Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Series One: Army

Volume 5

South-West Pacific Area—First Year—Kokoda to Wau

by Dudley McCarthy

Australian War Memorial



The writers of these volumes have been given full access to official documents, but they and the general editor are alone responsible for the statements and opinions which the volumes contain.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Reinforcement of Australia

Chapter 2: The Island Barrier

Chapter 3: Kanga Force

Chapter 4: The Japanese Advance to Kokoda

Chapter 5: Milne Bay

Chapter 6: Withdrawal to Ioribaiwa

Chapter 7: Ioribaiwa: and a Command Crisis

Chapter 8: To Templeton’s Crossing

Chapter 9: Eora Creek

Chapter 10: Oivi–Gorari

Chapter 11: The Build-Up Before Buna

Chapter 12: The Americans at Buna

Chapter 13: On the Sanananda Track

Chapter 14: Gona

Chapter 15: The Australians at Buna

Chapter 16: Buna Government Station Taken

Chapter 17: The End of the Road

Chapter 18: Wau


Appendix 1: After Alola

Appendix 2: Timor

Appendix 3: Brisbane, November 1942

Appendix 4: Abbreviations

List of Events from August 1941 to April 1943



The bombing of Darwin, 19th February 1942—Major-General B. M. Morris and some of his staff—Port Moresby—Bombs falling on the Port Moresby waterfront—An anti-aircraft position at Port Moresby—Salamaua—Kudjeru—A group of New Guinea Volunteer Rifles—Brigadier S. H. W. C. Porter with 30th Brigade officers and OC Kanga Force—Gona Mission—Native stretcher bearers in the Owen Stanleys—A wounded infantryman at a staging post in the Owen Stanleys—“D” Company, 39th Battalion on the way to the base area—A parade of the 39th Battalion at Menari—Major-General C. A. Clowes—Lieut-General S. F. Rowell—Milne Bay—Abandoned Japanese tanks at Milne Bay—MV Anshun at Milne Bay—Kit inspection of American troops in Australia—General Grant tanks of the 1st Armoured Division—The track from Owers’ Corner—Native carriers on the Kokoda Track—Kokoda village and airfield—A native carrier line at Eora Creek village—A 25-pounder field gun of the 14th Field Regiment—Loading supplies for air dropping—Dropping supplies from a transport plane near Nauro—Brigadier A. W. Potts and some of his staff—The Owen Stanleys, looking north from a high point near Nauro—The “Golden Stairs”, rising towards Imita Ridge—Major-General A. S. Allen and Brigadier K. W. Eather—The 2/33rd Battalion crossing the Brown River—Survivors of the 2/27th Battalion at Itiki—The march of the 16th Brigade through Sydney—The 16th Brigade on the Kokoda Track—Mr F. M. Forde, General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey—Raising the flag at Kokoda after its recapture on 2nd November—A group of American and Australian officers at Wanigela—The Kokoda–Wairopi track, near Oivi—Wounded Australians at the MDS Kokoda—The destruction of the Wairopi bridge—Lieut-General Robert L. Eichelberger—Brigadier J. E. Lloyd—Crossing the Kumusi River at Wairopi—Bombing and strafing Japanese positions at Gona—An aid post on the track to Gona—Corporal F. R. Smith and Private W. A. Musgrove of the 2/33rd Battalion—Buna Government Station—Australian and Japanese casualties at Gona—Major-General G. A. Vasey, Brigadiers J. R. Broadbent and G. F. Wootten—and Lieut-General E. F. Herring—The 2/9th Battalion at Cape Endaiadere—Last moments of a Japanese bid for freedom—Infantry-tank cooperation in the Buna area—Australian Bren gunners at Giropa Point—A mortar crew and a General Stuart tank in action at Giropa Point—A Vickers gun in action in the Buna area—A smashed Japanese pill-box at Giropa Point—Clearing the tree-tops of snipers at Buna—A gun emplacement and observation post of the 2/5th Field Regiment at Buna—Three infantrymen during a lull in the fighting at Gona—A Papuan boy guiding a wounded Australian at Buna—Australians moving forward to take up the fight at Sanananda—Sanananda—Conditions at Sanananda—The beaches at Buna, after the fighting—Tending graves at Gona—Wau airfield—The arrival of the 17th Brigade at Wau—A section of the Wau–Bulldog road—On the move forward from Wau—A line-up of native boys in Portuguese Timor—An Australian patrol in Portuguese Timor


The Pacific Theatre—Territories of Papua and New Guinea—Western Pacific and Indian Ocean areas—The Kokoda Track—Milne Bay—The withdrawal from Isurava, 30th August to 5th September 1942—The approach to Oivi–Gorari, 31st October to 8th November—Allied advance on Buna–Gona area, 16th to 21st November—Kanga Force dispositions, 17th April 1943

Sketch Maps

Australia: Military Districts, Commands and defended ports—Philippine Islands—Wau–Lakekamu River mouth area—Wau–Salamaua–Lae area—Observation posts, Komiatum–Salamaua area—Bay of Bengal—Coral Sea Battle—Lower Markham Valley—The raid on Salamaua—Kokoda–Buna area—Kokoda–Alola area—Solomon Islands—Guadalcanal—Milne Bay, 6 p.m. 25th August 1942—Milne Bay, 6 p.m. 28th August—Milne Bay, 6 p.m. 31st August—Isurava–Alola, 26th August—Isurava–Alola, afternoon 29th August—Isurava–Alola, 3 p.m. 30th August—The Japanese advance to Menari, 5th–8th September—Ioribaiwa, noon 15th September—Imita Ridge, 20th September—Imita Ridge, noon 23rd September—The 2/27th Battalion’s withdrawal from Menari—Templeton’s Crossing, 6 p.m. 12th October—Templeton’s Crossing, 6 p.m. 16th October—Templeton’s Crossing, 6 p.m. 20th October—Eora Creek, 22nd–23rd October—Eora Creek, 27th–28th October—Oivi–Gorari, nightfall 9th November—Gorari, 10th–11th November—D’Entrecasteaux Islands—Allied advance across Owen Stanley Range towards Buna, 26th September-15th November—Routes of Allied advance on Buna–Gona area from mid-November—Situation before Buna, evening 30th November—The Australian advance on Sanananda and Gona—Sanananda Track, 20th November—Sanananda Track, evening 21st November—Sanananda–Killerton Tracks, 21st–30th November—The Japanese defences at Gona—Gona area, 27th November—Gona area, 6 p.m. 29th November—Gona area, 6 p.m. 4th December—Haddy’s village, nightfall 15th December—Cape Endaiadere–Strip Point area, 18th to 23rd December—The clearing of Old Strip, 23rd to 29th December—Giropa Point, 1st–2nd January 1943—American operations before Buna to 17th December—American operations before Buna, 18th December to 2nd January—Allied dispositions on Sanananda Track prior to 19th December—Sanananda Track, 24th December—Sanananda Track, 8 a.m. 12th January—Final operations along Sanananda Track, 15th–22nd January—The Buisaval and Black Cat Tracks—Routes of advance on Mubo, 11th January 1943—Wau–Mubo area, dawn 28th January—Wau–Mubo area, dawn 30th January—The Japanese attack on Wau, dawn 30th January—Wau–Crystal Creek area, dawn 31st January—Wau–Crystal Creek area, nightfall 3rd February—Wau–Crystal Creek area, dawn 6th February—Wau–Mubo area, nightfall 9th February—Wau–Bulldog road—Routes of main 21st Brigade escape groups after Alola—Portuguese Timor—Timor-northern Australia area