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    Porton Autonomous Region of Bougainville Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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AWM May 30, 1945

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

Prewar
Porton Plantation was established at this location planted with coconut palms for the harvesting of copra. A single jetty (Porton Jetty) was constructed to allow ships to load copra from the plantation.

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

After the American landing at Torokina and the failed Japanese counterattack in March 1944, the Japanese began strengthening their defenses in northern Bougainville, including the Porton area. They built well made bunkers and covered them with earth and vegetation for concealment. In the middle of 1944, the Japanese Army under Colonel Nakamura withdrew from the Genga River to the south and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) 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.

Allied Missions Against Porton
December 12, 1943–June 10, 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. They made an amphibious landing at Porton Plantation. The force included A Company under Captain Downs, 14 Platoon from C Company, a detachment of mortars, an anti-tank gun, a Vickers machine gun section, 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.

Approaching the beach, the landing craft navigated coral reefs and a narrow passage. At 3:57am the first wave of three LCA attempted to land near the Porton jetty but drifted 270m to the north and ran aground 45m offshore. Disembarking, the soldiers from A Company had to wade ashore over coral and navigate a swamp before reaching firm ground; here they dug in, creating a "U"-shaped perimeter 100m wide and extending 100m inland from the beach into swampy ground with partial cover from vegetation. At 4:35am the second wave of three ALC15's grounded 70m offshore, 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 they were hit by gunfire and prevented 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 friendly artillery fire failed to silence them.

At 6:15am the Japanese began firing at the A Company perimeter from the south and northeast. The Australians realized they were surrounded and caught in a crossfire and were unable to patrol beyond the perimeter with enemy positions only 140 meters away. During the night, further attempts were made to land ammunition and supplies on the beach, but these were not successful. All night long the beach and perimeter were 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.

On June 9, 1944, in the early hours, the Japanese made a heavy counterattack that penetrated the perimeter and forced the Australians to withdraw near the beach. Meanwhile, the 42nd Landing Craft Company was sent to rescue them, and despite increased enemy fire managed to withdraw 60 men. During the night, further attempts were made to take off the remainder, but only partial success was achieved.

On June 10, 1944 in the late afternoon, under cover of a heavy bombing attack and a continuous artillery barrage, landing craft reach the beach and during that night the withdrawal was completed. The Japanese strength was greater than anticipated, and they were able to reinforce the area quickly. In the many vicious attacks on the perimeter the Japanese suffered heavily from Australians’ fire in 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 9, 2020

 

Map
Map
Oct 22, 1943

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