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39th Battalion “Heroes to the End”

Stories from the 39th Infantry Battalion 1941-43

Compiled by Carl Johnson – Mud over Blood & Mud over Blood ‘Revisited’

A brief in regards the final fate of Captain Samuel Templeton and the six other ranks captured between 26-29th July 1942 and executed at Oivi on the Kokoda Trail 15th August 1942.

In 2006 when the 1st edition of ‘Mud Over Blood’ was released, this being primarily a memorial publication intended for those living veterans of the 39th and for the many families of those that had since departed, I chose to query, what till then, had been avoided, the final fate of Captain Templeton on the Kokoda Trail.

‘What Happened to Uncle Sam?’ was intended to put forth as much accurate information, which was till then available both publicly and privately to this compiler. This work was produced prior to the centralisation of ADF records (and digitalisation), which were at the time of collating not then publicly available, and with the assistance of as many of those actual Kokoda Trail veterans involved at these two actions – & who had chosen at that time to speak.

The piece made it very clear that not only was Templeton a known P.O.W. on the Kokoda Trail but so were another six members of the famed 39th Battalion, these being cited on Templeton’s dossier, and having been accounted for by members of ‘B’ and ‘D’ Company who had been present. The compiler made it clear what as well the end fate of these prisoners was to be.

In 2010 a media storm erupted over new revelations by Kokoda Trail Trekking operator and researcher, Mr Wayne Wetherall, who had been advised and shown the actual spot where Templeton had been buried by a Japanese veteran member. The details as then aired by Mr Wetherall were based on these firsthand accounts, the ability which this veteran demonstrated in being able to accurately place the spot of burial, and an in-depth investigation vide Australian Official records regards the death of this officer by Mr Wetherall personally.

This compiler was after initially being misinformed of the intentions of such research, decided it was time to revisit certain files which he had decided needed not be aired until such a time was befitting, in regards actual Japanese Intelligence to substantiate or otherwise, such claims which by now had caused much debate over the internet, as since viewed by this writer.

Little will be said in regards this aspect then two points of concern 1) in the name of ADF heritage preservation and the sharing of such, the intervention of personal politics, racial bigotry, and misuse of primary resources does nothing but harm to a genre those doing such too, profess to be passionate about serving! 2) the internet as a medium or carriage of conveying and preserving actual history should be avoided, and the free range which some commercial net site’s feel they own, in this case those concerned with the Kokoda Trail have demonstrated over the last few years, especially since 2010, where by distorting published works to be bent to their requirements, is to say the least deplorable, and shameful.

For the record as this is meant to serve, not one Kokoda Trail type orientated site, presently carrying the piece ‘What Happened to Uncle Sam?” has even bothered to either seek the compiler’s permission to upload, nor checked to see whether their ‘new’ information, now purporting to be relevant to the piece published by this writer was suitable or even slightly correct before attaching it to the uploaded aspect of ‘Mud Over Blood’ and using my name as its credibility!

To this the only site which this compiler has availed permission to use the piece regards Templeton is Mr Wetherall, and this is because both his claims (in their greater degree have been proven officially), and that Mr Wetherall, had the good manners to actually ask the compiler’s permission, and had valid information which the writer felt was indeed actually relevant and new. This is not a claim any other site carrying this the writer’s piece and connecting ‘their new research’ to can presently claim!

The new information which will be availed the Australian public in published form later this year, will carry the actual facts and missing details in regards the loss, the captivity and the audacious bravery of this fine officer on the Kokoda Trail, and it will reflect the steadfast loyalty of those other six, till now completely overlooked by historians etc, and now as well captive, carried on with, and thus stood by their officer until death.

It will explain the reasons why ‘that grave’ at the Waterfall on the Kokoda Trail at Oivi now lies empty, and it will explore the fate of the actual remains from this and for those of the other six men captured, and finally after over two weeks of captivity on the Kokoda Track were killed.

This research will as well explain the final fate and whereabouts of Lieutenant Hercules ‘Hec’ Crawford, whose disappearance has been for decades confused with the mystery of Templeton’s loss. Another of the forgotten men, lost in the mystery by academics and historians in their quest for Sam.

From the officially records of the I.J.A. and from other members of the same Regiment as Nishimura comes more compelling proof, all primary, indicating the manner in which Templeton faced his death on the Kokoda Trail, and well explains in their own words as exactly how much harm this officer had caused his enemies advance towards Port Moresby along the Kokoda Trail, in what were some of the darkest days experienced by this young Nation during what is now collectively termed ‘The Battles that Saved Australia’, and during which, these seven men were to play an extraordinary part in fighting.

The story to come, to be compiled by Carl Johnson, Wayne Wetherall & Sarah Well’s, will demonstrate that to our national shame, the deeds of Captain Templeton on the Kokoda Track in protecting his new adopted homeland, is better known and celebrated by the Japanese people then it is by the Australian public!

The first step has been taken to officially acknowledge the deeds of Sam and his men in his own country. By using the firsthand accounts and actual I.J.A. Intelligence as now available to the compilers of this pending work, the names of all seven have finally been added to the National Prisoners of War Memorial at Ballarat on 5th February 2012, a mute tribute to those thousands of Australians who paid the highest price for our Nation’s freedom.

Captain Templeton lived up to all he stood for, – in life, the 39th’s motto, ‘Factis Non Verbis’ -‘Deeds Not by Words’. And in death, the Australian P.O.W’s oath. “When you get back home tell them this, that we gave up our todays, – for their tomorrows”.

Sam and his men’s deception of their enemy under interrogations brought the 39th Battalion two valuable weeks to muster further towards the defence of the Kokoda Track, they brought too Port Moresby two weeks to better prepare herself for what could well be a bitter besiegement.

They brought these at the cost of their own lives. – ‘Lest We Forget’

Carl Johnson
Mud over Blood and Mud over Blood Revisited
Stories from the 39thInfantry Battalion 1941-43