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Japanese Abandon Lae

16 SEP 1943: World War II and the Japanese abandon Lae after heavy fighting. Lae was the focus of a major land, sea, and air operation by Australian and American forces. Fighting lasted until 16 September when the encircled Japanese garrison were either killed, captured, or escaped. The Wau–Salamaua campaign involved Militia, AIF and American troops, supported by hundreds of indigenous carriers, fighting a “battle for the ridges” at places such as Bobdubi Ridge and Mount Tambu.

The September 1943 campaign opened with two converging advances on Lae. While the 9th Australian Division landed on the coast east of Lae the 7th Australian Division (supported by American paratroops) advanced overland from the west. Then, with Lae taken, the 9th began to clear the Huon Peninsula while the 7th advanced up the Markham–Ramu Valley. Each involved hard fighting in difficult country. The 9th became involved in the long slogging fight for Sattelberg, the 7th in a similarly gruelling fight for Shaggy Ridge. Later, Militia brigades joined the advance, pursuing the beaten Japanese fleeing westward. The New Guinea offensives saw Australians fighting some of the hardest battles of the war.

They faced a determined and often desperate enemy. They fought in rugged terrain in an appalling climate, in which more men went down to mites and mosquitoes than to bullets. They fought in places which are now almost entirely forgotten by later generations – places such as Nadzab, Kaiapit, Kankiryo Saddle, Finschhafen and the Finisterres. They involved episodes of gallantry, courage, suffering and endurance, including the 2/28th Battalion’s celebrated crossing of the mouth of the Busu River, the 2/48th Battalion’s seizure of Sattelberg, the 2/6th Commando Squadron’s brilliant capture of Kaiapit, the unremitting attacks up Shaggy Ridge by the 2/16th, 2/14th, 2/27th (and others), and the hard slog of the 4th Brigade’s advance to Fortification Point.

These, and many other actions, of the Australian forces which fought 60 years ago in New Guinea deserve to be remembered among the significant contributions that Australia made to Allied victory in the war against Japan. Photo: Lae area, New Guinea 1943. Diggers disembark from US landing ships east of Lae in preparation for the assault. More;

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