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Shaggy Ridge
Australian Army History

After sixty-five days, the Japanese had been thoroughly defeated in the Finschhafen area and what was left of their forces retreated northward. While the 9th Division was pursuing the Japanese along the coast, the 7th Division was, on the other side of the Finisterre Range, preparing for an assault on Shaggy Ridge which would open the way to the sea and join up with the coastal drive at Bogadjim. Rising sharply against the skyline, Shaggy Ridge was a knife-edged mountain range broken by three conical outcrops. Of these, the most important tactically was known as The Pimple and it was a rocky pinnacle sprouting perpendicularly from the main mountain spur. Strong posts and foxholes made it a formidable fortress within which two other conical outcrops, a few hundred yards away, became known as Intermediate Snipers' Pimple and Green Snipers' Pimple.

On the morning of 27 December 1943 before the infantry attack, about 3500 25 pounder shells were fired at Shaggy Ridge. A squadron of Australian Boomerangs and American manned Kittyhawks bombed and strafed every Japanese strongpost. Men of the 2/16th Battalion (21st Brigade) began the ascent and crawled over loose shale along a track so narrow that it afforded barely enough room for two men to move abreast. The Japanese was fought hand to hand and from dug-out to dugout. The Australian attack was halted near the summit of The Pimple where a strong Japanese pillbox barred their approach. The next day the pillbox was blasted by high explosives supplied by the engineers and by the morning of 28 December the Japanese had been thrust from The Pimple but still held the northern half of Shaggy Ridge. In early January 1944, the 15th and 18th Brigades relieved the 21st and 25th Brigades. Following air and artillery support the 18th Brigade attacked on the morning of 20 January. The 2/12th Battalion moved up the steep ridge to assault Prothero I and, after close-range grenade duels, the 2/9th Battalion captured Green Snipers' Pimple. Fighting continued all night on the thickly wooded slopes and several counter-attacks failed to budge the 2/9th Battalion. The Japanese made a desperate attempt to escape from Shaggy Ridge but the escape bid failed in face of the steady fire of the dug-in Australians.

The capture of Shaggy Ridge completely eliminated Japanese domination of the Ramu Valley. The link up of Australian troops with American troops at Saidor on 10 February 1944 marked the end of the five month Huon Peninsula campaign. With the Huon Peninsula firmly in Australian hands the Americans began to assume an increasing role in the fighting in New Guinea. The 7th and 9th Division were withdrawn to Australia where after a well deserved rest they began preparations for the final campaigns in 1945.

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