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Finisterre Range campaign (17 September 1943-24 April 1944)

Finisterre Range campaign (17 September 1943-24 April 1944)


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Finisterre Range campaign (17 September 1943-24 April 1944)

The Finisterre Range campaign (17 September 1943-24 April 1944) saw Australian troops successfully push the Japanese out of a series of strong defensive positions on incredibly difficult mountainous terrain in the Finisterre Mountains of New Guinea, preventing them from interfering with operations further east on the Huon Peninsula. The campaign was fought as part of Operation Postern, the Markham Valley/ Huon Peninsula campaign, itself part of Operation Cartwheel, the series of operations designed to isolate the Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain.

After the fall of Lae and Salamaua on the Huon Gulf the Australians advanced in two directions. The 9th Division was sent east to attack Finschhafen, at the eastern tip of the peninsula, while General Vasey's 7th Division was sent west to secure the Markham and Ramu valleys. These two valleys formed a deep west-east trench running parallel to the north coast of New Guinea, separated from the coast by the Finisterre Mountains. The Markham ran east, reaching the Huon Gulf near Lae, while the Ramu ran west for some way, eventually reaching the coast some way to the west of the main battlefields.

The Japanese had made some efforts to build a road that would have linked Wewak and Madang to Lae. This would have allowed them to use large ships to move troops to Wewak, then trucks to get them relatively safely to Lae. Most of this road was never completed, but some progress was made on the stretch over the Finisterre Range, and work on this stretch of the road continued after the fall of Lae and Salamaua. This became known as the Bogadjim Road, after the village where it left the coast. It followed the Iowaro River inland, then cut across the mountains to the Mindjim valley, where it followed that river upstream to Yokopi. After that smaller tracks continued past Saipa and Paipa to reach Kankiryo at the top of the valley. The tracks then ran down the Faria River towards the Ramu Valley. The western side of this valley was bordered by a high mountain ridge that became known as Shaggy Ridge.

The difficult terrain and lack of roads meant that airfields would be important. One major focus of the advance west would thus be the need to seize suitable areas for airfields and then to defend them against the Japanese, who still held positions in the Finisterre Mountains to the north.

The first Australian target was Kaiapit, high up the Markham Valley, where there was a cluster of villages and an airfield. The Papuan Infantry Battalion advanced west up the Markham Valley to scout out the area. An improvised airfield was built near Kaiapit, and on 17 September the 2/6th Independent Company flew into the new airfield. On 19 September they ran into Japanese patrols outside the village, but they were able to capture Kaiapit on 20 September after some heavy fighting. They were subjected to counterattacks by troops from the Japanese 78th Regiment, which had just crossed the truck road, but these were repulsed.

The first aircraft landed on Kaiapit airfield on 21 September, and on 21-22 September the 2/16th Battalion was flown into the new base. The 2/27th Battalion followed on 23 September, to replace the 2/6th Independent Company. The 25th Brigade began to arrive on 27 September. After that reinforcements were limited for some time by the heavy fighting around Finschhafen on the Huon Peninsula.

Further west patrols from Bena Force had already reached into the Ramu Valley, where they had clashed with the Japanese west of Dumpu. The patrols were followed by the 21st Brigade on 30 September, and Dumpu was captured on 4 October, as the Japanese were withdrawing. The Japanese aided this advance by abandoning plans for a counterattack in the main valleys, and instead focusing on the routes across the Finisterre Range, and in particular Kankiryo Saddle and the surrounding ridges (most famously Shaggy Ridge to the south-west of the saddle). The defenders were commanded by Major-General Makai, whose orders were to hold the mountains. During October both side's attention was focused on the Finschhafen battle.

While the Australian 7th Division concentrated on expanding its control of the two valleys, the US Fifth Airforce built a large airfield at Gusap, half way between Kaiapit and Dumpu. This would allow them to make a major contribution to the fighting to come.

A key moment came on 5 October when a small Australian force captured a hill that overlooked the Uria and Faria valleys. This proved to be a valuable observation point for the upcoming fighting in the mountains - the Japanese road was to come down the Faria Valley, and the famous Shaggy Ridge formed the western wall of the valley. In mid October the Australians gained their first foothold on the southern end of the ridge, before spending November attempting to improve their maps of the area and preparing for future operations.

The Japanese interfered with these plans by launching an attack of their own in the Ramu Valley (battle of Dumpu). This began on 8 December and the Japanese were able to push the Australians back a short distance. Their main effort came on the night of 12-13 December, but despite forcing the Australians to retreat just before dawn to avoid heavy losses, the Japanese had run out of steam, and the night attack was their last. Over the next few days they retreated back to their starting point, and the initiative returned to the Australians.

The Australians launched a major attack on 'The Pimple', the first in a series of four rocky outcroppings on the top of the ridge, on 27 December. The first and second 'pimples' were captured that day, and the third on the following day. The fourth and highest, which became known as McCaughey's Knoll, remained in Japanese hands. A Japanese counterattack on the afternoon of 28 December was repulsed, and the fighting then settled down into a period of artillery fire.

1944

The situation on the Huon Peninsula changed on 2 January when American troops landed at Saidor, west of the Japanese base at Sio. General Adachi travelled to Sio by submarine, and decided to evacuate the survivors of the 21st and 50th Divisions from the Huon back to Madang. At the same time the troops on Shaggy Ridge were ordered to hold out long enough to allow the retreating troops to pass the northern end of the Bogadjim Road.

At the same time the Australian's were preparing to capture the watershed between the Faria and Mindjim Valleys. This would involve clearing the Japanese off the rest of Shaggy Ridge, as well as Faria Ridge to the east of the river and the Kankiryo Saddle at the end of the two valleys. They decided to carry out a three pronged assault using three battalions. One would attack up Shaggy Ridge and another would hit Faria Ridge from the east. The main attack would be carried out by the third battalion, which would advance up the valley on the western slopes of Shaggy Ridge and attack up Prothero 1, a high feature that overlooked the northern end of Shaggy Ridge and also Kankiryo Saddle. The main attack began on 20 January. By 23 January the Japanese had finally been cleared off Shaggy Ridge, and on the same day Kankiryo Saddle was captured. The Japanese still held on to Crater Hill, to the north-east of the saddle, and the Australians decided to pause for a few days to bombard this last position before risking an attack. An attack on 29 January was repulsed, but by 31 January the Japanese had begun to retreat, and on 1 February the Australians occupied Crater Hill.

During March the Australians advanced north across the Finisterre mountains towards Bogadjim. At the same time the Americans and Australians on the coast were pushing west. The two forces were slowly getting closer together. By the end of March the Japanese had withdrawn from their last major positions in the central mountains, and the Australians began to advance towards the coast. The first contact between the Finisterre and Huon forces came in mid-March when an American patrol ran into a long range Australian patrol.

In the first part of April the Australians fought a number of minor battles with the Japanese on the Bogadjim Road, and on 13 April the first Australian patrol reached an undefended Bogadjim. On 15 April an American patrol coming from the east joined them. The capture of Bogadjim was officially announced by the BBC and ABC on 17 April. By now the landings on the Admiralty Islands had made Madang untenable, and General Adachi decided to pull out and head for Wewak. The Australians made an unopposed entry into Madang on 24 April 1944, effectively ending the New Guinea phase of Operation Cartwheel. Two days earlier American forces had begun the next phase of the New Guinea campaign, landing at Aitape and Hollandia, west of Wewak (Operation Reckless). This meant that Adachi was now totally cut off on the north coast of New Guinea. In June-August 1944 he attempted to attack the American lines on the Driniumor River, east of Aitape, but this attack was repulsed. He then had to pull back to Wewak, where he was left in peace until the Australians took over at Aitape. By the end of the war Adachi had been forced into the mountains south of Wewak, and only a fragment of his army survived to surrender.


Finisterre Range campaign

The Finisterre Range campaign, also known as the Ramu Valley–Finisterre Range campaign, was a series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. Several actions in the campaign are sometimes known collectively as the Battle of Shaggy Ridge.

The campaign began with an Allied offensive in the Ramu Valley, from 19 September 1943, and concluded when Allied troops entered Madang on 24 April 1944. During the campaign Australian and United States forces assaulted Japanese positions in the Finisterre Range of New Guinea.The central geographical and strategic feature of the campaign was the imposing Shaggy Ridge, running north-south in the Finisterres.


Military conflicts similar to or like Battle of Shaggy Ridge

Part of the Markham and Ramu Valley – Finisterre Range campaign, which consisted of a number of battles fought by Australian and Japanese troops in Papua New Guinea in World War II. Preliminary phase in their eventual capture of that position in January 1944. Wikipedia

The Markham Valley, Ramu Valley and Finisterre Range campaigns were a series of battles within the broader New Guinea campaign of World War II. Allied offensive in the Ramu Valley, from 19 September 1943, and concluded when Allied troops entered Madang on 24 April 1944. Wikipedia

The break-out and pursuit phase of the Markham and Ramu Valley – Finisterre Range and Huon Peninsula campaigns, which were part of the wider New Guinea campaign of World War II. After overcoming the Japanese defences around Shaggy Ridge, the Australian forces descended the steep slopes of the Finisterre Range and pursued the withdrawing Japanese towards Bogadjim and then Madang on the north coast of New Guinea. Wikipedia

Action fought in September and October 1943 between Australian and Japanese forces in New Guinea during the Markham and Ramu Valley – Finisterre Range campaign of World War II. After the Battle of Kaiapit on 20 September 1943, in which the 2/6th Independent Company won a stunning victory against a numerically superior Japanese force, Ivan Dougherty's 21st Infantry Brigade of the 7th Division advanced from Kaiapit to Dumpu in the Ramu Valley. Wikipedia

Action fought in 1943 between Australian and Japanese forces in New Guinea during the Markham and Ramu Valley – Finisterre Range campaign of World War II. Advance into the upper Markham Valley, starting with Kaiapit. Wikipedia

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Battle [ edit | edit source ]

In the early stages of the pursuit, the Australians sent long range patrols forward from the Finisterres, while two battalions from the US 32nd Infantry Division landed around the Yalau Plantation as US forces advanced east from Saidor. They began patrolling operations around the coast to the east and west, fighting minor skirmishes, and pushed towards Bau Plantation and Yangalum, on the eastern side of the Australian advance with the intention of linking up. ⎙] Throughout February and March, the Japanese 20th Division withdrew towards Madang, fighting a series of rearguard actions against the Australians that were advancing from Kankiryo. Η] The going was tough for the troops of the Australian 15th Infantry Brigade who advanced slowly towards Bogadjim, using aggressive patrols to advance their position forwards. The Japanese began strengthening their defences around Bogadjim at this time, constructing a series of outposts in a 5-mile (8.0 km) radius to the south of the town nevertheless, Australian patrols were able to bypass these and penetrate towards Erima Plantation where intelligence received from locals indicated large concentrations of Japanese forces. ⎛]

After taking over the western drive up the Ramu River from the 24th Infantry Battalion, the 2/2nd Commando Squadron advanced from Kesawai and then to Orgoruna, ⎜] linking up with the 57th/60th Infantry Battalion around Yaula on 4 April. ⎝] Advancing along a motor road that had been laid by the Japanese, the Australians moved along an axis bounded by the Nuru River and Kabenau River. The withdrawing Japanese offered stiff resistance, but continued to withdraw, allowing the Australians to link up with US forces around Rimba. Bogadjim was eventually reached on 13 April. ⎝] Meanwhile, part of the 11th Division's divisional carrier company was flown into Wantoat in response to intelligence of Japanese patrols in the area. The dismounted troops fought a brief engagement with about 20 Japanese soldiers on 14 April during which four Japanese were killed and one Australian wounded. The Australians subsequently expanded their patrols towards the confluence of the Wantoat and Ikwap Rivers. Detecting a small group withdrawing to the north, they returned to Wantoat. A later patrol resulted in four Japanese being taken prisoner. ⎛]

Troops from the 8th Infantry Brigade land at Madang, 24 April 1944

The 57th/60th and 58th/59th Infantry Battalions continued to patrol heavily across a wide area around the Bogadjim Road, and they subsequently joined up with US troops around Sungum. The Japanese had re-orientated themselves into positions at various locations including Alibu, Rereo, Wenga, Redu and Kaliko. During this time, a number of small unit actions were undertaken as the Japanese attempted to ambush the Australians while the Australians in turn sought to infiltrate the Japanese positions. On 22 April, large amounts of Japanese supplies were found abandoned by a patrol from the 57th/60th as it became clear that the Japanese were withdrawing from the area in a hasty fashion. ⎛]

At this point, the Australian command determined the need for a rotation of forces. When the commander of the 15th Infantry Brigade, Brigadier Heathcote Hammer learnt that his brigade was to be relieved by Brigadier Claude Cameron's 8th Infantry Brigade, he endeavoured to push towards Madang with all haste, in an effort to secure it before the prize went to Major General Alan Ramsay's 5th Division. On 24 April, the 57th/60th Infantry Battalion was ordered to cross the treacherous Gogol River, a fast-flowing torrent of water teeming with crocodiles. ⎞] The 57th/60th attempted to outflank the Gogol River, sending a patrol to link up with two US Navy patrol boats. However, they were thwarted in their attempt to reach Madang first when troops from the 8th Infantry Brigade, operating from US landing craft, ⎟] came ashore around Ort, about 6.5 kilometres (4.0 mi) south of Madang, ⎞] effecting a link up between the 11th and 5th Divisions. ⎛] With the help of the 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, the 5th Division had earlier cleared the Rai Coast from Sio to Saidor, ⎠] which had been secured in January – February 1944 by US forces, who were attempting to cut off the Japanese forces withdrawing from the Huon Peninsula. ⎡]

Madang was subsequently taken on 24–25 April by troops from the 8th and 15th Infantry Brigades, with the 30th Infantry Battalion leading the way towards the airfield, advancing along the northern part of Astrolabe Bay to secure Madang, ⎢] which offered the Allies the use of a deep-water harbour, ⎣] while a platoon from the 57th/60th entered the town. Resistance in the town was almost non existent. Several artillery rounds were fired, but they landed well awry of their intended target, while a short burst of machine-gun cracked inaccurately in the direction of the advancing troops. A small group of Japanese stragglers scattered on sighting the Australian platoon. Shortly afterwards, the 8th Infantry Brigade's headquarters entered Madang Harbour aboard several landing craft, escorted by the destroyer Vendetta and the corvette Bundaberg. ⎤]

The following day was Anzac Day, which saw the Australians consolidate their position around Madang. A follow up landing was made by the 37th/52nd Infantry Battalion on Karkar Island. Meanwhile, the 35th Infantry Battalion secured a large quantity of abandoned Japanese stores at Hansa Bay, and pushed patrols towards the Sepik River. ⎛] The Bundaberg also landed a party of sailors on Sek Island, firing a heavy bombardment which wiped out the small group of defending Japanese. ⎤] The 30th pushed on to the deep-water port of Alexishafen the following day, ⎝] ⎣] suffering several casualties from improvised explosive devices that were planted along the road by the withdrawing Japanese. In addition, large quantities of Japanese supplies were also discovered. ⎛]


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Series of actions in the New Guinea campaign of World War II. Australian and United States forces sought to capture two major Japanese bases, one in the town of Lae, and another one at Salamaua. Wikipedia

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Contents

Formation and service in the Middle East Edit

The 2/16th Battalion was recruited in Perth, in the state of Western Australia in early 1940, with its first war diary entry being made on 20 April 1940. [2] Raised from volunteers from the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF), which was established for overseas service at the start of the war, [3] many of the battalion's early recruits were from the goldfields of Western Australia. After the concentration and training of the battalion's initial cadre in Perth, the battalion was moved to Northam where on 30 April the first draft of recruits arrived and the process of forming the battalion's subunits began. [2] With an authorised strength of around 900 personnel, [4] like other Australian infantry battalions of the time, the battalion was formed around a nucleus of four rifle companies – designated 'A' through to 'D' – each consisting of three platoons. [5]

The unit conducted its own basic training, which was only partially completed prior to its embarkation for Egypt in October 1940. The battalion's first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Baxter-Cox, [6] and, along with the 2/14th and 2/27th Battalions, it was assigned to the 21st Brigade, which formed part of the 7th Division. [2] The colours chosen for the battalion's unit colour patch (UCP) were the same as those of the 16th Battalion, a unit which had served during World War I before being raised as a Militia formation in 1921. These colours were white over dark blue, in a horizontal rectangular shape, although a border of gray in the shape of a diamond was added to the UCP to distinguish the battalion from its Militia counterpart. [7]

Sailing via India, the 21st Brigade briefly landed at Bombay and constituted for the first time at Deolali, before continuing on to the Middle East. [8] After their arrival in Egypt in late November 1940, the 2/16th moved to Palestine where it continued its training. [2] In February 1941, the 2/16th received a new commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Bath MacDonald, a Permanent Military Force member. [9] Shortly after this, the battalion was allocated to defend the Egypt–Libya border against a possible German attack, and occupied defensive positions. [2]

Syria-Lebanon Campaign Edit

In April 1941, the battalion was transported back to Palestine to take part in Operation Exporter, which was the Allied codename for the Syria-Lebanon Campaign. [2] Commencing in early June 1941, the battalion began offensive actions against Vichy French troops and over the course of the next six weeks fought major actions at the Litani River, Sidon and Damour. [10] [11] The 2/16th Battalion suffered heavily during the campaign, having 264 casualties according to the Australian War Memorial, this was the most of any Australian unit that took part in the campaign. [2] In August, Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Potts took over command of the battalion. [9] The unit remained in the Middle East until January 1942, being stationed in Lebanon and forming part of the Allied occupation force that was established following the armistice in mid-July 1941. [2]

New Guinea Campaigns Edit

By early 1942, the Japanese had entered the war, and the Australian government decided to bring some of its troops from the Middle East back to Australia to bolster its defences. The 2/16th embarked at the end of January 1942, and returned to Australia, landing at Adelaide in March 1942 after a brief stopover in Fremantle. [2] A period of reorganisation followed as they were prepared for the hardships of jungle warfare, during which time Potts handed over command of the battalion to Lieutenant Colonel Albert Caro [9] however, the situation in the Pacific at the time was desperate for the Australians, following Japanese victories in Malaya, Singapore, Rabaul and Ambon, [12] and fighting on the Kokoda Track, and so the 2nd AIF troops returning from the Middle East had very little time to prepare for their next campaign. The 2/16th arrived in New Guinea, landing in Port Moresby in mid-August 1942. [2] Later that month it was committed to the battle, and joined the fighting retreat down the Kokoda Track, being rushed into the line around Alola to fill a gap after the 53rd Battalion fell back from Isurava. [13] At the Battle of Mission Ridge in early September it suffered heavy casualties after being encircled by the Japanese and conducting a fighting withdrawal to Imita Ridge. Following its relief in the middle of September, the battalion's surviving members were joined with those from the 2/14th Battalion to form a composite unit temporarily, as the battalion suffered so many casualties in the retreat that it was down to an effective strength of about 200 men the 2/14th had also suffered heavily. [2] [14]

As the tide of the campaign along the Kokoda Track turned towards the Australians, the Japanese withdrew north towards their beachheads around Buna and Gona, with the Australians in pursuit. A brief period of rest and reorganisation followed for the 2/16th during this time, as they were re-constituted before being committed to the Battle of Buna–Gona in November 1942. Despite the arrival of reinforcements, the battalion could only provide two or its four rifle companies to the fighting, and by early January it was withdrawn, with a strength of only 56 men. [2]

The battalion was subsequently rebuilt on the Atherton Tablelands. During this time, the battalion received over 600 reinforcements from the 16th Motor Regiment [15] it also received a new commanding officer in Lieutenant Colonel Frank Sublet, who would subsequently command the battalion for the remainder of the war. [9] In August 1943, the battalion deployed to New Guinea again for its second campaign against the Japanese. Staging out of Port Moresby, in early September the 7th Division was flown into Nadzab, and the 2/16th supported operations to capture Lae. After this, it was air transported to Kaiapit, where from late September it took part in the advance up the Markham Valley towards Dumpu. As the division pushed through the Ramu Valley and then moved into the Finisterre Range, the 2/16th undertook a series of patrols and advances, but experienced only minor actions. These culminated in a significant action around Shaggy Ridge on 27–28 December, when it conducted an assault on a position dubbed "The Pimple". [16] In January 1944, at the conclusion of the campaign, the battalion was withdrawn to Port Moresby, and returned to Australia in late March. [2]

Borneo and disbandment Edit

After returning to Australia, the battalion spent over a year training for its final campaign – the Borneo campaign – which came in the final months of the war. After staging out of Morotai Island, on 1 July the battalion took part in the amphibious landing at Balikpapan. Its most significant actions of the Borneo campaign were fought on the first day of this operation, as the 21st Brigade landed on Green Beach, on the right of the lodgement and then advanced east along the coast, tasked with capturing Sepinggang and the airfield at Manggar. [17] Nevertheless, after the initial fighting the battalion continued aggressive patrolling until the end of hostilities in mid-August 1945. Following the war's end the 2/16th Battalion occupied the Celebes before being repatriated to Australia for demobilisation in early 1946. The 2/16th Battalion was disbanded in February 1946 while camped in Brisbane, Queensland. [2]

Throughout its service a total of 3,275 men served with the battalion [18] which suffered 671 casualties, of which 223 were killed or died from wounds, accident or disease. [2] Members of the battalion received the following decorations: three Distinguished Service Orders, six Military Crosses with two Bars, five Distinguished Conduct Medals, 20 Military Medals with one Bar and 63 Mentions in Despatches in addition, one member of the battalion was appointed as a Member of the Order of the British Empire. [2]

The 2/16th Battalion received 21 battle and theatre honours:

  • North Africa, Syria 1941, Syrian Frontier, The Litani, Wadi Zeini, Damour, South-West Pacific 1942–1945, Kokoda Trail, Isurava, Eora Creek–Templeton's Crossing I, Efogi–Menari, Ioribaiwa, Buna–Gona, Gona, Amboga River, Lae–Nadzab, Liberation of Australian New Guinea, Ramu Valley, Shaggy Ridge, Borneo 1945, Balikpapan. [2]

These honours were subsequently entrusted to the 16th Battalion in 1961, [19] and through this link are maintained by the Royal Western Australia Regiment. [20] These honours are carried on by the 16th Battalion, Royal Western Australia Regiment. [10]

The following officers served as commanding officer of the 2/16th Battalion: [9] [21]


Pacific Theater

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt officially asked for a declaration of war on Japan before a joint session of Congress on 8 December 1941. This notion passed with only one vote against in both chambers.

Battle of the Philippines

The day after their attack at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched an offensive into the American occupied Philippines. Much of the U.S. Far East Air Force was destroyed on the ground by the Japanese. Soon, all American and Filipino forces were forced onto the isolated Bataan peninsula, and General Douglas MacArthur, commander of Allied troops in the Philippines, was ordered to evacuate the area by President Roosevelt. MacArthur finally did in March 1942, fleeing to Australia, where he commanded the defense of that island. His famous words, "I came out of Bataan and I shall return," would not become true until 1944. Before leaving, MacArthur had placed Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright in command of the defense of the Philippines. After fierce fighting, Wainwright surrendered the combined American and Filipino force to the Japanese on 8 May with the hope that they would be treated fairly as POW's. They were not, and they suffered greatly through the Bataan Death March and Japanese prison camps.

Battle of Wake Island

At the same time as the attack on the Philippines, a group of Japanese bombers flown from the Marshall Islands destroyed many of the Marine Corps fighters on the ground at Wake Island in preparation for the Japanese invasion. The first landing attempt was disastrous for the Japanese the heavily outnumbered and outgunned American Marines and civilians sent the Japanese fleet in retreat with the support of the only four remaining F4F fighters, piloted by Marines. The second attack was far more successful for the Japanese the outnumbered Americans were forced to surrender after running low on supplies.

Dutch East Indies campaign

After their initial successes, the Japanese headed for the Dutch East Indies to gain its rich oil ressources. To coordinate the fight against the Japanese, the American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces combined all available land and sea forces under the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM or ABDA) banner on on January 15 1942. The ABDACOM Fleet, beeing outnumbered by the Japanese fleet and without air support, got defeated very soon in several naval battles around Java. The isolated ground forces followed soon, leading to the occupation of Indonesia until the end of the war. After this disastrously defeat the ABDA Command was dissolved again.

Solomon Islands and New Guinea Campaign

Following their rapid advance, the Japanese started the Solomon Islands Campaign from their newly conquested main base at Rabaul in January 1942. The Japanese seized several islands including Tulagi and Guadalcanal, before they were halted by further events leading to the Guadalcanal Campaign. This campaign also converged with the New Guinea campaign.

Battle of the Coral Sea

In May 1942, the United States fleet engaged the Japanese fleet during the first battle in history in which neither fleet fired directly on the other, nor did the ships of both fleets actually see each other. It was also the first time that aircraft carriers were used in battle. While indecisive, it was nevertheless a turning point because American commanders learned the tactics that would serve them later in the war.

Battle of the Aleutian Islands

The Battle of the Aleutian Islands was the last battle between sovereign nations to be fought on American soil. As part of a diversionary plan for the Battle of Midway, the Japanese took control of two of the Aleutian Islands. Their hope was that strong American naval forces would be drawn away from Midway, enabling a Japanese victory. Because their ciphers were broken, the American forces only drove the Japanese out after Midway.

Battle of Midway

Having learned important lessons at Coral Sea, the United States Navy was prepared when the Japanese navy under Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto launched an offensive aimed at destroying the American Pacific Fleet at Midway Island. The Japanese hoped to embarrass the Americans after the humiliation of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. Midway was a strategic island that both sides wished to use as an air base. Yamamoto hoped to achieve complete surprise and a quick capture of the island, followed by a decisive carrier battle with which he could completely destroy the American carrier fleet. Before the battle began, however, American intelligence intercepted his plan, allowing Admiral Chester Nimitz to formulate an effective defensive ambush of the Japanese fleet. [ 8 ] The battle began on 4 June 1942. By the time it was over, the Japanese had lost four carriers, as opposed to one American carrier lost. The Battle of Midway was the turning point of the war in the Pacific because the United States had seized the initiative and was on the offensive for the duration of the war.

Island hopping

Following the resounding victory at Midway, the United States began a major land offensive. The Allies came up with a strategy known as Island hopping, or the bypassing of islands that served little or no strategic importance. [ 9 ] Because air power was crucial to any operation, only islands that could support airstrips were targeted by the Allies. The fighting for each island in the Pacific Theater would be savage, as the Americans faced a determined and battle-hardened enemy who had known little defeat on the ground.

Guadalcanal

The first major step in their campaign was the Japanese occupied island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands chain. Marines from the 1st Marine Division and soldiers from the Army XIV Corps landed on Guadalcanal near the Tenaru River on 7 August 1942. They quickly captured Henderson Field, and prepared defenses. On what would become known as the Battle of Bloody Ridge, the Americans held off wave after wave of Japanese counterattacks before charging what was left of the Japanese. After more than six months of combat the island was firmly in control of the Allies on 8 February 1943.

Tarawa

Guadalcanal made it clear to the Americans that the Japanese would fight to the bitter end. After brutal fighting in which few prisoners were taken on either side, the United States and the Allies pressed on the offensive. The landings at Tarawa on 20 November 1943, by the Americans became bogged down as armor attempting to break through the Japanese lines of defense either sank, were disabled or took on too much water to be of use. The Americans were eventually able to land a limited number of tanks and drive inland. After days of fighting the Allies took control of Tarawa on 23 November. Of the original 2,600 Japanese soldiers on the island, only 17 were still alive.

Operations in Central Pacific

In preparation of the recapture of the Philippines, the Allies started the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign to retake the Gilbert and Marshall Islands from the Japanese in summer 1943. After this success, the Allies went on and retook the Mariana and Palau Islands in summer 1944.

Recapture of the Philippines

General MacArthur fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines by landing at Leyte on 20 October 1944. The Allied re-capture of the Philippines took place from 1944 to 1945 and included the battles of Leyte, Leyte Gulf, Luzon, and Mindanao.

Iwo Jima

The island of Iwo Jima and the critical airstrips there served as the next area of battle. The Japanese had learned from their defeat at the Battle of Saipan and prepared many fortified positions on the island, including pillboxes and underground tunnels. The American attack began on 19 February 1945. Initially the Japanese put up little resistance, letting the Americans mass, creating more targets before the Americans took intense fire from Mount Suribachi and fought throughout the night until the hill was surrounded. Even as the Japanese were pressed into an ever shrinking pocket, they chose to fight to the end, leaving only 1,000 of the original 21,000 alive. The Allies suffered as well, losing 7,000 men, but they were victorious again, however, and reached the summit of Mount Suribachi on 23 February. It was there that five Marines and one Navy Corpsman famously planted the American flag.

Okinawa

Okinawa became the last major battle of the Pacific Theater and the Second World War. The island was to become a staging area for the eventual invasion of Japan since it was just 350 miles (550 km) south of the Japanese mainland. Marines and soldiers landed unopposed on 1 April 1945, to begin an 82-day campaign which became the largest land-sea-air battle in history and was noted for the ferocity of the fighting and the high civilian casualties with over 150,000 Okinawans losing their lives. Japanese kamikaze pilots enacted the largest loss of ships in U.S. naval history with the sinking of 38 and the damaging of another 368. Total U.S. casualties were over 12,500 dead and 38,000 wounded, while the Japanese lost over 110,000 men. The fierce fighting on Okinawa is said to have played a part in President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb and to forsake an invasion of Japan.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

As victory for the United States slowly approached, casualties mounted. A fear in the American high command was that an invasion of mainland Japan would lead to enormous losses on the part of the Allies, as casualty estimates for the planned Operation Downfall demonstrate. President Harry Truman gave the order to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, hoping that the destruction of the city would break Japanese resolve and end the war. A second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August, after it appeared that the Japanese high command was not planning to surrender. Approximately 140,000 people died in Hiroshima from the bomb and its aftereffects by the end of 1945, and approximately 74,000 in Nagasaki, in both cases mostly civilians.

15 August 1945, or V-J Day, marked the end of the United States' war with the Empire of Japan. Since Japan was the last remaining Axis Power, V-J Day also marked the end of World War II.

Minor American front

The United States contributed several forces to the China Burma India theater, such as a volunteer air squadron (later incorporated into the Army Air Force), and Merrill's Marauders, an infantry unit. The U.S. also had an adviser to Chiang Kai-shek, Joseph Stillwell.


References

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World War II Battle Time Line

Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we beseech Thee in Thy wisdom to guide and guard us Thy servants of The Royal Green Jackets. Make us worthy of the great traditions bound up in the union of our three Regiments, and as Thy servants of old were chosen to obey with speed, may we be bold to seek Thy Grace in every time of need, and so be patient and persevering in running the race that is set before us. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Creator and Preserver of all making, we beseech Thee in Thy wisdom to guide and guard us Thy servants of The Royal Green Jackets. Make us worthy of the great traditions bound up in the union of our three Regiments, and as Thy servants of old were chosen to obey with speed, may we be bold to see Thy Grace in every time of need, and so be patient and persevering in running the race that is set before us. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Biak, Noemfoor, and Aitape

On 27 May, another leap of over 300 miles was made to seize airfields on Biak Island (dominating strategic Geelvink Bay) where fierce enemy resistance was encountered. The delay at Biak led to the order for the U.S. Sixth Army to seize Noemfoor Island (60 miles west of Biak) on 2 July and clear it of Japanese defenders to make its airstrips available for Allied operations. The advance continued to Sansapor on 30 July and to the island of Morotai on 15 September 1944.

While Biak and Noemfoor were secured, 500 miles to the east intelligence reports warned that the Japanese Eighteenth Army was approaching Aitape, held by the Allies since their 22 April landing. Engineers had converted the Aitape Japanese airdromes into a major fighter base, well defended by prepared positions close to the base and by a weak outer defensive perimeter along the western banks of the shallow Driniumor River, about fifteen miles east of the airstrips.

Rather than wait for an enemy blow to fall, on 10 July U.S. Army units moved out across the Driniumor and probed cautiously eastward, missing the Japanese force massed to attack in the opposite direction. That night ten thousand Japanese attacked across the Driniumor, charging through the center of the badly outnumbered defending force, precipitating a month-long battle of attrition in the New Guinea jungle. In the end, the Japanese were cut up and trapped between the Americans in the west and the Australians in the east, at Wewak. During July and August 1944, nearly 10,000 Japanese perished. Almost 3,000 Americans were casualties along the Driniumor, 440 of them killed, including four awarded posthumous Medals of Honor. It was MacArthur's most costly campaign since Buna.

As fighting along the Driniumor wound down, MacArthur's final assault landing on New Guinea took place at Sansapor, a weak point between two known Japanese strongholds on the Vogelkop Peninsula. About 15,000 Japanese troops were at Manokwari, 120 miles east of Sansapor, while sixty miles to Sansapor's west were 12,500 enemy soldiers at Sorong, a major air base complex. The well-tested amphibious leapfrog was used at Sansapor, with 7,300 men landing unopposed on 30 July 1944, splitting the Japanese. Two airfields were quickly built to provide support for the invasion of Morotai in the Molucca islands. Allied forces remained to defend the airfields, but the remaining Japanese were isolated and on the defensive. Major fighting in New Guinea was over as of 31 August 1944.


Watch the video: The Air Force Story Chapter 17 - Road To Rome September 1943 - June 1944 (May 2022).