Three hundred and two airplanes in all, taking off from eight different fields in the Moresby and Dobodura areas, made a rendezvous right on the nose over Marilinan, flying through clouds, passes in the mountains, and over the top. Not a single squadron did any circling or stalling around but all slid into place like clockwork and proceeded on the final flight down the Watut Valley, turned to the right down the Markham, and went directly to the target.

General George Kenney, Commander of the Allied Airforces, describing the US paratroopers' approach to Nadzab. Read more about his experience.

Strategic situation

Nadzab is in the Markham Valley, northwest from Lae. Its level terrain and abandoned airfield made it the perfect location for the Allies to supply troops for the advance on Lae.

The plan was to transport troops from Port Moresby via Nadzab. But first, the airfield had to be prepared.

Landing at Nazdab

On 5 September 1943, the American 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, plus some members of the Australian Army's 2/4th Field Regiment, with two short 25-pounder guns, landed successfully into Nadzab. It was a daring move that caught the Japanese by surprise. It was also the first successful parachute drop in the Pacific War and a first for the Australian Army.

The Australian 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, 2/6th Field Company, and B Company, Papuan Infantry Battalion, reached Nadzab that same day. They had trekked overland from Tsili Tsili.

The troops began to prepare the airfield.

Over the next few days, the 25th Infantry Brigade of the Australian 7th Division gradually arrived by air.

On September 9, the 25th Infantry Brigade began the 40-km advance on Lae through the Markham Valley.

Bad weather had delayed the 2/31st Battalion's arrival from Port Moresby. They arrived at Nadzab on 13 September and marched overnight to catch up with the others.

Jackson's Field air crash

On 7 September, an air crash at Jackson's Field in Port Moresby resulted in almost half the Allied casualties of the battle.

A Liberator bomber struck a tree during take off. It crashed into five trucks carrying troops from 2/33rd Battalion waiting for their flight to Nadzab.

None of the Liberator's crew of 11 survived. Every man in the vehicles was either killed or injured, many suffering horrific burns. Sixty Australians died and 92 were injured. Some later died from their wounds.

Brigadier Ivan Dougherty, commanding the 25th Brigade, asked the surviving officers of the battalion whether they wanted to proceed. The airlift went ahead as planned.

The outcome

Nadzab would become one of the busiest and largest airfields in New Guinea.

Troops and supplies landed there to advance through the Markham and Ramu Valleys.

Learn more about the Allied airborne landing at Nadzab.

Papua New Guinea
September 1943
Image caption
New Guineans working at the Nadzab Airstrip, unloading transport planes of equipment for the Allied drive on Lae.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 015791. Unknown Australian Official Photographer.

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