The Ghost Mountain Boys

The Ghost Mountain Boys

Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea-- the Forgotten War of the South Pacific

Book - 2007
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Random House, Inc.
Lying due north of Australia, New Guinea is among the world’s largest islands. In 1942, when World War II exploded onto its shores, it was an inhospitable, cursorily mapped, disease-ridden land of dense jungle, towering mountain peaks, deep valleys, and fetid swamps. Coveted by the Japanese for its strategic position, New Guinea became the site of one of the South Pacific’s most savage campaigns. Despite their lack of jungle training, the 32nd Division’s Ghost Mountain Boys were assigned the most grueling mission of the entire Pacific campaign: to march 130 miles over the rugged Owen Stanley Mountains and to protect the right flank of the Australian army as they fought to push the Japanese back to the village of Buna on New Guinea’s north coast.

Comprised of National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, reserve officers, and draftees from across the country, the 32nd Division lacked more than training—they were without even the basics necessary for survival. The men were not issued the specialized clothing that later became standard issue for soldiers fighting in the South Pacific; they fought in hastily dyed combat fatigues that bled in the intense humidity and left them with festering sores. They waded through brush and vines without the aid of machetes. They did not have insect repellent. Without waterproof containers, their matches were useless and the quinine and vitamin pills they carried, as well as salt and chlorination tablets, crumbled in their pockets. Exhausted and pushed to the brink of human endurance, the Ghost Mountain Boys fell victim to malnutrition and disease. Forty-two days after they set out, they arrived two miles south of Buna, nearly shattered by the experience.

Arrival in Buna provided no respite. The 32nd Division was ordered to launch an immediate assault on the Japanese position. After two months of furious—sometimes hand-to-hand—combat, the decimated division finally achieved victory. The ferocity of the struggle for Buna was summed up in Time magazine on December 28, 1942, three weeks before the Japanese army was defeated: “Nowhere in the world today are American soldiers engaged in fighting so desperate, so merciless, so bitter, or so bloody.”

Reminiscent of classics like Band of Brothers and The Things They Carried, this harrowing portrait of a largely overlooked campaign is part war diary, part extreme adventure tale, and (through letters, journals, and interviews) part biography of a group of men who fought to survive in an environment every bit as fierce as the enemy they faced.

Baker & Taylor
An in-depth chronicle of a little-known episode during the Second World War describes how the America's "Ghost Mountain Boys" endured hardship, malnutrition, disease, and harsh environmental conditions in a forty-two-day march from New Guinea's south coast across jungle and mountain terrain to the north coast battlefields of Buna. 50,000 first printing.

Book News
One of the world's most inhospitable places, New Guinea also was the stage for one of the fiercest battles of World War II. Campbell's book documents the largely forgotten story of the 32nd Division's Ghost Mountain Boys, who were ordered to march 130 miles over rugged mountains and through disease-ridden jungle inhabited by warlike territorial tribes to protect the Australian army as it fought the Japanese. A history written in narrative style, the book offers a detailed account of the immense hardship and horrible conditions the Ghost Mountain Boys encountered. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Chronicles a little-known episode of World War II in which America's "Ghost Mountain Boys" endured hardship, malnutrition, disease, and harsh conditions in a forty-two-day march from New Guinea's south coast to the north coast battlefields of Buna.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, [2007]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2007
ISBN: 9780307335968
Branch Call Number: 940.5426 CAMPB
Characteristics: xv, 378 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm


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Aug 10, 2018

One of the incidents related in this book is pretty telling as to the sort of hardships the Army soldiers who fought in New Guinea toward the end of 1942 faced: when some of them were back in Australia after the battle and met some Marines from Guadalcanal who were enjoying R & R after that battle was concluded, the latter were going on about the sort of terrible hardships they faced there; when they asked the New Guinea men what battle they had been in, and received the reply "Buna", they became strangely silent and did not mention Guadalcanal again.

An epic story of courage, suffering, endurance and bravery against a fanatical foe and against the greatest enemy of all: the climate.

Dec 13, 2016

Great book, it goes into detail about the hardships endured not only by the 32nd themselves but the Australians' and other units involved as well. This book also shows MacArthur as his true self and possibly a side many may not have believed or seen. All in all its a wonderful read for those who love military history and it is lesser known battles.


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