To the Allies the Hollandia operation had proved an unexpectedly easy tactical success, since the Japanese had been strangely ill prepared to defend adequately this potentially powerful base. General Mac Arthur had sent one and two-thirds reinforced divisions against Hollandia on the assumption that 14,000 Japanese, including nearly two regiments of infantry, would be found there. [N4-1] But no strong Japanese resistance and little co-ordinated defense had been encountered there. [N4-2] It appears that about 11,000 Japanese of all services were at Hollandia on 22 April and that ground combat elements were represented by no more than 500 antiaircraft artillerymen.[N4-3]
There are many reasons for Japanese unpreparedness at Hollandia. First, the Japanese had been caught by surprise, tactically speaking. Second, there had been sweeping changes in their command structure at Hollandia just before 22 April. Third, not enough combat equipment was available at Hollandia even to arm properly the thousands of service troops who were there. Finally, and most important, time had worked against the Japanese in the case of Hollandia just as time had worked against them throughout the Pacific since their first successes in late 1941 and early 1942.
Strategy and Dispositions to April 1944 The Japanese Situation to Mid-1943 The Japanese entered World War II with limited objectives in mind, having no plan to press home their attacks or to meet and defeat the main body of the forces opposing them. Initially, they intended only to knock out the U. S. Pacific Fleet, to seize Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies, to occupy the Philippine Islands, and to gain control over a defensive perimeter reaching southwestward from the Kuriles (north of Japan) through Wake Island, the Marianas, the Carolines, and the Marshalls, to Rabaul.
After attaining these objectives, the Japanese expected ultimately to obtain from the United States and Britain a negotiated peace which would leave Japan in possession of a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.”
[N4-1 Memo, GHQ SWPA, no addressee, 1 Mar 44, sub: Considerations Affecting the Plan to Seize Humboldt Bay Area with Strong Support of Carriers, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Hollandia, 2-14 Mar 44; see also above, Ch. II. Just prior to D Day, new G-2 estimates raised the total to 15,000 Japanese, but lowered combat strength to 1,000. GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI 755, 16 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 16 Apr 44. This revised estimate was made too late to affect Allied plans.]
[N4-2] At first, when no fighting took place at the beachheads, General .MacArthur’s G-2 considered it probable that the Japanese had withdrawn inland to make a final, determined stand around the airfields. GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI 764, 25 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 25 Apr 44. 3 ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 44, 7 Jun 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; 18th Army Opns, III, 41-48; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 48-51.]
The ALAMO source states that 8,981 Japanese were at Hollandia on 22 April. The 18th Army citation provides two figures: the first, as of ten days prior to the Allied landings, gives a total of 14,700; while the second, for which no specific date is given, sets figures of 10,000 Japanese Army troops and 1,000 Japanese Navy troops. In the light of other estimates, the first 18th Army figure is believed to overlook the number of Japanese Army Air Force pilots and ground crewmen evacuated from Hollandia during April before the Allied landings and, apparently, makes no allowance for casualties resulting from Allied air action before 22 April. The 2nd Area Army monograph states that approximately 10,000 Japanese were at Hollandia on D Day.
Quickly, in late 1941 and early 1942, the Japanese seized their initial perimeter and brought under military control most of the contemplated Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere except for southern China. But no negotiated peace was forthcoming. On the contrary, the United States and Britain gave every indication that they would mount counteroffensives long before the Japanese anticipated such action. The United States began to develop a line of communications to Australia and to reinforce that continent as a base for future operations. [N4-4]
Returning to plans considered but not approved prior to the war, [N4-5] Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, early in 1942, developed in a piecemeal fashion plans to expand the perimeter already seized. Discarding as impossible of execution a Navy plan to take Australia, Imperial General Headquarters determined to cut the line of communications from the United States to Australia by occupying New Caledonia, the Fiji Islands, and Samoa. Flank protection for the new perimeter was to be obtained on the south by seizing Port Moresby, in southeastern New Guinea, and on the north by securing bases in the American Aleutian Islands. The Japanese hoped that the United States would wear itself out in attacks against the new perimeter, find itself unable to mount stronger counteroffensives, and thus afford Japan better opportunity to secure a negotiated peace.[N4-6]
[N4-4: Interrog of Flt Adm Osamu Nagano [Chief of the Navy Section, Imperial GHQ, and Supreme Naval Adviser to the Emperor], 30 Nov 45, in United States Strategic Bombing Survey [USSBS], Interrog 498, copy in OCMH files; USSBS, Summary Report [Pacific War] (Washington, 1946) p.2. In addition to the specific documents cited in this chapter, the author was furnished additional information by Mr. Clarke Kawakami, research assistant to Commodore Richard W. Bates (USN), of the Naval War College. Mr. Kawakami’s remarks on the original draft of this chapter were based on research into Japanese sources and on interviews with high-ranking Japanese Army and Navy officers undertaken while he was a member of the G-2 Historical Section of GHQ FEC in Tokyo.]
[N4-5 As outlined in Combined Fleet Top Secret Opn Order 1, 5 Nov 41, translation in Joint Congressional Investigation Committee, Pearl Harbor Attack (Washington, 1946), Pt. XIII, Exhibit 8, pp. 431-84.]
[N4-6 Japanese Studies in WW II, 72, Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 45-46, 50-54, copy of translation in OCMH files; Kawakami Comments. The plan to move into the Solomons and eastern New Guinea, including Port Moresby, was developed in late January 1942; the plan to move into Fiji, New Caledonia, and Samoa, in late April; and the plan to seize bases in the Aleutians not until late May or early June.]
During the spring and summer of 1942 the initial Japanese attempts to expand the perimeter met with disaster during the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Undaunted, the Japanese expanded southward from Rabaul down the chain of Solomon Islands to seize air bases in preparation for the advance to Fiji, New Caledonia, and Samoa. At the same time they attempted to capture Port Moresby by overland action. American landings at Guadalcanal in the Solomons during August stopped the Japanese expansion to the southeast, and Australian troops threw the enemy back from Port Moresby later in the year. The Japanese realized by September 1942 that they had overreached themselves and directed their energies to strengthening their forces in eastern New Guinea, the Solomons, and the Bismarck Archipelago. [N4-7]
To control operations in these areas, the Japanese, in November 1942, established at Rabaul the headquarters of the 8th Area Army. Under this headquarters was placed the 17th Army, already operating in the Solomons and eastern New Guinea, and the 18th Army, which was set up at Rabaul in November to take over control of operations in eastern New Guinea. About the same time the 6th Air Division was organized, placed under the 8th Area Army’s control, and sent to New Guinea. The 17th Army failed in attempts to retake Guadalcanal, while in eastern New Guinea the 18th Army fared no better in trying to maintain its hold on the north coast of Papua at Buna and Gona. The two campaigns made heavy inroads into Japanese ground, air, and naval strength. Imperial General Headquarters paused to take stock.[4-8]
At the close of 1942 Imperial General Headquarters estimated that the Allies intended to conduct a two-pronged drive toward Rabaul (then the principal Japanese forward base in the Southwest Pacific Area) from eastern New Guinea and the Solomons. The Japanese expected that the Allies would then move up the northern coast of New Guinea toward the Philippines and, possibly,
conduct another advance toward the Philippines from northwestern Australia through the Netherlands East Indies. Recognizing that the initiative had been lost, and faced with a lack of shipping and diminishing air and naval power, Imperial General Headquarters decided upon a strategic withdrawal in order to build up defenses against the expected Allied drives and to prepare bases from which future offensives might be launched.
Accordingly, on 4 January 1943, Japan set up a strategic defensive line running through the southern Indies to Wewak, on the northeastern coast of New Guinea between Hollandia and the Buna-Gona area.
From Wewak the line ran southeastward to Lae and Salamaua, whence it jumped to the south coast of New Britain, up to Rabaul, and south along the Solomons to New Georgia. To the north the line ran through the Gilbert Islands, the Marianas, Wake, and the Aleutians.
The 17th Army now began building new defenses in the northern Solomons, withdrawing from Guadalcanal. Lieutenant General Hatazo Adachi, commanding the 18th Army, moved his headquarters from Rabaul to Lae in March and prepared to defend what was left of eastern New Guinea. To strengthen this area the 41st Division was moved from China to eastern New Guinea during the same month. About the same time the bulk of the 51st Division, some of which was already in New Guinea, began shuttling to the Lae area from New Britain. Large-scale attempts to reinforce the 18th Army ended in early March after the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, during which the 115th Infantry of the 51st Division was practically wiped out when the convoy carrying it from New Britain to Lae fell prey to Allied air action. The 20th Division, already in eastern New Guinea, was placed under General Adachi’s
command in April.[N4-9]
[N4-7 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 50-66.]
[N4-8 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 68-74; MID WD, Disposition and Movement of Japanese Ground Forces, 1941-45, copy in OCMH files; Japanese Studies in WW II, 38, Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 2-4, copy in OCMH files.]
Operations in the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies since the beginning of the war had been under the control of the Southern Army,[N4-10] subordinate to which were the 14th Army in the Philippines and the 16th Army in the Indies. On 7 January the 19th Army was set up under the Southern Army to relieve the 16th Army of responsibility for Timor, the islands of the Arafura Sea, Dutch New Guinea, Ceram, Ambon, Halmahera, and Morotai. The 48th Division, in the Indies since early 1942, and the newly arrived 5th Division were placed under the 19th Army, which established its command post at Ambon. Troops and supplies destined for the 19th Army passed through the Philippines, while the Palau Islands, already in use to some extent for such purposes, assumed new importance as a staging area through which men and equipment going to the 8th Area Army passed. Initially the boundary between the 19th and 18th Armies (and therefore between the Southern and 8th Area Armies) was the Dutch-Australian international border across central New Guinea. But in April 1943 this boundary was changed to 140 degrees east longitude in order to place Hollandia within the 8th Area Army’s zone of responsibility.[4-11] Japanese Strategic Withdrawals to April 1944
Slow but steady Allied progress in eastern New Guinea and the Solomons during the spring and summer of 1943 prompted Imperial General Headquarters to send air reinforcements to the 8th Area Army. The 7th Air Division, organized in January 1943 for operations in the Netherlands East Indies, was transferred to the command of the 8th Area Army in late May or early June and began sending planes to eastern New Guinea in June. To co-ordinate the operations of the 6th and 7th Air Divisions, the headquarters of the 4th Air Army was set up at Rabaul under the 8th Area Army. The 6th Air Division was to concentrate its strength at Rabaul, the Admiralty Islands, Wewak, and Hansa Bay, east of Wewak. The 7th Air Division was to develop rear area bases immediately west of Wewak and also at Aitape and Hollandia.[4-12]
In September 1943 the pace of Allied operations in eastern New Guinea was accelerated and it appeared to the Japanese that an invasion of New Britain was probable. Unable to think of any feasible way to reinforce the area in the face of increasing Allied air and naval action, Imperial General Headquarters decided upon another strategic withdrawal. Having already lost the Aleutians, Japan established a new strategic main line of resistance along the line southern Indies, Dutch New Guinea, the Carolines, and the Marianas, back to the Kuriles. The former all-important eastern New Guinea-Bismarck Archipelago northern Solomons area was relegated to the status of a holding front, while behind the new defensive line ground strength was to be rebuilt and new air and naval power was to be mustered. By the spring of 1944 the rebuilding was to be so complete that offensive operations, including a naval showdown, could be resumed in midsummer.[N4-13]
[N4-9 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 70-78; MID WD, op. cit.; Japanese Studies in WW II, 37, Hist of 8th Area Army, 1942-45, copy in OCMH files; Japanese Studies in WW II, 41, 18th Army Opns, I, 87-97, copy in OCMH files. General Adachi went to New Guinea twice in March, but his headquarters was not permanently established at Lae until April. ]
[N4-10 Some translations render Southern Army as Southern Area Army. ]
[N4-11 Hist of 8th Area Army, p. 11; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 4-6; Japanese Studies in WW II, 21, Hist of Southern Area Army, 1941-45, pp. 29-35, copy in OCMH files. The 15th Army, in Burma, and the 25th Army, at Singapore, were also under the Southern Army. ]
[N4-12 Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 13-18; Hist of 8th Area Army, pp. 15-31.]
Rabaul remained the center of the holding front area while Hansa Bay, previously the main port of entry for large ships taking supplies and troops to the 8th Area Army, became a small-boat base. Hollandia took the place of Hansa Bay as the principal unloading point and was to be developed into a major base from which the mid-1944 offensives might be supported. The distribution point for the eastern Indies and Dutch New Guinea became Halmahera, while Manokwari, on the Vogelkop Peninsula of western New Guinea, became the main supply base for western New Guinea. Other air and supply bases were to be developed at Sorong, at the western tip of the Vogelkop, and on the islands in Geelvink Bay. The Palaus retained their status as a staging area for men and supplies moving southeastward toward New Guinea.[N4-14]
In October and November 1943 Allied forces of the South Pacific Area drove up the chain of Solomon Islands to Bougainville, new stronghold of the 17th Army; Central Pacific Area forces invaded the Gilberts; and Southwest Pacific Area troops trapped part of the 18th Army on the Huon Peninsula of eastern New Guinea. The Japanese Navy sent the bulk of its carrier-based air strength to Rabaul in a vain attempt to stem the tide of Allied advance, but this move ended in disaster for practically all of the Japanese Navy’s carrier-based aircraft. Coupled with concurrent losses of cruisers, the decimation of the carrier-based air power resulted in the temporary immobilization of the Japanese Fleet.[N4-15]
Imperial General Headquarters now gave up hope of long holding the eastern New Guinea-Solomons-Bismarck Archipelago area and became perturbed about the opening of a new Allied front in the Central Pacific, presaged by the invasion of the Gilberts. Imperial General Headquarters was again worried lest the Allies mount an offensive toward the Philippines from northwestern Australia, and it still firmly believed that a drive northwest up the north coast of New Guinea was to be undertaken by the forces under General MacArthur’s command. To strengthen the eastern Indies and western New Guinea, plans were made to send the 3rd, 36th, and 46th Divisions to that area from China or Japan. To control future operations in the region, the Headquarters, 2nd Area Army, was dispatched from Manchuria to Davao, Mindanao, in the Philippines, where it arrived during late November 1943. Sent south with Lieutenant General Korechika Anami’s 2nd Area Army headquarters was the headquarters of the 2nd Army, under Lieutenant General Fusataro Teshima, who established his command post at Manokwari on the Vogelkop Peninsula. The 2nd Army and the 19th Army were both placed under the control of the 2nd Area Army which, in turn, was directly under Imperial General Headquarters. The 2nd Area Army was to hold the area from 140 degrees east longitude, west to Macassar Strait and south from 5 degrees north latitude. Hollandia remained within the 8th Area Army’s zone of responsibility.[N4-16]
[N4-13 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 84-96; Japanese Studies in WW II, 50, Southeast Area Naval Opns, III, 2-5, copy in OCMH files.
[N4-14 Southeast Area Naval Opns, III, 4; Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, p. 92; Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 44-47; Japanese Studies in WW II, 42, 18th Army Opns, II, 134, copy in OCMH files.
[N4-15 Southeast Area Naval Opns III, 5; GHQ SWPA, G-3 Hist Div, Chronology of the War in the SWPA, 1941-45, copy in OCMH files; Tabular Records of Daily Movements of Japanese Battleships, Carriers, and Cruisers, in WW II Seized Enemy Records, Record Group 242, Doc 11792, National Archives; Vols. III and IV of Aircraft Carriers, part of a series of “Greater East Asia War Campaigns: Materials for Investigation of Meritorious Service,” in WW II Seized Enemy Records, Rec Grp 242, Docs 12552 and 12060, respectively. Last two as translated and analyzed by Mr. Thomas G. Wilds, Pacific Section, OCMH.]
The 36th Division began arriving at Sarmi, 125 miles west-northwest of Hollandia, in December 1943, while one regiment, the 222nd Infantry, reached Biak Island in Geelvink Bay the same month. Remnants of the 46th Division, most of which was sunk in transit by Allied submarines, arrived in the Lesser Soendas about the same time. Because of developments in central China, the 3rd Division was left in that country. Initially, the 14th Division was substituted for the 3rd, but neither did it ever reach New Guinea. The 36th Division passed to the control of the 2nd Army, and the 46th was placed under command of the 19th Army. The 7th Air Division, which had hardly started moving toward eastern New Guinea, was taken from the control of the 8th Area Army and reassigned to the 2nd Area Army. The air division headquarters was set up at Ambon in November, and shortly thereafter the few planes remaining among those previously sent to eastern New Guinea went to Ambon.[N4-17] Finally, to strengthen the front against the threat of Allied advance across the central Pacific, Imperial General Headquarters dispatched the 52nd Division to the Carolines. There it and other Japanese Army units either already in the Central Pacific or on their way to that area passed to the operational control of the Combined Fleet.[N4-18]
During the last months of 1943 and the opening months of 1944 Allied offensive moves continued at an ever-increasing rate. In the Southwest Pacific the entire Huon Peninsula area was cleared of Japanese troops, and a foothold was seized in western New Britain. In the South Pacific the Japanese could not stem the Allied advance in the northern Solomons, and the Allies moved on to seize an airfield site on Green Island, east of Rabaul and within easy fighter range of that base. The final steps in the isolation of Rabaul were the seizure of the Admiralty Islands by Allied forces of the Southwest Pacific Area in February and March 1944, and the capture of Emirau Island by South Pacific Area troops in March. In the Central Pacific events moved just as rapidly. In January and February Allied forces advanced into the Marshall Islands, while carrier-based aircraft of the U. S. Pacific Fleet struck heavily at Truk, previously the Combined Fleet’s strongest advance base.[N4-19]
[N4-16 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 9-13; 2nd Area Army Opn Plan A-1, 23 Nov 43, as cited in Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 14-21; Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 45-47; Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 94-96; Kawakami Comments. Lieutenant General Kenzo Kitano, the 19th Army’s commander, commanded the 4th Division in the Philippines in 1942. This division spearheaded the final Japanese drive which resulted in the American surrender at Bataan and Corregidor. See Morton, The Fall of the Philippines.]
[N4-17 Japanese Studies in WW II, 32, 2nd Army Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, pp. 1-2, copy in OCMH files; Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 44-57; Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 25-29; Interrog of Col Rinsuke Kaneko (JAAF), 21 Nov 45, in USSBS [Pacific], Naval Analysis Division, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, 2 vols. (Washington, 1946, OPNAV-P-03-100), II, 404-08; 2nd Area Army Opn Order, no number, 28 Nov 43, as translated in GHQ SWPA, ATIS Current Translation 131, 31 Jul 44; Kawakami Comments.]
[N4-18 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ,, p. 93; Japanese Studies in WW II, 55, Central Pacific Opns, pp. 17-18, copy in OCMH files. 19 GHQ SWPA, G-3 Hist Div, Chronology of the War in the SWPA.]
The Japanese high command was again forced to issue withdrawal orders and to make attempts to strengthen forward area positions. The Allied advances in eastern New Guinea prompted the 8th Area Army to order the 18th Army to retreat to Madang. On 8 January 1944 General Adachi moved his 18th Army headquarters by submarine from Sio, on the Huon Peninsula, to Madang, only eight days before Australian troops seized Sio. Shortly after that narrow escape, the command post was moved still farther westward to Wewak.[N4-20]
About 10 February the Combined Fleet, recognizing that the establishment of Allied air bases on the Admiralties and Marshalls would bring all the Carolines within range of Allied bombers, decided that the Truk fleet base was no longer tenable. The opinion was forcibly strengthened by the Pacific Fleet carrier strike on Truk later in the month, and Combined Fleet headquarters was moved to the Palaus. About the same time, the Japanese Navy abandoned all hope of conducting successful operations in the Bismarck Archipelago-northern Solomons area and withdrew the last remnants of its air power from Rabaul.[N4-21]
More drastic redispositions and new changes in command structure were effected by both the Japanese Army and Navy in March and early April 1944. The Combined Fleet had no intention of making the Palaus a permanent base but planned to use the base only as a temporary advanced anchorage until new base facilities in the Philippines could be developed. The ultimate withdrawal of Combined Fleet headquarters and surface units from the Palaus was speeded by the carrier raids of the U. S. Fifth Fleet on those islands at the end of March, when the American carriers were providing strategic support for the Hollandia operation. The Japanese Navy, as a result of these carrier raids and, later, the threat of Allied land-based bomber attacks on the Palaus from Hollandia, ceased to be much interested in the Palaus.
But Imperial General Headquarters, in March, was still determined to strengthen the central Pacific. Accordingly, early that month, the headquarters of the 31st Army, Major General Hideyoshi Obata commanding, was set up on Guam in the Marianas to exercise command under direction of the Combined Fleet of all Japanese Army units in the Central Pacific islands. The 29th Division was sent out to the Marianas in March also, and plans were made to send the 43rd Division to the same islands.[N4-22] The portion of the strategic main line of resistance for which the 31st Army was responsible extended along the line Bonins-Volcanos-Marianas-Ponape-Truk-Woleai-Yap-Palaus. At the Palaus the line tied into the 2nd Area Army’s zone of responsibility.
So far, the Palaus had been little more than a staging area, and few combat troops were on the islands. In March, line of communications troops, replacements, and rear echelons of various 8th Area Army units in the Palaus passed with their commander, Major General Takeo Yamaguchi, to the control of the 2nd Area Army. More wide-sweeping changes were due in the Palaus, for by March Imperial General Headquarters was worried lest the Palaus were to become an immediate target of Allied invasion. It was therefore decided to send strong reinforcements to the Palaus, and the 14th Division was scheduled for shipment to the islands from northern China. The 35th Division was promised to the 2nd Area Army in place of the 14th, but, since it would be some time before the 14th Division could reach the Palaus, the 219th Infantry (less one battalion, but with a battalion of artillery attached) of the 35th Division was sent on to the Palaus, where it landed during March. The remainder of the 35th Division proceeded to Halmahera and western New Guinea via the Philippines, delayed as a result of Allied submarine attacks on the convoy carrying it southward.
[N4-20 Hist of 8th Area Army, p. 46; MID WD, op. cit.; Interrog of Capt Shigeru Iwaki, 21 Feb 46, in GHQ SCAP, ATIS Doc 14924-A, copy in OCMH files.]
[N4-21 Southeast Area Naval Opns, III, 2-9; Interrog of Comdr Chikataka Nakajima [staff of CinC, Combined Fleet], 22 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 432-35.]
[N4-22 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, p. 93; Central Pacific Opns, pp. 17-18; MID WD, Order of Battle of the Japanese Armed Forces, 1 Mar 45, pp. 72, 100. The 43rd Division’s convoy suffered heavy losses on the trip to the Marianas, but the remnants of the division arrived in the islands in May.]
The U. S. Fifth Fleet’s carrier raid on the Palaus at the end of March apparently prompted Imperial General Headquarters to expect an invasion of the Palaus in the near future. Obviously, the understrength regimental combat team of the 35th Division could not hold those islands, and herefore efforts were made to speed the shipment of the 14th Division. Destined originally for western New Guinea and even later for the Marianas, the 14th Division finally set sail for the Palaus early in April, reaching those islands safely on the 24th of the month, just two days after the Allied landings at Hollandia. During the ensuing weeks the elements of the 35th Division already in the Palaus left to rejoin their parent unit in western New Guinea. Lt. General Sadae Inoue, commanding the 14th Division, was appointed Commander, Palau Sector Group, in which capacity his area of responsibility included Yap in the Carolines, as well as the Palaus. General Yamaguchi’s staging area forces already in the Palaus passed to General Inoue’s command, probably about the same time that the 14th Division arrived in the islands.[N4-23]
Equally radical changes had been made to the south. Recognizing that the 8th Area Army and the 17th Army were irretrievably cut off, Imperial General Headquarters, on 14 March 1944, wrote them off as a loss, ordering them to hold out as best they could. About the same time the 18th Army and the 4th Air Army were transferred to the jurisdiction of the 2nd Area Army, for it was evident that the 8th Area Army’s headquarters at Rabaul could no longer exercise effective control over the two units. The boundary between the 2nd and 8th Area Armies was moved eastward to 147 degrees east longitude (the Admiralties, however, remained under the 8th Area Army). The 18th Army, then reorganizing at Madang, was brought well within the 2nd Area Army’s zone, as were the Japanese bases at Hansa Bay, Wewak, Aitape, and Hollandia.
Imperial General Headquarters ordered the 2nd Area Army to hold all the territory west of Wewak within its zone and to pull the 18th Army west from Madang to Wewak, Aitape, and Hollandia. The 2nd Area Army was also instructed to develop Hollandia into a major supply base, but neither this development nor the 18th Army’s withdrawal was to interfere with more important defense preparations in western New Guinea and the islands between the Vogelkop Peninsula and the Philippines. Given this leeway, the 2nd Area Army decided to concentrate its efforts in strengthening a strategic defensive front along the line from the Lesser Soendas through the Aroe Islands in the Arafura Sea, north to Mimika on the southwest coast of Dutch New Guinea, and thence to the Wakde-Sarmi area, 125 miles northwest of Hollandia. Although this decision would obviously leave the 18th Army out in the cold insofar as supplies or reinforcements were concerned, Imperial General Headquarters approved the 2nd Area Army’s plan without recorded comment. [N4-24]
[N4-23 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 87- 93, 109, 121-23; Central Pacific Opns, pp. 17-18; Japanese Studies in WW II, 56, The Palau Opns, pp. 4-5, 45-47, 57-61, copy in OGMH files; Kawakami Comments.]
To strengthen the 2nd Area Army, the 32nd and 35th Divisions had already been dispatched toward western New Guinea and Halmahera, where they began arriving in late April. Air redispositions also took place. The 4th Air Army headquarters and the 6th Air Division moved from Wewak to Hollandia in March (both had moved from Rabaul to Wewak in late 1943). Though reinforced, the 6th Air Division was practically wiped out by Allied air attacks during March and April, [N4-25] but its headquarters remained at Hollandia.
Defensive planning of the 4th Air Army and the 2nd Area Army was thrown askew by the aircraft losses at Hollandia, and the Japanese had to decide whether they could again afford to risk a large number of planes as far forward as Hollandia, or whether remaining air power should be re-concentrated farther westward. Since the 2nd Area Army had already decided to establish its main defensive line west of Hollandia, the decision was obvious—no more large numbers of aircraft were to be sent to Hollandia.
The 4th Air Army’s headquarters moved west from Hollandia on 15 April and reestablished the command post at Manado in the Celebes, to which town the 2nd Area Army moved its headquarters from Davao a few days later. At the same time, to coordinate command in the southern regions, the 2nd Area Army passed from the direct control of Imperial General Headquarters to the control of the intermediate link, the Southern Army. Simultaneously, the 4th Air Army passed to the direct command of the Southern Army.[N4-26]
Halmahera, already the principal distribution point for the eastern part of the Netherlands East Indies and for Dutch New Guinea, also gradually developed into a focal point for the Japanese defense of the southern approaches to the Philippines. The Palaus’ former status as a major staging base was gradually curtailed, and the islands lost their importance to the 2nd Area Army.[N4-27]
General Anami was again instructed by Imperial General Headquarters rapidly to develop, behind the new strategic main line of resistance, supply and staging bases from which a general offensive might be resumed in mid-1944.[N4-28]
[N4-24 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 107-11; 2nd Area Army Opn Order A-40, 20 Mar 44, as translated in ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 Jul 44, copy in G-2 Dof A files.]
[N4-25 The destruction of the 6th Air Division is discussed in Ch. II, above.]
[N4-26 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp. 110-13, 120-23; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 30-44,47-48, 53-55; Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 16-18, 36; 18th Army Opns, III, 41-46; 4th Air Army Opn-Order A-250, 22 Mar 44, in GHQ SWPA, ATIS Enemy Publication 268, 4 Jan 45, copy in OCMH files; Interrog of Colonel Kaneko, 21 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 404-08; AAF SWPA Int Sum 197, 8 Apr 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnl, 7 Apr 44.]
[N4-27 ALAMO Force, G-2 Est of Enemy Sit with Respect to Morotai, 1 Aug 44, in ALAMO G-3 Jnl Morotai, 2-8 Aug 44; ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpts 44 and 51, 7 Jun and 26 Jul 44, respectively, copies in G-2 Dof A files; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp.53-55. ]
[N4-28 Hist of Army Section, Imperial GHQ, pp.84-96.]
Japan’s Pacific Order of Battle, April 1944
Thus, in the area of principal immediate interest to Allied forces of the Southwest Pacific as they moved toward Hollandia in April 1944, the Japanese high command centered in General Count Hisaichi Terauchi’s Southern Army, with headquarters at Singapore.[N4-29] Under the Southern Army was the 2nd Area Army, headquarters at Manado, which in turn controlled the 2nd, 18th, and 19th Armies. The 2nd Area Army had about 170,000 troops under its command.
In western New Guinea and the Hamahera region was the 2nd Army headquarters at Manokwari, comprising the 32nd, 35th, and 36th Divisions, and miscellaneous other units, totaling about 50,000 men. The strength of the 19th Army, spread over most of the rest of the Netherlands East Indies, was also about 50,000 troops, centered around the 5th, 46th, and 48th Divisions. The 8th Area Army, controlled directly by Imperial General Headquarters, retained under its command in the Solomons and Bismarck Archipelago the 17th Army, the 38th Division, the 65th Brigade, and the remnants of the 6th and 17th Divisions.
Total strength of the 8th Area Army in April 1944 was perhaps 80,000 men. In the Philippines the Southern Army had under its command the 14th Army, comprising the 16th Division and four independent mixed brigades. The 14th Army had about 45,000 combat troops under its control, and total Japanese strength in the Philippines was about 100,000 men, including air, naval, and army service troops. On the Central Pacific islands was the 31st Army, under the operational control of the Central Pacific Fleet and consisting of the 14th, 29th, and 52nd Divisions, with the 43rd Division on the way. The 31st Army was about 60,000 men strong. The 14th Division and other units in the Palaus, including naval and air, totaled about 30,000 men.[N4-30]
When the 18th Army, passed to the control of the 2nd Area Army in March 1944, General Adachi had under his control from 50,000 to 60,000 men. His three infantry divisions, the 20th, 41st, and 51st, had all been badly battered in fighting in eastern New Guinea and, since January, had been suffering heavy casualties during withdrawal from the Huon Peninsula area. At the time of the change in command, the 20th Division was painfully reorganizing at Madang (east of which it was fighting a rear guard action against Australian troops) and Hansa Bay. The 41st Division was deployed in the Madang area and was preparing to move westward, while the 51st Division was assembling at Wewak for rehabilitation and reorganization. The total strength of the three divisions at the time of the Allied landings at Hollandia probably did not exceed 20,000 trained combat effectives.[N4-31]
[N4-29 Southern Army headquarters moved to Manila in mid-May 1944.]
[N4-30 The figures given above were derived by Mr. Burke C. Peterson, of the Pacific Section, OCMH, from a mass of Japanese and Allied sources. The location of units was derived from the Japanese Army sources cited in the preceding section.]
[N4-31 MID WD, Disposition and Movement of Japanese Ground Forces, 1941-45, copy in OCMH files; GHQ SWPA, G-2 Monthly Sum of Enemy Dispositions, 30 Apr 44, copy in OCMH files; GHQ SWPA, G-2 DSEI’s 761 and 828, 22 Apr and 28 Jun 44, in G-3 GHQ Jnls, 22 Apr and 28 Jun 44; 18th Army Opns, Annex A-Statistics, Supplementary Chart No. 1. Definitive figures for the strength of the 18th Army in April 1944 are simply not available and all sources are contradictory. General MacArthur’s G-2 Section put the 18th Army strength for April at about 45,000 men. ALAMO Force and Allied Land Forces consistently gave much higher estimates, running from 55,000 to 65,000, while the Japanese source cites a figure of about 75,000 for 1 April.]
Co-operating with the 18th Army was the Japanese 9th Fleet, principal Japanese naval headquarters in New Guinea. The 9th Fleet’s commander was Vice Admiral Yoshikazu Endo, whose command post was located at Wewak until late March, when it moved to Hollandia. Admiral Endo’s command consisted primarily of service troops, naval antiaircraft gunners, and a few shore defense units. His surface strength comprised only a miscellaneous collection of landing craft and armed barges. The majority of the naval service troops in eastern New Guinea were members of the 27th Special Base Force, while the few Japanese naval personnel at Hollandia were under Captain Tetsuo Onizuka, naval ground commander in the area.[N4-32]
In western New Guinea, acting in concert with the 2nd Area Army, was the 4th Expeditionary Fleet. The next step up the Japanese naval chain of command was the Southwest Area Fleet, controlling all Japanese naval units in the Netherlands East Indies area and operating directly under the Combined Fleet. The 9th Fleet, formerly under the Southeast Area Fleet’s headquarters at Rabaul, passed to the control of Southwest Area Fleet in March 1944.[N4-33]
There were a few naval aircraft based at Hollandia from time to time, but Japanese naval air power was, generally speaking, a negligible factor in the New Guinea and Netherlands East Indies areas in April 1944, The Japanese Army Air Force, after the destruction of the 6th Air Division at Hollandia and the withdrawal of the 4th Air Army’s headquarters to Manado, likewise had little left with which to stem an Allied advance in New Guinea. The 4th Air Army had never been at full strength during its operations in the Bismarck Archipelago and New Guinea areas. Its heavy combat losses were aggravated by poor equipment, inadequate aircraft maintenance, supply difficulties, and rough fields which could not be kept in repair. Its history in New Guinea was principally one of frustration.[N4-34]
The Japanese at Hollandia: Planning and Command
The Japanese high command had been for some time aware of the potential importance of Hollandia and of the necessity for building up the defenses of the area. The enemy had decided to develop a major base at Hollandia as early as the withdrawal of the strategic main line of resistance in September 1943.35 The 2nd Area Army, when it took over control in western New Guinea in November, perceived that holding Hollandia would have great advantages and believed that Hollandia ought to be strongly defended as an outpost for the protection of the strategic defense lines base at Wakde-Sarmi, to the west. General Anami, commanding the 2nd Area Army, in November gave some thought to sending elements of the 36th Division east from Sarmi to Hollandia.
[N4-32 Rpt of Capt Shigeru Iwaki (staff, 9th Fleet), 21 Feb 46, in GHQ SCAP, ATIS Doc 14924-A, copy in G-2 DofA files, Doc 257846; Interrog of Captain Toshikazu Ohmae (IJN), 25 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 409-10; GHQ SCAP, ATIS Doc 16947, Full Translation of Answers to Questions Concerning the Admiralties and Hollandia, 14 Apr 46, copy, in G-2 DofA files, Doc 261219; 18th Army Opns, III, 41-42.]
[N4-33 Japanese Studies in WW II, 34, Naval Opns in the Western New Guinea Area, 1943-45, pp. 1-10, copy in OCMH files.]
[N4-34 Southeast Area Air Opns, pp. 16-18, 36; 4th Air Army Opns Order A-250, 22 Mar 44, as translated in GHQ SWPA, ATIS Enemy Publication 268, 4 Jan 45, copy in OCMH files; Interrog of Col Kaneko, 21 Nov 45, in USSBS, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, II, 404-08.]
[N4-35 Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 90-96.]
This plan was abandoned, however, for at the time Hollandia was still within the 8th Area Army’s zone of responsibility.[N4-36] The 18th Army (if not the 8th Area Army) attached some importance to Hollandia. In January 1944 General Adachi stated that Hollandia was to be “. . . the final base and last strategic point of [the 18th Army’s] New Guinea operation.” [N4-37] He outlined a plan for withdrawal to Hollandia should 18th Army operations in eastern New Guinea result in defeat, and he ordered the forces at Hollandia to exert them-selves to develop the defenses of that base. General Adachi complained that the troops at Hollandia, being out of the active combat zone, were leading a life of ease, and he hinted that all was not well with the command structure at the base. In an address to the Hollandia garrison, delivered by proxy during January, the general exhorted forces there to expend “. . . all your effort and be determined to sacrifice everything for the glorious cause.” [N4-38] But exhortations were hardly sufficient—some definite plan of action for the development and defense of Hollandia was needed.
The 2nd Area Army supplied the outline of such a plan when it assumed control of the 18th Army in March. General Adachi was instructed to hold firmly at Wewak, Aitape, and Hollandia; to institute a delaying action westward from Madang and Wewak; to use and co-operate with the 4th Air Army during this withdrawal; and gradually to consolidate the bulk of the 18th Army at Hollandia. General Adachi was to start withdrawing all his forces west from Madang and Hansa Bay beyond the Sepik River immediately, and these forces were to be concentrated at Wewak as quickly as possible. Finally, a cadre of one division was immediately to be sent to Hollandia.[N4-39]
General Adachi received his new orders on 25 March, but his reaction was not exactly that probably expected by the 2nd Area Army. The 8th Area Army had planned to continue operations east of Wewak, to make Madang the front line, and to build up strength to counterattack Allied forces.40 Possibly General Adachi, upon his transfer to the 2nd Area Army, may have had some mistaken loyalty to his former commander and a feeling that the 8th Area Army plan was the better, although he finally recognized that the latter plan would be practically impossible of execution. At any rate, General Adachi’s interpretation of the 2nd Area Army’s definitively worded order was rather strange. He ordered the 41st Division to hold the Madang area by rear guard action until the end of April, but at the same time the bulk of the division was to be sent westward 100 miles along the coast to Hansa Bay. The 20th Division was to move initially to Hansa Bay. Upon its relief there by the 41st Division, the 20th was to proceed to But, some thirty-five miles west of Wewak, and, ultimately, to Aitape. The 51st Division was ordered to move from Hansa Bay to Wewak and, beginning in late July or early August, was to push on toward Hollandia.
[N4-36 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 22-23, 26-27.]
[N4-3718th Army Opn Order, no number, 22 Jan 44, as translated in ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 39, 3 May 44, copy in G-2 DofA files.]
[N4-38 Ibid.; 18th Army Opns, II, 141-46.]
[N4-39 2nd Area Army Opn Order No. A-46, 20 Mar 44, as translated in ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 Jul 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; 18th Army Opns, III, 17-20; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 30-46.]
[N4-40 18th Army Opns, III, 4-8.]
Instead of sending one division to Hollandia immediately and getting the rest of the 18th Army started on its way to that area as ordered by the 2nd Area Army, General Adachi decided to concentrate all his forces at Wewak. One concession to the letter and spirit of the 2nd Area Army’s order was made: “. . . and, if conditions permit, strengthen the Hollandia sector also.”[N4-41] The Japanese apparently expected the Allies to launch a large-scale amphibious attack along the north coast of Australian New Guinea about the end of April. However, the enemy placed Hansa Bay and Wewak, in that order, ahead of Hollandia as probable targets for the expected assault.
General Adachi apparently believed that the Allies were going to move on Hansa Bay and therefore evidently considered that he had ample time in which to reinforce Hollandia (although he did betray some slight concern about the Aitape area) but little time to strengthen Hansa Bay. His propensity for devoting most of his attention to Hansa Bay may also have resulted from some wishful thinking. While he had no great fear of Allied forces then patrolling in the area south and east of Madang, he did have some trouble disengaging his units from that region. Moreover, the 18th Army had considerable difficulty crossing the broad swamps and wide washes at the mouth of the Sepik River, between Hansa Bay and Wewak. It would have been much simpler to hold at Hansa Bay.[N4-42]
The 2nd Area Army was not satisfied with the progress of the 18th Army’s westward movement. Therefore, on 12 April, General Anami sent his chief of staff, Lieutenant General Takazo Numata, to Wewak. Perhaps coincidentally with General Numata’s arrival at Wewak, the 80th Infantry of the 20th Division was ordered to prepare for movement to Aitape. The displacement of the 80th Infantry apparently started soon thereafter, but few men of that regiment had reached Aitape by 22 April. General Numata flew back to his headquarters on 13 April, after he had instructed General Adachi to start troops moving to Hollandia as well as Aitape. On 18 April the 66th Infantry of the 51st Division was ordered to strike out from Wewak for Hollandia, where the regiment was expected to arrive about mid-June. The 66th Infantry had not started its movement when for obvious reasons General Adachi, on 22 April, revoked the regiment’s marching orders.[N4-43]
There is no evidence that the Japanese had any prepared defense plans for Hollandia. It could hardly have been otherwise. If General Adachi had entertained misgivings about the command situation at Hollandia in January, by 22 April he may well have been experiencing sleepless nights over it. The Headquarters, 4th Air Army, previously senior headquarters at Hollandia, had left that base for Manado on 15 April. The Commanding General, 6th Air Division, had arrived at Hollandia from Wewak during late March, but he and other members of that unhappy air unit’s staff had been relieved in disgrace after the loss of his planes.
His place was taken by Major General Masazumi Inada, who had been sent to Hollandia from his western New Guinea logistic support command, the 2nd Field Base Unit, by the 2nd Area Army in mid-April. Admiral Endo, 9th Fleet, commander and senior naval officer at Hollandia, had arrived from Wewak only late in March. Finally, the senior officer of all services at Hollandia was Major General Toyozo Kitazono, who had reached Hollandia from Wewak (where he had commanded the 3rd Field Transportation Unit) only ten days before the Allied landings. General Kitazono had no time to develop a comprehensive defense plan for Hollandia, let alone co-ordinate such a plan with General Inada and Admiral Endo. [N4-44] In fact, there can be some doubt that General Kitazono was in a hurry about developing the needed defenses. He had served long and well with the 18th Army and probably brought with him to Hollandia at least some of General Adachi’s belief that either Hansa Bay or Wewak would be the site of the next major Allied invasion.
[N4-41 18th Army Opns, III, pp. 4-8, 9-11; 18th Army Opn Order, no number, 25 Mar 44, as translated in ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 43, 31 May 44, copy in G-2 DofA files. The quotation is from the 18th Army’s translated order.]
[N-42 18th Army Opns, III, 17-28, 39-40.]
[N-43 18th Army Opns, III, 17-20, 28-32, 40-41; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 45-46; 20th Div Opn Order, no number, 12 Apr 44, as translated in ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 49, 12 Jul 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 38, 26 Apr 44, copy in G-2 DofA files.]
Japanese Reactions to Hollandia
What happened to General Kitazono is uncertain, but somehow he escaped the Hollandia area to survive the war. Whatever was General Kitazono’s situation, the 2nd Area Army, on 22 April, ordered General Inada of the 6th Air Division to assume command at Hollandia. At 0930 that morning General Inada issued a grandiose plan of resistance. Japanese troops in the area were ordered to take up positions near the town of Hollandia and also to “… destroy the enemy expected from Tanahmerah Bay.” Most of the troops that he was able to organize General Inada finally concentrated near Sabron on the Dépapré-Lake Sentani road. There the 24th Infantry Division, advancing inland from Tanahmerah Bay, found the only significant organized resistance encountered during the Hollandia operation.
But, despite General Inada’s best efforts to bring order out of the chaos created by the surprise invasion, most of the Japanese troops in the Hollandia area fled ignominiously into the hills as the first shots were fired from Allied naval guns. Late in the afternoon of 22 April, General Inada, apparently a realist, practically gave up the fight. Faced with the rapid disintegration of his organizations, at least 90 percent of which were service units, he issued a new order which expressed a defeatist sentiment usually foreign to Japaneses thought: “The division [6th Air Division] will be on guard against enemy landings and will attempt to withdraw at night.” [N4-45]
West of Hollandia the 2nd Area Army attempted to take action to counter the Allied invasion. General Anami, feeling that Hollandia was too important a base to be meekly abandoned, wanted to dispatch eastward and overland the bulk of the 36th Division from the Wakde-Sarmi area. Acting on instructions from the 2nd Area Army, the 2nd Army ordered two battalions of the 224th Infantry and a battalion of the 36th Division’s field artillery to start toward Hollandia on 24 April. It was expected that the rest of the division could start moving eastward from Sarmi about 10 May.
The Southern Army, however, would not permit the Sarmi area to be denuded of troops and on 25 April vetoed the plan to send 36th Division units eastward. General Anami stubbornly argued the necessity for the recapture of Hollandia and further recommended that a large-scale amphibious operation for its reoccupation be mounted in western New Guinea in mid-June.
[N4-44 18th Army Opns, III, 41-46, 48-54; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 30-44, 48-51.]
[N4-45 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 48-51; 18th Army Opns, III, 48-54; 6th Air Div Opn Orders 45 and The quotations are from the Southern Army was adamant and took pains to point out to General Anami that it would be impossible, because of lack of shipping and air support, to stage a large amphibious task force within the foreseeable future. Finally, on 30 April, the Southern Army canceled further preparations for a push to Hollandia by the 36th Division.]
[N4-46, 22 Apr 44, as translated in 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 146-47.]
The best General Anami was able to obtain from his discussions with the Southern Army (and representatives had been flown to the senior headquarters to plead the 2nd Area Army’s case) was tacit approval to continue the movement toward Hollandia of such 36th Division elements as had already been dispatched eastward from Sarmi. These units, both infantry and artillery, had been placed under the control of Colonel Soemon Matsuyama, commander of the 224th Infantry, and had been designated the Matsuyama Force. The last elements of the Matsuyama Force cleared the Sarmi area on 4 May. The point of the column had advanced to Armopa, about half way between Sarmi and Hollandia, when, on 17 May, the Allies made a new landing near Sarmi. The 36th Division immediately ordered the Matsuyama Force to retrace its steps. Thus ended Japanese efforts to recapture Hollandia from the west.[N4-46]
Except for the one lucky bomb hit on supplies at Humboldt Bay, Japanese air reaction to the seizure of Hollandia was practically nonexistent, although on 22 April the 4th Air Army was ordered to concentrate all its aircraft on western New Guinea fields to prepare for strong attacks against the Allied shipping and ground forces at Hollandia.
The project was unsuccessful. The 4th Air Army did not have the necessary planes to stage major attacks; Allied naval aircraft intercepted most of the planes the Japanese were able to send toward Hollandia; Allied air action prevented the Japanese from keeping their western New Guinea fields operational; and by the time the American carriers had to leave the area, land-based air support was available to the Allies either at or within range of Hollandia. Japanese naval reaction by air, sea, or subsurface means was equally insignificant.
On 21 April, having learned of the departure of a large Allied convoy from the Admiralties, the Combined Fleet issued orders to the Central Pacific Fleet to attack the convoy with all available submarines. But difficulties arose in getting the submarines assembled for a concerted attack and, except for a few sightings off Hollandia, the subsurface vessels stayed away from the area. The Combined Fleet was itself preparing for a naval showdown in the Pacific, but this battle was not scheduled until midsummer. The Hollandia operation caught the Combined Fleet by surprise and completely unprepared for battle. The Japanese Navy quickly decided that it was powerless to undertake any action against Allied forces at Hollandia.[N4-47]
[N4-46 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 51-53; Hist of Southern Area Army, pp. 61-64; 224th Inf Opn Orders, no numbers, 24 Apr and 17 May 44, as translated in ALAMO Force, G-2 Wkly Rpt 48, 5 Jul 44, copy in G-2 DofA files; Kawakami Comments. More material on Matsuyama Force operations is set forth below in the chapters concerning action in the Wakde-Sarmi area. ]
[N4-47 Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 48-51; Naval Opns in Western New Guinea Area, pp. 4-7; Kawakami Comments.]
Japanese Withdrawal from Hollandia At Hollandia, General Inada decided to assemble his forces at Genjem, a village about fifteen miles west of Lake Sentani. Near Genjem, situated on the main eastwest inland trail of the Hollandia area, the Japanese had started some agricultural projects. By reason of its location and agriculture the Genjem area was the logical place for gathering forces that were retreating before the Allied advance. Most of the Japanese supplies at Hollandia had been stored around the shores of Humboldt Bay. With these lost, the Japanese could muster less than a week’s supply of rations from inland stockpiles, but they might augment these rations from the projects at Genjem. The next phase of General Inada’s withdrawal plan was an overland trek of 125 miles to the Wakde-Sarmi area. From Genjem one trail led west toward Sarmi, and another trail ran north 16 miles to Demta, a bay village located on the east-west coastal trail. By 30 April some 7,000 Japanese troops had assembled in the vicinity of Genjem. Here they were reorganized, without maps and already short of rations and medical supplies, into nine or ten echelons for the long march westward through inhospitable country. The first echelon, consisting of stranded pilots and ground crews as well as the headquarters of the defunct 6th Air Division, left the Genjem area by 9 May.[N4-48]
The Japanese troops who struck out from Genjem after 1 May either had to push overland through mainly untracked wilderness (the inland trail lost its identity not far west of Genjem and deteriorated into many unmapped and dead-end jungle tracks) or risk encounter with a series of Allied outposts. Companies I and K of the 19th Infantry, 24th Division, had set up road blocks at Genjem and Demta during the first week of May. Company K sent numerous patrols over all trails in the vicinity of Genjem and combed neighboring native hamlets for Japanese stragglers. Company I patrolled south from Demta and along coastal trails leading both east and west of that village. By 6 June the two companies had killed 405 Japanese and had taken 64 prisoners in the Genjem-Demta region. Many more Japanese were found dead of starvation or disease along the trails in the same area.[N4-49]
The hardships suffered by those Japanese killed in the Genjem—Demta sector were probably fewer than those of the troops who sought to make the trek to Sarmi. Remnants of the first group, which had left Genjem on 26 April, approached Sarmi just in time for the Allied invasion of that area on 17 May; the rest had to attempt to bypass Sarmi too. For the most part, the Japanese retreating through Genjem toward Sarmi died slowly from starvation, wounds, and disease. Of those who left the Hollandia area via Genjem, the Japanese themselves estimated that only 7 percent survived to reach the Sarmi area.[N4-50]
Excluding prisoners, there could have been very few survivors of the Japanese Hollandia garrison. The following appear to be reasonable figures concerning operations at Hollandia from 22 April to 6 June 1944.
[N4-48 18th Army Opns, III, 41-46; Hist of 2nd Area Army, pp. 51-53. 49 24th Div Opns Rpt Hollandia, pp. 98-110.]
[N4-50 18th Army Opns, III, 41-46, 48-54. General Inada survived the trek to Sarmi and before the end of the war held important posts in the Philippines and the home islands. Admiral Endo was killed in the Hollandia area on or about 3 May.]
Allowing for errors in the first two figures but also taking into account the number of Japanese killed or captured in the Hollandia area after 6 June and those of the Hollandia garrison later killed or captured during operations farther west, the losses of the original Japanese garrison at Hollandia remain at a staggering figure. Assuming that the Japanese estimate of 93 percent casualties for the troops who attempted the march to Sarmi is reasonably accurate, then it appears that, including prisoners, less than 1,000 of the approximately 11,000 Japanese who were stationed at Hollandia on 22 April 1944 could have survived the war.
[N4-51 As of 27 September 1944, the last date for which comprehensive figures are available, ALAMO Force estimated that 4,478 Japanese had been killed or found dead in the Hollandia area. This is an increase of only 1,146 over the 6 June figure, a fact which lends credence to the Japanese estimate that some 7,000 troops tried the march to Sarmi. Of this number, not more than 500 could have reached the Sarmi area, indicating that 6,000, more or less, must have died from starvation or disease during the trek westward. As of 27 September, ALAMO Force accounted for 656 Japanese prisoners and 13 Formosan prisoners from the Hollandia garrison. These 27 September figures are from ALAMO Force G-2 Wkly Rpt 60, 27 Sep 44, copy in G-2 DofA files.]
Source: Approach to the Philippines: BY; Robert Ross Smith (United States Army Center of Military History)