November 12 @ 8:30 am – 4:30 pm at the East Malvern RSL, Melbourne

The Battle of the Beachheads was the bloodiest of all the Papuan campaigns. The resolve and tenacity of the Japanese defenders was, to Allied perceptions, unprecedented to the point of being “fanatical”, and had not previously been encountered. Please join a group of well-qualified speakers as we examine the Battle of the Beachheads in a one-day conference. This conference is organised by Military History and Heritage Victoria and supported by History Guild.

As the battle for Guadalcanal dragged on the Japanese advance on the Kokoda Track culminated and they were ordered to ‘advance to the rear’.

Two delaying defensive positions at Eora Creek and Oivi-Gorari imposed a toll on the Australians’ pursuit, but allowed time for the Japanese to complete a labyrinth of bunkers and trenches around the Papuan beach head villages of Gona, Buna and Sanananda.

The Battle for the Beachheads, as it became known, saw an estimated 9,000 Japanese troops in well-prepared positions defend to the death the territory they had occupied for the last six months. MacArthur ordered that the positions be destroyed and over the next two months Australian and US Army troops battled not only the resolute Japanese but swampy terrain, kunai grass, oppressive heat, heavy rain, sickness and disease to complete this difficult and brutal task.

Australian Troops outside Gona. AWM.

The Battle of the Beachheads was the bloodiest of all the Papuan campaigns. The resolve and tenacity of the Japanese defenders was, to Allied perceptions, unprecedented to the point of being “fanatical”, and had not previously been encountered. It was to mark the conduct of further battles throughout the remainder of the war. Securing victory at the Battle for the Beachheads cost Australia 1,261 dead and 2,210 wounded, and the Americans 734 dead and 2,037 wounded.

What was the Japanese plan? Who controlled the sea and the sky? How did the Allies mass forces onto the northern coast of Papua? Was the order to destroy the Japanese positions necessary? How well did the Australian and American forces cooperate in fighting the battle? Were Allied forces pushed beyond their capability? How much did tanks help to break the stalemate? What are the legacies of this little-known chapter of military history?

Please join a group of well-qualified speakers as we examine these and other questions in a one-day conference – The Bloody Beachheads: The Battles of Gona, Buna and Sanananda – on Saturday 12 November 2022 at the East Malvern RSL, Melbourne.

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