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US Army January 1943
US Army c1944
Lat 8° 40' 0S Long 148° 24' 0E Buna is located on the north coast of New Guinea. Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Northern District of Territory of Papua. Today located in Oro Bay Rural LLG, Ijivitari District of Oro Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Buna Government Station prewar government station at Buna and Buna Mission.
Buna Village (Old Village) located a mile to the west of Buna Government Station.
The Triangle (Bloody Triangle) battlefield area between Buna village and Buna Government Station.
Simemi located near Buna Airfield (Old Strip and Buna Airfield (New Strip) bridge and Simemi Creek.
Jiropa (Giropa) prewar plantation bordering Buna Airfield and the north coast of New Guinea.
Cape Endaiadere (Maggot Beach) located on the north coast of New Guinea to the east of Strip Point.
Strip Point located on the north coast of New Guinea between Giropa Point and Cape Endaiadere.
Buna Area Airfields
Buna Airfield (Old Strip) built by Australians expanded by the Japanese and part of the Buna battlefield area.
Buna Airfield (New Strip) built by the Japanese, never completed.
Buna was the site of the Australian Government headquarters known as "Buna Station".
During middle July 1942, Japanese seaplanes attacked Buna. Account by Allan Champion, Resident Magistrate. During the night of July 21-22, 1942 Japanese forces that landed at Gona occupied Buna and advanced inland to Popondetta westward to Kokoda then across the Kokoda Trail in the to the Owen Stanley Range. The Japanese code named the Buna area "ONF".
On August 14, 1942 a group of civilian missionaries turned over to the Japanese at Embi were interrogated and transported by truck to Buna. On the beach at Buna, a group of Sasebo No. 5 Special Navy Landing Party (SNLF) commanded by Tsukioka Torashigo executed a group of civilian prisoners. Each was beheaded by company commander Sub. Lt. Komai. The group included: Miss, Brenchley, Miss Lashmar, Mr. Duffill, Mr. Anthony Gore, his son and wife Mrs. Gore (incorrectly noted as Louis Artango). Afterwards, their bodies were never recovered and were possibly thrown into the sea. Possibly, Captain Austin and Father Holland were also present in this group, or were killed elsewhere or earlier.
On August 18, 1942 Japanese Army General Horii arrived at Buna. After the Japanese advance was hauled, Australian forces began advancing towards the north coast with the objective of capturing Buna. Meanwhile, Japanese forces worked to build extensive fortifications in the Buna area including coconut log bunkers, trenches and sniper positions. By late 1942, roughly 9,000 Japanese defended the area spanning from Buna to Gona. The Buna area was defended by approximately 2,000 troops including fresh reinforcements from the 144th Infantry Regiment and 229th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion under the command of Col. Hiroshi Yamamoto.
Allied missions against Buna
July 23, 1942–January 23, 1943
After advancing towards the coast, Australian Army and U.S. Army forces attacked Buna village on November 16, 1942, but little gains were made. More reinforcements were sent forward and but only small gains were made. By December 14, 1942 the Japanese abandoned Buna village and were occupying positions to the east at nearby Jiropa.
Meanwhile, a total of 3,000 Australian Army troops from the 18th Australian Brigade, under the command of Brigadier Wootten, plus a squadron of the 2/6th Australian Armoured Regiment equipped with M3 Stuart tanks were brought forward to Buna along with 9,000 soldiers from the U.S. Army 32nd Infantry Division.
On December 18, 1942 at 7:00am on Cape Endaiadere, the Australian Army 2/9th Battalion, supported by seven tanks attacked towards Cape Endaiadere with the Americans on their left in support advanced north through the Americans, on a front of approximately 600 yards and with the sea on their right. However, the left company, attacking without tanks lost more than half its eighty-seven men in an advance of only about 100 yards and was pinned down. The attack did not resume until after the arrival of three tanks in the afternoon. The battalion lost 171 officers and men, about half the strength of the attacking companies. Two tanks were disabled on the battlefield.
On December 20, 1942 at 7:00am, the 2/9th Battalion reinforced by a company of the 2/10th Battalion on the right with a U.S. Army battalion on the left continued the advance towards the coconut plantation. With air support and four M3 Stuart tanks spaced among the Australian infantry they moved through the coconut plantation without great opposition and by 10:00 am were advancing into the bush and kunai grass clothing the marshy country beyond the plantation. The tanks bogged down and were only able to travel along the beach. The attackers came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The advance ended along Simemi Creek.
On December 24, 1942 during the battle, 1st Sgt Elmer J. Burr deliberately threw himself atop an enemy grenade that landed near his company commander to smother the blast and was killed. Later, he earned the Medal of Honor. That same day, a platoon from Company L attempted to reach the beach to split the enemy's defensive positions. After neutralizing a pillbox single handedly and leading the assault on a second pillbox, Sgt Kenneth E. Gruennert was shot by a sniper and later earned the Medal of Honor.
On January 1, 1943 the Allies succeeded in breaking through the defenses and captured Buna two days later. During the ferocious fighting, only six Japanese were taken prisoners, the rest were killed or died.
In total, 1,400 Japanese were buried at Buna, The fighting on the beachheads cost 1,500 Australians, 670 Americans and an estimated 4,000 Japanese dead. The U.S. Army 32nd Division sustained 1,954 casualties; 466 killed and 1508 wounded. In sixteen days the 18th Brigade suffered casualties of 55 officers and 808 men, including 22 officers and 284 others killed.
M3 General Stuart Tank Hull Number 2300
Engine compartment destroyed by magnetic mine, recovered for the PNG Museum 1973
M3 General Stuart Tank Hull Number 2033
Disabled near Cape Endaiadere, recovered for the Australian War Memorial 1973
Beaufighter Serial Number A19-1
Pilot Sayer, shot down September 23, 1942
DB-7B Mark IIIA "Retribution" Serial Number A28-22
Pilot McDonald, crashed November 26, 1942
Buna-Gona-Sananada Time Line
LIFE Magazine January 4, 1943 pages 22–24
My Brother Vivian (2012) pages 53, 139-146
NAA "A Report by Sir William Webb on Japanese Atrocities. Depositions re Japanese Atrocities - 1943" J1889, BL43985/13
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