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.


Explore our articles relating to Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

The Japanese experience at Buna-Gona

Exhausted and starving, the men of the 144th Infantry Regiment, reached south Giruwa, Papua, early on 17 November 1942.

Fighting for Country

Timothy Hughes was awarded the Military Medal for  conspicuous gallantry and bravery during the bitter fighting at Buna.

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