Battle of Crater Hill

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Battle of Crater Hill
Part of World War II, Pacific War
Location Crater Hill, Finisterre range, Territory of New Guinea
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
 Australia  Empire of Japan

The Battle of Crater Hill was the last part of the Shaggy Ridge campaign. It was the Japanese regimental headquarters, and it was here the defences were well positioned and entrenched.[1]

Last-ditch fight[edit]

Despite the Japanese loss of Kankiryo Saddle and Shaggy Ridge, the Japanese intended to put up a last-ditch fight for their regimental headquarters on the peak of Crater Hill.[2] This was the main Japanese stronghold in the area and was atop a knoll north east of Kankiryo Saddle.[1]

Battle[edit]

On the 25th the Australian 2/10th and 2/12th probed the Japanese defences on all sides of Crater Hill seeking the most suitable approach for an attack. There were skirmishes in which both sides suffered casualties. A patrol led by Lieutenant Coles of the 2/2nd Pioneers, fired on small bands of retreating Japanese infantry and saw numerous positions and ammunition dumps which had been abandoned.

Brigadier Frederick Oliver Chilton was informed that the main attack was held up on the southern slopes of Crater Hill, and at this point decided to try encircle and surround the Japanese. While the 2/10th and 2/12th held the enemy on the southern slopes and tried to push forward or flank the position, the 2/9th decided to assault the feature by sending two companies in a wide outflanking movement to the north across the tip of the Mindjim Valley and round the Japanese right flank.

Marshall's assault[edit]

Captain A. Marshall's company led off around 10:30, the morning of the 26th, passing from Shaggy Ridge through Kankiryo Saddle and then to the north, with Captain Taylor's company following to provide flank protection.[2]

By midday Marshall reported that he had advanced some 600 yd (550 m) and passed through several abandoned positions although he had seen no enemy. He pushed on at 5:00 pm in the afternoon he reached the summit of 4100.

The main Japanese position was now to the south between Marshall and the 2/10th and 2/12th Battalions. Leaving Taylor to occupy the summit of 4100, Marshall moved south towards Crater Hill in an attempt to surprise the Japanese position from the rear. He met them about 300 yards (270 m) south-east from the summit just on dusk. The leading Australian infantry platoon attacked but withdrew because of heavy machine-gun fire. At 7:00 pm Marshall sent 6 platoon, commanded by Lieutenant White, round the right flank. Approach from this flank was hazardous and White was killed.

Japanese surrounded[edit]

The Japanese on Crater Hill were now surrounded. Chilton at this point realised the positions were well prepared for defence, and a large number of machine guns were positioned. He decided to opt for a siege of the headquarters, using mortars, artillery, and dive bombing aircraft.[2]

Following further harassment from the Australian infantry, and dive bombing from Kittyhawk fighters and mortar attacks, the Japanese were gradually being weakened, and started to retreat from Crater Hill. A company led by Captain A. Marshall, the 2/9th, got to within 100 yd (91 m) of the summit, but could not get past the trees and the steep rockface. Another company, led by a Captain Taylor, made an alternate attack and killed 19 Japanese, while Marshall retreated to Kankiryo Saddle.

Mallyon's command[edit]

Lieutenant A.R Mallyon took command. On the 1 February, his company, the 2/10th and Taylor's of the 2/9th finally closed in the summit and entered the entrenchments, found them to be abandoned, the Japanese had fled their headquarters position. Mallyon was then amazed to see two Salvation army officers approaching the position from the other direction, laden with comforts. They explained to him and his surprised troops they had approached the area because they had been told it was unoccupied the previous day.[2]

After the battle, the area was surveyed and found to contain 40 pillboxes and foxholes, in the immediate Crater Hill area, which the Australians had fought through, and 100 or so in the immediate vicinity. The Japanese had left a number of dead and some artillery pieces.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Kokoda Track / Kokoda Trail Tours". Kokoda Historical. Retrieved 2013-10-22. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Chapter 26 : Kankiryo Saddle". Awm.gov.au. Retrieved 2013-10-22.