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    Wairopi Oro Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Location
Wairopi is located at the Kumusi River. The name "Wairopi" is Tok Pidgin for "wire rope bridge", referring to a wire bridge that spanned the river at this location during 1942. Located along the road connecting Popondetta to Kokoda.

Wartime History
After the Japanese landing on the north coast on July 21-22, 1942 and advance inland past Awala, Japanese forces advanced to 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 over the Owen Stanley Mountians, Allied aircraft attempted to bomb Wairopi bridge to deprive it as a supply and escape route.

American missions against Wairopi
September 18 - 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" established themselves on the east bank of the Kumusi River. This force came under the command of Australian Army General Blamey. On November 9, this force had a a light encounter with the Japanese at Asisi a few miles southeast of Wairopi.

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

During the morning of November 16, 1942 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 bridge at this location to facilitate movement across the Kumusi River.

Today
The present day bridge, built in 1967 is located at the same location as the wartime wire rope bridge. On November 13, 2007 Cyclone Guba made landfall in Oro Province, causing flash flooding on the Kumusi River. During the storm, the bridge was damaged and swept away. An Australian Aid project will build a new bridge at this location in 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 pages 404-406

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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