The Attack against Wau - New Guinea

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by spidge, Apr 30, 2007.

  1. spidge


    From Site: HyperWar: US Army in WWII: CARTWHEEL--The Reduction of Rabaul

    The Attack Against Wau

    The first offensive effort under the revised strategy was directed against Wau in the Bulolo Valley goldfields southeast of New Guinea's Huon Peninsula. Wau, the site of a prewar airfield, lies 145 air miles north by west of Port Moresby, and 25 air miles southwest of Salamaua. (Map 4) Since May 1942 Wau had been held by a small body of Australians, known as the KANGA Force, who operated
    --36--under control of the New Guinea Force. As the Bulolo Valley could be reached overland from other Allied bases only over mountainous, jungled, and swampy routes, the KANGA Force was supplied largely by air. It had been ordered to keep watch over Lae and Salamaua and to hold the Bulolo Valley as a base for harrying the enemy until he could be driven out of the area.10 If the Japanese had been able to establish themselves at Wau, they could have reaped great gains. They could have staged aircraft from Madang and Wewak through Wau, thus bringing Port Moresby within effective range of their fighters.11 The 18th Army entertained ambitious plans for capturing Wau and crossing the Owen Stanley Range to seize Port Moresby. It is not clear, however, whether Adachi intended to proceed from Wau over the rough trail that led from Wau to Bulldog on the Lakekamu River, or to move against Port Moresby via Kokoda. Either route would have outflanked the Allied Gona-Sanananda-Buna-Dobodura-Oro Bay positions that had been won in the arduous Papuan campaign.
    When 18th Army troops moved to New Guinea in early 1943, some went to Lae and Salamaua to strengthen naval forces already there.12 The reinforced 102d Infantry Regiment was sent in a convoy from Rabaul to Lae during the first week in January. But the Allies,
    Map 4
    The Wau Area warned by the fact that the Japanese had given up their efforts to send troops to Buna, had anticipated that the Japanese might try to strengthen Lae and Salamaua and were therefore attempting to isolate that area by air action. Allied planes found the convoy, bombed it, and sank two transports. About three fourths of the 102d went ashore at Lae, but half its supplies were lost.
    Once at Lae, the 102d was ordered by Adachi to seize Wau. This Allied enclave was connected to the north coast by several trails that could be traversed on foot. The Japanese commander at Lae, Maj. Gen. Toru Okabe, decided to begin his drive against Wau from Salamaua.

    LT. GEN. HARUYOSHI HYAKUTAKE By 16 January he had gathered his attacking force there.
    The Allies, determined to prevent the Japanese from capturing Wau and threatening Port Moresby, had meanwhile acted promptly. Headquarters, New Guinea Force, decided to reinforce Wau, and in mid-January advance elements of the 17th Australian Infantry Brigade were flown from Milne Bay to Wau.13
    After assembling at Salamaua, Okabe and the 102d Infantry made their way laboriously upward to the Bulolo Valley. They struck at Wau in a dusk attack on 28 January and pushed through to the edge of the airfield. But there they were stopped. For the next three days Australian soldiers of the 17th Brigade, plus ammunition, supplies, and two 25 pounder guns, were flown in by air. In three days troop carriers of the Allied Air Forces flew in 194 planeloads, or one million pounds. So critical was the situation on the 29th that the first load of troops practically leaped from the planes firing their small arms. The Japanese pressed hard, but by 30 January acknowledged failure and began to withdraw.14
    Having broken the enemy's attack, the Australians kept pressing him back toward Salamaua. In April the 3d Australian Division took over direction of operations and the KANGA Force was dissolved. The Australians then halted short of Salamaua to wait until other Allied troops could be made ready for a large-scale attack against the entire Finschhafen-Lae-Salamaua complex.15
    The Australians' gallant defense of Wau thus frustrated the last Japanese attempt to attack Port Moresby overland, and kept for the Allies an advantageous

    --38-- position which would help support later offensives against the Huon Peninsula.

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