The 3rd Australian Division slowly fought its was towards Salamaua in a
series of exacting and grim battles from April to August 1943 in a
campaign largely overshadowed by the Papuan campaign the preceded it and
by the capture of Lae that followed. The Salamaua campaign was designed
to screen the preparations for the Lae offensive and to act as a magnet
to draw reinforcements from Lae to Salamaua. The capture of Lae, the
centre of the Japanese defensive line in New Guinea, was the allied
target after the defeat of the Japanese in Papua. General Sir Thomas
Blamey, the Australian Commander-in-Chief, directed that Salamaua be
starved out after Lae was captured.

The Japanese landed at Lae and Salamaua on 8 March 1942. The New Guinea
Volunteer Rifles and survivors of the 2/22nd Battalion from Rabaul
destroyed all military supplies and withdraw into the hinterland where
they observed the Japanese build-up. In May, Kanga Force, which included
the 2/5th Independent Company, was airlifted into Wau to operate as a
guerrilla force against the Japanese in the Markham Valley. On 29 June
Kanga force raided Salamaua inflicting heavy casualties and capturing
the first Japanese equipment and documents taken by the Australian Army.
On 31 August a strong Japanese group arrived at Mubo but with the
Japanese on the offensive along the Kokoda Trail and at Milne Bay
reinforcements were not available for Kanga Force until October when
2/7th Independent Company joined.

Recapture of Salamaua

On 26 August, Savige and his 3rd Division headquarters were relived by
General Milford and his 5th Division headquarters. The 5th Division
conducted the final operations around Salamaua which was occupied by the
42nd Battalion on 11 September, a week after the Lae offensive opened
and five days before the 7th and 9th Australian Divisions entered Lae.

The 3rd Division's long winter campaign of 1943 achieved impressive
strategic gains. A great part of the strength of the XVIII Japanese Army
had been diverted from the areas which were to be the objectives of the
offensive which could not be mounted until the spring, when veteran
divisions would be rested and retrained, landing craft available, and
air superiority increased. At the same time immensely valuable
experience had been gained in jungle tactics and in methods of supply.
For the first time Australian infantry and independent companies had
worked closely together in a lengthy campaign and each had learnt from
the other. Artillery had been used on a scale hitherto unattained in
mountain warfare in New Guinea. Doctrines were developed which gave the
Australians decisive tactical and administrative superiority over the
Japanese in bush warfare. In the six months to August 1943 the strength
of the XVIII Japanese Army had been depleted and dispersed while, behind
the front on which the 3rd Australian Division fought, the Allied
strength in the South West Pacific had greatly increased .