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    Pongani Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Lat 9° 4' 0S Long 148° 34' 0E  Pongani located 40 miles from Buna, and about 10 miles from Oro Bay. Village on the north coast of New Guinea on Dyke Ackland Bay.

Wartime History
During 1942, a rough, difficult track spanned from Natunga to Pongani known as a the Natunga-Pongani Track.

On October 14, 1942, soldiers from the Australian Army 2/6 Independent Company explored a trail that spanned from Wanigela diagonally across the Cape Nelson peninsula and across the Musa River at Totore before reaching Pongani as a route for the U. S. Army. The Australians managed to reach Pongani, but found the trail was flooded and unusable.

Pongani was developed into a staging area for the Battle of Buna-Gona. Both American and Australian infantry units staged thru Pongani before entering battle in the Buna area offensives, included the U. S. Army 32nd Infantry Division's 128th and 126th Infantry Regiments - National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, then commanded by Major General Edwin E. Harding.

On October 18, 1942 two luggers including King John departed from Wanigela bound for Pongani attempting to land men and supplies at Pongani. Spotted off Pongani by a B-25 Mitchell from the 3rd Bomb Group the ships were mistaken as enemy vessels then bombed and strafed. During the attack, two were killed Lt. A. B. Fahnestock, in charge of small boat operations for the COSC and Byron Darnton, a correspondent for the The New York Times who had served with the 32d Division during World War I, and was to report on their operations in World War II. Several others were wounded, and one of the boats suffered severe damage that it had to be withdrawn.

Pongani U. S. Army Supply Dump
During late 1942, the U. S. Army 32nd Infantry Division, 128th Infantry Regiment established its supply dump at Pongani. Allied shipping would arrive at night and depart by dawn, fearing Japanese air raids. Since there was no wharf or pier, supplies were unloaded at night from barges and taken ashore using smaller boats or native canoes.

Pongani Airfield
Built by Americans in late October 1942 to support the Buna / Gona campaign, disused today.

OA-10 Catalina 43-3262
Pilot Smith crashed October 15, 1943 discovered 1944

References
U. S. Army in World War II - Victory In Papua Chapter 7 pages 106, 107-110, 116-119, 122-124
Almost A Family pages 14, 17, 51-52, 306, 308, 312, 314, 321, 324, 326-327, 329-330, 345

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Last Updated
May 3, 2016

 

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