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Australians at Gona

9 DEC 1942: World War II and Australians occupy Gona, New Guinea. The Japanese withdrawal from the Kokoda Trail enabled the allies to plan the encirclement of important Japanese positions in the Buna, Sanananda and Gona beachhead. Gona was the first of the three to fall to the allies after weeks of heavy fighting.

On 19 November 1942, a patrol from the 2/33rd Battalion made the first contact at Gona. The 2/31st Battalion, which led the 25th Brigade, helped in the attack but lost 32 men in the battle. On 22 November, the 2/31st launched a brigade attack but only gained 50 metres while another 14 men were killed, 45 were wounded and 8 went missing.

Further attacks again resulted in more casualties but gained little ground. Even an air bombing that lasted six hours achieved very little because the Japanese were so well protected.

Over the next few weeks, the 3rd Battalion, the 2/1st Brigade and the 39th Battalion came to reinforce the 25th Brigade. The Australian troops managed to gradually close in on the Japanese. On 9 December 1942, Lt-Col Ralph Honner sent the two-word message that later became famous: “Gona’s gone”. However, there were only 92 men left in the 2/27th Battalion, and their position wasn’t yet secure.

There was still a significant enemy force left in the Amboga River area. That force consisted of survivors of earlier fights in the mountains and reinforcements for the main battle who had landed further north.

On 10 December, the 39th Battalion moved west to deal with the Japanese threat. Over the next 8 days, the battalion took out one post after the other and linked up with the 2/14th Battalion on the coast. The Australian forces finally overran the last Japanese defences in this area in a dawn attack on 18 December.

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