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Hollandia

Today known as Jayapura, in 1941 Hollandia (140.707E 2.543S) was the largest settlement in the Dutch half of New Guinea. It was located on the only really first-class natural harbor on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea, Humboldt Bay, though it had only primitive port facilities. There was also a small airstrip.  To the west, the Cyclops Mountains rise to over 7000 feet (2100 m). Lake Sentani is located south of the Cyclops Mountains about six miles (10 km) from Hollandia. A native track led from Lake Sentani to Tanahmerah Bay, 25 miles (40 km) west of Hollandia on the far side of the Cyclops Mountains.

The town was occupied by the Japanese on 20 April 1942. The Japanese constructed three airfields on the flat plain between the Cyclops Mountains and Lake Sentani and began construction of a fourth at Tami, five miles east of Hollandia on the coast of Humboldt Bay.

Operation RECKLESS

In early 1944 the Allies decided to bypass Wewak, and it was determined that Hollandia was the best site short of Geelvink Bay for developing a major base. However, this would be the longest leap along the coast yet attempted by 7 Fleet. Pacific Fleet carrier support could be provided only for the first few days of the landings, and the nearest Allied airfield was at Nadzab, 500 miles (800 km) away. MacArthur therefore ordered a simultaneous landing at lightly-held Aitape, on the coast 125 miles (200 km) east of Hollandia, to capture the Tadji airstrip and establish a blocking position for any movement westward by the encircled Japanese army at Wewak (Operation PERSECUTION). The landings were scheduled for 22 April 1944.

The Japanese meant to make western New Guinea an important link in their inner defense perimeter, and in December 1943 2 Army (Teshima) at Manokwari was assigned a new infantry division and 7 Air Division. In March 1944 two more divisions were ordered to 2 Army from China. Adachi's battered 18 Army in eastern New Guinea was put under Teshima's command at this time, and Teshima ordered Adachi move west. Adachi ignored the order because he was convinced the Americans meant to land at Hansa Bay. The Americans carried out heavy bombing raids, ship bombardments, and patrols against Wewak in order to reinforce this impression. However, on 12 April Anami, who was senior over both Teshima and Adachi, sent his chief of staff to Wewak to build a fire under the recalcitrant general. As a result, two regiments of 18 Army were already headed west by 22 April.

Preparations for the landings at Hollandia began on 30 March - 2 April 1944 with a deep carrier raid against Palau, where Combined Fleet posed a threat to any move against Hollandia. This was successful at forcing Combined Fleet to retreat to bases further west. At the same time, 5 Air Force struck Hollandia with over 80 B-24 Liberators escorted by P-38 Lightnings modified for greater range. By mid-April Hollandia was finished as an air base complex, and over 340 wrecked Japanese aircraft were later found on the runways, with an estimated additional 50 aircraft shot down over dense jungle. As a result of this debacle, the commander of 6 Air Division, Itahana, was relieved in disgrace.

Digital relief map of Hollandia area

Landings. On 21 April 1944, Hollandia was worked over by strikes from the twelve carriers of Mitscher's Task Force 58.  Mitscher's aviators also struck Wakde, Sawar, and Sarmi, located about 120 miles (190 km) west of Hollandia.  There was virtually no resistance in the air. The next day, elements of I Corps under Eichelberger began their landings from Task Force 7 (Barbey). Two regiments of 24 Division (Irving) were assigned to land at Tanahmerah Bay while two regiments of 41 Division (Fuller) landed at Hollandia. Simultaneously, 163 Regiment of 41 Division (Doe) landed at Aitape and was reinforced by 127 Regiment, 32 Division, the next day. The third regiment from 24 Division, 34 Regiment, was the corps reserve. Barbey personally supervised the landings at Tanahmerah Bay, the most exposed of the three landings, and assigned Fechteler to direct the Hollandia landings and Barbey's chief of staff, Captain Alfred Noble, to direct operations at Aitape.

The weather was heavily overcast on the morning of the invasion, which hindered ground air support but also concealed the invasion convoy from Japanese searches. Over 84,000 Americans were put ashore against just 11,000 defenders, who were caught by surprise and put up only light resistance. Only about a thousand of the defenders were combat troops, mostly from 90 Guard Force. The remainder were service troops that fled into the hills when the preinvasion bombardment began. In addition, the Japanese command situation at Hollandia was badly confused. Adachi had sent Kitazono Toyozo from Wewak to take command of the defenses just ten days before the American landings. Kitazono's fate is uncertain, but apparently he escaped the area to survive the war, and Teshima ordered the new commander of 6 Air Division, Inada Masazumi, to take over command of the defenses.

The landing at Tanahmerah Bay almost became a fiasco. Allied intelligence had incorrectly concluded that there was a partially completed road from here to Lake Sentani left over from an abandoned Dutch colonizing project. Aerial photographs seemed to show two good landing beaches. An Australian scouting party sent to the area on 23 March was betrayed by the local natives, ambushed by the Japanese, and scattered into the jungle. Later aerial photographs suggested the beaches were not as ideal as originally thought, but by then planning had progressed so far that Krueger concluded it was too late to change plans. When the landing force came ashore, it found that one of the beaches, Red 2, while almost ideal for beaching landing ships, lay in front of a completely impassable swamp. There was no way even for infantrymen on foot to get off the beach, which quickly became congested. The other beach, Red 1, was only a hundred yards (90 meters) wide and was located in a cove full of coral heads that prevented anything larger than an LVT or LCM from reaching the beach. However, the terrain behind Red 1, while confused and steep, was at least traversable.  Men and supplies began to be shifted by boat from Red 2 to Red 1 while a naval demolition party began blasting a clear channel for landing ships to approach Red 1 directly.

Meanwhile patrols had discovered that the supposed partial road from Tanahmerah Bay to Lake Sentani was nothing more than a narrow trail winding up the slope behind the beaches. This proved impassable to any kind of vehicle. However, the Japanese bunkers were uncompleted and ideal defensive positions along the winding trail were unmanned. The advance was able to penetrate eight miles (13 km) inland by nightfall, and a weak counterattack at midnight was the first significant resistance encountered. Nevertheless, it was clear that the main landing could not continue at Tanahmerah Bay. Eichelberger ordered 34 Regiment along with all further landing echelons to shift to Humboldt Bay, leaving the two regiments of 24 Division to continue to try to find a way up the trail to Lake Sentani. In spite of the necessity of manhandling supplies up the trail (which diverted 3500 combat troops), and in spite of skillful rearguard actions by small groups of Inada's men, the two regiments reached the westernmost airfield at Setani on 26 April and established contact with 41 Division advancing from Humboldt Bay. The weather also improved enough to permit badly needed supply drops by aircraft. It then took three months for engineers to complete a satisfactory road from Tanahmerah Bay to Sentani.

The landings at Humboldt Bay went better than expected. The Allied commanders anticipated that the Japanese would deploy most of their troops in the area, and there were only two poor landing beaches. White 1 was a narrow sand beach surrounded by swamp whose only exit was dominated by a high plateau to the north, Pancake Hill, where the Japanese had emplaced a number of antiaircraft guns. White 2 was on a narrow spit of land enclosing a small bay, Jautefa Bay, where the Japanese had built a landing and a road to bring supplies in to their airfields. The landings on White 2 were to be made by DUKWs and LVTs that would continue across the spit and cross Jautefa Bay to seize the landing.

Here things went mostly according to plan. Two LCI(G)s flattened Pancake Hill with a rocket barrage, and the antiaircraft positions were seized within an hour of the landings. The beach was found to be the location a Japanese supply dump, and it quickly became congested with American supplies as well as engineers worked to bulldoze a road past Pancake Hill. By nightfall, 4200 tons of supplies had been unloaded and 300 vehicles were ashore. By the end of the next day, 186 Regiment was halfway to Sentani and 162 Regiment had taken Hollandia and the surrounding area. There was little resistance.

The landings suffered a serious setback on the night of 23-24 April 1944, when a lone Japanese aircraft dropped a string of bombs across White 1. The stacks of supplies caught fire, and soon exploding ammunition devastated the area. Landing craft were used to evacuate troops from the beach, but 24 were killed and 100 wounded, and over 60% of the supplies landed on the beach were destroyed. The fires did not die down enough to allow engineers to return until 27 April, and for a time all supplies had to come over White 2 to be transshipped across Jautefa bay by landing craft. 186 Regiment was put on half rations for several days, but by noon on 24 April it had reached Lake Sentani and encountered the first organized Japanese resistance. The next day, two companies of 1/186 Regiment crossed part of Lake Sentani by LVT to speed the advance. By nightfall on 26 April the Sentani airfields were in Allied hands and 186 Regiment had made contact with 24 Division coming up from Tanahmerah Bay. The supply situation was eased somewhat by seizing the airstrip at Tami on 1 May 1944 and bringing in transport aircraft from 3 May on to shuttle supplies from Humboldt Bay to the Sentani airfields.

Teshima wanted to send two regiments from Wakde against the landings, but Anami permitted him to send only two infantry battalions and a battalion of artillery on the long overland march. They were only halfway to Hollandia when the Americans landed at Wakde and cut off their base, forcing them to turn back. Anami himself wanted to dispatch 36 Division from Sarmi to Hollandia, but this plan was vetoed by Southern Army.

Mopping up continued until 6 June, when the area was declared secure. The Americans suffered casualties of 152 killed or missing and 1057 wounded, while 3300 Japanese were killed. A peculiarity of this operation for this stage of the war was that over 600 Japanese surrendered. Inada attempted to rally his shattered forces at Genjem, a point 15 miles (24 km) west of Lake Sentani, where the Japanese had an agricultural project from which Inada hoped to supplement his meager rations.  Of the 7500 troops who began the march from Genjem to Sarmi, perhaps 1000 survived. The two divisions that had been ordered to New Guinea from China in March 1944 lost nearly half their numbers to submarine attack while at sea, and the survivors were diverted to Halmahera.

Ironically, the Sentani airfield complex proved unable to support heavy bombers without extensive engineering work.

Allied order of battle, 22 April 1944

Southwest Pacific Area (MacArthur)     

 
7 Fleet (Kinkaid)


 
Task Force 77 (Barbey)



 
Task Group 77.1 Western Attack Group (Barbey)     
I Corps Headquarters (Eichelberger)




DD Swenson



 
Transports
24 Division (Irving)
542 Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment




 
AP Henry T. Allen





LSI Manoora





LSI Kanimbla





LSD Carter Hall





AK Triangulum






16 LCI
7 LST





Screen






DD Hobby






DD Nicholson






DD Wilkes






DD Grayson





DD Gillespie





DD Kalk




Special Service Vessels






AT Reserve






2 SC
1 LCI
2 YMS




Task Group 77.2 Central Attack Group (Fechteler)     
41 Division (Fuller) less one regimental combat team
532 Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment




DD Reid





Transports






LSI Westralia





LSD Gunston Hall






AK Ganymede




Destroyer Transports






APD Humphreys






APD Brooks





APD Sands





APD Gilmer





APD Herbert






16 LCI
7 LST





Destroyers






DD Stevenson





DD Stockton





DD Thorn





DD Roe






DD Welles





DD Radford






DD Taylor




Special Service Vessels






DMS Hogan






DMS Hovey





AT Sonoma






2 SC
2 LCI
2 YMS




Task Group 77.3 Eastern Attack Group





DD La Vallette





Transports
163 Regimental Combat Team (Doe)





APD Kilty





APD Ward





APD Crosby





APD Dickerson






APD Talbot





APD Schley





APD Kane





APD Dent






APD Noa





LSD Belle Grove






AK Etamin




Screen






DD Nicholas





DD O'Bannon





DD Jenkins





DD Hopewell





DD Howorth





7 LST




Special Service Vessels






DMS Hamilton





DMS Perry





AT Chetco






4 SC
2 YMS




Task Group 77.4 First Reinforcement Group





Western Unit






AKA Virgo





DD Stevens






DD Harrison





PF Coronado






6 LST




Central Unit






DD McKee





DD John Rodgers






PF San Pedro






5 LST




Eastern Unit






AK Bootes





DD Fletcher





DD Murray





PF Glendale






PF Long Beach






6 LST



Task Group 77.5 Second Reinforcement Group





Western Unit






APA Zeilin






APA Windsor






DD Sigsbee





DD Dashiell





DE Lovelace






DE Manning




Central Unit






DD Ringgold





DD Schroeder





5 LST



Task Group 77.6 Floating Reserve





APA Ormsby





APA Harry Lee





AKA Centaurus


Task Force 78 Escort Carriers (Ragsdale)




Task Group 78.1





Carrier Division 22 (Ragsdale)





CVE Sangamon






CVE Suwannee





CVE Chenango





CVE Santee




Destroyer Squadron 2






DD Morris






DD Anderson





DD Hughes





DD Mustin





DD Russell





DD Ellet






DD Lansdowne






DD Lardner



Task Group 78.2 (Davison)




Carrier Division 24






CVE Natoma Bay






CVE Coral Sea






CVE Corregidor






CVE Manila Bay





Destroyer Squadron 48






DD Erben





DD Walker





DD Hale





DD Abbot





DD Bullard





DD Kidd





DD Black





DD Chauncey





DD Stembel


Task Force 74 Covering Group "A" (Crutchley)




CA Australia




CA Shropshire




DD Warramunga




DD Arunta



DD Ammen



DD Mullany


Task Force 75 Covering Force "B" (Berkey)
Rottman (2002)



CL Phoenix




CL Nashville



CL Boise



Destroyer Squadron 24





DD Hutchins




DD Bache




DD Daly




DD Abner Read





DD Bush

Task Force 58 Fast Carrier Force
As listed for Battle of the Philippine Sea

Task Force 73 Aircraft Seventh Fleet



Task Group 73.1 Seeadler Harbor Group




AV Tangier




AVP Heron




AVP San Pablo




VP-33 13 PBY-5



VP-52
13 PBY-5



VB-106
11 PB4Y-1 Liberator


Task Group 73.2 Langemak Bay Group




AVP Half Moon



VP-34
10 PBY-5

Photo Gallery


Maps of Hollandia operation

U.S. Army

Landing  craft in Tanahmerah Bay

U.S. Army

Manhandling supplies up from Tahnamerah

U.S. Army

Crossing Lake Sentani by LVT

U.S. Army


References

Morison (1953)

Rottman (2002)

Smith (1953; accessed 2013-5-18)



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