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    Wairopi Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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USAAF October 21, 1942

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Australian Army
April 15, 1944
Location
Wairopi is located at the Kumusi River. In Tok Pidgin, Wairopi means wire rope bridge, referring to the "wire rope bridge" at this location during the Pacific War. Located along the Kokoda-Buna Road (Kokoda Highway). Prewar and during the Pacific War part of the in the Northern District (Northern Province) in the Territory of Papua. Today located in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Wartime History
By 1942, the Wairopi Bridge was built at this location spanning the Kumusi River as wire rope suspension bridge with wire hand rails. On each bank were wooden pylons formed by six large timbers in two triangles with a cross beam.

After the Japanese landing on the north coast on July 21, 1942 they advanced inland towards Wairopi. During late July, before Australian forces withdrew, they cut down the existing bridge. When the Japanese arrived they forded the river and continued their advance towards Kokoda.

Afterwards, they erected a new bridge at this location to move supplies from the coast to Kokoda. After the Japanese began their withdrawal from the Kokoda Trail in the Owen Stanley Range, Allied aircraft attempted to bomb Wairopi bridge to deprive it as a supply and escape route.

American missions against Wairopi
September 18, 1942–November 14, 1942

During the middle of October 1942, a U.S. Army 50 man detachment from Cannon Company led by Captain Medendorp and joined by the rest of the anti-tank companies trekked from Jaure to the Wairopi area to prevent a Japanese attack from Wairopi towards Jaure where Americans troops were trekking over the Kapa Kapa Trail. These troops were known as the "W" or "Wairopi Patrol" under the command of Australian Army General Thomas A. Blamey established themselves on the east bank of the Kumusi River. On November 9, 1942 this force had a light encounter with Japanese a few miles to the southeast at Asisi.

On November 10, 1942 Japanese Army 144th Infantry Regiment began retreating eastward past Wairopi. That day, 900 soldiers from the 41st Infantry commanded by Colonel Yazawa crossed the Kumusi River. While attempting to cross, Japanese General Horii and his chief of staff drowned at Pinga. During the night of November 12-13, 1942 the main body of roughly 1,200 Japanese soldiers successfully crossed the Kumusi River at Wairopi covered by a small rear guard at Ilimo.

On November 16, 1942 in the morning the Australian Army 25 Brigade reached Wairopi and crossed the Kumusi River using an improvised bridge followed by the 16th Brigade, the 2/2d, Lt. Col. C. R. V. Edgar and continued to advance eastward towards the North Coast. During late November 1942, the U.S. Army 32nd Infantry Division, 126th Infantry Regiment, marching over the Kapa Kapa Trail transited Wairopi on their way to the north coast.

Afterwards, the Australians built a new suspension bridge using the original using the original pylons to allow foot traffic across the Kumusi River and to relink the Kokoda-Buna Road (Kokoda Highway).

Today
The present day bridge at Wairopi was built in 1967 is situated at the same location as the wartime bridges. On November 13, 2007 Cyclone Guba made landfall in Oro Province, causing flash flooding of the Kumusi River. During the storm, the bridge was damaged and swept away. An Australian Aid project build a new bridge at this location during late 2014.

References
U.S. Army in World War II - Victory In Papua Chapter 7 page 113, 115, 117, 120-121
U.S. Army in World War II - Victory In Papua Chapter 8 pages 126, 130, 139, 144
U.S. Army in World War II - Victory In Papua Chapter 9 pages 147, 151
U.S. Army in World War II - Victory In Papua Chapter 12 pages 213
Field Guide to the Kokoda Track (2006) pages 404-406

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Last Updated
November 7, 2021

 

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