The Battle of Milne Bay (25 August – 7 September 1942), also known as Operation RE by the Japanese, was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. Japanese naval troops, known as Kaigun Rikusentai (Special Naval Landing Forces), attacked the Allied airfields at Milne Bay that had been established on the eastern tip of New Guinea. Sony VAIO PCG-3B1M Battery
Due to poor intelligence work, the Japanese miscalculated the size of the predominately Australian garrison and, believing that the airfields were only defended by two or three companies, initially landed a force roughly equivalent in size to one battalion on 25 August. Sony VAIO PCG-3C1T Battery
Meanwhile the Allies, forewarned by intelligence fromUltra, had heavily reinforced the garrison.Despite suffering a significant setback at the outset, when part of the invasion force had its landing craft destroyed by Allied aircraft as they attempted to land on the coast behind the Australian defenders, Sony VAIO PCG-3D1M Battery
the Japanese quickly pushed inland and began their advance towards the airfields. Heavy fighting followed as they encountered the Australian Militia troops that formed the first line of defence. These troops were steadily pushed back, but the Australians brought forward veteran Second Australian Imperial Force units that the Japanese had not expected. Sony VAIO PCG-3G2M Battery
Allied air superiority helped tip the balance, providing close support to troops in combat and targeting Japanese logistics. Finding themselves outnumbered, lacking supplies and suffering heavy casualties, the Japanese were compelled to withdraw their forces, with fighting coming to an end on 7 September 1942. Sony VAIO PCG-5R1M Battery
The battle is considered to be the first in the Pacific campaign in which Allied troops decisively defeated Japanese land forces. Although Japanese land forces had experienced local setbacks elsewhere in the Pacific earlier in the war, unlike at Milne Bay, these actions had not forced them to withdraw completely and abandon their strategic objective. Sony VAIO PCG-7141M Battery
As a result of the battle, Allied morale was boosted and Milne Bay was developed into a major Allied base, which was used to mount subsequent operations in the region.
Milne Bay is a sheltered 97-square-mile (250 km2) bay at the eastern tip of the Territory of Papua (now Papua New Guinea). Sony VAIO PCG-7143M Battery
It is 22 miles (35 km) long and 10 miles (16 km) wide, and is deep enough for large ships to enter. The coastal area is flat with good aerial approaches, and therefore suitable for airstrips, although it is intercut by many tributaries of rivers and mangrove swamps. Owing to the swampy lands and high rainfall, Sony VAIO PCG-7151M Battery
about 200 inches (5,100 mm) per year, the area is prone to malaria and flooding. After floods, the coastal plains become "virtually impassable quagmires of glutinous mud", and the ground is not suited for development. The bay is bounded to its north and south by the Stirling Ranges, Sony VAIO PCG-7154M Battery
which at points rise to 3,000–5,000 feet (910–1,500 m) and are covered in Kunai grass and dense scrubland. The main area of firm ground suitable for construction and development is found directly at the head of the bay. In 1942 this area was occupied by plantations of palm oil, coconuts and cocoa, as well as a number of jetties and villages, Sony VAIO PCG-7162M Battery
connected by what was described by Major Sydney Elliott-Smith of the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) as a "modest 'road' system" that was, in actuality, only a dirt track 10–12 metres (33–39 ft) wide. The area was sparsely populated, although there were a number of villages along the track. Sony VAIO PCG-7181M Battery
Ahioma was situated the farthest east, and together with Gili Gili in the west, it bounded Lilihoa, Waga Waga, Goroni, KB Mission, Rabi and Kilarbo.
The Japanese thrust into the Pacific region had begun in early December 1941 with attacks against Sony VAIO PCG-41112M Battery
British and Commonwealth forces in the Battle of Hong Kong and the Malayan campaign, and against the US Pacific Fleet, which was caught at anchor in Pearl Harbor. They rapidly advanced south, overwhelming resistance in Malaya, capturing Singapore in February 1942, and successfully occupying Timor, Rabaul and the Dutch East Indies. Sony VAIO PCG-7153M Battery
While a Japanese naval operation aimed at capturing Port Moresby was defeated in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, elsewhere American forces in the Philippines capitulated, and Japanese forces advanced towards India through Burma.
Although the Japanese had been defeated in the Coral Sea, another attempt at capturing Port Moresby was anticipated. Sony VAIO PCG-71312M Battery
The Allied Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur, decided to establish airbases to protect Port Moresby. To the west, he authorised the construction of an airbase at Merauke in Netherlands New Guinea. Another, codenamed "Boston" was authorised to the east in the largely unexplored Abau–Mullins Harbour area on 20 May. Sony VAIO PCG-7144M Battery
Any Japanese force approaching Port Moresby by sea would have to sail past these bases, allowing them to be detected and attacked earlier; but the base in the east had other advantages too. Bombers flying missions to Rabaul and other Japanese bases to the north from there would not have to overfly the Owen Stanley Range, Sony VAIO PCG-7191L Battery
and would not be subject to the vagaries of the weather and air turbulence over the mountains. For that reason, an airstrip suitable for heavy bombers was desired so that they could stage there from Port Moresby and bases in northern Australia.
The Commander in Chief of Allied Land Forces, Sony VAIO PCG-3C1M Battery
General Sir Thomas Blamey, selected a garrison for Boston on 24 May. The troops were informed that their mission was only to defend against Japanese raids, and in the event of a major attack they would destroy everything of value and withdraw. Sony VAIO PCG-3F1M Battery
The Boston project fell through, as a reconnaissance of the area gave an unfavourable report and Elliott-Smith suggested Milne Bay as a more suitable alternative site. A party of twelve Americans and Australians set out to explore Milne Bay in a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat on 8 June. Sony VAIO PCG-3H1M Battery
They were impressed by the flat areas, the roads and the jetties, all of which would ease airbase construction. On receipt of a favourable report from the party, MacArthur's General Headquarters (GHQ) cancelled Boston on 11 June and substituted Milne Bay. Milne Bay was given the codename "Fall River". Sony VAIO PCG-3J1M Battery
The use of place names as code names proved to be unwise, as some supplies were mistakenly sent to the real Fall River, in Massachusetts.The first troops arrived at Milne Bay from Port Moresby in the Dutch KPM ships Karsik and Bontekoe, escorted by the sloopHMAS Warrego and the corvette HMAS Ballarat on 25 June. Sony VAIO PCG-8141M Battery
Karsik docked at a pontoon wharf made from petrol drums hastily constructed by Papuan workers recruited by ANGAU, who assisted in unloading the ships. The troops included two and a half companies and a machine gun platoon from the 55th Infantry Battalion of the 14th Infantry Brigade, Sony VAIO PCG-8161M Battery
the 9th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery with eight Bofors 40 mm guns, a platoon of the US 101st Coast Artillery Battalion (Anti-Aircraft) with eight .5 inch machine guns, and two 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns of the 23rd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery. Company E of the 46th Engineers of the US Army Corps of Engineers arrived on the Bontekoe with airbase construction equipment. Sony VAIO PCG-3C2M Battery
Some 29 KPM ships had escaped to Australia after the fall of the Dutch East Indies. They were manned by Dutch and Javanese crews, and were the lifeline of the garrison at Milne Bay, making roughly two out of every three voyages there during the campaign, the remainder being by Australian, British and US ships. Sony VAIO PCG-5N2M Battery
Five KPM ships would be lost during the fighting in Papua.
Work on the first airfield, which became known as No. 1 Airstrip, had commenced on 8 June, with Papuan workers under the supervision of ANGAU and US 96th Engineer Separate Battalion personnel clearing the area near Gili Gili. Sony VAIO PCG-5P1M Battery
Company E of the 46th Engineers began working on it on 30 June. In addition to the runway, they had to build camouflaged dispersal areas for 32 fighters, taxiways and accommodation for 500 men. To support the airbase and the garrison, a platoon was diverted to working on the docks and roads. Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M Battery
Although the channels in Milne Bay allowed deep draught ships to approach within 40 feet (12 m) of the shore, they had to be unloaded onto pontoons and the stores manhandled onto vehicles, a labour-intensive process.
Three Kittyhawks from No. 76 Squadron RAAF landed on the airstrip on 22 July, Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M Battery
while additional aircraft from No. 76 and also No. 75 Squadron RAAF arrived on 25 July. They found that only 4,950 by 80 feet (1,510 by 24 m) of the 6,000-by-100-foot (1,800 by 30 m) runway was covered with Marsden Matting, and that water was frequently over it. Sony VAIO PCG-7171M Battery
Landing aircraft sprayed water about, and sometimes skidded off the runway and became bogged.
With No. 1 Airstrip operational, work began on two more airfields. Some 5,000 coconut trees were removed for No. 2 Airstrip, and the site was levelled and graded, Sony VAIO PCG-7186M Battery
but its use first required the construction of at least two 60-foot (18 m) bridges, so work moved to No. 3 Airstrip near Kilarbo. Its construction was undertaken by the 2nd Battalion of the US 43rd Engineers (less Company E), which arrived on 4 August.That day Japanese aircraft began to bomb and strafe Milne Bay, Sony VAIO PCG-81112M Battery
focusing upon attacking the airfields and the engineers as they worked. Four Zeros and a dive bomber attacked No. 1 Airstrip. One Kittyhawk was destroyed on the ground, while a Kittyhawk from No. 76 Squadron shot down the dive bomber. Following this, the Australians established a workable radar system to provide early warning. Sony VAIO PCG-31311M Battery
On 11 August, 22 Kittyhawks intercepted 12 Zeroes. Despite their numerical advantage, the Australians lost three Kittyhawks, while claiming four Japanese Zeros shot down.
On 11 July, troops of the 7th Infantry Brigade, under the command of Brigadier John Field, began arriving to bolster the garrison. Sony VAIO PCG-8152M Battery
The brigade consisted of three Militia battalions from Queensland, the 9th, 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions. They brought with them guns of the 4th Battery of the 101st Anti-Tank Regiment, the 2/6th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, and the 2/9th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, along with the first Australian engineer unit, the 24th Field Company. Sony VAIO PCG-31111M Battery
Field assumed command of "Milne Force", a task force which exercised operational control over all Allied air, land and naval forces in the area, but only when an attack was imminent. He reported directly to Blamey's Allied Land Forces in Brisbane rather than New Guinea Force in Port Moresby. Sony VAIO PCG-61111M Battery
His most urgent tasks were of an engineering nature. While the American engineers built the airstrips and wharves, the Australians worked on the roads and accommodation. The small force of sappers had to be augmented by infantry and Papuan labourers. Sony VAIO PCG-51112M Battery
Although malaria was known to be endemic in the Milne Bay area, precautions taken against the disease were haphazard. Men wore shorts and kept their sleeves rolled up. Their mosquito repellent cream was ineffective, quinine was in short supply and many men arrived without their mosquito nets, Sony VAIO PCG-51211M Battery
which were stowed deep in the ships' holds and took several days to unload. A daily dosage of 10 grains (0.65 g) was prescribed but Field's troop were told not to take their quinine until they had been in the area a week. By this time, many had become infected with the disease. Sony VAIO PCG-51212M Battery
The Director of Medicine at Allied Land Forces Headquarters was Brigadier Neil Hamilton Fairley, an expert on tropical medicine. He visited Port Moresby in June, and was alarmed at the ineffectiveness of the measures being taken to combat the disease, which he realised was capable of destroying the entire Allied force in Papua. Sony VAIO PCG-41111M Battery
He made sure that the 110th Casualty Clearing Station left Brisbane for Milne Bay with a fully equipped pathological laboratory and a large quantity of anti-malarial supplies, including 200,000 quinine tablets. Unfortunately, some equipment was lost or ruined in transit, and the danger from malaria was not yet appreciated at Milne Bay. Sony VAIO PCG-41111V Battery
The 55th Infantry Battalion's companies were already badly afflicted by malaria and other tropical diseases, and were withdrawn and sent back to Port Moresby in early August, but the garrison was further reinforced with Second Australian Imperial Force troops of Brigadier George Wootten's 18th Infantry Brigade of the 7th Division, Sony VAIO PCG-61412V Battery
which began arriving on 12 August, although it would not be complete until 21 August. This veteran brigade, which had fought in the Siege of Tobruk earlier in the war, consisted of the 2/9th, 2/10th and 2/12th Infantry Battalions. Anti-aircraft and artillery support was provided by the 9th Battery of the 2/3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Sony VAIO PCG-71112M Battery
the US 709th Anti-Aircraft Battery and the 9th Battery of the 2/5th Field Regiment, while various signals and logistics troops provided further support.
With two brigades now at Milne Bay, Major General Cyril Clowes was appointed to command Milne Force, Sony VAIO PCG-81111V Battery
which was placed under the control of New Guinea Force, now commanded by Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell, on 12 August. Clowes' headquarters was formed in Sydney at the end of July and was flown up to Milne Bay. He arrived with some of his staff on 13 August, Sony VAIO PCG-81111V Battery
but had to wait until the rest arrived before he could formally assume command of Milne Force on 22 August. By this time there were 7,459 Australian and 1,365 US Army personnel at Milne Bay, of whom about 4,500 were infantry.There were also about 600 RAAF personnel. Sony VAIO PCG-81212M Battery
Clowes assigned the inexperienced 7th Infantry Brigade a defensive role, guarding key points around Milne Bay from seaborne or airborne attack, and kept the veteran 18th Infantry Brigade in reserve, ready to counterattack. Lacking accurate maps and finding that their signals equipment was unreliable in the conditions, Sony VAIO PCG-81212V Battery
the Australian command and control system consisted largely of cable telephones, or where there was not enough line available, runners. The soft ground made movement by road and even on foot difficult.
Japanese aircraft soon discovered the Allied presence at Milne Bay, Sony VAIO PCG-51111M Battery
which was appreciated as a clear threat to Japanese plans for another seaborne advance on Port Moresby, starting with a landing at Samarai Island in the China Strait, not far from Milne Bay. On 31 July the commander of the Japanese XVII Army, Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutake, Sony VAIO VPCS13X9E/B battery
requested that Vice Admiral Gunichi Mikawa's 8th Fleet capture the new Allied base at Milne Bay instead. Mikawa therefore altered his plans for the Samarai operation, and substituted the capture of Milne Bay, which was codenamed Operation RE, and scheduled for the middle of August. Sony VAIO VPCS12V9E/B battery
Operation RE received a high priority after aircraft from the 25th Air Flotilla discovered the new Milne Bay airfields on 4 August, but was then postponed due to the American landings on Guadalcanal on 7 August.
Under the misapprehension that the airfields were defended by only two or three companies of Australian infantry, Sony VAIO VPCS12V9E/B battery
the initial Japanese assault force consisted of only about 1,250 personnel. The Imperial Japanese Army was unwilling to conduct the operation as it feared that landing barges sent to the area would be attacked by Allied aircraft. Following an argument between Army and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) officers, Sony VAIO VPCF13M8E/B battery
it was agreed that the Navy would have responsibility for the landing. As a result, the assault force was drawn from the Japanese naval infantry, known as Kaigun Rikusentai (Special Naval Landing Forces). Some 612 naval troops from the 5th Kure Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF), Sony VAIO VPCF13Z0E/B battery
led by Commander Masajiro Hayashi, were scheduled to land on the east coast near a point identified by the Japanese as "Rabi", along with 197 men from the 5th Sasebo SNLF, led by Lieutenant Fujikawa. It was planned that a further 350 personnel from the 10th Naval Landing Force, along with 100 men from the 2nd Air Advance Party, Sony VAIO VPCM13M1E/L battery
would land via barge on the northern coast of the peninsula at Taupota, in Goodenough Bay, from where it would strike out over the mountains of the Stirlings to attack the Australians from behind. Following the battle the chief of staff of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki, Sony VAIO VPCM13M1E/W battery
assessed that the landing force was not of a high calibre as it contained many 30- to 35-year-old soldiers who were not fully fit and had "inferior fighting spirit". Naval support was to be provided by the 18th Cruiser Division under the command of Rear Admiral Mitsaharu Matsuyama. Sony VAIO VPCF11M1E/H battery
The Japanese enjoyed a significant advantage in the form of light tanks. They also had control of the sea during the night, allowing reinforcement and evacuation.
Countering these Japanese tactical advantages, the Allies enjoyed the strategic advantage of possessing superior intelligence about Japanese plans. Sony VAIO VPCF13M0E/B battery
The Japanese knew very little about Allied forces at Milne Bay, while the Allies received advanced warning that the Japanese were planning an invasion. In mid-July codebreakers under the command of Commander Eric Nave informed MacArthur that toward the end of August the Japanese planned to invade Milne Bay. Sony VAIO VPCYB2M1E battery
They provided detailed information about the numbers of soldiers to expect, which units would be involved, their standard of training, and the names of the ships that the Japanese had allocated to the operation. MacArthur's Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Brigadier General Charles A. Sony VAIO VPCYB3V1E battery
Willoughby, had anticipated a Japanese reaction against Milne Force, and interpreted the Japanese reconnaissance on 4 August as foreshadowing an operation. After Allied Naval Forces Ultradecrypted a message that disclosed that a Japanese submarine picquet line had been established to cover the approaches to Milne Bay, Sony VAIO VPCY11M1E battery
Willoughby predicted that an attack was imminent. In response MacArthur rushed the 18th Infantry Brigade to Milne Bay. Major General George Kenney, the commander of the Allied Air Forces, ordered air patrols stepped up over the likely Japanese invasion routes. Sony VAIO VPCS12L9E/B battery
He also ordered pre-emptive air strikes against the Japanese airfields at Buna on 24 and 25 August which reduced the number of Japanese fighters available to support the attack on Milne Bay to just six.
Over the course of 23 and 24 August, aircraft from the 25th Air Flotilla carried out preparatory bombing around the airfield at Rabi. Sony VAIO VPCF11S1E/B battery
The main Japanese invasion force left Rabaul on 24 August, under Matsuyama's command, at 7:00 am. The fleet was made up of two light cruisers, Tenryū and Tatsuta, as well as three destroyers, Urakaze,Tanikaze and Hamakaze, in concert with the transports, Nankai Maru and Kinai Maru, and the submarine chasers CH-22 and CH-24. Sony VAIO VPCYB3V1E/R Battery
At 8:30 am on 24 August, Milne Bay GHQ was alerted by an RAAF Hudson bomber near Kitava Island, off the Trobriand Islands, and coastwatchers that a Japanese convoy was approaching the Milne Bay area. HMAS Arunta – escorting the transport SS Tasman – left the Milne Bay area and sailed for Port Moresby after learning of the invasion force. Sony VAIO VPCF23P1E Battery
Reports of the second Japanese convoy, consisting of seven barges, which had sailed from Buna carrying the force that would land at Taupota were also received at this time. In response to this sighting, after the initially poor weather had cleared, 12 RAAF Kittyhawks were scrambled at midday. Sony VAIO VPCF23N1E Battery
The barges were spotted beached near Goodenough Island where the 350 troops of the 5th Sasebo SNLF, led by Commander Tsukioka, had gone ashore to rest. The Australian pilots then proceeded to strafe the barges and, over the course of two hours, destroyed them all and stranded their former occupants. Sony VAIO VPCY21S1E/L Battery
After the initial sighting, the main invasion force, consisting of the heavy naval screening force and the two transports, remained elusive until the morning of 25 August. In an effort to intercept it, US B-17s operating from bases at Mareeba and Charters Towers in Queensland, were dispatched, Sony VAIO VPCY21S1E/G battery
although they were unable to complete their mission as bad weather closed in. Later in the afternoon, a number of Kittyhawks and a single Hudson bomber strafed the convoy and attempted to bomb the transports with 250 lb (110 kg) bombs near Rabi Island. Only limited damage was caused to the convoy and no ships were sunk. Sony VAIO VPCF24M1E battery
After this, due to the withdrawal of the only Allied naval presence in the area – Arunta and Tasman – an RAAF tender was sent to act as a picquet in the bay, ready to provide early warning of the approaching Japanese.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Clowes decided to shorten his lines and passed the order for D Company, 61st Infantry Battalion, HP Pavilion DM4 Battery
which had been sent to Akioma in the east, to withdraw back behind 'B' Company at KB Mission and reposition itself at the No. 3 Airstrip at Gili Gili. A shortage of water craft, however, delayed D Company's departure until the evening of 25/26 August after requisitioning three luggers Bronzewing, Elevala and Dadosee. HP Pavilion DM4-1000 Battery
At around 10:30 pm, the Japanese main force, consisting of over 1,000 men and two Type 95 Ha-Go tanks, had made landfall near Waga Waga, on the northern shore of the bay; due to an error in navigation they came ashore about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) east of where they had intended, placing them further away from their objective. HP Pavilion DM4-1001TU Battery
Nevertheless, they quickly sent out patrols to secure the area, rounding up local villagers, and established a beachhead.
Later that evening, two of the small water craft that D Company were using to withdraw back to Gili Gili in, encountered the Japanese landing force. HP Pavilion DM4-1001TX Battery
In the firefight that followed, one of the craft – Elevala – was forced to beach and its occupants forced to return to take to the jungle on foot, eventually reaching Gili Gili some time later; the other, Bronzewing, was holed and of its passengers, 11 were either killed in the engagement or by the Japanese following their capture. HP Pavilion DM4-1002TX Battery
By dawn of 26 August, advancing west along the coast with armoured support, the Japanese had reached the main position manned by troops from B Company, 61st Infantry Battalion, around KB Mission. The Japanese force moved through the jungle at the edge of the coastal track, and was headed by two light tanks. HP Pavilion DM4-1004TU Battery
Although they lacked anti-armour weapons, the Australians were able to turn back the Japanese attack. At this stage, the Japanese suffered a serious setback when their base area was heavily attacked at daylight by RAAF Kittyhawks and a Hudson aircraft, along with B-25s, B-26s and B-17s from the US Fifth Air Force. HP Pavilion DM4-1006TX Battery
As a result of the attack, a number of Japanese troops were killed, while a large quantity of supplies was destroyed and a number of landing barges were beached near the KB Mission. Aside from severely hampering the Japanese supply system, the destruction of the landing barges also prevented their use to outflank the Australian battalions. HP Pavilion DM4-1008TX Battery
The Japanese did not have any air cover as the fighters based at Buna which were to patrol over Milne Bay were shot down by Allied fighters shortly after they took off and other aircraft based at Rabaul were forced to turn back due to bad weather. HP Pavilion DM4-1009TX Battery
Nevertheless, the Japanese were still pressing on the 61st Infantry Battalion's positions and so throughout the day Field, who had command responsibility for the local area, decided to send two platoons from the 25th Infantry Battalion to provide support. HP Pavilion DM4-1010TX Battery
Later, the remaining two rifles companies from the 61st were also dispatched, along with their mortar platoon. The muddy track meant that the Australians were unable to move anti-tank guns in to position, however, as a stop-gap measure quantities of sticky bombs and anti-tank mines were moved up to the forward units. HP Pavilion DM4-1011TX Battery
At 4:45 pm, with air and artillery support, the Australians launched a minor attack upon the Japanese forward positions which were located about 600 yards (550 m) to the east of the mission, pushing the Japanese back a further 200 yards (180 m). Weary from the day's fighting, though, they withdrew to Motieau, west of the mission. HP Pavilion DM4-1012TX Battery
The Australians then attempted to break contact and withdraw towards a creek line where they hoped to establish a defensive line as darkness came. The Japanese stayed in close contact with the Australians, harassing their rear elements. The men from B Company then sought to establish their position, HP Pavilion DM4-1013TX Battery
while the 2/10th Infantry Battalion made preparations to move eastwards towards Ahioma, passing through the lines of the 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions. In the early evening, Japanese ships shelled the Australian positions and later, at 10:00 pm, the Japanese launched a heavy attack on the Australians which continued sporadically through the night. HP Pavilion DM4-1014TX Battery
By 4:00 am the following morning, the Japanese began to employ infiltration and deception techniques to try to outflank the Australian positions. Anticipating an armoured attack at dawn, the Australians withdrew back to the Gama River, which was situated 1 mile (1.6 km) to the west. HP Pavilion DM4-1016TX Battery
During the night, the destroyer Hamakaze entered the bay to make contact with the Japanese troops and land supplies. The landing force had been out of radio contact since 2:00 pm, and the destroyer was unable to raise it with either her radio or visual signalling devices. As a result, Hamakaze departed Milne Bay at 2:30 am without having landed any supplies. HP Pavilion DM4-1017TX Battery
Shortly after dawn, in the air, a Japanese force consisting of eight dive bombers with 12 Zero fighter escorts attacked the Allied airfield at Gili Gili. One of the attacking aircraft was shot down, while only a small amount of damage was inflicted. Meanwhile, around the mission as the Japanese reconnoitred Australian positions, the 2/10th Infantry Battalion, HP Pavilion DM4-1019TX Battery
consisting of just 420 men,was ordered to the Gama River by Clowes. This operation was badly planned and did not have a clear purpose; it was launched as both a reconnaissance in force and a counter-attack, but evolved into an attempt to establish a blocking force at KB Mission. HP Pavilion DM4-1030EZ Battery
Moreover, while the Australians had no knowledge of the strength or intentions of the Japanese, no force would be able to reinforce the battalion once it moved outside the main defensive lines near the airstrips. The 2/10th's forward patrols made contact with the 61st Infantry Battalion at around 10:30 am on 27 August and, HP Pavilion DM4-1065DX Battery
upon arrival at around 5:00 pm, they began to establish their position; with only limited entrenching tools, they found the going difficult. At this point, the troops from the 25th and 61st Battalion were ordered to pull back, having lost 18 men killed and a further 18 wounded, along with an unknown number missing in action. HP Pavilion DM4-1090LA Battery
At 8:00 pm the Japanese sent two Type 95 tanks with bright headlights into the plantation. The men from the 2/10th tried to disable them with sticky bombs, but due to the humid conditions the bombs failed to adhere to the Japanese armour. In the fighting that followed over the course of two and a half hours, HP Pavilion DM4T Battery
the Australians suffered heavy casualties. Receiving indirect fire support from the 2/5th Field Regiment's 25 pounder guns situated near Gili Gili, they repelled four frontal attacks. However, by midnight the Japanese were inside the Australian position and in the confusion the 2/10th withdrew in some disorder to a number of scattered positions on the west bank of HP Pavilion DM4T-1000 Battery
the Gama, which they reached by about 2:00 am on 28 August. A further assault, however, by tank-mounted infantry forced them back further, moving back through the 61st and 25th Infantry Battalions towards No. 3 Airstrip, which was still under construction, south of Kilarbo. HP Pavilion DM3-1016TX Battery
During the brief engagement around KB Mission, they had lost 43 men killed and another 26 wounded.
As the 2/10th withdrew, the 25th Infantry Battalion, which had moved forward from Gili Gili to relieve the 61st, deployed around the airstrip and at Rabi, Duira Creek and Kilarbo, HP Pavilion DM3-1017TX Battery
laying mines in key locations. The airstrip proved a perfect defensive location, offering a wide, clear field of fire, while at its end, thick mud served to prevent the movement of Japanese tanks. Around dawn the advancing Japanese troops reached the airstrip and, under the cover of field artillery and mortars, they launched an attack. HP Pavilion DM3-1018TX Battery
Although the Australians did not know it, the tanks that were supporting the attack became stuck in the mud and were subsequently abandoned; they would later be discovered by an Australian patrol on 29 August. Meanwhile, troops from the 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions, HP Pavilion DM3-1019AX Battery
along with Americans from the 709th Anti-Aircraft Battery turned back the attacking Japanese infantry. Further strafing by Kittyhawks followed, and the Japanese were forced to fall back 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the east of Rabi.
Following this, for the next two days a there was a lull in the fighting. HP Pavilion DM3-1019TX Battery
During this time, the Australians consolidated their defences. The 61st Infantry Battalion, despite being seriously depleted from the previous fighting, were ordered back to the perimeter around the airstrip, subsequently deploying around Stephen's Ridge, tying in with the 25th Battalion's positions between the coast and Wehria Creek. HP Pavilion DM3-1020AX Battery
Fire support was provided by mortars from the 25th along withVickers machine guns from the 61st and .30 and .50 calibre machine guns mounted on the American half-tracks. The American engineers and anti-aircraft gunners became the first American troops to engage in ground combat in New Guinea. HP Pavilion DM3-1020CA Battery
Elsewhere, the 2/12th Infantry Battalion began moving forward from Waigani to enable it to join the fighting later as a counterattacking force. They, along with the 2/9th, were subsequently tasked to carry out an attack from No. 3 Airstrip to KB Mission. Meanwhile, HP Pavilion DM3-1020EA Battery
the Japanese also sought to reconfigure their forces and Mikawa decided to reinforce the forces that were already ashore. These reinforcements, consisting of 567 men from the 3rd Kure SNLF and 200 from the 5th Yokosuka SNLF, left Rabaul on 28 August. HP Pavilion DM3-1020EB Battery
At around 4:30 pm an RAAF patrol spotted the Japanese convoy – consisting of one cruiser and nine destroyers – and subsequently reported this to the Allied headquarters. Believing that further landings were about to occur, Clowes cancelled his plans to begin a counterattack with the troops from the 18th Brigade. HP Pavilion DM3-1020EC Battery
Orders were also passed for the 30 Kittyhawks at Gili Gili to be flown off to Port Moresby in case the Japanese succeeded in breaking through to the airfield. The attack did not take place, though, and consequently early in the morning on 29 August they returned, albeit minus two aircraft which had crashed during the move. HP Pavilion DM3-1020ED Battery
The Japanese convoy arrived off Waga Waga at 8:15 pm on 29 August, and began landing troops and supplies. While this was taking place the warships shelled Allied positions around Gili Gili and by 11:30 pm, had completed their landing.The shelling was not significant, however, and no casualties resulted from it. HP Pavilion DM3-1020EF Battery
Throughout 30 August, the Australians carried out patrolling operations while the Japanese laid up in the jungle in preparation for an attack that night.
Later that night the Japanese began forming up along the track at the eastern end of No. 3 Airstrip by the sea, and at 3:00 am on 31 August they launched their attack. HP Pavilion DM3-1020EG Battery
Advancing over open ground and illuminated by flares fired by the Australians, the first Japanese attack was repelled by heavy machine gun and mortar fire from 25th and 61st Infantry Battalions as well as the 46th Engineer General Service Regiment, and artillery fire from the Australian 2/5th Field Regiment. HP Pavilion DM3-1020EO Battery
A further two banzai charges were attempted only to meet the same fate, with heavy Japanese casualties, including the Japanese commander, Hayashi. At this point, Commander Minoru Yano, who had arrived with the Japanese reinforcements on 29 August, took over from Hayashi, HP Pavilion DM3-1020ER Battery
and after the survivors of the attack had reformed in the dead ground around Poin Creek, he led them about 200 yards (180 m) north of the airstrip in an attempt to outflank the 61st Infantry Battalion's positions on Stephen's Ridge. After running into a platoon of Australians who engaged them with Bren light machine guns, HP Pavilion DM3-1021AX Battery
the Japanese withdrew just before dawn to the sounds of a bugle call. The Japanese troops who survived this attack were shocked by the heavy firepower the Allied forces had been able to deploy, and the assault force was left in a state of disarray.
Early on 31 August, the 2/12th Infantry Battalion began moving towards KB Mission, HP Pavilion DM3-1021TX Battery
with 'D' Company leading the way and struggling through muddy conditions along the track, which had been turned into a quagmire due to the heavy rain and equally heavy traffic. After passing through the 61st Infantry Battalion's position, at around 9:00 am they began their counterattack along the north coast of Milne Bay. HP Pavilion DM3-1022AX Battery
As the Australians went they were harassed by snipers and ambush parties. They also encountered several Japanese soldiers who tried to lure the Australians in close for attack by pretending to be dead. In response, some Australians systematically bayoneted and shot the bodies of Japanese soldiers. HP Pavilion DM3-1022TX Battery
At noon, the 9th Infantry Battalion, a Militia unit from the 7th Infantry Brigade, dispatched two companies to occupy some of the ground that the 2/12th had regained around No. 3 Airstrip and the mission.
Making slow going amidst considerable resistance, the Australians nevertheless reached KB Mission late in the day. HP Pavilion DM3-1023CA Battery
A force of Japanese remained there, and the Australians attacked with bayonets fixed. In the fighting that followed 60 Japanese were killed or wounded. The Australians were then able to firmly establish themselves at the mission. Meanwhile, the two companies from the 9th Battalion took up positions at HP Pavilion DM3-1023TX Battery
Kilarbo and between the Gama River and Homo Creek with orders to establish blocking positions to allow the 2/12th to continue its advance the following morning.
That night, a force of around 300 Japanese who had been falling back since they had run into the 61st Infantry Battalion on Stephen's Ridge, HP Pavilion DM3-1024AX Battery
encountered positions manned by the 2/12th and 9th Infantry Battalions around the Gama River. In a surprise attack, the Australians inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. After the battle the Australians estimated that up to 90 had been killed. HP Pavilion DM3-1024CA Battery
Following this the Japanese began to employ infiltration techniques in an attempt to pass through the numerous listening posts that had been set up along the side of the track which formed the front of one side of the 2/12th's position. Elsewhere, at the mission, starting at around 8:00 pm, HP Pavilion DM3-1025EZ Battery
they carried out harassment operations in an effort to distract the Australians and assist their comrades to try to break through the Australian positions from the Gama River. This lasted throughout the night.
The following morning, 1 September, the 2/12th Infantry Battalion went on the offensive again, HP Pavilion DM3-1025SA Battery
while a force of seven Kittyhawks attacked the Japanese headquarters around Waga Waga. By this time, the Japanese had abandoned the objective of reaching the airfields and instead sought only to hold off the Australians long enough to be evacuated. This information was not known by the Allies, HP Pavilion DM3-1026TX Battery
however, who were in fact expecting the Japanese to undertake further offensive action. In this regard, the 2/9th, initially with orders to join the 2/12th's counterattack, was delayed an extra day after an erroneous intelligence report from MacArthur's headquarters warning Clowes of a renewed Japanese attack forced him to briefly adopt a more defensive posture. HP Pavilion DM3-1027TX Battery
The attack did not occur and, as a result, on 2 September the 2/9th was moved by barge up to the KB Mission. The next day it took over from the 2/12th and led the Australian advance. With the Japanese position at Milne Bay close to collapse, on 2 September Yano sent a radio message to the headquarters of the 8th Fleet which stated: HP Pavilion DM3-1028TX Battery
"[w]e have reached the worst possible situation. We will together calmly defend our position to the death. We pray for absolute victory for the empire and for long-lasting fortune in battle for you all".
The terrain in this part of the bay offered significant advantage to defending forces, HP Pavilion DM3-1030EA Battery
lined as it was with numerous creeks which slowed movement and obscured firing lanes. Throughout 3 September, the 2/9th Infantry Battalion came up against significant resistance; in one engagement that took place around mid-morning along a stream to the west of Elevada Creek they lost 34HP Pavilion DM3-1030ED Battery
men killed or wounded as they attempted to force their way across a creek. Engaged with sustained machine gun fire, the two assault platoons withdrew back across the creek while elements of another company that was in support moved to the northern flank. HP Pavilion DM3-1030EF Battery
Launching their assault, they found that the Japanese had withdrawn, leaving about 20 of their dead.
Following this, the 2/9th advanced a further 500 yards (460 m), reaching Sanderson's Bay, before deciding to set up their night location. HP Pavilion DM3-1030EG Battery
That night Japanese ships again shelled Australian positions on the north shore of the bay, but without causing any casualties among the defenders.
On 4 September, the Australian advance continued as the 2/9th moved up the coast either side of the coastal track. HP Pavilion DM3-1030EI Battery
After about one hour, the advance company struck a Japanese defensive position at Goroni. Throughout the day the Australians worked to outflank the position before launching an attack at 3:15 pm. During this action, one of the 2/9th's sections was held up by fire from three Japanese machine gun positions. HP Pavilion DM3-1030ER Battery
Corporal John French ordered the other members of the section to take cover before he attacked and destroyed two of the machine guns with grenades. French then attacked the third position with his Thompson submachine gun. HP Pavilion DM3-1030SA Battery
The Japanese firing ceased and the Australian section advanced to find that the machine gunners had been killed and that French had died in front of the third position. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his "cool courage and disregard of his own personal safety" which "saved members of his section from heavy casualties and was responsible for the successful conclusion of the attack".[HP Pavilion DM3-1030US Battery
By the end of the 4th, the Japanese force included only 50 fully fit soldiers; all the other surviving troops were either incapacitated or could only offer token resistance. In addition, the commanders of all the Japanese companies had been killed and only three or four platoon leaders remained. HP Pavilion DM3-1031TX Battery
Following the fighting on 31 August, the Japanese forces ashore had reported the situation to their headquarters at Rabaul. In response, plans were made to send the Aoba Detachment, which comprised the Army's 4th Infantry Regiment and an artillery company, HP Pavilion DM3-1032TX Battery
to Rabi to complete the capture of the airfield.However, they were not scheduled to arrive until 11 September and so it was planned in the meantime to reinforce Yano's men with 130 men from the 5th Yokosuka SNLF. An abortive attempt was made to land these troops on 2 September and then again on 4 September. HP Pavilion DM3-1033TX Battery
By that time, however, as further reports were received by the Japanese headquarters, it became apparent that Yano's troops would not be able to hold out until the Aoba Detachment could arrive. As a result, on 5 September, the Japanese high command ordered a withdrawal. This was carried out from the sea that evening. HP Pavilion DM3-1034TX Battery
Meanwhile, six Beauforts of No. 100 Squadron RAAF had arrived at Milne Bay on 5 September. An additional three Beaufighters of No. 30 Squadron RAAF, the first to operate this aircraft, joined them the following day.The Beauforts were tasked with providing additional support against further landings and undertaking anti-shipping missions. HP Pavilion DM3-1035BR Battery
On 6 September, the Allied offensive reached the main camp of the Japanese landing force, fighting a number of minor actions against small groups that had been left behind after the evacuation. In the evening, the Japanese light cruiser Tatsuta, which was part of the force assigned to evacuate the surviving troops after their defeat, HP Pavilion DM3-1035DX Battery
bombarded the Gili Gili wharves and sank the MV Anshun, although they left the hospital shipManunda unharmed. The next night, two Japanese warships – a cruiser and a destroyer – bombarded Australian positions causing a number of casualties for 15 minutes before leaving the bay; it would be their final act in the battle.[ HP Pavilion DM3-1035EF Battery
During the mopping up operations that followed, patrols by Australian troops tracked down and killed a number of Japanese troops that attempted to trek overland to Buna.
The 350 Japanese troops who had been stranded on Goodenough Island after their barges were destroyed on 24 August were not rescued until late October. HP Pavilion DM3-1035EO Battery
An attempt to evacuate the force on 11 September ended in failure when the two destroyers assigned to this mission were attacked by USAAF aircraft, resulting in the loss of Yayoi. Two further attempts to rescue the force on 13 and 22 September were unsuccessful, though supplies were air-dropped on Goodenough Island. HP Pavilion DM3-1035TX Battery
A submarine landed further supplies and evacuated 50 sick personnel on 3 and 13 October. As part of the preparations for the attack on Buna and Gona, the 2/12th Infantry Battalion was assigned responsibility for securing Goodenough Island on 19 October. The battalion landed on the island three days later. HP Pavilion DM3-1039WM Battery
A series of small engagements on 23 and 24 October cost the Australian force 13 killed and 19 wounded, and the Japanese suffered 20 killed and 15 wounded. The remaining Japanese troops were evacuated by two barges to nearby Fergusson Island on the night of 24 October, and the light cruiser Tenryū rescued them two days later. HP Pavilion DM3-1040EF Battery
After securing the island, the 2/12th began work on building Vivigani Airfield on its east coast.
"Lying across the [air]strip were dozens of dead Japs... As our officer crossed in the vanguard a Jap, apparently wounded, cried out for help. The officer walked over to aid him, and as he did the Jap sprang to life and hurled a grenade which wounded him in the face. HP Pavilion DM3-1040EG Battery
From then on the only good Jap was a dead one, and although they tried the same trick again and again throughout the campaign, they were dispatched before they had time to use their grenade.
"Our policy was to watch any apparent dead, shoot at the slightest sign of life and stab with bayonet even the ones who appeared to be rotten. HP Pavilion DM3-1040EI Battery
It was all out from then on, neither side showing any quarter and no prisoners were taken."
The Allies continued to develop the base area at Milne Bay in support of the counter-offensive along the northern coast of Papua and New Guinea. The American base became US Advanced Sub Base A on 21 April 1943, HP Pavilion DM3-1040EK Battery
US Advance Base A on 14 August and US Base A on 15 November. Its Australian counterpart, the Milne Bay Base Sub Area, was formed on 14 June 1943. Two 155-millimetre (6.1 in) coastal guns with searchlights were provided to protect the base from naval threats. HP Pavilion DM3-1040EO Battery
New roads were built and the existing ones upgraded to make them passable in the wet conditions. A meteorological record was set on 29 April 1944, when 24 inches (610 mm) of rain fell in a 24-hour period. By June 1944, there was over 100 miles (160 km) of road in the area. HP Pavilion DM3-1040EV Battery
A bitumen-surfaced second runway was built at No. 1 Airstrip by No. 6 Mobile Works Squadron RAAF, after which the original runway was only used for emergencies and taxiing. The minefield around No. 3 Airstrip was lifted and the airstrip was completed, with revetments and hardstands for 70 medium bombers. HP Pavilion DM3-1040EZ Battery
A new wharf, known as Liles' wharf after the American engineer who supervised its construction, was built in September and October 1942. This was capable of handling Liberty ships. Henceforth ships could sail direct to Milne Bay from the United States, HP Pavilion DM3-1040US Battery
reducing the pressure on Australian ports and saving two or three days' sailing time plus the time taken to unload and then reload the cargo on smaller ships. PT boats were based at Milne Bay from December 1942, and a transhipment and staging area, overhaul facilities for PT boats, a destroyer base and Station Hospital were also constructed. HP Pavilion DM3-1044NR Battery
Milne Bay was used as a staging area for mounting the landing at Lae in September 1943, and the New Britain Campaign in December. The base at Milne Bay remained operational until the end of the war.
During the Australian counterattack, the advancing troops found evidence that the Japanese had committed a number of war crimes at Milne Bay, HP Pavilion DM3-1047CL Battery
specifically the execution of prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians. None of the 36 Australian troops who were captured by the Japanese survived; a number of them were found to have been executed with some showing signs of having been mutilated as well. In addition, at least 59 civilians were also murdered between 25 August and 6 September; HP Pavilion DM3-1047NR Battery
included in this were a number of Papuan women who were sexually assaulted prior to being killed. The war crimes committed at Milne Bay hardened Australian soldiers' attitudes towards Japanese troops for the remainder of the war. HP Pavilion DM3-1048LA Battery
Historian Mark Johnston has written that "the Australians' relentless killing of Japanese then and thereafter owed much to a determination both to retaliate in kind and to take revenge for Japanese atrocities and rumoured maltreatment of POWs".
Later, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, Dr. H. V. Evatt, commissioned a report by William Webb on war crimes committed by the Japanese. HP Pavilion DM3-1050EE Battery
Webb took depositions about the Milne Bay incident from members of the Allied forces who had been present, and used them to form part of his report. In 1944 this was submitted to the United Nations War Crimes Commission, which had been set up by the Allies following the Moscow Declaration. HP Pavilion DM3-1050EN Battery
Evidence about the crimes was presented to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal on 2 January 1947.
The Australians estimated Japanese casualties to be around 700 to 750 killed in action,although a Japanese source reported only 625 killed in action. HP Pavilion DM3-1050EO Battery
Of the 1,943 Japanese soldiers that were landed at Milne Bay, ships from the Japanese 18th Cruiser Division managed to evacuate 1,318 personnel, including 311 who were wounded. In contrast, the Australians suffered 373 casualties, of which 167 were killed or missing in action. US forces lost 14 personnel killed and several wounded. HP Pavilion DM3-1050EP Battery
Although Allied casualties during the battle had been light, in the wake of the battle, Milne Bay suffered an epidemic of malaria that posed a threat to the base as great as that from the Japanese attack. Over one-sixth of Milne Force, including Clowes, came down with the disease. HP Pavilion DM3-1050ER Battery
The incidence of malaria soared to 33 per thousand per week in September (equivalent to 1,716 per thousand per annum), and to 82 per thousand per week in December (equivalent to 4,294 per thousand per annum). At this rate, the whole force could have been wiped out in a matter of months. HP Pavilion DM3-1050SS Battery
It placed enormous strain on the medical units and the supplies of anti-malarial drugs. The Chief Pathologist of New Guinea Force, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Ford went to see Blamey, who was now in personal command of New Guinea Force, and told him that 1,000 men and a large quantity of anti-malarial supplies were urgently required at Milne Bay to avert a disaster. HP Pavilion DM3-1053XX Battery
Blamey took a personal interest in the matter. He expedited supply shipments, and made the required personnel available. The arrival of quantities of the new drugatebrin allowed this more effective drug to be substituted for quinine. The incidence of malaria dropped dramatically after December, HP Pavilion DM3-1055EO Battery
the month in which atebrin became the official Australian prophylactic drug, and by March 1943 the crisis had passed. After this, the incidence of malaria amongst the garrison at Milne Bay was similar to other bases in Papua and New Guinea.
Strategically, as a result of the fighting around Milne Bay, Japanese operations within the region were constrained. HP Pavilion DM3-1058NR Battery
The defeat at Milne Bay prevented them from the bypassing the holding action that the Australians were conducting on the Kokoda Track. The Japanese commanders were then forced to change their plans in the region, shifting their focus towards repelling the US forces that had landed on Guadalcanal, HP Pavilion DM3-1060EA Battery
while maintaining a smaller effort around Buna–Gona, under Major General Tomitarō Horii. Once they had retaken Guadalcanal, they planned to reinforce Horii's forces and launch a reinvigorated attack on the Australians around Port Moresby. In the end, subsequent defeats at Buna–Gona and on Guadalcanal, HP Pavilion DM3-1060EF Battery
did not allow them to implement these plans as the Allies gained the ascendency in the region throughout late 1942 and the Japanese were forced to fall back to the northern coast of New Guinea.In the aftermath of the battle, a large amount of intelligence was also gained by the Allies, HP Pavilion DM3-1060EO Battery
providing their planners with a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese and their equipment. It also demonstrated that the Militia were an effective fighting force.
The most significant result, though, was the effect that the victory had on the morale of Allied servicemen elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific, HP Pavilion DM3-1060ER Battery
especially those on the Kokoda Track, and British troops fighting in Burma. Although the Japanese had previously suffered minor local defeats such as the first landing at Wake Island and the Battle of the Tenaru on Guadalcanal, these actions, unlike Milne Bay, did not result in complete Japanese withdrawal and the abandonment of the military campaign. HP Pavilion DM3-1060ES Battery
The Allied victory at Milne Bay therefore represented the first "full-scale defeat [of the Japanese] on land".In Australia, initial public reaction to the victory at the time was one of cautious optimism. An article in The Canberra Times from early September 1942 labelled the victory a "tonic surprise",HP Pavilion DM3-1065EO Battery
and while highlighting the example as a portent of future battlefield success by Australian forces in the region, also pointed out the task that lay ahead of the Australians in New Guinea remained a "major problem". Most significantly, though, it highlighted the importance of morale in turning the tide in the war, HP Pavilion DM3-1070EA Battery
describing it as "the bridge that must carry all the vast and complicated effort being directed towards victory". Another article, which appeared in The West Australian at the same time, while also preparing the Australian public for the tough fighting that would follow in New Guinea, hailed the victory at Milne Bay as a "turning point",HP Pavilion DM3-1070EO Battery
the instance of which signalled an end of a "rearguard campaign" and the start of an Allied offensive in the region.
Amongst individual Australian soldiers, the news of the victory helped to dispel some of the notions about the invincibility of the Japanese soldier that had developed in the psyche of Allied soldiers following the defeats of early 1942, HP Pavilion DM3-1070ES Battery
and which had impacted on Allied planning up to that point. Some of these notions would remain until the end of the war, though, but the news of Milne Bay allowed some soldiers to rationalise the Japanese soldiers' past victories as being the result of tangible factors, such as numerical superiority, HP Pavilion DM3-1075EO Battery
that could be overcome, rather than innate factors associated with the intangible qualities of the Japanese soldier that were not so easily overcome. After this, amongst the Allies there was "a sense that fortune's wheel was turning", and although leaders such as Blamey emphasised the difficulties that lay ahead, a feeling of confidence in eventual victory emerged. HP Pavilion DM3-1080EF Battery
MacArthur warned the War Department that success was attributable to good intelligence that allowed him to concentrate a superior force at Milne Bay, and might not be repeatable.
After the war, the Australian Army commemorated the battle through the awarding of a battle honour titled "Milne Bay" to a number of the units that took part. HP Pavilion DM3-1080ES Battery
The units chosen were the 9th, 25th, 61st, 2/9th, 2/10th and 2/12th Infantry Battalions. The two RAAF fighter squadrons that had taken part in the fighting were also singled out for praise by the Australian commanders for their role in the battle. Rowell stated: "the action of 75 and 76 Squadrons RAAF on the first day was probably the decisive factor", a view Clowes endorsed in his own report. HP Pavilion DM3-1090ES Battery
"We were helped, too, by a very cheering piece of news that now reached us, and of which, as a morale raiser, I made great use. Australian troops had, at Milne Bay in New Guinea, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land. If the Australians, in conditions very like ours, had done it, so could we. HP Pavilion DM3-1095ES Battery
Some of us may forget that of all the Allies it was the Australian soldiers who first broke the spell of the invincibility of the Japanese Army; those of us who were in Burma have cause to remember."
Rear Admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of avice admiral. HP Pavilion DM3A Battery
It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "flag officers" or "flag ranks". In many navies it is referred to as a two-star rank.
It originated from the days of naval sailing squadrons and can trace its origins to the Royal Navy. HP Pavilion DM3I Battery
Each naval squadron would be assigned an admiral as its head, who would command from the centre vessel and direct the activities of the squadron. The admiral would in turn be assisted by a vice admiral, who commanded the lead ships which would bear the brunt of a naval battle. In the rear of the naval squadron, HP Pavilion DM3T Battery
a third admiral would command the remaining ships and, as this section of the squadron was considered to be in the least danger, the admiral in command of the rear would typically be the most junior of the squadron admirals. This has survived into the modern age, with the rank of rear admiral the most-junior of the admiralty ranks of many navies. HP Pavilion DM3T-1000 Battery
In some European navies (e.g., that of France), and in the Canadian Forces' French rank translations, the rank of rear admiral is known as contre-amiral. In the Royal Netherlands Navy, this rank is known as schout-bij-nacht(lit.: supervisor during night), denoting the role junior to the squadron admiral, and fleet admiral. HP Pavilion DM3T-1000 CTO Battery
The Royal Australian Navy maintains a rank of rear admiral; refer to Australian Defence Force ranks and insignia. The abbreviation is RADM.
Since the mid 1990s, the insignia of a Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral is the crown of St Edward above a crossed sword and baton, HP Pavilion DM3Z Battery
above two silver stars, above the word "AUSTRALIA". Unlike other Commonwealth countries, the sword is a traditional naval cutlass. The stars have eight points, unlike the four pointed Order of the Bath stars used by the army (which are often referred to as "pips"). Prior to 1995, the RAN shoulder board was identical to the UK shoulder board. HP Pavilion DM3Z-1000 Battery
The UK shoulder board changed in 2001.
The first female to hold the rank of rear admiral within the Royal Australian Navy was Rear Admiral Robyn Walker, AM, RAN as the Surgeon‑General for the Australian Defence Force who was appointed on 16 December 2011. HP Pavilion DM3Z-1000 CTO Battery
In the Royal Canadian Navy, the rank of rear-admiral (RAdm) (contre-amiral or CAm in French) is the Navy rank equivalent to major-general of the Army and Air Force. A rear-admiral is a flag officer, the naval equivalent of ageneral officer. HP Pavilion DM3 Battery
A rear-admiral is senior to a commodore and brigadier-general, and junior to a vice-admiral andlieutenant-general.
The rank insignia for a rear-admiral is two gold maple leaves beneath crossed sword and baton, all surmounted by St Edward's Crown, HP Pavilion DM3-1000 Battery
worn on shoulder boards and slip-ons on uniforms other than the service dress tunic. The service dress features a wide strip of gold braid around the cuff and, since June 2010, above it a narrower strip of gold braid embellished with the executive curl. On the visor of the service cap are two rows of gold oak leaves. HP Pavilion DM3-1001AU Battery
Lieutenant General Cyril Albert Clowes CBE, DSO, MC (11 March 1892 – 19 May 1968) was an Australian soldier. He won the first land victory against the Japanese in the Second World War, at the Battle of Milne Bay, New Guinea. Like many other senior officers involved in the Papuan campaign, he was then transferred to a less important posting by General Sir Thomas Blamey. HP Pavilion DM3-1001AX Battery
Clowes was born at Warwick in Queensland, and entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1911. In August 1914 he graduated and was appointed lieutenant in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) with a commission in the Permanent Military Force. HP Pavilion DM3-1001TU Battery
Posted to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, serving as a forward observation officer and directing naval gunfire against Turkish positions. He was wounded on Gallipoli. After he recuperated Clowes was promoted to captain in the 2nd Divisional Artillery in Egypt during January 1916. HP Pavilion DM3-1002AX Battery
On the Western Front during 1916, Clowes served as the 2nd Division's Trench Mortar Officer and was awarded theMilitary Cross. He received a promotion to major in January 1917 and the following year was awarded theDistinguished Service Order for his work at Villers-Bretonneux. HP Pavilion DM3-1002TU Battery
He returned to Australia in April 1919, and left the AIF in late June.
In 1920 Clowes took up a post as instructor at Duntroon, and remained there until 1925. That year he married Eva Magennis, and moved to Brisbane. There Clowes undertook staff, training, and command duties until 1930. HP Pavilion DM3-1003AX Battery
He filled similar positions in Sydney and Darwin until, in 1936, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He went to England and completed a gunnery staff course, before returning to Australia as the Chief Instructor at Sydney's School of Artillery. In August 1939 he was given command of Australia's 6th Military District, receiving a promotion to colonel. HP Pavilion DM3-1003TU Battery
When World War II began, Clowes was made a temporary brigadier in the AIF, and in April 1940 was appointed commander of the Royal Australian Artillery, I Corps. Clowes performed very well under pressure in directing the fighting withdrawal at Pinios Gorge, Greece, in April 1941. HP Pavilion DM3-1003TX Battery
The Germans were attempting to drive a wedge between Greek units and the allied force sent to their aid. Clowes was successful in holding the gorge against a strong German tank attack, until the situation on other parts of the front stabilised.
Although Greece fell and the campaign was a failure, Clowes' tactics minimised casualties in the withdrawal of the allied force. HP Pavilion DM3-1004AX Battery
This battle saw the beginning of a problem that would dog Clowes' career – disputes between his superior General Sir Thomas Blamey, and Blamey's Chief of Staff, Colonel Sydney Rowell, a personal friend of Clowes. Clowes returned to Australia in January 1942, was promoted to temporary Major General, and given command of the 1st Division. HP Pavilion DM3-1004TU Battery
In May 1942 General Douglas MacArthur, Allied Commander in Chief of the South West Pacific Area (C in C SWPA), ordered the construction of an airfield at Milne Bay, at the eastern tip of New Guinea. His intention was to use this and other new airfields to attempt the reconquest of Rabaul, taken by the Japanese early in the war. HP Pavilion DM3-1004TX Battery
However the airfield would also be a prize for the Japanese to attack. Once taken it could be a base for bombing sorties over the cities of south eastern Australia. MacArthur requested Thomas Blamey send troops to secure the construction site.
Initially a militia brigade was dispatched. As building progressed this was progressively reinforced with regular troops. HP Pavilion DM3-1004XX Battery
Once buildup was complete, the garrison assumed the name Milne Force, and Clowes, now promoted to Major General, was given command. He reached Milne Bay and assumed command of the Australian troops there just four days before the Japanese began landing, beginning the Battle of Milne Bay. HP Pavilion DM3-1005AX Battery
The Japanese made their initial landing on 25 August 1942 under Commander Hayashi. By dawn of 26 August, the Japanese had reached KB Mission. A counter attack by the 61st Militia Battalion drove the Japanese from KB Mission, however after six hours of intense fighting, the militia withdrew to the Gama River. HP Pavilion DM3-1005TU Battery
Clowes ordered the Australian 2/10th Infantry Battalion to the Gama River, where they attacked. The Japanese troops and the supporting tanks inflicted severe casualties on the 2/10th, which was forced to retreat to north of No. 3 Strip (under construction), on 27 August. The 25th Battalion held the Japanese back and a two day lull followed. HP Pavilion DM3-1005TX Battery
On 29 August, 768 Japanese marine reinforcements were landed with Commander Minoru Yano, who took over from Hayashi. On 31 August at 3:00am, three banzai charges were repelled at No. 3 Strip with withering machine gun and mortar fire from Milne Force. HP Pavilion DM3-1006AU Battery
The Australians launched a counter offensive at 9:00am on 31 August, and pushed the Japanese along the north coast of Milne Bay. By 4 September Japanese resistance was suicidal in intensity.
On 5 September, the Japanese high command ordered a withdrawal. HP Pavilion DM3-1006AX Battery
On 6 September the offensive reached the main camp of the Japanese landing force. That night most Japanese survivors were evacuated. Some, trying to reach the Japanese beachhead at Buna through the mountains, were intercepted and routed.
Milne Bay is a very high rainfall area, and the all-pervading mud made transport a constant problem for Clowes. HP Pavilion DM3-1006TX Battery
He had no barges or four-wheel drive vehicles for moving troops around. Milne Force included the highly trained 18th Infantry Brigade of the Australian 7th Division, but also the inexperienced and poorly-equipped 7th Militia Brigade. Of the total force of 8,824, only about 4,500 were infantry. HP Pavilion DM3-1007AU Battery
Several times during the battle, urgent signals arrived from MacArthur and Blamey, warning of imminent Japanese reinforcements, and urging him to pursue and exterminate the enemy landing force immediately. However, Clowes' original orders confirmed that his priority was holding the completed airstrip at Gili Gili. HP Pavilion DM3-1007AX Battery
He maintained a defensive perimeter there which was never penetrated, even while taking the fight to the enemy at some distance from this base. MacArthur was responding to inaccurate intelligence. Clowes had no choice but to heed the new intelligence, and try to relocate his forces to deal with threats that in fact did not materialise. HP Pavilion DM3-1007TU Battery
At one point Rowell received orders from Blamey that the "landed force must be attacked with greatest vigor and destroyed as soon as possible". Rowell refused to relay this to Clowes, and instead wrote "Confident you have the situation well in hand and will administer stern punishment". HP Pavilion DM3-1008AX Battery
MacArthur and Thomas Blamey determined that rather than being commended and rewarded for the victory, Clowes should be relieved of his command and sidelined for the duration of the war, for showing insufficient "vigour". Blamey wrote to Sydney Rowell, now Clowes' superior officer in Port Moresby: HP Pavilion DM3-1008EG Battery
My Dear General, I would like to congratulate you on the complete success of operations at Milne Bay … but it appeared to us here as though by not acting with great speed Clowes was liable to have missed the opportunity of dealing completely with the enemy and thus laying himself open to destruction if after securing a footing, HP Pavilion DM3-1008TU Battery