70 years on, PNG battles are almost forgotten
08 September 2013
MAX BLENKIN | AAP Defence Correspondent
SEVENTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, Australian and US forces launched a major offensive against Japanese troops in eastern New Guinea.
Australian War Memorial historian Karl James says some 1,200 Australians died in this slow grinding campaign that was instrumental in recovering great areas of New Guinea from the Japanese.
Dr James said it was the largest ever offensive by Australian forces, involving five divisions plus significant RAAF and Australian navy forces.
The Australian losses were comparatively low, compared with the earlier fighting, he said.
That was because of the army's professionalism and mastery of jungle warfare, and the allies' advantages in weaponry and logistics against the increasingly desperate Japanese.
"The dark days of 1942 when Australian units were deployed piecemeal to Papua with minimal preparation and equipment were over," he said.
Japanese losses amounted to some 35,000.
Hard-fought battles occurred at locations such as Bobdubi Ridge, Komiautum, Finschhafen, Kaiaipit and Shaggy Ridge, events overshadowed by the earlier Kokoda battles.
There were large scale airborne and amphibious landings, daring small-scale commando raids and ceaseless jungle patrols.
There was also great heroism, with four Victoria Crosses awarded to Australian soldiers after these battles.
Some, like Corporal Leslie "Bull" Allen, who rescued 12 wounded American soldiers under Japanese fire in fighting on Mount Tambu, missed out.
He was among 134 Australian servicemen nominated for a retrospective VC in a recent inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of gallantry.
Good luck Jeff. I hope you find some answers.
There are Japanese people also going back to visit the battle scenes in the Wewak area. I found some of their photos online.
I'll pass on your information to the Sepik facebook group.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 22 January 2014 at 10:55 AM
My Great Uncle, Pvt. Frank Raley from Grange, Georgia, USA... was killed in the Battle of Sanananda....he was KIA January '43 at point FISK during that battle.
He was with Co C of the 163 Inf Division US Army, supporting the Australians in the Kokoda campaign and was killed by "friendly fire" in a supporting artillery barrage.
Fast forward to April 12, '44...
My Third Cousin-Lt. M.L. English...Mitchell, Georgia, USA and his complete B-25 Crew (4) are missing in action just South of Wewak, PNG after crash landing and being seen near their aircraft for three days following.
Thought to have been taken prisoner---3 executed in Moim after digging their own graves and M.L. and his Co-Pilot being taken to Wewak/Boram POW camp for interrogation.
I am planning a trip to their crash site in 2015 to attempt to visit the area that the crew camped/staged and was located until being given escape instructions to relocate to Piambit Village--where they were supposed to try to meet an Australian Recon team.
They arrived at the village and were captured and taken down the river to Moim by Japanese forces.
Anyone interested in assisting please feel free to contact me at Jenglish@GFUGAS.com or my phone 210-389-4960.
My name is Jeff English, 4 Inwood Way, San Antonio, Tx 78248 USA.
Posted by: Jeff English | 22 January 2014 at 09:24 AM
Not forgotten. Just repressed from memory. I suggest all read "Hells Battlefield" by Phillip Bradley.
I have a memory of a BBQ by the swimming pool at home (would have been early '60s) listening to my fathers friends talking about Nth Africa, Greece, Cyprus the Syrian campaign.
They were extremely upbeat in their memories and along came Hub Ward, complete with a hole in his shoulder and other obvious shrapnel wounds.
"Where were you Hub?" was asked as the introductions were made. Kokoda, he replied. A total pall fell over the gathering.
They had all served in New Guinea too and there were no memories they wished to talk about.
From what I gathered in later years talking to our manager who was one of the 6th division, New Guinea was indeed, Hells Battlefield.
Not forgotten, just repressed.
Posted by: Tim Ashton | 08 September 2013 at 09:27 AM