We were told to follow the Jap withdrawal over the mountains and mop up their remnants and their stragglers. ... Our orders were to take no prisoners.

Corporal Noel Anthony Carey, 2/3rd Independent Company (later 2/3rd Australian Commando Squadron). Listen to his story.

For several days, Australia's Kanga Force had been under mortar and machine-gun attack as Japanese forces tried to capture the Australian base at Wau.

Japanese aircraft, meanwhile, had been bombing the Wau airstrip to stop Allied reinforcements.

By 4 February, the Japanese were forced to abandon their plan to capture Wau, and began retreating to Mubo.

On 6 February, an air battle saw Australian and US fighters down 24 Japanese aircraft.

Fighting at Wau continued on and off as Allied forces advanced across the "Bloody Ridges" against the retreating Japanese. Over the next few months, the battle raged in what the official war historian, David Dexter, described as "one of the most difficult and unpleasant areas ever to confront troops".

Mubo fell to Allied forces in July, 1943. It took another three months for the Allied advance to reach Salamaua.

Their defeat at Wau marked the end of the Japanese forces' attempt to advance to Port Moresby. It heralded their last significant offensive on New Guinea.

Australian forces were now established in Bulolo Valley, posing a threat to major Japanese bases at Salamaua and Lae.

Papua New Guinea
6 February 1943
Image caption
A Wirraway from No4 Squadron in flames. Shot down by Japanese forces during the air battle on February 6. The crew, Flight Sergeant A. Rodburn and Sergeant AE Cole had scrambled from the plane a few seconds earlier.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM128154. Photographer unknown.

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