US 1st Corps Storms Buna
Saturday, January 2, 1943 www.onwar.com
Allied jungle landing strip in New Guinea [Photo at link]
In New Guinea... Japanese positions at Buna are stormed by troops from Eichelberger’s US 1st Corps. Fighting continues around Sanananda.
In the Solomon Islands... On Guadalcanal, Americans mount another attack on Japanese held Mount Austen. Some progress is made. The Gifu strongpoint remains controlled by the Japanese.
January 2nd, 1943
UNITED KINGDOM: Headquarters 2d Antisubmarine Squadron (Heavy) with B-24 Liberators is established at St. Eval, Cornwall, England, upon arrival from the U.S. This unit is assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command (attached to VIII Bomber Command) and is tasked to assist the RAF in attacking German U-boats. (Jack McKillop)
GERMANY: Romanian dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu meets with Chancellor Adolf Hitler and reconciles their differences concerning the Romanian failures and the disaster at Stalingrad. (Jack McKillop)
Four radar-equipped B-24 Liberators of the USAAF’s Eighth Air Force fly a “moling” or intruder mission aimed at harassing the Germans in weather unsuitable for large missions by alerting air-raid crews in the area north of the Ruhr. The crews have been in training for these operations since 14 December. This mission is foiled by clear weather over the target area. (Jack McKillop)
U.S.S.R.: German Army Group A begins withdrawing the 1st Panzer Army northward toward Rostov to prevent it from becoming encircled. (Jack McKillop)
ITALY: In Sicily, British frogmen sink the Italian light cruiser Ulpio Traiano, which is under construction in Palermo, with explosive charges. (Jack McKillop)
GREECE: CRETE: USAAF Ninth Air Force bombers attack two airfields: B-25 Mitchells bomb the airfield at Heraklion while 12 B-24 Liberators bomb the Pedialda Airfield at Kastelli. Twenty fighters and a few bombers are destroyed on the ground. (Jack McKillop)
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: Minesweeper HMS Alarm (J 140) is damaged beyond repair in an air raid on the port of Bone, then beached and abandoned, her 4 inch gun is given to the Army who use it to fire starshell for coastal defence purposes.
T class submarine P.311 (the only one of her class not to be named) is tasked to take chariots to attack shipping at La Maddalena, off Northern Sicily. She reports her passage through the Sicilian Channel, then nothing is heard from her, nor are there any Axis reports of her destruction. It is believed that she was mined in one of the extensive minefields around La Maddalena. (Alex Gordon)(108)
TUNISIA: USAAF Twelfth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses bomb the harbour and shipping at La Goulette. Escorting P-38 Lightnings and German Bf 109s engage in air battle, each side losing two aircraft. A-20 Havocs and DB-7 Bostons, with fighter escorts, consecutively raid Sousse harbour. DB-7s again hit the harbour. B-26 Marauders with fighter protection, bomb the bridge north of El Djem. Fighters fly escort, patrol and reconnaissance missions, attacking German vehicles and aircraft. Several trucks and fighters are claimed destroyed. (Jack McKillop)
BURMA: Fighters of the USAAF Tenth Air Forces’s China Air Task Force continue to hit transportation targets, strafing a truck convoy on the Burma Road. The strikes begin near Loiwing and cover 30 miles (48 kilometres) of highway. At least five trucks are destroyed and others damaged. Six B-25 Mitchells bomb Monywa Airfield. (Jack McKillop)
NEW GUINEA: In Papua New Guinea, the Urbana Force (two battalions of the U.S. 126th and 128th Infantry Regiments, 32d Infantry Division) overruns Buna Mission in a concerted assault and organized resistance ends at 1632 hours local. The top Japanese commanders, Captain YASUDA Yoshitatsu and Colonel YAMAMOTO Hiroshi, commit suicide. The Japanese withdrawal from the Kokoda trail enables the Allies to plan the encirclement of important Japanese positions in the Buna, Sanananda and Gona beachhead. Buna is the second of the three to fall to the Allies after weeks of heavy fighting. With the Mission clear, Company C, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division, joins Company B in an attack along the coast toward Giropa Point, and by 1930 hours, makes a junction with the Warren Force (based on U.S. 128th Infantry Regiment, 32d Infantry Division). The Warren Force, in a final attack, finishes clearing the region from Giropa Point eastward. The Australian 2/9th Battalion, 18th Brigade, 7th Division, clears the Japanese troops from the east bank of Simemi Creek and the 2/12th Battalion, 18th Brigade, heads for Giropa Point. Japanese forces move forward from Giruwa to rescue the survivors of the Buna garrison. The Japanese have lost at least 1,400 men at Buna: 500 west of Giropa Point and 900 east of it. Casualties of the U.S. 32d Infantry Division and Australian 18th Brigade total 2,817 (620 killed, 2,065 wounded, 132 missing). In preparation for stepping up action on the Sanananda front, where a stalemate has existed for some time, Australian Lieutenant General Edmund Herring, General Officer Commanding I Australian Corps, orders 25-pound (87.6 mm) artillery pieces from Buna to that area. The 1st Battalion and Headquarters, U.S. 163d Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division, take responsibility for the Huggins and Kano blocks on the trail to Sanananda, gradually relieving the Australians, between 2 and 4 January. Huggins is renamed Musket.
USAAF Fifth Air Force A-20 Havocs, B-25 Mitchells and B-26 Marauders hit the airfield and targets of opportunity at Lae, Northeast New Guinea.
While surveying the Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, the Australian minesweeper HMAS Whyalla (J 153) and survey vessels Stella and Polaris, are attacked by 18 Japanese aircraft. (Jack McKillop)
INDIAN OCEAN: German auxiliary cruiser HK Michel, known to the British as Raider H, sinks the 7,040 British freighter SS Empire March south of the Cape of Good Hope. The freighter was sailing from Durban, South Africa,. to Trinidad (located off the coast of Venezuela) with a crew of 29 and a cargo of iron, tea, peanuts and jute. Michel opened fire, knocking out the bridge and the radio room and turning the freighter into “an inferno from stem to stern, but still moving.” To dispatch the blazing wreck quickly, the captain of the Michel fires two torpedoes, one of which misses. Twenty six crewmen of the freighter are picked up, with another man being found the next day when Michel returned to search for anyone who might have been missed. This is the last ship sunk by Michel on her first cruise. On 8 January, the auxiliary cruiser is ordered to proceed to Japan and while en route, the prisoners were handed over to the Japanese at Singapore. On this first crew, the German raider spent 354 days at sea and sank 15 ships totalling 99,386 tons. (Jack McKillop)
NEW GUINEA: US soldiers of I Corps attack Buna.
American troops of the 32nd Division occupied Buna today after a long and intense struggle against fanatical Japanese defenders. The desperate survivors struck out into the surf, clinging to anything that would float. The Japanese had proved themselves great defensive fighters at every point along the Papuan coastal strip, and inflicted sacrificially high casualties on both American and Australian troops.
Buna cost the Allies some 2,870 battle casualties, of whom 913 were Australians. The Japanese are known to have lost 1,390 men killed at Buna. Thus they have inflicted a cost in Allied lives well out of proportion to their numbers. When they saw defeat was inevitable, two of their leaders met solemnly and committed hara-kiri.
There were spasmodic flare-ups in the final stages, but at 4.30pm the Government Station, an area of smashed houses, splintered trees and bomb-blasted earth strewn with twisted corpses, was at last in Allied hands. As Buna fell, the Australian 18th Brigade was attacking Japanese positions 1,000 yards to the east. Lt-Gen Robert Eichelberger ordered a full-scale clearing movement to begin yesterday, to synchronize with the drive by the Australians to clear the Simeni Creek/Giropa Point area. The determined Japanese resistance was a chilling experience for the Allies, who fear that an awful price may have to be paid in time, effort and blood to clear the enemy from the island of New Guinea.
SOLOMON ISLANDS: Another series of attacks on Guadalcanal begin against Japanese positions on Mt. Austen known as the Gifu.
Major General Alexander M. Patch, commander of all US Army and US Marine ground forces on the island, is elevated to command of the newly created XIV Corps. (Keith Allen)
On Guadalcanal, Major General Millard Harmon, Commanding General U.S. Army Forces in the South Pacific Area, activates XIV Corps, consisting of the Americal and 25th Infantry Divisions, the former reinforced by the 147th Infantry Regiment. The 2d Marine Division and other Marine ground forces are attached to the corps. Major General Alexander Patch is placed in command of XIV Corps, and Brigadier General Edmund Sebree succeeds him as commander of the Americal Division. After a heavy artillery preparation, the 132d Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, continues its offensive against the Gifu strongpoint. The 2d Battalion. taking the Japanese by surprise, advances quickly to the crest of Hill 27, south of the Gifu strongpoint, and digs in and holds firm under a number of counter attacks. The 3d and 1st Battalions establish lines along the northern and eastern sides of the Gifu, respectively, but gaps remain between the three assault battalions. (Jack McKillop)
In the air, USAAF B-17 Flying Fortresses, with P-38 Lightnings, and USMC SBD Dauntlesses, with F4F Wildcats, bomb ten supply-carrying Japanese destroyers west of Rendova Island; the SBDs damage the destroyer HIJMS Sukukaze. The F4Fs shoot down two “Zeke” fighters (Mitsubishi A6M, Navy Type 0 Carrier Fighters) and an SBD rear gunner shoots down a third “Zeke.” Eleven motor torpedo (PT) boats attack the force off Cape Esperance without success. (Jack McKillop)
Japanese submarine I-18 is sunk by the USS Grayback (SS-208). (Mike Yared)(144 and 145)
BISMARCK ARCHIPELAGO: USAAF Fifth Air Force B-24 Liberators bomb the airfield at Gasmata on New Britain Island. (Jack McKillop)
CANADA: AMC HMCS Prince Robert commenced conversion to AA cruiser North Vancouver, British Columbia. (DS)
TERRITORY OF ALASKA: ALEUTIAN ISLANDS: Three USAAF Eleventh Air Force B-25 Mitchells, three B-26 Marauders and eight P-38 Lightnings heading for Kiska Island are forced back by bad weather. The weather aircraft cannot see into Kiska Harbour or Gertrude Cove. Two B-24 Liberators fly photographic reconnaissance over Amchitka Island and encounter poor weather. A USN PBY Catalina unsuccessfully searches the islands east of Segula Island for a missing PBY. (Jack McKillop)
U.S.A.: Destroyer escort USS Alger laid down. (DS)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: U-410 saved 80 survivors from the sunken German ship Rhakotis. (DS)
In the Bay of Biscay during the night of 2/3 January, RAF Bomber Command sends 42 Wellingtons and Lancasters to lay mines: ten off the Gironde Estuary, five each off La Pallice and St. Nazaire; four off Bayonne, three off Lorient and two each off Brest, Limoges and St. Jean de Laz. (Jack McKillop).