Australia–Japan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial
Army operations in the South Pacific area: Papua campaigns, 1942–1943
Chapter 5: Thrust through the Owen Stanley Range and the offensive operations at Rabi
(A translation of Bôeichô Bôei Kenshûjo Senshishitsu (ed), Senshi sôsho: Minami Taiheiyô Rikugun sakusen <1> Pôto Moresubi–Gashima shoko sakusen (War history series: South Pacific area army operations (1), Port Moresby–Guadalcanal first campaigns) (Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1968): 335–384, 514–532.)
Translated by Dr Steven Bullard
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Chapter 5: Thrust through the Owen Stanley Range and the offensive operations at Rabi
Landing at Buna by the main strength of the South Seas Force
Thrust through the Owen Stanley Range
Offensive operations in Rabi
Allied preparations for counter-offensives in New Guinea
Retreat of the South Seas Force
Leadership by Imperial Headquarters
Landing at Buna by the main strength of the South Seas Force
Situation prior to the landing
The Re Operation to invade Port Moresby overland was based on pre-existing plans and was not a reaction to Allied counter-offensives directed towards Guadalcanal. The speed of its implementation was an operational strategy agreed between Imperial Headquarters and the army and navy in the field.
The postponement of the landing of the main strength of the South Seas Force at Buna to 16–18 August has been discussed previously. Navy establishment units had planned to arrive at Buna on 7 August to construct an airfield. However, their transports were turned back en route, resulting in the delay of the landing of the main force. The transportation of the establishment units resumed on 12 and 13 August.
The commander of Tatsuta led a convoy consisting of Tatsuta, the 29th Destroyer Squadron (Yûzuki and Uzuki), and two submarine chasers. This convoy left Rabaul in the early morning of 12 August to provide protection for Nankai Maru and Kinai Maru, which were transporting the 14th Establishment Unit (part strength), the 15th Establishment Unit, and 70 tonnes of army supplies. A group of 14 Allied fighters attacked the convoy in four waves on 13 August, but no damage was inflicted. The convoy arrived at Basabua that evening and effected a successful landing.
The full force of the 25th Air Flotilla undertook direct aerial protection of the convoy from 12–14 August.
As mentioned earlier, the 5th Sasebo Special Naval Landing Party (430 men consisting of one command company and associated units) had landed at Buna on 21 July. They had enlisted the local population to undertake preparations for a base. These preparations had advanced with the arrival of the establishment units (approximately three thousand men) to the point that a reduced fighter squadron (six Zeros) was operational at Buna by 18 August.
Part of the invasion force carried out mopping-up operations in the area of Cape Ward Hunt (east of the mouth of the Mambare River) during this period.
The 41st Infantry Regiment was ordered to proceed to Rabaul on 1 August. The main strength of the regiment, less one battalion, left Davao on Mindanao Island on 5 August aboard Kiyokawa Maru and Myôkô Maru. They arrived in Rabaul by way of Palau at 7.00 am on 16 August.
Headquarters of the 17th Army assigned the 41st Infantry Regiment to the command of the South Seas Force under Major General Horii after their arrival in Rabaul.
The strength of the overland invasion force to Port Moresby had reached six infantry battalions. However, with the majority of this force still at Rabaul, the challenge to transport and land them at Buna was still to be overcome.
Plan for the transport of troops
The third transport convoy was planned for 15 August. Landings were planned at Basabua (6 kilometres north-west of Buna) as follows: the main strength of the South Seas Force (force headquarters, main strength 144th Infantry Regiment, mountain artillery battalion) on 18 August; the 41st Infantry Regiment (less 1st Battalion) on 21 August; and one battalion from the 41st Infantry Regiment with a provisional supply and transport unit (two companies including approximately five hundred horses) on 27 August.
The plan for a successful landing by the convoy involved approaching the landing site at sunset and completing disembarkation by the following sunrise.
A certain battalion commander from the 41st Infantry Regiment, which had arrived in Rabaul on 16 August, issued the following admonition to his troops: "We must not be beaten by the likes of the South Seas Force!" This fuelled the natural competition between officers in both units to be first into battle, and even served to mobilise the officers of the South Seas Force, who to that point had been somewhat sluggish in their actions.
The airfield at Rabi continued to pose problems, but attacks on 11 August by the 25th Air Flotilla were thwarted by poor weather. Only a few fighters were able to undertake low altitude raids, with limited results.
Further, 25 land-based fighters and 22 Zeros from the 25th Air Flotilla attacked Port Moresby at 8.20 am on 17 August – the first such raid for some time. Sporadic night attacks from a small number of aircraft had been conducted since 24 July. This day raid was carried out to protect the convoy carrying the main strength of the South Seas Force.
Approximately twenty medium or large aircraft and ten to twenty small aircraft were confirmed to be at an airfield to the north of Port Moresby, but no Allied planes were in the air. It was reported that: "Four large aircraft burned; one installation building damaged by fire, with the exception of several small aircraft; all aircraft on the ground targeted, with the infliction of great damage."
Landing of the main strength of the South Seas Force
The convoy left Rabaul on 17 August. It comprised Kazuura Maru and Ryôyô Maru with the main strength of the South Seas Force, and Kan’yô Maru transporting the 25th Air Flotilla base supplies. The convoy was under the protection of Tenryû, the 23rd Submarine Chaser Squadron, and No. 20 Minesweeper as it proceeded to Basabua along the sea route south of New Britain.
The convoy arrived at Basabua at 5.30 pm on 18 August without sight of enemy aircraft and effected a successful landing. This occurred at about the same time as the landing of the Ichiki Detachment Advance Party at Guadalcanal.
Three carrier-based bombers from the 25th Air Flotilla had planned to provide protection for the convoy on 17 August but had had to withdraw owing to bad weather. On the following day, aerial cover was provided by the three bombers and an additional 27 Zeros.
Editor’s note: No direct air cover was provided for the transport ships to Guadalcanal.
The main strength of the South Seas Force had arrived in Basabua by the afternoon of 19 August and proceeded towards Kokoda.
The second landing: 41st Infantry Regiment
The 41st Infantry Regiment (less the 1st Battalion) left Rabaul on 19 August on Kiyokawa Maru and Myôkô Maru. The convoy, escorted by Tsugaru and the 32nd Submarine Chaser Squadron, effected a successful landing on the evening of 21 August. Contact was made with a lone B-17 en route but the convoy suffered no damage.
Air cover for the second transport convoy was provided by 12 Zeros and three carrier-based bombers on 19 August, and three bombers the following day.
The 41st Infantry Regiment placed the main strength of its 3rd Battalion, less the 12th Company that acted as flag-bearer unit, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Tomita Yoshinobu of the force headquarters. It was charged with the responsibility of guarding the rear and overseeing the transport of supplies. It left Basabua on the afternoon of 21 August, following in the wake of the main strength of the South Seas Force.
Lieutenant Colonel Tomita’s duties were to command logistic units of the Ryûtô Unit as set out in army orders issued on 18 July. These units provided line-of-communications functions for the South Seas Force. As mentioned previously, these were the realisation of submissions by the commander of the South Seas Force to the general staff of the 17th Army.
Plans of the 17th Army at the end of August
The transportation of the convoy had proceeded favourably without any of the anticipated difficulties. Reports of a Japanese victory in the second battle of the Solomon Sea on 24 August had also been received.
Although ill tidings concerning the Ichiki Detachment Advance Party had been confirmed, it was thought that the second echelon of Ichiki Force and Kawaguchi Force would be sufficient to retake Guadalcanal.
Headquarters of the 17th Army felt that Aoba Force, which had previously returned to its control, would be the most suitable force to effect a speedy invasion of Rabaul by the sea route. The cooperation of a navy carrier was considered essential to this plan, so at 1.50 pm on 25 August the request below was telegraphed to Imperial Headquarters.
At this time, the Rabi naval invasion force was heading south towards Milne Bay. Furthermore, the 17th Army headquarters had not received confirmation that the transport convoy of the Ichiki second echelon had been turned back:
However, events quickly turned for the worst.
There are indications of a build-up of enemy troops in the Port Moresby area.
The army anticipates that, following the departure of Aoba Force from Rabaul in early September, the main force of the said unit will be transported by sea to the vicinity of Port Moresby to assist the South Seas Force invasion.
The assistance of a navy aircraft carrier is requested to destroy enemy air capabilities and, mindful of our own air strength in the Port Moresby area, to prevent a build up of enemy air strength and mobilisation at sea on our right flank. We suggest a redeployment as a continuation of the naval campaigns in the Solomon Islands to take advantage of the completion of the current stage of the battle.
The cooperation of the 8th Fleet is also desired.
Three ships in the convoy transporting logistical units, which comprised the 1st Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment and a provisional supply and transport unit, left Rabaul on 25 August as planned. However, the battle at Rabi took an unfavourable turn at precisely this time. The fighter unit stationed at Buna was also destroyed at Rabi, so the 11th Air Fleet headquarters decided rather belligerently to order the convoy to return to Rabaul on 26 August. It was a situation that the 17th Army headquarters could not ignore.
The difficulty of supply for the overland offensive continued, as discussed earlier. The four independent supply companies ordered to Rabaul by Imperial Headquarters were due to arrive on 5 September. It was anticipated that they would arrive in Buna by 20 September. The total supply unit would then comprise the 700 officers and men of the 41st Infantry Regiment, engineers, and others, and 400 horses. The transport of this convoy was subsequently delayed.
The mechanism for maintaining supply for the South Seas Force was broken.
The situation in the Solomon Islands was strengthened significantly on 26 August. Transportation of the second echelon of Ichiki Force and Kawaguchi Force was switched to destroyer. Headquarters of the 17th Army was even now standing at the crossroads.
First, they had only gradually come to consider the importance of the campaigns in the Solomon Islands. Consequently, they began to doubt the ultimate suitability of Aoba Force for the sea-route invasion of Port Moresby. Furthermore, news of the build up of Allied troops in the Port Moresby area resulted in anticipation of great difficulties for the overland invasion of Port Moresby by the South Seas Force at current strength.
This was not simply a consideration based on problems of supply. There emerged within 17th Army headquarters a debate over whether to halt the advance of the South Seas Force.
Opinions of the chief of the general staff of the 17th Army and other staff officers concerning this problem emerged on 26–27 August. The gist of these was as follows:
At that time, the South Seas Force was engaged in battles at Isurava, at what could be called the entrance to the mountain range. It was not too late to issue orders to halt the advance prior to crossing the Owen Stanley Range, but there were fears that such orders would break the spirit of the troops of the South Seas Force. Moreover, wireless communications at that time were poor, and there were doubts as to whether or not orders could be transmitted and received in time.
Chief of staff Futami: I favour the halting of the advance of the South Seas Force and the temporary cessation of the Re Operation. If orders to this effect are not issued immediately, there is a danger that they will not be transmitted in time.
Staff officer Etsuji: This is too premature. There is no reason to change the existing plan. I feel that transport of supplies for the South Seas Force can be guaranteed if Rabi is occupied. The key to this lies in Rabi. I recommend waiting a further one or two days to see the outcome.
Staff officer Matsumoto: I consider that the unforseen situation concerning supply for the South Seas Force is a circumstance outside the limits of current strategy. I therefore favour orders to halt the advance.
The following orders were issued on 28 August by 17th Army headquarters to the commander of the South Seas Force:
On 29 August, Lieutenant General Hyakutake received the following telegraph that had been transmitted at 7.30 pm the previous day by the adjutant chief of Army General Staff:
Advance to the southern slopes of the Owen Stanley Range and destroy enemy troops there. Use one section of your strength to secure the front, but amass your main strength on the north side of the range in preparation for future operations.
Completion of the third transport and the fighting capacity of the force
The offensive against Port Moresby, seen in the light of conditions in the Guadalcanal region of the Pacific, was judged to require adequate preparations and a strengthening of troop numbers, and cooperation between the army and navy.
Consequently, I must approve the appropriate cessation of the advance of the South Seas Force to the south side of the Owen Stanley Range.
Moreover, the matter of the transfer of the 1st Infantry Regiment under the command of the 2nd Division to the army headquarters at Rabaul is currently under consideration.
The planned transport of the logistics units, which included the 41st Infantry Regiment and the provisional supply and transport unit, soon resumed. A successful landing was effected on the evening of 2 September. The number of horses had been depleted by almost 300 head. The transport of units, aside from the aforementioned four independent supply companies, was virtually completed.
The initial plan was to transport approximately eight thousand army and 3,430 navy personnel. The fighting strength of these troops was to comprise six infantry battalions and a mountain artillery battalion. The actual fighting strength of the force, however, was considerably weakened.
The troops of the 144th Infantry Regiment were sufficient in number, but their munitions were limited to what they could carry with them. Consequently, the regiment had only 18 machine-guns (six per battalion), three battalion artillery guns (one per battalion), two quick-firing guns, and two regimental artillery guns. The mountain artillery battalion carried one artillery piece for each of its three companies, and kept a reserve gun at Buna.
The number of weapons carried by the 41st Infantry Regiment was even less, with only 13 machine-guns, three battalion artillery guns, and one each of quick-firing and regimental artillery pieces. The total strength of the regiment, which, as previously described, was reduced by approximately nine hundred men used for the purpose of supply and road construction, amounted to only 1,900 troops. The 2nd Battalion had a full complement of 755 troops, but the 1st and 3rd Battalions were under-strength with 343 and 424 men, respectively.
The amount of munitions transported to Buna by 2 September, given this dearth of firepower, amounted to 150 battalion artillery gun rounds, 300 quick-fire rounds, and a total of 180 mountain artillery and regimental gun rounds.
Each unit was required to carry 16 days of provisions for the advance from Buna. Consequently, on 2 September, approximately 300 tonnes of supplies were warehoused at Buna from the transports. The distance between Buna and Sonbo was only 40 kilometres. Advance supplies had been approved for transport directly from Truk to Sonbo. Supplies past Sonbo had to be transported by packhorse or by person. It was calculated that 3 tonnes of supplies could be advanced to Kokoda by the end of August using 600 men and 150 horses on this supply route. Even so, this would only cover daily consumption.
Editor’s note: These figures were reported by the adjutant chief of staff of the 17th Army general staff. It is unclear if they reflected the actual conditions of supply.
A unit detached from the 8th Base Force, which comprised the Takasago Volunteers along with approximately five hundred Koreans and twelve hundred New Guinean labourers from Rabaul, had arrived previously in late July and were also assigned to the transportation of supplies.
Headquarters of the 17th Army considered a southward push from Kokoda possible owing to the some 6 tonnes of supplies that had been advanced to Kokoda by the provisional supply and transport unit.
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Thrust through the Owen Stanley Range
Advance to Kokoda by the main force
The South Seas Force headquarters, the main strength of the 144th Infantry Regiment, and the main strength of the 1st Battalion of the 55th Mountain Artillery Regiment left Basabua on the afternoon of 19 August. They arrived at Kokoda on 23 and 24 August by way of Soputa, Sonbo, Papaki, and Oivi. The main force of the 41st Infantry Regiment arrived on 26 August.
The senior commanders of these forces had been given hastily compiled mimeographed maps based on reconnaissance photographs taken by the 25th Air Flotilla. These maps indicated that the road west of Sonbo was a walking trail unsuitable for motor vehicles. Intelligence gathered in the planning stage of the campaign around 27 July had indicated "There is one road suitable for motor vehicle transport from Buna to Kokoda." This has been mentioned in a previous chapter. However, it became clear that this erroneous judgment was based on a misreading of intelligence and photographs.
Senior intelligence officers of the South Seas Force also misread the photographs. The grassy and open areas of the photographs indicated a relatively wide serviceable road. Conditions in the jungle, however, were completely unknown. The judgment of the suitability of the road was based on the visible sections in the photographs, and assumed the same for those sections within the jungle.
Kokoda is approximately 400 metres above sea level, so the troops had relatively easy progress to that point. The Kumusi River east of Papaki is approximately 100 metres wide and no more than 1–2 metres deep. The volume of water, however, increases drastically after rain, and nearby ground is inundated from breaches in the banks. Seen before and after these episodes, it is a river of violent moods.
There were cases of troops who drowned in their sleep after setting up camp in the beds of New Guinea’s rivers. The Allied armies had destroyed suspension bridges prior to their withdrawal. The Yokoyama Advance Party had initial success in constructing wooden bridges, but these would often be destroyed by logs floating downstream. Further, it was not possible to cross the rivers by day owing to heavy bombing from Allied planes. Consequently, engineers would set up rope-and-pulley arrangements at night to enable troops to cross the rivers by boat.
In the rainy season from August to December, there would be a deluge almost every evening, which would last into the night. This was the first affliction to be borne by Japanese troops after they landed in New Guinea.
As mentioned previously, the 1st Battalion of the 144th Infantry Regiment (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Tsukamoto Hatsuo) was attached to the Yokoyama Advance Party, and occupied Kokoda on the morning of 29 July. The battalion was ordered to secure the line of the Owen Stanley Range in preparation for a continued advance.
The Tsukamoto Battalion left Kokoda on 7 August and advanced to Gira and Deniki. They encountered constant resistance along the way from approximately two hundred Allied troops. By 23–24 August, they had established a base at Isurava. The strength of the Allied force facing them was thought to be about one battalion (Australian 39th Battalion).
Gira was occupied on 14 August. However, supplies from Kokoda had not arrived, so Tsukamoto despatched infantry troops to Sonbo and Buna in order to resupply the battalion. This combined with the rough terrain to slow the advance.
It was roughly two days’ march from Kokoda to the highest point on the Owen Stanley Range (south-west of Isurava). However, the track entered steep mountains almost as soon as it left Kokoda. The terrain approaching Isurava from Deniki consisted of convoluted mountains covered with dense, matted jungle. The track that climbed over the spine of the range would be barely traversable by packhorse, even after some repairs.
An Asahi Newspaper reporter who accompanied the South Seas Force reported the conditions as follows:
Undergrowth in the dense mountain forests, unlike that in jungles on the plains, was sparse, making passage for the infantry troops relatively easier. However, the burden of rising through the forest of giant trees was significant. Visibility was severely limited, so there was no way to know where the enemy were encamped. In many cases, the first sign of the enemy was through coming under attack, or by signs of smoke from their cooking fires.
All the main strength of the unit continued to walk with single-mindedness through day and night. Each man was required to carry provisions for 13 days in his backpack, comprising 18 litres of rice, a pistol, ammunition, hand grenades, a spoon, first aid kit, etc. (Editors note: Approximately 49 kilograms.) Each man in a machine-gun unit carried 15 days’ worth of provisions (approximately 56 kilograms).
The backpacks loaded with this luggage rose about 30 centimetres above the heads of the soldiers. They would walk step by step with staff in hand, using it as an extra leg to propel them along.
The commander of the South Seas Force arrived in Kokoda on 23 August and held discussions with the commander of the advance party. A determination was made to destroy Allied troops in the Isurava area and then quickly penetrate into the Owen Stanley Range. For this purpose, the formation was divided. The 144th Infantry Regiment would attack the enemy at Isurava, and the main strength of the 41st Infantry Regiment would take up a position in train.
The commander of the South Seas Force left Kokoda on the afternoon of 24 August with the main strength of the 144th Infantry Regiment.
Movements of the Allied forces in the Kokoda area
Deployment of Allied forces in the Kokoda area at the opening of the offensive by the South Seas Force was surmised to be the following:
In late June, headquarters of the South-West Pacific Area realised the significance of the small airfield near Kokoda. They knew from a recently completed survey of the area by the commander of forces in the region, Major General Morris, that there were no troops stationed at the airfield. Orders issued on 9 June spoke of "the necessity of the Allies securing the Kokoda area and also the road leading west". Morris’s reply was optimistic and implied that the defence of Kokoda was sufficient. It read:
Commander of the Australian Military Forces, General Blamey, immediately telegraphed the following instructions to Major General Morris:
There are numerous ANGAU officers in the region with wireless radios.
There are native patrols in all villages.
Not less than two platoons of the Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB), comprising light scouting parties drawn from the local population, are patrolling the area around Kokoda. The PIB is in the process of being strengthened.
An infantry company stationed in Port Moresby is preparing for immediate deployment to Kokoda.
Major General Morris raised Maroubra Force based on these instructions and charged it with the responsibility of securing Kokoda. Maroubra Force was made up of the Australian 39th Infantry Battalion (less one company) from the 3rd Brigade (stationed at Port Moresby), and part of a PIB infantry battalion comprising twenty Australians and 28 natives. B Company of the 39th Battalion left for Kokoda on 7 July (with a full compliment of 129 men), and undertook road repair and training on the southern slopes of the Owen Stanley Range.
Immediate adequate measures must be taken to prevent Japanese offensive landings north of Buna and along the coast to the south, in order to prevent Japanese use of the grass airstrip at Kokoda, and in order for us to secure the pass at Kokoda.
Editor’s note: The Australian official history does not give a reason why the battalion was not at full strength.
B Company arrived at Kokoda on 12 July. Heavy equipment and machine-guns had been transported to Buna by sea, so a platoon was despatched from Kokoda to collect them.
At that time, the main strength of the PIB (approximately three hundred men) was in Awala. A scouting party first made contact with Japanese forces at 3.50 pm on 22 July at a point several kilometres east of Awala. (Editor’s note: The Yokoyama Advance Party had landed that day.) The Japanese attacked Awala just as the main strength of B Company, on hearing the alarm, prepared to rush out of the village.
The battle at Awala, however, was over almost as soon as it started. Resistance was encountered at Gorari (approximately 13 kilometres west of Wairopi) and pursuit made up to Oivi. The rapid advance of the Japanese army continued.
Major General Morris ordered Lieutenant Colonel Owen to fly to the only usable airstrip at Kokoda to "press on at the Japanese east of Kokoda, and if that fails, to retire to the south and prevent the advance of the Japanese army." At the same time, C Company, at the foot of the mountain, was ordered to proceed to Kokoda, and the remaining company was ordered to stand by and prepare for transportation by air.
Editor’s note: Australian infantry battalions at that time comprised main companies (including heavy munitions, signals, transport, supply, and kitchen mess personnel) and four rifle companies.
The battalion commander arrived in Kokoda on 24 July. Major General Morris had used all means at his disposal to forward troops to Kokoda. Thirty men from D Company arrived on 26 July. The battalion commander kept half in reserve and sent the rest to Oivi. Their resistance at Oivi, however, did not last long, so that evening the commander decided to withdraw from Kokoda. In the middle of the night, the commander led his men through the lines towards Deniki.
The Australians gradually reinforced their numbers and made two counter-offensives against Kokoda on 18 July and 10 August.
Editor’s note: The official Japanese record indicates that Kokoda was occupied during the repelling of the first of these attacks.
During the second counter-offensive, a flanking party reached the airstrip. However, pressure from the Japanese forces on the main front against Deniki forced a withdrawal during the night of 11 August. Immediately prior to this operation, on 7 August, Maroubra Force numbered 480 men after successful reinforcement by the 5th Company of the battalion.
The Japanese attacked Deniki on 13 August with the Tsukamoto Battalion. The Japanese army decided to wait for the arrival of the main force (South Seas Force) before carrying out the next phase of the attack on Isurava.
Just prior to this, all units fighting in the campaigns in Australian New Guinea (Papua and north-eastern New Guinea) were formed into New Guinea Force. Major General Rowell, Commander of I Corps, took command of the force on 9 August. His duties essentially were to:
At that time, one battalion and two companies of the 30th Brigade were defensively positioned at Isurava. Advance reinforcements from the 7th Division stationed in Australia, the 21st Infantry Brigade, had begun mobilising towards Isurava. The strength of the garrison at Port Moresby had reached about 22,000 troops, and included three infantry brigades, Australian and US air force units, anti-aircraft units, engineers, and support troops. With the continued arrival of the 7th Division Headquarters, the 25th Brigade and other units, its strength would be boosted to 28,000 men.
Prevent the advance of enemy forces within Australian New Guinea, and while protecting the upper sections of the Owen Stanley Range, to recapture first Kokoda, Buna, and Gona areas, and finally Lae and Salamaua.
A total of four airfields had been completed by this stage, two suitable for fighters and one each for medium and heavy bombers. A further three, one for medium bombers and two for heavy bombers, were planned for completion by early September.
The struggle over the Owen Stanley Range had begun, with the advance of the Japanese South Seas Force on the one side, and the reinforcement of the Allied army on the other.
Attack on Isurava
Major General Horii’s plan of attack near Isurava involved the main strength of the 144th Infantry Regiment (less the 2nd Battalion), which would attack from the area along the road from Kokoda to Isurava. The 2nd Battalion would attack the right flank of the enemy via a detour from upstream of the Mambare River.
The attack began at dawn on 26 August with the main force of the 1st Battalion.
The Japanese army strove to gain high positions on the ridgelines because they considered thrusting attacks from above the best means to break through enemy troops. The Australian army controlled the roads and targeted weapons towards the slopes, with a focus on skilfully constructing a barrier of artillery fire through breaks in the jungle cover. Because of their reliance on the "advantage of height" doctrine, the Japanese failed to appreciate that they could not establish artillery cover from areas of thick jungle,.
The Japanese did not begin their attack until they were at point blank range, only 20–30 metres away. Consequently, the Australians had no idea where the Japanese positions were located. Friendly fire accidents also occurred because of the difficulties in maintaining a course and keeping contact with one’s unit in the thick jungle.
The commander of the 144th Infantry Regiment, Colonel Kusunose, issued the following order from his vantage point for the 3rd Battalion in the rear to join the fighting at 1.00 pm on 26 August:
The 3rd Battalion left the vantage position at 3.00 am on 27 August and arrived at the "deadwood forest" at 10.00 am. They met up with the 1st Battalion, which had arrived that morning and encountered Australian troops. At 11.00 am, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Kuwada, issued the following offensive orders on the south side of the "deadwood forest":
1. The enemy on this front are attacking with hearty spirit and are providing tenacious resistance. It is similar to when the 2nd Battalion broke through enemy positions near Kaile and arrived at the main road from their left flank.
2. The regiment will combine with the newly arrived 3rd Battalion on the western side of the main road and continue the attack.
3. The 3rd Battalion (less the 9th Company, one-third of the 8th Company, and the 3rd Battalion Artillery) will join with the 1st Company of the 1st Battalion, one-half of the 1st Machine-gun Company, and the 1st and 2nd Battalion Artillery Companies, and lead them in an attack from the western side of the main road against enemy troops in the "isolated building".
4. Other units will continue their current responsibilities. The 3rd Battalion, 9th Company will advance with the main force in reserve.
5. The rest will move to the south of the main road through the "deadwood forest" in the area that flanks the road.
This relatively long quotation of attack orders for the regiment and battalion is included because it refers to the first battle against a substantial field base encountered in the Japanese army’s advance into the South Pacific. The result of considerations of aspects of the battle, delegation of responsibility, and regulation of cooperation in the battle is evident in the course of later campaigns.
1. Enemy troops retreating from Deniki have entrenched themselves in the gorges around Isurava. They seem to comprise the retreating 39th Battalion and a newly arrived element, deployed as follows:
[Editor’s note: This judgment was correct, as postwar investigations indicate that the 39th Battalion was strengthened on this day with a newly arrived unit of the 2/14th Battalion.]
The regiment will aim to encircle and annihilate enemy troops north of Isurava. Part of the 1st Battalion will counter-attack from the high ground, while the main strength of the battalion will remain in their location and prepare for battle. The 2nd Battalion will break through the enemy at Kaile in a flanking operation, thus arriving at the enemy’s left near the main road. Mountain artillery will occupy the camp at the lookout post and fire on the three buildings and the front lines.
2. The 3rd Battalion (less one-third of the 8th Company, the 9th Company, and the 3rd Battalion Artillery, joined by 1st Battalion Artillery) will mobilise at 1330 hrs on 27 August. The main force will attack from the western side of the main road, while one part will develop the eastern side and attack enemy troops in the "isolated building".
3. The 7th Company, with one-quarter of a machine-gun company, will attack the left of the main line until 1500 hrs, and prepare for an attack on the river front, attacking troops in that direction and advancing towards the "isolated building".
4. The 8th Company will join with the 7th Company on the right of the main line, will prepare to attack by encircling the enemy’s left flank, and will advance towards the "isolated building" after breaking through.
5. The 1st Company will depart its current location as a flanking unit and attack the "isolated building" from the east of the main road.
6. The 3rd Machine-gun Company will occupy positions near their current location and prepare to fire up the main road, thus assisting the attack of the 7th Company.
7. The 1st Battalion Artillery will occupy a position near the current location and assist the attacks by the front-line companies.
8. The passwords shall be "Tosa" and "Kôchi".
9. Remaining units shall advance towards the "isolated building" at the rear of the 7th Company.
Editor’s note: These orders were delivered orally according to the conditions of the battle and then modified afterwards. It is adjudged that the content of the orders did not change.
The 1st and 3rd Battalions began their attacks against the "spring", "summer", and "isolated building" positions in the afternoon of 27 August. At the perimeter, however, as mentioned earlier, the advance unit found it extremely difficult to cross the torrential Eora River deep within the dense jungle.
The Australians, occupying positions on the steep southern bank, opened with ferocious fire. Although the southern bank was occupied by 1.00 pm through this torrent of fire, the Japanese position was not geographically advantageous and casualties mounted. The company of the 3rd Battalion on the left flank fought on and by 3.00 pm had breached the precinct of the "isolated building".
Regimental commander Kusunose planned to redirect the attack to the left rear flank. Consequently, he issued orders at 4.00 pm on 27 August for the 1st Battalion to continue to pressure the front, while the 3rd Battalion outflanked and attacked the "summer" position from the high ground to the west during the evening. The thrust toward the three buildings would then proceed as a descent from this high ground. The 3rd Battalion regrouped temporarily at "deadwood forest" and then began its redirected attack on the "summer" position from the western high ground at 2.00 am on 28 August.
Resistance by the Australians to the 2nd Battalion detour party also continued on several fronts, with little change in the overall situation. The party arrived at the waterfall via Missima on 27 August, but were halted there by reinforced Australian units.
For eight hours from the morning of 29 August, repeated attacks were made on the front line by the main Japanese strength. Finally, a position on a secondary front on the left flank was occupied. The Australians offered fierce resistance without withdrawal, resorting to hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese troops. There were numerous point-blank hand-grenade exchanges. The battle developed with repeated localised Japanese thrusts from rear positions.
At 1.00 pm on 30 August, the commander of the South Seas Force deployed the main force of the 41st Infantry Regiment, which had been held in train since 27 August, to reinforce the right flank of the 144th Infantry Regiment and attack the rear left flank of the Australian units.
Senior officers of the 41st Infantry Regiment had experience fighting Australian troops from the Malaya campaign, so they held no concerns about facing them again. At this time, the regiment’s 1st and 3rd Battalions (less the 12th Company) had not yet arrived at the front.
The main strength of the 2nd Battalion (commanded by Major Koiwai Mitsuo) made a detour through the thick jungle nestled against the high western ground. In the evening of 30 August, they unexpectedly found a road and then proceeded along it. Although this turned out to be the road to Port Moresby, there were no Australian troops in sight.
Major Koiwai’s battalion held the road until 6.00 am on 31 August, when they advanced and occupied three buildings approximately 800 metres south on the road. This turned out to be Isurava. One week after the battle started, Isurava had been successfully penetrated.
The 144th Infantry Regiment suffered casualties and losses owing to sickness during this battle such that a company of 170–80 men was reduced to 50–60. However, the damage inflicted on the Australians was also not small. This was confirmed by statements by an Australian battalion commander who was later captured. The battalion under his command had been virtually annihilated, with one company reduced to the sergeant in command and twenty men. The Australians also had difficulty maintaining contact with their units in the thick jungle. They suffered heavy casualties owing to localised Japanese incursions and encirclement. The strength of the Australian forces after the engagement was judged to be approximately three battalions.
Editor’s note: Postwar sources indicate that the units encountered in the Isurava area were the 39th Battalion, the 2/14th Battalion, the 2/16th Battalion, and the 53rd Battalion.
Supplies for the Koiwai Battalion, which now occupied Isurava, had dwindled in the ten days since the unit had landed at Basabua. However, an unexpectedly large amount of supplies had been stockpiled at Isurava. This included ammunition, food (dried bread and tinned food), as well as a certain quantity of clothing. There was an abundance of food over and above what the men of the 41st Infantry Regiment could carry, to the extent that some was also distributed to the 144th Infantry Regiment.
Pursuit towards Port Moresby
The Owen Stanley Range takes about five days to cross. The commander of the Yokohama Advance Party reported that he had controlled the peak of the range when he had occupied Deniki. This brought great joy to the commander of the South Seas Force and headquarters of the 17th Army. However, the South Seas Force had not yet taken control of the highest peaks of the range when Isurava was occupied.
The Japanese forces originally thought that it would be possible to advance to Rabaul down the southern slopes once the peak of the Owen Stanley Range was controlled. This illusion of an easy descent is often held by those crossing a mountain. However, the Owen Stanley Range consists of a chain of mountain peak after mountain peak.
At this stage, the South Seas Force commander was in receipt of the aforementioned orders from the 17th Army concerning moderation of the advance. According to these orders, "Further progress shall be moderated after advancing to the southern slopes of the Owen Stanley Range."
The South Seas Force had only surmounted the first high peaks in the range. Military orders had been despatched without an understanding of the lie of the land in the mountains. It was a natural consequence that the commander of the South Seas Force, the unit entrusted to invade Port Moresby, would consider it essential to secure the high ground on the southern slopes of the range.
Editor’s note: The wireless set had been left at Kokoda because of carrier difficulties. Communication between Kokoda and the force headquarters was by runner and short-range regimental wireless set (according to the statement of Major Koiwai). It is thought that because the orders to moderate the advance were delayed, the commander of the force considered that the push on to Port Moresby should continue as previously instructed.
On the evening of 31 August, the South Seas force commander ordered the 41st Infantry Regiment to pursue the enemy troops in front of their position, and stationed the 144th Infantry Regiment in train.
The Koiwai Battalion (less the 7th Company), at the vanguard of the pursuit, left Isurava in the early hours of 1 September. The Australian units offered repeated resistance to halt the Japanese advance.
The first resistance action occurred at Gap. The pursuit party broke through the Australians in an evening offensive. The attack continued south of Gap throughout the following day. The Australians withdrew as night fell.
The Japanese units suffered 53 injured and 40 dead during this second battle. From this time on, Japanese units in close formation started to come under fire from Australian units in the undergrowth in steep valleys. However, this resulted in no casualties.
The unit passed through Iora on 3 September. Although there were storehouses in Gap and Iora, nothing could be salvaged.
The pursuit party went up the mountain road that ran along the river in the valley. As they approached the crossing point for one of the small creeks during the evening, they came across five or six Australians washing their mess kits while whistling a tune. They were only 50–60 metres apart. The pursuit party did not think they were the troops encountered the previous evening because their uniforms and shoes were relatively clean. After a rapid machine-gun burst from the pursuit party, all of the Australians fled into the jungle close to the nearest bank of the stream. Return fire then came from that area. This area was the second-highest point in the range, where a pass ran under the highest peak.
On the following day, 4 September, the pursuit party swung around to the west of an Australian camp. Skirting along the ridgeline, the party suddenly attacked a group of Australians in the evening as they gathered in a saddle of the mountains. A torrential downpour started just as night fell. The two forces held their positions while enduring the cold, and waited for the rain to stop. At some time during the night, the Australians withdrew. The Japanese greeted the morning at the pass over the highest peaks of the Owen Stanley Range. It was at least 2,000 metres above sea level, but all the trees were covered in moss. All the officers and men shouted out banzai together.
At this point, Major General Horii redeployed the 144th Infantry Regiment to the front as the pursuit party and placed the 41st Infantry Regiment in train.
Lieutenant Colonel Kusunose Masao, the commander of the 144th Infantry Regiment, was carried forward by stretcher owing to illness.
The pursuit party went down the slope and passed through Kagi on 6 September. Soon after, they stumbled across an Australian camp south of Efogi. The expectations of the Japanese troops that they would soon reach the plains of Port Moresby after crossing the path were soon dashed. Mountain after mountain stretched in front of them as far as the eye could see.
The pursuit party deployed its main force and made repeated attacks against the Australian camp from the evening of 7 September. The area south of the Australian camp at Efogi was finally penetrated late the following evening.
The Japanese troops endured sustained fire from enemy planes during preparations for the attack on the morning of 7 September. Major General Horii telegraphed the following message to the 17th Army headquarters:
This message was received by the command of the 25th Air Flotilla on 10 September.
Enemy planes made three passes this morning, 7 September, from 0630 hrs to 1000 hrs. Ten enemy planes inflicted approximately 100 casualties and deaths in a sustained attack. The lack of Japanese fighter activity means that enemy planes have complete control of the air. It is felt that these attacks will certainly continue in this way. I wish for steps to be taken to despatch Japanese fighters.
At this time, malaria and dysentery continued to afflict all units. However, serious cases were not evacuated but were carried forward by the units to be admitted to a field hospital that was to be established in the Port Moresby area. On 8 September, the first supplies for some time were delivered from the rear. These were distributed first to units at the front line of advance.
The pursuit party relentlessly continued the pursuit. Commander Horii advanced to the rear of the pursuit party and arrived in Mawai on the evening of 11 September. The road south of Mawai had been repaired and provided easy going for the advancing troops. The pursuit party consequently reached Ioribaiwa on 12 September and made contact with enemy positions.
Major General Horii attacked the front of the enemy position with the 144th Infantry Regiment, and assembled at the ready the main strength of the 41st Infantry Regiment on the right bank area of the Nauro River. Since leaving Kokoda, the commander had planned to assemble both regiments for an assault on Port Moresby if Mawai could be reached.
The 1st Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment, which had earlier landed at Basabua, joined the main force of the regiment on 14 September.
Headquarters of the 17th Army ordered the commander of the South Seas Force on 8 September to assemble the 41st Infantry Regiment in the Kokoda area, owing to the worsening situation of the campaign in the Solomon Islands. Furthermore, the commander was ordered on 14 September to give highest priority to stationing a battalion in Buna to guard against enemy landings in the area. However, either the orders did not reach the force commander, or they were ignored.
Editor’s note: Telegrams issued by the South Seas Force headquarters at this time were reaching Rabaul, but they took three days. It is unclear how long it took for telegrams from Rabaul to reach the force headquarters, but it must have been at least three days.
It is not clear if the orders described in this section were ever transmitted. The evidence surrounding the 1st Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment presents two interpretations, as introduced in a previous note: that is, concerning the differing understandings of the "southern slopes", and the delays in transmission of orders.
According to the testimony of an officer captured and questioned by the 1st Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment, the Japanese pursuit was so fast that the Australian troops were forced to disperse into the mountains rather than retreat along the main road. Allied broadcasts at the time were astonished at the speed of the South Seas Force advance. The physical strength of the troops of the force was ebbing day by day owing to scarce food reserves. However, they were morally boosted by the imminent attack on Port Moresby and the promise of securing the food supplies of the enemy.
Occupation of Ioribaiwa
The 144th Infantry Regiment began the assault on the Ioribaiwa camp on 13 September, and by the evening of 16 September had occupied the high ground to the east and the west. The 144th Infantry Regiment suffered 36 deaths and 106 casualties in this battle. It was reported that the Australians had abandoned approximately one hundred and twenty bodies. Since the start of the Port Moresby offensive by the South Seas Force, there had been a total of approximately one thousand casualties, including those from illness and injury and those resulting in death.
The previously mentioned special correspondent wrote the following:
The commander of the South Seas Force, as previously mentioned, was initially unenthusiastic about the plan to invade Port Moresby by the land route. Once he had landed in New Guinea on 18 August, however, he carried through the task like a new man. The troops had overcome searing heat, rainstorms, and starvation. The hazards of the cloud-covered Owen Stanley Range had been surmounted and the successive resistance of the Australian troops swept away with super-human speed.
We gazed over the Gulf of Papua from the peak of the last main ridge we had fought to ascend. "I can see the ocean! The sea of Port Moresby!" The officers and men who had endured such bloody conflict embraced on the top of a stony ridge, crying and pointing. There were no longer any deep mountain ranges in front to block their progress. An undulating ocean of verdant green forest fell away before us. In the gaps between the trees, half obscured by the mountain mist, something was glittering. It was undoubtedly the sea. The Gulf of Papua …. Later that evening, we stood on the peak and saw the lights of Port Moresby. We could just make out the searchlights shining over the airfield at Seven Mile to the north of the city.
On 19 September, the commander of the 17th Army, General Hyakutake, upon hearing of the occupation of Ioribaiwa by the South Seas Force on 16 September, issued strict orders for front-line troops to immediately occupy a position to the north of Mawai.
Movements of the Allied forces from early to mid-September</a>]
The Australian 2/14th Battalion, as mentioned earlier, participated in the defence of the Isurava area. It was the advance battalion of the 21st Brigade that had been sent to strengthen Allied numbers. This unit replaced at the front line the 39th Battalion, which was exhausted from the fighting retreat back from Kokoda. The 2/16th Battalion had also reinforced the rear lines, but the Japanese advance could not be halted.
The Australians retreated along the Kokoda Track while staging successive resistance actions at Isurava, Alola, Eora, and Myola. The 2/27th Battalion arrived in the Efogi area during the retreat from Alola on 5 September. This fresh battalion occupied a defensive position to the south of Efogi and was engaged in battles there on 7–8 September.
The Japanese encirclement operations cut off the retreat of the Australians. The main force of the 2/16th, 2/14th, and 2/27th Battalions were forced to retreat to Menari through the thick jungle to the south of the main track.
Editor’s note: At this time, the 39th and the 53rd Battalions had retreated to the rear lines for reorganisation.
The retreat from Menari and Nauro continued till the morning of 10 September, when they finally arrived at the ridge between Nauro and Ioribaiwa.
The strength of the units that had retreated to Ioribaiwa numbered only 307 men at that time. Consequently, the two units were reorganised into a composite battalion. On that day, the commander of 21st Brigade was replaced. The responsibilities of the new commander, Brigadier Porter, were to take control of all troops from Uberi forward, to hold the Japanese, and to gain what ground he could.
Brigadier Porter, from his experience fighting south of Efogi, decided to retreat to the ridgeline at Ioribaiwa for two reasons: owing to the current danger to the rear of the two battalions at the front; and the tactical advantage to the Australians offered by the topography of Ioribaiwa. Porter’s force was strengthened by the 3rd Battalion (less one company), by the 2/1st Pioneer Battalion (less one company), and by patrols of the 2/6th Independent Company.
The fresh units of the 25th Brigade moved northwards in succession after their arrival in Port Moresby with these orders: "To halt the enemy advance towards Port Moresby by offensive action as far forward as possible; to regain control of the route to Kokoda through the Isurava–Deniki area with a view to the recapture of Kokoda." Brigadier Eather, the commander of the unit, arrived at Uberi on 11 September. He decided to reinforce both flanks and the rear of the 21st Brigade at Ioribaiwa with three battalions (the 2/33rd, 2/31st, and 2/25th Battalions).
The South Seas Force, which had overcome hunger and fatigue to advance this far, encountered approximately five Australian battalions at Ioribaiwa, three of which were fresh, having just arrived.
The result was as previously described. By the evening of 16 September, after three days of bitter fighting, the Japanese had occupied the high positions to the east and west of the Australians.
The Commander of New Guinea Force, Lieutenant General Rowell, addressed the following letter to headquarters on 20 September:
To what extent the Allies benefited from the lessons learned from the thrust of the Japanese army up to Ioribaiwa, and what the judgment of MacArthur would be on this point, will be explored in the following section dealing with offensive operations at Rabi.
1. The main reasons for the success of the Japanese in forcing the Owen Stanley Range and advancing on Moresby are as follows:
a. Superior enemy strength at the decisive time and place;
2. A stage has now been reached where there is every prospect, owing to the enemy administrative difficulties and to the very considerable reinforcements arriving for us here, that any further deep penetration, other than by small patrols, can be stopped. The problem now to be solved is what is to be the future role of New Guinea Force in the Port Moresby area.
b. Simpler administrative needs of the Japanese soldier and his better clothing and equipment, particularly in respect of camouflage;
c. Lack of [Australian] reinforcing troops to restore a situation where the enemy was gaining superiority, for example, at Isurava and Efogi;
d. Higher standard of training of enemy in jungle warfare. Our men have been bewildered and are still dominated by their environment.
3. The primary task, as I see it, is the retention of Port Moresby as an air operational base.
(Further on the defence of Port Moresby omitted.)
6. Operations astride the Myola–Kokoda track will be costly, both in combat troops and administrative effort. I consider the best results are likely to be obtained by applying steady pressure on the main track as far to the north as possible, and relying on exploitation of side-tracks to cut into the enemy line of communication and so force him to withdraw.
7. The limiting factor in these proposals is always administrative. Lack of pack transport and continual decrease in availability of native porters will restrict the size of flanking forces that can be employed. Improvement of tracks and arrival of pack transport companies will, however, increase the probable scope of such moves.
(Details of organisation of forces omitted.)
9. In this regard there are two important factors to be stressed:
a. Manpower. Wastage of manpower in jungle and mountain warfare. The wastage of personnel from battle casualties and physical exhaustion is extremely high. This demands greater infantry war establishments as well as reserves of fresh units to replace those temporarily depleted in numbers or otherwise battle weary.
b. Training. Training in this type of warfare. Training as known in Queensland bears no relation to jungle conditions. The Port Moresby area itself is just as bad a training ground. It is essential that troops get into actual jungle and learn to master its difficulties of tactics, movement, and control.
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Offensive operations in Rabi
Start of the operations
When the South Seas Force was in Kokoda and about to thrust through the Owen Stanley Range towards Port Moresby, the Ichiki Detachment 2nd Echelon was about to land at Guadalcanal during the second naval battle of the Solomon Islands. A third Japanese offensive force was simultaneously heading for Rabi in Milne Bay at the southern tip of New Guinea.
The 8th Fleet was to control the China Strait, the corridor to the Coral Sea, according to the agreement between local army and navy commanders concluded on 31 July. This involved landing and establishing a seaplane base on Samarai Island, as previously mentioned.
However, immediately after this, on 4 August, the 25th Air Flotilla confirmed the existence of a new airfield being used to the west of Rabi in Milne Bay, some 60 kilometres north-west of Samarai Island. Not only would this be a threat to the sea offensives in coordination with operations of the South Seas Force, but was a threat as least as grave as that from Port Moresby or Guadalcanal to the strategic situation in the South Pacific Area centred on Rabaul. This would be the linchpin for Allied counter-offensives against the Japanese strategic front from New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Gilbert Islands.
The headquarters of the 8th Fleet quickly changed the target of the operation from Samarai to Rabi and decided to mount the attack solely with naval forces. The Combined Fleet agreed with this decision. There was no reason to expect, given the circumstances, that the Allies had stationed a garrison of approximately five thousand troops at Rabi.
It was clear that twenty to thirty P-40s were stationed at Rabi, and anti-aircraft fire was quite intense. It was thought that the garrison would be quite small because the base had not been operational for very long. The command of 17th Army had some reservations about an assault by navy troops only, but had no strength in reserve to support the operation.
The 8th Fleet had planned to begin the operation in mid-August after preparatory air raids, but this was unavoidably delayed by the launch of the Allied counter-offensive at Guadalcanal. They decided to carry out the operation as soon as possible after the completion of the airfield at Buna, expected by 16 August, as long as the situation in Guadalcanal permitted. Preparations for the offensive were mainly advanced by the 7th Base Force headquarters.
The command of the 8th Fleet had been aboard the flagship Chôkai on the seas to the north of the Solomon Islands since 19 August. Not only was it expected that Guadalcanal would be recaptured by the landing of the Ichiki Detachment Advance Party, but the enemy counter-attack was not anticipated to be significant owing to the arrival of the main force of the Combined Fleet to the waters to the east of the Solomon Islands from 23 August. Consequently, orders were issued to commence the attack on Rabi on 21 August. Reports of the defeat of the Ichiki Detachment Advance Party had not yet been relayed from the observation post on Taivu Point.
The assault force was led by the commander of the 18th Squadron, Vice Admiral Matsuyama. The essentials of the plan were that the Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party (led by Commander Hayashi, 612 men) and elements of the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party (led by Lieutenant Fujikawa, 197 men) would be transported and landed on the coast to the east of Rabi under escort and with support from vessels of the 18th Squadron. Simultaneously, the main force of the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party (led by Commander Tsukioka, 353 men) would set out separately from Buna on seven motorised barges, and proceed via Goodenough Island to Taupota, situated on the north coast opposite Rabi. Both units were to work together to occupy and secure the Rabi airfields. It was planned that elements of the 10th Establishment Unit (led by Engineer Tsutsui, 362 men) would travel with the main force and repair the airfield. The order of battle for the entire force was as follows:
|Main force||18th Squadron commander||18th Squadron (Tenryû, Tatsuta), 29th Destroyer Squadron (Yûzuki, Oite), 17th Destroyer Squadron (Tanikaze, Hamakaze, Urakaze)||Protect transport group|
|Patrol Group||23rd Submarine Chaser Squadron commander||23rd Submarine Chaser Squadron (No. 23 Submarine Chaser and No. 24 Submarine Chaser)||Patrol and protect transport group|
|Detachment||Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party commander||Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party, Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party (part strength), 19th Establishment Unit (part strength), 8th Signals Unit (part strength)||Secure occupation of Rabi, occupy airfields, meteorological station|
|Transport Group||Nankai Maru, Kinai Maru||Transport naval landing units|
Editor’s note: There were also separate movements from Buna (see main text).
As noted above, the 25th Air Flotilla had little reserve strength to execute attacks on the Allied airbase after its raids on Rabi on 11 August and Port Moresby on 17 August. The six Zero fighters advanced to Buna on 18 August were reinforced by a further 16 Zeros on 22 August.
Air support and the departure of the offensive units
Sixteen Zero fighters from the 25th Air Flotilla attacked Rabi at 9.15 am on 23 August. There was an aerial engagement with only one P-40, and no sign of other aircraft taking off. A 6,000-tonne transport ship was unloading cargo from its anchorage 200 metres off the coast west of Rabi.
The Airbase Force Command specially placed land-based attack planes from the 26th Air Flotilla based at Kavieng (naval air unit from Kisarazu) under the command of the 25th Air Flotilla for the attack on the airbase at Rabi on 24 August. The 25th Air Flotilla was to attack Rabi on 24 August with protection from the fighters at Buna, but the full complement of bombers only numbered 14 aircraft (with half of these from Kavieng).
However, the land-based attack planes withdrew owing to bad weather, and only the 15 fighters were ordered to attack. The fighters engaged around twenty enemy P-39s and P-40s in the skies over Rabi for around 30 minutes from 2.15 pm. All returned safely to Buna and reporting shooting down nine P-39s and one P-40. Five large aircraft were sighted in an above-ground concealment area at Rabi, and another five small aircraft on the service runway to the north. Defensive fire was intense from anti-aircraft positions on the coast about 1,000 metres to the east of the runway.
The assault force left Rabaul at 7 am on 24 August. The convoy was contacted by enemy aircraft the following morning, then strafed and bombed by a total of 13 aircraft in four passes from 2.40 pm, suffering some damage. The anticipated counter-assault by surface craft did not eventuate and the force safely entered Milne Bay and successfully landed at 10.30 pm. The landing site was 3 kilometres further east than intended, near a place called Reknira.
Editor’s note: This was the day planned for the landing of the Ichiki Detachment 2nd Echelon.
Aerial reconnaissance over the convoy on 24 August was carried out by a total of eight carrier-based bombers. It was to be carried out the following day from 8.30 am by the full strength of the Buna fighter unit. However, four P-39s carried out strafing attacks on the Buna airstrip from 7.10 am, and one P-39 continued through the rain at 10.20 am. Four Zeros and one transport were destroyed, reducing the number of serviceable aircraft to six Zeros. Because of this, the aerial surveillance over the convoy was not carried out.
The 25th Air Flotilla deployed the Buna fighters, and also the main strength of the Rabaul carrier-based bombers (2nd Air Corps) under escort from five Zeros, to cooperate in air surveillance over the landing point for the convoy on 26 August.
Landing on 26 August
The naval landing troops proceeded east along the coast immediately after landing. They had advanced to the east edge of Rabi by 5.30 am on 26 August after overcoming resistance by small Allied units en route. Surface forces shelled the suspected position of the airfield to the north-west of Gili Gili to support the advance of the land troops, then ceased at 4.30 am and withdrew to the east.
Direct contact was made with Allied aircraft over the anchorage from midnight on 25 August. Allied aircraft bombarded and strafed the landing point from early the following day, destroying almost all the ammunition, fuel, and rations before they could be dispersed.
At 5.30 am, three B-17s and two B-25s attacked the surface forces that had withdrawn, but no damage was inflicted. At around this time, the six fighters at Buna were again attacked by seven P-39s as they were taking off to carry out surveillance over Rabi. Under these unfortunate circumstances, three fighters were destroyed and one heavily damaged while undertaking an emergency landing at about 6.25 am. Six fighters and eight carrier-based bombers left Rabaul at 6 am to support the naval landing party at Rabi, but were forced to return to Buna at 3.30 pm owing to bad weather.
Not a single Japanese plane flew over the landing site on 26 August, and the skies were dominated by the Allies. The naval landing troops remained on standby in the jungle during the day, planning to undertake a night raid on the airfield from 6 pm.
The commander of the 18th Squadron (the assault force commander) led Tenryû and the 17th Destroyer Squadron (Tanikaze, Hamakaze, and Urakaze) back to the anchorage at 7.50 pm, having sent the rest of the force back to Rabaul for the present,.
However, communications with the naval landing force had been severed since 5.20 pm. It was only possible to observe, at around 1 pm on 27 August, that that fighting was in progress near Kilarbo (around 2 kilometres west of Rabi). The surface forces again bombarded the suspected location of the airfield to the north-west of Gili Gili to support the land troops, then withdrew to the east before dawn.
The separate force that had left Buna in seven motorised barges at 5 am on 24 August (the main strength of the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party) were to have landed near Taupota before dawn on 26 August and advanced on the airfield at Rabi and attacked from the rear. Their fate, however, was completely unknown at this time.
The Airbase Force Command (Vice Admiral Tsukahara, commander of 11th Air Fleet) issued special orders to the 25th Air Flotilla at 4 pm on 26 August to carry out a night raid on the airfields at Port Moresby. Four land-based attack planes carried out five waves of attacks from 12.42 am to 2.05 am on 27 August. The target, however, was covered with cloud, so the result of the raid was unclear.
As previously mentioned, three transports carrying the provisional supply and transport unit for the South Seas Force were sailing to Buna on 26 August. Under these conditions, however, the 25th Air Flotilla was preoccupied with conducting the air attacks over Rabi and supporting the naval landing troops, so could not provide an escort for the transport convoy. It was subsequently forced to return to Rabaul.
Situation on 27 August
More that ten enemy fighters attacked Buna at 6.10 am on 27 August, while Japanese forces attacked Rabi from Buna with seven Zeros and eight carrier-based bombers. The bomber unit attacked anti-aircraft and machine-gun positions.
There were at least twenty anti-aircraft guns at Rabi, and defensive fire was intense. As a result, four Zeros and two bombers were lost, and the 25th Air Flotilla had to refrain from advancing for a time.
Wireless communications with the naval landing party were re-established temporarily for an hour from noon. It was discovered that the attacks the previous night had ended in failure, and that the landing party would renew the attack that night.
The commander of the 18th Squadron, sailing back to Rabaul, sent the destroyer Hamakaze back to Rabi to establish communications with the landing party and to supply ammunition and rations. Hamakaze turned back at 1 pm and arrived at a position 2,000 metres off Rabi at midnight. Attempts were made to contact the landing party, but communications had been out since 2 pm. Visual communications were also unsuccessful owing to the prevailing rain. Hamakaze consequently ceased attempts to make contact and once again turned for Rabaul at 2.30 am on 28 August.
Reinforcement of the naval landing party on 29 August
Chôkai, which had been supporting the transport of the Ichiki Detachment 2nd Echelon through the waters to the north of the Solomon Islands, returned to Rabaul at 3 pm on 26 August. The commander of the 8th Fleet immediately moved the command of Chôkai ashore. The 8th Fleet had expected that the naval landing party at Rabi would have broken through to the airfield on the night of the landing and completed its occupation by dawn on 26 August. However, the actual situation did not conform to these expectations. It was not until the afternoon of 27 August that the 8th Fleet learned of the failure of the attack the previous nights.
The commander of the 8th Fleet, Vice Admiral Mikawa, decided to send urgent reinforcements. Orders were issued at 8.47 pm on 27 August to despatch to Rabi the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party (led by Commander Yano, 567 men), and elements of the Yokohama 5th Special Naval Landing Party (led by Special Sub-Lieutenant Yoshioka, 200 men). The destroyers Arashi (4th Destroyer Squadron), Yayoi (30th Destroyer Squadron), and Murakumo (11th Destroyer Squadron), as well as No. 36 Patrol Boat, No. 38 Patrol Boat, and No. 39 Patrol Boat, were temporarily placed under the command of the 8th Fleet and charged with the urgent transport of the reinforcements.
The reinforcements boarded the destroyers and patrol boats and left Rabaul harbour for Milne Bay at 3.30 pm on 28 August under escort from the 18th Squadron (Tenryû) and the 17th Destroyer Squadron (Tanikaze and Urakaze). The convoy was attacked by Allied aircraft from the afternoon of 29 August until dusk through driving rain, but suffered no damage, so entered the bay at Reknira (6 kilometres east of Rabi) at 8.15 pm. Unloading of personnel, ammunition, and supplies began at 8.40 pm and was completed by 11.30 pm.
Communications with the landing party was established after the flagship Tenryû entered Milne Bay. The adjutants of the Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party and the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party were invited aboard while the disembarkation was in progress. These two described the current situation of the battle directly, as follows:
The situation as understood
The main Allied line seemed to extend north and south near Gili Gili, and resistance was also encountered from forward positions near Rabi and Kilarbo. It was also thought that defensive positions around the airfield were being strengthened. Passage through the jungle away from the roads was generally very difficult. Defensive positions had been established mainly to control the roads.
Around five hundred Australian troops were engaged with the Japanese forces, though the total number, according to a prisoner, was approximately fifteen hundred troops. The Australians also had at least ten light tanks and armoured cars, though the Japanese troops had put seven out of action, and were well armed with mortars and machine-guns. Their will to resist was high, and some had used Japanese passwords to get close to Japanese positions and fire.
The position of the airfield was still not confirmed, though it was certain to be at Gili Gili or to its west. There was a strong possibility that there were two or more airfields. Two illumination posts were set up near the airfields, allowing night take-offs and landings. Stubborn resistance was encountered from Allied aircraft strafing, which continued through the night, hampering movements of Japanese forces. It seemed that poor weather and limited visibility did not restrict enemy aircraft movements.
The night attack by naval landing troops on 27 August broke through several lines of defence and approached the airfield, but did not near the main base, so they had to withdraw to their original position.
The force was currently assembled about 2 kilometres east of Rabi, led by Commander Hayashi. Their strength had been reduced to around one-half (with ten casualties over the rank of platoon commander), but spirits were still high.
The situation of the separate force was not known. However, as Allied aircraft were making fierce attacks on the mountains to the north of the airfield, it was thought the force had advanced to the southern slopes of the Stirling Range.
The commander of the 18th Squadron, on learning of the circumstances of the battle, recognised the need to move the landing point closer to the enemy line to the west. However, as over half of the disembarkation had already been completed, he left this decision to the commander of the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party, who led the reinforcement unit. Commander Yano decided to establish a foothold as far west as possible on the night of 29 August, and then disperse in the jungle during the following day to avoid enemy aircraft fire. That night, 30 August, Yano’s unit, in combination with the original landing force, would mount a thrust on the airfield.
The surface vessels under the command of the 18th Squadron left the anchorage for the return journey as soon as the unloading was completed. The 17th Destroyer Squadron, along with Murakumo, headed directly for Shortland Island, while the rest returned to Rabaul.
The commander of the 18th Squadron left the anchorage at 11.50 pm on 29 August, and sent the following telegraph to 8th Fleet headquarters:
Reinforcements have started to land and have been joined by the Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party. The landing point is some 8 kilometres from the airfield, so there are no prospects of an attack before dawn. The force will advance as far as possible tonight and avoid air attacks during the day, then mount an all out attack on the airfield in the evening. Would like an air strike to be undertaken on 30 August regardless of the difficulties.
The situation on 30–31 August
The reinforcements began their move west at 11.30 pm and soon joined with the original landing party. The commander of the Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party, Hayashi, had planned defensive actions, but a night attack was settled on owing to the opinion of Commander Yano of the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party.
Enemy aircraft attacked all day, so the force withdrew into the jungle. The advance resumed at nightfall, and contact was made with the Allies’ main position near Gili Gili at around 3 am on 31 August. Suddenly, the force came under concentrated mortar and machine-gun fire. Allied aircraft attacks resumed at dawn, so the attack was promptly thwarted. Commander Yano reported at 8 am the following:
1. We attacked as planned, but came under heavy cross-fire from well dug-in positions when we drew near the enemy, sustaining heavy casualties. Though the reserve units were summoned, they did not arrive before dawn, making the assault problematic.
2. Force withdrew about 1,000 metres to the rear to await reinforcements.
Seven Zeros from the 25th Air Flotilla (2nd Air Corps), under special orders issued early that morning, were charged with controlling the skies over Rabi between 10.20 am and 11 am. There was no sign of Allied aircraft during that time. Apart from a Japanese flag and banner indicating a no-drop zone located around 8 kilometres north-west of the airfield, there was no indication of the condition of the Japanese troops.
The commander of the 18th Squadron sent the following telegraph to Commander Yano at 1.15 pm: "Secure the occupied positions. Air attacks planned for early morning. Covering fire from surface ships will be undertaken tomorrow night. Indicate targets for the attack. Endeavour to maintain communications."
Next, the 18th Squadron sent the following orders to Commander Hayashi at 8 pm: "According to intelligence from a reconnaissance plane today, it seems the separate force has advanced to the foothills to the north-west of the airfield. Make contact with them during the night of 31 August, and attempt a night attack that evening to seize the airfield."
This intelligence was based on the report of aircraft fire in the hills to the north-west of the airfield. However, as will be seen, this was completely wrong, as the separate force had their barges and radio equipment destroyed by Allied aircraft fire, and had been marooned on Goodenough Island since 25 August.
Despite these encouraging reports, there were no prospects for a favourable turn of events in the battle. Commander Hayashi was killed in battle, and the various units fell into disorder and were repeatedly forced to withdraw. A halt was made near Hilna on the evening of 31 August to concentrate the force and prepare for enemy pursuit. The road had turned to heavy mud from the constant rain. Movement by the troops was consequently difficult owing to skin disease, tinea, and foot sores.
The force constantly fell back under pursuit from the enemy during the morning of 1 September. Six Zeros and five carrier-based bombers set out for air raids over Rabi at 5.30 am that morning, but struck heavy weather en route and fruitlessly turned back. At this time, the convoy of the provisional supply and transport unit for the South Seas Force was sailing to Buna.
Change of operational plans by the 17th Army and the 8th Fleet
As previously mentioned, the command of the 17th Army had planned to despatch one battalion from the Kawaguchi Detachment to assist the operation at Rabi, but this was cancelled after the difficulties suffered by the Ichiki Detachment Advance Party on 23 August had become known. The command of the 17th Army subsequently decided on 31 August to send the units of the Aoba Detachment, which had arrived in Rabaul on the first transport on 31 August (based on one infantry battalion and one artillery company), but this unit was also quickly sent to Guadalcanal. Despite the worsening situation at Rabi, the 8th Fleet consented to these measures on 31 August.
The command of the 8th Fleet, after conducting discussions with the 17th Army, concluded that the force at Rabi should maintain a holding position some distance from the enemy to wait for the arrival of the main force of the Aoba Detachment, due to arrive in Rabaul on 11 September. It was planned that this combined force would then make a concerted attack on the airfield.
Second reinforcement of the naval landing party, and unified command
Under these conditions, command of the 8th Fleet determined on 1 September to send the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party as reinforcements. This unit was led by Captain Yasuda Yoshitatsu (with 130 men), who would take charge of the entire landing force. In addition, prior to the arrival of army troops, naval surface units would take turns every night to enter Milne Bay, make contact with the landing party, and provide covering fire.
Captain Yasuda and other elements of the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party, with support from the 18th Squadron, boarded No. 39 Patrol Boat and left Rabaul harbour under escort from the 4th Destroyer Squadron (less Arashi and others) and Hamakaze. At precisely that time, 10.25 am on 2 September, Commander Yano from the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party sent the urgent message that an enemy transport and a cruiser had entered Milne Bay.
The command of the 18th Squadron, while steaming south, immediately ordered the 4th Destroyer Squadron to lead an attack with Hamakaze to trap and destroy these vessels. In addition, the Airbase Force Command ordered the 25th Air Flotilla at 11.35 am to mobilise its entire strength and attack the vessels.
From 12.25 pm to 2.30 pm, three carrier-based bombers, nine Zeros, one large flying boat (with torpedoes), and five Type-1 land-based attack planes left Rabaul. They were forced to turn back, however, owing to poor weather conditions in the Rabi area, with the loss of the three carrier-based bombers.
Meanwhile, a report from Rabi indicated that the vessels had completed their unloading and left the harbour at 2.40 pm. Command of the 18th Squadron then ordered No. 39 Patrol Boat, which had temporarily withdrawn, to turn back for Rabi under the protection of Tatsuta, and to undertake the planned landing during the night of 3 September.
Meanwhile, Hamakaze and Arashi of the 4th Destroyer Squadron were steaming towards Milne Bay and arrived outside the harbour at 6 pm. There was no sign, however, of the Allied ships as they had already finished unloading. The commander of the 4th Destroyer Squadron sent the following message at 10 pm:
This report gives the impression that the battle had reached its final stages. The following report was sent at 11.30 pm:
No sign of enemy surface craft. Land battles continuing from Reknira area to near the airfield. Enemy attack considered intense owing to numerous mortar flashes and tracers visible at night. It seems Japanese units are scattered and grimly holding on. Battles also underway to the west of the original landing position. It is considered there is a high chance that the landing tomorrow will be conducted in the face of the enemy.
The commander of the 8th Fleet received the following final message from the commander of the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party at 4.50 pm: "We have reached the worst possible situation. We will together calmly defend our position to the death. We pray for absolute victory for the empire and for long-lasting fortune in battle for you all." The above report from the 8th Destroyer Squadron sent at 10 pm confirmed that the situation had become catastrophic.
Arrived at the China Strait at 1800 hrs and searched for enemy from south of the entrance of the harbour up to the landing point. After contact made with the landing party, again searched for the enemy to the north of the harbour, but found nothing.
Hamakaze despatched a launch to attempt to establish communications with the landing party, but failed to do so and returned to ship. (The launch was attacked from land when signal lamps were used, indicating that the Japanese landing party had withdrawn.) The land battle seemed to have entered a lull after 2200 hrs, with only an occasional flare up. Communications not yet established with the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party, said to be positioned 3 kilometres east of Rabi, owing to heavy rain and poor visibility since morning. Position of enemy ships also unknown, so withdrew at 0100 hrs on 3 September.
Cancellation of reinforcements, and decision on holding operation
The commander of the 8th Fleet, in discussion with the 17th Army, decided that the situation would not be rescued with a small naval landing force, so decided to cancel the reinforcements and wait for the arrival of the second transport of the Aoba Detachment (based on one infantry battalion, approximately one thousand men), expected in Rabaul on 9 September. A concerted attack would then be undertaken in the Rabi area in concert with the renewed attack of the South Seas Force in the Owen Stanley Range.
The commander of the 18th Squadron consequently issued the following message at 10.30 pm on 2 September: "I am of the opinion that reinforcements by the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party will not turn the situation to our advantage. The landing of the unit is therefore to be deferred." This request was then sent at 10.42 pm: "I desire the 4th Destroyer Squadron (less Hagikaze, Nowaki, and Maikaze) to aid Hamakaze to provide surface support for the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party."
The commander of the 18th Squadron cancelled the landing of elements of the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party led by Commander Yasuda and sent them back to base, then issued the following orders to the commander of the 4th Destroyer Squadron at 7.15 am on 3 September:
Editor’s note: According to the detailed battle report of the 18th Squadron, the "evacuate them" in this order referred to evacuation of casualties and construction units.
Continue to try and contact the landing party during the day and enter the harbour near Rabi during the night. You must endeavour to contact the naval landing units, whatever the circumstances, and if at all possible, evacuate them.
Meanwhile, staff officer Ômae from the 8th Fleet consulted with Imperial Headquarters staff officer Imoto, who had been sent to the 17th Army, concerning withdrawal of units from Rabi. Ômae was encouraged by Imoto’s explanation that losses during a successive withdrawal from a land battle over several days from were normally not as high as might be expected.
The commander of the 18th Squadron subsequently sent the following message to the commander of the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party at 4.40 pm on 3 September: "Construct and defend a safe staging point in the jungle. Endeavour to communicate and transmit your position when one is decided. Strong reinforcements to arrive on 12 September." In addition, the commander had intended to lead Tenryû and two patrol boats from Rabaul that evening, to arrive in Rabi harbour during the evening of 4 September to evacuate casualties. However, this operation was delayed for one day owing to the shipping plan being fully committed.
The 4th Destroyer Squadron (Arashi and Hamakaze) re-entered Rabi harbour during the night of 3 September and successfully made contact with the landing force, as well as evacuating some of the wounded. Among these was Commander Yano from the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party. The adjutant of the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party reported the situation of the landing party as of 11.45 pm to the commander of the 4th Destroyer Squadron:
Regarding the fate of the separate force, both local units and commanders in Rabaul had believed that it had landed at Taupota and advanced to the rear of the airfield, but its subsequent situation was quite unclear. The commander of the 4th Destroyer Squadron sent the following report at 9.30 am on 4 September while returning:
1. Resistance continues at the front line approximately 1 kilometre east of Hilna.
2. Personnel (all assembled)
Commander Kure 5th Special Naval Landing Party killed in action
3. We could hold the position about one-half kilometre east of Reknira for 2–3 days if we withdraw to the line of the river.
Commander Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party seriously wounded
Adjutant Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party (senior officer in battle) lightly wounded
Fully fit warrant officers and higher ranks down to one-third strength
NCOs and men approximately 560 remain (around 200 capable of battle)
Fujikawa Unit (including construction troops) all fit
4. Concentration at safe position and construction of base extremely difficult owing to all personnel exhausted and many casualties. Strongly urge arrival of Yasuda Unit for this purpose.
Editor’s note: The contradiction between items 3 and 4 in the original text has been reproduced. The diary of Yamada conveys the meaning by integrating the "hold the position … Reknira" and "all personnel exhausted and many casualties."
Decision for further reinforcements and report from the front
According to reports by Captain Fujikawa to the commander of the Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party, a red flare was visible near the airfield during the previous evening (time unknown), causing speculation that the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party had penetrated to the airfield.
The commander of the 8th Fleet decided again to despatch elements of Captain Yasuda’s naval landing party as special reinforcements. The plan was reported at 10.10 am on 4 September:
Some officers within 8th Fleet headquarters argued for the complete withdrawal of all operational units at this stage, but the 17th Army continued to request that a foothold be secured in the Rabi area.
Depart Rabaul on 4 September on board three 18th Squadron patrol boats, to arrive following day to disembark Yasuda Unit and evacuate casualties. A decision will be made after the arrival of Yasuda whether to concentrate strength and wait for the arrival of two army battalions due on 12 September, or to evacuate.
After a break of some days, six land-based attack planes and nine Zero fighters from the 25th Air Flotilla set out for Rabi on 4 September, but were again forced to return owing to poor weather. The commander of the 18th Squadron left Rabaul during the evening of that day on Tenryû with three patrol boats. The reinforcement unit of Captain Yasuda, which numbered approximately three hundred men (an increase from the original plan), was aboard these vessels.
Yayoi, which had left previously, entered Rabi harbour during the night of 4 September and evacuated 224 casualties after making contact with the landing party. In addition, Yayoi reported at 10.30 pm the result of communication with the adjutant of Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party, which is summarised below:
The commander of the 30th Destroyer Squadron also expressed the opinion that: "The landing party has already reached the point where they must evacuate. Landing the Yasuda Unit reinforcements cannot be expected to succeed."
Number of able bodies reduced to under 50 men. Situation such that it would be extremely difficult to achieve results even after reinforcement by Yasuda Unit. Strongly urge withdrawal of the entire complement.
Kure 3rd Special Naval Landing Party fallen into disarray and situation not entirely clear. All company commanders killed in action, while only three or four platoon commanders alive.
Almost all seriously wounded have killed themselves.
Those unable to walk owing to severe foot sores continue to fight sitting down at the front line.
We are making every effort to continue to defend our positions, but enemy encirclement attacks will result in our complete annihilation.
The commander of the 18th Squadron received this report at 7.10 am on 5 September, and signalled the following important message to the 8th Fleet exactly one hour later:
1. Landing of the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party reinforcements has been cancelled.
2. Tenryû will lead No. 34 Patrol Boat and No. 38 Patrol Boat to withdraw the entire Milne Bay landing force this evening.
3. No. 39 Patrol Boat will be sent back to Rabaul under command of the 30th Destroyer Squadron.
Editor’s note: After the war, the commander of the 18th Squadron, Rear Admiral Matsuyama Mitsuharu, recalled the following: "The telegraph indicating withdrawal was sent early in the morning. We felt that if the 8th Fleet had any objections, there was plenty of time for them to reply."
The 8th Fleet replied by telegraph at 9.40 am, as follows: "As the number of evacuees is anticipated to be large, No. 39 Patrol Boat should go with you."
South-East Area Fleet headquarters made the final decision concerning the evacuation based on the opinions of the commander of the 8th Fleet. All personnel were successfully evacuated under the local commander during the night of 5 September.
The total number withdrawn, including earlier evacuations, was 1,318 (including 311 wounded). The total number landed during the operation, not including the separate force, was 1,943. In total, 625 men did not return, including 311 confirmed killed in action.
The Combined Fleet chief of staff, Vice Admiral Ugaki, recorded the following reasons for the failure of the operation in his diary for that day:
Movements of the separate force
1. The fact that the enemy airfield was heavily defended and our landing party could not capture it.
2. The fact we charged into the operation, in addition to the attack on Port Moresby, while we were at a loss over the issue of Guadalcanal, thus dispersing our strength over three operations.
3. The fact that the naval landing party was not of high calibre, as it contained numerous 30–35-year-old conscripts with poor endurance and inferior fighting spirit. The movements of the operation were also inadequate, with thrusts from the north and south unable to act in concert.
4. The fact that the high rainfall resulted in many with foot sores in the muddy conditions, and that air support could not be expected owing to the poor weather.
What most concerned the 8th Fleet during the evacuation of the Rabi force was the location and withdrawal of the separate force of the Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party led by Commander Tsuioka.
Rear Admiral Kanazawa from the 8th Base Force headquarters, who was not involved in the Rabi operations, wrote in his diary for 5 September: "Rabi a disaster. Withdrawal finally ordered. Evacuation to be done today by the cruiser Tenryû of the 18th Squadron. What has happened to the Tsuioka Unit? The outlook is bleak."
It was generally believed that the Tsuioka Unit had landed on the north coast at Taupota in the morning of 26 August and advanced to the hills to the north of the Rabi airfield by around 30 August. There were several reports of signs suggesting this, as previously mentioned, but these reports were completely wrong. In fact, the force had been concentrated in the south of Goodenough Island since 25 August.
The plan was to leave Buna on 24 August on board seven motorised barges moving mainly at night via Cape Nelson and the south coast of Goodenough Island to land near Taupota before dawn on 26 August, then cross the Stirling Range to advance on the airfield from the north. Though the Kawaguchi Detachment effected a sea mobilisation soon after in the Solomon Islands area (to be discussed below), the mobilisation by barge of the Tsuioka Unit was the first for the Japanese army or navy to span three days and two nights.
The Tsuioka Unit left Buna at 5 am on 24 August and arrived safely at Ansari on Cape Nelson by 1 pm. They then set out for the south coast of Goodenough Island at 6 pm after an extended rest. It was extremely difficult to escape the gaze of enemy reconnaissance when moving during the day. The distance between Ansari and the south coast of Goodenough was the maximum range of movement in one night concealed from enemy patrols. The unit entered an inlet on the south coast of Goodenough Island after dawn on 25 August and dropped anchor. Unfortunately, there was no suitable place to conceal the barges.
As a result, all the barges were destroyed by strafing from ten enemy aircraft at 10.30 am on 25 August. All provisions and the sole radio transmitter were also destroyed. The unit was literally stranded. A group of three messengers were twice sent to Buna by canoe, arriving on the second attempt on 9 September. It was then that the movements of the separate force were known for the first time since 24 August.
Rescue of the separate force
Yayoi and Isokaze of the 30th Destroyer Squadron (the latter attached to the 17th Destroyer Squadron) left Rabaul for Goodenough Island the following day, 10 September, to rescue the separate force.
However, they were subjected to waves of attacks by a total of ten B-17s and B-25s from noon on 11 September. Yayoi suffered damage to its steering gear at 3.30 pm and became stranded, finally sinking 30 kilometres east of Normanby Island at 4.25 pm. The accompanying Isokaze was separated from Yayoi after evasive manoeuvres, and finally returned around sunset to begin rescue operations. However, as there was no visible wreckage, only an oily residue, the search was called off at 8.25 pm and Isokaze steamed north.
The commander of the 18th Squadron on Tenryû led Hamakaze from Rabaul on a mission to rescue survivors from Yayoi and the separate Tsuioka Unit. Although they hurried to the location where the vessel went down, their search found no trace of Yayoi or its crew. The 18th Squadron, recognising that rescue of the separate force would be difficult without the assistance of friendly air support, decided to temporarily return to Rabaul. Six enemy aircraft were encountered during the return voyage, but they were repulsed.
Isokaze, which had accompanied Yayoi, and Mochizuki (attached to 30th Destroyer Squadron), once again set out to rescue survivors of Yayoi on 22 September. Ten survivors were picked up in a launch from Yayoi to the south of Gasmata on New Britain. They learned that 87 survivors, including the captain of the ship, had drifted to the north-east coast of Normanby Island. Isokaze and Mochizuki hurried to the location and conducted searches for one and a half hours during the night of 22 September using searchlights and sirens, but could not make contact so returned unsuccessfully to Rabaul.
Air drops of supplies were successfully carried out on 23 September for both the South Seas Force on the Kokoda Trail and the separate force on Goodenough Island. At that time, Japanese land-attack planes sighted what were assumed to be approximately ten survivors from Yayoi on the north-east coast of Normanby island. These survivors were successfully evacuated by Isokaze and Mochizuki during the night of 26 September. The rescue of the separate force, however, was still very difficult. Both reconnaissance and attacks from enemy aircraft continued daily. Further, rations were short and more were struck down by malaria.
Submarine I-1 successfully made contact with the separate force in October. Casualties were embarked and the force supplied with rations, ammunition, and a barge.
The danger, however, continued. Approximately three hundred Allied troops landed on the south and east coasts and advanced on the staging point of the separate force. There were also signs that elements of the Allied force were to attack overland from the north-west.
The Tsuioka Unit repulsed the Allies who landed on the west coast and moved to Aprapra on the south-east coast of Ferguson Island by barge during the night of 24 October. They were finally rescued by Tenryû from the 18th Squadron during the night of 26 October.
This was precisely two months since all trace of them was initially lost. During that time, the situation in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea had worsened to an extent not imaginable when the force set out.
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Allied preparations for counter-offensives in New Guinea
New Guinea was placed into the South-West Pacific Area after the determination of Allied areas of responsibility in March 1942. General MacArthur was appointed supreme Allied commander. He assumed command on 18 April, as previously mentioned.
General MacArthur issued the following "General orders no. 1" on 18 April:
There were deficiencies in the fundamental strategy of the defence of Australia from the time that General MacArthur arrived in Australia after escaping from the Philippines, as seen in the following decision of the chiefs of staff conference discussions: "More importance must be placed on the defence of the Australian mainland, rather than defence of the main routes to the mainland." The key to the defence of Australia was not on the mainland, but in New Guinea.
1. By agreement among the governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States, there has been constituted, effective 1400 GMT, 18 April 1942, the South-West Pacific Area, with boundaries as defined in annex 1.
2. By virtue of the same authority, the undersigned hereby assumes command.
3. The following commands are hereby created with commanders as indicated, composed of forces assigned to the South-West Pacific Area by the respective governments, and assigned to specific commands by this headquarters, initially as provided in annex 1.
a. Allied Land Forces, South-West Pacific Area: General Sir Thomas Blamey, Australian Army
b. Allied Air Forces, South-West Pacific Area: General George H Brett, US Army
c. Allied Naval Forces, South-West Pacific Area: Vice Admiral Herbert F Leary, US Navy
d. US Forces in the Philippines: Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainright, US Army
e. US Army Forces in Australia: Major General Julian F Barnes, US Army
General Douglas MacArthur
On 4 April 1942, the Australian chiefs of staff conference merged with MacArthur’s headquarters and prepared a joint situation appraisal. The results of this reflected the above-mentioned opinion:
Meanwhile, the command of the I Australian Corps and the 7th Australian Division were in Adelaide (on the south coast of Australia). The main strength of the American 41st Division arrived in Melbourne on 6 April, while the remaining elements of the 41st Division and the American 32nd Division received orders to proceed to Australia several days later.
The one part of Australia essential to the prosecution of the war is on the south-east and east coasts in the general area between Melbourne and Brisbane. The critical point which controls this area is Port Moresby, against which a major offensive could be expected at any time.
A successful defence will require several aircraft carriers and at least 675 land-based aircraft, including 70 B-17s.
Concerning the naval forces, three heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, 15 destroyers, a total of 31 old and new submarines, and six or seven sloops (small craft for patrolling coastal areas) were placed under the command of Vice Admiral Leary.
The US air force had 247 operational aircraft on 18 March 1942 (including 175 fighters). An airfield suitable for heavy bombers was operational at Port Moresby from late February, and a dispersed reconnaissance and bombing capability was available at Rabaul.
The base at Port Moresby was strengthened for the first time at the end of April with American engineer units, followed by US anti-aircraft units. The airbase at Port Moresby was gradually attaining a suitable strength, but MacArthur requested an increase in troop numbers three or four times to the American combined chiefs of staff.
Meanwhile, from the point of view of the "Beat Germany first" policy, with the intensity of the Japanese invasion of Burma causing great concern for the defence of India, and with MacArthur having at least three aircraft carriers, 1,000 aircraft, and three first-class infantry divisions, his demands were generally not heeded.
However, successive encouraging signs were beginning to emerge in the overall war situation in the Pacific, such as the battle of the Coral Sea on 7 May and the battle of Midway on 5 June. Meanwhile, the remaining elements of the American 41st Division and the American 32nd Division arrived in Australia on 14 May 1942. On the following day, the Australian 14th Brigade Group (approximately three thousand four hundred troops) began to move to Port Moresby.
Reinforcement of Milne Bay</a>]
One of the lessons of the battle of the Coral Sea was that it was necessary to have an airbase at the south-eastern tip of New Guinea, or somewhere in that area, to protect the direct sea route to Port Moresby from the east. Another purpose, in addition to protection of Port Moresby’s flank, was to provide a relay base for attacks on Japanese bases to the north and north-west without being exposed to the bad weather over the Owen Stanley Range.
A reconnaissance unit set out by flying boat on 8 June to reconnoitre Milne Bay. This unit identified several suitable sites for airfields. Orders for the construction of airfields were directly issued on 11 June. Garrison units arrived on 25 June, closely followed by engineer units four days later. Construction proceeded quickly. The Australian 7th Brigade (militia) arrived from Townsville in early July, followed by a squadron of P-40s in late July.
The plan of Allied command for the defence of New Guinea on 2 August was as follows:
1. To improve transport measures, especially inadequacies of naval strength to protect supply routes.
2. Before augmenting defences in New Guinea:
a. First complete airfields in the Townsville area and improve Port Moresby as an advance airbase
b. Next, move two infantry brigades, engineers, and anti-aircraft units to Port Moresby to increase its capabilities
c. Finally, construct airfields at Milne Bay and Merauke (central south coast New Guinea) and deploy units to secure the mountains at Wau and Kokoda.
This plan was based on General MacArthur deploying two brigades from the 7th Australian Division to Port Moresby and one brigade (18th Brigade) to Milne Bay. The Australian 18th Brigade arrived in Milne Bay on 21 August; on the following day, Major General Cyril Clowes assumed command of all Allied ground forces in the area. The forces under his command numbered 9,458 American and Australian troops. One runway was completed by that time, with two others under construction.
Japanese forces attacked Milne Bay on 25 August 1942, as described in detail earlier.
The main strength of the 7th Australian Division, the 21st and 25th Brigades, was rushed to Port Moresby. These units fought the Japanese South Seas Force between Isurava and Ioribaiwa, also as described above.
Assessments and deployment along the Kokoda Trail
Of interest here is the assessment of the situation by the Allied command in the South-West Pacific Area from late August through early September. The impression was that, "the number of Japanese troops deployed along the Kokoda Trail is too small for them to be planning an advance to Port Moresby". MacArthur was also personally perplexed by the situation.
This opinion was naturally opposed by the commander in the field, Lieutenant General Sidney Rowell, who went and explained the situation personally to the supreme commander on 8 September. He stated that in order to regain the ascendancy, rather than deploying the 25th Brigade who were currently steaming to Port Moresby, it was essential to deploy one of the two brigades of the 6th Australian Division, which had recently arrived from Ceylon, on the Kokoda Trail.
The 16th Brigade of the 6th Australian Division received orders the following day, 9 September, to proceed to Port Moresby.
Next, General MacArthur, considering the reinforcement of the Australian units sufficient to meet the advance of the Japanese force, established a plan to deploy American units in a flanking manoeuvre to accelerate the capture of Japanese units retreating from the Kokoda–Gap area.
At that time, the commander of the I American Army Corps, Major General Robert Eichelberger (soon to be promoted to Lieutenant General), arrived in Australia. He was immediately given command of the American 32nd and 41st Divisions.
Eichelberger was responsible for choosing the units for the flanking manoeuvre. The 32nd Division had arrived in New Guinea first, so, after inquiring of the condition of the unit from the divisional commander, he chose the 126th Regiment (commanded by Colonel King) for the mission.
Orders for the manoeuvre were issued by General Blamey, the commander of Allied land forces, including the I American Corps, on 11 September. Cadre elements of the 126th Regiment left Brisbane by air for Port Moresby on 15 September. The troops' uniforms were still wet from the camouflage dye. These were the first American infantry troops deployed to New Guinea.
The main strength of the 126th Regiment departed for Port Moresby by transport ship on 18 September.
Fears for the front at Ioribaiwa were increasing on 23 September, so the American 128th Regiment was hurriedly flown to Port Moresby in the biggest airlift operation by air units at that time. The regiment was placed under the command of the 6th Australian Division and made responsible for ground defence of the Port Moresby area.
The main strength of the 126th Regiment arrived at Port Moresby by the sea route on 28 September and was placed under the direct command of New Guinea Force. In this way, the plan to force the Japanese troops back to the north side of the mountains past Kokoda was being implemented.
Outline of Allied air power</a>]
The air strength at the end of June was bolstered to include three fighter groups, two each heavy bomber, light bomber, and transport groups, and one photo-reconnaissance squadron, but it was difficult to maintain an operational ratio over 50 per cent.
The combined chiefs of staff issued orders outlining the plan for an Allied counter-offensive in the South-West Pacific Area on 2 July. Consequently, attacks on the Japanese airbase at Rabaul would assist the counter-offensive against the Solomon Islands area.
Meanwhile, the number of aircraft available to the commander of Allied air forces in the South-West Pacific Area (Lieutenant General Brett was replaced in mid-July by Major General George Kenney), included 245 fighters, 62 heavy bombers, 70 medium bombers, 53 light bombers, 36 transport planes, and 51 others. Only 150 of this total of 517 aircraft were operational.
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Retreat of the South Seas Force
Threat of Allied counter-offensive against the Buna area
Allied air attacks in eastern New Guinea gradually intensified from early September, with two or three raids of over ten aircraft attacking Japanese units every day.
For this reason, the departure of transport ships carrying munitions and supplies for the South Seas Force was temporarily suspended as their protection could not be guaranteed, even under escort from naval air units. The 47th Field Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion was responsible for air defences at Buna and Giruwa against the daily Allied raids. It shot down 14 aircraft in the period up to 28 September, after which the Allied air attacks temporarily ceased.
There were other factors, however, that were deemed responsible for the Allies concentrating their attacks on the Buna area. If the Allies could land at the Buna, Giruwa, and Basabua logistics bases, then the South Seas Force, which at that time was about to look down on Port Moresby after its thrust through the Owen Stanley Range, would be in grave peril.
At this time, commanders in Rabaul received this message from the naval commander of the Buna airbase: "Fears of enemy air attacks; deployed personnel to withdraw." This was received at 6.10 pm on 12 September. A further telegram at 6.30 pm stated: "1. In light of an anticipated enemy attack and insufficient garrison strength in the area, will withdraw to the anti-air observation post. 2. Currently maintaining rigorous patrols."
At 8 pm on 13 September, the following telegram was sent:
The receipt of this report was a great shock to the commands of the South-East Area Fleet and the 17th Army.
According to army reports, an Allied force (strength unknown) has landed at Basabua. Great likelihood that paratroopers will land here and at Basabua from first light tomorrow. Request aerial patrols. Buna airfield not operational.
The report of Allied landings on Basabua were confirmed to have "no basis in fact" on 15 September. As a result of them, however, the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party advanced to Buna, and its commander, Naval Captain Yasuda, took command of all navy units in the area.
The strength of naval garrison troops in the Buna area at that time was as follows:
|Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Party||290||Two 8-centimetre anti-aircraft guns|
One 25-millimetre machine-gun
Three rapid-fire cannons
Three 13-millimetre machine guns
|Sasebo 5th Special Naval Landing Party||110|
|14th Establishment Unit||30 military|
|15th Establishment Unit||50 military|
Units from the airbase at Lae had at this time been transferred to Guadalcanal owing to the intensification of the situation there. Consequently, the air strength in New Guinea was temporarily totally depleted. Allied aircraft were increasingly rampant, leaving Japanese units to defend against constant strafing attacks.
In response to this situation, the commander of the 17th Army ordered the South Seas Force commander to assemble one infantry battalion at Buna and to place great importance on patrolling and guarding the area.
The South Seas Force commander’s decision to cancel the offensive
The commander of the South Seas Force had repelled Allied resistance since landing in New Guinea on 18 August, and gradually thrust through the Owen Stanley Range.
Upon hearing the news that Port Moresby was soon to fall, Naval Captain Koya from the Kokoda Signals Base went to the South Seas Force headquarters on 12 September to advise the commander of the situation in the Solomon Islands. On hearing this news, the commander lamented that: "In all the Solomon Islands and New Guinea areas, only our South Seas Force is resisting the enemy."
Force headquarters was positioned in the base of a valley immediately behind the front line at Ioribaiwa on 14 September. At that time, the full strength of the 144th Infantry Regiment was attacking Allied positions at Ioribaiwa. It was decided that evening that the offensive would be cancelled and the force reassemble to the north of the Owen Stanley Range. Coincidentally, this was the same day that the attack of the Kawaguchi Detachment at Guadalcanal had failed and a decision was made to withdraw.
Few provisions remained after early September. Extreme rationing limited rice to around 180 millilitres per day, leaving the soldiers fatigued. Each day passed with hopes that either a storehouse would be captured during the battle, or that provisions would arrive from the rear. Neither proved to be true. Some even wished for a hurried death by their own hand if they had to advance any further. At Buna, it was thought that Allied troops would land at any time.
Commander Horii choked back his tears and decided to cancel the offensive. The following deployment policy was adopted:
Conditions at the front
1. If we can capture the camp that is the object of current offensives, immediately occupy it for defence of the front line.
2. Elements will be deployed to the Mawai district to appropriate all foods from native villages.
3. Leave a minimum force at the front line and despatch all remaining troops to the rear to carry provisions.
The 144th Infantry Regiment at the front was undertaking a vigorous attack on the Allied camp around the village of Ioribaiwa. The first line of defence of the camp was attacked during 15 September, and the second line the following day. The final line of defence was penetrated in the evening of 16 September. The following order was transmitted to the front line infantry battalion at 6 pm: "The regiment will secure the Ioribaiwa area and prepare for future offensives."
Meanwhile, the main strength of the 41st Infantry Regiment had, under orders from the commander, begun to withdraw that same day, 16 September, to Kokoda in the rear. The 41st Infantry Regiment 3rd Battalion was ordered to proceed as far as Efogi with the main strength, then head for Giruwa. The 2nd Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment (less 6th and 8th Companies and a machine-gun platoon) were placed under the direct command of the South Seas Force commander and ordered to assemble near Mawai.
The main strength of the 144th Infantry Regiment was in contact with Australian troops at the line of the camp at Ioribaiwa. Reinforcement elements strengthened the unit during 18 September. The Australians sent forward frequent scouting parties to engage the Japanese troops in small battles, and thus secured the camp.
The command of the 17th Army heard the report that the South Seas Force had occupied Ioribaiwa on 19 September. As previously mentioned, they immediately issued strict orders for the front line to be withdrawn to north of Mawai.
The supply situation
The supply situation for the South Seas Force was critical owing to the extreme difficulties of resupply from the base in the Basabua area. Provisions for the main strength of the force were close to depleted. The force commander petitioned the 17th Army to airlift food supplies on 20 September. The command of 17th Army immediately requested the 11th Air Fleet to undertake the drop. Turned back by poor weather on 21 and 22 September, naval medium land-based attack planes under escort from fighters finally carried out a drop of supplies over Kokoda on 23 September. Major Yamamoto Chikurô, a new staff officer of the 17th Army, accompanied the mission.
Operational leadership by the 17th Army
Signals intelligence from the New Caledonia area on 22 September closely resembled that prior to the Allied landings on Guadalcanal. It was surmised that a new Allied landing was planned for eastern New Guinea or the Solomon Islands area. The commander of the 17th Army subsequently issued the following orders on 23 September:
1. Signals intelligence indicates that the Allies are planning a new landing operation in eastern New Guinea or the Solomon Islands area.
2. In addition to offensive preparations continuing at Guadalcanal, the army will adjust the front line in the area of South Seas Force operations to strengthen the defences at Buna.
3. The commander of the South Seas Force will assemble his main strength in the Isurava and Kokoda areas and secure these as a base for future offensives. In addition, the defences in the Buna area will be strengthened.
To this end, a force based on the main strength of the 41st Infantry Regiment will be immediately deployed to Buna to resist any planned Allied landings and to secure the area around the airfield.
This unit will be placed under the command of the Tomita Unit.
Following this, on 30 September, the 17th Army ordered the South Seas Force to comply with these orders in response to preparations for the Port Moresby offensive and the strengthening of defences in the Buna area.
According to these orders, elements of the South Seas Force were to prepare an offensive base at Isurava and to secure defensive positions in the Buna and Giruwa areas. The main strength of the South Seas Force was ordered to repair the roads from Giruwa to Kokoda and the horse trails from Kokoda to Isurava by the end of October, and then to secure a foothold on the south side of the Owen Stanley Range.
Attacks on the Buna airfield by Allied planes persisted into late September. As an example, the following was the air raid situation on 25 September:
0640–0730 hrs, one B-17 and two B-26s
0750–0830 hrs, one B-17
0830–0850 hrs, two B-17s
0900–0952 hrs, six B-17s
1110–1125 hrs, six B-17s
The airfield was strafed, making the runway unusable.
Withdrawal from the front line at Ioribaiwa
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Kuwata, commander of the 3rd Battalion of the 144th Infantry Regiment, issued the following orders at noon on 25 September after it had been decided to withdraw from the front line at Ioribaiwa:
The Australians commenced artillery attacks from the direction of Uberi at 11 am on 25 September, and mounted a frontal attack on the 9th Company with several men. The battalion commander ordered a counter-artillery strike. Two waves of artillery fire (each eighty rounds) repulsed the Australians.
1. The battalion will protect the rear of the regiment according to "Kusunose operations order no. 145". The unit will withdraw from the front line according to the schedule below after nightfall on 26 September and head for the high ground to the east of Kagi.
2. The 9th Company (with machine-gun squad) will act as the rearguard, advancing around 500 metres behind the withdrawing main force.
a. 1800 hrs 25 September: Battalion artillery, stretcher cases (Sergeant Kawata)
b. 1900 hrs 26 September: 7th Company, Machine-gun Company, 8th Company, Battalion Headquarters
c. 2300 hrs 26 September: 9th Company (with machine-gun squad)
3. All units will strive to keep plans for withdrawal from the camp secret.
4. Other units will remain in their present locations and withdraw with the battalion headquarters at 1900 hrs on 26 September and head for Kagi.
The South Seas Force commander deployed the Stanley Detachment at Mt Lefunto near the pass in the Owen Stanley Range. Stanley Detachment was led by the commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 144th Infantry Regiment, Major Horie Masao, and was based on Horie’s battalion, one mountain artillery company, and one engineer company. The 2nd Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment was positioned to protect the rear.
Withdrawal of the South Seas Force
The withdrawal from the front line took place successively from 10 pm, one hour earlier than the time specified in the orders to the rearguard. However, the actual withdrawal after that was undertaken under extreme conditions. Fortunately, there was no immediate Australian pursuit, but supplies were completely exhausted. The mood at that time was later captured in the following recollection by Major Koiwai:
Our bodies were completely fatigued, so climbing even the smallest hill required a great effort. The majority of members of the unit were carrying wounded on stretchers. My battalion’s 7th Company was meant to be protecting the rear, but they were carrying casualties from the field hospital, as were members of the force’s wireless radio unit.
Because there was no life-sustaining rice, every step seemed to exhaust one’s entire strength. Progress was exceedingly slow, as we climbed the mountain counting each step, gasping for each breath.
Despite some encouragement to struggle through the pain, many were stooped over, their eyes filled with tears and without even the strength to urge themselves on. My heart was filled with sorrow.
The withdrawal of the South Seas Force continued smoothly despite the hardship of the officers and men. The main strength of the force was assembled at Kokoda by 4 October.
Meanwhile, the main strength of the 41st Infantry Regiment had arrived in Kokoda on 22 September. They were then ordered to leave Kokoda on 25 September and to arrive in Buna and complete defensive preparations by 4 October.
The main strength of the 144th Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment (missing 6th and 8th Companies and a machine-gun platoon) assembled in the plantations near Kokoda and made efforts to restore their fighting strength. Provisions were not sufficient, with daily rations remaining at 360 millilitres per day. Around this time, the commander of the 144th Infantry Regiment, Colonel Kusunose, fell ill and was evacuated to the rear. He was replaced by the commander of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Tsukamoto.
Air drop of supplies was only a temporary measure. Continuing supply for the entire force remained a critical problem. A desperate supply plan was instituted with the cooperation of the army and navy during the evening of 4 October. Approximately ten thousand 40-day portions of provisions were unloaded at Buna from the army transport Yamaura Maru. This rescued the immediate supply situation.
Navy air unit operations
Meanwhile, pressure from the Allies began to intensify at the camp of the Stanley Detachment in the Owen Stanley Range.
Navy airbase units had daily braved poor weather and sortied to attack Port Moresby during the retreat of the South Seas Force. The sorties carried out by these units in the eastern New Guinea area in the latter part of September were as follows:
|17 September||Eight land-based attack planes attacked Port Moresby; only three returned|
|18 September||Plan to raid Port Moresby, but cancelled owing to poor weather|
|20 September||Three carrier-based bombers set out to raid New Guinea area, but turned back owing to poor weather|
|21 September||27 land-based attack planes and 39 fighters raided Port Moresby|
Four land-based attack planes set out for night raid on Port Moresby, but turned back owing to poor weather
|23 September||Nine carrier-based bombers and three land-based attack planes dropped supplies over Kokoda|
Night raid on Port Moresby by two land-based attack planes
|25 September||Two land-based attack planes set out for night raid on Port Moresby, but turned back owing to poor weather|
Editor’s note: Despite the domination by Allied fighters, the air drop on 23 September greatly buoyed morale among the troops of the South Seas Force.
The 17th Army’s assessment of Allied strengths in the eastern New Guinea area
The 17th Army made the following assessment of Allied strengths in early October 1942:
1. Because they are led by a major, it is estimated that the Allied strength at Rabi is based on an Australian battalion, or at most two battalions.
2. The Allied strength at Moresby is led by a lieutenant general and comprises no more that 10,000 Australian troops (including the 2nd Australian Division). It has been tentatively confirmed that this includes 1,000–2,000 American army and navy troops.
3. Allied air strengths include 30–40 aircraft at Port Moresby. In addition to gradually replacing losses from Japanese raids, it seems pilots and aircrews are being gradually replaced from air units in Australia and the New Hebrides.
The overall quality of Allied pilots cannot be confirmed.
This assessment does not touch on Allied counter-offensive planning. However, as was described above, the reality was that Allied military strength was very strong.
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Leadership by Imperial Headquarters
Reinforcements for the 17th Army
On 17 September 1942, army chief of staff Sugiyama presented to the emperor the following "Operational leadership policies and essential measures for Imperial Headquarters related to future operations in the area of the 17th Army".
1. The main reason for the failure of the attack by the Kawaguchi Detachment was because Allied defensive organization, especially in material strength, was prepared to a much greater extent than anticipated. Further, it was not possible to fully concentrate our fighting strength owing to a dispersal of troops and insufficient contact between units, which resulted from a focus on carrying out raids using the jungle as cover. We have completely lost our capacity to fight on the island in present battles.
2. Research is currently being undertaken into future operational leadership for the 17th Army. While detailed plans have not yet been finalised, Imperial Headquarters has already reinforced the army with remnant units of the Aoba Detachment and the 2nd Division main force, including a tank company and heavy artillery company. In addition, all military supplies and munitions will be reinforced, including ten motorised artillery guns, 30 grenade launchers, and ten flamethrowers. Plans are in place for the fighting strength of the army and navy to be concentrated to retake the airfield. The offensive is planned for October.
3. The navy is endeavouring to prevent reinforcement of the Allied position in the Solomon Islands area. However, while this activity is for the present continuing, it is anticipated that there may be the necessity to further reinforce our strength in the area. Further, there is still a necessity to quickly occupy the airfield at Rabi, and after that undertake the Moresby operation. At that time, it will be appropriate to strengthen the 17th Army with the 38th Division, two rapid-fire gun battalions, a tank regiment, a 15-centimetre howitzer regiment, a 10-centimetre machine-cannon regiment, two field anti-aircraft artillery battalions, a 30-centimetre mortar battalion, an independent engineer regiment, a landing group, and essential logistics units.
4. With these reinforcements, the 17th Army will have the strength to decisively carry out its operational responsibilities in the New Guinea area. Furthermore, not only will we be able to concentrate on the Solomon Islands area, but it will be possible to quickly respond to any future change in the enemy’s situation. There is also great advantage in taking measures to quickly occupy the airfield at Rabi. This is an essential measure to ensure the successful completion of the Port Moresby offensive operation.
The following great army order was issued on 17 September in response to this report concerning reinforcements:
The situation of the 38th Division
Great Army Order No. 688
1. Units listed in appendix 1 will be removed from the command of their current dispositions and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army.
2. Units listed in appendix 2 will, not withstanding Great Army Order No. 681, be removed from the order of battle of the 14th Army and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army.
(Editor’s note: "Great army order no. 681" relates to the transfer of transport units of the 14th Army to the 11th Army and the North China Area Army.)
3. The commanders of the Kwantung Army, 4th Division and the garrisoned 3rd Division will despatch the units listed in appendices 1 and 2 to the Rabaul area, where they will be placed under the command of the 17th Army.
4. The transfers shall take effect from when the units leave harbour in Japan, north of Australia, China and the southern area.
5. The chief of staff will issue detailed instructions concerning these moves.
1. Units to be removed from the command of the Kwantung Army and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army are as follows:
6th Independent Rapid-fire Gun Battalion
Editor’s note: These units were from the 20th Army, 3rd Army, 5th Army, and 3rd Army respectively, and were the first units transferred from the Kwantung Army owing to the situation of the war in the Pacific. "Type A" heavy artillery refers to a 10-centimetre machine-cannon, and "mortar" refers to a 30-centimetre armour piercing gun.
4th Field Heavy Artillery Regiment (type A)
7th Field Heavy Artillery Regiment (type B, one company)
1st Independent Mortar Regiment (based on three companies)
2. Units to be removed from the command of the China Expeditionary Army and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army are as follows:
8th Tank Regiment (from the China Area Army)
3. Units to be removed from the command of the Southern Area Army and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army are as follows:
10th Independent Mountain Artillery Regiment (from the 23rd Army)
19th Independent Engineer Regiment (armoured) (from the 23rd Army)
38th Division (from the 16th Army)
5. Units to be removed from the 4th Division and the unoccupied 3rd Division command and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army are as follows:
2nd Independent Rapid-fire Gun Battalion (less one company)
80th Independent Wireless Platoon (horse-drawn) (from the 25th Army to the signals unit)
53rd Independent Wireless Platoon (motorised)
42nd Wired Unit
41st Field Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion (type B)
38th Field Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion (type B)
Units to be removed from the command of the 14th Army and added to the order of battle of the 17th Army are as follows:
3rd Field Transport Command
38th Independent Motor Car Battalion
10th Casualty Transport Headquarters
(Editor’s note: On 7 September, the 3rd Field Transport Command was transferred by great army order to the North China Area Army, and the other units to the 11th Army, for the No. 5 Operation.)
At the time of the despatch of these orders, a telegraph indicated the following disposition of the 38th Division:
On 18 September, Imperial Headquarters issued the following instruction concerning the formation of the 38th Division:
|Division main strength||Northern Sumatra||Ready for immediate departure|
|Tanaka Detachment||Palembang||Departure date under investigation||Based on two battalions of the 229th Regiment|
|Higashikata Detachment main strength||Java||Ready for immediate departure||Based on two battalions from Major General Itô’s 228th Regiment|
|Migi Detachment infantry battalion||Timor||Ready for departure in approximately ten days|
The 38th Division was given the responsibility of invading Hong Kong at the start of the war. It was then added to the order of battle of the 16th Army on 4 January 1942, after which the main strength of the division campaigned in southern Sumatra. In addition to occupying vital sources of oil at Palembang and elsewhere, the division occupied airbases to be used for the invasion of Java. Further, the Higashikata Detachment, under the direct command of army headquarters, occupied Timor, while the Shôji Detachment, also under direct army command, marched directly to Bandung and accepted the surrender of the Netherlands East Indies. Thereafter the division’s main strength was concentrated in central Sumatra under the command of the 25th Army, where it was earmarked for the Ceylon invasion and undertook training in tropical landing operations.
The number of horses should be increased by approximately 200 to give a total of 1,200, and the number of motor vehicles increased to give a total complement of around 100. However, the main strength not on foot will be divided into two: the first to be a mounted infantry regiment, and the second a motorised formation.
The disposition and commanders of the 38th Division at that time were as follows:
Division commander: Lieutenant General Sano Tadayoshi
Chief of staff: Colonel Abe Yoshimitsu
Staff officer: Lieutenant Colonel Oyadomari Seishô
Staff officer: Major Hosokawa Naotomo
Staff officer: Major Kurosaki Sadaaki
(Taking office in Rabaul)
38th Infantry Group commander: Major General Itô Takeo
228th Infantry Regiment commander: Colonel Doi Sadashichi
229th Infantry Regiment commander: Colonel Tanaka Yoshisaburô
230th Infantry Regiment commander: Colonel Shôji Toshinari
38th Mountain Artillery Regiment commander: Colonel Kanki Takekichi
38th Engineer Regiment commander: Lieutenant Colonel Iwabuchi Tsuneo
38th Supply and Transport Regiment commander: Lieutenant Colonel Yabuta Hidekazu
38th Division Signals Unit commander: Major Itô Ryôichi
38th Division Munitions Duty Unit commander: Captain Koide Sadaharu
38th Division Medical Unit commander: Lieutenant Colonel Hattori Otokazu
38th Division 1st Field Hospital commander: Medical Major Suzuki Toshimi
38th Division 2nd Field Hospital commander: Medical Major Itô Takakura
38th Division Veterinary Workshop commander: Veterinary Major Hayashi Jirô
Each infantry regiment contained a regimental headquarters, three infantry battalions, an infantry artillery unit (four guns), and a signals unit. Each battalion was formed with four infantry companies, a machine-gun company, and a battalion artillery platoon (two guns).
A mountain artillery regiment contained a regimental headquarters and three battalions. Each battalion was formed with three companies, each of which contained four mountain artillery guns.
Strengthening line-of-communications units
Orders had been issued on 17 September 1942 to various units directly under the command of the army, similar to the main reinforcement, the 38th Division. The following, mostly line-of-communications units, were added to the order of battle of the 17th Army at around that time.
Great Army Order No. 687 (14 September)
39th Field Road Construction Unit
Great Army Order No. 695 (23 September)
76th Line-of-communication Hospital
22nd Field Munitions Depot (part strength)
22nd Field Motor Car Workshop (part strength)
22nd Field Supply Depot (part strength)
24th Signals Regiment (one company)
Great Army Order No. 699 (2 October)
61st Bridge Construction Duty Company
17th Disease Prevention and Water Supply Unit
55th Bridge Construction Duty Company
16th Veterinary Workshop
2nd Independent Supply and Transport Regiment
7th Imperial Guard Land Transport Unit
8th Division, 9th Land Transport Unit
35th Sea Duty Company
Units from various places across Greater East Asia navigated across seas patrolled by Allied submarines and arrived at Rabaul. Many of them then had to penetrate seas controlled by Allied aircraft to land at Guadalcanal. Precise coordination with the navy was essential to the success of these movements.
The eighth army and navy central agreement
The Army Department of Imperial Headquarters formulated an eighth central agreement between the army and navy. The complete text of the agreement is as follows:
Great Army Instruction No. 1,275
The following are additions for campaigns in the eastern New Guinea and Solomon Islands areas in response to the situation as detailed in the appendix to Great Army Instruction No. 1,246.
18 September 1942
Army and Navy Central Agreement Additions in Response to the Situation in the Eastern New Guinea and Solomon Islands Areas
Imperial Headquarters Army Department
Imperial Headquarters Navy Department
1. The following is an addition to clause 1 of the Operational Outline.
A combined army and navy force under unified command, and with strengthened army firepower, will attack and reoccupy the airfield at Guadalcanal.
2. The following replaces clause 2 of the Operational Outline.
The navy will take various measures to prevent the enemy reinforcing the Solomon Islands region during the offensive.
A combined army and navy force will quickly occupy the airfield at Rabi prior to the Re Operation, as the situation of the abovementioned operation allows.
3. The following is an addition to the Operational Outline.
The navy will take efforts to further strengthen airfields in the eastern New Guinea and Solomon Islands areas.
4. Key locations to secure as an outer defence after the completion of the Ka Operation (operation to reoccupy the Guadalcanal airfield) and the To Operation (operations in eastern New Guinea) will be as follows:
The army will provide assistance to these efforts in key areas.
Solomon Islands (including San Cristobal Island and Rennell Island)
Rabi and Samarai areas
Port Moresby area (including Kila airfield)
The seventh army and navy central agreement was a "revision" to the sixth agreement, but the eighth was promulgated as an "addition". In either case, they were based in the fundamental policy outlined in "Great army order no. 673", that: "In addition to prosecuting the campaign in the eastern New Guinea area, the 17th Army commander will cooperate with the navy to recapture key areas in the Solomon Islands."
Strengthening the army general staff
Assistant chief of staff Tanabe at Imperial Headquarters was requested to strengthen the staff office of the 17th Army from three to 11 officers as a result of the survey of South-East Pacific Area.
Chief of staff Matsumoto was transferred to oversee 2nd Division operations. Colonel Konuma Haruo, who was head of the Imperial Headquarters research squad, received his orders on 15 September to replace Matsumoto.
Konuma left Tokyo on 18 September after meeting with officers from related areas, and arrived at Truk the following day. after key discussions with Combined Fleet staff officers, he finally took up his post at Rabaul on 20 September.
Further, Lieutenant Colonel Tsuji Masanobu, the head of the Imperial Headquarters operations office, arrived in Rabaul on 25 September on a planned rotation with staff officer Imoto, who had been sent by Imperial Headquarters. Tsuji arrived with the text of the additions for the army and navy central agreement, with instructions from the chief of staff as follows:
Leave Tokyo on 18 September for a six-week tour of the 17th Army’s area of operations. In addition to being responsible for liaison between the 17th Army and Imperial Headquarters, you will assist the 17th Army in operational duties. You must receive instruction from the commander of the 17th Army while in the area.
The staff of the 17th Army at that time was as follows:
In this way, Imperial Headquarters strengthened various key units of the 17th Army and instituted a combined army–navy operational plan (eighth army and navy central agreement). Further, the staff office of the army was significantly strengthened and accelerated preparations for the operation.
Chief of staff: Major General Futami Akisaburô
Senior staff officer: Colonel Konuma Haruo (operations)
Imperial Headquarters liaison officer: Lieutenant Colonel Tsuji Masanobu (operations)
Imperial Headquarters liaison officer: Lieutenant Colonel Sugita Ichiji (intelligence)
17th Army staff officer: Major Shinohara Masaru (shipping)
17th Army staff officer: Major Etsugu Kazuo (logistics)
17th Army staff officer: Major Hiraoka Yoichirô (communications)
17th Army staff officer: Major Tanaka Kôji (air)
17th Army staff officer: Major Yamauchi Toyoaki (intelligence)
17th Army staff officer: Major Hayashi Tadahiko (operations)
17th Army staff officer: Major Yamamoto Chikurô (logistics)
17th Army staff officer: Major Iemura Einosuke (shipping)
But did the results of these preparations truly give rise to measures that would surely recapture Guadalcanal? That would have to wait from late September to early October.
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1 Futami Akisaburô, Kodôki oyobi kaisôroku (Record of a beating heart and recollections) (1967).
2 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
3 Nantô Taiheiyô Hômen kankei denpô tsuzuri (Telegrams related to the South-East Pacific Area).
4 Konuma Haruo, Gashima ni okeru Dai 17 Gun no sakusen (Operations of the 17th Army on Guadalcanal) (1957).
5 Konuma Haruo, Gashima ni okeru Dai 17 Gun no sakusen (Operations of the 17th Army on Guadalcanal) (1957).
6 Sakusen kankei jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to operations).
7 Sakusen kankei jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to operations).
8 Toyofuku Tetsuo, Toyofuku Shôsa kôwa (Interview with Major Toyofuku Tetsuo).
9 Nankai Shitai sakusen shiryô (South Seas Force operations documents).
10 Okada Seizô, Nyûginia kessenki (New Guinea battles) (Asahi Shinbunsha, 1943), pp. 21–22.
11 Nankai Shitai sakusen shiryô (South Seas Force operations documents).
12 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), pp. 43–44.
13 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 64.
14 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 65.
15 AWM 54 576/2/4.
16 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), pp. 73–75.
17 Toyofuku Tetsuo, Toyofuku Shôsa kôwa (Interview with Major Toyofuku Tetsuo).
18 Toyofuku Tetsuo, Toyofuku Shôsa kôwa (Interview with Major Toyofuku Tetsuo).
19 Hohei Dai 144 Rentai Dai 3 Daitai sentô shôhô (Detailed battle report of the 144th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion).
20 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
21 Nankai Shitai sakusen shiryô (South Seas Force operations documents).
22 Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific – first year: Kokoda to Wau (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959), p. 205.
23 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
24 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
25 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
26 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
27 Okada Seizô, Nyûginia kessenki (New Guinea battles) (Asahi Shinbunsha, 1943), pp. 92–94.
28 Minami Taiheiyô sakusen shiryô (Documents of operations in the South Pacific).
29 Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific – first year: Kokoda to Wau (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959), pp. 217–224.
30 Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific – first year: Kokoda to Wau (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959), p. 242.
31 Konuma Haruo, Gashima ni okeru Dai 17 Gun no sakusen (Operations of the 17th Army on Guadalcanal) (1957).
32 Ômae Toshikazu, Ômae Toshikazu Chûsa no kaisô (Recollections of Commander Ômae Toshikazu).
33 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
34 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
35 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
36 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
37 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
38 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
39 Ômae Toshikazu, Ômae Toshikazu Chûsa no kaisô (Recollections of Commander Ômae Toshikazu).
40 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
41 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
42 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
43 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
44 Kôdô chôsho (Surveys of movements).
45 Daitôa Sensô keika gaiyô (Overview of the progress of the Greater East Asian War).
46 Daitôa Sensô keika gaiyô (Overview of the progress of the Greater East Asian War).
47 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
48 Daitôa Sensô keika gaiyô (Overview of the progress of the Greater East Asian War).
49 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
50 Daitôa sensô keika gaiyô (Overview of the progress of the Greater East Asian War).
51 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
52 Dai 18 Sentai sentô shôhô (Detailed battle reports of the 18th Squadron).
53 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
54 Sakusen kankei jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to operations).
55 Dai 18 Sentai sentô shôhô (Detailed battle reports of the 18th Squadron).
56 Ômae Toshikazu, Ômae Toshikazu Chûsa no kaisô (Recollections of Commander Ômae Toshikazu).
57 Sakusen kenkyû shiryô (Operations research documents).
58 Daitôa Sensô keika gaiyô (Overview of the progress of the Greater East Asian War).
59 Daitôa Sensô keika gaiyô (Overview of the progress of the Greater East Asian War).
60 Sakusen kenkyû shiryô (Operations research documents).
61 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 21.
62 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 25.
63 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 25.
64 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 27, p. 30.
65 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957).
66 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), pp. 41–42.
67 Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific – first year: Kokoda to Wau (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959), p. 121.
68 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), pp. 41–42.
69 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 91.
70 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 91.
71 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957), p. 92.
72 Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua (Washington: United States Army, 1957).
73 Bôeikenshûjo Senshishitsu (ed.), Tôbu Nyûginia kôkû sakusen (Air operations in eastern New Guinea) (Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1967).
74 Minami Taiheiyô sakusen shiryô (Documents of operations in the South Pacific).
75 Minami Taiheiyô sakusen shiryô (Documents of operations in the South Pacific).
76 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
77 Sakusen kenkyû shiryô (Operations research documents).
78 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
79 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
80 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
81 Hohei Dai 144 Rentai Dai 3 Daitai sentô shôhô (Detailed battle reports of the 3rd Battalion of the 144th Infantry Regiment).
82 Hohei Dai 41 Rentai dai ichiji Nyûginia sen rentai kôdô gaiyô (Outline of regimental movements of the 41st Infantry Regiment during the first battles of New Guinea).
83 Nantô Hômen jûyô denpô tsuzuri (Important telegrams of the Southern Area Army).
84 Futami Akisaburô, Kodôki oyobi kaisôroku (Record of a beating heart and recollections) (1967).
85 Daitôasen shi Minami Taiheiyô sakusen (Greater East Asian War South Pacific operations).
86 Daitôasen shi Minami Taiheiyô sakusen (Greater East Asian War South Pacific operations).
87 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
88 Hohei Dai 144 Rentai Dai 3 Daitai sentô shôhô (Detailed battle reports of the 3rd Battalion of the 144th Infantry Regiment).
89 Daitôasen shi Minami Taiheiyô sakusen (Greater East Asian War South Pacific operations).
90 Yamada Sadayoshi, Yamada nisshi (Diary of Rear Admiral Yamada Sadayoshi).
91 Minami Taiheiyô sakusen shiryô (Documents of operations in the South Pacific).
92 Hohei Dai 41 Rentai dai ichiji Nyûginia sen rentai kôdô gaiyô (Outline of regimental movements of the 41st Infantry Regiment during the first battles of New Guinea).
93 Koiwai Mitsuo, Koiwai Mitsuo Shôsa no kaisô (Recollections of Major Koiwai Mitsuo).
94 Minami Taiheiyô sakusen shiryô (Documents of operations in the South Pacific).
95 Gashima sakusen jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to Guadalcanal operations).
96 Gashima sakusen jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to Guadalcanal operations).
97 Gashima sakusen jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to Guadalcanal operations).
98 Gashima sakusen jûyô shorui tsuzuri (Important documents related to Guadalcanal operations).
Translated by: Dr Steven Bullard
Original text: Bôeichô Bôei Kenshûjo Senshishitsu (ed), Senshi sôsho: Minami Taiheiyô Rikugun sakusen <1> Pôto Moresubi–Gashima shoko sakusen (War history series: South Pacific area army operations (1), Port Moresby–Guadalcanal first campaigns) (Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1968): 335–384, 514–532.
Reference for this web page: http://ajrp.awm.gov.au/ajrp/ajrp2.nsf/translation/Chapter5?opendocument
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This page was last modified on 20 December 2006
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