United States Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific

Victory in Papua

by Samuel Milner


. . . to Those Who Served

Table of Contents


The Author


Chapter 1: The Japanese Threaten Australia

The Danger—The Plan To Isolate Australia

Chapter 2: Preparing the Defense

The High Command Acts—The Interim Period—The Defensive Problem—The Sufficiency of the Means

Chapter 3: The Thwarted Landing

Frustration at Jomard Passage—Securing the Approaches

Chapter 4: Providence Forestalled

Moving to the Offensive—The SWPA Prepares—The PROVIDENCE Operation—The Japanese Get There First

Chapter 5: Kokoda Thrust

Planning the Overland Attack—The Japanese Strike Inland—The Main Force Arrives

Chapter 6: The Japanese Offensive Collapses

The SWPA: Early August—The Defense Falls Into Place—The Battle of Milne Bay—The Road to Ioribaiwa—The Australians Take the Offensive

Chapter 7: The Advance on the Beachhead

The Approach to the Target—Completing the Deployment—Drawing the Noose Tight

Chapter 8: The Allies Close In

Mounting the Attack—The 32nd Division on the Eve of Combat—The Enemy Position

Chapter 9: The Opening Blows in General Vasey’s Area

The Attacks on Gona—The 16th Brigade Moves on Sanananda—The Americans Take Over

Chapter 10: The First Two Weeks at Buna

General Harding Readjusts His Plans—The Battle Opens—The Attacks of 30 November

Chapter 11: I Corps Reaches the Front

The Situation: 30 November—General Eichelberger Is Ordered Forward—Buna Operations: 1 and 2 December—General Harding’s Relief

Chapter 12: The Fighting West of the Girua

Operations in the Gona Area—The Sanananda Front—The Japanese Reinforce the Beachhead

Chapter 13: Buna: The Second Two Weeks

The Attack of 5 December—Colonel Martin Softens Up the Enemy Line—Urbana Force Makes Its First Gains—The Scene Brightens

Chapter 14: Warren Force Takes the Initiative

The Advance to Simemi Creek—Crossing the Creek—The Fight for the Old Strip

Chapter 15: Urbana Force Closes on the Mission

The Search for an Axis of Attack—The Attack Moves North—The Subsidiary Operations—The Corridor to the Coast

Chapter 16: The Fall of Buna

The Advance to Giropa Point—The Capture of Buna Mission—The End at Buna—Buna’s Cost—The Situation to the Westward

Chapter 17: Clearing the Track Junction

General Herring Calls a Conference—The Preliminary Operations—Tokyo Decides To Withdraw—The Clean-up South of Musket

Chapter 18: The Final Offensive

The Three-Way Push—Finishing the Job—The Victory at Sanananda—The 41st Division Takes Over

Chapter 19: The Victory

The Campaign in Review—What the Campaign Taught—Conclusion

Bibliographical Note



I. Pacific Ocean (National Geographical Society Map)

II. Papuan Campaign Area

III. Japanese Thrust Along Kokoda Trail, 22 July–16 September 1942

IV. Allied Advance Across Owen Stanley Range, 26 September–15 November 1942

V. The Buna Area

VI. Closing in on Japanese Beachhead, 16–21 November 1942

Maps inline with text

1. Battle of Coral Sea, 5–8 May 1942

2. Bulolo Valley Area

3. The Pacific Areas, 1 August 1942

4. Kokoda-Templeton’s Crossing Area

5. Japanese Attack at Milne Bay, 26–31 August 1942

6. Plan of 1 October 1942

7. Plan of Attack, 16 November 1942

8. Establishing Roadblock on Sanananda Road, 22–30 November 1942

9. Japanese Defenses at Buna

10. Situation on Approaches to Buna, Evening, 30 November 1942

11. Sanananda Front, December 1942

12. Warren and Urbana Fronts, 1–16 December 1942

13. Warren Front, 18–28 December 1942

14. Urbana Front, 18–28 December 1942

15. The Fall of Buna, 31 December 1942–2 January 1943

16. Sanananda Front, 3–12 January 1943

17. Sanananda Front, Last Phase, 15–22 January 1943


General MacArthur Arriving in Sydney—General Orders No 1, 18 April 1942—The Battle of the Coral Sea—The Battle of the Coral Sea—USS Yorktown Under Japanese Fire—Papua—Jungled Mountain Ridges Near the Gap—Port Moresby—Milne Bay Area—Australian Riflemen Passing Abandoned Japanese Tanks—Wharf At Gili Gili—General Harding—32nd Division Troops—32nd Division Troops—Bridge At Wairopi—Coastal Shuttle Operations—Coastal Shuttle Operations—Kapa Kapa Trail, September 1942—Crossing A Branch Of Eroro Creek—Chow Line Along The Muddy Trail—Taking A Break—Taking A Break—Simemi Village—Lt Col Herbert A Smith—General MacNider—107th Medical Battalion Corpsmen at Ward’s Drome—Coconut Log Bunker With Fire Trench Entrance—Interior of Coconut Log Bunker—Gona Mission Area—Natives With Supplies and Ammunition—“Fuzzy Wuzzy” Natives—Making Litters for the Wounded—Australian 3.7-inch Pack Howitzer—General Waldron—128th Infantrymen—128th Infantrymen—128th Infantrymen—128th Infantrymen—126th Infantrymen Passing Through Hariko—First Aid Station, Simemi—First Aid Station, Hariko—114th Engineer Battalion—Boatload of Rations—Disabled Bren Gun Carriers—Three Generals Convalescing—General Stuart Light Tanks M3—Simemi Creek Area—Bridge Over Simemi Creek—Swamp East of the Bridge—American and Australian Casualties—Warren Force Men After the Attack—127th Regimental Headquarters Command Post—Footbridge Over Entrance Creek—Japanese-Built Bridge—General Eichelberger and Members of His Staff—Firing a 60-mm Mortar—37-mm Antitank Gun—32nd Division Troops Examine Booty—Emaciated Prisoners Being Led to the Rear Area—General Blamey Touring the Battle Area—Weary Soldier Sleeps—General Herring—Sanananda Point—Collapsible Assault Boats—Setting Up a Field Switchboard—General MacArthur With General Kenney—.50-cal Browning Machine Gun—Order of the Day, 22 January 1943—Dobodura Airstrip—Dobodura Airstrip—Japanese Prisoners at Dobodura

The illustrations on pages 19 and 85 are Australian War Memorial photographs; those on pages 295 and 326 are Life photographs taken by Strock. All other illustrations are from the files of the Department of Defense.

Office of the Chief of Military History

Department of the Army

Washington, D.C., 1957

United States Army in World War II

Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor

Advisory Committee, (as of 30 March 1955)

James P. Baxter, President, Williams College

Brig. Gen. Samuel G. Conley, Continental Army Command

Samuel Flagg Bemis, Yale University

Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Dunn, Army War College

Gordon A. Craig, Princeton University

Brig. Gen. Charles E. Beauchamp, Command and General Staff College

Elmer Ellis, University of Missouri

Brig. Gen. Urban Niblo, Industrial College of the Armed Forces

William T. Hutchinson, University of Chicago

Col. Thomas D. Stamps, United States Military Academy

Charles H. Taylor, Harvard University

Office of the Chief of Military History

Maj. Gen. Albert C. Smith, Chief

Kent Roberts Greenfield, Chief Historian,

Col. Ridgway P. Smith, Jr.Chief, War Histories Division

Col. William H. Francis, Chief, Editorial and Publication Division

Joseph R. Friedman, Chief, Editorial Branch

Maj. James P. Holly, Chief, Cartographic Branch

Margaret E. Tackley, Chief, Photographic Branch