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Journey's End: New Caledonia

 

On March 12, 1942, 48 days after leaving New York, Task Force 6814 at last arrived at its terminal stop: Noumea, New Caledonia. The French territory was a critical stop on the supply route to Australia, and also boasted precious raw minerals. The Japanese had their eyes on it, but the existing defenses on the island were minimal. The men of Task Force 6814 were to defend the island from possible attack.

Upon arriving at Noumea, the soldiers of the convoy were quickly prepared for debarkation, lest the Japanese catch them helpless aboard ship. As the docks did not have water deep enough for the huge cruise liners, the men were offloaded into smaller vessels for the trip to shore. Here, men scramble down cargo nets hung over the side of the Argentina.

Coming Ashore at Noumea

 

The men of Task Force 6814 rapidly made their way to shore, and dispersed inland. In the photo at right, Company G pulls up to a dock and begins to unload.

Bons amis en Nouvelle-Caledonie

 

Company G was initially stationed just outside the pleasant city of Noumea, sometimes called the "Paris of the Pacific." As in Australia, they had the chance to meet the locals, though this time, for more than a week. At right, Ed Monahan (left) and John Mulcahy (right) pose with the DuFours family. Both men remained in touch with the family by mail throughout the war.

Language was a problem for some while stationed on New Caledonia. The soldiers had varying levels of education, and suddenly found themselves thrust into the middle of a French speaking society. Some, like Monahan, spoke French, and helped others to communicate.

Birth of a New Division

 

The 182nd Infantry was soon joined by two other National Guard units hurried out to the Pacific: the 132 Infantry, from Illinois, and the 164th Infantry, from North Dakota. These units were combined, along with artillery, medical, HQ, and other supporting units, into a new division. There was some puzzlement over what to call the new unit, until one of the soldiers abbreviated "Americans in New Caledonia" into "Americal." The division became only the second "named" division in the Army, and the only one activated on foreign soil during the war.

Under the Southern Cross

 

For its insignia, the Americal adopted the constellation the Southern Cross, a familiar companion in the night sky on the bottom of the world. The most comprehensive history of the division, penned in 1951 by Captain Francis D. Cronin, takes its name from this design.

Postcard from the Other Side of the World

 

The best way to communicate with loved ones thousands of miles away during World War II was by mail. This postcard from Ed Monahan, sent to his uncle back home in Massachusetts, mentions that Company G was no longer stationed at Noumea. Note the scribbled blue signature of the officer who censored this postcard for revealing military information.

The 182nd Spreads Out

 

By the fall of 1942, units of the Americal Division were dispersed all over New Caledonia, manning defensive positions and outposts, and training for future combat. Company G was situated off on its own towards the northeast coast, apart from the other major concentrations of 182nd strength.

Note: this large sized map was scanned in several sections, and digitally assembled. Some sections have remaining discoloration from that process.

The Rugged Terrain of New Caledonia

 

The scenery of this Pacific island was striking. Here, an artillery post of the 244th Coast Artillery, attached to the Americal Division, overlooks a vast panorama of ocean and mountains in early November, 1942.

Orders to Report to the Front

 

Off on the front lines of the war, a fierce battle had been raging for several months on the shores of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. American forces had invaded in August 1942, and were still heavily engaged with Japanese forces on land, sea, and air. The Americal Division was one of the units tabbed to reinforce and replace the war weary Marines on that jungle island. In the report at right, Guadalcanal is referred to by its code name: "Cactus."

Shipping out for Guadalcanal

 

In October, the 164th Infantry landed on Guadalcanal, and was quickly engaged in the brutal struggle against the Japanese. On November 7, the 182nd Infantry boarded ships at Noumea for the journey to the Solomon Islands. Here, soldiers of Company A line up to board a transport.