1943 Timeline
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720th MP
This Page Last Updated  27 August 2015
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"You Can't Say No To A Soldier," was a popular song of the time.
     All major World War II events or incidents that affected the 720th MP Battalion’s force allocations, training, operations, deployments, morale or history are shown in blue American Typewriter Font .
     At the start of the year the 720th MP Battalion and its organic units, HQ & HQ Detachment, Able, Baker, Charlie Companies and a Medical Detachment was stationed in the Southwest Pacific Theater of War with duty stations in both Australia and Papua (Australian) New Guinea.
     Throughout the year battalion activities and movements would have them follow behind GEN MacArthur's operational movements to secure the island continent of New Guinea and its surrounding islands to counter the Japanese buildup and subsequent counteroffensive to retain their airfields, ports, and troop staging bases being used for attacks on the Allied supply routes to the southwest Pacific Theater of operations and eventually Australia and New Zealand.
Southwest Pacific Theatre Of War ~ Australia & New Guinea
Battalion Australian Duty Stations
Papua Campaign

     Allied operations in New Guinea were essential to the U.S. Navy's drive across the Central Pacific and to the U.S. Army's liberation of the Philippine Islands from Japanese occupation.

     The remorseless Allied advance along the northern New Guinea coastline toward the Philippines forced the Japanese to divert precious ships, planes, and men who might otherwise have reinforced their crumbling Central Pacific front.

     In January 1943 the Allied and the Japanese forces facing each other on New Guinea were like two battered heavyweights. Round one had gone to the Americans and Australians who had ejected the Japanese from Papua, (Australian) New Guinea. After three months of unimaginative frontal attacks had overcome a well-entrenched foe,

41st Infantry
32nd Infantry

     General Douglas MacArthur, the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) commander, had his airstrip and staging base at Buna on the north coast. It was expensive real estate. About 13,000 Japanese troops perished during the terrible fighting, but Allied casualties were also heavy; 8,500 men fell in battle (5,698 of them Australians) and 27,000 cases of malaria were reported, mainly because of shortages of medical supplies. Besides ruining the Australian 7th and U.S. 32d Infantry Divisions, the campaign had severely taxed the Australian 5th and U.S. 41st Infantry Divisions. The exhausted Americans needed six months to reconstitute before their next operation. Australian ground forces, despite heavier losses, became the front line of defense against the Japanese who, though bloodied, were ready for round two.

Exact Dates Unknown During the year the battalion would loose from its Australian base units 1LT Leo D. Yunker of Baker Company and 1LT Jack Townsend of Dog Company, who returned stateside because of illness; CPT F. R. Packard (S-3), CPT Lambert (Surgeon) and 1LT Michael (Dentist) from the Medical Detachment, 1LT Kessler of Able Company, and 2LT George H. Berkheimer of Baker Company by transfer.
     2LT Berkheimer was assigned the additional duties as the Battalion Chaplain, and later branch transferred to the Chaplains Corps, where he was eventually promoted to the rank of captain.
     At Port Moresby, Papua (Australian) New Guinea Charlie Company lost 2LT Jack Denton because of illness, and CPT John F. Holmes and CPT S. Handzel by transfer.

2 January   The allied operation to seize Japanese bases at Buna/Sanananda on the northeast coast of, Papua (Australian) New Guinea initiated on 18 November 1942, involved the U.S. 41st and 32nd Infantry Divisions and Australian forces. Buna, fell to the Allied forces after an early major setback and bloody fighting with high casualties on both sides.

15 January 2LT Henry Hoffman of Dog Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

22 January The same Allied forces involved in the Buna operation defeat the Japanese Army at Sanananda. The final attack against the Japanese defenses was successful, and all that remained was a mopping-up operation. The Papuan Campaign to destroy the Japanese bases along the northeastern coast of New Guinea was costly, but successful.

The three New Guinea's
New Guinea Campaign 
24 January 1942-31 December 1944

28 January LTC James L. Patterson was succeeded by LTC Arthur S. Bell as the Commanding Officer.

Personal Reflections

    “My dear friends: It is now 7:20 a.m. down here in Australia and I am about to write finis to another tour of duty about which I may write more later. With you folks back in Adams County [Pennsylvania] it is still the afternoon of the 28th. At least we have that advantage, we get a foretaste of each day before it dawns on you.

     I want to again thank all of my friends for their continued thoughtfulness and kindness in keeping me abreast and kindness in keeping me abreast of the news at home. And what with my birthday following so closely after Christmas I have really been very pleasantly swamped with mail. The last two days were near record days. Thirteen and twenty, respectively. I have had the most wonderful Christmas and birthday that I have ever experienced. I don’t mean wonderful from the standpoint of happiness but rather in that the season’s cheer extended over such a long period of time. My first greetings started arriving the middle of November and they are still coming.

LTC Bell
     The churches here in the land “under the Southern Cross” are also doing a remarkable piece of work in creating an atmosphere of home away from home for all of us Yanks. I am not in a position to speak authoratively of the Roman Catholic church although I have reason to believe that they too are doing their part. I can speak of the work being done by the Church of England, Presbyterians and Methodists. I am sorry that I cannot mention the Lutherans. It is not that the Lutherans are lax in this respect it is just that there aren’t any Lutherans. That is, practically none. What few there are are under suspicion because of their German background. I have been trying to tell them that we might have a German background, for which we don’t apologize, but after all we were the first to bear the name of Protestant, and every other Protestant denomination is either directly or indirectly descended from us, so that makes us about even. Needless to say I haven’t gotten vary far in my lone campaign.
     Your are certainly aware of the fact that we are in the middle of summer “enjoying” temperatures of from 120 to 130 degrees. The snow scenes on the Christmas greetings and the letters talking about zero weather certainly looked and sounded refreshing. I confess I have an ulterior motive in mind for mentioning this subject. I recall letters that were written to me during August, September and October. Without fail they talked of the fine peach and apple crops that were being harvested. Now, of course, I was glad to hear that my people back home had been blessed with good harvests. However, apparently no one took thought as to what the suggestion of delicious peaches and mellow apples could do to my poor stomach, some 10,000 miles distant. I bore it though without a murmur. Long ago I learned that if one only had sufficient patience, sooner or later Lady Luck would turn her glance your way. I waited and now the tropics are in full bloom. Large yellow peaches and rosy cheeks (they look like Elbertas to me, an old peace hand), apples that taste like Early Transparent, plums, apricots, oranges, pineapples, bananas and grapes can be obtained in any quantities. And are they good! I have been in a number of banana groves and pineapple paddies. I have always had the impression that when a banana ripens the skin turns yellow. That is wrong. The skin remains a brilliant green all the time. When the fruit feels soft to the touch it is ready for eating. Pineapples, when allowed to mature on the stalk, can be pared and eaten like an apple, core and all. They are very sweet and the taste is delicious.
     We are waiting for the cocoanuts to ripen. Cocoanut palms adorn almost every lawn and there are numerous groves in the vicinity.
     I will have to write about the work that I was doing in a later letter. At the present time I am in the hospital suffering from dengue fever. I was stricken quite suddenly Friday morning while writing this letter. It is now Sunday afternoon and I am feeling considerable better although I will probably be here for the better part of this week. I have a chance to sleep in a bed with a spring mattress on it and I am really getting a lot of rest so I am not complaining. There are four other officers in the ward with me and we all have the same ailment so we can sympathize with each other. Most of the suffering is in the head and back.
     The Gettysburg Times is still arriving regularly for which I continue to be grateful indeed. Frankly, I do miss the daily issues but I am entirely satisfied since circumstances made the curtailment necessary.
     I send my regards and best wishes to all my friends.
     Sincerely,“  2LT George H. Berkheimer, Baker Company, 720th MP Battalion, 1942-1943.

3 February T5 (SGT) Stanley V, "Dyke" Knoll, D Company, was diagnosed with Dengue Fever and was sent to 17th Station Hospital, Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia.

Editors Note: Dengue Fever is a mild viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes. It is characterized by fever, rash, and muscle and joint pains. Dengue fever is caused by several related viruses (four different arboviruses). It is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes in tropic and subtropic regions. This includes portions of Southeast Asia, the Indonesian archipelago into northeastern Australia, parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and parts of South and Central America.

     The fever begins with sudden onset of a high fever, often to 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, headache, and slightly later the appearance of severe joint and muscle pains. A flat, red rash may appear over most of the body early during the fever. A second rash, measles-like in appearance, appears later in the disease. Infected people may have increased skin sensitivity and are very uncomfortable.

9 February The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from CPT Samuel Cutler, Army Air Corps, Mackay, Queensland, Australia.

28 February The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from a Senior Police Sergeant, Ayr, Queensland, Australia.
4 April Lieutenants Heinrich, jones, Hosio, McIntosh and Murray reported to the battalion as recent graduates of Officer Candidate School (OCS), and shortly thereafter LT McCarthy and LT Webster joined the battalion from stateside.
16 April CPT Edward C. Houser the battalion executive officer was promoted to the rank of Major.
17 April 2LT Wachel B. Williams of Charlie Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
19 April 2LT Joseph Kempfer of Able Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

22 April SGT Frederick A. Burness, Jr. of Baker Company was in charge of a detail escorting Japanese prisoners of war from Townsville, Australia to Port Moresby, New Guinea by air when the aircraft  crashed into the Coral Sea near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. SGT Burness did not survive the crash and became the first battalion and Baker Company casualty.

     The aircraft SGT Burness was using for his mission, the CAMILLA, a Short S024 class Empire Flying Boat, registration number VH-ADU, contracted by Quanta's Empire Airlines to the Australian military.

    The Camilla took off from Townsville at 1250 hours with a crew of five, and twenty seven passengers including twenty-two from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and five from the U.S. Army. The Camilla crashed into the Coral Sea during an attempted water landing due to a continuing weather emergency. Two crewmembers and eleven passengers including Sergeant Burness perished.

     SGT Burness is listed as Missing and Killed In Action on a Memorial Monument located at the Manila American National Cemetery, Philippines.

SGT Burness
WANTED: Background information and photographs of SGT Burness. Contact the History Project Manager via the Email Link at the top of this page.
23 April 1LT Edward Hall of Dog Company was promoted to the rank of Captain.
26 April 1LT  Bush Locknane of HQ & HQ Detachment was promoted to the rank of Captain.
4-8 May In the ensuing Battle of the Coral Sea the Japanese suffered a decisive defeat loosing most of its carrier fleet. Five months later, the Japanese advance toward the Allied supply line in the Southwest Pacific ended when American marines landed (7 August) in the Solomon's on Tulagi, Gavutu, Florida, and Guadalcanal Islands.
6 May The War Department issued General Orders No. 21, and Charlie Company, 720th MP Battalion and the 813th MP Company became the first military police companies in the history of the Military Police Corps to be awarded the Distinguished (later changed to Presidential) Unit Citation, for outstanding performance of duty in action during the period of 23 July 1942 to 23 January 1943 during the Papuan Campaign.
     Editors Note: The Corps Regimental History Unit recognized the 9th MP Company as having the distinction for the first Presidential Unit Citation (1945), until the error was challenged by this writer, and verified by the U.S. Army Center for Military History in March 2011.
17 May The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from the Australian Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League.
18 May The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from CPT P. S. Theiss, U.S. Navy, Townsville, Queensland, Australa.
5 June The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from  LTC William H. Emerson, Inspector General Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
23 June The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from BG Donald Wilson, Chief of Staff, 5th U.S. Army Air Force, Australia.

1 July The battalion elements still remaining at Townsville, Australia were relieved of duty by the 800th Military Police Battalion that had recently arrived from stateside.

     Since most of the battalion units at Townsville and those in Cairns, soon to be relived, were now without specific duties. Intensive training programs were inaugurated, and, in addition, they were given numerous fatigue details (including the loading of LST’s (Landing Ship Tank) at the port, which frequently employed the entire strength of both companies.

     They were also assigned to VIP escorts to include the President Roosevelt’s wife and several U.S. Senators that were visiting Australia. It was also during this period that the battalion troops were given three-day passes to nearby towns- the first passes they had had since their arrival in the Southwest Pacific area.

Personal Reflections

     Letter home: “When I get home some day, I believe I will write a book called “Australian Mosquitoes and Other Pests.” Did I tell you that the kids’ school [over here] started February 1st and the streets are filled with boys and girls?

     The girls all wear the same kind of outfits, a sort of a middy blouse with big whiten hats. The boys... wear straw hats and short pants... [and] they got plenty of cheek [Australian for nerve] as they often stop us and ask if we have any lollies [candy] or chewing gum... I’ve made friends with one of them who sells papers after school. He has big buck-teeth and freckles and when he wears a big Australian hat he has and is bare-footed, he looks just like a version of Huckleberry Finn.” CPL Stanley V. “Dyke” Knoll, Company D, 1942-1945.

12 July The 3rd Platoon of Baker Company, commanded by 1LT George Dennis, assisted by 2LT McIntosh, and consisting of fifty-two enlisted men, departed Townsville aboard the Dutch ship Van Heutsz for Milne Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.

15 July The Van Heutsz arrived at Milne Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea where Baker Company’s 3rd Platoon motor transported to Camp Ahioma where they constructed a prisoner of war stockade, and, in addition, performed military police and guard duty on the base. The platoon set up a bivouac area then began erecting a prisoner of war stockade in addition to performing their regular MP duties.

22 July CPT Epstein of the Marine Corps was assigned to the battalion Medical Detachment as the new surgeon.
28 July, 6:47 PM During President Roosevelt's fireside chat he discussed the European and Pacific theatres (4 excerpts from the speech).
Exact Date Unknown Able Company, stationed at Cairns, Australia was partially relieved of duties by one company of the 799th Military Police Battalion.
1 August The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from COL Homer C. Brown, Commanding Officer, Base Section 2, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
7 August The Japanese advance toward the Allied supply line in the Southwest Pacific ended when American marines landed in the Solomon's on Tulagi, Gavutu, Florida, and Guadalcanal islands.
19 August 2LT Heinrich of Able Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

4-16 September Allied forces recaptured Lae-Salamaua on the northeast coast of Papua (Australian) New Guinea.

11 September The battalion provided an Honor Guard and security during the visit of the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt in Townsville,  Queensland, Australia conducting a good will tour of the South Pacific as a representative of the Red Cross. She traveled 23,000 miles visiting field hospitals in Australia and throughout the South Pacific.

18 September The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from COL William G. Purdy, Chief Provost Marshal, U.S. Army Forces Far East.

20 September 2LT Webster of Baker Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

22 September The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from MAJ Arthur J. Wojnowski, Provost Marshal, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Editors Note: MAJ Wojnowski would serve as the 720th MP Battalion Commander in New Guinea from 6 April through 3 October 1944.

1 October The battalion gained Lieutenants Roberts, Ward, and O’Brien from officers Candidate School (OCS), and LT Roberts, however was soon returned stateside due to illness.
2 October Australian forces seized Finshhafen in North East (British) New Guinea.
     On the same day Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower made a plea for the American people to continue their support of the War Bond program.
10 October A U.S. 5th Air Force flight of fifty P-38’s and P-40’s engage approximately 100 Japanese aircraft attacking Allied shipping in Oro Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.
16 October 1LT Richard Beirne of Charlie Company was promoted to the rank of Captain.
17 October A U.S. 5th Air Force flight of forty fighters engage a large group of Japanese aircraft attacking Allied shipping in Oro Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.
21 October 2LT Murray of Charlie Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.
24 October Dog Company deployed a thirty-six member detachment advance party to Oro Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.
27 October The remaining Able Company elements at Cairns, Australia were relieved.
     The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from LTC James L. Patterson, Provost Marshal, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
     Editors Note: LTC Patterson served as the 720th MP Battalion Commander in Australia from 5 October 1942 through 28 January 1943.
28 October The Able Company elements left Cairns by railway and proceeded to Townsville.
Exact Date Unknown The remainder of Baker Company departed Australia for Milne Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea to join their 3rd Platoon at Ahioma.

2 November A detachment of sixteen troops from Dog Company departed Townsville, Australia for Oro Bay aboard the Dutch freighter Van Spillbergan, where they were assigned as cargo hatch guards. No provisions were made for meals on the ship galley so the detachment had to eat C-Rations during the transport.

     While traveling along the coast of Papua (Australian) New Guinea the ship struck and became stranded on a reef. Although stuck, the ship was not damaged, however, they could not radio their dilemma due to strict radio silence, so their plight remained unknown until a B-25 bomber on patrol spotted the ship. An ocean going tug was dispatched from Milne Bay and freed the ship.

     Other small detachments from Dog Company would do the same during their move to New Guinea.

7 November Battalion HQ & HQ Detachment and Able Company departed Townsville, Australia for Port Moresby, and Milne Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea aboard the USS Robert Stewart.

9 November After a stop at Milne Bay, the detachment from Dog Company arrived at Oro Bay, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.

11 November At Port Moresby, one platoon of Charlie Company was stationed at the stockade while two platoons were at the original camp in the vicinity of Koki Mission (2-Mile Hill).

13 November 1LT George Dennis of Baker Company was promoted to the rank of Captal.

15 November There was a redesignation and extension of the U.S. Army Services of Supply (USASOS) Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) base system. Advance Section with headquarters at Port Moresby was redesignated Intermediate Section and the advance bases of A, B and D were redesignated simply Bases A, B & D.

Personal Reflections
     “In Port Moresby we operated a prisoner of war camp for Japanese POW’s. They cooked their own food and were no trouble. Whenever too many of them bunched up, we would escort the excess prisoners to Australia.”   SGT Joseph F. Butchko, Company C, 1942-1945.

     Able Company was sent to the staging area of Port Moresby, and remained there for six-weeks, engaging in stevedore-type work at the docks.

     HQ & HQ Detachment camped in the vicinity of the stockade, with one platoon of Charlie Company, and shortly thereafter the remainder of the company moved to that area.
17 November 2LT Jones of Dog Company was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

20 November With Port Moresby receiving a massive influx of Allied troops, tons of supplies and equipment for the ongoing battles to clear the eastern end of Papua (Australian) New Guinea, the 814th MP Company [activated 6 May 1942 in Australia] arrived at Port Moresby and was attached subordinate to the battalion for duty, administration and training. They were assigned to assist Charlie Company in the performance of military police duties on the base.

29 November The remaining elements of Dog Company completed its transfer from Australia to Oro Bay.

1 December The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from MAJ W.S. Poffenberg, Provost Marshal, Port Moresby, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.
 A medley of popular patriotic songs from the era.

9 December Members of the 720th MP Battalion, enjoying their meal under the jungle canopy in New Guinea. (right)

22 December Orders received from Headquarters Base D and 22nd Port Headquarters, U.S. Army Service and Supply assigned LT Neidlinger of the battalion to command the 814th MP Company.

     The battalion received a letter of commendation for efficient service and duties from LTC J. P. Holland, Provost Marshal, U.S. Army Service and Supply Headquarters, Port Moresby, Papua (Australian) New Guinea.

27 December Dog Company was assigned duties guarding Japanese prisoners of war captured by the U.S. 41st Infantry Division at the stockade in the small costal port and mission station operated by the U.S. Army 491st Port Battalion at Oro Bay located on the northeastern side of Papua (Australian) New Guinea, 15 miles southeast of Buna.

     With the latest unit reassignments, all the battalion elements were now stationed in Papua (Australian) New Guinea.
1943 Miscellaneous Photographs Index
This Index contains miscellaneous photographs from 1943 that have yet to be directly linked to any specific Battalion Timeline event. If you can date any of the events depicted, or identify them as part of a specific event, operation, exercise or special duty assignment, please use the Email Link on the photograph or this page to notify the History Project Manager.
A "?" preceding the photo number denotes further identifications are needed, and an Email Link is provided.
 The 2nd Field Hospital near Woodstock, Australia.
 Battalion weapons carrier, New Guinea.
 1SG Lem Troster views the bay from MP compound, New Guinea.
 SGT Devendorf and MSG Lem Troster, New Guinea.
 The puppy (mascot) on the ball field, New Guinea.
 PFC Stanley "Dyke" Knoll in Ayr, Australia.