National Geographic : 1945 Jan
Fiji Patrol on Bougainville With Flashlights, Officers Plan Patrols and Ambushes Against the Japs From this headquarters in an old thatched mission house at Ibu, the Fiji Battalion scouted Japanese positions around Numa Numa, only ten miles away. The Fijians found that enemy garrisons on Bougain ville, their supply ships sunk and planes destroyed, could be left to "die on the vine." jungle, using only his kris or his bare hands. He had several dozen Japs to his credit. When the major had completed briefing his officers for the next day's action, he came over and sat on the bunk. "Tell me about your Fijians," I said. "Is it true that no men in the Pacific make better jungle fighters?" "Correct!" he replied. "These men pos sess three remarkable assets. First, their un canny sense of perception. Out in the jungle, they see, hear, and even smell things beyond the powers of you or me. "Second, their tremendous good nature. Whether the day is sunny or rainy, they will convulse each other with stories and jokes, then sing the rest of the time. It isn't that they can't be serious. Wait until you have lain in ambush or made an attack with them. "Finally, their complete lack of fear of the enemy and their indifferent attitude toward death. No Fijian worries about being killed any more than he questions the sun's not rising. Thorough training, too, has molded their natural abilities into a hard-hitting ma chine, capable of stalking the enemy in any jungle of the Pacific." "What about your officers? They are not all Fijians?" I asked. "No," he replied. "Some are Fijians; the majority, though, are New Zealanders. For jungle sense, the Fijians beat us Kiwis every time! But enough of this-tomorrow we have a big job to do! Good night." Action filled each day of the following weeks. The battle party to Pipipaia effected a complete surprise. Led by a young New Zea lander, Lt. Bruce Dent,* the patrol stole out along the trail from Ibu. From the high ridged flanks of Mount Balbi, the Fiji riflemen could see the east coast of the island. Numa Numa Plantation, the Japanese headquarters on eastern Bougainville, lay just out of range for good sniping. Creeping silently down the jungle path, scouts sneaked into the Pipipaia clearing be fore sentries could give the alarm. Then the Japs rushed out, too late. Blasts of Fijian fire cut them down and tore through the thatched huts. Japs carpeted the ground * Lieutenant Dent, later killed in action against the Japanese, was posthumously awarded the British Military Cross for his outstanding leadership during the Ibu campaign.