So out we go and they say charge – into the jungle we go ... and all of a sudden the shit hits the fan. Machine-guns; and I’m going along and I can hear this and I’m hanging on to the rifle and I’m shit scared – then in the next minute I’m up in the air – lost the rifle, lost my tin hat – hit in the shoulder ... that was the sum total of my wartime experience.

Private Kevin Barry, 55th/53rd Battalion. Read more of his account.

Location

Sanananda is a coastal village on the north coast of Papua. It sits between Buna and Gona.

After the fighting along the Kokoda Track ceased, Japanese forces occupied defensive positions along the north Papuan beachheads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. These were the sites of fierce fighting by Australian and US forces, who suffered heavy losses between November 1942 and January 1943, when they finally drove the Japanese out of Papua.

Battle terrain

It was difficult for tank crews to identify passable ground. There were hidden obstacles in the dense jungle. Tanks were unsuitable for Sanananda's terrain. They became bogged or ended up in shell holes. Thick jungle and swamp lay on either side of the main track which, as the only available route, exposed Allied tanks to Japanese fire.

The Allies found it difficult to provide accurate fire support for infantry attacks. Artillery observation was only possible from tall trees or forward observation officers. Even then, the density of the jungle made it difficult.

The outcome

The lessons learned at Sanananda, Buna and Gona went on to inform the Australian Army's training in jungle warfare. They became the most renowned jungle fighting force in the world.

Follow the trail to find out what lay waiting for the Allies at Sanananda.

Region
Papua New Guinea
Dates
November 1942 to January 1943
Image caption
An Australian with an Owen gun in the dense jungle in the Sanananda area.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 014185. Photo by Clifford Bottomley.