8 During 1942, only fifteen percent of all Allied military resources were channelled into the war against Japan. This pitifully small allotment had to be parcelled out to the Southeast Asia Command, China, and to the North, Central, South, and Southwest Pacific areas.
In September 1942, General MacArthur requested enlisted filler and loss replacements at a rate of 3,500 a month for the succeeding six months. This amount was necessary in order to bring his units to table of organization strength, provide for estimated losses other than battle casualties, and establish a replacement pool equal to ten percent of unit strength. The African invasion preparations, however, hungry for manpower, swallowed the entire output of the replacement training centers in the United States during the months of September, October, and November. It was not until the end of January 1943 that troops could be spared for shipment to Australia.
9 The extreme difficulties encountered in supplying Allied forces in New Guinea are well illustrated by the ingenious means employed by the Australian 7th Division in supporting its units just prior to their drive across the Owen Stanleys. Shipments were loaded on six 3-ton trucks, and transported from Port Moresby to the roadhead at Koitaki. A transfer was then made to ten 1/4-ton jeeps and carried to Owers Corner, a distance of only three miles. Here another transfer was made and the supplies, distributed on 60 pack animals and 1,000 native carriers, were moved over steep, treacherous trails to Uberi, three miles on, and thence by porters to the front line units. These 16 motor vehicles, 60 animals, and 1,000 porters, delivering at maximum capacity over a comparatively short line of supply, were still insufficient to move enough materiel to support a force of 3,500 troops. G-2, GHQ, Gen. Willoughby Pers, Circ 22 Sept 42 (S).
14 In September General Horii, Commander South Seas Detachment, after receiving orders from the Army Commander to assemble his main force near Isurava and Kokoda, redistributed his troops. On 25 September the detachment withdrew from Ioribaiwa and an element of the unit, the Stanley Detachment consisting of the 3rd Battalion of 144th Infantry as its main force, was posted in commanding positions in the area of The Gap. As the Stanley Detachment had been under attack since the early part of October, the main force of the South Seas Detachment had been sent forward from Kokoda to give it assistance. The enemy continued to send more units to the scene of battle. Allied air attacks on his supply routes, however, in addition to heavy rains which made overland transportation impossible for the Japanese, left the Stanley Detachment without the means to carry on. On 28 October it retreated to Kokoda. Japanese First Demobilization Bureau Report, Southeast Area Operations Record, Part III, Eighteenth Army Operations, Vol I, p. 14, G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
18 The movement would have been long delayed except for General MacArthur's foresight and advance planning. Early in October he had directed an aerial engineer reconnaissance of the Pongani area to select small boat landing points for a move along the northeast coast of Papua by sea and to determine possible beachhead lines and inshore routes north to Buna. CINCSWPA Radio No. XC731 to Matthews, 3 Oct 42, G-3, GHQ, SWPA Journal (S).
22 An example of the effect of General MacArthur's campaign in New Guinea on Japanese operations in Guadalcanal is shown by a statement of Colonel Kazuyoshi Obata, Supply Staff Officer of the Japanese Eighteenth Army: "Due to the Allied advance in New Guinea, engineer, air, and anti-aircraft units meant for Guadalcanal were deployed to New Guinea. At this time also submarines and sea trucks were bringing supplies to New Guinea instead of Guadalcanal as it was impossible to use them there. One example of a unit deployed to New Guinea that was meant for Guadalcanal was the 51st Division." Interrogation Files, G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
24 The effectiveness of these "coast watcher" parties is well illustrated by the results during the first days of the Allied landings. Four hours after United States forces launched their attack on Guadalcanal, AIB agents warned that twenty-four enemy torpedo bombers were speeding to counterattack. The bombers arrived and were met by Allied fighter planes in position. Only one enemy plane escaped. Early the next morning, the AIB agent at Buka Passage reported forty-five Japanese bombers and fighters heading southeast. Within thirty minutes preparations were underway at Tulagi to intercept the expected attack. The same afternoon the AIB agent at Buin reported more aircraft. Again the American fighters met them and again the intended blow was smashed. An enemy attack the next day met disaster in like manner. Crippled by losses in the air, the enemy was unable to mount another strike for several days, giving the Allied forces precious time in which to consolidate their beachhead gains. In the afternoon of 20 August, the first Grumman "Wildcats" flew into Henderson Field. The following day, warned by "coast watchers" that Japanese planes were on the way, they soared aloft, intercepted at the most favorable altitude, and shot down a number of enemy craft. The same routine was carried out the following day with equally satisfactory results. Thereafter, almost daily for a month, forewarned "Wildcats" intercepted the oncoming enemy, shooting them out of the sky in large numbers. Eric Feldt, The Coast Watchers (New York, 1946), pp. 58-103.
28 The correctness of General MacArthur's assumption is demonstrated by a message which Lt. Gen. Hatazo Adachi, Commander of the Japanese Eighteenth Army in New Guinea, gave to his troops on 26 November 1942: "The East New Guinea and Solomon Island areas are very important not only for the immediate protection of the important southern areas, which we occupied at the beginning of the Great East Asia War, but also for the security and defense of Japan Proper. Therefore, it is necessary for us to occupy these areas as the first line. Furthermore, these are the most strategic areas, and the absolute control of them as offensive bases is necessary in order to cut the communication line between the United States and Australia and thus disrupt the enemy's plans. For this very reason, the United States and Britain ... have been making a serious full-scale counteroffensive for the past four months in order to recapture these bases.... The area of operations in which we are participating [New Guinea] is as extremely important as that of the Solomons Islands. In view of the situation of the whole war, the first objective of our army is to secure the strongholds in East New Guinea." ATIS, GHQ, SWPA, Current Translations No. 13, Spot Report No. 45.
29 To cope with the imminent threat to their holdings, Imperial General Headquarters on 16 November 1942 had established the Eighth Area Army under which defense of each geographical region was entrusted to a separate army. The new Eighteenth Army was to take over all operations in New Guinea while the Seventeenth Army was directed to concentrate its resources entirely on combating the Allied attack in the Solomons. At the same time plans were made to increase their air power and augment the shipment of troops and supplies to the Southwest Pacific Area. Japanese First Demobilization Bureau Report, Southeast Area Operations Record, Part III, Eighteenth Army Operations, Vol I, pp. 16-18, G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
30 The Australian 7th Division was to strike from Kokoda, one part of the United States 32nd Division from Kinjaki, and the other part from Pongani. The date was dependent upon developments in the Solomons struggle and upon the speed with which supplies could be placed behind each column of advance. Memo AC/S G-3, 3 Nov 42, G-3, GHQ, SWPA Journal. (S).
31 This frontal attack and double envelopment by the Australian 16th and 25th Brigades is described in the official Japanese war records as follows: "Since the latter part of October, the main force of the South Seas Detachment occupied positions in the Oivi Sector (southeast of Kokoda) and resisted enemy attacks. The enemy not only came in contact with our defensive lines but also cut off our retreating route north of Ilimor and occupied Ilimor Hamlet. This disrupted the line of communications between the frontal and reserve units of the South Seas Detachment. The commander of the Detachment decided to retreat to the right of the Kumusi River, and on 10 November the Detachment left the battlefield for Papaki." Japanese First Demobilization Bureau Report, Southeast Area Operations Record, Part III, Eighteenth Army Operations, Vol I, pp. 14-15, G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
36 The 126th Infantry at Pongani, Bofu, and Natunga moved forward on Embogu and Inonde. The 128th Infantry at Embogu, Eroro, and Embi advanced on Cape Sudest and Dobodura. New Guinea Force, Situation Report 280-281, 17 Nov 42, G-3, GHQ, SWPA Journal.
37 The "Old Strip" at Buna, for example, which was enlarged by the Japanese to 1300 x 90 yards and protected by blast bays, was a valuable military asset for either side. If the Japanese could defend and secure Buna, the "Old Strip" would provide a base from which they could attack nearby Allied installations with fighter cover. Conversely, if it were in the hands of the Allies, it would give them an air base unhampered by the limitations of the Port Moresby bases, which were subject to the hazards of the Owen Stanleys and their unpredictable weather. Report of the Commanding General, Buna Forces on the Buna Campaign, Dec 1, 1942-Jan 25, 1943, p. 3.
38 The occupation of the limited dry areas was a great advantage to the enemy when the weather in the Buna area is considered. During the closing stages of the Papuan Campaign, eight inches of rain were recorded on one day (11 January 1943) in the Buna area. Report of the Commanding General, Buna Forces on the Buna Campaign, Dec 1, 1942-Jan 25, 1943, p. 5. The heavy rains may be cited as an example of climatic conditions which constantly hampered combat operations and which were utterly foreign to the experience of all troops entering the New Guinea combat areas. The mean annual rainfall in the Buna area, for example, is about 120 inches with an average of 163 rain days a year; even these figures are exceeded by those of several other key points in New Guinea. AGS, GHQ, SWPA, Terrain Study No. 27, Buna and Plains of Northern Division, pp. 23-25. The heavy rainfall of New Guinea can best be appreciated by a comparison with the United States where about 40 percent of the land area receives less than 20 inches of rain annually, about 35 percent receives from 20 to 40 inches a year, and 25 percent receives from 40 to 60 inches a year.
39 General MacArthur's reliance upon air transport for the conduct of operations is shown in his radio of 24 November: "My campaign in northern Papua is being supported and supplied entirely by air; in view of enemy reinforcement and increased resistance the situation of my air transport is serious. Do not feel I should call for assistance upon SOPAC, which is also hard pressed; believe assistance should be supplied from theaters not engaged in active operations; request two groups each of 3 troop carrier squadrons be dispatched here as soon as possible; advise if this can be done." CINCSWPA Radio No. P-289 to WARCOS, 24 Nov 42, WD No. 296, C/S GHQ (S).
42 Disease riddled the Allied ranks throughout the entire New Guinea campaign. In the Buna operation, for example, the total number of casualties of all kinds in the U.S. 32nd Division was 10,960. Of this total, 8,286 were disease casualties, 5,358 of them caused by fever, principally malaria. Report of the Commanding General, Buna Forces on the Buna Campaign, Dec 1, 1942-Jan 25, 1943, p. 105. The same story is told by an Australian report: "The sickness rate at least doubled the battle casualties, proving that, in some respects, the country was an enemy as formidable as...the Japanese. In this phase of the first New Guinea campaign, of every nine men put out of action, three were battle casualties-one killed ; two wounded-and six were sickness casualties. Any reserve force was, therefore, suffering two-thirds the wastage of manpower of those engaged in actual battle." The Jap was Thrashed, An Official Story of the Australian Soldier, (Director General of Public Relations, Melbourne), p. 85.
43 The casualty rates for the Japanese forces in New Guinea also present a grim picture. The Papuan Campaign destroyed the myth, born during the Malayan operation, that the Japanese were unbeatable jungle fighters. Referring to New Guinea, a Japanese Army report stated: "Epidemics are numerous and the climate is bad.... The large number of patients is caused by malaria, diarrhea, skin disease, beri-beri, and malnutrition.... It is preferable to replace personnel at least every five or six months.... In the first month and a half, malaria manifested itself and by the end of the second month and a half the strength of the active force engaging in
45 Vice Adm. Arthur S. Carpender, COMSOWESPACFOR reported: "I do not favor sending destroyers north of Milne Bay for protection of small ships proceeding to Buna via Ward Hunt Strait and Cape Nelson, and strongly recommend against their being so employed. The area involved is poorly surveyed and charts unreliable. Shallow draft vessels [only] can proceed via coastal routes from Cape Nelson-this entire area is filled with reefs to such an extent that there is little or no sea room available for destroyers to maneuver. On the other hand, via the northern approach route, from Gasmata, the enemy can readily move destroyers and cruisers via deep water areas against the Buna area. To put a minor surface force to the Buna area would be of no value against a heavy force which the enemy might easily send in." COMSOWESPACFOR indorsement, 10 Nov 42, to Comdr ALF Ltr to CINCSWPA, 7 Nov 42, ANF No. 5, C/S GHQ, (S).
46 Col. Clarence A. Martin became the commander of Warren Force and Col. John E. Grose, of Urbana Force. The 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry, took over the lines on the Sinemi-Buna trail south of the bridge; the 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry occupied the Plantation position; the 3rd Battalion 128th Infantry went into reserve on the coast behind the right flank. MID, WD, Papuan Campaign, The Buna-Sanananda Operation, p. 37.
49 GHQ, SWPA, Communique No. 247, 15 Dec 42. The conclusion in this report was later confirmed from Japanese sources. Two Japanese landing forces had each made two attempts to bring aid to their besieged comrades in Papua. This second landing force was composed of the 25th Field Machine Gun Company and the 1st Battalion (less two companies), the 9th Company, and the Regimental Gun Company of the 170th Infantry. It was also accompanied by personnel from all sections of Eighteenth Army Headquarters including Staff Officer Col. Aotsu. On its first attempt the landing party was scheduled to land at Gona on 8 December but was so pounded by Allied planes that it was forced to return to Rabaul. It left again on 12 December in another largely unsuccessful effort to bring in reinforcements. The elements that succeeded to escaping Allied bombs landed about forty miles to the north of Gona, too distant and too late to render effective assistance. Gona had fallen to the Allies on 9 December, one day after the original landing force of enemy reinforcements was scheduled to arrive. Japanese First Demobilization Bureau Report, Southeast Area Operations Record, Part III, Eighteenth Army Operations, Vol 1, pp. 25-28. G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
50 When the Triangle was finally evacuated by the enemy and occupied by units of the 32nd Division on 28 December, it was found to be honeycombed with no less than 18 bunkers. These defensive strongholds were powerfully fortified, mutually supported by connecting trenches and almost impervious to artillery bombardment. MID, WD, Papuan Campaign, The Buna-Sanananda Operation, p. 57.
51 As the Papuan campaign came to a close, the Japanese made several desperate attempts to aid their sorely pressed force at Buna, but their efforts to land reinforcements at Lae for transfer south were repeatedly thwarted by the alert Allied Air Forces. The forced march of a hastily assembled rescue force from Gona and Giruwa failed to arrive in time to be of any effect. Japanese First Demobilization Bureau Report, Southeast Area Operations Record, Part III, Eighteenth Army Operations, Vol I, pp. 27-29. G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
53 SECWAR Ltr to CINCSWPA, 6 Jan 43, WD No. 328, C/S GHQ (S). Prime Minister Curtin also expressed his gratitude in a letter of commendation dated 11 January 1943 which General MacArthur published to his troops: "Dear General MacArthur: The Order of the Day issued by you at the concluding stage of operations in South-Eastern New Guinea marks a notable historic stage of the war in the Pacific.... I would express to you, your commanders and all ranks of Australian and American Forces, the thanks and admiration of the Australian people and the Government for their magnificent services. The campaign has been fought under most trying conditions in one of the most difficult regions in the world. The forces under your command have not only overcome these immense natural difficulties but have decisively defeated a tenacious and stubborn foe. The campaign has been a demonstration of comradeship in arms and cooperation between the forces of the United States and Australia which I am sure will continue until the common foe is totally defeated." GHQ General Order No. 6, 13 Jan 42, AG, GHQ, SWPA No. 430113.
54 This block, established on 30 November, became known as "Huggins Block" after Captain Huggins who commanded the United States group which held it under ceaseless enemy attack until relieved by the Australian 39th Infantry Battalion on 22 December.
55 The Japanese defending Gona were under specific orders to fight to the bitter end. A bulletin of 19 November 1942 from the Commander of the Yazawa Unit at Gona Village read: "It is not permissable to retreat even a step from each unit's original defensive position. I demand that each man fight until the last. As previously instructed, those without firearms or sabers must be prepared to fight with sharp weapons such as knives or bayonets tied to sticks, or with clubs." ATIS, GHQ, SWPA, Current Translations, No. 15, p. 40.
57 Alert handling and rapid interrogation of a captured Japanese soldier disclosed that a withdrawal had been ordered from the enemy's forward positions along the Soputa-Sanananda track. This valuable information enabled the Allies to catch the Japanese at a decided disadvantage as they were about to begin their evacuation. MID, WD, Papuan Campaign, The Buna-Sanananda Operation, pp. 73-74. G-2, GHQ, SWPA, Daily Summary No. 298, 14/15 Jan 43.
58 The extreme plight of the enemy at this point is vividly described by Maj. Gen. Kensaku Oda, who had replaced General Horii as commander of the South Seas Detachment, in his report to the Chief of Staff, Eighteenth Army; "Enemy aircraft flying above all day and bombing and strafing everything in sight; entire enemy artillery in action and fire being concentrated on us.... Communications disrupted between our first line and central positions since yesterday. Strong enemy force has penetrated into our central positions. Coast also being battered by enemy gunfire. Fresh enemy force from Buna area very active. Our short supply line leading from the coast already on verge of collapse. Most of the men stricken with dysentery. Those not kept in bed with illness are without food and too weak for hand-to-hand fighting. As the days go by, starvation is taking many lives, and it is weakening the already extended lines. We are doomed...." Japanese First Demobilization Bureau Report, Southeast Area Operations Record, Part III, Eighteenth Army Operations, Vol I, pp. 29-30. G-2 Historical Section, GHQ, FEC.
60 Enemy aircraft identified as lost or destroyed since 23 July, the opening date of the Papuan Campaign, were as follows: 333 destroyed, 89 probably destroyed, 117 damaged; total 539. Naval losses inflicted by Allied aircraft were as follows: sunk, destroyed, or seriously damaged: 6 cruisers, 13 destroyers, 1 destroyer tender, 2 seaplane tenders, 2 gunboats, 44 large to medium merchant ships, 39 small to medium merchant ships, 150-200 landing barges. GHQ, SWPA, Communique No. 271, 8 Jan 43.
62 General MacArthur cited a number of officers for their conduct of the Papuan Campaign in his Order of the Day on 9 January 1943: "It is my high honor to cite to the Order of the Day, for extraordinary courage, marked efficiency and precise execution of operation during the Papuan Campaign, the following officers: General Sir Thomas Blamey; Lt. General Kenney; Lt. General Herring; Lt. General Eichelberger; Major General Sutherland; Major General Vasey; Brigadier General Willoughby; Brigadier General Whitehead; Brigadier General Walker; Brigadier Wootten; Brigadier Father; Group Captain Gating. The victory which has been achieved would have been impossible of accomplishment without the invincible leadership which they have provided. I have directed that each be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross of the United States, the highest decoration at my disposal, with appropriate individual citation. This award will serve for all time and for all eyes as the outward symbol of the devotion and gallantry with which they have performed their dangerous and difficult duty. The magnificent conduct of the troops and elements of this command, operating under difficulties rarely, if ever, surpassed in campaign, has earned my highest praise and commendation. In spite of inadequate means in many categories, their resourcefulness, their ingenuity, their adaptability, have produced a self-reliance that has overcome all handicaps and deficiencies. Through skill and courage and an indomitable will for victory they have defeated a bold and aggressive enemy possessing a marked superiority of resources and potentialities in the areas of campaign and combat.... To Almighty God I give thanks for that guidance which has brought us to this success in our great Crusade. His is the honor, the power and the glory forever, Amen." GHQ, SWPA, Press Release, 9 Jan 43.