26 November 1942

Begins as a quiet day as each side at Gona consolidates. The remainder of the Australian 21st Brigade are travelling from Moresby and are expected to arrive within a few days.

As the 2/33rd Battalion awaits the arrival of the reinforcements, they are surprised by a bayonet attack at dusk by an aggressive Jap patrol who pushes out 500 metres on the west side of their position aiming to disrupt the Australian attack. The attack leaves only light casualties but shakes the Australians sense of security

25 November 1942

The Australians resume their ground attacks against the Japanese positions at Gona, with the 3rd Battalion assaulting from the south-west with new-found support from machine guns, mortars and 25-pounder artillery.

The Diggers break through in a number of places and push through around 50 metres but are again stymied by impenetrable bunkered strongpoints, expertly protected by interlacing fields of fire.

Heavy enemy fire forces the Diggers to break off the attack late in the afternoon with light casualties. Eight Australians die on the day but only one killed in action, the others die from earlier wounds or from illness.

24 November 1942

Heavy casualties force Australians to break off contact at Gona and withdraw as requests to air support to suppress Jap defences are answered at last.

Diggers get respite as Allied fighters strafe and drop light bombs on Jap positions throughout the morning, followed by heavy bombers in mid afternoon.

Flood of earlier Aust casualties is stemmed and only one Digger, Pte Kevin Flaherty of 2/33rd is lost, dies of wounds.

23 November 1942

The Battle for Gona is quickly degenerating into swamp siege warfare as an early morning attack by the 2/25th and 2/31st Battalions makes little ground at great cost.

The Japanese are deeply entrenched with carefully sited machine-gun and rifle fire support and they mow down the waves of Australian attackers as they try to cross the open ground.

The Australians lose 32 killed in action for the second day running and at least 100 seriously wounded, bringing the total killed at Gona to 73 and taking it past 700 for the Kokoda campaign to date.

Added to the battle casualties are the rapidly growing losses from sickness and disease. The Australians know they cannot sustain this level of losses for long

22 November 1942

Battle for Gona explodes into action as Diggers launch attacks from the west and along the beach. The defenders fight back fiercely with a heavy barrage of automatic fire.

The leading Australian attack reaches the Jap defensive pits but the attack fades after the Diggers find themselves enfiladed from both sides.

Sgt Ken Davy and Cpl Allen Pullyn are awarded the Military Medal for their leadership and bravery during the attack.

The Diggers lose 32 killed in the action and more than 50 seriously wounded.

21 November 1942

Australians preparing for a major attack tomorrow on Jap positions at Gona. The Diggers have now been resupplied by air and have been stockpiling ammunition and supplies in readiness for the attack although a large proportion of the airdrops are unrecoverable and some are even dropped into Jap positions.

The Diggers and their on-ground commanders are concerned at the lack of time for properly reconnoitering the enemy positions but High Command is determined to push the advance without delay.

20 November 1942

Australians attacking Gona are reduced to eating emergency rations as supplies fail to keep pace with the advance.

 Leading troops fall back to about 1.5km from Jap front lines to wait for aerial supplies to reach them. Their commander orders them to build up a base of ammunition, rations and medical supplies while they gather intelligence on the Jap strengths and positions.

19 November 1942

The Australians begin their attack against the Japanese defenders at Gona. The Diggers have suffered badly from the gruelling months of jungle warfare that each of the attacking units has endured. Each is about one third of its normal fighting strength.

The Diggers leading the advance run into Jap snipers about 1.5km south of Gona Mission, losing six killed in the initial clashes. They settle down to lay siege to the well-concealed Jap defences, forced to endure the pestilent swamp conditions.

18 November 1942

The Allied intelligence on the Japanese troop numbers defending the northern beachheads and the extent of their defences is greatly inaccurate.

Early estimates claim around 2000 Japanese are defending Gona, Buna and Sanananda. The real figure is at least three times that number.

The intelligence reports that the area’s coastal swampland precludes the construction of any substantial strongholds. The reality is that the determined Japanese have, over the past four months, built heavily fortified bunkers, connected by zig-zag trenches and cleverly concealed by tree trunks and foliage.

They also prepare deadly fields of fire emanating from the fortifications, supported by a cluster of hidden snipers.

17 November 1942

2/33rd Battalion, leading the Australian advance on the Japanese beachheads, reaches Amboga River but is held up as the river is in flood.

The Diggers begin preparations for crossing but the first troops don’t reach the northern bank, totally saturated, until the following morning.