75th Anniversary of the Beacheads Campaign

The weary Australian units, who had pushed the Japanese across the Owen Stanley Range, were called upon to attack and capture Sanananda and Gona, even though many units were down to one-third normal strength. Two regiments of the American 32nd Division were given the task of capturing Buna.

The untried American 128th Regiment launched their attack on Buna and nearby Cape Endaiadere on 19 November 1942 but failed against experienced Japanese troops. A day later the Australian 25 Brigade attacked Gona, while the 16 Brigade advanced up the central Sanananda Track. These attacks also faltered.

Japanese aircraft had inflicted a serious blow three days earlier, on 16 November 1942, when they destroyed an American convoy carrying heavy weapons and supplies. The sinking of these vessels increased the importance of air transport and engineers established two airfields behind the Allied front before 21 November 1942.

An ‘air bridge’ flew men and bulk equipment from Port Moresby while a fighter ‘umbrella’ protected the transports from Japanese fighters. Allied air superiority over the beachheads was soon established when Japanese Mitsubishi Zero and Nakajima Oscar fighters, based at Lae and Salamaua, encountered superior American Lockheed Lightnings.

Lacking air-cover, resupply became a serious problem for Japanese troops. Food and medical supplies began to run low and a malaria epidemic took hold. The spirit of the Japanese, however, remained defiant and further Allied offensives stalled as the Australians and Americans also succumbed to exhaustion and malaria.

The heroes of the early phase of the Kokoda Campaign, the understrength but rested 21st Brigade and the 39th Battalion, were now flown into the beachheads sector with a reformed 30th Brigade, comprising 36th, 49th and 55th/53rd Militia Battalions. These men relieved the exhausted 16th and 25th Brigades but took terrible losses in the fighting that followed. The men cleared the area nonetheless. On 9 December 1942, the 39th Battalion commander Ralph Honner sent 21 Brigade HQ the famous signal: ‘Gona’s gone.’

The Australian 18th Brigade, meanwhile, was brought up from Milne Bay to assist the Americans attacking Buna. Australian soldiers and tanks crossed the Simemi Creek and delivered the coup de grace to the Japanese at Giropa Point on 1 January 1943. The Allies now turned their attention to the last bastion, Sanananda. It fell on 22 January 1943.
The Battle of the Beachheads had been the bloodiest of all the Papuan campaigns.

The Australians had lost 1,261 killed and 2,210 wounded, the Americans 734 Killed and 2,037 wounded. Total Japanese casualties in Papua for the period between July 1942 and January 1943 were 19,250.

Join us on the ocasasion of the 75th Aninversary of these important battles as we explore the Northern Beachheads and walk the hallowed ground where so many lost their lives in the defence of Australia.

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Itinerary

Day 01: Arrive Port Moresby and transfer to hotel. Pre-expedition briefing by your guide.

Day 02: (6-7 Hours) Tour of Bomana War Cemetery, drive to Owers’ Corner. We will be introduced to our expert guide and porter team, who we will spend the next 8 days with us. They will set up camp, carry our food, tents and safety equipment and ensure we have a safe and enjoyable trek.

We will then start trekking, crossing the Goldie River and head towards Imita Ridge the site of the original ‘Golden Stairs’. After we climb up and over Imita we will drop down to our campsite at Ua-Ule Creek. (B,L,D).

Day 03: (7-8 Hours) Multiple crossings of Ua-Ule Creek before we start to climb up Ioribaiwa Ridge -furthest most point of Japanese advance. Then it is down the other side to Ofi Creek before climbing the many false peaks of the Maguli Range. After a quick lunch along the way, we will drop down to our campsite at the village of New Nauro. (B,L,D).

Day 04: (9 hours) Leaving New Nauro we will drop down into the swamp and cross the Brown River before taking on fresh water and climbing up the ‘Wall’ on the other side we will drop down to the major village of Menari. Here we take on fresh fruit and vegetables which will be used in the delicious meals cooked by our team.  Sleep Menari (B,L,D).

Day 05: (6-7 hours) Leaving Menari we will climb up Brigade Hill. On the saddle we will conduct a short service to recognise the sacrifices of all those who died fighting on this battlefield. After the service we will drop down to Efogi, believe it or not we have crossed the half way mark. Then it is up to the satellite village of Efogi 2 then up to the village of Naduri where we will make camp. (B,L,D).

Day 06: Today is the Sabbath for the Seventh Day Adventists. Thus, we will join them (if you wish) in a church service to hear their beautiful singing and witness how they pray. Afterwards we will take a leisurely stroll to a local natural wonder, relaxing and letting our muscles rest before the next day’s trek. Overnight in the village of Naduri (B,L,D).

Day 07: (8 Hours) Today you will hike from Naduri to Dump 1 After climbing through the Moss Forest we will take a look out at Lake Myola the site of the wartime supply drops.  Then it is up and over Mt Bellamy the highest point on the Track before we drop down to our campsite at Dump 1. We are almost on the home straight. (B,L,D).

Day 08: (6 Hours) Hike from Dump 1 to Eora Creek. With the sounds of the creek below we will follow the range along stopping at Templeton’s Crossing for lunch. After lunch we will then make our way into Eora Creek where we will make camp. (B,L,D).

Day 09: Today we trek from Eora Creek to Deniki. Along the way we will see many weapon pits and ammunition dumps including the Japanese strong hold above Eora Creek. Passing through Alola the landscape will change as we visit Con’s Rock before ending up at the Isurava battlefield where we will conduct a commemorative service which will involve both the trekkers and the porters. Coming together we will pay our respects to both the Australians and Papuans that served in the Kokoda Campaign. We will also visit the site where Bruce Kingsbury’s actions won him the Victoria Cross.  After our service we will continue to drop down to Deniki where we will make camp and see the sun set over the beautiful Yodda Valley. Tonight we sleep at Deniki. (B,L,D).
 
Day 10:  This morning we will continue dropping down off the Owen Stanley Range before we reach the tractor trail. With heads held high we will march into Kokoda Station. As we pass through the archway a sense of achievement will come over the group along with a sense of pride as we reflect on the epic journey of following in the footsteps of our forebears seventy five years after the battle. Our vehicle will be waiting and after a visit to the Kokoda plateau memorials and the Bert Keinzle memorial museum, we will drive to Popondetta then on to Gona where we will be picked up by boat before transferring to the village of Sanananda.  (B,L,D).

Day 11: From our base at Sanananda we will use our boat to visit the battlefield of Buna. In the afternoon we will walk up to Huggins Road Block and tour Sanananda before having a swim in the beautiful water of the Solomon Sea. (B,L,D).

Day 12: Waking up early we will board the boat back to Gona where we will visit Haddy’s Village and the key sites pertaining to the Gona battlefield. We will then transfer to Popondetta and back to Port Moresby. Arriving back at the hotel we will have time to clean our gear and prepare for our trip back to Australia. In the evening we will have dinner and our presentation. (B,L).
 
Day 13: Transfer from hotel to your flight home or next destination.