The Pacific War Uncensored A War Correspondent’s Unvarnished Account Of The Fight Against Japan.
By Harold Guard with John Tring
ISBN: 978-1-61200-0640 Publisher Casemate
Those born on the day World War Two ended are now of retirement age. The stories of their parents and relatives who endured that horrible war are passing with them. Fortunately for those who try to understand that world catastrophe, there has been great progress over the past few decades in documenting the stories of those who were there. Mr. John Tring is the grandson of Mr. Harold Guard, whose memoirs are this book. Although Mr. Guard passed away in 1986, he left a rich treasure trove of papers and journals and tapes of his experiences. Mr. Tring grew up with occasional glimpses into his grandfather’s works, and decided to bring to us what his grandfather would not – or could not.
My copy is a soft cover unedited version. It does not have as many pages nor photographs as advertised for the hardback copy to be released in October. The chapters within are:
* Pre-War Hong Kong
* Singapore Defence
* Attack on Singapore
* Up Country in Malaya
* Escape From Singapore
* Escape From Java
* Port Moresby
* The Northern Territories
* Wau (Wow)
* The War In New Guinea, Hans Christian Anderson and General MacArthur
* Lae Landings
* Passage to India
* The Fortune Teller Was Right
* Retuning Home
Pre-War, Mid-War, Post-War
Mr. Guard was a submariner in the Royal Navy. At age 16 he joined to be an engine room artificer during World War One. He was aboard K13 when it sank off Scotland. He continued aboard subs, even when the Royal Navy attacked the Communist fleet at Kotlin Island in 1917. He was aboard the new O class Osiris when its engine exploded in 1929. He suffered leg damage that invalided him out of the service. While in the hospital he was visited by a Queen’s Army schoolmistress who he had met in Hong Kong. She was his future wife, Marie. His injured leg was worsened by a drunken escapade and Mr. Guard spent the rest of his life with a stiff leg. It made him very noticeable, especially slogging through battlefields!
Mr. Guard tried a few jobs before becoming a reporter for the United Press in 1934. In that capacity he did very well. He became an acclaimed journalist, and established the United Press in India. You'll read how he also broke many stories, including a 1936 cocaine smuggling ring between China and the United States. The news agency was involved in keeping an eye on Germans in Hong Kong and helped with their roundup when war began. Mr. Guard interviewed Baron Ernst Von Rasmunsen, a Nazi Party Minister who fell out of favor with Hitler, and offered Hitler’s plans for war. Years later he was first to write of the passing of President Roosevelt in 1945.
Another story he broke was the King of England’s affair with Mrs. Simpson. Being British, and being that British newspapers suppressed the story, Mr. Guard was something of a rebellious outcast. As such he was iconoclastic of English aristocracy. During the war he wrote a less than appealing article after an exclusive interview with General MacArthur, noting the general came wearing a black silk kimono, rambled about Hannibal, and talked about everything except the war he was fighting. In the CBI he annoyed General Stillwell. Lord Mountbatten, whom had trained aboard Mr. Guard’s submarine in the 1920s, got along well with the hobbling journalist.
After the war he also crossed swords with Winston Churchill and other British notables. During this time he covered the founding of the United Nations, the state of Israel, and the rebellions throughout Europe’s colonies. Later he managed as a globe roving reporter with full travel access provided by the Royal Air Force.
Mr. Guard retired somewhat disillusioned with the direction that the news industry was taking, implying a lack of objectivity and the promotion of agendas over honest reporting. What he would think of the theater of the absurd we call news can only be imagined.
Mr. Guard had a front line view of the war. He was in Hong Kong when the Sino-Japanese war began, and watched with alarm those developments after Hitler ignited Europe.
Some interesting events on the international stage were recorded by Guard, covered up, perhaps, by recently expired censorship rules; in 1939 Royal Navy Osiris submarines were suffering a rash of engine failures. It was traced to lubrication oil. Britain suspected sabotage and the RN sent HMS Dorsetshire to intercept Japanese liner Tatsuta Maru in mid-Pacific. Boarding parties arrested 60 American citizens and imprisoned them in Hong Kong! They were all of German extraction and worked for the Standard Oil Company, which supplied engine oil to the RN in Hong Kong. Apparently they found out that English intelligence was on to them and tried to flee to Japan.
As war seemed imminent the United Press removed itself from Hong Kong to Singapore. From Singapore Mr. Guard toured the front lines of Malaya as the Japanese stormed down the peninsula. He had previously witnessed maneuvers illuminating the fallacy that the jungle was impregnable. Some British officers granted him "off the record" information, after which he wrote about the mismanagement of Singapore’s defenses. While officialdom was trying to hush up the real situation, Mr. Guard sent honest dispatches. He even notified the commanders of a large Japanese invasion fleet prior to the invasion; and was mocked by them. Later he gleaned a great deal of knowledge from an Admiral Glassford, who put a different light on the humiliating British defeat.
In February he escaped Singapore, under fire, aboard a small tender. Java was his next stop, though not for long. Seeking the real story at the front, he stumbled into a house where Japanese troops were looting and vandalizing, and later drove at night through a column of advancing Japanese troops, mistakenly thinking them Allied troops, yelling and gesturing at them to clear the road! As Japan stormed Java he learned of American heavy bombers and the Allied naval forces, including the disastrous Battle of the Java Sea.
He escaped Java aboard a B-17 to Australia. Once down-under he set to work writing of the continuing crisis. The authorities “gutted” his accounts of the fights for Java and Singapore. He then spent time covering the war in northern Australia and eventually moved to New Guinea. There he toured the Australian defenses of the Kokoda Trail, flew bombing missions with the storied USAAF 22nd Bomb Group in B-26s against Lae, Rabual and other hornets nests, witnessing first hand attacks by Zeros and flak. Later he flew in troop transports, slogged through swamps fighting on the ground, flew in B-24s, and a host of other tip-of-the-spear adventures. One such action was catching a ride in a bomber attacking the Japanese convoy in what became the battle of the Bismark Sea. Further, he documented the survival of pilots downed in the jungle, one being attacked by crocodiles.
A popular aspect of his writings were the attention he paid to his wife and daughter, his peers, associates, and of course, the soldiers , sailors, Marines and airmen he profiled. One in particular, American pilot Shanty O'Neil, was prominent in his stories. Shanty survived those early missions against the Japanese, amassing over 600 combat hours. Then the Air Force decided to send him home. During his going away party, he accidentally ate lye, surviving, yet returning home with severe injuries as serious as those that he avoided in combat.
Mr. Guard's stories earned him acclaim as “One of the best four reporters in the pacific.” Again, he had brushes with censors and restricted stories. Although he wrote all of the dispatches concerning the Battle of the Coral Seas, he felt sorry for his competitors and sent them the slightly reworked story, under their own names. UP asked him why he couldn’t write a story as well as so-and-so with the rival new agency!
Eventually, Guard was forced to India by UP. He did not want to go because of unrest there. India was almost to rebellion, in fact many Indians enlisted to fight with the Japanese! While in India his adventures continued, as did his leg problem. It was injured by a Japanese bomb splinter in Malaya and became inflamed. His stint in the hospital was notable as he was considered a curiosity by American medical personnel due to his seemingly immunity to tropical disease. While stationed in India, he flew off of USS Saratoga in a bomber piloted by Cmdr. “Jumpin’ Joe” Clifton. He also operated off of a RN carrier.
Guard’s writing was not always popular. He wrote of Indian and Malaysian undermining of the British war effort. He wrote of the ineffective defenses and plans for Malaya. After showing up the authorities a few times they initially became suspicious of him. A humorous account is that he was suspected of passing secrets just by writing about a leg of pork, which the British commanders thought was a hidden message!
After the war one of his travels took him into Eastern Europe where he was under surveillance by the Soviets, and was somewhat involved in smuggling the mother of an anti-communist expatriate out of Hungary.
Today we have a great deal of information. Mr. Guard did too, yet some is curious. After the war he interviewed General Percival, the commander of Singapore. The general gave his side of the disaster, which Guard wrote about, yet was not published, and criticized by Churchill. Guard claimed that the Japanese well outnumbered the defenders of Singapore, although in reality the defenders outnumbered the Japanese 3-to-1!
In another example, Mr. Guard misstated the date of the Battle of the Bismark Sea by several months.
There are no maps in this work. There are over a dozen photographs. These are black and white and of various quality. Most are candid photographs of Mr. Guard, friends, soldiers, and groups.
All in all this is a very interesting book. Anybody interested in the colonial life in Asia between the wars should find this very enlightening. Life under gathering war clouds is also interesting. Some of the insights are not well known even today. This book is Mr. Guard’s personal recollections and experiences. His bias and pros and cons concerning people and events make this work all the more fascinating. It would have been interesting had he been interviewed instead of his memoir being written long after his passing.
This book was very enjoyable. I learned a good deal and enjoyed another view of events outside of official histories. Stories like this, from personal recollections, are a great addition to the official histories we have had for the first several post-war decades. They shed light on some events and support others. I highly recommend this book.
Highs: Interesting stories and viewpoints. New stories not encountered in other histories.Lows: Some photographs are fuzzy.Verdict: A unique personal account of the Second World War, and pre- and post-colonial Asia.
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR) FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES
I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art.
My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling!
My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...