Military History

This Week in History | Week 47

By The Cove November 16, 2020

Week 47 | 16 - 22 November


17 November 1943 | The Battle of Sattelberg

The Battle of Sattelberg took place between 17 and 25 November 1943, during the Huon Peninsula campaign. Involving forces from Australia, the United States and Japan, the fighting centred on the Sattelberg mission station which was situated atop a hill about 900 metres above sea level, approximately 8 kilometres inland from Finschhafen, New Guinea.

Following the Australian landing at Scarlet Beach, a large force of Japanese had retreated inland towards Sattelberg.

Holding the high ground, the Japanese subsequently threatened the Australian lines of communication as they proceeded to advance south towards Finschhafen, and in order to neutralise this threat, the Australian 26th Brigade was tasked with capturing the mission.

Over the course of 10 days they advanced west from Jivevaneng up the southern approaches to the mission, reducing the Japanese position with armour, artillery and air support, before the Japanese finally abandoned Sattelberg and withdrew north to Wareo, having suffered heavy casualties and running low on supplies.

A Film about the battle is archived on the AWM website, a link can be found here.


18 November 1916 | Somme campaign ends

After four months and more than 1,200,000 casualties on both sides, General Douglas Haig calls off the Somme offensive.


18 November 1942 | Popondetta captured by Australians

Popondetta, on the steamy kunai plains north of the Owen Stanley Range, became a major Allied base for the attack on the Japanese-held beachheads in Papua.


19 November 1942 | Battle of the Beachheads

Australian victories at Milne Bay (25 August – 7 September 1942) and Kokoda (21 July – 16 November 1942) destroyed Japanese plans for capturing Port Moresby, but 9,000 Japanese remained entrenched in the eminently defensible northern beachheads of Buna, Gona and Sanananda.

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 25th Brigade attacked Gona, while the 16th Brigade advanced up the central Sanananda Track. The battle for the beachheads dragged on into the middle of January 1943. It seemed that the Allies could only surround and starve out the Japanese, but suddenly in the middle of January it became clear that the Japanese were evacuating the survivors by sea. By 22 January 1943, Japanese resistance had ended and the campaign in Papua had been won.




The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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