James Campbell: The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea: The Forgotten War of the South Pacific
They marched through dense, tropical jungles and over a towering mountain peak without maps. The air was choked with humidity, the swamps were full of crocodiles, and disease claimed more 80% of their ranks. And that was before the two-month assault on the Japanese base had even begun.
"If I owned New Guinea and I owned hell," recalled one member of the Army's 32nd Infantry Division in World War II, "I would live in hell and rent out New Guinea."
Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea: The Forgotten War of the South Pacific tells the long-overlooked story of the Buna Trail campaign, which sent an Army National Guard division from Wisconsin and Michigan to New Guinea with the task of breaking the Japanese army's foothold off the coast of Australia. Untrained for jungle combat and lacking basic survival equipment, the 32nd Infantry Division suffered heavy casualties on the grueling march. Campbell quotes extensively from diaries, letters, and interviews with survivors of the campaign, drawing vivid portraits of both the hellish conditions of the march and the simple joy of finding a fresh coconut on the trail.
In researching his account, author James Campbell traveled to New Guinea and retraced the steps of the Buna Trail, still strewn with wreckage from the battle, and met island elders who remembered the march. Some believed it had been a sorcerer who propelled the 32nd Division to victory; all were still in awe of the men who crossed the impassable "Ghost Mountain".
James Campbell is also the author of The Final Frontiersman. He has written adventure travel and environmental pieces for Outside, National Geographic Adventure, Islands, Backpacker, Audubon, Coastal Living, Field and Stream, Sports Afield, and many other magazines and newspapers. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and three daughters.