The psychological factors resulting from the terrain were also tremendous. After a man had lain for days in a wet slit trench or in the swamp, his physical stamina was reduced materially. This reduction served to make him extremely nervous and to attribute to the unfamiliar noises of the jungle specters of Japanese activity. These reactions preyed on his mind until he was reduced to a pitiably abject state, incapable of aggressive action.

General Robert Eichelberger. Read more about his account in the article The Bloody Beachheads – The Battles of Gona, Buna and Sanananda, November 1942 – January 1943 by James Brien.

With the Australian 16th and 25th Brigades delayed, US troops attacked Buna on 19 November 1942. The attack faltered, and they suffered heavy casualties. Many US troops who weren't killed or wounded in battle became casualties of tropical disease. They also suffered mentally.

On 5 December 1942, five Australian Bren carriers, a type of tank, led another US attack at Buna. They were knocked out within 20 minutes and the attack stalled again.

To break the deadlock on the Buna front, the 18th Australian Brigade was brought in from Milne Bay, with the 2nd/9th Battalion arriving at Oro Bay aboard the HMAS Broome on 14 December. The attacking infantry was supported by 20 artillery pieces, with aerial spotting of 4 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force. Light tanks of the 2nd/6th Armoured Regiment arrived.

Over six days, the 18th Brigade cut through defences that had held the Allies back for six weeks. By the end of December, the eastern half of the Buna defences was in Allied hands.

Continue exploring The Beachheads and learn more about what happened in Gona.

Papua New Guinea
November to December 1942
Image caption
Wounded being brought in on stretchers and in makeshift canvas carriers at an advanced American dressing station, Buna, 5 December 1942.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM013992. Photo by George Silk.