This is a companion volume to the one on Guadalcanal in the series on the war in the Pacific. Both record the operations designed to halt the advance of the enemy toward the vital transpacific line of communications with Australia and secure Australia as a base. Success in Papua and Guadalcanal, achieved in February 1943, put the Allied forces in a position to neutralize Rabaul and, this accomplished, to advance to the Philippines.

The present volume concentrates on the action of one United States Army division. In telling the story of a comparatively limited number of troops, the author has been able to present the combat experience of small units in sharper focus than has been possible in most of the other full-scale campaign volumes.

The campaign abounds in lessons. Of these one of the most vital is the frequent necessity for all commanders to evaluate their own actions by asking themselves this question: "How could I have helped, how should I have helped, how can I help my subordinates to accomplish their assigned tasks?"

Washington, D. C.   A. C. SMITH
15 March 1955   Maj. Gen., U. S. A.
    Chief of Military History


The Author

Mr. Samuel Milner holds a graduate degree in history from the University of Alberta and has done further graduate work in political science at the University of Minnesota. During World War II, he served in Australia and New Guinea as a historian with the Air Transport Command, Army Air Forces. Upon completing Victory in Papua he left the Office, Chief of Military History, to become historian of the Air Weather Service, U.S. Air Force.



The strategic significance of the Papuan Campaign can be briefly stated. In addition to blunting the Japanese thrust toward Australia and the transpacific line of communications, it put General MacArthur's forces in a favorable position to take the offensive. But this little known campaign is significant for still another reason. It was the battle test of a large hitherto-inexperienced U. S. Army force and its commanders under the conditions which were to attend much of the ground fighting in the Pacific. Costly in casualties and suffering, it taught lessons that the Army had to learn if it was to cope with the Japanese under conditions of tropical warfare.

Since the official records of this early campaign were quite poor, the task of portraying American ground action in it accurately required that a great deal of essential information be found elsewhere. This supplementary information was secured in large part from participants whose names are to be found in the Bibliographical Note at the end of the volume All of them have my thanks, and certain of them who went to great lengths to help me have my special thanks. The following (ranks as of February 1952 when the manuscript was completed) are in the latter category: Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, Maj. Gen. Clovis E. Byers, Maj. Gen. Jens A. Doe, Maj. Gen. Edwin F. Harding, Maj. Gen. Clarence A. Martin, Maj. Gen. Albert W. Waldron, Col. Bernd G. Baetcke, Col. Charles R. Dawley, Col. John E. Grose, Col. Alexander J. MacNab, Col. Kelsie E. Miller, Col. Herbert A. Smith, Col. Clarence M. Tomlinson, Lt. Col. Peter L. Dal Ponte, Lt. Col. Herbert M. Smith, Lt. Col. Bert Zeeff, and Maj. Robert H. Odell. A true picture of conditions as they existed at the time could not have been given without their help.

To tell the Australian side of the story adequately also required more information than was to be found in the available sources. That I never lacked for such information was due principally to Gavin Long, the Official Australian War Historian and to two members of his staff, John Balfour and Dudley McCarthy. McCarthy's draft chapters on Australian action on the Sanananda front were invaluable in helping me to round out the picture of the fighting that went on on that front. Lt. Col. Peter S. Teesdale-Smith, a participant in the campaign and a member of the Australian Military Mission in Washington during the time that this book was in preparation, helped me greatly in making Australian action come alive.


While the information thus given me has been of the greatest assistance, the responsibility both for the way it was used and for any errors that may have resulted is, of course, my own.

In the Office of the Chief of Military History, I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield, Chief Historian, for his careful reading of the manuscript and his excellent suggestions for its improvement. Particular thanks are due to Mr. Joseph R. Friedman, Chief of the Editorial Branch, for his extremely fine work in editing the manuscript. It was a pleasure to work with him. Thanks are also due to Mr. Wsevelod Agrlaimoff, now Cartographic Adviser to the Chief Historian, who prepared the layouts for the maps and supervised their production; to Maj. James F. Holly, Chief of the Cartographic Branch, who carried out the detailed research for the maps; and to Miss Margaret E. Tackley, Chief of the Photographic Branch, who selected the illustrations. My special thanks go to Miss Valerie K. Stubbs of the General Reference Section for checking the numerous Distinguished Service Cross citations referred to in the book. This was no mean task since, in addition to the two Medals of Honor awarded in the campaign, more than a hundred Distinguished Service Crosses were also awarded.

Washington, D. C.   SAMUEL MILNER
15 March 1955    


Table of Contents ** Next Chapter (1)

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation