Australian War Memorial

Australian War Memorial information

Alotau , Papua New Guinea
Harbour Foreshore
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The recently commissioned Australian War Memorial has a detailed description of the Battle of Milne Bay. There's a service here on 26 August every year, commemorating the beginning of the Battle of Milne Bay.

In 1942, at 23:30 on 25 August the Japanese Imperial Army started invading Milne Bay. In just two landings a few days apart, the Japanese established a 2,400-strong army near Ahioma. Unlike Kokoda, the battle of Milne Bay was not to be a protracted affair; it would be over in just 12 days.

The Japanese fought skirmishes with the Allies and their base suffered early casualties under a fierce RAAF aircraft-led barrage. On the moonlit nights of 26-27 August the Japanese attacked, forcing the Australian battalions to withdraw to the Gama River. Pressing their advantage the Japanese attacked again the next night, this time pushing the Allies backwards to the converted No 3 airstrip, amid furious fighting.

Three times the Japanese charged wildly across the open before a hail of fire, and they were repulsed each time. The tide of the battle had turned, the Australians had been reinforced and the attackers became the defenders. The Australians launched counter attacks and the Japanese sent warships to help their embattled troops. A week later the Japanese Navy called their invasion off and starting evacuating troops. It is estimated that 750 Japanese and 161 Australians were killed at Milne Bay; many more were wounded.

In the broad canvas of the Pacific war, it was not a major victory. Its significance as the first Allied land victory in the Pacific boosted morale far beyond Milne Bay's bloodied shores.

See for more details on the battle.