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Human face of war
Defence of Buna, Gona, Sanananda
On 14 November 1942, General MacArthur ordered the Allied forces to finish the campaign in Papua by attacking the Japanese troops who had occupied a strong defensive position in the Buna area. Fierce fighting continued on the coast of northern Papua between Japanese and Allied troops for the following two months, until around 22 January 1943.

Australian and American troops cooperated to secure transport of supplies by small ship and by air, but the heavy rain and swampy conditions severely hampered the fighting effort. The Japanese, whose numbers exceeded Allied expectations, had constructed a strong bunker system in superior locations to wage a defensive campaign.

Fierce Allied attacks were met by stubborn Japanese resistance, but Japanese casualties mounted in the face of superior Allied fighting strength. The Allies gradually reinforced their position in the face of a deteriorating Japanese strength, despite the latter’s determination to defend their garrison to the death. The Buna garrison was virtually destroyed by 3 January after the Allies had gained control of the sky. After the final Japanese garrison at Sanananda had fallen to the Allies on 12 January, the commander of the Japanese 18th Army, General ADACHI, issued the order to withdraw.

The battles in the Buna area were fought in extremely harsh geographical and climatic conditions. Tropical diseases such as malaria were rife, and the sacrifices in battle were great on both sides.

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Defence of Buna, Gona, Sanananda
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