Australian Troops: Wewak,New Guinea

Painting of Aussies in New Guinea, artist unknown

I hope many of you remember the battles that were started for liberating New Guinea back at the original stage of the Pacific War – at this point – they were still going on.

The operations were characterized by prolonged small-scale patrolling with small-scale company attacks. Progress was slowed by the difficulties of transporting supplies overland or by barge and the flash flooding of a number of the rivers the Australians had to cross. In one incident, seven men from the 2/3rd Battalion drowned in the swollen waters of the Danmap River which had risen suddenly after a torrential downpour. After Dogreto Bay was occupied, the supply problems eased somewhat.

Wewak, New Guinea map

On 16 March 1945, the airfields at But and Dagua on the coast were occupied, although fighting continued further inland from there over the course of the following fortnight. On 25 March, Lieutenant Albert Chowne, a platoon commander from the Australian 2/2nd Battalion led an attack on a Japanese position that was holding up the advance on Wewak. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Albert Chowne

In the Torricelli Mountains the 17th Brigade continued its advance against stubborn Japanese defense. Nevertheless, by 23 April 1945 they had secured Maprik. The fall of Maprik allowed the Australians to begin constructing an airfield 8 miles (13 km) away at Hayfield, and this was completed on 14 May allowing reinforcements and supplies to be flown in.

Elsewhere the 19th Brigade had begun its assault on Wewak in early May. HMAS Hobart, Arunta, Warramunga, Swan and HMS Newfoundland (of the British Pacific Fleet) as well as the RAAF bombarded the Wewak defenses. On 11 May, a landing at Dove Bay by Farida Force was undertaken to encircle Wewak and prevent the escape of its garrison. Wewak fell on the same day, as the 19th Brigade occupied its airfield.

HMAS Warramunga

The fighting around Wewak airfield continued until 15 May, however, when men from the 2/4th Battalion, with armoured support, attacked Japanese positions overlooking the airstrip. It was during this attack that Private Edward Kenna carried out the deeds that led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross.

Edward Kenna

Following this, the remaining Japanese in the area withdrew into the Prince Alexander Mountains to the south of Wewak. To counter this, the 16th Brigade was dispatched to follow them up, and push them towards the 17th Brigade which advanced towards the east towards Maprik.

Australian 2/3 Battalion at memorial for fallen comrades, New Guinea 1945

These operations continued until 11 August, by which time the 16th Brigade had reached Numoikum, about 23 kilometres (14 mi) from Wewak, while the 17th Brigade had captured Kairivu, 24 kilometres (15 mi) from Wewak. At this stage, word was received that the Japanese government had begun discussing terms for a possible surrender and so offensive operations were brought to a halt.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

‘Psst. It’s okay in here, but don’t go around calling $690 billion ‘chump change.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Philip Barbary – Murray Valley, AUS; Australian Army # 45018, Vietnam, 104 Signal Squadron

Robert Costello – Newcastle, AUS; Australian Army, Vietnam

Robert Forstburg – Upper Darby, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 101st Airborne Division

Ralph Regis Giles – Lowell, MA; US Army, Korea, KIA

Gordon Herrick – Rochester, NY; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Glen McGraw – Centerville, IN; US Army, WWII

Eric Rapps – ENG; British Army, WWII, ETO, 8th Army

Doris Sherman (101) – Como, AUS; Royal Navy, WWII, ETO & PTO, Chief Petty Officer, nurse

Betty Tallarico – Dorothy, WV; Civilian, US Navy draftsman

Geoffrey ‘Boy’ Wellum – Cornwall, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, 65th Squadron, Distinguished Flying Cross

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 30, 2018, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. The determination to continue fighting, the day to day persistence despite challenges great and small, are such an inspiration to the rest of us. Thank you again for the reminder, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy these posts about the Australian and New Zealand involvement in the war. Knowledge of those countries has been solely lacking in my own life, and I’ve known almost nothing about their involvement in past conflicts.

    Coincidentally, New Zealand and Australian firefighters are (or very soon will be) on the firelines in California. They’re still helping us win battles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not know they were in CA. Amazing. I really have neglected them both in all this, but I have a couple of other posts I’m working on to help correct that.

      Like

  3. Great story on Chowne mate, was also interesting in reading up on him in Wikipedia, his wife married again and The Prince met her through the medals she was wearing.
    Would love to know the artist who painted that pic at the top of your post gp, he did a great job.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MY wife’s father, like me was a Pom, and served in the Australian Army. He fought the war in New Guinea against the Japs. He died of his war wounds, some years after the war, when my wife was still quite young.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ought to have just starved ’em out…miserable piece of real estate. Burma was another – It took until the end of the war to rid Burma of the Japanese…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Na het lezen van dit artikel heb ik een breder zicht gekregen over wie de bondgenoten waren

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, the end was in sight!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. An uncle of mine was stationed with the American Army on an island called Biak somewhere in that area . Histories often overlook all the fighting done in that (large) part of the Pacific , especially by the Aussies and new Zealanders . Thanks for the story and again for the fine research ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you type in BIAK in my search area (top right of each page) you will find mentions of the island in various posts. There were so many islands that no one ever heard of and our men were there fighting. I like to show the history as it was, almost 6 years of blogging, but I still haven’t included it all. Don’t suppose I ever will, but the readers like yourself are so helpful by including family and friends’ stories.

      Like

  9. I really do wonder what the Stone Age inhabitants of New Guinea made of it all! I read recently of a journalist talking to Chilean fisherman in 1942 and they had never heard of Hitler, or indeed, of Europe. I can’t see the New Guinea tribesmen being any better informed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are quite right. They went from an isolated, forgotten island slap into the industrial age of war machines, airplanes and weapons beyond their belief!!!

      Like

    • Yeah, you’r’e sitting there minding your own business – fishing or whatever. And here comes battleships, airplanes, carriers, tanks, guys with machine guns, people building battlements etc etc. People killing people. Unbelievable.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Australians have always been great allies. That is a good thing considering how tough they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was a bit surprised to read that the Japanese held territory so far removed from their homeland. Was New Guinea of rather low military importance that no action took place against the occupying forces until very late in the war? Just wondering, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My Dad was an Aussie who fought in North Africa, against Rommel. He lied about his age and ran off and joined the Australian army at 14 in 1939.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s awesome to see the work you done to show us different battle spots in the Pacific and from different countries

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We traveld to Australia some years ago and this is where I learned so many stories and read articles about their participation in WWII. In stores and shops one could almost feel the family in waiting for there son or daughter to return,I purchased many pins depicting the war efforts and put them on a jacket I still wear.Thank you for sharing this blog!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post – I always enjoy reading about that awful place.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. From all accounts I’ve read, the fight for New Guinea was a horrid, stinking sodden mess. Thanks for sharing!
    –Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sure was a tough nut to crack, Michael! But the Aussies were the perfect ones for the job.

      Liked by 1 person

    • In the early 80s I had a boss who’d fought on New Guinea and came home with a lifelong battle with malaria. Another “relative” was a POW in Poland after the fall of Greece and two years later when he was liberated in an exchange the army promptly sent him to New Guinea. Also lots of photos in the family album of my uncle on Morotai. The New Guinea and Pacific conflict is part of our (Aussie) national inheritance.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I sure hope they find that missing Army vehicle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure someone will absent-mindlessly walk into it one day!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was tempted to dig further on Trove. I found that in 1942 a “Camouflaged Ford V8 military vehicle, No. 117,392, disappeared from outside an establishment at Karrakatta between 6 p.m. on December 14 and 6 a.m. the following day”

      Also in the same column a “Singer sports model roadster, no 34,992, painted red with a black hood, was taken from outside a Karrakatta establishment” on the same day.

      Karrakatta is a suburb of Perth WA and has a military base. Sounds as if some peoples were having joy-ride fun with the hottest cars in town??

      Liked by 1 person

      • hahaha, yes it sure sounds that way, Gwen!! Thanks for reminding me about Trove, I haven’t been into that site lately!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well your research makes this newspaper article all the more enjoyable, because I was thinking it might have been a hoax. Now I’m wondering if the journalist who wrote it had a dry sense of humor or just didn’t realize how it was going to come across. Thanks for the info.

        Liked by 2 people

        • It was just a dry list of police events, reported in the factual style of the day (remember when we could rely on journalists to stick to the facts?) – but perhaps the editor or typesetter did have a little chuckle on seeing how it came together on the page.

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Yes, such fierce battle, and one on our doorstep! for my parents generation, a fearful time

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Excellent post! Thanks so much for highlighting the important contribution of our Australian allies. They were among the very best.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Gee did they ever recover the missing army vehicle?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank God for Australia!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Good article, GP. It’s easy to forget that WWII wasn’t simply about freeing a continent.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Most of the books I read never mentioned about the Aussie part in later campaign. Glad to read this post. I learned something new again. They were a tough bunch, those Aussie men.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I hope Edward Kenna lived to receive his VC

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Would someone please tell Donald that we are still your number one supporter and we deserve to have an Ambassador appointed.

    Like

  26. How strange that we tend to forget the rest of the world when thinking of the World Wars… Thanks for spotlighting the other countries, GP. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I am forwarding this awesome article to Dr. Bruce Horsfield over at Forward Scout Films, Dr. Horsfield was the Executive Producer for the amazing Documentary series done on the Australian SAS: The Untold History.

    Great Stuff as usual GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Thank you for remembering, GP! Worth to do. Have a good week ahead. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  29. There are many incidents of the Aussies in WW2…like their stand at Tobruk…..they deserve the recognition that most Americans glaze over…..they were also steadfast allies in Vietnam….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

  30. What incredible bravery from Chowne and Kenna.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Anzac troops fought so hard during WW2. From the desert campaigns, the Pacific theatre, and even the hard fighting in Italy. They were some of the best troops the Allies could always count on.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Some of the latter battles with Australian forces have been debated for their strategic necessity. The courage of the troops involved though is not debated.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. You’re welcome.

    Like

  34. Thank you, Packardman!

    Like

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