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The battle of Goodenough Island, 22-24 October 1942, was a minor Allied victory during the build-up for the major offensive against the Japanese position at Buna, on the northern coast of Papua. Goodenough Island is situated just to the north east of New Guinea, between Buna and Milne Bay, at the eastern tip of the island. The Japanese had not intended to garrison Goodenough Island, but on 26 August 353 troops from Sasebo 5th SNLF, on their way to attack Milne Bay, were stranded on the island when Allied aircraft sank their barges.
By mid October the Allies were on the offensive, and were planning a three-pronged attack on the Buna-Gona position. One of those prongs was to be an advance around the northern coast of Papua, and this force would have to pass close to Goodenough Island. General MacArthur decided to attack the island in order to guard the flanks of the main attack.
The force chosen for this attack was the 2/12th Battalion of the Australian 18th Brigade, which was already at Milne Bay. On the night of 22-23 October the battalion was transported to Goodenough Island on two destroyers, and landed on both sides of the island’s southern tip (the island is circular in shape, with a mountainous centre surrounded by a coastal plain, and a small peninsular jutting out to the south).
By the time the Australians landed 60 of the 353 Japanese troops originally stranded on the island had been rescued by a submarine, which had also left behind food and ammunition. This left 290 Japanese troops, who had had plenty of time to dig in. A fierce battle developed during daylight on 23 October, but on the night of 23-24 the submarine returned, and ferried 250 of the remaining troops across to nearby Fergusson Island, from where they were rescued by a cruiser. On the following day the Australians were able to mop up the small number of Japanese troops who had been left behind, clearing away one obstacle for the attack along the coast. The 2/12th Battalion remained on the island until the end of December, eventually being shipped to Oro Bay on the night of 28-29 December, joining the attack on Buna on 31 December.
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