The War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay

By Harry A. Gailey | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
The Tide Turns:
New Guinea and Bougainville

NEW GUINEA BY the spring of 1942 had become the focus of attention for both Japanese and American commanders. Soon after his arrival in Australia, MacArthur made it clear to Prime Minister Curtin that he believed the battle for Australia had to be fought in the Papua area of New Guinea. However, he was without the men and materiel necessary to do anything except stand on the defensive and hope his inadequate forces would be able to protect Port Moresby, the vital base in southern Papua.

MacArthur's complaints and requests to Washington for more support were met with assurances that in light of the demands of the European theater, he was receiving all that could be spared. Vice Admiral Arthur S. Carpender, MacArthur's new naval commander, had only five cruisers, eight destroyers, and twenty submarines during the crucial month of August. General Brett, the air commander, had few planes and, at first, few airfields to operate from. This shortage would be alleviated during the summer months by the rapid construction of three airstrips on the Cape York Peninsula, one at Milne Bay, and by building or improving four fields in the Port Moresby area. By September the Port Moresby garrison had grown to twenty-eight thousand men with the arrival of two brigades of the 7th Australian Division. All Allied forces in New

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