the Second World War Milne Bay was a serene place inhabited by local
people, a few missionaries, and government patrol officers. The war
years rapidly transformed the area with construction by the allies along
the north-west shore line.
After the war the provisional capital on Samari Island was rebuilt.
During the 1950's its geographic isolation became increasingly apparent,
and the Australian Government decided to return to Milne Bay, purchasing
the Cameron Plateau above Sanderson Bay in 1961. In following years
government offices were relocated to the plateau, on the site of the
war-time American hospital.
In 1967 the town was named "Alotau" meaning "peaceful
bay" in local Suau dialect. by 1975 when Papua New Guinea gained
independence Alotau was well established as the provincial capital.
The people of Milne Bay look forward to a bright future but will always
remember the events of 1942 that helped shape the area. The allied
victory at Milne Bay was the first Japanese land defeat of the Second
Milne Bay was developed as an allied strategic base as Japanese South
West pacific headquarters were at Rabaul, only 700km to the North.
Commencing 22 July, 1942, American engineers and Australian support
infantry constructed airstrips, roads and wharves. Royal Australian Air
Force (R.A.A.F.) fighter planes were operational by 25 July.
340km west of Milne Bay the Japanese were on the Kokoda trail, moving
steadily south towards Port Moresby. To secure their flank the Japanese
invaded Milne Bay on 25 August, 1942 with a seaborne force of 1200
The Japanese advanced slowly, despite tank support, reaching airstrip 3
by 28 august, and with their position deteriorating. Inaccurate
intelligence left them heavily outnumbered. They met increasing
resistance from the defending Australians. By day R.A.A.F. fighters and
American bombers destroyed Japanese ground supplies and restricted
ground and sea movement.
On 31 August Australian reinforcements counterattacked and the Japanese,
having neither military nor material reserves, retreated. By 7 September
the Japanese navy had evacuated the last of its exhausted marines.
This allied victory boosted morale and marked the end of Japanese
dominance in the pacific.
(no accurate records)
(9 Prisoners of War)
Including 311 wounded
Gurney Airfield no. 1
This was the only airfield at Milne Bay used during the battle by
R.A.A.F. fighter planes. These planes plus U.S. & R.A.A.F. bombers
from Port Moresby & Australia forced the Japanese navy out of Milne
Bay during daylight.
These airforces also aided the destruction of enemy land forces. After
the battle both airforces used no. 1 & no. 3 airstrips until 1945.
Post war no.3 was abandoned whilst no. 1 became Milne Bays civilian
At night, with no threat from allied aircraft, the Japanese navy
controlled Milne Bay and landed supplies or men and shelled allied
positions. They also bravely evacuated their marines at the end thus
avoiding complete defeat by the Australians.
This was the first time in the pacific war of 1941 to 1945 that
1. The Japanese army was defeated on land.
2. The Australian army and airforce fought side by side.
3. The troops of the United States of America fought in Papua or New