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Operation Postern

The Battle to Recapture Lae from the Japanese, 1943

(5 customer reviews)
Authors: Ian Howie-Willis
Military History, Pacific War
153mm x 234mm

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Japanese troops seized and brutally occupied New Guinea’s capital, Lae, for 18 months – until 16 September 1943. That day Australian soldiers retook the town against fierce resistance. Defeated, and after suffering huge losses, 8000 Japanese soldiers fled across the formidable 4000-metre mountains behind the town ; 2000 died on the nightmare trek.

In a groundbreaking publication, independent professional historian Dr. Ian Howie-Willis unveils the untold story of Operation Postern and its significant impact on the Pacific War. His latest book sheds light on the recapture of Lae, the capital of New Guinea, from Japanese forces on 16 September 1943. Through meticulous research, Dr. Howie-Willis brings to life the heroic efforts of Australian soldiers, the harrowing experiences of the Japanese retreat, and the often-overlooked plight of the Papua New Guinean village communities caught in the crossfire.

Japanese troops had seized and ruthlessly occupied Lae for 18 months until the fateful day of the Australian soldiers’ counteroffensive. Despite fierce resistance, the town was retaken, forcing the Japanese to retreat across treacherous 4000-meter mountains behind the area. Tragically, 2000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives during this nightmarish trek.

Referred to as a turning point in the Pacific War, Operation Postern shattered the Japanese belief that they could maintain control over the New Guinea mainland. Their continual retreat paved the way for subsequent successful Allied campaigns in the South-West Pacific theatre. However, victory came at a high cost, with over 2000 casualties within a fortnight for the Allies, while Japanese losses exceeded that number nearly fourfold. The exact toll on the Papua New Guinean village people remains unknown but undoubtedly significant.

Dr. Howie-Willis challenges previous military histories that have marginalized the Papua New Guineans, highlighting their essential role as the “third party” to the conflict. By focusing on the village communities, he illuminates the horrific impact of the war on their lands and lives, offering a comprehensive and inclusive narrative.

Operation Postern provides readers with an opportunity to revisit and reinterpret this crucial battle that shaped the course of history. Dr. Howie-Willis’ extensive knowledge and meticulous attention to detail make this book a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Pacific War.

Ian Howie-Willis

Ian Howie-Willis

Dr Ian Howie-Willis is an independent professional historian. The author of 20 books, he is the Historical Adviser to St John Ambulance Australia. His previous book was An Unending War: The Australian Army’s struggle against malaria, 1885–2015 (Big Sky Publishing, Sydney, 2016). He grew up in Melbourne and lived for ten years in Papua New […]

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5 reviews for Operation Postern

  1. ‘Operation Postern is another splendid testament to [the author’s] creativity, skilled research and perseverance in seeing another major book through to publication. I appreciate this addition to our war history. The perspective of the Papua New Guinean people portrayed (indeed emphasised) in the book is a significant addition to the literature of World War II.’

  2. ‘I have just finished Operation Postern and enjoyed it very much. It gave enough detail without getting too bogged down in military talk; and the breakup of chapters gave clear time lines for the separate areas. [The author’s] thoughts about the war’s effect on the local people was refreshing. Not too many conflicts are fought on the land of third parties.’

  3. ‘[For me], Operation Postern is the best history book ever written. It tells the real story of the war, not only what the military did, but what all the little forgotten people who lived through it did.’

  4. ‘What a horrible war in which the cream of our young men was sent to fight for their country. Many lost their lives, bringing untold grief to their mates and their loved ones at home. Others who finally returned home were broken physically and mentally. The sacrifices they made protected our country and the lifestyle which has been enjoyed by successive generations up to the present day. [The author has also] done history a great favour in drawing attention to the involvement in, and impact on, the “Third Party”, the village people, in the war in Papua New Guinea.’

  5. ‘Embodies the highest standards of research, planning, design, thoroughness, literary merit and comprehensive history clearly explained.’

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