18 NOV 1942: World War II and Popondetta, captured by the Australians, on the steamy kunai plains north of the Owen Stanley Range, became a major Allied base for the attack on the Japanese-held beachheads in Papua. Popondetta is the capital of Oro (Northern) Province near to Buna on the Northern Papua coast and is not far from the beginning of the Kokoda Trail.
The last in a series of ‘Battles for the Beachheads’ of 1942 involving Australians was for the Japanese beachheads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda in northern Papua.
The Allies expected the battle would be easily won but underestimated Japanese strength and resolve and grossly overestimated Allied capabilities.
The battle opened on 19-20 November with attacks against Buna by the Americans, against Gona by the Australians, and against Sanananda by Australians and Americans. Tropical diseases, rain, mud and supply difficulties impaired both sides and the battle dragged on.
By the time the last Japanese positions fell on 22 January 1943, about 1300 Australians and 1000 Americans lay dead, with thousands more evacuated wounded or sick. More than 6000 Japanese had fought to the death. It was the single most costly battle for Australians in ‘the islands’.
In 1951 the town became the focus of relief efforts after nearby Mount Lamington erupted and killed 4,000 people. Photo; A member of the 2/4th Field Ambulance (right) uses a hand-held camera to take a photograph of two of his colleagues standing beside the tail section of a US Army Air Force Douglas C47, serial no. VHC FK, which is standing on the Popondetta airstrip. The aircraft is about to transport some unit members back to Port Moresby after the unit’s successful campaign along the Kokoda Trail. Some native Papuan labourers are helping to load equipment aboard the aircraft. More; http://ow.ly/K31D306hWh8