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Battle of Milne Bay
The Battle of Milne Bay was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. Japanese marines attacked the Australian base at Milne Bay on the eastern tip of New Guinea on August 25 1942 and fighting continued until the Japanese retreated on September 5, 1942. The battle was the first in the Pacific campaign in which Allied troops defeated Japanese land forces.
The British Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, who had no part in the battle, said: "Australian troops had, at Milne Bay, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land. Some of us may forget that, of all the allies, it was the Australians who first broke the invincibility of the Japanese army."
In fact, it was Japanese marines, known as Special Naval Landing Forces, who attacked the Allied forces at Milne Bay. The Allies, commanded by the Australian Major-General Cyril Clowes , were defending a strategically-important Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base. The soldiers were mainly made up of two Australian Army brigades: the 18th Infantry Brigade from the Australian 7th Division and the 7th Australian Infantry Brigade Group of the Australian Citizens Military Forces.
The Japanese high command committed no more than 2,400 marines, from the 5th Kure Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) and the 5th Sasebo SNLF and (non-combat) personnel from the 16th Naval Construction Unit. The Japanese force was led by Commander Shojiro Hayashi . Although the Allied forces numbered about 9,000, only about half of these were infantry. And the Japanese enjoyed a more significant advantage, in the form of light tanks, which the Allies had not deployed. The tanks initially inflicted severe causalties on the Australian 2/10th Infantry Battalion and forced it to retreat. On August 29, Japanese reinforcements landed: 768 men from the 3rd Kure SNLF and 5th Yokosuka SNLF, with Commander ? Yano, who took over from Hayashi.
The RAAF's 75 Squadron and 76 Squadron, flying P-40 "Kittyhawk" ground attack planes, also played an important role in the fierce fighting. In fact, on some occasions the pilots began firing at nearby Japanese troops while they were still in the process of taxiing, prior to taking off. RAAF ground staff, some of them from other squadrons, were also actively involved in fighting, as was the US Army Corps of Engineers' 46th Engineer Regiment, which was expanding the Milne Bay airbase.
On September 5, the Japanese high command ordered a withdrawal: according to official figures, 311 Japanese personnel were killed, with about 700 missing in action. The Japanese Navy evacuated 1,318 personnel. Of the 534 Australian casualties, 161 were killed or missing in action. The US forces had several personnel killed or wounded.
The effect on the morale of all Allied servicemen in Asia and the Pacific was profound, but especially other Australians fighting a rearguard action on the Kokoda Track, US Marines simultaneously fighting the Battle of Guadalcanal, and Slim's troops in the 14th Army who had recently been driven out of Burma.
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