Battle of the Beachheads - Buna, Gona and Sanananda
In the mistaken belief that the Japanese were finished General Macarthur, Supreme Commander of South West Pacific Area, ordered an assault by Australian and American troops on the Japanese beachheads. The three villages of Buna, Gona and Sanananda were on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. The Japanese had heavily fortified the villages, and reinforced them with fresh troops. With the sea on one side, and protected by swamps and jungle on the landward side, the 9000 Japanese troops took a heavy toll on the attacking Australians and Americans during the two months of savage fighting that it took to capture the Japanese strongholds.
Deaths as a result of the Kokoda Track and Beachhead battles totalled more than 12,000 Japanese, 2,165 Australians and 930 Americans. More Australians died in Papua than in any other campaign of the war, but the Japanese defenders were virtually eliminated
The Counter Offensive
The counter offensive against the Japanese continued unabated. The strategy of 'leapfrogging' or bypassing some Japanese positions in order to seize others which would be more useful to develop as supporting bases or 'stepping stones' towards an eventual assault on the Japanese mainland proved successful. Because of the success of American submarine attacks on Japanese mercantile and administrative support fleets little assistance or replenishment of food and stores was available for the bypassed positions. In all cases the Japanese were required to expend a great deal of time and energy in growing their own food. The Australian forces were tasked with 'mopping up' the bypassed Japanese bases on the islands' of New Britain and Bougainville and on the New Guinea mainland around Aitape and Wewak. Australian forces also made successful amphibious landings to seize the vital oilfields in Borneo, thus further weakening the Japanese ability to wage war.
Combined operations between Australia and our Allies isolated and defeated the enemy in detail. After the successful conclusion of the war in Europe Britain was able to concentrate more against Japan. Slowly those countries which had been conquered by the Japanese were liberated, and, just as preparations were being made to invade the Japanese mainland, Japan surrendered to the Allies. This was the direct result of the devastation caused by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At the end of the war in August 1945, only 14,315 servicemen and thirty service women had survived as prisoners of war. One in three had died in captivity. This means that nearly half of the deaths suffered by Australians in the war in the Pacific were among the men and women who had surrendered. Such suffering was the result of a deliberate policy pursued by the Japanese.