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 rugged mountains and to protect the right flank of the Australian army as they fought to push the Japanese back to the village of Buna.The 32nd Division lacked more than training. They were without even the basics necessary for survival. 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.
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.
Stephen Hoye gives a solid narration of Campbell's account of the battle for New Guinea during WWII. The campaign, largely eclipsed by the struggle over Guadalcanal, was a pivotal struggle that might even have been a turning point in the Pacific theater. In the long, grueling, dirty fight men were felled by disease as often as by bullets. Listeners follow individual soldiers, the 32nd Division's Ghost Mountain Boys, from their training through the campaign. Campbell often quotes from letters home. He also quotes from Japanese journals found later. This gives the audiobook real humanity. Hoye doesn't try to give each character a distinctive voice, but he varies pace and tone to show when individuals are speaking for themselves.
"Riveting....The Ghost Mountain Boys offers a new, harrowing world to explore." (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
"Superb....The Ghost Mountain Boys is carefully organized, researched and written with great sensitivity and understanding." (Chicago Sun-Times)
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