This Week in History | Week 37By The Cove August 28, 2020
Week 37 | 07 September - 13 September
07 September 1943 | Liberator crash kills 62 Australians and 11 Americans
In the morning of 07 September 1943, soldiers of the 2/33rd Battalion were preparing to be airlifted to Nadzab in preparation for the assault upon Lae. Many of the waiting diggers had served in Syria and were veterans of the Kokoda Trail. Having survived these conflicts it is a tragedy that many of them were killed when their air transport, a US B-24 Liberator crashed on take-off at Port Moresby hitting five trucks. Sixty infantrymen of the 2/33rd Battalion and two drivers of the 158 General Transport Company lost their lives as a result of the crash. The eleven crew in “Pride of the Cornhuskers” also suffered a terrifying death. A total of 73 men died, with over 90 subjected to horrific burns. It is without doubt, Australia’s worst aviation disaster, yet it remains one of the least documented and known incidents of the Second World War.
08 September 1943 | Italy announces unconditional surrender to the Allies
Prior to this the Italians had been fighting with the Germans. Despite the Italian surrender the Allies faced more than a year of difficult fighting against the Germans in Italy.
11 September 1914 | The Battle of Bita Paka
The Battle of Bita Paka was fought south of Kabakaul, on the island of New Britain, and was a part of the invasion and subsequent occupation of German New Guinea by the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The main target of the operation was a strategically important wireless station, one of several used by the Germans in the area.
A powerful German naval fleet (The German East Asiatic Squadron) threatened British interests and its elimination was an early priority of the British and Australian governments during the war.
After an unopposed landing, a mixed force of German reservists and half-trained Melanesian police mounted a stout resistance and forced the Australians to fight their way to the objective. After a day of fighting during which both sides suffered casualties, Australian forces captured the wireless station at Bita Paka. The battle was Australia's first major military engagement of the war and the only significant action of the campaign; in its aftermath the remaining German forces on New Britain fled inland to Toma. Following a brief siege there the German garrison capitulated, ending resistance to the Australian occupation of the island.
This was the only major New Guinea action of the First World War.