Europe there were lots of ominous signs as to war clouds. How did the people in the guard, yourself included, particularly yourself, how did 00:30:00you view events in Europe in the late 1930's. Did you think that gee this might be getting serious? How was that viewed?

SMITH: Well, when we were called in the service on October 15, 1940, we were to be there one year. Well nobody, nobody, figured we'd be coming home next October.

ZEITLIN: How about before that. How about before October of 1940, what's the deal then?

SMITH: There was a certain undertow of a very serious consideration. Some of the 00:31:00older people got out and some of the younger ones did too.

ZEITLIN: How did you feel?

SMITH: Oh, hell, I was a nut. Anything new is okay, I was--

ZEITLIN: How did you look upon the thought of being activated, actually having to be, you know? Late 1930's, Hitler's on the move in Europe, the Japanese are on the move in Asia, the Guard, I assume that the Guard begins to pick up in the pace of its activities.

SMITH: I guess it gets more serious and you come to realize that it isn't all the sudden depicted. There was little things here and there that indicated that 00:32:00you better keep in mind that it isn't always a holiday. That you aren't going to camp just to have a good time. No, it got serious. I'll tell you the 1-2-8 was very, very fortunate. They had some very good commanding officers. To start with there was Paul B. Clemens, who had had experience in the First World War. He was 00:33:00followed by Colonel Albert Nathness who also had experience, and then Colonel William A. Holden, who I thought was absolute tops. He was a good teacher. He wouldn't give you hell for anything but he'd say, "Maybe next time you ought to try it this way maybe," that kind of a guy. And then there was an executive 00:34:00officer, Colonel Scott A. Kerry, who was the same way. Now Kerry was too old to be in the Second World War but he left his mark in the regiment, and also Colonel Holden did too. Those two you couldn't, it was a hard pair to draw to.

ZEITLIN: I understand that. The fall of France is usually given, when France is attacked by the Germans in May of 1940, is usually given as a time when the United States at least in the upper political circles came to realize that war was imminent. What followed in the spring of 1940 and the fall of 1940, can you describe the mobilization the call-up? How did you feel about the fall of 00:35:00France, was that something that men talked about? I mean that was a major event.

SMITH: Well I, the only talk that was really heard, there wasn't anybody heard about it because they had already gotten out. If they hear it, they were in the Army now. There wasn't any push or pull they were just in the Army now.

ZEITLIN: How were you notified of the call-up?

SMITH: It was published in the papers and all over that on October 15, a 00:36:00hundred, or the Wisconsin National Guard was going to be mobilized. It just came from--everybody knew it. The service company here had twenty-two men over their authorized strength. And those men went to Company I down in Stoughton. They got some good men down there.

LUTHER: You mean they became Norwegian. [laughs]

SMITH: Yeah, I told Captain Olson--

LUTHER: Ralph Olson?


SMITH: Did you ever know Captain Olson?

LUTHER: I've heard the name but I never got to meet him.

SMITH: Well, I said now if any of those kids ever come to me and tell me that they were mistreated, you better start running.

ZEITLIN: What was your rank at this time, 1940?

SMITH: I was a major.

ZEITLIN: And so the call-up comes--

SMITH: I was S4.

ZEITLIN: The call-up comes, the Guard is mobilized, I assume that they begin to now recruit more members. They want to fill out the companies, don't they?

SMITH: Well, uh, we didn't have any trouble sending our men here and service 00:38:00company was well ordered because we were--

LUTHER: Over strength.

ZEITLIN: Yeah, over strength.

SMITH: Yeah we were over-strength.

ZEITLIN: But the Guard in general.

SMITH: These other companies were pretty much the same way. We didn't get any of draftees until we got a little after we got over camp limits to McArthur. Camp Beauregard wasn't much of a camp it was a Louisiana National Guard and it wasn't ever made to hold a whole a generation.

ZEITLIN: The call-up was in October, when did you get sent to Louisiana?


SMITH: Within a week.

ZEITLIN: Within a week. So the whole Wisconsin National Guard was mobilized, made ready to go, and moved to Louisiana in one week?

SMITH: We were in the armory up here for a couple days, then we went to Camp Douglas for a couple days, and then they were put on a train. I was sent down early because I was S4 and I had to get stuff ready.

LUTHER: So when the Guard went down there there were no Guard units left in the State. I mean the whole Guard, the whole division was activated so the Guard really no longer existed because they were federalized. No units were left behind at all.

SMITH: Not that I know of. But then they organized a--


ZEITLIN: State Guard.

LUTHER: State Guard afterwards, right.

SMITH: That's what Colonel Kerry did. Colonel Kerry organized the State Guard.

ZEITLIN: How long were you in Camp Beauregard?

SMITH: Well, we got in there in October, almost years I recall. They were putting up a new camp right to the edge they called Camp Livingston and after that was made ready then we all moved over there.

ZEITLIN: And Camp Livingston, what they did when you were in Louisiana was train. I assume this was full sized division training.

SMITH: Yeah but it was mostly battalion training. Battalion would train as a unit.


ZEITLIN: Three battalions in a regiment? How many battalions in a regiment, three isn't it?

SMITH: Yeah. Shortly before, I can't tell you what date it was, but it was the hundred twenty-eight infantry was ordered to leave Camp Livingston that day; to 00:42:00turn in all camp property, all this and that. And I had just given command of the third battalion. Well, I knew that this new S4 couldn't handle all this turn in, so I went to Colonel Holden and I asked him if it was okay if I left a 00:43:00measure of gram (??) go to Madison. He was the executive officer and he would handle that and I would catch the last train out. So we turn in all that property and I didn't get anything ready because I knew that. I went out of my tent and it was the county priest right next to me. And I said well, "Aren't you 00:44:00going to pack?" He says, "No, that's what you do." Evidently he thought that it was just another joke, but we were to go to the Philippines. They were pulling out the 1-2-8 to go to the Philippines and at the last minute it was called off because everything caved in over there, so we were lucky that we didn't go over there.

ZEITLIN: So Pearl Harbor has occurred. Everybody knows the war is on, and people 00:45:00are now being moved from Camp Livingston where you have cracked (??). At Camp Livingston was the training more realistic training or was it?

SMITH: It was the battalion exercises, you know, little problems, and at the same time, they had regimental problems too. Those were CPX's mostly though and I was even asked to put one together so I did. I put the whole problem together 00:46:00and also supervised out in the field. It was the 1-2-5 who actually did it.

LUTHER: The way I understand it at Camp Livingston the living conditions and the location was a lot better than Camp Beauregard. Is that the way you remember it?

SMITH: Oh yeah, yeah.

LUTHER: You had like cement floors and stuff instead of just sleeping on the dirt and bunks and stuff.

SMITH: Well, Camp Livingston had these pyramidal tents. They had wooden floors, but over in Camp Livingston they had sidewalks made out of crushed rock and also 00:47:00oyster shells. And they had gas heat in the tents and it was ____(??).

LUTHER: Just made what you were doing a little bit easier.

ZEITLIN: So after that the division goes to Massachusetts. They call to the Philippines, cancel the Philippines, move you to Massachusetts, and the expectation is I assume to go to Europe.

SMITH: Yeah, that was it. That's as I understand it.

ZEITLIN: Then you get the call, then the division gets the call and that rather than go to Europe you're going to be moved to San Francisco and then from San 00:48:00Francisco off to Australia. Now in the mean time, nobody had any real training, or was there any real appreciation of what was going to be encountered in the Pacific War?

SMITH: Well, there was a Louisiana maneuvers, those must have been in '41, yeah they had to be, early '41. Now there they had a chance to be in the Jungle almost, in those swamps in Louisiana. But nobody figured we need any training in any swamps. And then we were over in the Carolina maneuvers which was all open 00:49:00country. We had training there; that was a movement. They took the hundred twenty-eight and they made war strength battalion 126 and it was all but mechanized. They had our kitchens on a six by six. They took down the roll and I 00:50:00was the S4.

ZEITLIN: That must've been fun.

SMITH: I'll tell you that was a real experience. It wasn't how many miles on a gallon it was how many gallons to the mile. But everything worked out nicely. We had our food on time, our gasoline on time, everything was just, I thought very nice.


ZEITLIN: So people expected there to be considerable amount of mechanization as part of the next major operation in war.

SMITH: Everything was mechanized.

ZEITLIN: So the division goes to then Australia and are its mechanized units still attached? Is the mechanization transferred to Australia with you?

SMITH: Not all of it. We didn't, the artillery had trucks but the infantry didn't have any more than just a handful of trucks. And uh, over there, now the 126 was in Camp Sandy Creek which was out in the Boonies. And we had ample 00:52:00opportunity to do field exercises because all of that land around there was evidently government owned because we could go almost any place we wanted to.

ZEITLIN: Now at this point you've been appointed to command of the hundred and twenty-six?

SMITH: No, no. I was the executive officer of the second battalion. But you get out around and you find areas that you train in and take care of problems.


ZEITLIN: Did you take advantage of that? Did they do a lot of the training in Australia then?

SMITH: Oh yeah, everyday. Well we were off on Sundays.

ZEITLIN: How long was the division in Australia before being sent to New Guinea?

SMITH: We got into Australia in May and we went to New Guinea, I think it was August, I'm not sure. Do you know this question?

ZEITLIN: I think it was maybe early September. My understanding is that the 00:54:00Australians expected the Japanese to attack Australia and you guys were working to sort of protect Australia.

SMITH: That's right. That was the early, early plan. And then McArthur decided that would never work, that that was foolish. It was! So he started moving north.

ZEITLIN: Did it happen suddenly? Did one day you get up and they say, "Okay boys, get on the ship we're going to New Guinea,"?

SMITH: No, no. We were in a camp at the Adelaide area which is way down the south coast of Australia, and we were moved to Camp Cable which is up in the 00:55:00Brisbane area, out a ways. And we were there, oh, maybe a month, maybe six weeks. I don't remember. And it was known that we were going to get out of there, going to go to New Guinea.

ZEITLIN: And the expectation was that New Guinea was going to be easy? Was there any knowledge as to how many Japanese were there? Was there any knowledge of any 00:56:00of the Japanese techniques or the jungle or of what might be encountered in New Guinea?

SMITH: Oh sure, they know Japs were in there but from any kind of reconnaissance, either by air or by talking to these natives, they didn't think there were many troops in there. And that was one of the unfortunate things that happened; that they underestimated that and they didn't have any troops there to handle it.

ZEITLIN: Do you think McArthur was trying to achieve a victory? In the books it 00:57:00talked about how he was trying to move against the Japanese quickly, maybe a little too quickly.

SMITH: Well that's, how it seemed it worked out that way. They told us that there were a handful of Japs in Buna, that you should walk right in there. Well now, when the troops hear that and then they come there and there's a wall of fire, they just wonder who the hell's running the show. You can't hold anything 00:58:00against these kids. I know that early in the war they didn't think much of the old Red Arrow Division, that they had really fallen down on their job, but uh [end of Tape 1, Side B] they had been badly misled and of course these kids that came over those mountains, there were six weeks that they didn't see anything that they had ever seen before. There were six weeks of just filled with 00:59:00everything different.

ZEITLIN: You're talking about the climb over the Owen Stanley Mountains now.

SMITH: Yeah.

ZEITLIN: Was the Thirty-second Division well equipped? Were the men well equipped? Did they have adequate provisions of food and supplies and ammunition?

SMITH: Well, they had everything, all of the equipment that they were authorized. And the idea was that the Air Force would drop rations to us, but 01:00:00you get up there in the woods, in the jungle, and the only open spots were these little villages. And those were up on top of a hill usually, just open spots, often not as large as out there in that lawn back there, an all around jungle. The aviators couldn't find us, we put panels out and then in the early days they 01:01:00come zooming in and they start sticking rations out when they saw the panels and just keep shoving em'(??). Those were lost because all of them didn't land in that little village area. So we traded safety matches and salt to get food, they needed gardens. The day's wages up there in the mountains was one tablespoon of 01:02:00salt. That was a day's wage. And they had never seen any safety matches. So we traded salt tablets and matches and anything. We had some engineers with us and they dynamited fish in the rivers and we got along but we did send in telegrams and we asked these pilots to, when they found these panels to go and figure 01:03:00eight, and then drop on the panels. Then we got more food.

LUTHER: From a logistical standpoint, before you left Australia, was the unit fully equipped with all of its mission essential things like weapons and gear and stuff like that? I mean it was not a mature theater yet it was still very early in the war. Did you take everything with you that you needed to fight when you left States and moved from Australia or were you still short many things?

SMITH: We were told that until this was over with in Europe that we weren't 01:04:00gonna get much, and we didn't. They improvised weapons using coal and stove pipe for weapons and that stuff.

ZEITLIN: Did they still use M1's, did they have M1's or were they still using the O3 Springfields?

SMITH: They were mostly M1's.

LUTHER: So basically if you didn't have the equipment when you left the States you didn't get it in Australia, or at least not for awhile.

SMITH: No, it wasn't that bad. We got some 37 millimeter field guns in Australia. But we didn't get any new weapons, we used what we had had. The only 01:05:00new thing that I can remember that we got were Tommy guns and those 37 millimeter canon, if you can call 'em canon.

ZEITLIN: Not long after the Battle of Buna was joined and the Thirty-second Division had run into, encountered much more resistance then what they had thought, McArthur began to relieve officers of command. Can you mention a few things, I know that you were present when people were relieved and I know that the general that was commanding the 32nd Division, General Harding, was relieved. Didn't you tell me once that he was in your presence when that occurred?


SMITH: Yes, sir, I did. There's a long story there and if you want it I give it to you.

ZEITLIN: Yes, sir.

SMITH: Understand I'm not carrying any grudge. The second Battalion 126 was under Aussie control over around Popondetta and uh, well it's over in that area. And Harding asked for more help at Buna, so my object was ordered over to join 01:07:00the 32nd. And we went where the 2nd Battalion went to Acquas (??). So there were two 2nd Battalions, each commanded by Herbert Smith, and I'm a junior, but I sent a message to Division that they're gonna have trouble identifying it. So we 01:08:00get an answer that I was Red Smith, the other Herbert, he was White Smith. Then there was an attack made by the 1-2-8 the second Battalion that didn't work out and men pulled out. And the other Herb Smith, I don't know what the hell he was 01:09:00ever thinking about, but he reported that to Division. So Harding sent Colonel Mott out to take over the urban force which was these two second battalions. And Colonel Mott went to the other Herb and asked him, did he have a plan to attack Buna, and he told him no. So he came and asked me and I said yes. And then he 01:10:00said, "You have a plan and you will use it!" I said, "Yes, sir." So they attacked or they ordered this to be the night attacked, and all my crew crowd (??) on the edge. I told him I couldn't do it. I had a day to get them in there and get organized. Okay. So we attacked the next night and we overran again and we got everything out of there. We got their maps, their code books, and food, 01:11:00and whisky, and cigarettes and anything you wanted. And Colonel Mott called Harding, yeah, there was a telephone line, and told him that we had had a counter attack. Well I didn't know this had happened and so the next day ammunition started coming in and we had a pile of ammunition that would probably fill this room, but we didn't have any food. And so that was that until in a 01:12:00couple days, Eichelberger came up with General Harding also General Molner (??) was there and this issue of a counter attack came up, and Eichelberger said, "Herb, was there a counter attack?!" I said, "No, sir." Well then the argument 01:13:00started. Colonel Mott insisted that he was right, Harding went along with me and then Harding and Eichelberger argued and Eichelberger and Mott argued and I came out of it, as I should of, right? But I had to stand (??) as officer so Harding got relieved and also Mott got relieved and from then, Eichelberger and I were very good friends, very good friends.


ZEITLIN: Did Eichelberger ever mention to you his instructions from General Megabauer's (??) instructions from General MacArthur.

SMITH: Yeah. He said that McArthur had ordered, I told you, you take Buna, or don't come back alive. Now that's pretty tough, pretty tough going. Now when Eichelberger came up there he was very disappointed with what he saw. The troops weren't -- they were unshaven, in rags and tatters. They didn't have an awful 01:15:00lot of get-up-and-go, but they all had fevers, or that is almost all of them, and under fit. And Eichelberger asked me, "When did you eat last?" I said, "I ate this morning." Then he asked what I had eaten. I said, "Captured Jap-fish and oil and hartag (??) and it was good." He said, "Why did you do that?" He 01:16:00said, "They could have poisoned you!" "At least you're dying of poison rather than starvation." He said, "Well, I guess you're right." But after that, then we started getting food in there.

ZEITLIN: The advance against Buna was two forces. One on the east was called the Warren Force. The one of the west was called the Urban Force. And you were in the Urban Force. And it was the Warren Force was supposed to break the Japanese line east of the Buna Mission and you were supposed to advance against an area called the Triangle.

SMITH: No, that triangle, that was what the other Herb was trying to take.


ZEITLIN: Oh, so it was Warren Force trying to take the triangle, or was that still an Urban Forces Area.

SMITH: Our mission was to get Buna. And why would a major command the attacking first when there was an eighth or tenth Colonel there, now that I've often wondered about. Just because he didn't have plan. I'll show you something.

ZEITLIN: What was your plan? Tell me your plan. I'm interested in the --

SMITH: Take Buna!

ZEITLIN: How did you figure on doing it?

SMITH: Well, we didn't have any opportunity for any reconnaissance, that you can 01:18:00understand. But there was a trail leading up there. So I sent a column of companies. One company up along this trail, then another company, hoping that we could keep this third company in reserve. When they got up there and stared to fan out there was too much of infracture. We ended up with a whole command all 01:19:00engaged which is very poor technique (??) it's an absolute no, no! You should keep out your reserve, but we couldn't. Because we had it, that was the big long front, you couldn't identify any points. These Japs got in there in June and they built these placements, tore them up in the jungle with blinds and 01:20:00everything. It wouldn't take them too long to be right there in the landscape. They could just look through a little hole and cover anything. But after two days we got a platoon of Company F for our reserve. And Eichelberger came along and took that in hopes of making one more jab and I said that isn't going to 01:21:00work, you're just going to waste these men. And he said to go, to attack. They didn't get very far, they were stopped. Then Eichelberger really changed, he really changed then. He was very understanding, very anxious to do anything he could. You were the small guy out, I know they called him "Eichel-butcher" but I don't think that he actually--

ZEITLIN: How did they eventually move in closer to the Japanese positions? How was that accomplished in your area, in the Urban Forces Area? How did you break the Japanese hold? Can you describe your exit?


SMITH: Yeah. Company H which is the every weapon company, had a sergeant by the name of Herman Bottcher who had fought in the Spanish Revolution over there. So he had had combat experience and he had this machine gun so located that he 01:23:00could cover a pretty good area out to the ocean which wasn't probably over a hundred yards. And they got a hole through there, out to the ocean. We had separated our Buna mission from Buna village and I was up there, I was out on the sandy beach, and they opened up on us and there were fox holes out there and 01:24:00there was a big tree right behind the fox hole I was in and there was war landed up in this tree and it showered down and it killed a couple of men and also wounded four or five of us and I was one of the wounded. That was the end of the combat there.

ZEITLIN: How did they evacuate it?

SMITH: That was also on the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.


ZEITLIN: You were wounded on December 7, 1942.

SMITH: Well I went back in the station's portable hospital and they had to come out of the mountains with us. It wasn't any hospital. And I was there over night and the next day they started carrying some of us down to the Dobodura. I don't 01:26:00know how many miles it was. Maybe five or six, maybe more, I don't know. But there was some Aussies and a jeep. Aussie artillery came up there with a jeep and they had a Navy crash basket and that had to be on the jeep and these Aussies, even on a highway they would make it rough. They went from island to island, through swamps, and just you know, they shake the hell out of you. So I 01:27:00head back to Dobodura, and I'm put on a plane and get over to Moresby.

LUTHER: That was the campaign for you.

SMITH: That was it. Then I was in the hospital, oh, until April 19, and I was put on limited service and I was ordered down to Melbourne, the base section down there, which was a large one. And I was made the executive officer down there and also the port in Springter (??). That was a nice job. [End of Tape 2, Side A] It was seven days a week, but it was a nice job. You could sit all over 01:28:00the base (??). They had enough stuff down there in these warehouses to carry the Army two years; tires, oil, food, shoes and clothing, and I'd image coordinates, there was a ordinance outfit in there, in Melbourne.

ZEITLIN: Thinking back on that experience, the whole experience of being in the Guard in the late 30's, the Buna Campaign was the first offensive operation of the United States Army in World War II. What is your most vivid memory of that and how do you see that whole thing now from the vantage point of forty-five or 01:29:00forty-seven years later? How do you, uh?

SMITH: Well you have many different emotions, but the outstanding thing is the desperate need for decor. When we were under Aussie control and ordered to rejoin the 32nd, we had kids without shoes. And we told them now you stay here and they'll get shoes for you. No sir, we're not going to do that. So those kids 01:30:00were flied into Buna in their bare feet. Now, you see? And that's the only reason that they ever won over there, was that those kids had that desperate decor. We talk about getting medals and all this and that. Of course that's nice, but getting down to the really nitty gritty, it was the spirit of those 01:31:00kids! And also acting on their own initiative, after they were in combat, what they had taught at Camp Douglas and all the way up. It was get in there and hang in there. Now that's how they won the war, I think.

ZEITLIN: Well thanks a lot.

[Interview Ends]