The Beachheads: Buna, Gona & Sanananda
Japanese forces withdrawing from Kokoda fell back to their fortified bases in the swamps and coconut plantations around Buna, Gona and Sanananda on Papua’s north coast. The Japanese had built a series of strong defences around their bases, using well-camouflaged bunkers and sniper positions.
The first Australian and American attacks, in late November 1942, failed. After savage fighting at close quarters, Gona fell in mid-December, Buna in early January 1943, and Sanananda before the end of the month.
These final battles in Papua came at a high price; they were among Australia’s toughest fights of the war. Although starving and facing certain defeat, the Japanese refused to surrender. All but a few were killed.
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