“Vern” Willliam Vernon Gordon
United States Army
37th Infantry Division, 148th
“Vern” Willliam Vernon Gordon
Birth: 10 Jul 1912 Lincoln, Bingham, Idaho
Married: Rayola Smith, 3 May 1933 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
Death: 23 Feb 1944, WWII Bougainville, North Solomons, Papua New Guinea
Burial Service: 12 Mar 1944, Draper City Cemetery Draper, Salt Lake County, Utah
November 9, 1943
Infantry Regiment, 37th
Land on Bougainville
The 148th Infantry landed first on Bougainville 8 Nov 43 and was followed by the 129th
Infantry on 13 Nov 43 and the 145th Infantry which landed 19 Nov 43. Relieving the Marines
there, the division took over the area perimeter defense, constructed roads and bridges,
conducted patrols, and repulsed eight Japanese divisional attacks during March 1944. These
included the 8 Mar 44 counterattack on Hill 700 which drove a salient in the lines of the 145th
Infantry which wasn't reduced until 13 Mar 44 after heavy combat; the main counterattack of 11
Mar 44 toward Piva Airfield which hit the 129th Infantry; and the 23 Mar 44 general
counterattack which penetrated the lines of 129th Infantry before it was defeated. The latter
marked the last Japanese offensive activity in the Solomons and the division cleared the Laruma
Valley during April 1944. The division remained on Bougainville until 14 Dec 44,
conducting construction and combat activity up to 11 Oct 44 when it began training for
operations in the Philippine Islands.
The island of Bougainville itself was primitive, remote, and rugged - an easy place for the
Japanese to hide. It featured dense jungle, as well as a number of soaring volcanoes.
Earthquakes were a frequent occurrence, as were torrential downpours. The jungle was
thick, overgrown, and as one soldier recalled, "spooky."
Christmas Day on Bougainville
The booming artillery is deafening-so is the roar of the planes.
Men are dying a thousand deaths-men are going insane.
The blood runs freely as the trickling of a brook.
The war goes on triumphantly and without a backward look.
To Kill; To Kill-the urge within one is strong.
"Peace on earth-Good will toward men"-where did I hear that song?
Oh! of course-how stupid-today is Christmas Day.
A day of hearty cheer-the world is deaf-it does not hear-it cannot hear
Landing at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville
Why Bougainville? Most Japanese air attacks
were launched from Rabaul, Bougainville and
Buka, just north of Bougainville. Possession of
these islands would give our air force advanced
bases for their operations further north.
Bougainville is approximately 125 miles long
and 48 miles across at it's widest point.
Approximately 60,000 Japanese occupied the
island, mostly around Baku with it's airport and
along the east shore with it's low-lying
cultivated plantations and which would be the
most logical point to attack. General MacArther
chose the most illogical point of entry. Empress Augusta Bay was on the west side of the island and was
separated from the east side by swamps, a network of rivers, and dense impenetrable mountainous jungle.
Besides the immediate advantages to be gained by the capture of the beachhead area, there was an important
strategic advantage. The Japanese, isolated from any support or reinforcement by the U. S. fleet and Air Force,
would eventually have to come out of their retreat and, for the first time in the South Pacific, fight an offensive
war. With defensive positions firmly established and a strong perimeter bristling with gun emplacements and
fields of fire, the theory was, the Yanks could sit back and cut the Japs down like clay pigeons. The theory
worked, but the Japs were not exactly clay pigeons.
The 148th landed on Bougainville with the 37th Division on Nov. 9, 1943. The American
position at that time was nothing but green jungle and mud. First mission was to establish
a defense perimeter for the beachhead.
Bougainville Invasion Dec. 1943 to March 1944
%E2%80%93-march-1944 Empress Augusta Bay
The 37th Division was assigned the western sector of the
beachhead, formerly occupied by the 3d Marine Division, the
37th extended its right flank and took over some 2,000
additional yards of perimeter.
On Nov.10th the push inland began with the right flank of the 148th moving 1,000 yard north.
Snipers kept them on edge and there were 5 Jap plane attacks during the day. They advanced
another 2,000 yards on Nov 15th. On Nov 21 they advanced another 1,000 yards; then the next
few days were spent moving forward to the final defense line. Here on Nov 25th began the long
arduous task of completing perimeter defenses, digging in guns, stretching barbed wire, and
laying communications. Edward dug in his 37 MM antitank gun on the extreme left flank, next
to and overlooking Empress Augusta Bay. That foxhole was his home for the next 8
months. While the infantry made it's way in stages to the final defense line, work in the rear was
progressing rapidly on the installations for which the beachhead had been secured. A fighter
strip had been built and they were clearing
ground for a huge new bomber field.
Thanksgiving passed. Days went by
without any major excitement except the
By this time the situation of the
Japanese had become precarious. They had
the protection of the mountains but their
supply lines were cut, food diminishing,
bombed daily, they were faced with the
unhappy alternative of remaining in hiding
and starving, or launching a full scale
attack to wipe out the American forces on
the island. They chose the latter.
The stage was set, and the curtain about to rise on some of the bloodiest, most fanatical
Banzai attacks made by the Japanese in the South Pacific War. The players were the boastful
warriors of the Japanese 17th Army, the cream of the Jap Militarists, pitted against a civilian
army of battling clerks, farmers, mechanics, carpenters, schoolboys, and business men, molded
into an efficient, blood-thirsty army by the blood-letting on New Georgia. The American
beachhead was on a coastal plain about two miles deep, lying at the foot of the towering Crown
Prince range of volcanic mountains. Patrols discovered that the Japs were assembling for a
major attack on Hill 700 which overlooked the airfield
William Vernon Gordon died February 23, 1944 on Bougainville
The first artillery shell from the attacking Japanese landed at 6:27 on Mar 8, 1944. For the next
three days the enemy pounded our lines, then on Mar 11th they launched an assault at dawn.
They came in waves, a whole battalion attacking on a platoon front. Brandishing their prized
sabers, screeching "Chusuto!" (Dam them), the Jap officers climbed up the slope and rushed
forward in an admirable display of blind courage. The men screamed in reply "Yaruzo!" (Lets
do it!) and then "Yarimosu!" (We will do it!). As they closed with the American doughboys, the
leaders cried "San Nen Kire!" or "Cut a thousand men!" These battle cries were answered by the
G. I.'s "Kill the bastards". Mowed down by the heavy fire from the dug in infantry, the Japs kept
tumbling over the bodies of their comrades unwaveringly advancing toward the spitting guns.
The attack was bloodily stopped by 8:00 and the dazed remnants of the enemy battalion had
withdrawn, leaving fifteen hundred of their dead comrades stacked up in front of our lines.
But the battle was not over. A different kind of battle developed. Twenty thousand Japs
swerved to the right and dared to meet us in open battle, in flat land, hoping their valor, strength
and courage would take the heart out of our troops. They underestimated the number and
fighting quality of the American soldier. Early on Mar 15th another Banzai attack occurred. The
leading platoons of shrieking orientals were hacked to pieces, but the rear units kept charging
over the bodies of the dead. The Japs who attacked the 37th Division were not only fanatical,
but desperate and indifferent to death. The tactics of the Japanese officers will always be a
mystery. Time after time they attacked over the same ground, literally stepping over the bodies
of their dead who had been cut to pieces, while the rear of their long columns were blasted from
the earth by the thousands of rounds of American artillery. The nauseating task of burying those
thousands of dead Japanese fell to the rear echelons of the division. Protected by infantry
squads they completed one of the most odious tasks of the war. Bulldozers buried them in their
foxholes and scraped out pits and scraped the reeking, mutilated remains in and covered the
mass graves over again. The stench was overwhelming and the decaying human flesh turned the
stomach. On Mar 27 1944 the shell-happy remainder of the Imperial Japanese Army staggered
back across the mountains. They were killed or captured in the following months.
Observers of most of the fighting in the Solomons were unanimous in their judgment that never
before had such frightful and bloody fighting taken place between the Japanese and the
The 37th Division alone killed 7,655 Japs and took 44 prisoners.
The 37th lost 185 killed, 1,388 wounded (57 of those later died), and 4 were missing in action.
WILLIAM VERNON GORDON
1942, Dec 19 - Inducted and sworn into the Army.
1942, Dec 26 - Leave Salt Lake city for Camp Roberts, California
1943, Jan 2 - Arrive at Camp Roberts, California for 13 weeks training.
1943, March 8 – Furlough Vern’s mother passes away,
1943, March 19 - 7 Day furlough attend wife’s, father’s funeral
1943, March 26 - Returned to Camp Roberts, Calif
1943, July 20 - Arrived at Fort Lewis, Washington for
Assigned to: 37th
Infantry Division, 148th
1943, Aug 19 - Moved to Pittsbury Depot, Calif. Near San Francisco
1943, Oct 1 - Letter from Vern in Southwestern Pacific,
1943, Nov. 9 - 37th
Landed on Bougainville
1944, Feb. 23 - Vern killed on Bougainville Island
1944, March 12 – Memorial Service at Draper, Utah
Operation Cherryblossom - the invasion of Bougainville (November 1943-March 1944)
HEAD QUARTERS 148TH
Office of the Chaplain
April 18, 1944
Harriet M. Gordon
My Dear Friend:
I wish to express my sympathy at the death of your loved one. He gave his life
courageously and in honor for his country and we all trust that his sacrifice shall not be
in vain but that the peace for which he was fighting shall come to pass.
It is my prayer that your confidence in God and His care for the souls of our dead
will be a comfort to you. We will live in the hope of immortality so we can see our loved
ones again. "Those whom we have loved long since and lost awhile."
I regret to state that the body of your loved one has not and probably will not be
recovered. He was killed in action in enemy territory. His unit had other casualties in
attempting to recover the dead. At a later date a patrol was sent into this territory but was
unable to locate and trace any of the bodies either buried or unburied. This makes an
added burden to your sorrow, but let me assure you that everything was done that could
be done to secure the bodies for proper burial. However a Memorial Service was held in
his units and proper respect was paid to the sacrifice he made.
William was a man who was well liked by the men of his unit and he will be
missed greatly out here. We trust that we may have added courage to carry on for
Any request or question that you may have concerning the personal effects of
William may be directed to the Quarter Master General, Washington 25 D. C.
Joel M. Wareing
Your tombstone stands neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out on polished, marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care. It is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist. You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you in flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our heart contracts and beats a pulse entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled so long ago
Spreads out among the ones you left who would have loved you so.
I wonder as you lived and loved, I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot and come to visit you.
Find A Grave
Willliam Vernon Gordon
Birth: 10 Jul 1912 Lincoln, Bingham, Idaho
Death: 23 Feb 1944, WWII Bougainville, North
Solomons, Papua New Guinea
Burial Service: 12 Mar 1944, Draper City
Cemetery Draper, Salt Lake County, Utah
YOU TUBE VIDEOS CONCERNING BOUGAINSVILLE WWII
Operation Cherry Blossom - The Bougainville Campaign - WWII Pacific
Semper Fi: Marines In WWII, Ep.2 – Bougainville
NBC Radio Broadcast -- Battle of Bougainville, World War II, with pictures
WW2: Crusade in the Pacific -10/24- Up the Solomon's Ladder: Bougainville
Bougainville 1944 to 1945 – Australians
Battle History of the USMC - Pacific Ep 4: Bougainville
American Infantry Troops, Bougainville Island, SW Pacific Ocean, Solomon
Reconnaissance Mission - Bougainville (1944)
WW II - Crusade in the Pacific [Part 10/24] - Up The Solomons Ladder
The Battle For Hill 700
WWII vet talks about Bouganville campaign
You Tube video – Aircraft over Bougainville
Bougainville Tactical Reenactment - 2010 (Photo Montage)