THE BUNA-SANANANDA operation may seem a small show when judged by the standard of operations in other theaters. The Allied forces which took part were the Australian 7th Division, reinforced by two brigades, the U. S- 32d, and a regiment of the 41st. They fought on the defense to remove the threat of enemy land attack on Port Moresby. They killed over 5,000 Japanese soldiers and marines, the total enemy force in the area of operations. But this is not the whole story. The men who fought in the stinking swamps of Papua have special grounds for pride in their victory.
They met the enemy in positions which he had chosen deliberately and fortified cunningly, and they crushed him. Their victory, like the victory on Guadalcanal, proved that the Japanese could be beaten in jungle fighting and that the vaunted Japanese morale could crack. Though the Buna-Sanananda operation was defensive in the larger sense, it was nevertheless a tactical offensive and a fitting prelude to the Allied offensive of 1943 in the Southwest Pacific.
Our troops fought the enemy, and they fought the jungle. They learned the bitter lessons of jungle warfare. Each day the heat, the humidity, and the diseases of the jungle sapped the strength of those who did not fall, killed or wounded. As one example, the units of the 126th Infantry which went into the action on the Sanananda front had 1,199 men and officers; when these same units were relieved on 9 January 1943, only 165 men and officers came out of the lines. They had fought their way foot by foot through tangled swamp and kunai grass around the Japanese position; for 3 long weeks they had held their road block despite incessant attacks from the strong enemy forces which they kept apart. Of these and of all the men in the Buna-Sanananda operation, it can be said, "They accomplished their mission."
page created 10 July 2001
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