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    Porton Autonomous Region of Bougainville Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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AWM May 1945

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AWM June 9, 1945
Location
Porton is located on the Bonis Peninsula on the northwestern coast Bougainville. Today located in Kunua Rural LLG of Northern Bougainville District in Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Prewar
Porton Plantation was established at this location planted with coconut palms harvesting copra. A jetty was constructed to allow ships to load copra.

Wartime History
During early 1942, occupied by the Japanese. Attacked by Allied aircraft between December 1943 until the middle of 1944.

After the American landing at Torokina and their failed March 1944 counter attack, the Japanese began strengthening their defenses in the northern Bougainville including the Porton area. They built well constructed bunkers and covered them with earth and vegetation for concealment. In the middle of 1944, the Japanese Army under Col. Nakamura withdrew from the Genga River to the south and the Japanese Navy took over the defense of northern Bougainville. The Porton area was defended by the Japanese 87th Garrison Force under the command of Captain Kato, C. O. plus civilians from Japan and Korea tasked with defending the area against the advancing Australians.

American missions against Porton
December 12, 1943–May 30, 1945

On May 30, 1945 Australian Army General Stanley G. Savige Commanding Officer (C. O.) II Corps took a reconnaissance flight over northern Bougainville observing pillboxes and bunkers and believed an amphibious landing by the 31st/51st Battalion at Porton Plantation would bypass these defenses and allow them to advance across the peninsula to Chindawon. The Australians incorrectly believed Porton Plantation was lightly defended and in early June 1944 began planning the operation.

On June 8, 1945 at 3:00am three Landing Craft Assault (LCA) plus three Australian Landing Craft 15 (ALC15) departed Soraken and proceeded northward for Porton transporting a force of 190 Australian Army troops made an amphibious landing at Porton Plantation including A Company under Captain Downs, 14 Platoon from C Company, a detachment of mortars, an anti-tank gun, Vickers machine gun section and a detachment of engineers from 16 Field Company, a forward observer party from the 4th Field Regiment and a detachment from the 19th Field Ambulance supported by signals and supply personnel. The force would have artillery support from 12 Battery, 4th Field Regiment at Soraken.

The night amphibious landing, by three LCA and three ALC15 landing in two waves had to navigate coral reefs with only a narrow passage. The first wave of three LCA's was to land near the Porton jetty but instead drifted 270m to the north and grounded 45 meters offshore at 3:57am and A Company waded ashore over coral and a swamp before reaching firm ground and dug in creating a "U" shaped perimeter 100m wide and extending 100m inland from the beach in swampy ground partially with vegetation cover. The second wave of three ALC15's grounded 70m offshore at 4:35am and their troops also had to wade ashore in the wrong area.

By 4:45am, the Japanese had detected the landings and from the north opened fire with machine guns. Two ALC15 with supplies and ammunition aboard were still grounded on the coral reef and were targeted by the Japanese and prevented them from being unloaded. By 6:01am, the Australians had established a radio link and were able to call in artillery on the pillboxes firing on them but the fire often did not silence them. At 6:15am the Japanese began firing at the A Company perimeter from pillboxes to the south and northeast. The nearest enemy positions were only 140m away and they realized they were surrounded and caught in their crossfire and were unable to patrol much beyond the perimeter.

During the night, further attempts were made to land ammunition and supplies on the beach, but all night long the shore was swept with murderous fire and the stranded barges were continuously the target of intensive bursts from machine guns. The troops manning the small perimeter were attacked many times, but they gallantly resisted all Japanese attempts to break their line. Ammunition began to run out and it was decided to withdraw the force.

In the early hours was a heavy counter attack that penetrated the perimeter and forced a withdrawal near the beach. Meanwhile, the 42nd Landing Craft Company were sent to withdraw them in the daylight and faced increased Japanese fire but managed to withdraw sixty men. During the night further attempts were made to take off the remainder but only partial success was achieved.

On June 10, 1944 under cover of a heavy bombing attack and a continuous artillery barrage, craft made the beach in the late afternoon and during that night the withdrawal was completed. The Japanese strength was greater than was anticipated and they were able to reinforce the area quickly. In the many vicious attacks on the perimeter the Japanese suffered heavily from the fire of Australians fighting one of the toughest defensive actions of the Bougainville campaign. After Porton, the Japanese became very aggressive and ambushed Australian supply routes.

References
The Hard Slog (2012) by Karl James pages 3, 113, 127-149, 131 (map), 133 (map), 270, 317 (index)

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Last Updated
June 15, 2019

 

Map
Map
Oct 22, 1943

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