Landing at Aitape

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DUKWs head toward the beach at Aitape

The Landing at Aitape (Operation Persecution) was a battle of the Western New Guinea campaign of World War II. American and Allied forces undertook an amphibious landing on 22 April 1944 at Aitape on northern coast of Papua New Guinea. The amphibious landing was undertaken simultaneously with the amphibious landings of Battle of Hollandia at Hollandia to isolate the Japanese 18th Army at Wewak.

Background[edit]

Aitape was occupied by the Japanese on 1 April 1942. The Japanese built Tadji Airfield a few miles southeast near the coast.

The South West Pacific Area Headquarters were advised by intelligence reports that Aitape was only lightly garrisoned, and General MacArthur decided in March 1944 to invade Aitape in order to bypass the large Japanese garrisons at Hansa Bay and Wewak.

The objective was to isolate the Japanese 18th Army at Wewak, to provide flank protection against any westward movement on of the Japanese 18th Army towards Hollandia, to secure Tadji Airfield to provide support to the more important Hollandia landings after the carriers of Task Force 58 (TF 58) departed, and to establish light naval facilities at Aitape to support further operations.

Operation Persecution and Operation Reckless were supported by 217 ships, to transport and protect the 80,000 men, their equipment, and supplies over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) to conduct the separate amphibious landings at Aitape and Hollandia deep in enemy territory.

Landings[edit]

The invasion force was commanded by Brigadier General Jens A. Doe and was built around the US 163rd Infantry Regiment of the 41st Infantry Division. The Japanese defenders numbered less than 1,000 in the area.[1]

The landings were planned at "Blue Beach". Obscured by heavy smoke from fires from the beach head, the landing took place at Wapil on 22 April 1944. The 163rd Regimental Combat Team landed and opposition was light, with most Japanese defenders fleeing into the hills as the overwhelming force continued to arrive. One landing force transport was badly damaged by a Japanese torpedo bomber.

No. 62 Works Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) went ashore on the morning of 22 April to help secure and repair Tadji Airfield. General Douglas MacArthur watched the landings from a light cruiser, then went ashore in a landing boat.

The airfield was secured by 13:00 on 22 April, and the fighter strip was made operational by the RAAF No. 62 Works Wing within 48 hours after working nonstop. Twenty-five P-40s from the No. 78 Wing of the RAAF landed on the field on 24 April, with the rest of the wing arriving the next day to provide support to the Aitape and Hollandia landings.

Notes[edit]