Our Jungle Road to Tokyo by Robert Eichelberger, 322 pages,hardcover, $24.95
Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, first published in 1950, is the World War II memoir of U.S. Army Lt. General Robert L. Eichelberger (1886-1961) who commanded the Eighth United States Army in the Southwest Pacific Area during World War II. A 1909 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he saw service in Panama and on the Mexican border before joining the American Expeditionary Force to Siberia in 1918. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for repeated acts of bravery in Siberia. After the war, he transferred to the Adjutant General's Corps. He attended the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College, and was Secretary of the War Department General Staff, working for the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Douglas MacArthur. In 1940, Eichelberger became the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He instituted a number of reforms, cutting back activities such as horseback riding and close order drill, and substituting modern combat training, in which cadets participated in military exercises alongside National Guard units. He gave cadets a chance to qualify as pilots while still at West Point. He became commander of the 77th Infantry Division in March 1942, and I Corps in June. In August 1942, Eichelberger was sent to the Southwest Pacific Area, where he led American and Australian troops in the bloody Battles of Buna and Gona. In 1944, he had notable victories at Hollandia and the Battle of Biak. As Commanding General of the newly formed Eighth Army, Eichelberger led the invasion of the Southern Philippines clearing the islands of Mindoro, Marinduque, Panay, Negros, Cebu and Bohol. By July 1945, his forces had defeated the Japanese on Mindanao. In August 1945, Eichelberger's Eighth Army began a three-year stint as part of the Occupation of Japan. He retired from the Army at the end of 1948.
General Robert L. Eichelberger was never prone to claim the spotlight. Douglas MacArthur often took credit for victories that were the result of Eichelberger's frontline leadership and tactical guidance for his “Jungleer” troops. Eichelberger turned the potentially disasterous Battle of Buna in New Guinea into a victory in a month of brutal fighting against tenacious Japanese, under truly horrific jungle conditions. The successful Battle of Biak Island and the Eighth Army’s Philippine campaign are also considered hallmarks of Eichelberger’s career. He was a self-effacing and considerate commander with an impressive record for his effective amphibious landings. He was prompted to pen his book to try to gain his soldiers the recognition he believed they deserved. It is an important source for information about the campaigns conducted by units under Eichelberger's command, as well as MacArthur's SWPA in general. It is well written, and an invaluable record of operations in the SWPA and insights from General Eichelberger as a combat commander and regarding his superiors.