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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Men Who Came Out of the Ground: Paul Cleary

Paul Cleary
ISBN 0733623182
(978-073-362318-9)
RRP $35.00 August 2010
Hachette Aust Paperback (C)
By early 1942, the Japanese had invaded the Dutch East Indies as part of their push south. A few hundred Australian Special Forces commandos based in East Timor, the 2/2 Independent Company, became the only men to withstand the onslaught, avoid capture and take offensive action against vastly superior enemy numbers.

These men were unique. Recruited mainly from the bush and trained in a very different kind of war, they became the first Australians to successfully prosecute guerrilla warfare.

Months before Australian forces met the Japanese on the Kokoda Track, the men of Timor launched relentless hit and run raids on the enemy, showing that the seemingly all-conquering Japanese could not only be matched but also beaten.

By hitting the enemy hard and then melting into the rugged mountains of Timor, the Japanese who had previously conquered Allied forces throughout Asia said the Australians were like men who leapt out of the ground, attacked, and then disappeared back into theground.

After months of skirmishes and attacks on Japanese forces, the Australians faced a major offensive and despite the best efforts of the individual soldiers, Australian forces were withdrawn at the end of 1942. But by then thousands of Japanese troops had been prevented from taking part in the Papua New Guinea campaign.

This account covers their heroic fighting against a superior force, courage and ingenuity in the face of supply and equipment problems, but with the support and friendship of the locals.

It’s the story of Australia’s Special Forces in action and achieving what they set out to do.

Author and journalist Paul Cleary has spent three years researching this campaign. He brings deep insights into what became a gruesome campaign that exacted a horrendous toll on the Timorese people who backed the Australians and helped make them a highly mobile and effective fighting force.

Drawing on interviews with the last surviving veterans of this campaign in Australia and East Timor, extensive research in the Canberra archives, and on Japanese records, Cleary reconstructs Timor 1942 in intricate and stirring detail. He demonstrates how Timor 1942 became a defining moment in Australia’s military history.

Cleary shows how the Japanese employed terror tactics against the local population that were later used by the CIA in South Vietnam. He details the heroic efforts of the Australia navy and air force to support the garrison in the mountains throughout 1942. And he reveals intelligence blunders in Australia that led to the torture and death of special forces men sent back to Timor in the latter years of the war.

‘These men of Timor are unique in that they remained an organised fighting body all through the lightning Jap successes…These lads are writing an epic of guerrilla warfare.’ Damien Parer, November 1942

Information about travel and tourism in Timor Leste
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