The Battle of Milne Bay 25 Aug – 7 Sep 1942

The first defeat of the Japanese army in a land battle in the Pacific Theatre by Australia Militia and AIF troops.

Elite Japanese naval troops, known as Special Naval Landing Forces, with two small tanks attacked the Allied airfields at Milne Bay that had been established on the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea.  The Japanese quickly pushed inland and began their advance towards the airfields.  Heavy fighting followed as they encountered the Australian Milita troops that formed the first line of defence. These troops were steadily pushed back, but the Australians brought up veteran 2nd AIF units that the Japanese had not expected.  Allied air superiority helped tip the balance, providing close support to troops in combat and targeting Japanese logistics.  Finding themselves heavily outnumbered, lacking supplies and suffering heavy casualties, the Japanese withdrew their forces, with fighting coming to an end on 7 September 1942.

As a result of the battle, Allied morale was boosted and Milne Bay was developed into a major Allied base, which was used to mount subsequent operations in the region.