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    Buna Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Click For Enlargement
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US Army January 1943

Click For Enlargement
US Army c1944

Location
Lat 8° 40' 0S Long 148° 24' 0E  Buna is located on the north coast of New Guinea. Prewar, Buna was the site of the government headquarters known as "Buna Station".

  Built by Australians, used by Japanese, battlefield.
  Built by Japanese, never completed
  Prewar government settlement at Buna
  located a mile to the west of Buna government station
  Battlefield area between Buna village and govt station
  Creek and bridge near Buna Airfields
  Plantation bordering Buna Airfield and the beach
  Cape located to the east of Strip Point
  between Giropa Point and Cape Endaiadere

Wartime History
During middle July 1942, Japanese seaplanes attacked Buna. Account by Allan Champion, Resident Magistrate. During the night of July 21-22, 1942 Japanese forces occupied Buna and advanced inland to Popondetta and into the Owen Stanley Mountains towards the Kokoda Trail. On August 18, 1942 Japanese Army General Horii arrived at Buna. After the Japanese advance was hauled and Australian Army forces began advancing towards the coast.

The Japanese built extensive fortifications in the Buna area including coconut log bunkers, trenches and sniper positions. Roughly 9,000 Japanese defended the area spanning from Buna to Gona. Buna was defended by approximately 2,000 troops including fresh reinforcements from the 144th Infantry Regiment and the 229th Infantry, 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 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 Cape Endaiadere at 7am, the Australians 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 about 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 7am, the 2/9th Battalion reinforced by a company of the 2/10th Battalion on the right with an American 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 on the general line along the Simemi Creek.

On December 24, 1942 1st Sgt Elmer J. Burr, U.S. Army, 32nd Infantry Division, 127th Infantry Regiment, Company I deliberately threw himself atop an enemy grenade that landed near his company commander, smothering the blast which killed him but saved others. Later, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. That same day, a platoon from Company L attempted to reach the beach to split the enemy's defensive positions in two. 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 Congressional 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 US 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.

General Stuart M3 Tank 2300
Engine compartment destroyed by magnetic mine, recovered for the PNG Museum 1973.

General Stuart M3 Tank 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

References
Buna-Gona-Sananada Time Line

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Last Updated
August 27, 2014

 

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