Pen & Sword's MacArthur's Papua New Guinea Offensive 1942-43

Author/Artists: Jon Diamond


Pen & Sword


$22.95 from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 236 pages, softcover, 7.5 x 9.5 inches
ISBN: 978-1-52-6757400

The intial battles in the islands of the southwest Pacific could easily be called hell on earth for both sides. We are all fairly well versed in the campaign over Guadalcanal in the Solomons, but that was not the only place that the Allies were battling the Japanese on the ground.

The Papua portion of the island of New Guinea was and pretty much still is fairly sparsely populated. It was an area that was under the administration of Australia when the war began and the Japanese Army felt it was a chunk of real estate that they should have. Little did they realize exactly what they were getting themselves into.

Unopposed landings on the western side of the north coast of the island gave the Japanese a foot hold and they methodically worked their way to the east. Warfare in this part of the world was by far the most difficult that both sides had faced. There were no real roads, only trails. The various settlements (as one couldn't call them towns) were only really reachable by sea or long struggles through the jungle. These jungles were horrible places that were always wet and muddy and filled with a textbook full of diseases and parasites. Not surprising that vastly more soldiers became incapacitated by these factors than by enemy action.

On the south part of the island was the largest town of Port Moresby, which had a population at the time of 3-4,000 people. This is where both the Australians and Americans built up airstrips and supplies for the battles to come. Connecting the north and south part of the island was a trail over the rugged Owen-Stanley mountains called the Kokoda Trail. This is where the majority of fighting took place. First it was the Japanese moving south towards Port Moresby. They got within 27 miles before their supply lines got so long they were unable to continue. It was up this trail that the Allied armies slogged, pushing back the Japanese.

Along the way, the Japanese built superb defensive positions that included numerous pillboxes that often stalled advances. This was particularly true once the Allies managed to get to the villages on the coast where the Japanese had dug in.

The author has divided the book into several sections, each with an introductory history. Those sections are;  An overview of the situation and why New Guinea was important; Terrain, weapons and fortifications; Commandors and combattants; Allied attack on Buna November 1942 to January 1943;  Allied attacks on Gona, Sanananda & Giruwa. This is followed by an Epilogue to tie things together. It is a fascinating look at real jungle warfare and the images only accentuate how miserable troops must have been during the fighting.

This is another excellent addition to a fine series and one that I can easily recommend to both the historian and modeler alike.

June 2020

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