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9-14-17

Combat Operations of the 155th Infantry Regiment in World War II – Honoring the memory of local WWII Veterans

Compiled and submitted

By Wilburn Bell

Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a new series of articles that chronicle the South Pacific combat operations of the 155th Infantry of the 31st Infantry Division in World War II.
      Independent Researcher Wilburn Bell has compiled a unique collection of information that honors these local men and their families. Bell’s own relatives, his Uncle Reid Bell and first cousin Wilmarth Strickland, were two of the men who served in the Live Oak National Guard unit that were transferred to Co. I, 155th Infantry during World War II.  

– More about the author at the end of this article.–


Clifton W. Greene, of McAlpin, wounded Aug. 29, 1944.
-Yearbook Photo 124th
Infantry Regiment, Circa early 1940’s

John W. Rogers, Jr.,
of Live Oak, wounded Aug. 29, 1944 and died of his wounds the next day.
-Yearbook Photo 124th
Infantry Regiment, Circa early 1940’s


The 155th Infantry in New Guinea

– Part 3 –

Second Sawar Airdrome Battle

Area members of the 155th Infantry, who had been pre World War II Live Oak National Guard unit members, included James B. Barber, Reid Bell, Thomas I. Dasher, Clifton W. Greene, Melvin L. McMullen, John W. Rogers Jr., Wilmarth Strickland, (all of Co. I) and Lester W. Kent (3rd Bn HQ Co). Others included Theron R. Howard , John T. Owens, Jr. , and Glenn Smith, and James P. Williams.

[Extracted from]: Historical Record, 155th Infantry, 1 Jan 44 To 31 Dec 44 [NARA RG 407]

1 Name: Sawar Airdrome

2 Place: Wakde-Sarmi Area, Dutch New Guinea

3 Date: 29 August 1944

4 Campaign which battle was a part: New Guinea

5 Forces engaged: 3d Battalion 155th Infantry and elements of the Japanese 36th division.

6 Results:
Acting under orders Commanding General, 31st Infantry Division [Maj. Gen. John C. Persons], 3d Battalion 155th Infantry [including Company I], minus one Rifle Company, [under the command of Lt. Col. Leslie L. Evans of Canton, Mississippi], proceeded to patrol the Sawar Airdrome to destroy all enemy personnel and equipment in that sector of the Wakde-Sarmi Area.


The exact calibre of opposition to expect was not known but enemy forces were
numerous, well-equipped, and prepared for the American advance. No sooner had American units entered the airdrome, when a concealed enemy land mine exploded and killed two [five including PFC Austin Howell of Fort Payne, Alabama, PVT Anthony Assante of Brooklyn, New York, PFC John D. Brannon of DeFuniak Springs, Florida, who died of his wounds while being carried back to the aid station, and counting two men MIA believed to have been vaporized by the blast, PFC Earl B. Futch of Lawtey, Florida, and PFC Thomas A. Pease of Lilley, Pennsylvania] and wounded two [including S SGT Clifton W. Greene of McAlpin, Florida, and PFC Claude E. Giles of Laurel, Mississippi]. Mine was 100-pound fragmentation bomb with step-type detonator. [These men, who were members of Company I, were led by S SGT Clifton Greene of McAlpin, Florida, who was injured by the blast, and PFC’s Brannon, Giles, and Howell and PVT Assante were in the squad led by SGT Reid Bell of Day, Florida, who was knocked down by the blast but otherwise not injured. It is not clear to the compiler if PFC’s Futch and Pease were in SGT Bell’s squad, but they were in front of PVT Assante and PFC Howell. PFC John W. Rogers of Live Oak, Florida, also of Company I, was mortally wounded in the fighting around the Sawar Airdrome on this date, and he died the next day.]


Innumerable enemy automatic weapons were encountered. Five supporting
medium tanks failed to negotiate the mine-filled airdrome in time to be of use.
A suicide squad of Japanese led by an Officer attempted to cut the Battalion line
of advance. One Jap Officer shot an American officer in the arm before the latter was able to kill him with a carbine at 10 feet distance. [The officer was 2nd Lt. Jenkins O. King of Comer, Georgia, who was married to Margaret Sims King, sister of the late Mr. Al Sims, who served as postmaster of the Day, Florida, Post Office, and also sister of the late Dr. John N. Sims who practiced medicine in Live Oak, Florida, in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.] Close fighting was regularly encountered through the day.


Japanese carrying automatic weapons into tree-top scaffolds were killed. Wire
was laid and cut by the enemy, so that no communications were possible as all radios were dead. The terrain was exceedingly bad and sniping continued for hours. A machine gun cut one soldier’s legs badly [Company I’s PFC William T. Fox of Riviera Beach, Florida]. Another machine gun was knocked out by two sergeants utilizing hand grenades.


As the operation was designed as a one day reconnaissance in force, the [3rd]
Battalion Commander [Lt. Col. Leslie L. Evans] reorganized his force and returned as ordered.
A total of 60 dead was counted for the day, while others killed by American
forces were dragged off into the heavy jungle growth.


During the entire period 20 July 1944 to 9 September 1944, 120 combat and
reconnaissance patrols were made. Enemy casualties as a result of all operations in the Wakde-Sarmi Area totaled 115 killed, 20 captured, and 586 found dead.”

Next Time: 155th Inf. CO, Col. Walter J. Hanna’s Operations Report for Wakdi—Sarmi, New Guinea.

About the Author – Independent Researcher Wilburn Bell was born in Lafayette County and received a B.A. in Education with high honors from UF in 1971, and a Master of Education from UF in 1972. After a 37-year teaching career, he retired in 2009. Bell has had a keen interest in genealogy, local history, and military history most of his life.  After serving a six-year enlistment with the Florida National Guard, he was honorably discharged from the 269th Eng. Co. in Live Oak, FL, in 1971 as an E-4.  


Bell also compiled and edited Sworn and Examined: Witnesses to Suwannee Valley Reconstruction Violence in Florida’s Third Judicial Circuit, a self-published compilation of Congressional Hearing testimony.


Wilburn Bell may be reached at 386-294-1456.


Wakde-Sarmi Area, New Guinea, 1944. [Source: The Approach to the Philippines by Robert Ross Smith, p. 207.] -Map submitted by Wilburn Bell