...if you're inferring that what we did was luck, I don't agree with you sir, because I think we weren't lucky, we were just bloody good.
Captain Gordon King, Commander 2nd/6th Independent Company, to Major General George Vasey. Read more about his experience.
The Allies had landed at Nadzab and at Lae. They now planned to advance into the upper Markham Valley to protect Nadzab from a Japanese ground assault.
They moved towards Kaiapit, unaware that a much larger Japanese force was also heading to the village.
On 17 September 1943, the Australian 2/6th Independent Company flew into the valley from Port Moresby in 13 USAAF C-47 Dakotas. They made a difficult landing on a makeshift airstrip about 16 kms from Kaiapit.
They had been trying to fly for three days, but bad weather made it impossible.
On 19 September, Commander of the 2/6th, Captain George King led about 190 men, plus a section of the Papuan Infantry Batalion, towards Kaiapit.
The men carried about 60 kg each, plus ammunition. The terrain was flat, but two-metre high kunai grass trapped the heat and humidity.
They walked for 50 minutes, then rested 10. The walk took about 10 hours. They arrived at Kaiapit that afternoon.
When they neared the village, they came under fire from Japanese troops hiding in foxholes.
They outflanked the Japanese, attacking with hand grenades and bayonets.
The fighting only lasted about 10 minutes before the Japanese withdrew, leaving 30 dead behind. Two Australians died with seven, including King, wounded.
The next morning, a much larger Japanese force of about 500 men launched a counterattack.
Aggressive action by the Australians surprised the Japanese.
This second battle lasted a few hours, with a decisive Australian victory
The Australians counted 214 Japanese dead and estimated that another 50 or more lay dead in the tall grass. Fourteen Australians died, with 23 wounded.
The victory meant the Australian 7th Division could fly into the upper Markham Valley. It also stopped the Japanese from threatening Lae or Nadzab, where Allies were developing a major airbase.