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Australian Army Campaign Dagua
via Australian Army Campaigns in New Guinea

On 21 March the 2/2nd Battalion on the coastal strip pushed through and captured the Dagua airstrip which was littered with wrecked planes. Thisrapid advance bypassed a number of Japanese positions in the coastal ranges between But and Dagua. As this ground was vital to the Japanese defence opposition was expected. Reports came in from natives to confirm that there were large broken parties of Japanese troops in the area and an important headquarters at the Wonginara Mission, the last named protected by about 200 troops. Captured documents had stressed the importance of this area and the bulk of the 2/3rd Battalion was dispatched into the hills to deal with the opposition.

The defence of the mission was well planned. The Japanese were dug in on five knolls commanding the Dagua-Wonginara Mission track and had artillery which continually harassed Australian troops. The track led through Tokoku pass, and all tracks leading into it were defended with fixed positions and ambushes. After heavy artillery fire and raids by Beauforts, four of the five positions were captured by 2/2nd Battalion. In the battle for one of these positions, a Victoria Cross was won posthumously awarded to Lieutenant Albert Chowne MM, read Victoria Cross citation.

In the Maprik area the Japanese continued strongly to resist the Division's advance and progress was slow. The patrols had cleared the Japanese from the villages of Ilaheta, Suanambc and Lahinga 2 and held off heavy counterattacks. On 26 March, moving in after a heavy mortaring of the village, the Australians drove the Japanese the strong point Aupik 2. The Japanese continued to fall back on Maprik taking care not to be outflanked. The Japanese appeared to be concentrating west of Maprik, but a rapid advance by Australian troops through Abungai forced them to withdraw and take up positions only 2,000 yards from the Maprik Government Mission.

In the Dagua area Australian troops had consolidated and were mopping up stragglers of the force which had defended the Tokoku pass and Wonginara Mission, before continuing the drive down the coast to the main Japanese stronghold of Wewak. The 2/lst Battalion, which had taken over as the forward battalion, now began to push down the coast. After some opposition Cape Karawop and the village itself were captured on 13 April; a couple of days later Wisling and Old Kumudu. Wisling had at one stage been the headquarters of General Adachi, commander of the 18th Japanese Army. Patrols from the 2/1st Battalion pushed forward as far as Boiken, the site of an old German mission. Wewak's days were numbered. In the hinterland mountains security patrols continued to account for stragglers in the rear areas and they recovered ten escaped Indian prisoners.

Meanwhile in the Maprik area Australian patrols were closing in on the mission from three sides. Wora had been reoccupied by the Japanese, but was again cleared, and the Japanese were driven from Gwanginan, Kulkuil and Chiginambu. Finally, on 22 April, patrols moved into Maprik, encountering little opposition. The RAAF had softened up the villages and the area was pitted with bomb craters; the emergency landing ground was overgrown with heavy kunai grass. The Japanese were still gradually withdrawing towards the Sepik River, where large concentrations of troops and numerous camps had been reported. Aircraft from the Combat Replacement Training Centre at Nadzab were devoting much attention to this area.

By 19 April Japanese casualties had risen to more than 3000 killed and fifty-nine prisoners. Intelligence estimated his strength then as 9650 combat and 6000 base troops, of which 11,000 were "effectives".

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