20 January 1943

The senseless slaighter continues again today near Sanananda village as 43 Diggers are killed in action, the second highest daily loss in the campaign. They are killed as they are forced to go in after the defenders.

Along the coast some of the Japanese commanders commit hara kiri as they realize their hopes of rescue by sea are forlorn. CO of 2/12 Bn Lt Col Arthur Arnold calls it “a scene of mud, filth and death.”

19 January 1943

Each day more Diggers die at Sanananda as they prise out the remaining Japanese defenders and grant them their death wishes.

This needless loss continues as the Allied leadership insists that the infantry press on with the mopping up instead of starving the defenders in submission. 14 Diggers are killed in action today.

18 January 1943

4 Diggers are killed in action against the desperate last band of Japanese resistance at Sanananda, inland from the village, in a repulsive surreal sludge of mud, debris and grotesque swollen bodies.

In this nightmare Australians and Americans fall as they work to extinguish an enemy who refuses to surrender and lies patiently in wait determined to kill their hunter with their last breaths.

17 January 1943

Overnight the 2/9th Battalion under Major Bill Parry-Okeden finds an undefended section of the Sanananda position, pushing through deep swamp, which the Japanese thought would have provided a natural barrier.

The Diggers attack at dawn, catching the exhausted defenders totally unaware and quickly overwhelming them. Sanananda finally falls. The Australians find only sick and wounded Japanese. Some have retreated to Girua to the east. The rest have fled, most to the west where they hope to be evacuated by sea. 

16 January 1943

A spectacular tropical storm lashes Sanananda, rendering the Allies’ telephone communications useless as it dumps 300mm of torrential rain in 12 hours.

The swamps rise and break the banks of the surrounding creeks and rotting bodies float throughout the Australian positions.

Those Japanese healthy enough to make the move, take advantage of the storm and slip away to join their retreating comrades to the west.

15 January 1943

The Allies are optimistic that the end is in sight at the battle for Sanananda but the deep swamps are hampering their attempts to cut off the retreating Japanese.

Most of the time the pestilential water in the swamps is up to the soldiers’ armpits, in places it is over their heads. Many are already suffering from malaria and each day more are struck down by diseases like dysentery, scrub typhus and dengue fever.

14 January 943

Sick Jap POW captured at Sananada tells of plans for evacuation of the area, apparently to mouths of the Kumusi and Mambare Rivers, about 70 km to west, where boats will rescue them.

Brigadier George Wootten sends troops into Sanananda Junction. They find it deserted. Allied troops begin to follow up the retreating enemy but are slowed by the appalling conditions, much of it through shoulder-deep swamps where progress is around 100 metres an hour.

13 January 1942

While the Allies argue over whether to continue their costly attack at Sanananda or revert to starving the defenders into submission, Jap commander Col Tsukamoto changes the equation by ordering his troops to evacuate the Killerton-Sanananda Junction.

Apparently the Australian charge yesterday had been more successful than originally thought. The Jap defenders are demoralized and exhausted and their commander has taken the unusual course of trying to save them.

12 January 1943

Last major battle of the Papuan campaign explodes into action at 5 past 8 in the morning as Australian 18th Brigade attacks along the main Sanananda Track and the Americans assault via Tarakena.

Tanks roll along the main track, raised above the surrounding swamps, which cannot support their weight. They are immediately sent packing by a combination of anti-tank guns (even though the tank commanders had been assured none existed there) and Jap suicide squads which leap on them with Molotov cocktails and grenades.

The infantry supporting the tanks are decimated by a massive wave of fire from the deeply-embedded Jap fortifications. One Australian battalion suffers almost 100 casualties without making any ground.

45 Diggers are killed in action on the day. At Allied headquarters, Australian protests against the needless slaughter result in a stalemate as the leaders ponder their next step.

11 January 1943

The build-up for the final attack at Sanananda continues with nine Diggers killed in action during the day. The battle has now been running for two months as the Japanese defences extend deeply inland from the coast, further than both Buna and Gona.

Eichelberger plans to launch the final massive assault tomorrow, hoping to snuff out the last serious Japanese threat in Papua.