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    Battle of the Driniumor River West Sepik Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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E. Salternik July 1944

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U. S, Army c1944

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Justin Taylan 2003
Location
The Battle of the Driniumor River occurred during July 1944 along the Driniumor River inland from the north coast of New Guinea. Today located in the Aitape-Lumi District of West Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Wartime History
During late April 1944, after the U. S. Army landed at Aitape on April 22, 1944, a covering force comprised of the U. S. Army 32nd Infantry Division and 112th Cavalry Regiment were deployed to the western side of the Driniumor River to established defenses to form the eastern edge of the American perimeter. Further to the south, the 112th Cavalry Regiment was deployed at Afua. Until July 1944, only minor actions took place as the Americans were reinforced and built defensive positions to meet an expected Japanese counter attack.

After the U. S. Army landings at Tadji and Hollandia, the Japanese 18th Army was cut off from reinforcement or resupply at Wewak. To break the American perimeter, they moved forces westward to planned to attack inland from the mouth of the river against the American Delaying Position Line (DPL) on the western bank of the Driniumor River. If sucessful, they would then advance westward to attack the American Main Line of Resistance (MLR) around Tadji Airfield.

During the night of July 10, 1944 the Japanese Army 18th Army 89th Infantry Regiment and 78th Infantry Regiments crossed the Driniumor River roughly two kilometers inland from the coast and attacked the American line on the western side. The Japanese refereed to the river as the "Bando River". By July 11, 1944 over 800 Japanese soldiers had died but they were able to penetrate the line in one area, and forced U. S. Army defenders to withdraw in that area.

Japanese and American missions against Driniumor River
July 10, 1944–August 4, 1944

Eugene Salternik, L-5 Sentinel pilot with the 25th Liaison Squadron recalls:
"I flew an officer over the battlefield and landed nearby so he could survey the area. I snapped a photo of the area from my L-5, you could see stacks of bodies from the air, it was a massacre."

The Japanese also attempted to attack south of the American positions by flanking inland to Afua in the Torricelli Mountains where fighting raged for two weeks, and was often hand to hand combat but the Japanese failed to break the line held by the 112th Cavalry Regiment.

During the Battle of the Driniumor River, three Americans earned the Medal of Honor. The first was on July 11, 1944 while rescuing wounded Americans, S/Sgt Gerald L. Endl was Killed In Action (KIA) and later earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously. The second was during the night of July 18, 1944 to July 19, 1944 single handily, 2nd Lt. Dale Eldon Christensen attacked 4 enemy mortars and 10 machine guns and attempted to repeat an similar attack on August 4, 1944 but was killed. For these two actions he was posthumously earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously. The third was on July 23, 1944 when 2nd Lt. George W. G. Boyce, Jr. attacked a Japanese position, throwing himself onto a hand grenade to save his men, and earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

In mid-July and US troops were withdraw.  During the fighting along the Driniumor River the 31st Infantry Division's 124th Infantry Regiment killed more than 3,000 of the enemy and played a major part in breaking the back of the by-passed Japanese 18th Army. However, repeated counterattacks restored the position and the Japanese sustained heavy casualties. In further attacks in August the Japanese around Aitape were defeated and the scattered remnants fled back to the east and south to rejoin Japanese forces in Wewak.

On August 4, 1944 the final Japanese attack came with 200 Japanese massacred attacking the American line, ending the battle. At the end of November 1944 the U. S. Army soldiers in the Driniumor River area were relieved by the Australian Army 2/4th Battalion.

References
GHQ, SWPA Daily Summary No. 871 9-10 August 1944 page 3
"Daily Intelligence Summary, [Battle of the Driniumor River] possibly unparalleled in the history of military maneuver over this type of terrain... [victory was achieved with] negligible loss to our units."
U. S. Army in World War II The Approach to the Philippines Chapter VI Deployment for Battle
U. S. Army in World War II The Approach to the Philippines Chapter VII The Battle of the Driniumor Phase I: The 18th Army Attacks
U. S. Army in World War II The Approach to the Philippines Chapter VIII The Battle of the Driniumor Phase II: The 18th Army Retreats
Defending the Driniumor: Covering Force Operations in New Guinea, 1944 by Edward J. Drea (1984)

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Last Updated
July 11, 2019

 

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Map
July 10-11, 1944
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