A harrowing portrait of a largely forgotten campaign that pushed one battalion to the limits of human suffering.
Despite their lack of jungle training, the 32nd Division’s “Ghost Mountain Boys” were assigned the most grueling mission of the entire Pacific campaign in World War II: to march over the 10,000-foot Owen Stanley Mountains to protect the right flank of the Australian army during the battle for New Guinea. Reminiscent of the classics like Band of Brothers and The Things They Carried, The Ghost Mountain Boys is part war diary, part extreme-adventure tale, and—through letters, journals, and interviews—part biography of a group of men who fought to survive in an environment every bit as fierce as the enemy they faced. Theirs is one of the great untold stories of the war.
“Campbell started out with history, but in the end he has written a tale of survival and courage of near-mythic proportions.”
—America in WWII magazine
“In this compelling and sprightly written account, Campbell shines a long-overdue light on the equally deserving heroes of the Red Arrow Division.”
About the Author
In 2006, James Campbell mounted an expedition to New Guinea and retraced the route of the Ghost Mountain Boys. He discovered a wilderness largely unchanged in more than sixty years. Campbell is the author of The Final Frontiersman and has written for Outside magazine as well as many other publications. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and three daughters.
"From the Hardcover edition."
“Riveting... The Ghost Mountain Boys offers a new, harrowing world to explore.”
“The Buna campaign in New Guinea was one of the most awful slogs of World War II and one of the least reported. Now we are fortunate to have Jim Campbell’s outstanding Ghost Mountain Boys illuminate the heroes of the 32nd Division.”
–James Bradley, bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys
“The ragged heroes cursed to serve in MacArthur's New Guinea campaigns faced some of the most hellish fighting in all of World War II. In this intimate and at times excruciatingly vivid account, James Campbell feelingly recreates the American army's encounters not only with a fanatical foe but with more insidious adversaries like jungle rot, malaria, and the venomous creepy-crawlies of the rainforest. The result is both a classic war story and a spirited safari through one of the most exotic landscapes on earth.”
—Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder
“Jim Campbell's The Ghost Mountain Boys is one of those rare World War II tales that really do deserve to be retold. Thoroughly researched and expertly written, this engaging narrative will please both military historians and readers looking for an exciting odyssey of extraordinary courage and determination.”
—Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter and The Few
“Campbell has crafted a compelling war history, one that reads as a page-turner.”
“Campbell brings to vivid life one of the more forgotten, grislier campaigns of World War II, the Buna Trail campaign in New Guinea. The Japanese were trying to get a foothold on the south coast of the island, opposite Australia. The American Thirty-second Infantry Division had the job of driving them back over the Owen Stanley Mountain. It succeeded, at the cost of more than 10,000 casualties, four-fifths of them from tropical diseases contracted in the face of heavy rain, astonishing depths of mud, rugged terrain, perpetually rancid weather, shortage of supplies (including medicines), and, not incidentally, the Japanese. The most poignant part of the book consists of the letters of an army surgeon who eventually committed suicide, but every part of the book entitles it to a berth in WWII collections.”
“In this compelling and sprightly-written account — grounded in oral interviews with the dwindling list of survivors, diaries, letters, and official records — Campbell shines a long-overdue light on the equally-deserving heroes of the Red Arrow Division.”
—Military.com, Tom Miller
“The Ghost Moutain Boys reads like an epic movie script, with nonstop action from beginning to end. Campbell has done a stellar job telling this remarkable story of perseverance, bravery and human suffering. For those that already know the 32nd Division's story, this work tells their tale with the sort of depth and detail that is sure to enlighten even further. For those that haven't heard of their dramatic stand, this story will be forever etched in memory.”
—Martin Dugard, author of Training Ground and Last Voyage of Columbus
“A gut-wrenching saga of young, unequipped soldiers bravely fighting and dying in the hellish jungles of New Guinea. Campbell’s poignant, personal accounts of the U.S. Army’s 32nd Division slogging through the ‘ultimate nightmare country’ are as relevant as today’s nightmarish headlines from Iraq.”
—Charles Jones, author of BOYS OF ’67: From Vietnam to Iraq, the Extraordinary Story of a Few Good Men
“The boys of Wisconsin and Michigan who crossed the hellish jungles of New Guinea and laid down their lives in MacArthur’s crusade for the Pacific–and their wives, sweethearts and children–can finally rest easy. James Campbell’s Ghost Mountain Boys is the literary monument they deserve. As riveting as Black Hawk Down and as gut-wrenching as Ghost Soldiers, Campbell’s account reminds us of their endurance, sacrifice, and heroism--and also of what a privilege it is to be an American.”
—Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara
“Every reader wants to believe in the author, that he has visited places of the heart, mind and world, to fetch us back facts, insights, revelations, even sufferings. James Campbell has delved as deeply as a writer can into the 32 nd Division’s nightmare struggle on World War II New Guinea. The Ghost Mountain Boys is what he lugged back from the jungle and steaming streams. The tale is fearsome, authentic, and brave.”
–David L. Robbins, author of The Assassins Gallery and War Of The Rats"
“An absorbing account of the climax of the New Guinea campaign, perhaps MacArthur's worst- managed battle and a terrible ordeal for the seasoned Australian and raw American troops who fought there.”
"Author Campbell (The Final Frontiersman) retraces the steps of the U.S. Army’s 32nd Infantry Division, and its harrowing fight to capture Buna, New Guinea from the Japanese, in this grunt’s-eye-view of one harrowing WWII mission. The 32nd was a National Guard Division that had made a name for itself on the battlefields in WWI, but by the time America entered WWII, they were less than prepared. Still, the division was shipped to Australia without any effective combat training, from which they were sent to navigate New Guinea’s rain forests without any jungle training, or even proper supplies. Eager to take the fight to the enemy, the men of the 32nd were not ready for their fight against the island itself, a poorly mapped country with no overland roads, virtually impassable mountains, crocodile-filled swamps and disease-carrying mosquitoes. Campbell’s novel-like retelling shows how they accomplished what many would call impossible, or at least suicidal; at the same time, Campbell accounts for the Japanese in New Guinea, who suffered the same, if not worse—both high commands viewed New Guinea as crucial, but not crucial enough to properly support. This intense narrative is a fitting tribute and an excellent, relevant illustration of that elusive phenomenon known as the fog of war."
“Sometimes you see it written in a fiction review that the geographical setting is as much of a character in the novel as the actual characters. This observation can be extended to nonfiction as well, for in James Campbell's superb The Ghost Mountain Boys, the island of New Guinea is one of the most fearsome characters you will ever want to come across, in fiction or real life…The Ghost Mountain Boys is carefully organized, researched and written with great sensitivity and understanding.”
—Chicago Sun Times
"The Ghost Mountain Boys is an accurate and up-close telling of a fierce fight. It's a gripping story. In the end, it is also inspirational.”
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel