|Milne Bay was an important strategic location situated on the south-eastern tip of Papua, with both Japanese and Allied forced desiring to secure a base in the area. Rabi is a small village on the north coast of the bay near the planned Japanese landing site. United States engineers begun constructing airstrips in the area in June 1942 under the protection of Australian infantry and artillery. By late August, approximately 9,000 Allied troops were stationed in the area.
Japanese air raids against Milne Bay began in early August. Over 1,000 Japanese troops effected a successful landing at Rabi during the night of 25 August. However, the difficulty of the terrain prevented Japanese units and subsequent reinforcements reaching the airfields to the west. Allied troops gradually forced the Japanese forces along the coast to the east.
The decision was taken for a comprehensive withdrawal of Japanese forces on 5 September. Although two thirds of the entire force of approximately 2,000 troops were successfully evacuated, the remainder were either killed in battle or perished attempting to return overland to Buna. Allied losses were slight in comparison. The Japanese assault had completely failed in the face of a superior, strongly defended Allied force.
Milne Bay Units (Aust)
Rabi operation units (Jpn)
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