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    Gona (Gona Mission) Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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USAAF July 31, 1942

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Silk December 16, 1942

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Justin Taylan 2005

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Justin Taylan 2005

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Justin Taylan 2005
Lat 8° 35' 60S Long 148° 16' 0E  Gona is located on the north coast of New Guinea. Borders Holnicote Bay to the north. To the east is Sanananda and Buna. To the west is Gona Creek (Gona River) and beyond Haddy's Village. Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Territory of Papua. Today location in Oro Bay Rural LLG of Ijivitari District in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Wartime History
During the night of July 21, 1942 Japanese force began landing at Gona and advanced inland. Immediately, the Japanese established a base area at Gona and Basabua to support of their advance and landed additional supplies and reinforcements at this location.

Starting on July 23, 1942 attacked by Allied bombers and fighters. After the Japanese Army failed offensive using the Kokoda Trail the Allies pushed the Japanese to the north coast to the Japanese beachhead area spanning Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

Allied missions against Gona
July 23, 1942–February 3, 1943

Meanwhile, the Japanese constructed a system of strong defenses in the area including coconut log bunkers, machine gun nest, rifle pits and snipers positions along a 20km beachhead spanning from Gona to Sanananda and Buna. General Yokomata took command of Japanese forces and 800 reinforcements landed at Gona and Sanananda.

Battle of Gona
By November 7, 1942 Australian Army soldiers began to arrive in the area and prepared for the Battle of Gona, to eliminate the remaining Japanese. Starting on November 19, 1942 Australian Army troops from the 25th Brigade and 21st Brigade attacked Gona with support from the 3rd Militia Battalion, 39th Militia Battalion and the 7th Division. Fighting in appalling conditions they slowly overwhelmed the Japanese defenders that refused to surrender.

On December 9, 1942 Australian Army battalion commander Lt. Col. Ralph Honner sent the famous signal: "Gona's Gone" indicating its capture, but fighting continued to the west near Haddy's Village. On December 28, 1942, the Battle of Gona ended when Japanese General Yokomata was ordered to withdraw his remaining soldiers to Sanananda.

Gona is located at the terminus of the road that follows the wartime era track. PMV buses from Popondetta travel here daily and the memorial sites are often visited by trekkers who walked the Kokoda Trail or those interested in history.

Gona Mission Station "All Saints Mission"
Prewar, the Anglican Church (Church of England) established "All Saints Mission" also known as Gona Mission Station or Gona Mission.  Three missionaries were stationed at Gona: Reverend James Benson, nurse May Hayman and teacher Mavis Parkins.

On January 25, 1942 a radio message ordered to evacuate the area and both woman departed for Sangara. Benson decided to stay behind. When the message received was deemed not to be an official order, the two woman returned to Gona five days later. On February 7, Miss Parkinson was advised to leave, but three days later she heard a radio message from her parents allowing her to stay if she wished and returned to Gona again.

On March 7, 1942 Bishop Strong was debating weather to relocate both woman to Isivita, but "they all wished to remain at Gona where they felt their work to be and were content to take the risk and to trust God and had quite settled down to it now".

On May 23, 1942 natives brought Lt. Dickinson pilot of B-25C Mitchell 41-12491 to Gona Mission. He waited with the three missionaries until a boat arrived and took him down the coast and back to base.

On July 6, 1942 shot down in air combat, P-400 Airacobra AP377 crashed near Gona Mission and the body of pilot 2nd Lt. Howard C. Welker who bailed out at low altitude and his parachute failed to open was recovered by Reverend Benson and buried at Gona Mission.

After the Japanese landing during the night of July 21-22, 1942 the missionaries fled inland. On August 2, 1942 in the afternoon they linked up with a group of Australian Army spotters, Papuan Infantry Battalion (PIB) soldiers and downed American airman. Later, the group was ambushed by the Japanese and killed. The three missionaries were capture alive. Reverend Benson was taken prisoner and alter sent to Rabaul where he survived the war.  He kept a secret diary and after the war wrote Prisoner's Base and Home Again that includes an extensive account about the Gona mission, their escape and his capture.

Today, the cross from the old church, with bullet holes present is displayed in front of the overgrown site of the former All Saints Mission church. Only the top part of the original cross remains, and has been attached to a new base portion. Several contemporary graves, including the graves of the Anglican martyrs are located at the base of the cross.

P-400 Airacobra AP377
Pilot Welker crashed July 6, 1942

St. Raphael's Gona Memorial Medical Center
This health center was funded by veterans of the battle of Gona and Rotary members in Australia. A dedication plaque to the two martyrs who were killed by the Japanese reads: "May Hayman & Mavis Parkins who faithfully worked for the benefit of the people of the Gona area and finally gave their lives to the cause of Christianity witness, August 1942."

Unknown Aircraft Wreck
Likely Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) DB-7 Boston

DB-7B Boston A28-20
Pilot Bullmore crashed November 29, 1942

Ayatosan Maru (The Gona Wreck)
Sunk July 22, 1942 offshore Gona. Also known as Ayutosen Maru or Ayutosan Maru.

A-20G Havoc 43-9410
Pilot Wisdom MIA April 10, 1944

A-20G "A Touch of Texas" 43-9623
Pilot Palmer ditched March 12, 1944 offshore Gona

Buna-Gona-Sananada Time Line
AWM Australian Army 2/16 Infantry Battalion November-December 1942 (AWM52 8/3/16)
(PDF page 79 of 130) Map: Trace of Gona Area Disposns [Dispositions] Night 29-30 Nov 42 Trace No. 1
Prisoner's Base and Home Again (1957) includes an extensive account about the Gona mission
My Brother Vivian (2012) pages 59-81

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Last Updated
January 12, 2024


Nov 29-30, 1942


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