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The Battle of Milne Bay 1942

(2 customer reviews)
Authors: Nicholas Anderson
Australian Army Campaign Series
245mm x 170mm

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By 1942 the formidable Japanese military had conquered swathes of territory across south-east Asia and the Pacific Ocean. Despite its defeat at the Battle of Midway, Japan remained a potent enemy committed to the creation of a defensive arc to shield its captured possessions in the Pacific.

The capture of Port Moresby would cement the southern border of this defensive arc and sever the vital lines of communication between Australia and the United States. It was the Japanese plan to seize Moresby that would set the course for the Battle of Milne Bay.

Situated on the eastern tip of New Guinea, Milne Bay was a wretched hell-hole: swamp-riddled, a haven for malaria and cursed with torrential rain. It was here that General Douglas MacArthur ordered the secret construction of an Allied base with airfields to protect the maritime approach to Port Moresby.

But the Japanese soon discovered the base at Milne Bay and despatched a task force to destroy its garrison and occupy the base. All that stood between the Japanese and their prize was a brigade of regular Australian soldiers untrained in tropical warfare and a brigade of Australian militia with no combat experience whatsoever.

While the Kokoda campaign is etched in public memory, its sister battle at Milne Bay has long been neglected. However the bitter fighting over this isolated harbour played an equally important role in protecting Port Moresby and made a valuable contribution to shifting Allied fortunes in the Pacific War.

Nicholas Anderson

Nicholas Anderson

Nicholas Anderson is an historian with the Australian Army History Unit. He was born in Bathurst and completed high schooling at the Scots School Bathurst. He holds degrees in degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Canberra, and is currently undertaking a Masters degree in Philosophy at the University of New South Wales […]

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2 reviews for The Battle of Milne Bay 1942

  1. A detailed account of the struggles that the Allies not only dealt with whilst facing the Japanese but the problems the leaders on the ground dealt with from the hierarchy back in Australia. A thoroughly gratifying read.

  2. (verified owner)

    Milne Bay is located on the far eastern tip of the island of New Guinea. It is surrounded on three sides by 5,000 ft mountains; it is swamp-ridden and a haven for malaria. Despite
    these difficulties, the Bay’s geographic location ‘… held a strategic advantage that counterbalanced the negatives’. Its location facilitated command of the sea and air surrounding eastern New Guinea and the Coral Sea. It was General Douglas MacArthur who ordered the secret construction of the Allied base with airfields. It was the Japanese plan to seize Port Moresby that set the course for the Battle of Milne Bay.

    Anderson takes us through the background to Japanese ambitions in the Pacific, the building of the base and then the attack by the Japanese. All that stood between them and success was a brigade of Australian soldiers untrained in tropical warfare and inexperienced Australian militia. He provides an excellent summary of the reasons for Allied success in defeating the Japanese attack and supports all this with excellent maps, photographs and an inventory of the vehicles, aircraft and weapons used in the battle.

    Peter Masters, Australian Defence Magazine, February 2019

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