The men at the front … were perhaps among the most wretched-looking soldiers ever to wear the American uniform. They were gaunt and thin, with deep black circles under their sunken eyes. They were covered in tropical sores…. There was hardly a soldier, among the thousands who went into the jungle, who didn’t come down with some kind of fever at least once.

A Buna veteran describing his US counterparts, quoted by Jon Diamond in his article, 'The Buna Front: A Ghastly Nightmare'. Read his account.

The Allied advance on the Papuan coastal village of Buna began on 19 November 1942 with an attack by US forces. They encountered an enemy with well-defended and camouflaged positions, armed with machine guns and mortars. The Allies had underestimated the strength of the Japanese force, and the attack faltered. The US forces suffered heavy casualties.

The Australian 16th and 25th Brigades had been delayed, and were unable to reach the front before US forces began their attack.

Meanwhile, tropical diseases such as malaria ripped through the ranks and many were evacuated sick. Illness was so rife that Allied commanders pondered which was a worse enemy—the Japanese or the mosquitoes.

Find out how US forces captured Buna.

Papua New Guinea
19 November 1942
Image caption
American troops of the 128th Infantry Regiment, 32nd United States Division, on the first stage of the Battle of the Beaches, which began on 19 November 1942.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 127507. Photographer unknown.