Talk:Battle of Buna–Gona

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I'm a bit dissapointed with the way the battle of Sanananda is mentioned.

"The US 163rd Regiment Infantry — from the US 41st Infantry Division — joined the assault on the last Japanese holdout, at Sanananda, which was taken on January 22."

The Australians made the assault because the US regiment refused orders to advance due to low moral after taking serious casualties in an earlier battle. They only "joined the assault" after the fighting was largely over. In fact a bone of contention for Australians is a memorial erected there by the American Legion that not only doesn't mention the Aussies but states that the 128th infantry at Sanananda prevented a new Japanese advance to Kokoda (which was impossible even if the Japanese had won) and was a major part of the "American" victory in New Guinea.

I feel Sanananda should have it's own page. Wayne 04:52, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

Well, feel free to start that page, Wayne. Logically it will be a subsidiary page to this one as it was part of the same campaign and Sanananda, geographically speaking, is between Buna and Gona. Grant | Talk 16:27, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Despite the Australian forces doing the bulk of the fighting and taking the majority of casualties, the article focuses almost entirely on the junior partner of the Ally team. Article needs a rewrite for balance. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:11, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Use of photo of dead soldiers?[edit]

Library of Congress title: "U.S. forces inflict heavy casualties on Jap[ane]s[e soldiers] in capture of Buna, New Guinea. On the beach of Buna Mission, last point of Japanese resistance in the Papuan section of New Guinea, the bodies of slain Japanese soldiers lie a few steps from their shattered landing boat. The Japanese suffered heavy losses in this engagement and eventually were completely routed by American and Australian forces."

I came to this page by chance as I spend time trawling through the Library of Congress photogrpahy archive and uploading public domain images. I came a across a couple relating to the Buna battle, one of which I've already put on the page. However this photo at right, I realise could be contentious and thought I would propose its use on the talk page first and gauge any reactions. --Goldsztajn (talk) 08:34, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm no expert on the Manual of Style but I do not see anything wrong with using such images. Although confronting they could add to the article in a meaningful way, and given the passage of time it is unlikely that they will cause any distress to family etc. You are right to be cautious though. Anotherclown (talk) 08:52, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
Go for it: Wikipedia is not censored and I've seen much worse photos of this terrible battle. Nick-D (talk) 08:54, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
I'm against censorship in any form but that picture does not seem to fit well. I would prefer a picture that "talks" to you if you can understand where I'm coming from. An example of what I mean is a photograph (catalogue no. AWM 014037 in the Australian War Memorial) that shows two machinegunners firing at the enemy at Buna late in the afternoon on New Years Day. Next to them is the body of the original gunner shot by a sniper lying so that his face is partially obscured by the gun. To me his anonominity represents all the casualties and the situation embodies the battle. It talks. I hope I'm not being too esoteric. Wayne (talk) 09:48, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
I think the picture is just fine for adding to the article if you see fit to do so. While the other image proposed by Wayne is also good, the image of the dead Japanese aptly illustrates the absolute brutality of the Buna fight and does fit IMO. Both of these images are certainly more relevant and have greater impact than the picture of the three generals recuperating in the hospital. -- btphelps (talk) (contribs) 17:37, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
As the person who uploaded the picture of the three generals, I demur over the question of relevance. I agree that photograph of the dead soldiers has greater impact and shows the brutality of the fighting. But such a photograph might have been taken after many battles; the fact that three general officers were wounded in the battle is highly unusual and also tells us something of the nature of the fighting. Hawkeye7 (talk) 06:40, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
Many thanks for the quick responses. I'll go ahead and add the photo. Wayne: I understand your view. Personally, I think it is not an either/or issue, both photographs would be good for the page IMO. One aspect of this photo which I believe adds to the article is the fact that at present there are no images of Japanese soldiers in the article. Of course that the only image on display is of dead Japanese soldiers is not ideal. There is another image from the AWM, ID P02443.012 (URLs seem to expire, I found the image Wayne mentioned through the advanced search), which shows: "Major George A. Marks, 32nd Division, US Army, of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, treats a head wound on an emaciated Japanese prisoner of war (POW) taken at Buna Mission." I looked for this at the LoC archive but could not find it. Perhaps adding these two images (ie the one Wayne mentions and this second POW one) to the article would also be useful? I note AWM claims permission must be sought for use of its images, but in the case of photographs, I would have thought this is public domain (and the photo details include a "copyright expired" tag).--Goldsztajn (talk) 23:27, 21 May 2009 (UTC)
The copyright says: Copyright expired - public domain. Australian copyright law is life of author +50 years or 50 years from the date of first publication if this is after the author's death. Obviously the AWM wouldn't like images of dead soldiers used "innapropriately" so probably want to know where and how it will be used. I'll contact them to find their requirements and how they feel about the use of their more "sensitive" copyright expired pics on WP. If they object I'd prefer not to use it despite it being free of copyright. Wayne (talk) 04:21, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
That's for an artwork. A photograph is in the public domain if it was taken prior to 1 January 1955. Hawkeye7 (talk) 06:36, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
World War II-era photos are explicitly marked as 'public domain' on the AWM's image database for the reason Hawkeye states. As such, the AWM has no say over how it's used (and I don't think they have any problem with the more disturbing images in their collection being used). Nick-D (talk) 08:45, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Many of their photo's are not available elsewhere online and some are disturbing in that they show allied dead so I feel it is courtesy to get their approval. Being a member of the RSL I can vouch for them taking approval or lack of seriously and I know that the Australian media do pay the AWM to use them even if they are public domain. Having said that I have received a reply from the AWM regarding using photographs from their collection. They have no problem with Wikipedia using them and made only one request. That the photo have the link included. The ###### to be replaced by the pictures catalogue number. Wayne (talk) 01:22, 27 May 2009 (UTC)

Some suggestions for improvement[edit]

I've done a bit of work adding some more citations to the article, however, there are still a few paragraphs without citations (a requirement if the article is to be promoted to B class). If anyone can help with adding these in, that would be great. Some other suggestions that I have for improvement are:

  • the addition of a Background section I think would help to improve the article by assisting readers to understand how the fighting around Buna and Gona fitted in with the rest of the New Guinea campaign.
  • the addition of an Aftermath section would also help improve as per above. This could include information such as casualties, battle honours awarded, etc. Also some analysis might be included here, for example lack of Allied artillery, ineffectiveness of Allied air support, why the Allies suffered so many non battle casualties, performance of commanders, Japanese failure to reinforce and resupply, etc.
  • the position of the images could be tweaked a little as currently there is one section without any and another with four. This makes the page look a little unbalanced.
  • Referencing could possibly be improved also, though direct citations to a number of sources that are contained in the External links section. A Japanese perspective might be found in the Rottman source that is listed in the Sources, but not directly quoted (I don't have access to this, but if anyone else does, it would be great to see some citations from that work).

Anyway, these are just a few suggestions if any one is interested in doing some work on this article. If you would like some more detailed feedback, please consider putting the article up for peer review. Good work so far, by the way. Cheers. — AustralianRupert (talk) 13:51, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

I think the Overview section is too long edging into duplicating content in the body of the article. It could be trimmed with any original content moved into the body of the article, with the remainder becoming the Background section you mention. I also don't think the "First Phase" and "Second Phase" are a very informative way to organize the battle description.
I also think the Footnotes section is mis-labled. I believe the the "Footnotes" should be "Notes," "Citations" should be "References," and "References" and "Additional Reading" should be merged into "Additional Reading." -- btphelps (talk) (contribs) 19:01, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
Hi Btphelps. I've just had a quick look at the changes you've made and I think that they have improved the article considerably. Good work. I'm not sure I quite agree with the Notes, References etc. labeling, as it is not the style I use, but that is of course by no means what should determine the style for this article and ultimately it is just a matter of personal preference. So long as it is neat and gives the reader what they need to check the information (which this does), I can live with the format you've changed it to. If a couple more citations can be added to the article (where the citation needed tags are and the paragraphs that are missing cites, e.g. the first paragraph of Background, Allies supply lines distant, first paragraph of Attack reinitiated, final paragraph of Aftermath), then I believe it would be a B class article at least. I'd probably suggest reducing (or unforcing) the sizes of some of the images (although probably not the map - you've done some, but I think the one in the infobox could be 250px, and the firing trench could be unforced), as this usually gets brought up at peer review/ACR. Anyway, good work and thanks for your help! — AustralianRupert (talk) 21:38, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

After reading this article I decided to reword the text of the Background part of this article. My feeling was that that text available did not give sufficient credit to the 2 preceding battles fought almost exclusively by Australian forces. I also feel that the rest of the article could benefit from better structure and balance between the effort expended (and results achieved) between the 2 main allied partners. (talk) 09:54, 9 July 2010 (UTC) Now with a name instead of an ip number Ussing (talk) 14:58, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Support by sea is neglected[edit]

The article introduced the issue of distant and difficult supply lines without any reference to those by sea in either the initial landings or regular runs begun in December and running through the rest of the campaign into the build up of the area as a base for further operations. I just added some bits and pieces on that difficult operation but a considerable section could be added on the initial operations by vessels of the Small Ships Section. Masterson, available in segments as .pdf files, summarizes this operation on pages 587—588 (Part_4(2) in the link and extracted for convenience):

In October 1942 all craft controlled by the Small Ships Division were ordered to Milne Bay for service in supplying the Buna-Gona region, previously reached only by air. These craft, leased from their Australian owners and numbering not more than 250, consisted of schooners, motorships, motor launches, cabin cruisers, ketches, trawlers, barges, and miscellaneous vessels, most of which were ancient and rusty. Their Australian crews rigged sails when the engines broke down, and made emergency repairs when the hulls were punctured with bullets or jagged coral. A trawler with 6-foot draft could rarely get nearer to shore than 50 yards, and landings were often made with native canoes; or skippers would "load about 200 men on a fishing trawler and make for the beach at the fastest speed we could coax from a stuttering engine.11 The 32d and 41st Divisions were landed in this way. Later the fleet was augmented with new craft constructed for the Army in Australia. Among these were 30-foot surf boats, drawing only 3 or 4 inches light, 35-foot steel ship barges, weighing 5 tons, and 26-foot wood motor dories, draft 4i feet. The dories were used as tugs and the surf boats and ship barges as landing boats. Boats were sometimes palled to shore and back with ropes; later they were powered with outboard motors.

By the middle of 1943 the vessels of 500 tons or less working along this coast numbered about 350. These vessels were hidden in rivers and coves during the day to elude air attack. They moved at night through uncharted waters, marking reefs with empty oil drums and keeping records of observations and soundings, which were later used in charts prepared by the Royal Australian Navy. Some of the vessels were armed with ,50-caliber machine guns and 3-inch guns. On more than one occasion they shot down attacking aircraft. By the middle of February 1943 they had lost 3 trawlers, 1 auxiliary schooner, and 1 auxiliary ketch; but total losses before the summer of 1943 were less than 3 percent of the small-ship fleet. Reefs gave protection from submarines. All unloading was done at night. These vessels originally supplied all the small ports and isolated forces from Cairns to Thursday Island (off the tip of York Peninsula), and from Merauke to Oro Bay and Buna; and later they were used for coastwise service hundreds of miles farther west and north. In the summer of 1943 they were reinforced by the arrival of the first LSTs, LCTs, LCMs, and DDKWs, with military crews; but the earlier fleet continued in service till the vessels broke down or wore out. After the conquest of Hew Guinea most remnants of this small-ship fleet were returned to their Australian owners or sold in Australia, but part of the fleet proceeded to the Philippines.

A search on "Small Ships Section" and "Buna" will give other references, including this news summary and this, U.S. Army Small Ships Association, having a photo section. The naval end is well documented in Gill's history of the RAN. Details on the Small Ships, largely crewed by Australian Civilians, are in Lunny's two books starting with Forgotten Fleet: a history of the part played by Australian men and ships in the U.S. Army Small Ships Section in New Guinea, 1942-1945 and continued in a second volume. Palmeira (talk) 16:54, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Improving structure and content[edit]

Some years ago, I had read "To the bitter End" by Lex McAyley on this subject. Having some concerns about the balance of the Wikipedia article, I looked for other material on the subject available on-line. This included, Volume V – South–West Pacific Area – First Year, Kokoda to Wau (1st edition, 1959). This is digitised and available from the Australian War Memorial (AWM). Chapters 11 – 17 deal with this battle. 2013 James Brien, Bloody_Beachheads_Ver_15 is an article accessed from the AWM. PAPUAN CAMPAIGN, The Buna-Sanananda Operation, 16 November 1942 - 23 January 1943, CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY, UNITED STATES ARMY, WASHINGTON, D.C., 1990 was also accessed. I have read these materials. Other material available from the AWM includes: Chapter 8, Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 2 – Navy , Volume II – Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945 (1st edition, 1968); Chapter 31, Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 3 – Air, Volume I – Royal Australian Air Force, 1939–1942 (1st edition, 1962); A number of short articles or web pages on the AWM site; and, digitized war diaries of participating Australian Units.

I am throwing this talk out for discussion and to help gather some ideas for myself (and others). It is, by its nature a frank critique of the existing article. I acknowledge the contribution and efforts of the principle and subsidiary authors and apologise in advance if my statements lack tact in any degree. After some reading I feel that there is a need for a significant review. I have tried to gather my thoughts on such a project but I am feeling a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and my near total inexperience with contributing to Wikipedia.

The article generally reads well and flows but appears to suffer from repetition of some points or details. I believe there was some comment to this effect in the peer review.

I was struck by a strong similarity in structure and content between this wiki article and the American history. I believe that the American history unashamedly concentrates on the American involvement in the battle and does not pretend or purport to give a balanced or holistic account of the battle. I believe that it even acknowledges this partisan approach. This article appears to me to similarly lack balance. It also concentrates disproportionately on operations in the vicinity of Buna, which is consistent with an American perspective of the battle. While I won't pretend that the Australian official history is without bias, it certainly has the appearance of being a much more balanced report.

There are some matters of fact and inconsistencies between sources. The most glaring is the strength of the Japanese garrison. Figures range from about 5,500 to 10,000 from a source quoted by James Brien (Steve Bullard, (trans.), Japanese army operations in the South West Pacific area: New Britain and Papua campaigns, 1942–1943, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 2006, p. 205). McAuley gives an estimate of 5,500 reinforce by 1,200 on the eve of commencing the battle with further reinforcement being made over the course of the battle. The article states:

"There were about 5,500 Japanese army and navy troops in and around Buna. Opposite the 126th Infantry was the Yokosuka 5th Special Naval Landing Force, composed of about 400 tough naval infantrymen with an additional 600 naval construction troops. As recently as 17 November, Japanese destroyers had delivered 2,300 troops fresh from Rabaul, New Britain."

In context, this states the force at Buna to be 5,500, separate from the force at Gona and Sanananda. The article needs to circumspect by acknowledging the range of Japanese strengths that have been reported. Needing confirmation is the availability of artillery.

Some of the headings are used more like newspaper 'highlights' than identification of a section of material on the subject identified by the heading. See "Limited Artillery" as an example.

It is my understanding that the opening section of the article should be a précis or abstract of the article. I suggest that this section here is too long and too detailed. This is perhaps the one section where repetition is acceptable and even expected. Significant points and references are made here rather than summarising ideas developed elsewhere in the article.

I have come to the conclusion that the most significant deficiency in the article is its structure. While it does tend to read well, notwithstanding repetition, there is a tendency to digress, particularly in that section dealing with the battle. In consequence, the thread of the battle is lost in dealing with topics of importance but which are, nonetheless peripheral. Consequently, this disrupts the continuity of the account of the battle. There is also a need to provide balance in recounting the actions at the various locations, where presently there is more emphasis on the action in the Buna area. The question then, is what might be a more appropriate structure?

I suggest that there are four key headings, much as there is now. Prelude is perhaps incorrect here since it deals not just with those topics which are a prelude to the battle but with topics that are significant that evolve through the course but which are peripheral to the actual battle such as logistics, the political military manoeuvring. I have grouped these ongoing matters at the end of this section and acknowledge that this might delineate two sections (though what to call them?). I suggest that the order of battle give a time line of unit both entering and leaving the battle area, attachment to formations, their initial strengths and subsequent losses. It might also indicate where they were employed. I acknowledge that some issues identified in the prelude (or parts of these issues) might best be dealt with in the aftermath or conclusion section.

Anyhow, these are some initial ideas.




 2.1 terrain
 Japanese Defences
 2.2 Japanese forces
 Deployment of Japanese forces 
 2.4 Allied forces
   Order of Battle
 Deployment of 32 Div and move to position
 7 Div move to position
   2.5.1 Airstrips built
   2.5.2 Sea route opened
   Major events
 Japanese resupy and reinforcement
 Fire Support
   Naval Support
   Air Support
     Area Bombing
     Close Air Support
   Political Military position
     Replacement of Commanders


 Overview of conduct of battle
 Battle in Buna Area
 Battle in Gona are
 Actions to west of Gona
 Actions at track to front of Sanananda
 Advance on Cape Killerton
 Capture of Sanananda
 Conclusion (of battle section)


 Subsequent action
 Wider impacts
 Lessons Learnt
 4.2 Recognition and memorials

Cinderella157 (talk) 10:32, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

G'day, Cinderella, thanks for taking the time to review the article and over suggestions. If you would like to see what your changes might look like without editing the article, perhaps you would feel more comfortable writing a draft in your "sandbox", which is an area of Wikipedia that belongs only to yourself. If you did that, once you have produced something you are happy with, you could invite other editors here to review that version, and if there was consensus, it could be moved over the top of this article (potentially with some administrator help). To achieve this, you would have to create your sandbox page first. It can be done by clicking here: User:Cinderella157/sandbox and once that has loaded the new page, then clicking the "save page" button at the bottom of that new page. You could then copy-paste the current version of this article there, and commence your restructure/rework, making sure to hit the "save page" as you go. If you have any questions, please let me know. Equally, if my instructions aren't clear, please let me know and I can try and help you further. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 20:08, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

I guess what I was looking for was some feedback. Is there a consensus on the need to improve the article's balance and coverage of actions other than in the Buna area? What I foreshadow is a major change of structure and probably a significant expansion. Is there some consensus that a change in structure is necessarily the way to significantly improve the article. If this is the case, is there some consensus on what this structure might be to provide a starting point. I don't want to go about reinventing the wheel if everybody is happy with the one they have already. Cinderella157 (talk) 01:35, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

G'day, again, yes I think that there is scope for improvement on the article and your suggestions seem quite reasonable to me. I just think that large-scale changes such as that which you are proposing would be best done in a draft first. If possible, though, I would look to reduce the number of headings proposed. Regards, AustralianRupert (talk) 04:28, 19 September 2014 (UTC)