“Tip of the Spear”: Boredom in Paradise
Only about one percent of soldiers are ever on the frontlines, that is, the “Tip of the Spear.” Most never see actual battle. The 198th Regiment spent a year constructing infrastructure for what they thought would be a vital military hub for Pacific operations. They built a dock, roads, gun emplacements, gasoline tanks, and barracks. Yet once Midway Island became under U.S. military command, Bora Bora lost its strategic significance. It became a waystation, not the center of operations. For the men of the 198th, a huge part of their job on Bora Bora became fighting off boredom, instead of enemy troops. The boredom was so bad that one man committed suicide and another grabbed his rifle and started shooting at people. But for most men of the 198th, the boredom made them lose their edge as a crack outfit - their reputation as the best of the best, which gained the Regiment the mission in the first place. The constant sitting around and waiting for nothing to happen diminished proficienc and left them unprepared for an enemy attack. Yet, this lost time provided opportunities, as it allowed the unit to send men to officer training school back in the states, where they re-charged and were sent to lead other units in battle.
This photograph was probably taken soon after arrival on the island when the men assumed that they would be facing the enemy directly. But that assumption was wrong and instead the men faced another menacing challenge - boredom. Credit: Black and white photograph, photographer unknown, ca. 1942. Delaware Military Museum Archives.
The photograph, “Dirt Detail” shows the men of the 198th at the unglamorous but important work of building roads. Credit: “Dirt Detail,” black and white photograph, photographer unknown, ca. 1942. Delaware Military Museum Archives.
Although the men are all dressed up and ready to perform, their forlorn and melancholy expressions belie the joy of playing in the band. Many became depressed after months without a real mission as a military unit. Credit: Black and white photograph, photographer unknown, 1942-43. Delaware Military Museum Archives.
This photograph captures the troops idling away the day with more downtime than they expected. The sloped shoulders of the soldier in front and the lazy and easy-going postures of the others make quite a contrast to the earlier photograph of them standing at attention with rigid backs when first training in the States. Credit: Black and white photograph, photographer unknown, ca. 1942. Delaware Military Museum Archives.