It is a strain on the old nerves doing the hour 'watch' through the night. One in four we do—every time a branch shakes or a leaf falls everyone becomes tense, rifles & Owen-guns are grasped tightly as we crouch down in our holes—you cannot see, only listen—and wait. Then suddenly shots ring out—someone, somewhere in that blackness has started a little game of blind shooting practice.

Trooper Benjamin Love, diary. Read more of his story.

By mid-November 1942, Japanese defenders had placed their men in one central bastion at Sanananda and in three outer defences covering its approaches.

The Japanese controlled the sea. This meant they could resupply by ship more easily than the Allies, who dominated in the air. Further inland, in dense terrain, logistics were more difficult.

The Allies changed their strategy after initial attacks failed at Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

The Allies built airstrips near Sanananda and began artillery and air bombardment.

Both sides were losing many thousands of casualties to disease. At Sanananda, the Allies considered leaving the remaining Japanese to die by starvation and disease. Instead, the Japanese, aware of the inevitable fall of Sanananda, broke out and escaped north along the coast. By 21 January 1943, with the Allies' capture of Sanananda, organised Japanese resistance in Papua had stopped.

Papua New Guinea
November 1942 to January 1943
Image caption
Medical Officer Captain C. Copeland dresses the wound of an Australian who had been shot in the arm three minutes earlier.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 014246. Photo by Clifford Bottomley.